Can we practice Zen while eating ? The answer is “ Absolutely yes !”. It might sound really weird doing something like a spiritual ceremony and chewing at the same time. Somebody can see Zen an act of sitting still, closing eyes and try to concentrate. In fact, it’s the basic form of Zen.
But don’t let the term confuse you, since the ultimate goal of practicing Zen is to achieve the inner peace. So, with that goal in mind, we can have so many kinds of so-called Zen. Aikido, for example, is sometimes called “ The Zen of Moving”.
I've found a great book which describe this experience in a more detailed way. When the Zen of Eating technique is put under this new view, it turns out to be a way to focus the psychic energy into a task at hand, to achieve a mental state called "flow".
I highly recommend this book, you should read this, a masterpiece by author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
Eating Zen shares the same goal with other kinds of Zen : achieve the concentration, inner peace through meals. Imagine this, enjoy a delicious bowl of salad and having a beautiful mind at the same time. Once in a time, twice the fun.
I read an article about this kind of Zen years ago in a local newspaper. The author was a Buddhist monk who is famous for posts about health. In the time of fast and furious, slow may be considered a silly thing to do, however, this method can prove the useful of slowness in eating, because it can increase your health significantly and reduce stress symptoms effectively. I practiced this act once years ago, and found it extremely helpful.
Shall we start ?
Come to the realm of Zen
Now, you have to concentrate in the very process of eating, and feast yourself four times for maximum results. Before that, there issomething to do beforehand.
First, turn off TV, radio, computer, anything can distract you ( even your cellphones ) . Do it now !
Second, get rid of worries. The fact is : doing mind work while having meals is an ineffective habit, but it’s still considered “ a professional look” nowadays. Whatever you’re doing, be there.
OK, it’s time to do your job ! I mean, “have your meal”. But wait there hot shots, instead of wolfing it all, you should :
_ Observe it: see how colorful it is, brown, green, yellow, red, white.. A really symphony of color. Now you have your first feast, for your eyes only.
( Tips : You might want to use yellow light in dining room instead of those pale white one from compact tubes. Yellow light makes your food more lovely and delicious. Now you know why all the restaurants are full with that color. )
_ Smell it: Take a real deep breath, can you realize and distinguish all the smell together. Beef steak, fresh bowl of mixed salads, soup, grilled potatoes… Each of them have a different smell which makes them unique, like fingerprints with humans. The symphony of smell, the second feast for your nose.
_ Taste it: At last ! Do it slowly, take a spoonful of rice with steamed pork, or have a slice of beef dipped in sauce. Yummy, how about the flavor ? Sweet, a little salty then some spicy touch finalize a perfect feast for your tongue. How about your teeth ? Crunchy, soft, tender, tough… we have everything here, feel the excitement while all of these are pressing and doing magic inside your mouth. Do it real slow, chew 50 times before swallowing ( the explanation will follow later ) , and try to feel it in the progress. Feast number three, for your lips, teeth and tongue. Is that all ? Not yet.
_ Imagine it: Here’s the reason for the “50-time-chewing” ritual. While your teeth are busy with those delicious pieces, try to see, in your mind, all the life forces are being transferred directly to your body. The animal, the plants, they accumulate life energy from the sun, the wind, the soil, water, air, thunder... and from other living things. Now, all the energy, nutritions and life forces are switched to their new master, you. Feel it. And, last but not least, the feast for your mind. While chewing 50 times, you have time to imagine.
Now we have gone through all four steps. Easy to do, but as Jim Rohn once said : “The easy thing to do is easy not to do”. It isn’t easy to let all the noises and voices outside take your attention, but at least you can do it once a week, can’t you ? Of course you can.
How many meals do you have a day ? Pick one and practice this Zen.
I promise, the feeling is awesome. I’d love to let you experience it all.
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