Ayurvedic eating is a meditative exercise.
Most of us are so caught up with the need for speed that we find ourselves mindlessly grabbing some food and quickly swallowing it to satiate our hunger pangs. Of course, the very act of eating remains just an act. It is not a complete experience. Simply throwing food into your stomach is not enlightened eating. It is mindless gobbling.
Also, when we dump food into our stomach, we do not give our bodies and senses time to register the eating process. Our brains need at least 20 minutes to register the ‘enough’ feeling. As a result, when we eat mindlessly and quickly, we tend to be overweight. Eating right is an art all of us are born with. Just as we are born with food preferences.
When I took my six-month-old daughter to the paediatrician, I was told it was time to introduce her to solids. Since she had been only breast-fed so far, the doctor said that I could feed her bland salt-free food and avoid prospective excessive sodium-related problems.
Quite dedicated to doing the right thing for my baby, I got home and tried to feed her boiled and mashed carrots and other healthy food. At the first bite, my eager baby’s face changed. She drew away in distaste. Refusing to accept defeat, I force fed her the second bite. She spat the food out. Tiny as she was, it was like her senses were programmed for better taste.
Eating, just like everything else you do, can be meditative too. As we eat, we engage all our senses. There is no such thing as multi-tasking, which is simply a rapid succession of activity. When we eat, we engage the senses of smell, touch, sight, sound and taste. You see a luscious red apple. Your fingers touch its smooth skin before you hear the crunch of your bite. You can smell the juice as it trickles into your mouth. You chew slowly, relishing the sweet taste in every bite. The experience is complete.
Ayurvedic eating is all about engaging your senses with the food. It means eating with enlightenment. Sounds simple? It really is. In the olden days, people in India did not know about dining tables, forks and spoons. To them, eating was a simple ceremony. It meant sitting on the floor, with legs crossed. Food, cooked with love, was served fresh and hot. Every bite was always chewed slowly, relished and enjoyed. All the senses were engaged. Children were chided if they spoke while eating. It was the tradition to eat in reverent silence. Each meal was a means of meditation. The entire process of preparation and consumption was considered to be next to actually praying. This is not difficult to do now.
First, engage the sense of sight. What does the food look like? What colour is it?
Next engage the sense of smell. How does it smell? Delicious? Pungent? Bitter? Fresh?
Touch it with your fingers. Experience its texture. How does it feel? Rough? Slippery? Smooth? Grainy?
Does your mind desire this food? Is it really what you want to eat? Will you, at some level be satisfied by consuming it?
Chew slowly. Listen as you bite into the food. How does it sound? Crunchy? Soft and slurpy?
Experience the saliva mixing into the food before you swallow. Ayurveda says, “Drink your food and eat your water.” Roughly translated, this means chew the food well and don’t guzzle water down. Once you get used to eating as meditation, your body is programmed to do so at every meal.