My father has always pursued his goals and passions like a man chasing his dreams as the sun sets.
As a result, he’s lived in a hurry. And he’s always eaten as if each meal is a race against time, a mundane task to finish as fast as possible to get to the really important things.
I’ve cooked him countless meals, and he’s often done before I sit down to eat. When I ask if he enjoyed his food, he says, “Yes,” and thanks me. If I ask him later what he ate, he usually can’t remember, since he wasn’t really paying attention in the first place. It’s as if there’s so much on his to-do list, he must do everything full speed. This is a common pattern. In our fast-paced, modern culture, we’re often driven by degrees of urgency or anxiety that keep us from being fully present and enjoying life.
Wisdom tells us that health depends not just on what we eat, but also on what we digest and assimilate. And how we eat reflects how we interact and relate to life. We can eat mountains of good food, but eating too much, or too fast, without paying attention, compromises our digestion and assimilation—so even the best food rots, putrefies, and becomes poison in our bellies.
How you eat determines how well you digest and assimilate your food. It can also tell you much about how you live, how well you digest, and assimilate your experience, and how much nourishment and enjoyment you derive from living.
Do you eat slowly or quickly? Do you really taste and enjoy each bite? Or is the taste in the background of your awareness with your thoughts and concerns front and center? Does it seem like too much is on your proverbial plate? Do you eat while doing “more important” or more interesting things, such as working, talking on the phone, surfing the Internet, or watching TV? Do you often feel so busy rushing to the next important thing that you miss the simple pleasures life offers in each moment?
It’s hard to change longstanding habits and patterns. But if we slow down, pay attention, and become more present, we begin to notice and discover things about life and ourselves that previously escaped our attention. And we can enjoy life more while we practice and develop new behaviors and habits that better serve us.
Eating becomes a profound meditation practice when we slow down, become present, and savor the experience. The universe is alive and feeding us in every grain of rice, in every taste of juicy peach, every drop of soup. With every bite, the sunshine and rain that fed our food enter in and nourish us. When we become present to our food and to life, we realize we’re as much a part of nature as the summer harvest, the swaying fields of grain, the warm, wet earth and all of the creatures the earth nourishes with her bounty.
When we slow down and connect to our food in this way, we’re no longer just eaters of other “lesser” life forms. We’re part of a universe manifesting and nourishing itself in infinite forms, in a web of life where every being and every part is essential and holy. So let your food be your teacher, your friend, your lover—and you’ll discover a new way of living and being that better serves you and the earth itself.
I’m Anya El-Wattar—and here’s to a happier, healthier you.
Anya is releasing her new book, The Tantra of Food later this year. From Anya: “I have delicious secrets to share. Secrets of food, love, life, and spirit. Traveling the world for years, I discovered common threads of a sacred relationship with food that runs through every culture and tradition. Now I’m thrilled to share my life’s journey and offer my discoveries in my upcoming book The Tantra of Food. My book integrates centuries of wisdom from around the world with contemporary, scientific insights to show how the food we eat plays the most vital role in everything we are.”