Any activity can become an opportunity for meditation – particularly eating, and everything else that comes with it, from food prep to cooking, to washing the dishes. The ninth chapter of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Making Space sheds a beautiful light on how to practice mindful eating.
“Having the opportunity to sit and enjoy a wonderful meal is something precious, something not everyone has,” he says. Being able to eat a wonderful meal with friends and family is a gorgeous reminder on how fortunate we are. Doing so mindfully also brings about feelings of compassion for those who are not as fortunate.
As we chop vegetables, it would benefit us to do so with full awareness. To think of the farmers who grew each one, and of all the hands and hard work it took to get that vegetable from the farm to our counter top.
As we cook a meal, we can be mindful of the beauty in the sounds and scents made throughout the process, reminding us of how fortunate we are to have the ability to cook our own food.
Before we eat, we can recite The Five Contemplations that Nhat Hanh provides:
1. This food is a gift of the whole universe, the earth, the sky, and much hard work.
2. May we eat in mindfulness so as to be worthy to receive it.
3. May we transform our unskillful states of mind and learn to eat in moderation.
4. May we take only foods that nourish us and prevent illness.
5. May we accept this food to realize the path of understanding and love.
Each time we eat a meal, we are given the opportunity to do so mindfully; to truly connect to the souls of those eating along with us – or if we’re eating alone, to connect with ourselves and be grateful for our bodies as we fuel them with nutrients.
When it comes time for the cleanup, we can find peace and joy in the process. I love how Nhat Hanh suggests to wash dishes as though we’re washing a baby. He provides the following words for us to repeat, whether out loud or in our minds:
Washing the dishes
is like bathing a baby.
The profane is the sacred.
Everyday mind is enlightened mind.
In the past, I’ve found washing dishes to be something I dreaded, but when I remember to do so as though I’m washing a precious child, the entire task seems to miraculously turn itself around.
+ How do you turn eating into a form of meditation?
This post is part of our Book Club series, featuring Making Space: Creating a Home Meditation Practice by Thich Nhat Hanh.