The Zen Forage Dash

Well, life continues to be busy for me this week. And while I do still eat from my fully stocked freezer, I’ll admit to dipping into my wallet and eating out in order to feed myself when needed. This week, it was a splurge dinner in between meetings to one of my favorite local restaurants that offers healthier faire–Forage.

Fresh green arugula salad - YUM!

Fresh green arugula salad – YUM!

At Forage, local Silverlake hipsters gather to spend $15 for the pleasure of eating a deliciously prepared well-rounded meal. Their menu changes often and I have never had the same thing twice as a result. On this particular visit I chose the chicken, the broccoli with shallots, garlic & chili flakes, and the coconut basmati rice with English peas, tendrils and cashews. Whatever tendrils are, they are delicious, as was the rest of it.

Roasted salmon. Doesn't get much better.

Roasted salmon. Doesn’t get much better.

I had brought my iPad so I could catch up on my reading. And after I realized that cutting chicken was not conducive to enjoying “On the Road” I switched to something simpler. Blogs. I keep a list of blog articles to read on my blog reader for moments such as these, and I pulled one up that I had been particularly interested in–Zen Habits article on mindful eating.

All of this was quite a lovely idea until I realized that I had 15 minutes to eat AND commute to my next meeting (which was close, but not exactly next door). Crap. I began to fiercly cut my chicken and scoop giant forkfuls of rice and broccoli into my mouth. With each bite, I read a bit of my article about how the author lost 60 pounds.

“How did I do it? I used a really simple method that is not hard to do … and yet most people will be unwilling to do it, even after I explain how simple it is. Here’s the secret: I used eating as a form of meditation. It’s a method that’s thousands of years old (Buddha did it, among others), and yet it is so at odds with our current society that most people won’t even consider it. Slowing down, pausing, really paying attention to the food instead of a screen … it’s a radical thing to do.”

Hmmm…interesting…scoop, stuff, omnomnomnomnomnom, gulp.

“The average American eats way too many calories, and gets many of those calories from processed sugars, white flours, fried foods, saturated animal fats, sweet beverages. We’re talking about sodas, sweet breakfast treats, hamburgers and fried chicken, French fries and cookies and chips. Very very little nutrition, lots of calories and sugar and saturated fats and sodium and added chemicals.”

Good for me and my broccoli. Omnomnomnomnomnom gulp.

“We eat while watching TV or reading on the computer or mobile device. We eat while talking with other people, and barely notice what we’re eating.”

Scroll scroll scroll… Scoopstuffgulp.

“I don’t always practice this, but I often will use eating as a form of meditation. This is the opposite of mindless eating — it’s a way to practice completely mindfulness, focus, awareness of thoughts and emotions, gratitude for the food I’ve been given.”

And as I cut–or hacked–into my chicken, I finally saw the Alanis Morrisette irony of my moment (or was this real irony? I don’t know, it felt pretty black fly in my chardonnay). But I also had 3 minutes to finish eating and get in my car. There would be no eating for several hours, so irony or no, this was my moment. I read on, all about how to create space for eating (yeah yeah yeah), to consider my food (I consider this food to be delicious omnomnomnomnom) and to think about its origins (chickens, farmers omnomonomnom).

It was a great article. I highly recommend it. You can read it here.

I love the idea of eating as meditation. For those of us who have issues with food–those of us who don’t naturally stop when we are full, or who have had to enlist the help of a program like Weight Watchers to teach us to eat an apple and carrots instead of a bag of chips as a snack, those of us who dream about a day when we can eat a daily diet of giant amounts of pizza and cake and still maintain a healthy body weight–for people like me, eating as meditation has a lot of lessons to offer. I particularly like step number 5 on the Eating as Meditation checklist–Notice your heart. The idea of trying to identify my feelings while I eat is exhausting and frankly nauseating. But the simplicity of “noticing my heart” seems likes something I could actually do. Go ahead. Notice it for a second. Interesting, huh?

But also, sometimes you just have 15 minutes to eat dinner and move on. And in those moments, when I make a choice that involves vegetables and lean protein, then I am a winner. No matter how fast I have to eat my food without creating space to consider the farmer who harvested my broccoli or the chicken that laid down its life for the betterment of my own. Thank you farmer. Thank you chicken. Now if you’ll excuse me, I really have to dash.

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