Eating as a Spiritual Practice

Eating as a Spiritual Practice

May 14, 2021

Think about the last time you ate. Most likely, you were eating at your desk, or while watching TV, or scrolling through your phone. Maybe you often eat as you’re running out the door to work, or you forgot to eat all while running from one meeting to the next so you inhale an entire day’s worth of food when you get home.

How does it feel when you eat that way? Did you get a chance to actually taste your food? Enjoy its presentation, its aroma, its texture? Did you chew? Breathe?

We’re usually so distracted with other things that mealtime becomes a second thought. Something for fuel, not for pleasure. Eating with that type of energy influences how we feel afterward, and chances are it doesn’t feel amazing.

“But Kristen, I have SO much to do!!”

This is a big reason people neglect their spiritual practice, too. But when you look at food in a spiritual context, it’s easy to make it part of your daily habit, well, because you have to eat, right? Might as well add a little magic into the mix.

Cooking from scratch

We prepare ourselves for rituals, but this daily one we all have? We tend to do it without thinking too hard about it. Cooking from scratch can be just as sacred a ritual as any.

If you meal prep, you already have a ritual around this practice! I have some additional tips below to incorporate more spirit into the mix.

When you cook food in your home, your personal energy is infused into it, and you have control over that energy and can then infuse intentions into the food as well. But because your personal energy goes into it, your emotional state is important as it will be reflected in the meal.

So take some deep breaths before getting started, put on some music you love (or don’t — sometimes I like to cook in silence and have a zen moment slicing vegetables), and get out your ingredients.

Choosing your ingredients

Food has its own energy too. Not just its literal energy as in what you get from its calories and nutrients, but its own personality from its lifespan. This depends on how it was grown, where it was grown, the conditions it was grown in, how it was harvested, and when.

If it’s meat, then it’s important to consider how it was raised, fed, and handled as it made its way to your kitchen, too. The better a food was treated, the better it will taste. And that’s not just my opinion, there’s science to back it up. 

A quick physiology lesson for you: When we eat, that food turns into glucose (blood sugar) in the bloodstream. The glucose is shuttled into cells to use as fuel, and what’s left over is stored in the muscles as glycogen. When blood sugar is low or we need to deal with a stressor, the muscles release that glycogen and it’s converted back to glucose to go into the bloodstream to raise blood sugar levels. Make sense?

In a healthy, unstressed animal, that glycogen converts to lactic acid after it dies, which helps keep the meat tender and flavorful and maintains its pink color. 

In a stressed animal, the hormone adrenaline is released to increase glucose and help you deal with the stress. So where does that glucose come from? The glycogen stores in the muscles. If it’s all used up, then when the animal dies, there’s nothing to convert to lactic acid, so you get a tough, flavorless piece of meat.

Eating seasonally

Not an omnivore? I personally still think the better produce is treated, the better it tastes. And that includes eating seasonally available foods, because it’s not sitting around for a while and it maintains its nutrients and big flavor.

Eating what’s in season can help you understand the energy of the food you’re enjoying as well. For instance, strawberries in January taste like icy crap, but in June? Juicy, fresh, sweet, incredible!!

That January fruit was picked far away from you (if you have seasons like we do in the Northeast, anyway), and on its way to the market has been losing nutrients, moisture, and any flavor that it did have.

(By the way, I recognize that choosing high-quality ingredients is a privilege. While it helps you to understand the different energies of your ingredients, not having access doesn’t mean you can’t create a food-based spiritual practice. See below for more tips.)

Tips for creating a spiritual connection with food

While food quality can be an important aspect of making eating a spiritual act, there are other ways you can go about it. You can do them all, or just one — take what you like and leave the rest.

  • Choose ingredients for specific intentions. In culinary nutrition, we like to make our meals work harder for us, so we get strategic about choosing foods and herbs and opt for those that support our intentions, be it health-focused or energetic. Feel free to browse my recipes, I always share about the main ingredients and what they support in the body.

  • Make it a meditation. As you cook and as you eat, think about the end result that you’re hoping for. Rather than scrolling through Twitter during the meal, keep thinking about your intention and bring your focus back to it any time your mind wanders.

  • Honor the origins of your food. As you prepare your food, think about where it might have been grown, who planted it, who harvested it. Where did the recipe come from? Is it part of a traditional cuisine? Did your grandmother teach you a technique that you’re using? Did a cute grocery store employee put it on the shelf? Quietly thank all those involved in bringing the food to your plate.

  • Relax before cooking. As I mentioned above, you’re infusing your personal energy into your meal. If you’re feeling stressed or angry or other negative emotions, take some time to breathe, maybe journal out your thoughts, and elevate your mood a little bit however feels good before getting started. A happy cook makes a more delicious dinner!

  • Be present with your food. This is the most important thing in my book. Awareness is so key for our relationship to food, and even more so if you want to create a spiritual practice around it. Think about where the different components of your meal came from. Is it seasonal? What does it do for you? How does it make you feel? Go through your five senses as well as you eat and consider how you experience the meal through each of them.

  • Share with friends. It’s definitely unethical to cook something for someone and infuse certain intentions to it without them knowing, but what’s totally ethical? Putting your heart and soul into a beautiful meal for your friends in hopes they’ll be full and happy and maybe even a little impressed with your kitchen skills. Sharing meals with people you love is a magical experience in itself! (Also, this includes snapping a pic for Instagram. Be proud of your hard work!)

Don’t get too precious

You don’t have to make an elaborate ceremony out of every meal. Maybe for you, it’s heating up some Trader Joe’s frozen gnocchi in the air fryer (that’s the best way to do it IMO) while lighting a candle before you sit down and eat. Maybe you bless each ingredient before you chop it up. Maybe you forget about it most of the week but Fridays you focus on a deeper dinner ritual. It can look however you want it to look, I just offer all of the above as considerations to fit more spirituality into your everyday life.

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