In the harried pace of a typical day, food often is reduced to only being a means to an end. It is often something we don’t consider much – just a way to refuel the tank and keep going.
I was visiting family recently, and on the last night together, my niece mentioned that in our family, the preparing and sharing of food is how we show love. By offering to cook dinner that evening (and my sister allowing me to do just that), we were giving and receiving love. Everyone was invited and made to feel comfortable. Dietary preferences were considered and accommodated as we wanted everyone to feel included. It is a way we demonstrate care and open our homes to each other.
Each time we eat, there is an opportunity to really connect with appreciation. A simple practice would be to take a moment to consider each pair of hands that has touched the food in front of you – the farmers, the truck drivers, the grocery store workers, etc. – and send a signal of gratitude out to each and every one of them. If someone has prepared food for you or you have cooked for yourself or another, take the time to really breathe in the care that has been part of that process. This practice allows us to connect in a quick and simple way. It allows us to really feel the network of humanity and how profoundly linked we truly are.
Another ritual you can play with is taking three deep breaths into your belly before you eat. This not only unites us with whatever is on the plate, it allows our physiology to digest the food more fully. Digestion is an act governed by the parasympathetic (or the rest, digest and heal part) of our nervous system. When you breathe deeply, it stimulates the diaphragm, which triggers branches of the vagus nerve to tell the brain to calm down, that all is well. This switches us from the sympathetic (fight, flight or freeze) part of the nervous system to the parasympathetic which literally get the digestive juices flowing.
Simply seeing and smelling food can increase in saliva (which houses amylase to digest carbohydrates); then triggers more stomach acid (to digest proteins), which then wakes up the gall bladder and liver (with bile for fat digestion), which stimulates the pancreas to secrete more digestive enzymes. So, this practice of connecting with your food not only creates a new vibrational signal, it also supports optimal physiology and digestion.
When we share food, with anyone, it is really an offering from the heart. It is an act of kindness and love that not only fills up the belly, it can be an opportunity to create a deep sense of connection and fulfillment. How can you sprinkle a little more of that special ingredient into everything you consume every day? It is these small acts we do daily that can truly change how we experience everything.
Nicola Dehlinger is a naturopathic doctor at Pura Vida Natural Healthcare in Durango. She can be reached at 426-1684 or www.puravidahealthcare.com.