Respect, Consciousness and Simplicity in Diet
We do it to connect with friends and family. We do it to soothe and to comfort us. We do it to nourish our bodies, to give us strength and energy. We do it for the sheer pleasure of the experience. We plan the act for days, weeks, sometimes even months in advance. It's an act we think about more than most anything else in our lives.
Though it's essential to our survival, when you actually think about it, the act of eating is much more than that. Everything we eat is, or was once, alive. When done with respect and consciousness, a meal can be a spiritual experience...
Notice I say "can be".
Unfortunately, with the ease and convenience of our consumer's society, the sacred nature of food is easily forgotten.
Today, huge one crop agricultural farms ship to huge manufacturing plants, which ship to huge packaging plants, which ship to distribution centers, which finally ship to a grocery store near us. Where once we grew or hunted our own food (or at least knew the person that did) and when once we handled and prepared our meals from plants and animals in their raw, natural form, we now purchase whole meals in cardboard boxes, made from unrecognizable ingredients, shipped to a store from someplace we don't know. The pressure put on us to be ever productive has left us with little time to cook, appreciate or think much at all about the food that is nourishing our bodies.
We've become disconnected from the natural world.
Too many of us have never smelled the fragrant leaves of a tomato plant or seen the perfect yellow flowers of a cucumber. Meat is precut, rinsed and seran -wraped. We don't know actually which part of the animal it came from let alone what it ate or what it saw each day.
Consciousness in Eating
"...when you see the uniquely imperfect qualities of hand-grown organic heirloom produce, you see a mirror reflecting the individual personality of both the local land where it was grown and the diverse personalities and spirits of those who grew it."
James Enderey's book, Ecoshaminism, is as much a guide to reconnecting with ourselves - our body, mind and spiritual nature, as it is to the natural world. In it, one of the first "practices" he suggests has to do with conscious eating:
"...go to where the food you will eventually eat is being grown or raised. Seek an organic farm and ask to be present at the time of planting...sit with the plants...If you are a meat eater, go to a free-range farm and spend time with the animal you will later eat... be there when the animal is killed and butchered. Or engage in a sacred hunt...when you sit down to a meal that includes plants that you knew... or an animal that you bonded with... that feeds more than your physical body... (it's) more nourishing and more powerful than simply fulfilling your appetite."
My Own Consciousness Story
A sensitive and spiritually inclined person, when I learned about the intelligence of cows and of pigs (equivalent to a human 3 year old!) and the unnecessarily cruel and unnatural way they are farmed, I gave up red meat. Later I decided poultry, though less intelligent than pigs and cows, were still intelligent enough to become anxious and depressed (You may have seen a sad pet bird before - they pluck out their feathers.) so I gave that up as well. Today, the only meat I eat is fish.
And I promise - it wasn't easy for me. I love the taste of a well-cooked steak, bacon on a BLT, rotisserie chicken. I'm not even opposed to the idea of eating an animals!
I just don't want to support their mistreatment.
Knowing that the body and mind are connected, I don't want to feed my body an animal that has lived such an unimaginably sad life - fed an unnatural diet, having never seen the sun, kept in a warehouse, in a cage so small it can hardly move. I actually have great respect for the predator-prey relationship and I acknowledge that humans are omnivores. I just know that this is not how it should look - or even how it was done until very recently in human history.
I truly believe that without too much added effort or cost, we can treat a living creature whose life we take and whose body sustains us with the respect it deserves. For this, I am even willing to sacrifice the pleasure and convenience of eating beef, pork or chicken which I cannot be sure was treated respectfully.
Still, I don't pretend to have it all figured out - or anything even close to that. I am in awe of people like Jame's Endrey who have dedicated themselves to eating only foods they themselves (or someone they know) have grown or harvested or hunted. The convenience of ready-made foods vs the time and energy it takes to prepare food yourself makes even those "spiritually dead", ultra-processed foods hard to resist. But I'm not going to beat myself up. I take comfort knowing that even Endrey admits it took years for him to cut it off completely. For now, I feel good making the efforts I am now while I work on improving upon the progress I have made so far.
Tips for More Conscious Eating
Start a Garden. It's easier than you might think! REALLY - and this from the girl who named herself "black thumb". It's actually much easier to grown things outdoors. Pick up a couple vegetable seed packs and start the seeds indoors in a sunny window. Transplant outdoors. (It’s a lot easier to grow successfully outdoors - trust me.) Maybe start with herbs. I've found their pretty much fool proof. You buy a small plant for 2 bucks; by the end of the growing season you have a bush of herbs so big, you can't wrap your arms around it! There's almost nothing so satisfying as being able to run out to your garden and pick the food you need for your meal.
Gather Wild Fruits, Herbs and Vegetables. Hunt Local Game. There are thousands of books and millions of websites with information on finding, identifying and harvesting the wild foods in your area. Take note of where you found them for next years harvest. For you meat eaters, the wild game you hunt is the most ethical meat you'll find. As you become acquainted with "living off the land", the uncertainty of success will leave you feeling like you've found treasure when at last your efforts "deliver fruit". As you learn where local foods grow and roam, you'll be proud to share this information with friends and family.
Purchase Local Foods. Visit your local farmer's market. Look up local farms and stop by. Support the small local farms competing with huge corporate operations. Avoid the emissions cost by transporting food over long distances. Enjoy knowing exactly where your food came from and exactly who grew it.
Do Your Research. Some foods are not possible to grow locally. You can enhance your eating experience by doing your research and learning more about it. Try to find out where the foods you eat are raised or grown, and by what methods. You may find you dislike the practices of a certain brand and prefer another.
Be Thankful.When we eat, we are inevitably taking the life of another be it plant or animal. Be thankful and mindful of that sacrifice.