How to Eat Like a Zen Master

Eighty-three year old Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh travels the world teaching and remains vibrant, clear and energized.  An integral part of his routine is mindful eating.

The monks, nuns and Thay sit together to eat mindfully and joyfully at every meal. This is a time of communion with the earth and all its inhabitants.  As they serve themselves food, they see that the entire universe, (rain, sunshine, earth, air and love) is supporting their existence.

The joy and nourishment that arise from this practice can be found in your home too. You must simply commit to being present and savoring your food.

The physiological and psychological health benefits are innumerable; enjoying your food more, recognizing your connection to the rest of the world, knowing when you are full to avoid overeating, and allowing your body adequate time to digest.

Tips for mealtime:

1.     Arrange your table in a way that is visually pleasing. After all, we eat with our eyes as well as our mouth.

2.     Before you begin, review the five contemplations. These will guide you in savoring your food.

3.     The monastics sound a bell before eating, to draw their attention to the present moment. You may wish to do the same, or have your own awareness reminder.

4.     Smile to your food and the people at your table, before picking up your utensils.

5.     Set your cutlery down between bites and chew each bite thoroughly (Thay recommends chewing each bite of solid food at least 30 times!)

6.     Upon finishing the meal, take a few moments to acknowledge that your hunger is satisfied and give thanks for  this nourishing food.

Tips for healthy food preparation:

1.     Include a healthy portion of varied vegetables. The monastics almost always include a colorful salad in their meals as well as cooked vegetables.

2.     Choose healthy vegetarian proteins: tofu, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds.

3.     Choose healthy carbohydrates 

4.     Be aware of your portion sizes

5.     Regulate your sodium intake by knowing which foods contain high amounts of salt – and eating less of them.

6.     Choose seasonal ingredients. Not sure what’s in season? We can help

7.     Prepare a fruit salad instead of a sugary dessert.  If you do serve a sweet dessert, limit it to one “mini” portion per person—just a bite or two.

For a deeper and detailed mindful eating guide, see Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life

For healthy, vegan recipes - check out the free, online Plum Village Cook Book!