1. Create a Sacred Space: One of the biggest issues I had when I moved into my house was that I hated everything about the kitchen, from the lime walls to the carpeted floors (crazy right?) and because of that I never wanted to be in it. Your kitchen should be one of the most comfortable and welcoming rooms in your house. Prior to cooking, eliminate any distractions or clutter. Put away the dishes, wipe down the counters and turn off the T.V., let your focus rest solely on the food - a clean kitchen means a clean mind and a mindful start.
2. Identify your hunger/emotion relationship: Are you eating because you're bored? Physically hungry? Emotionally starving? Tune into your body the same way you tune into a yoga class, what are you craving? Then on a scale of 1-10 (one being not hungry and ten being famished) rate your hunger level and connect it to how you're feeling. Starting a food journal is a great idea, keeping track of what you crave during certain points in your day will help you identify habits (samskaras) or repeated patterns that you fall into. A great example is our dependency on coffee first thing in the morning, do you physically need it or emotionally need it? When you're stressed do you turn to sweets or maybe even wine? These habits can be good and bad so connect and celebrate awareness of both.
3. Infuse Your Food with Positive Energy: In the yoga world we call this setting a sankalpa or intention. An intention is a point of focus, a short, positive affirmation directed toward something you wish to achieve. In this case our goal is to create an energizing, veggie loaded meal. As hippie as that may sound, our emotions transfer into the foods we prepare, if negative thoughts are present while cooking then your food will feel the impact, you'll find yourself burning veggies, mis-measuring and spilling all over the place. Taking just a few seconds to pause before you start cooking to set your intention and breathe will completely transform your experience in the kitchen.
4. Be Aware of Your Senses: Eating a complete sensory experience, and committing to a heightened level of awareness in the kitchen will create a deeper connection to the foods you're preparing and eating. Take notice of how the coconut oil dances in the pan when you throw in some veggies, listen to the sound of the sizzle and smell the fresh herbs as you cut through them. Everything from the way dark chocolate melts against the top of your mouth, to the blending of colors on the plate.
5. Reflect, Be Present & Breathe: Promise me that you won't eat standing in front of the refrigerator or at the pantry door! Take the time to sit down at every meal, even if you're in a rush, stop and sit.
Chew your food, and pay attention to how it tastes and feels in your mouth. Eating in a rush causes indigestion, and doesn't allow your body the time and stillness needed to properly assimilate the nutrients.
At the end of the meal, once you're comfortably full, reflect on the meal. What did you love? What would you change? If you're new to cooking this is the best time to think about which spices you used, how you could tweak the recipe to be better next time. This is the period for growth within the kitchen. Before you leave the table, take 5 deep grounding breaths, this will calm your para-sympathetic nervous system and aid in efficient digestion. Lastly, be present in everything you do, this is true yoga. From stirring the pot, to chopping the squash and even while chewing or washing up after. Use your sankalpa (intention) as your guide, anytime a negative emotion arises just repeat that mantra in your mind to recenter and refocus on the task at hand.
6. Be Grateful. It's so easy to forget everyone and everything involved in the eating process, from the farmer that grew the veggies to the worker that stocked the grocery store and the everyone in between - be grateful for their role in you meal. Be grateful for the fact that you can eat that meal, that you can provide for yourself and your family/friends and honor your body for receiving the nutrients that it needs to survive and thrive.
We'd love for you to join us for our hands-on cooking series at the Downtown Market Grand Rapids, starting January 28th at 6pm. You can buy tickets and learn more about the classes here.