Focused Eating for the Curious

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Last month, I wrote about some of my general thoughts regarding eco-kashrut.  This month, I am sharing some of my day-to-day experiences trying to experience Godliness through food. 

For me, attention and focus are key in bringing holiness to the seemingly mundane.  It is particularly important for me to bring that focused attention to eating, especially my regular meals. 

In the fast paced world of 2017, however, one of the greatest challenges that many of us face is carving out inviolable time in our daily schedules for meals in which we are unplugged, not multi-tasking, and not rushed. Following are some of the challenges I face at each of the three daily meals. 

Carving out focused undistracted time for breakfast is generally not too difficult for me; however, I am not a morning person, so the mere process of being full awake at breakfast is an ongoing challenge for me.  At lunch, it is easy for me to become engrossed at work and eat lunch at my desk while working, barely aware of what food I am eating.  Dinner can also be difficult; since my work day ends fairly late, the preparation and planning prior to returning home at the end of the work day is key to a calm, focused meal. 

 

I have identified some tools and practices that are helpful to me in elevating eating from the mundane to more sacred.  Most significantly, I always try to pause and say the relevant food blessing(s) in both Hebrew and English before eating.  I have found the slower I say the blessing the better; and I particularly try to meditate on specific words of the blessing and meditate on the food itself – including the holiness of the entire supply chain, which resulted in the food being in front of me at that moment. I try to use the blessing before eating to deepen my sense of gratitude for the food, my body, and the way in which the food fuels my body.  While it can be easy to forget to say a blessing before eating, I have created a strong visual reminder by having the framed blessings hanging in front of me at my kitchen table.

For breakfast, I have come to accept that my level of consciousness will never be as high as at lunch or dinner.  I find that if I have prayed that morning prior to breakfast – particularly prayed the morning blessings – I am more present and aware for being fully appreciative of the first meal of the day.

For lunch, I find that I am much more likely to have a focused meal if I leave my desk at work; even better if I am able to leave my work environment completely.  And if I am able to escape into the natural environment – even just to a park or picnic table outside, I am most able to withdraw from life’s distractions and have a focused meal.

I have found the most significant factor in helping me raise dinner to a more sacred plane is the shopping and dinner planning prior to returning home from work that evening. One of the simplest ways for me to prepare dinner is with a crockpot.  I continue to find new, healthy, kosher meals that can be made in a crockpot.  It is an especially nice feeling to walk in the door at the end of the work day to the smells of a ready hot meal waiting for me.  When I have not made dinner in the crockpot and when I fail to plan for dinner preparation in advance, I try to make sure I have a structure in place to avoid slipping into eating unhealthy non-kosher fast food.  One way I try to do this is to ensure that the freezer is continually stocked with frozen healthy vegetarian meals from Gardein, Boca, Morningstar Farms, etc.  Although these are not my first choice for dinner, I I greatly prefer these meals over “fresh” fast food; and when I eat these meals I know my eating is consistent with my values.

Although the tools and practices above significantly impact the holiness of my eating, unfortunately my implementation of these has been far from perfect.  Nevertheless I remain committed to continually seeking to raise my eating to a higher sacred plane.

- Matt Levitt