Be like the earth. When the rain comes, the earth simply opens up to the rain and soaks it all in. -Thich Nhat Hanh
My mother raised my brother and I to be accepting of other religions. My parents never made us go to church (aside from when we were very young), and even though my brother and I were both baptized (Lutheran--the most lax of all Christian religions), church was never immensely important--but spirituality sure was. After my parent's divorce, my mother began studying Buddhism (she was raised Catholic). She eventually began utilizing ideas from both, seemingly different, religions.
I remember actually wanting to be Catholic when I was in elementary school. I was jealous of the kids who were forced to go to Sunday school. I was envious of their ability to fit in with religion. I actually remember my fifth grade teacher ask my whole class, "Who is Catholic?" A totally inappropriate question for a public school, but the school I went to was basically a private school in hiding--at least in how they thought and acted. As every single one of my peers raised their hand, I realized I needed to make a decision. Did I want to fit in, or did I want to get questions thrown at me? I raised my hand. I was Catholic for a day.
Looking back, it all seems so silly--but so was elementary school. How could I tell the other kids that my mom taught my brother and I how to meditate, and what does that even mean to a 10-year-old? So I didn't talk about it. Even though 10-year-old me thought it was weird, I did enjoy some of my early learning about Buddhism.
One of the books I'm reading is Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life by Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Lilian Cheung. In it, a specific Buddhist mindfulness meditation is taught that my mom had taught me years ago--back when I wanted to be Catholic. In their book, Hanh and Cheung teach it with an apple, but my mom taught it to me with chocolate chip cookies--because how else do you teach children about mindfulness?
I remember this experience so vividly. We all had one cookie in front of us. We first looked at the cookie--lovingly, of course. Then, we felt its texture in our hands. When we brought it to our lips, we smelled the sweet aroma (these weren't Tollhouse, they were my mom's recipe). My mom interjected: "Once you bite into it, count the number of times you chew. Try to chew 20-30 times to savor it." When I look back, I don't know how my mom thought children would be able to do this--but we did! I counted the number of times I chewed the cookie in my mouth--its crumbles bore new crumbles--and finally, I swallowed. The cookie tasted like no other cookie I had before.
This meditation teaches us to eat mindfully. Hanh says, "By eating...this way, truly savoring it, you have a taste of mindfulness, the state of awareness that comes from being fully immersed in the present moment." When we take a moment with the food we are consuming, we become more appreciative of how it got to us. Regarding the apple (or cookie) meditation, Hanh says:
Look deeply at the apple in your hand and you see the farmer who tended the apple tree; the blossom that became the fruit; the fertile earth, the organic material from decayed remains of prehistoric marine animals and algae, and the hydrocarbons themselves; the sunshine, the clouds, and the rain. Without the combination of these far-reaching elements and without the help of many people, the apple would simply not exist.
This is just one of the many beautiful and important teachings in Savor. Everything in our life comes down to mindfulness. If we're mindful in all aspects of our life, then, let's face it--we would probably be much happier people.
Have you tried the mindful eating meditation? What do/did you think?