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Real permaculture is all about making every aspect of life sustainable so that we can go on living in harmony with nature indefinitely.
Mindfulness is a key part of that transition because to best fulfill our role within the system, we must become mindfully aware of all the other myriad aspects that make up the web of life that we’re a part of.
The gorgeous photos in this article are all taking by my friends who run foraging/culinary classes in Latvia. Check out their Insta!
The Joy of Mindful Food
Mindful eating is a key practice in this intentional lifestyle.
Our bodies are made up of nothing other than the food we eat and the water we drink – so what we consume and how we ingest it is of paramount importance.
Mindful eating can also fill our lives with the joy of truly connecting with our food.
As we become attentive towards the rituals surrounding eating, we develop new depths of creativity and a cheerful awareness that can add a new dimension of meaning to our lives.
Following these steps, it’s my wish that the wonders of Mindful Eating can bestow its blessings upon your lives too.
1. Mindful Growing
If you’re fortunate enough to be growing food in your own garden, backyard, or plot of land, you’ve already taken a big step along the path of mindful eating.
Cultivating soil, sowing seeds, and nursing our crops to maturity, we can watch our food grow with an awareness and an understanding that may be out of reach for someone who has never had the privilege. (Learn more about improving your soil naturally!)
We come to see how the crops we grow are made up of the earth that they rise from, the water that quenches them, the air that they breathe from, and the sunshine that gives them the radiance to prosper.
Earth, water, air, fire.
The four basic elements that constitute everything in our physical world. When we grow with awareness, we see it with our own eyes. Feel it with our own skin. Understand it with our own mind.
When we consume plants, we then inherit these elements too. The ray of sunlight that sweetened the strawberry we’re beholding literally becomes one with us the moment we take a bite from its succulent flesh.
And that drop of water that fell from the sky to quench the melon we’re slurping down is now our own water, soon our very own blood coursing through our veins.
When we become aware of the elements, and their function in us and around us, our appreciation of growing can take on new heights.
With mindful awareness, growing can be a harvest for the senses in every moment…
Seen this way, gathering our crops can be just the icing on the cake…
2. Mindful Harvesting
When we harvest food from our own gardens, we already know all of the work that we’ve put into producing it. Now we reap the rewards of all that we’ve worked for, and there is a natural sense of appreciation – for ourselves, and for the plants.
Yet, do we remember to say thank you to all of the other forces that helped to grow the pumpkin that we’re now plucking from the vine?
Do we remember to thank the sun for making its flesh sweet, and the rain for making it juicy? Do we remember to thank the frog who gobbled up slugs who would have otherwise devoured our fragile seedlings?
Let us also thank the worm for the fertile soil and the bee who so kindly pollinated our plant to produce this precious fruit.
In the vast web of the garden we are but one small part. And whilst our part is essential, we are far from solely responsible for the harvests that feed us.
With the tools of mindfulness, let us become gratefully aware of all the components that made up the crops we are harvesting. (Read more in our article on Nature Therapy!)
3. Mindful Foraging
Harvesting outside of the garden…
If you don’t have your own vegetable garden, mindful harvesting can also be thoroughly enjoyed in nature, using a million-year-old technique, known as gathering or “foraging”.
Easily recognizable wild plants like nettles, dandelions, wild garlic, wild strawberries, and raspberries can be found just about everywhere in temperate climates. The extra strength they need to thrive in the wild means they are chock full of natural goodness – in fact usually much higher in nutrients than our domestic fruits and vegetables.
Check out this chart comparing some wild veggies to their domestic cousins to see what we mean!
Gathering is something that reminds us deeply of our ancestry and when we do it with mindfulness, we might even feel the cells of our body tingling with excitement at the remembrance of this age-old ritual.
Foraging from supermarkets may be a slightly more modern rendition of an ancient art form, but nonetheless, we can still use our innate wisdom to shop mindfully too.
If we become aware of the devastating impacts of chemical farming, for example, we are much more likely to choose organic, local alternatives. Especially if they still have a bit of mud left on them.
Choosing organic ingredients is one of the biggest statements you can make about the direction you’d like to see our planet and society heading toward and a powerful way to support farmers who care for our earth.
4. Mindful Food Preparation
Having gathered our ingredients consciously, we are now ready to prepare them for the table.
All of the energy and dedication we put into this process can nourish us with equal delight as the food itself, when we do it mindfully.
Washing carrots, grating beets, slicing lettuce, or simmering our greens doesn’t have to be a chore. With appreciative awareness, these activities can also become a joy.
Taking time to prepare a meal properly is a precious act of devotion for our own wellbeing, as well as that of the people we’re cooking for.
When we focus on the goodness we intend to share with our loved ones, each slice of a knife can be a slice of love. And we all know that a meal cooked with love is a tasty, nourishing meal indeed.
Food mandalas and decorated platters can a wonderful way to celebrate the food we’re eating. And food presented with loving care is much more likely to be consumed in that spirit too.
5. Mindful Eating
If we’ve followed the preceding steps properly, then mindful eating should almost happen by itself.
Who would want to wolf down a plate of food mindlessly that had been so lovingly grown, gracefully harvested, meticulously prepared, and beautifully presented?
When we’ve been involved in the creation of such a meal, appreciating our food comes very naturally.
Yet, by taking just one more small step, we can further enhance our enjoyment – by creating a ritual…
I suggest that to pay due respect to all the myriad forces that went into making our meal, a moment of silence or prayer is appropriate.
During this time, we can become aware of the food on our plate from the very first stages of its life to its journey to reach us, to the present moment where it awaits our keen appetite.
A plump potato, steaming on our plate can be an object of wonder and awe when we remember her voyage from the hand that first covered her mother potato with soil.
The mother then bursting forth, with strong, robust shoots, broke through the many layers of soil to reach her first breath of fresh air and beams of sunlight. Think of her delight!
As she grew, those rays of light, rain from the sky, nutrients from the soil, gases from the air, and care of the gardener all helped her to rise up, flourish, and give birth to many tiny offspring potatoes.
Those little potatoes then quickly swelled and prospered, as the mother plant nurtured them tenderly to maturity.
Once her work was done, that caring mother laid her body aside and allowed her guardian, the gardener, to pluck her offspring from the soil.
The potato was then scrubbed and sliced with care by the cook, placed in a pan of boiling water, simmered on fire, and drained again, allowed to cool a little, before being placed lovingly on a plate for us to enjoy.
Did you keep count of the number of elements required for this potato to arrive on your plate?
Of all the countless helpers who gave their energy to make this simple offering possible?
Every day we might miss such miracles if we scoff down our food without stopping first to acknowledge what we are about to integrate with our bodies.
Life is an interconnected food web that we are but a tiny part of.
Everything we produce and consume affects all of the other parts of the web and affects it according to the level of care, appreciation, and intention we do it with.
Mindful eating is a fantastic way to recognize the beauty of this web, and how to best interact as a small, yet integral part of it.
With this kind of awareness, real permaculture can be born, cherished, and celebrated, one bite at a time, perennially – without end.
Special thanks go out to the Burdall family who offers foraging and cooking classes near Kuldiga in Latvia. Check out their beautiful photos in their Instagram account!