So how can we begin to apply oriental ideas about food to our western way of eating? It may not be as difficult as we at first imagine. In fact to eat ‘orientally’ we may not need to change our diet at all, simply the way we eat. To begin with, the simple guidelines outlined below can be as health improving as a change in diet.
- Enjoy your food. Our feelings about our food directly instruct our bodies what to do with it. If our feelings are of celebration and welcoming of the food as something which nourishes us then we are more likely to benefit than if we are worrying about it.
- Relax. If our posture is twisted, slumped or tense our intestines can easily be constricted, hindering the free flow of food through our system. It helps to take a few full breaths, adjust our position and calm down from any activity before we eat. To inhale the aroma of food before we eat also helps stimulate our digestive juices and for some a simple moment of gratitude or prayer opens the way for nourishment to sink more deeply in.
- Chew well and eat slowly. There is a saying that the stomach has no teeth. Unchewed food creates extra work for the digestive system and may easily result in digestive discomfort and inefficiency. The most easily digested food is ‘babyfood’, simple soups and purees that need little extra work to digest. We can choose either to do our predigestion outside the body through cooking or in the mouth by chewing.
- Keep drinks and meals separate. Too much fluid with a meal will over-dilute the digestive juices and impair our digestion. A small glass or teacup of warm fluid such as jasmine tea if you are feeling Chinese, or a more native herb such as fennel or peppermint to aid the digestion, is considered sufficient fluid. Our main fluid intake is best outside the meal zone (half an hour before to an hour or so after eating).
- Don’t chill the digestive system. Our digestive systems will not tolerate the continued intake of cold substances such as food or drink directly from the refrigerator, or the overuse of energetically cold substances such as raw food. Eventually the fire which supports and energizes the digestive system becomes weakened leading to increasing inability to derive proper nourishment from food.
- Stop before you are full. Many of today’s health problems in the west are the result of overnutrition and overeating. If we habitually overeat, our digestive system becomes overburdened and we feel tired and congested. Too much of our energy becomes entangled in trying to clear a backlog of food and less is available to us for moving and acting. It takes discipline and attention to regulate this tendency but the benefits are soon felt and the hunger we sought to fill with food often turns out to be at root an emotional hunger instead.
- Eat as much local and naturally grown food as possible. Food which has grown in the same neighbourhood as you is far more likely to resonate harmoniously with your body than something grown in another season on the other side of the world, picked unripe and sprayed with preservatives, consuming huge amounts of the planet’s energy to get to you and probably encouraging a global economy which makes the rich countries fatter and the poor thinner. Better still grow a few things yourself in the back garden if you have one and taste the difference.
- Back to square one: remember to enjoy your food!
These simple principles can move our lives in the direction of positive health. It as also worth saying that from an energetic perspective, foods which are grown by organic methods from stock which has not been genetically manipulated or weakened by selection has a stronger and more health giving energetic structure that commercially grown overwatered and chemically fed foods. The energetic structure of food is also severely weakened by the use of microwaves.