For many, life has been moving at a slower pace over the past few months, allowing us more time to invite a little more mindfulness into our days to make mealtimes a nurturing and mindful experience.
From marine life once again swimming in the Venice canals, to great numbers of currawongs patrolling the balconies of those working at home in Sydney and its surrounds, the last few months of lockdown have seen an array of wildlife exploring urban and suburban areas.
For the first time, many city dwellers are realising that we share these spaces with other creatures.
Slowing down and eliminating the usual distractions has led us to rediscover our neighbourhoods: from trees we’ve never noticed before, to the sounds of bird songs in previously gridlocked streets.
Collectively, the pandemic has forced us to regain awareness of our surroundings and the impact of our activities in a way, and at a scale, that no one could have ever imagined.
Mindfulness ‘locked down’
One of the benefits of practising mindfulness is that it helps us connect with our values and shine a light on what gives us purpose and meaning in life.
For many, the lockdown has illustrated how family, local community, and the environment contribute to our physical and mental well-being. The pandemic has certainly forced us to reassess our daily habits and behaviour and given the motivation to make lifestyle changes.
Earlier this year, a typical evening might see us after a crowded hour-long commute picking up some takeaway from the train station, not giving a second thought to the empty packets and containers poking out of the bin.
Today, more of us are working from home, buying local, and cooking from scratch. We’re reclaiming the joys of slow cooking – from sourdough starters to home fermentation projects – and moving towards a more sustainable direction.
Mindfulness and veganism
With certain ingredients becoming scarce, coupled with concerns about perishability, there has been an increased interest in dairy-free and plant-based recipes to support our health and save money.
Ultimately, we’ve become more intuitive cooks, taking the time to find creative ways to minimise waste.
As Lani Muelrath says in her book, The Mindful Vegan, “by aspiring to live vegan, you’ve already made a choice that is fundamentally ethical and mindful. It means you’re already aware, watchful, careful and attentive of earth’s environmental predicament simply by choosing what you put on your fork.”
We have three brains: the head, the heart and the stomach. The stomach, or enteric brain, as it is also known, is linked to our core sense of self. In this way, cooking isn’t just about nourishment; it allows us to access deep personal memories and enable us to create and express our identity.
Mindful cooking presents us with the opportunity to heighten this experience and translate those lessons to other aspects of our life.
Awareness of where your food comes from, how it is prepared, and how it is enjoyed are key aspects of mindful cooking. This means taking the time to set an intention before cooking and preparing the ingredients mindfully, engaging through touch and smell, and appreciating the seasons and how you’re feeling.
The cycle comes full circle when we give thanks to the earth, farmers, and storekeepers who have made the produce available to us, and honour the loved ones we share our meals with.
Practice makes progress
The inner convictions of vegans are often tested in social situations by those who make different choices. Mindfulness brings to the forefront some of these difficulties and helps us to engage with those challenges constructively. It teaches acceptance of ourselves and those around us with loving-kindness, even when views differ.
For those who practice mindfulness, but do not follow a plant-based diet, you may wish to explore the mind-body connection. You may abstain from a particular product or food for a short time.
What are some of the thoughts and feelings you experience during this period? Pay attention to whether they change over time. What lessons have you learned from this experience?
Ultimately, it’s not about rigidity or perfectionism but bringing awareness and intentionality to your daily food rituals. Whether we like it or not, our choices are influencing the impact food production has on the planet – and it’s within our control to be intentional about what we want that impact to be.
Adamantia Velonis is the founder of online cooking journal Marmalade & Kindness. Her mission is to encourage people to find moments of mindfulness and creativity through cooking.