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Food as a Mirror for Personal Growth

Learn to let your intuition—gut instinct—tell you when the food, the relationship, the job isn’t good for you (and conversely, when what you’re doing is just right).
~Oprah Winfrey

But the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you can find someone to love the you you love, well, that’s just fabulous.
~Carrie on Sex and the City

Who is your significant other? The answer may surprise you. Your relationships include your relationship with nature, people, pets, career, money, food, and anything else with which you form an attachment. How you experience these relationships is a reflection of the greatest relationship in your life–your relationship with yourself. Because eating is an everyday ritual, your relationship with food is an important reflection or mirror of your relationship with yourself.

Your life experiences are based on your perception of these events. It all begins with your view of yourself. Are you living authentically or are you living by other people’s beliefs? You can find the answer to this question by looking at your relationships. Are your relationships supportive? Do they have healthy boundaries? Or do your relationships bring up inner fears? By deconstructing your stories or limiting beliefs behind your fears, you can find out more about yourself and how to listen to your inner voice instead of following other people’s stories.

Your relationship with food can also reveal limiting beliefs about yourself. If you choose foods that distort thinking, such as alcohol, this may suggest that you want to avoid facing your fears. Mindful eating without distractions allows you to focus on the present moment and nourish your inner voice. Then you honor and respect not only the food you are eating but also yourself.

Healthy Relationship Tip

To connect with your partner and yourself on a more profound level, follow this exercise:

3 Appreciations

  1. Sit crossed legged in front of your partner. Say three things you appreciate about your partner.
  2. Your partner says three things he or she appreciates about you.
  3. You say three things you appreciate about yourself.
  4. Your partner says three things he or she appreciates about himself or herself.

This exercise allows your partner to hear how you value him or her. You also hear how your partner values you, and you both hear how you value yourselves.

Are you ready to awaken the healer within?

Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains.
~Diane Ackerman

You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.
~Alan Alda

Ah, morning! The fresh smell of dew on the grass and the musky odor that comes out of the earth when the sun comes up! What smells entice you into nature? Cultivating mindful awareness of your sense of smell helps you strengthen your relationship with nature and universal forces. These universal forces are also known as intuition or inner guidance. Your sense of smell is a profound resource you can use to awaken your intuition for healing from the inside out.

Connecting with inner guidance may be new for you. You may have learned to shut your body down, instead of savoring what your body is doing and being guided by it. Mindfully focusing on your sense of smell can help you notice your energy shifting. This process can help you awaken your intuition.

  1. While seated, ground yourself by placing your hands on your abdomen. Scan your body for areas of tension. Tension may appear as tightness in shoulder muscles.
  2. If your body is holding tension, your mind and emotions will reflect this. What emotions are you feeling (for example, sadness, oppression, anxiety)?
  3. What thoughts are you having?

For contrast, smell your favorite herb while you focus on your body, thoughts, and emotions. Finally, do the exercise again, but this time without smelling the herb. What did you notice in your energy as you did the exercise before, during, and after smelling the herb?

Practice awakening your intuition through your sense of smell and notice how your energy shifts. As you begin to listen to your inner guidance, universal energy will flow through you as the natural healing process unfolds.

Sensing Your Food

Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.
~Ashley Smith

Memories, imagination, old sentiments, and associations are more readily reached through the sense of smell than through any other channel.
~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Do you remember as a child how fun it was to play in the grass and smell the flowers? That fun doesn’t have to end. Your awareness of the world is dependent on your senses, which are part of your body. Through your senses, you can experience the natural state of interconnectedness between you and everything around you, even your food. Cultivating mindfulness can enhance your relationship with food and help in the healing process.

Focusing on your senses helps you become mindfully awake and perceive the vividness of each moment. Rather than separating you from your food, every sense organ can become a doorway that provides the experience of natural connection between all beings in nature. Does this make sense?

When you experience yourself as being part of the whole family of life, you become open to universal healing energy. Everything you see is a communion of you and nature, no separation, joined through your senses. Use smell, taste, sight, touch, and sound to connect with your food.

Let’s focus on your sense of smell. To develop a conscious relationship with food, smell your food when you are:

  • Standing at the produce counter in the grocery store
  • Buying grains and sea vegetables in bulk
  • Cutting vegetables for a recipe
  • Washing rice before soaking
  • Cooking a meal
  • Adding herbs and spices to a dish
  • Walking through a garden
  • Sitting in a restaurant

Now practice using your senses of sight, touch, taste, and sound. As you use your senses, you can develop an intimate relationship and profound respect for your food. Can you see how this deep respect and reverence helps to strengthen your connection with nature and allows the healing process to unfold?

Embracing Nature

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.
~John Muir

Do you have a favorite place to play in nature? Nature provides many places in which you can both play and pray. Tension dissolves as you embrace nature, which is the natural state of oneness with the present moment. By strengthening your awareness of the present moment, you can cultivate a deeper connection to nature. Your senses are the secret to connecting with universal energy for healing in body, mind, and spirit.

In the blog “Walking Meditation,” I spoke about the importance of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the profound ability to perceive present awareness. This is the process of unlearning the habit of focusing on past and future. Instead, you learn to focus on one thing at a time without being overwhelmed by distractions. The more time you spend in present awareness, the more you become aware of subtle distractions. As these distractions drop away, your awareness of the present moment deepens. Bliss, joy, and happiness manifest. These are nature’s gifts that come with cultivation of mindfulness.

Embracing nature in the present moment is how you cultivate your connection with the outer world. Your energy is constantly exchanging with nature and vice versa. For example, nature provides food for your sustenance, and this food is eventually returned to the outer world. Can you see how boundaries are self-imposed?

You can turn around your everyday mindset of separation with nature through your senses. Every sense organ can become a doorway to an experience of natural connection. Close your eyes and take a moment to smell your food. What does this smell remind you of? For example, when I smell sea vegetables, I am immediately connected with the ocean. I imagine the waves crashing on the beach, pelicans gliding over the water, and boats sailing on the horizon. Through my sense of smell, I experience myself as being part of the whole family of life. Can you see how everything experienced through your senses connects you with the outer world?

By cultivating present awareness through your senses, you connect with Mother Earth. This pathway of coming into union with nature connects you to universal energy. The best part is, your meridians (energy pathways) begin to open as blockages are dissolved, bringing organ systems back into balance to create a healthy long life.

Walking Meditation

In beauty may I walk.
All day long may I walk.
Through the returning seasons may I walk.
~Navaho Prayer

Mindfulness is a state of being in the present moment. It is common in your day-to-day existence to “walk” through life unaware of your present experience. You may hold on to thoughts about the past or the future. Practicing mindfulness through walking meditation allows you “be in the present moment.”

Connecting with your body, emotions, and thoughts can help to bring you back to the present moment. To become more mindful, use this process as you begin walking meditation:

  1. The first avenue of mindfulness is body awareness. Your body has a sacred language which can communicate when something is out of balance. Begin the walking meditation by “grounding” yourself in your body. Notice any physical sensations as your feet touch the ground.
  2. In Buddhism, the word “citta” refers to both mind and heart. As you do walking meditation, become aware of your emotions and state of mind. Follow your emotions on your journey, and watch how they change as often as your state of mind changes. You may start off feeling curious and interested about the practice, but by the end, you may feel joyful and relaxed.
  3. Notice that your thoughts also change throughout the exercise. They may be busy and distracted at the beginning and become more focused and calm when you connect with the meditation practice itself.

Being aware of your emotional and mental states during walking meditation helps you practice being in the present moment. As you fill your mind and heart with beautiful experience of walking, you focus less on distractions and illusions. Rather, you are deeply aware of your present experience as you become more centered.

As you practice, you develop greater awareness of your emotions and state of mind. With this awareness, you can be more receptive to universal energy as well as inner guidance. As your mind becomes more centered, you are more open to the beauty of the world both inside and out.

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