Let's start with what is great about chocolate. For starters, dark chocolate has some wonderful health benefits including cardiovascular benefits and stress reduction. According to Dr. van den Broek, consuming 40 grams of dark chocolate reduces measurable urinary excretions of cortisol thus positively impacting stress and anxiety levels among women. Nice bonus. But eating chocolate - or much of anything else - is more than a health balance equation for me. It's an experience, a moment, a meditation. Yes, a meditation!
Little did I know that my passion for food and moments of sensory bliss are part of a practice in mindfulness. "Eating meditation", like other mindfulness practices, helps us to stop and savor the present moment, reducing stress and strengthening our ability to focus. According to Richard Brady of the Mindfulness in Education Network, eating meditation is "is simply eating to be aware of and appreciate eating." Jay Michaelson writes in "Eat Your Way to Enlightment" that eating meditation "is among the simplest, and most profound, of mindfulness practices." Using the Kabbalistic map of the four worlds, he describes how you can experience a piece of food first in the body (looking with your eyes, feeling with your fingers), in the heart (what are your desires and feelings), in the mind (consider how the food was raised, grown, or made), and in the soul (the energy and divinity of the food). Incorporating these practices into every meal, or even a few bites, gives us a wider experience of the subtleties of food, an awareness and appreciation of the source of food, as well as a sincere gratitude and understanding of the importance and value of what we consume. A simple bite can transform a basic, mundane necessity in a moment of enlightenment, peace, and pleasure. And it is in those moments that we are most alive and most present.
As parents, it's easy to get caught up in the mundane of our daily routines and to keep our minds racing to the next task, the next job - trying to keep one step ahead of our children to ensure their health, safety, and well-being. But slowing down and being present, while eating or parenting in any other way, can create those timeless moments that we will long remember and treasure.
Excuse me while I grab some more chocolate and go meditate!