Wednesday, June 15, 2016

DBT and Judaism(Part 1): Blessing Your Food Mindfully

The intersection of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and Judaism has been on my mind for quite a bit of time. In this particular post, I will examine the relationship of mindfulness  with regards to food in connection to saying a blessing before one eats. The next post will be on mindfulness and Kashrutand the one following it will be about the connection between B'Tzelem Elohim (being made in the image of God) and Radical Acceptance.

Mindfulness, according to wikipedia is the practice of bringing one's attention to the internal and external experiences of the present moment. Take this scenario (which is one that our Jewish chaplain has mentioned many times, so it is not mine): You are running into the house after a long day; you haven't eaten in hours and there's mail on the counter next to a bowl of fruit. What is the difference between grabbing on apple with one hand and the top piece of mail with the other and taking a bite out of it while you read said mail and picking up the apple, saying the appropriate blessing and then taking a bite out of it and grabbing the mail? The end result is basically the same. You have to wait an extra, maybe ten seconds before eating the apple, depending on how fast you can say the blessing. So what does this have to do with mindful eating? In DBT, one of the exercises is a mindful eating exercises. I've seen this done with a grape, a hershey's kiss, even a piece of chicken, but we are going to work with an apple because that will make the comparison easier. Basically, what you do is you eat, in this case the apple very slowly, trying to use all five of your senses to take in the food. While you do this, you think about where the food came from and truly appreciate all of the properties of the food. This serves the same purpose as the blessing does, making them extremely related.

The most important part of this connection, in my opinion, is the idea that you are thinking about what you are doing instead of just operating on your "default setting"(moving through the motions without any focus on the intentions behind your actions). Perhaps if saying the blessing is natural to you because you have done it your whole life, this concept would not apply, but for someone like me who has become more observant more recently, I know that it takes a lot of thought. This involves actually figuring out which blessing is appropriate for the food that you are about to eat or admiring it properties with mindful eating. Regardless, the experience is strengthened by the act that you do before.

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