By: Tracey Edgerly Meloni
Super-size me. Two-for-one. All you can eat. Dinner in 20 minutes, or it’s free.
Into this maelstrom of consumer feeding frenzy comes the mindful voice of Oryoki, translated as “just enough.” The concept is interpreted in The Meditative Cook classes given by Andrea Minick Rudolph, founder, and director of Oryoki Zendo, located in a suite above the Cornerstone Coffeehouse in Camp Hill.
“For many families, hurried, tense meals have become more the rule than the exception,” says Rudolph. “A quick bite standing at the kitchen counter, a fast-food stop or a snack gulped down on a break at work in place of lunch. More people are stuffing food into their mouths, gobbling it down and scurrying off to work, a meeting or a school activity without thinking of what they are eating or drinking, or how it will affect their health.”
The Meditative Cook classes emphasize mindful buying, cooking and eating. “Mindful buying” asks us to buy local and organic foods and to be aware of label ingredients. “Mindful cooking” reminds us to engage all the senses and savor the moment. “Mindful eating” encourages awareness and gratitude.
“Slow down, appreciate and acknowledge the many ways that food, both physical and spiritual, comes to our table,” says Rudolph, summing up the concept of her Meditative Cook classes. “What is ‘just enough,’ and what are we really hungry for?”
She adds, “Challenge your eating habits, and eat things you know will make a difference in nourishing your body, mind and spirit.”
Rudolph is quick to point out that a nutritious meal might be easier than we think. “Any meal prepared with a mindful, meditative approach is a ‘proper’ meal,” she says. “Using the ingredients at hand, we combine them to make the best meal possible, and it is always ‘just enough.’ With a keen awareness and appreciation for what is right in front of us, senses fully engaged, we can create a meal that is physically and spiritually satisfying, regardless of the amount or how simple or complex the preparation.”
For example, Rudolph, says, “Sometimes peanut butter on crackers can be ‘just enough.’”
Rudolph’s Mindfulness workshops aren’t limited to cooking.
“In our fast-paced fast-food culture, what do we really hunger for?” ~ Andrea Minick Rudolph
She says she covers many different topics because the principles can be applied to a variety of situations.
“If I choose a topic like mindfulness and self esteem, we discuss all the ways we are conditioned to believe certain things about ourselves from the time we are born to the present,” she says.
Rudolph, an ordained Zen Buddhist priest, says she has been imagining and planning Oryoki Zendo for at least five years. In addition to workshops, she offers mindfulness counseling, meditation and gentle toning and stretching. She views Oryoki Zendo as “a refuge, a place of creativity and inspiration where one can take a deep breath, relax and feel nurtured. It is not just a physical space, but a way of life.”
In essence, the trick to embracing “just enough” is learning to substitute mindfulness for mindless consumption.
“Habitual overeating and overspending masks our deeper longing to connect, socially and spiritually,” says Rudolph. “‘Just enough’ is not a set amount, but an awareness of what our bodies truly need. People are starting to pay more attention to what they are consuming, where food and material goods originate and how we all can dispose of waste. But in a culture of overconsumption, we have a long way to go.”
Oryoki, in traditional Japanese Buddhist culture, is a highly ritualized meal, served in reverence and silence. In practicing the concept of Oryoki in our daily lives, she says, we can mindfully choose what is “just enough” in eating and in living.
“What satisfies one person may not satisfy another, but the main idea is to develop a keen awareness of what we each realistically need in contrast with what we want or crave, not just in the amount of food we consume but with material goods as well,” she says. “It is time for people to awaken to the concept of ‘just enough’ as a compassionate approach to sustainable living and protecting the earth’s resources. The way we choose to live our individual lives has a direct impact on others – with emphasis on the word ‘choose.’”
Rudolph practices what she preaches, observing the principles of Oryoki in and out of the kitchen and the classroom. “As I learn to accept what the present moment has to offer, I allow the past to fall away with the understanding that everything changes, including my body as I age,” she says. “By practicing mindfulness, wisdom, grace and beauty can flow seamlessly into the future.”
She hopes others will replace frenzied consumption and super-sizing with more serene and nourishing meals. But she is a realist. She expresses her hopes for the future of mindful eating: “However many people presently choose to follow the path of mindful eating and living is, well, ‘just enough,’ for the moment. That number will hopefully grow.”