There is a saying I hear from time to time, and it reads something like this: we are spiritual beings having a human experience. Each time this saying crosses my path, I find myself digging deeper and deeper into the complexity and meaning of this statement. Is it really true? I can’t say for sure. Maybe it’s simply a matter of what I choose to believe that matters in the end. In my mind, our bodies are vessels of the spirit. And it is through discovering my body that I discover my soul. The “human” in me (in us all) needs basic survival needs met: food, water, shelter, sleep, air to breathe, sunlight. Without an able physical self, or body, I will not survive long.
My belief is that there are basic needs (those I just mentioned) and then there are thriving needs. My interest, passion and curiosity with food, cooking and true nourishment (along with movement and mindfulness practices), is about the physical body’s capacity and desire to thrive. I’m constantly discovering and rediscovering the optimal state in which my body can move, operate and work interdependently with my soul and my spirit.
This practice or this curiosity has led me down an incredible path of self-discovery, connection, service and personal mastery. For a kid who despised anything and everything vegetable; who asked for the crust to be cut off from his sandwich as a child; a teenager who made an everyday lunch habit of Burger King, McDonald’s or Godfather’s pizza buffets; it's a wonder at all that I learned how to cook for myself, and in turn became a chef. Lots of love to my mother who prepared amazing homemade meals made with real food and love, and did her best to curb my junk food habits.
So how did I come to land on this path and start this culinary journey? Basically it came down to life or death. I’m a recovering alcoholic. I view alcoholism and addiction as a phenomenon of physical craving, as well as a spiritual disease. It was either get clean and sober, or possibly die from this disease. At the time I got sober, I was in serious need of healing in both my body and my soul.
My intention and purpose - the practice of personal mastery here - is full awareness of each meal I eat. It’s the entire process of the meal: the desire and hunger before the meal - the preparation, the cooking, chewing, breathing, smelling, tasting, cleaning the dishes and the awareness of the energy and feeling after the meal is done. In many ways, I’ve journeyed from mindless eating to mindful eating. I strive to pick, prepare and eat foods to a standard and philosophy that best serve to keep my body thriving and energized. These foods help keep my focus and attention sharp. It’s about nourishing my body, my mind and my spirit. This is the kind of approach and influence I want to inspire in others. I also do everything I can to eat together, as a family, as a community, with a loved one or friend. It’s a time-honored tradition of eating collectively and sharing our gratitude that connects our souls to the physical body.
So what exactly do I eat? It starts with the same basic needs we need as humans, water and sunlight. What this means is that I try and eat foods that are naturally occurring and grow as a result of the water and sunlight. This consists mostly of fruits and vegetables. A pound of fresh fruits and veggies and a pound cooked of the same. Everyday. I like my meat (I am a paleo chef, after all) but I choose to eat meats in periods of scarcity (none at all) and periods of abundance. Throw in some seeds, nuts and healthy fats and there you have it. And yes, I leave room for things like cheeseburgers, pizza and sweets at a minimum. Only enough to keep me sane.
So why do I really do this? Why do I spend nearly fifty percent of my waking hours in a kitchen? At the end of it all, it’s about relationships. How do we give our full selves - the love, the kindness, the forgiveness, the energy and time - to be of service of those we love and cherish. I believe we want to be in the most optimal state-of-doing and being and that starts with “I” or “Me.”
How I show up most present, in mind, body and spirit in life is defined by what I put on my plate (or in my bowl) to eat and nourish this amazing, powerful and mystical whole-being that I am.
P.S. My work with Wyld Joy now includes sharing my passion for food and mindful eating with a community of likeminded men at what is called the Freedom Feast. If you're interested in joining this monthly meeting of the minds (and bellies) drop me a line or sign up directly for the next session.