One bowl: A guide to eating more mindfully

Mindfulness is fast becoming the antidote to stress for modern society and there are many ways to practice it, from meditation, walking and even eating mindfully. Author Don Gerard shares a guide to eating mindfully through his book One Bowl, a concept intended to make people more aware of the food we eat, how and what we eat. The idea is to use a single bowl to eat all your meals for a period of time. Buddha Bowls have become a popular menu item at healthy cafes in recent years, but the name was no accident. It’s a reference to a form of mindful eating called Ōryōki, which was practised in temples by Zen Buddhist monks. Similar to a Japanese tea ceremony, the multi-sized lacquered wood bowls come wrapped in a cloth with various utensils, including a wiping cloth and chopsticks. They make a ceremony of eating this way, making sure to practice mindful presence and gratitude in the process.

Why eat mindfully?

With so many things to distract ourselves and multi-task with (hello Netflix and Instagram), doing one thing at a time has become more important than ever. Even if you meditate early in the morning, your good work can quickly unravel after eating breakfast, lunch or dinner while intermittently staring at a phone screen. Fragmented attention deprives the brain of all-important downtime, where we can fully switch off our minds and process the day. Scientists are calling it cerebral congestion and have found it reduces our ability to innovate and be productive. Eating is an opportunity to give ourselves the downtime we need to remain stress free and industrious. 

How to practice Ōryōki at home

Practicing Ōryōki at home is simple and doesn’t require a formal ceremony like the Zen Buddhist do (unless you want to). Simply choose one bowl from which to eat when you’re at home for a period of time. It could be 30 days, or three years depending on how much you like it. It helps to have a beautiful ceramic handmade bowl that you love to eat from. Make an association with the bowl as your time for mindfulness. The key to practicing Ōryōki is in the name itself, which consists of three Sino-Japanese characters below; 応 ō represents your response to the gift of your food — a cue to reflect on your foods journey from farm to plate and to focus on tasting every bite (not just the first few). 量 ryō denotes the measure or amount received — imagine your empty bowl is the size of your hungry stomach and fill it to the level that you need to feel satisfied, eating just enough, but not too much. This helps you to become a more intuitive eater and being more in tune with how hungry you truly are and what foods you need on a particular day. 器 ki symbolises the bowl itself — whether we’re eating at our desk, or stress-eating through a meal, rushing to eat is common. ‘Ki’ encourages us to take time with our food, treating the act of eating as a ritual, rather than a chore. Notice the temperature and feel of the bowl in your hand and the aroma of the food. Having one bowl also gives a singular point to focus your attention. Make sure not to multitask and do one thing at a time.

A few of the surprising benefits of mindfulness:

  • Reduced stress and depressive symptoms
  • Boost in memory and focus
  • Better relationships
  • Less emotional reactivity
  • Increased energy
  • Improved general health

Things to note

This is a practice and at first, you might feel like rushing through it. It’s important not to judge yourself when you feel like this, it’s all a practice. Start with one meal a day until the practice becomes more effortless and grounding for you. \

Try our Soup Bowl for your Ōryōki practice