This week I have a guest article written by Shauna Keeler. Shauna is a Holistic Culinary Nutritionist and Registered Yoga Instructor with her Master’s in Nutrition Science and professional chef’s training in health supportive cooking from the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City. Her expertise lies in plant-based and vegan cooking for health as well as helping others to incorporate mindfulness and nutritious foods into their kitchen. Shauna teaches the art of vegan cooking, offers nutritional counseling and enjoys working as a private chef. She lives in Brooklyn, NY where she can be found hosting vegan dinner parties and checking out the yoga scene.
Last summer, I was fortunate to spend time studying at a Zen Buddhist monastery in the Catskills. The experience was filled with reflection, exhaustion, frustration and, eventually, profound joy as we spent hours each day in meditation, engaging in “samu” or work practice and soaking in the beautiful scenery created by the lake and the mountains.
As a nutritionist, I love learning about others’ eating habits, and I was downright fascinated by the relationship to food the monastery residents exhibited. Upon my first meal, I was struck by the awareness with which food is consumed. Formal meals are a ritualistic process that took me a few days to get comfortable with—serving yourself, passing the tea water, cleaning your bowls and even setting your chopsticks to the side were all part of a choreographed ritual. Although kneeling on the floor and being completely silent while eating didn’t stick, the attitude with which meals were approached is something I try to keep as part of my daily life away from the monastery.
Prior to each meal, we touched our palms together in front of our hearts and chanted a short reflection in unison, which I included below. I found this reflection meaningful on a variety of levels and have been eager to share it.