A Conversation with Thich Nhat Hanh About Savor
We discuss the nature of feelings in Savor in great length. Basically, when we respond to a certain stimulus, feelings or emotions will manifest in our mind. We human beings have many feelings. They can be positive or negative. Examples of positive emotions include love, joy and hope; and examples of negative emotions include fear, anger, anxiety and grief. For many people, emotions are closely tied to food, although the precise nature of this relationship varies from person to person. Some people tend to eat more when they are joyful, while others tend to eat less. If we do not attempt to look deeply to understand our craving, it will grow and we will form unhealthy habits. In maintaining our well-being, we need to use mindfulness to help us be fully aware of how these various emotions affect how we eat and to cultivate a healthy and positive relationship to food.
Why do you think Americans in particular struggle with their weight?
Compared to the rest of the world, the U.S. is a land of abundance. There is easy access to foods and drinks that are not good for us and that are served in big portions. Persuasive advertising for unhealthy choices bombard our senses and people get conditioned to crave these unhealthy foods and drinks, such as sugar sweetened beverages and desserts loaded with saturated fat and sugar. With all the mechanization of modern technology and a very car-centered culture, (unlike other places like Europe where public transportation is much more accessible), people in the U.S. are moving less and burning fewer calories every day. This is responsible for Americans' struggle with weight. Furthermore, the fast pace of life is now the norm. Between their cell phones, computers and televisions, young people are trying to manage as many as seven tasks at one time. This way of life is the opposite of mindful living. No wonder people are not really living in the moment and are not fully aware of what they are eating or of what they are doing, which is essential for maintaining a healthy weight.
Can you share with us how mindfulness plays a role in your everyday life?
Mindfulness makes life beautiful and meaningful. When I am mindful of my in-and-out breath and relax my whole body, I am in touch with how good it is to be alive. I am in touch with my state of health and feel grateful for everything that is going well in my body. Then with mindfulness I can be aware of the beauty of the sky, the smile of the flower, the singing of the birds. I can be deeply in touch with my own suffering and hold it with love and tenderness, rather than suppressing it or running from it. Because I can be truly present for myself, I can be truly present for those I live with, listening deeply to them and speaking words that inspire hope and self-confidence. In this way, I can bring joy to someone each morning and relieve the pain of someone each afternoon.