If you’ve ever seen a young child eating with their hands, you will understand what it is to truly experience food. A baby or toddler will squish, feel, and lick – smudging food all over their faces in an act of pure joy – completely present in the moment. We can take a cue from these little agents of spirit and be more conscious of and present for our food every day by connecting with our meals through our fingers.
Mainstream knowledge on the nutritional requirements of the human body and the medicinal effect of food have grown exponentially in recent years. However, the understanding of the energetic nature of food is still largely misunderstood. For the human system to fully engage with the medicine that food is, we need to learn to slow down and connect with food through all of our senses, including through touch.
The principle of food linking us energetically to a web of people, elements, seasons and lands has been well understood for centuries in ancient world traditions. Danielle Van de Velde is a spiritual teacher and healer with over 30 years experience, with extensive knowledge on energetic principles. Hailing from Australia, she teaches reiki, meditation, intuitive healing, and shamanic practices. Danielle reveals that food absorbs the energies of the people it passes through before ending up on our plates.
“Foods are enfolded parcels of energy which contain the entire ‘story’ of the substance – from the elements and land it was grown, the seasonal influences, to the attitudes and energy fields of the farmers, harvesters, packers and distributors,” she explains.
“In other words, when we eat a banana, we are eating worlds within worlds of energy exchanges.”Danielle Van de Velde
We are incredible beings of energy, with a spiritual life force that constantly feeds and nourishes. Our energy is always in motion, affected by our thoughts, experiences and environment. The food we put into our physical bodies, including its quantities, is one of the key contributors to our vital life force.
Danielle explains that everything we experience is vital life force in motion, including what we eat. “When we look at food in this way, it becomes crucial to treat food as we would any energetic practice,” she says.
Eating with bare fingers
In countries like India and Indonesia, food is traditionally consumed using bare fingers, a practice which is becoming more and more obsolete in the modern world. But this custom holds many spiritual benefits.
Growing up in Indonesia, it was common to eat using our bare hands. I remember when visiting my grandparents in their small village on the outskirts of Blitar in East Java, we would always eat the way our grandparents did. My grandmother would serve sticky rice with steamed green beans and morning glory, with a generous sprinkling of spicy pecel sauce made of nuts and herbs, and an offering of fried tempeh and tofu on the side. We would tuck in, licking our sticky fingers with delight after each bite.
In ancient Vedic (ancient Hinduism) beliefs, eating is considered to be a sensual experience. Just as it is important how it looks, it is equally important how it feels to touch. By engaging with food through touch, we can slow down into presence and connect with the energies available to us in the meal. There is a feeling of being more connected, literally, to what you are about to eat. You touch the food, feeling it in between your fingertips, sensing its consistency, temperature, and textures.
Hinduism also considers the hands to be the most precious organ of action, linked to the five elements. Ayurvedic texts teach that each finger is an extension of one of the five elements: the thumb to space; the forefinger to air; the mid-finger to fire; the ring finger to water; and the little finger to earth. Before the food enters the internal digestion process, each finger aids in its transformation.
Holding food in your fingertips stimulates the elements to bring forth the digestive juices.
Blessing our food
The act of ‘blessing’ food before eating it, usually through touching or holding the hands over the food, exists in many traditions – religious, shamanic, and spiritual – and can help to cleanse any negative energies from the food we are about to consume. Perhaps a more common understanding of blessing food is as a way to give gratitude to the Earth and all those who were part of the food’s journey.
“It both connects us with the felt energy story of the food, allowing the body to flag if it is lifeward or not, and with intent and present awareness it can cleanse the food of disharmonic energies,” Danielle explains.
Danielle refers to Reiki and Kinesiology as energy practices that acknowledge the human system’s ability to ‘sense’ the amount of vital life force within food and the energetic ‘fit’ with what our system may need – which is always done through touch. “We are all designed to do this,” she explains, “however it requires an ability to lean into the somatic cues from our system and to listen to them.”
Danielle links the pace of modern life with the majority of people rushing their meals. It has become all too common to opt for fast, processed foods that hold very little vital life force, nutritional value, not to mention many toxins.
Food, sensuous food
Let us not forget the joy of eating. When you hold food in your fingertips, you become more conscious of its tastes, textures and smells, which of course add to the pleasures of eating.
Danielle believes eating food, including its preparation, is a symphony of sensual delight. “There is nothing more gratifying for me than to be in the kitchen with music playing and cooking, tasting, sampling, preparing and laying out, with love and gratitude, a meal for my family and friends,” she says.
One of her fond memories of growing up in Australia was the harvest of the summer fruits, where Dani would eat mangoes without the need for cutlery. “As kids we would come home from school and devour fresh sweet mangoes straight out of the farmer’s box. Sticky juice on faces and running down hands and arms – there is nothing quite like tearing into a box of summer mangoes without any care for the mess.”
So, for your next meal, slow down and be truly present for the food you are about to eat. Get messy and truly sense, connect with, and experience the food you are eating. Light a candle, make it a moment. Bless your food before eating it, and let your fingers do the talking.