Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Savor, Mindful Eating, Mindful Life--Thich Nhat Hanh and Lillian Cheung

So, a Buddhist monk and a nutritionist decide to write a book together. . .

Doesn't that sound like the first line of a great joke? Unfortunately, (a) It's not (b) I can't come up with the punch line if it was, and (c) I'm supposed to be writing a review of the book they wrote, rather than creating punch lines for nonexistent jokes.

But if it were a joke, the Buddhist monk would lead the reader in mindfulness, with the reader dutifully slowing down while drinking, say, her nice tall glass of lemonade. She'd focus on the cool trickle of liquid down her throat, savoring the contrasting tartness and sweetness. Inside the flavor, she'd taste the fluffy white clouds that made the rain that produced the lemonade, and the earth in which the lemon tree grew, and the farmer who picked the lemon . . .

And the nutritionist would say, "Lemonade? Really? Because you know, there's an awful lot of sugar in that. Consumption of fruit juice contributes to diabetes, and, by the way, you could stand to lose a few pounds. You really shouldn't be drinking juice this late in the day at all. And what's that you were planning to savor with that lemonade--a sugar cookie?!"

And the Buddhist monk would say . . . [Insert punch line here]

But seriously, folks. There's a lot to be said for merging good nutrition with putting thought into what and how we eat. I'm just not sure the two perspectives were in harmony, in this case.

There is a lot to love about this book as an introduction to the Buddhist perspective, though. The breathing meditations for everything from reading email, to watching T.V., for example:
Breathing in, the remote control is in my hand
Breathing out, why am I watching television?
That cracks me up, but it's certainly a worthwhile question, and an honest answer could lead to some much-needed soul searching. My favorite is the traffic jam meditation:
Breathing in, I follow my in-breath
Breathing out, I follow my out-breath
Breathing in, I know everyone is trying to get somewhere
Breathing out, I wish everyone a peaceful, safe journey
Breathing in, I go back to the island of calm within myself
Breathing out, I feel refreshed.
I actually love this idea, and I'm going to try it next time I'm stuck in traffic. Unless my kids are in the car. I wouldn't want them to worry.

by Alison Jakel

Savor is on tour for the TLC Book Tours. The opinions expressed on Worducopia are my own and have not been approved or influenced by TLC Book Tours, the publisher, or the authors.


  1. Glad to see you blogging again! Thanks for the review. I had been curious about this one.

  2. Oh I love your review. And, strangely, the sound of this book!

  3. Hm, even though the concept is somewhat interesting, I'm not sure it's for me.

  4. Chelle, thank you. I hope I'll be back to blogging regularly now that the conference I was helping to plan is over and I have internet back on my computer. :-)

    Clover, It's really an intriguing take on things, isn't it?

    Bermudaonion, not sure this one would be your style, but you never know.

  5. I have a couple of books by Hanh on my shelf and didn't realize that he wrote this one. Your post made me smirk a couple of times. Nice.

  6. I can see how the two wouldn't blend that well for you! It's definitely an interesting combination, though I think it's important to get to the root of why we eat what we eat, because that will help get to the root of the problem. I heard an author talk about teaching inmates to write. He said that when you're in a maze, you can't see the way out. But when you rise above the maze (i.e. write about it), you're able to see more perspectives, you can see the dead ends and the ways out. I think that kind of applies in that until you figure out why you're doing what you're doing, you probably won't change.

    Sorry for the long comment! I really love your review, particularly the, uh...what are those called? Chants? I'll definitely have to remember the last one next time I'm in traffic!! Thanks for being on this tour!

  7. Happy friday

  8. i love the idea of this book!! i'm currently listening to 'the omnivore's dilemma' and it's quite an eye-opening experience.

    love the review--quirky and intriguing--and i adore TLC so i'm off to google this book. cheers! :)

  9. I am trying to focus more on mindful eating and its much more difficult than I would expect. This book sounds like it has some interesting things to say . . .

  10. This is a such a fun review! I do wish you'd said more about how the two perspectives are not in harmony though. I'm intrigued by this book, although I'm not sure it's for me.

    Let me know if you do decide to join me in my reading challenge!

  11. Avisannschild, Here's more, then, keeping in mind that I'm not a Buddhist or any sort of expert in that philosophy:

    For me, having a nutritionist's judgment of which foods we should and shouldn't eat, paired with the more Zen approach to eating, seemed like a contradiction. Being able to savor the experience of food in a Zen way, to me means ignoring that nagging inner critic that says to eat my vegetables because they're good for me, that my plate holds "good" food or "bad" food--but parts of the book seemed to be telling me to pay close attention to that nagging critic and eat what's good for me. I do eat relatively healthily, I think, but I'd really like to get away from the idea of good vs. bad food, and aim towards balance in all things, including eating. That's what I was hoping to get out of this book.

  12. Thanks for the additional info, Ali. I also dislike the "good" food vs. "bad" food dichotomy, so I'll probably give this one a miss.

  13. Happy April! I thought I had commented on this post but I guess I didn't? Anywho, fun post, very thoughtful AND quirky. I have a book by Thich Nhat Hanh somewhere...

  14. Great, humorous review. I love the cover on this book. :)