Take a Bite

Mindfulness and vegetarian way

April 10th, 2016

PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

The Bodhi Tree Dharma Center welcomed guests to a Buddha lunch meditation.

The Bodhi Tree Dharma Center in Liliha hosted a Buddha Lunch to welcome spring on March 6.

About 30 participated in the eating meditation, one of the most pleasurable of meditations. The vegetarian lunch meditations typically take place once a month, from noon to 1 p.m., by $10 donation.

The first half of the meal is enjoyed in silence as a matter of learning mindfulness, focusing on the food alone, and appreciating nature, the elements and human hands that make such a meal possible.

A soup of tofu, tomatoes and other vegetables.

The word we were given for the meditation was "savor." It was a reminder that if we were to stop and really think about what we eat, we would not suffer from as much of the diet-based afflictions as we do, and we not be worried about dieting because we would make choices that nourish, not sicken, us.

Mai Frascarelli, who created the center in March 2009 as a way of thanking a community that allowed her, a Vietnam War refugee who came here with nothing, to become successful. She oversees the meal preparation, said she offers the lunches to promote vegetarianism as a cruelty-free way to live. By hosting the lunches, she hopes she can show people that vegetarian food can be delicious and satisfying.

"Every little bit helps," she said. "Even if you eat vegetarian one day a month, it's better than no days at all."

She said that she is a vegetarian because she loves animals, and those that are raised as food are "unhappy from the day they are born 'til the day they die.

"When they're unhappy, they produce toxins that are not good for you, and your body becomes a graveyard for these animals."

Never thought about it that way. I am not that strong-willed. I do love a good fried chicken and pork is my downfall. But, I can eat less of these things and more of what is good for me in any given week. On days I am not "working," I do favor nothing more than yogurt, hummus and crudité to give my body a break.
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The Bodhi Tree Dharma Center is at 654-A N. Judd St. Call (808) 537-1171.

Salad of rice vermicelli, tofu and greens.

Another dish of tofu, vegetarian proteins and vegetables.

It was interesting to me, because the message of savoring the moment reiterated philosophies of the Zen tea masters at the Urasenke tea room in Waikiki, which I recently visited.

While there, I picked up one of their newsletters and read a piece by tea master Sen Soshitsu XVI, who wrote about being bothered by the sound of the "click, click, click" of a cell phone camera during a sacred tea ceremony. That struck home because I have been guilty of doing the same, in the name of news.

He wrote: "I thought this was quite regrettable. Maybe, as a way of enjoying memories it is fun to look back time and again at photos you have taken. A kenchashiki, however, is a sacred situation. ... and then there is the matter of the failed philosophy of ichigo ichie, the failed understanding that every event in life is something singular and unrepeatable. To conscientiously see these events with your eyes and print them in your heart is the way of tea.

At chanoyu practice sessions, as well, it is fine to jot down notes about the tea procedure after the lesson if, for instance, it is one of the 'oral transmission' shikaden or okuden temae for which there are no textbooks. But, if you feel safe just because you recorded the information and you do not try to attach it into your heart, all you have accomplished is to get your notebook to remember it. Even if you make videos or take photographs using handy electronic devices, those sorts of things are temporal. I would like for you to give your practice sessions your whole physical attention moment by moment and for you to always be of the mind to intently learn."

This was something I had to think about because I take photos and videos often as a matter of "capturing" news.

But, as I have told people many times before, in the process of recording, fashion shows, for instance, I never actually "see" the show. What I am looking at is the flow and distance of models as they fill the camera or video screen. I don't really get to enjoy the moment because I am working. It is only in the replay that I am fully able to appreciate the designers work. Just as when I review a restaurant, I'm not really enjoying it as much as my friends because I have to think and remember what I am experiencing with each bite.

Yet, because I have done this work for so long and captured so many moments, that I am very aware of how much is lost to faulty memory and I am glad to have captured such moments to jog my memory.

But as sensei said, there is a time and place for electronic devices and if you are trying to meditate and appreciate the moment you should be there 100 percent.

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Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her food column is in print on Wednesdays. Contact her via email at nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

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