With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I've been thinking about what most Americans think about at this time of year - spending time with loved ones, gratitude, and great food! In particular, I've been thinking about the concept of feasting.
I like Martha Beck's definition of feasting. In her book The Joy Diet, Martha outlines a "diet" for the inner self. The Joy Diet has 10 menu items. Item #10 is: Feasting - Enjoy at least 3 square feasts a day, with or without food.
Martha explains that "Feasting (Joy Diet-style) means adding an element of attention and structure to events that otherwise might slip by as too ordinary for comment. Doing this can turn the most ordinary situations into celebrations."
She further explains that, although we commonly think of a feast as a large meal, "Most Joy Diet feasts don't involve food, and a big bunch o' food won't always qualify as a Joy Diet feast.
A compulsive eating binge, for example, is the opposite of feasting. It is isolating and tasteless and sickening; it robs delight from both the senses and the soul."
On the other hand, to truly appreciate and savor a meal, especially in the presence of loved ones, is a feast. This does not require ingesting a massive quantity of food. In fact, a smaller meal, when fully enjoyed, can be much more satisfying than a large meal that is quickly "inhaled."
By "fully enjoyed," I mean:
- Taking time to smell the aromas.
- Experiencing the touch/texture.
- Really tasting the flavors.
- Stopping before you become uncomfortable (which steals some of the joy).
From a health standpoint, this approach is good for the waistline, energy level, and emotional state.
Besides food, there are many other things we can feast on. The only requirement is that you pay the right kind of attention. Enjoying a sunrise or sunset can be a feast. Flannel pajamas and fuzzy slippers can be a feast. A great song or a warm embrace can be a feast. Even exercise (when done with the right mindset) can be a feast.
Feasting occurs through rituals. "A ritual, however simple, creates a border around an activity the way a frame does around a picture. It sets this activity apart from regular life in a way that emphasizes beauty and uniqueness, ensuring that those who participate in it become more aware of its meaning."
So to recap, feasting can be health-promoting and quite simple to do. It involves:
- Forming rituals around the simple things you love.
- Making these simple things fancy, by paying close attention and being present in the moment.
- Fully enjoying and appreciating the experiences.
This holiday season, and every day for that matter, I hope you enjoy many feasts (with or without food).
This post was originally published on November 22, 2016.