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Intentionality and Food
By Annemarie Colbin, Ph.D.,
Author of The Whole-Food Guide to Strong Bones: A Holistic Approach

"Made with love" is an ingredient I have often seen on home-made packaged cookies and other home-made foods in health food stores. It always seems like a sweet and nice thing to say, but without real meaning, a friendly, new-agey kind of sentiment. Turns out it's quite real, and measurable.

Let me set the context for this column for you. At this time, I am the president of a small non-profit organization called Friends of the Institute of Noetic Sciences (FIONS). The organization it sprang from, IONS, was started by astronaut Edgar Mitchell, Ph.D., after he had an epiphany on his return from the moon that everything is connected. We offer a variety of programs, events, and dialogue groups in the NYC area, with a focus on consciousness and multiple ways of knowing. 

One program we offered a few years back was a presentation by Dean Radin, author of The Conscious Universe (HarperSanFrancisco, 1997) and Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experiences in a Quantum Reality. (New York: Simon & Schuster -- Paraview Pocket Books, 2006). Dr. Radin has been Senior Scientist at IONS since 2001, and has been studying the effects of mind on matter for quite some time. He even worked on a classified program investigating psychic phenomena for the US government. During our event, he talked about his experiments with random number generators, which generate strings of 2 numbers at random. When an operator or study subject tries to influence the numbers with their intention, these machines seem to show some responsiveness -- they skew towards what the subject intended in a statistically significant way.

As he was talking, I realized that his straight data supports the idea that mind interacts with matter. Then I thought of the very common idea of "cooking with love" -- which suddenly seemed entirely plausible. At dinner later with Dr. Radin I mentioned to him that perhaps there should be some research on the effects of the mind on food and cooking.

Well, Dr. Radin is a man of action. He set about to do just that, and published a paper in the fall of 2007 where he shows, in a placebo-controlled trial, that the focused intention of shamanic healers enhances the beneficial effects of chocolate. See his video on this at (Radin DI, Hayssen G, Walsh J. 2007). Effects of Intentionally Enhanced Chocolate on Mood, Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, Volume 3, pp. 485-492) He was kind enough to credit me with sparking the idea.

You realize what this means: that the mood of the cook can affect the mood of the people eating the food. As mentioned, this is not a new idea. If cooking with love enhances the flavor and energizing effects of your dinner, what happens when you cook with anger? Years ago my then-husband and I found ourselves in a nasty fight after leaving a restaurant, and the fight was over nothing at all. It was just the mood. We finally figured that the chef must have been really cranky.

How about cooking with sorrow? You may remember a well-known movie called "Like Water for Chocolate", where the tears of the cook ended up saddening everyone at a wedding. Apparently, that notion is no longer so far-fetched.

So what to do with this information? You cannot always control how you feel. But what you can do is be aware of it. When you get ready to cook your family's meal, take a moment to focus and center yourself, acknowledge any disturbing feelings, and try to let them go. Put on your favorite feel-good music. Sing along. Think of pleasant places, people you love. Corny, isn't it? But it works. If it doesn't work, leave the kitchen, and either get someone else to cook, or order in from your favorite local restaurant. You will all be much happier, even if the food is not as good as your own.

Same idea if you are cooking for yourself. If cooking is an activity you really enjoy, if it helps you get out of your daily grind and move into a more pleasant mind-space, then cooking for yourself is an excellent idea. But if you've been out at work all day, come home tired, and try to throw some dinner together, the meal may not feel nourishing at all. If you cook for yourself out of obligation and you resent it, careful -- you could make yourself sick from your own crankiness. Better delegate the cooking to a professional, which is a much better idea than trying to subsist on dinners of protein bars and dry cereal. Nourish yourself by delegating the work, and spending a little money on decent food that someone cooks for you. Great if it's organic, but even if it's not, it's still worth it. 

When I was writing my book Food and Healing, I couldn't cook for myself. I could cook for my children and for my classes, but for myself, I couldn't because I had no energy left. So I ate lunch out at the coffee shop most days that I was writing -- isn't that ironic? And the book came out good enough that it's still selling after 20+ years. 

There is another aspect to intentionality in regards to food, and that has to do with the mood of the eater, not the cook. I know plenty of people who are so worried about eating right, that they think everything they eat is not good enough. They think, "this is not organic, it is full of pesticides," "the chemicals are going to kill me," "for sure this will put weight on me," and so on and so forth. Such a negative mindset is guaranteed poison in the energetics of your meal. Think of the alternative -- you are lucky enough to live in a time and place where you have enough food to choose your meal ingredients. Your main problem is what you will eat, not if you will eat. Be grateful that you have such abundance, and that your body knows what to do with it.

To show your gratitude, bless the meal. Saying grace, "gracias", is an ancient ritual that still lives today, and it helps elevate the mood. While Dr. Radin asked trained shamans to enhance the chocolate, all of us human beings have the ability to affect matter with our minds. Even if it's not statistically measurable, it will be measurable by feeling. You may want to run a little test: eat the same meal, if you can, with two different attitudes: one, where you're cranky and you don't like anything, the other where you are full of love and gratitude. Then notice the feelings -- and don't discount them. They are ingredients in your food just as much as the onions and the flour.

Here is a simple recipe to try this with.


2 tablespoons organic butter or olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 small carrots, sliced
1 rib celery, sliced
1 quart water or stock
½ cup red lentils
½ teaspoon salt or to taste
Abundant loving intentions

1. In a 4-quart soup pot, heat the butter or olive oil and add the onions. Sauté for about 2 minutes, then add the curry powder, sauté another minute. Add the carrots and celery and stir around another minute. Add the stock, then the lentils. Bring to a boil, stir well, lower the heat, cover, and cook for about 30 minutes. Add salt and cook another 5 minutes; adjust taste if needed. Loving intentions should be added throughout the stirring. Serve hot.

Makes 4 servings.

©2009 Annemarie Colbin, Ph.D., author of The Whole-Food Guide to Strong Bones: A Holistic Approach

Author Bio
Annemarie Colbin, Ph.D., author of The Whole-Food Guide to Strong Bones: A Holistic Approach, is a health educator and award-winning writer, consultant, and lecturer. She is the founder and CEO of the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in New York City. She is author of several books including Food and Healing and writes a column, "Food and Your Health," for New York Spirit magazine.

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