Italy and food: two words that are synonymous for anyone who has been here. The Italians love their food – not just the act of eating but food as a metaphor for life. We see it everywhere here in Casperia, where we are conducting our first international Yoga Calm workshop. We see it in the connection with growing their food, the markets, the time spent preparing meals, and hours (yes, hours!) spent eating casually with friends and family.
The first time I recognized this was thirty years ago in Venice, visiting a friend who had married an Italian goldsmith. Our long, leisurely meal, eating course after course of delicious food with ten friends in a beautiful setting – and in the middle of the day, no less! – struck me profoundly as a testament to community and the importance of appreciating life. It was timeless and seemingly indulgent departure from my usual “productive” American life.
Now here I am again in Italy. It’s kind of a time warp, really, sitting here now in a 500 year old village high in the Sabine mountains, once again enjoying leisurely and carefully prepared meals. Even two hours away, there amidst rush and madness of Rome, people still relax and thoroughly enjoy their food. It feels as though nothing has changed.
And yet, as I just discovered from our Italian host, things are changing, particularly for children. They, too are under the same pressures as American kids, with modern media, video games, fast food and the like. The Italians are trying to hang on to humane and mindful ways of living, just as we are.
This is one of the reasons why we created activities such as “Mindful Snack” in our book, Yoga Calm for Children. This one centers on conscious eating: enjoying and appreciating our food, the people who grow and bring it to us, and the art of polite conversation. It is about community, the connections among us, our need for each other.
And in this way, it’s also about hope for the next generation, as Lynea recently saw after using the activity with a group of 7th graders. At the end, they spoke at length about how much they “liked having a quiet party with their friends.” For all the distractions rivaling for kids’ attention today, they still appreciate the experience of being appreciative, of being mindful, of feeling connected.
– Jim Gillen