Eat Here Now

Foraging as a Meditation

Foraging can’t be rushed. It teaches you to linger, to pay attention, to see what’s really there. Those weeds in a nearby park may actually be wild grapes or spicebush berries once your knowledge builds and your perceptions change. The heightened awareness from a foraging adventure can extend to other parts of your life, from noticing the vivid colors on a city street when you travel, to truly hearing the layered harmonies in a great piece of music. It’s no wonder foraging can be akin to a spiritual practice.

The Saturday Evening Post

into the woodsFor most of us today, meditation has to start with relaxation, coming out of “fight or flight.” Ironically, rest and relaxation can be our greatest challenge. In a culture of workaholism, foraging provides an “excuse” to take time out — outside, that is. What better way to “take in the landscape?”

Foraging, however, is just not about getting stuff; it’s a lesson in non-attachment. Foragers can’t be choosers. That is why, “to the student of Zen, a weed is a treasure” (Shunryu Suzuki). Those weeds are everywhere. If you go “mushroom hunting,” however, you may miss the forest for the fungus. Can you look, then, without seeking?

Foraging is a meditation because it keeps you present. You can sit on a cushion and think whatever you want. But walking through the woods, if you’re going to find anything, you have to be focused on your surroundings, not your thoughts. Otherwise, you might find a snake instead — the hard way.

toad schoolThey say enlightenment is realizing that what you thought was a snake is actually just a rope. Sometimes it is a snake. But even then, it’s just a snake.

Foraging is a balm to chronic hypervigilance. You can actually be calm and alert. Just being in the woods can be healing. When you move at the speed of nature, you’re no longer in such a hurry. There’s even a name for this outdoor cure; it’s called ecotherapy, nature therapy, forest therapy, or in Japan, “forest bathing.”

Foraging is not a way to get yourself or anything else “out of the woods.” It’s a way in.

…eight hours later, with not a single mushroom in hand… I was covered in dirt… I was soaked to the bone… It was a perfect day.

Salad for President