Oryoki and Mindful Eating

Oryoki set navy

As we navigate our daily routines, it’s easy to fall into the trap of rushed meals and distracted bites. The simple act of eating itself can be neglected. In a world of fast food, meal delivery, and hurried lunch breaks, attentiveness at meal time can feel impossible. This is where the ancient practice of Oryoki comes into play, offering a pathway to engage in mindful eating and establish a deeper connection with our food and ourselves.

The Essence of Mindful Eating

Oryoki comes from the Japanese words “o” “ryo” and “ki”. A rough translation is “just enough” or “vessel that contains just enough.” Using three nesting bowls and accompanying utensils, Oryoki requires you to be active and attentive as you eat, acting and chewing with attention. Rooted in the Buddhist monasteries of China and Japan, Oryoki emphasizes simplicity, efficiency, and the appreciation of food as a vital source of sustenance. Oryoki embodies a spiritual practice that nurtures both the body and the mind.

At its heart, Oryoki is about more than just consuming food; it’s about engaging with our sustenance in a way that honors the interconnectedness of all beings and fosters gratitude for the nourishment we receive. 

Oryoki bowl with soup.

Getting Away From Fast Food

Central to the practice of Oryoki is the use of a specialized Oryoki bowl set. The accoutrement of our meals affect how we eat. Fast food packaging is designed to maximize ease of access as you drive through traffic. On the other hand, the design of the Oryoki bowl set does the opposite, slowing down how you eat, and encouraging mindful eating. These sets are thoughtfully designed to facilitate the practice of mindful eating. They consist of three nesting bowls, utensils, and cloths. The term “nesting” refers to the bowls fitting neatly inside one another, symbolizing the harmony and unity of the elements.The bowls are made from a variety of materials including wood and plastic. 

The Oryoki set contains everything you need for your meal (except food, of course). It includes a spoon, chopsticks, and a traditional setsu scraper. Traditionally, Oryoki sets are stored in a cloth-wrapped bundle along with the utensils and a cleaning cloth. Before every meal this bundle is taken apart and the bowls and utensils laid out on the table. Then, when the meal has concluded, the bowls and utensils are cleaned by hand with water and a cleaning cloth. Afterwards, they are all reassembled into the bundle and wrapped up in cloth until the next meal. 

Rice in Bowl.

Mindful Eating with Oryoki: a simple guide

1. Set the Intention: Remind yourself that this moment is an opportunity to nourish your body, mind, and spirit.

2. Prepare Your Space: Create a calm and inviting space for your meal. Lay out your Oryoki bowl set with care and reverence. Arrange the utensils, cloths, and bowls in the designated order. 

3. Connect with Your Breath: Close your eyes and take a few deep, conscious breaths. Allow yourself to arrive fully in the present moment, letting go of any distractions or worries.

4. Appreciate your food: Take in its visual appearance and its smell. Express gratitude for the food in front of you. Reflect on the journey it took for the food to reach your plate

5. Engage Your Senses: Pay attention to the texture, color, and aroma of the food. Chew slowly and fully, allowing the flavors to unfold in your mouth. Be deliberate in your action: don’t spill your food or let your utensils clatter against the table.

6. Embrace the Silence: During your meal, embrace the silence. Oryoki encourages eating in community without unnecessary conversation. This silence allows you to fully immerse yourself in the experience of eating, tuning into the subtle nuances of taste and texture.

7. Maintain your composure: Although you may feel rushed to hurry through your meal, resist this urge. When you’ve finished, slowly and deliberately clean up your Oryoki set with water and a cleaning cloth. Only after your space is clean and your bowls wrapped up should you turn your attention elsewhere.

8. Reflect After the Meal: Did the practice of mindful eating enhance your connection to the food? Did you savor your meal  more than usual? Use this reflection to deepen your understanding of the practice and its impact on your overall well-being.

Everyday Oryoki Bowl Set

Oryoki Sets from Still Sitting

Still Sitting’ offers two options for Oryoki bowl sets:

Try the Everyday Oryoki Set for daily use at home or during retreats. Crafted with a commitment to authenticity and durability, the Everyday Oryoki Set includes:

  • Three nesting melamine bowls
  • Ironwood chopsticks (made in Japan)
  • Palmwood spoon and setsu scraper (made in Thailand)
  • Utensil cloth container
  • Place mat
  • Cloth napkin
  • Optional silicone spatula for easy handling (dishwasher safe)

These elements provide the basis for an authentic Oryoki experience that will support your journey toward mindful eating.

Still Sitting also offers a Mahogany Bowl Oryoki Set, because nothing beats the look and feel of fine wooden bowls. The wood nesting bowls are light, sturdy, well-balanced, and feel great in your hand. This set features:

  • Three nesting mahogany wood bowls, sourced sustainably from Indonesia
  • Ironwood chopsticks (made in Japan)
  • Palmwood spoon and setsu scraper (made in Thailand)
  • 100% cotton cloths in various colors
  • Optional silicone spatula for easy handling (dishwasher safe)

(Read about how to care for your Oryoki set here.)

In a world filled with distractions and constant demands, Oryoki stands as a powerful practice that invites us to slow down, savor the flavors of life, and nurture our connection to the present moment. By embracing the philosophy of “just enough,” we can not only transform our relationship with food but also deepen our connection to ourselves and the world around us.

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