Are you ready for a chocolate meditation?
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
I’m taking part in a chocolate meditation. By this I don’t mean I’ve lit some joss sticks and am working my way through a Milk Tray. Sitting cross-legged in a studio in London Fields, I’m participating in an hour-long ritual devised by Rebecca Moore, a movement and meditation teacher, and Lauren Lovatt, chef founder of the Plant Academy, a project that encourages better mental health through food.
Using different chocolates and meditative practice, I’m being led on a journey through various mood states: chill, lift, balance, focus and soothe. “Chill” combines sips from a cold chocolate hazelnut drink containing CBD with grounding breathwork. For “lift”, I try a trio of roasted cocoa beans that contain the natural stimulants caffeine and theobromine, followed by belly-pump exhalations. Using chocolate, says Moore, not only anchors the meditation but engages the senses. Cacao also possesses soothing qualities, which Lovatt notes have a “heart-opening” effect.
I don’t regularly meditate. But I do regularly eat chocolate. And I’m surprised by the bliss I’m able to access. As I ingest a tile of The Well Bean Co cardamom and CBD chocolate in pursuit of “balance”, I’m conscious of re-enacting every chocolate-savouring cliché. But the sense of peace is real. When, in search of “focus”, I eat a truffle made from chocolate, almond milk, tahini and lion’s mane mushroom and am encouraged to open myself to every sensation/texture/flavour, my mind fills with visions of a ship at sea as the truffle melts into waves of cocoa. The effect is almost trippy.
The purpose of the meditation, says Lovatt, is to arm me with practices (meditative and chocolatey) I can integrate into my daily life. Chocolate also contains the cannabinoid anandamide and is rich in magnesium and B vitamins. To reap the greatest nutritional rewards and ensure the flavours are complex for a meaningful meditation, Lovatt suggests raw or plant-based chocolate with few added ingredients. In short, a Mars bar won’t cut it.
The meditation is one of many experiences in The Mind Food Pop-Up that Lovatt is launching in London this autumn. The initiative was born of experience. While Lovatt was studying art at university, her boyfriend was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and later took his own life. This triggered her own struggles with depression and eating disorders. Inspired by the way certain plants and tonic herbs such as maca aided in her recovery, she retrained as a chef and in February brought out a plant-based cookbook called Mind Food.
More broadly, Lovatt frames cooking as a “moving meditation” where “your mind is away from your thoughts and you are relaxed yet focused”. The mental health benefits of cooking may be familiar. But like the benefits of spending quality time with a decent bar of chocolate, they always bear repeating. laurenlovatt.com