Q&A with Meredith Whitely
It's World Meditation Day on 15 May 2018! To enhance our appreciation of the power of meditation and mindfulness at BY SARAH HQ, we had the pleasure of meeting with Meredith Whitely to learn more about her passion for meditation and how she combines this with her love for chocolate in her mindful cooking company, Food at Heart.
Tell us a little about yourself and what inspired your passion for mindful cooking?
I started my business about 3 years ago after working in various corporate roles, mostly in marketing and market research. I always knew that I wanted to work with food; food and cooking was what I turned to when I was feeling stressed or happy or needed a little creative boost.
However I'm also one of the many, many people in the UK who suffers from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and my love of food was severely challenged by digestive flareups. As part of managing my symptoms and getting me back to a happier place with food, slowing down and being more mindful in the way I was eating and living was really important. So much so that I ended up training as a meditation teacher so I could share this experience with other people.
At the same time I was getting more and more involved in the world of good chocolate (yes, I'm a bit of a chocolate geek). It turns out that tasting chocolate properly, like the professionals, is pretty much the same as mindful eating. The two worlds started to overlap and this became my business. I now make chocolate products that help people slow down and connect (and enjoy good chocolate!), as well as running meditation and tasting sessions often involving mindful tasting of chocolate.
What do meditation and chocolate making have in common?
For one thing, working with chocolate is a genuinely mindful experience! It's very grounding and engages all the senses, and I deliberately use this time to help me foster a sense of calm and focus. Of course the aromas of melting chocolate are just so delicious that it really is worth taking the time to stop and breathe them in.
And you really do have to be completely focussed on chocolate when you're working with it. If you rush around and try and do too many things at once, the chocolate can get out of temper (i.e. too hot) and won't set properly. Or you'll have kitchen accidents. I've learned firsthand just what can go wrong when you don't pay attention. But like meditation, it isn't about being perfect as that's not possible. Even in those times of distraction, I've learned things, including being more aware when I'm not paying attention.
You definitely get better at keeping your focus with practice, which means the mistakes don't happen quite so often. However I'm now able to (mostly) have a bit of giggle when they do.
How can we all introduce meditation into our day-to-day?
Meditation is a bit like the true ethos of yoga; it's not something that's just done in formal practice. Meditation gives you tools, techniques and habits that can be integrated into everyday living. This might including giving your complete attention to a mouthful of food, gentle focussing on your
However the formal practice of meditation is important too as this is what gives you the awareness and 'mind muscle' strength to kick these types of reactions and habits into play. This doesn't have to be for hours though; even 5 minutes a day is a really good place to start
What is your skincare regime like and what do you look for when buying skincare?
I have a very set facial skincare regime which is similar in the morning and evening. I cleanse, lightly towel my face and then use serum and moisturiser (or just facial oil), pat on some eye cream and a little lip balm. I try and give my face and neck a light massage when I apply everything. I also slather lots of moisturiser on my body after a shower.
I really care about what I put on my skin, in the same way that I care about what I put in my body to eat. I choose products that are as natural as possible and preferably organic. I also choose products in packaging that can be recycled. I love buying products from small producers when I can, as I know how much love, care and sweat goes into producing something you're passionate about.
What does the rest of this year have in store for you?
I started selling my selection of Slow Chocolate Tasting products range at the beginning of this year. As I mentioned above, they're designed to help people experience the pleasure of slowing down and incorporating small acts of mindfulness into everyday eating - and to share my love of really good chocolate! The plan is to have these stocked in a few different locations (as well as via my own website).
I'm continuing to run my mindful hot chocolate meditation sessions and slow chocolate tasting workshops, plus I have a few collaboration events in the pipeline. I've also just written a chapter for a new mindful living book which will be out later this year; it shares a bit more of my story and how I've used meditation to manage my own tummy troubles. I feel very excited about what's to come!
Visit Food at Heart
Interview by Sarah, CEO, BY SARAH
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