H2OM - a blessed beverage, Intentional Chocolate - a snack that is "imbued" with a monk's meditation, Creo Mundi - a protein mix that has been praised loudly. How much will you pay for these "good feeling" (not just feel good) foods? An article in the latest issue of Time magazine reports that some are shelling out generously for foods which are embedded / infused / imbued with good intentions, on the assumption that nourishing powers of edibles are enhanced by good thoughts.
Move over, organic, fair trade and free range--the latest in enlightened edibles is here: food with "embedded" positive intentions. While the idea isn't new--cultures like the Navajo have been doing it for centuries--for-profit companies in the U.S. and Canada are catching on, infusing products with good vibes through meditation, prayer and even music. Since 2006, California company H2Om has sold water infused with wishes for "love," "joy" and "perfect health" via the words, symbols and colors on the label (which "create a specific vibratory frequency," according to co-founder Sandy Fox) and the restorative music played at their bottling warehouse. At Creo Mundi, a Canadian maker of protein powder, employees gather around each shipment and state aloud the benefits they hope to imbue it with for their consumers--increased performance, balance and vitality. Intentional Chocolate, founded in 2007 by chocolatier Jim Walsh, uses a special recording device to capture the electromagnetic brain waves of meditating Tibetan monks; Walsh then exposes his confections to the recording for five days per batch.
We hear your eyes rolling. But some claim there's actually something to the idea that humans can alter the physical world with their minds, and they offer research to prove it. Dean Radin, a senior scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences in Petaluma, Calif., conducted a test in which, he says, subjects who ate Intentional Chocolate improved their mood 67% compared with people who ate regular chocolate. "If the Pope blessed water, everyone wants that water. But does it actually do something?" Radin asks. "The answer is yes, to a small extent."
James Fallon, a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the University of California at Irvine School of Medicine, is skeptical. "So I take a rutabaga and put it close to my head, and it somehow changes the food and improves the mood of the person who ate it?" he asks. "Nah."
Gimmick or not, in this economy any product that promises a spiritual pick-me-up could be in high demand. Since the recession, says Phil Lempert, editor of health-food site Supermarketguru.com "everyone is ready to jump off a bridge." With the right marketing, he says, embedded foods "could be huge."
Still, not everyone is keen on the idea of packaging spirituality. Once the profit motive comes into play, "it's difficult to keep things pure," says George Churinoff, a monk at Deer Park Buddhist Center in Oregon, Wis., who was involved with Intentional Chocolate in its early stages. "Then [the product] may not be blessed in any way with motivation except maybe to make money."
Like the Navajos, I too grew up in a culture where food is routinely imbued with spirituality and blessings, not so much by humans but by gods. (see prasad) I have therefore consumed large quantities of "embedded" foods, mostly from the household shrines of my mother and other relatives. The divine fare was always delicious and I don't know if the goodies imparted any special benefits because of the worthy intentions infused in them. I however remember my mildly observant but supremely hygienic mother's cautionary words regarding the consumption of blessed foods outside the home : "Eat only the whole fruits, not the sliced ones; take very small amounts of cooked food and only if it is still warm; stick mostly to dry items; avoid all cold liquids, milk based products and especially the holy water; do not consume anything in a large communal place of worship." I may have ignored her advice a couple of times - once for a delectable helping of suji halwa in a large, crowded Gurudwara and on another occasion, when I ate some pre-sliced coconut in a South Indian temple. Given the frequent cases of food poisoning, hepatitis and other nasty outcomes of eating in public holy places, it was amply clear to me that the blessings of the gods didn't always protect against earthly maladies.
The foods described in the Time magazine article of course pose few such disease causing threats. What is suspect is their ability to transmit the good intentions and peaceful vibes via the gastrointestinal pathway. If a controlled study can be done to prove their efficacy, perhaps such fare can be of greater use than just soothing the nerves of antsy individuals. How about India and Pakistan sharing "laddus" of peace? Israelis and Palestinians feasting on falafel of harmony? The whole world exchanging grains of accord and amity? The placebo effect alone may be worth the trouble.