for Time Magazine (USA) on April 4, 2009
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."