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How do you begin each meal?

Updated: Oct 25, 2021

We hear a lot about how to eat more mindfully. Things like chewing slowly, finishing one bite before taking another, eating without distracting elements like TV all have become more widely popular. However, there isn't as much of a conversation about how to begin each meal. It turns out that setting the tone for each meal may be of equal importance.

For millennia and across cultures, the beginning of a meal has held some level of sacred pause. This has included everything from prayer to song. Regardless of the practice, it represents a shift; a shift from the external ongoings of the day to our internal needs. The more we tune into these needs with mindfulness and gratitude, the more we will be able to listen as we eat and better align with the needs of our body.

Our family has two regular practices to begin a meal at the table:

  • We close our eyes and take three long, slow, deep breaths together, connecting our energies and dropping into deeper connection internally.

  • Sharing our "rose, bud, and thorn", which is something good about our day, something we are looking forward to, and something that was hard. This helps us connect with each other in a meaningful way, thus helping us each to more clearly witness our own self.

We also have a list of the "5 Contemplations" by Thich Nhat Hanh that we regularly review to help drop us into a place of grateful reception. They are beautiful to have at the table.

  1. This food is the gift of the whole universe: the earth, the sky, numerous living beings and much hard, loving work.

  2. May we eat with mindfulness and gratitude so as to be worthy to receive it.

  3. May we recognize and transform our unwholesome mental formations, especially our greed, and learn to eat with moderation.

  4. May we keep our compassion alive by eating in such a way that we reduce the suffering of living beings, preserve our planet, and reverse the process of global warming.

  5. We accept this food so that we may nurture our sisterhood and brotherhood, strengthen our community, and nourish our ideal of serving all living beings.

Finally, this sacred pause is how I look at the practice of fasting, a practice that has also been used to weave in gratitude and connection across the world for millennia. It is space created to pause and contemplate how it is we fill up and if the way in which we do so is, not only serving our own body, but all of life on Earth.

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