Giving Thanks - a Condiment to Good Food
How do we increase gratitude for our food?
A helpful way to become more mindful of the food we eat, and to enjoy each bite with an internal climate of gratitude, is to cultivate a pause before chowing-down.
We all recognise those ‘chow-down’ moments, including snacking on the run… even though it may our the perfect opportunity to slow down. Not only is a pause a wee mental holiday, but your body’s digestive system also benefits from a slower pace.In many households a short period of silence, singing or spoken prayer is a precursor to picking up your fork or chopsticks. The dig-in mentality can be improved by finding a personal way to rest and give thanks. What is the best way for you to find stillness before eating?
Why give thanks?
It is said in Eastern traditions that a prayer before a food can increase it’s healing power in the body. Some mystical explanations may be beyond the realms of conventional science. However, like the placebo effect, if you believe food is medicine it will inevitably be better for you.
What is grace?
The word grace, from Latin, means thanksgiving. It is an acknowledgement of the providing of precious nourishment, from a spiritual source. We recently received a letter from the father of a child we sponsor in Africa. They have planted crops for the second year in a row, and again it is “very hot, with very little rain…our animal has no enough food to eat”. Yet still their gratitude for what they have shines through.
Grace may be as simple as “Blessings on this meal” or “thanks be”. We have friends who like to sing a blessing and thanks giving prayer with their children, an uplifting way to celebrate the meal. Maori tradition encourages a Karakia (prayer). This is always a special moment of hush and thankfulness for me on a marae.
In my childhood home we held hands around the dinner table and everyone was quiet for a minute or two… I though it was a bit weird and hoped my friends would still come to play another day, (‘why can’t my hippy parents be normal!’). However I thank my parents now for this introduction into Grace.
In some traditions people make a practise of sitting quietly and following the breathing, resting into the present moment. Becoming aware of three out breaths, calms and settles the body beautifully, and awakens your being into a state of receptivity, rather than grasping (a close relative of greed).
Here is a Grace often used by families who follow ideas of Rudolph Steiner:
Earth who gives to us this food,
Sun who makes it ripe and good,
Dear Eath, dear Sun, by you we live
Our loving thanks to you we give.
The Buddhist Teacher Thich Ngat Hahn recommends the following contemplation when serving food:
“In this food, I see clearly the presence of the entire universe supporting my existence.”
You may like to expand this and think about all the people and natural forces, who have given energy to your meal. From the preparation of the meal, to the growers, the transportation, the vehicle repair persons… the world and our interconnectedness are on your dinner plate. The potential is endless for increasing gratitude.
Why else increase your feelings of gratitude? Because gratitude feels good.
A comment from one of our subscribers:
"Thanking someone you have never seen is fine I guess, but I think more thanks should be given to the ones that gather the food, cook it and place it on the table. Most of the time there is not room at the table for them to eat. So look over to the living room and give a shout to your Mother or Father."
Thanks for this good thought Johnnie! That means me too, because I am the one putting food on the table 90% of the time, and yes i love the diners to show appreciation :)