One of the simplest practices we can all do is to pause for a few moments before consuming any meal. This means really getting present with it – seeing the colors, smelling the aromas, feeling the temperature. Reflecting on all the time, energy, skill, attention and love that has gone into growing and preparing it for us. This is also a perfect opportunity to be thankful because it is a delightful coincidence that hunger and food have met! A coincidence not always enjoyed by everyone in our world.
We can also say a prayer or recite a mantra as a way of honoring and blessing all those involved in its creation. There are countless such prayers and we can make our own. Here are three that are brief, yet profound…
“In this plate of food, I see the entire universe supporting my existence.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
“Annadāta Sukhī Bhava” (May the giver of food be happy!)
~ Sanskrit Blessing
“The food is Brahma (creative energy). Its essence is Vishnu (sustaining energy). The eater is Shiva (transformative energy). No sickness due to food can come to one who eats with this understanding.”
~ Vedic Teaching
Another possibility is for each person to share what they are thankful for before starting a collective meal.
Then we can proceed to enjoy the meal with all our senses. Eating unhurriedly, calmly and mindfully. Which means completing one bite before preparing the next one. Sometimes it is also wonderful to eat in silence and give each bite the full attention it deserves. This can be a meditation as profound as any other.
Of course, occasionally we will be in a hurry as we eat and sometimes be distracted by all that it is going on in and around us. The idea here is to let this be the exception and not allow hurry and distraction to become a habit. To practice eating peacefully, in a peaceful environment and commit to having conversations that are not emotionally charged during meal times.
How we approach and relate to food and our meals says a lot about how we live our life. In a real sense, food is life and life are beautiful when we have a beautiful relationship with food. As we reflect on how we can enhance this relationship individually, as families and as communities, a wonderful shift can occur.
Though conscious eating is one of the simplest things to learn and understand, it can take a lifetime to really appreciate and master. It has the capacity of revealing our interconnection with all of existence and evoking true wisdom and compassion. This is why it is among the most practical and accessible ways we can learn to live a gentler, saner and more conscious life.
Nithya Shanti is an internationally respected spiritual teacher, committed to sharing practical wisdom teachings for happiness.