Nourished by the Universe
"I know the Earth is my Mother, a great living being. I vow to protect the Earth, and the Earth protects me." (Thich Nhat Hanh)
Contemplating our food for a few minutes before eating can bring us much happiness. We look at the food in a way that the food becomes real. We think about all the people, animals, plants, and minerals and all the conditions that brought the food to our plate. The food reveals our connection with the Earth and all beings. We remember our determination to eat in a way that preserves our health and well-being and the health and well-being of the Earth. The following verses can help us practice mindfulness while eating.
In this food
I see clearly
the presence of the entire universe
supporting my existence.
This verse helps us see that our life and the lives of all species are interrelated. Eating is a very deep practice. As you wait to serve yourself or be served, look at the food and smile to it. It contains sunshine, clouds, the sky, the Earth, the farmer, everything. Look at a peach deeply. Don't put it into your mouth right away. Look at it and smile to it, and if you are mindful you will see the sunshine inside the peach. A cloud is inside. The great Earth is inside. A lot of love and a lot of hard work are inside. Then, when you eat it, please be sure to chew only the peach, and not your projects or your worries. Enjoy eating your peach. The peach is a miracle. You, also, are a miracle. So spend time with your food; every minute of your meal should be happy. Not many people have the time and the opportunity to sit down and enjoy a meal like that. We are very fortunate.
BEGINNING TO EAT
With the first mouthful, I practice the love that brings joy.
With the second mouthful, I practice the love that relieves suffering.
With the third mouthful, I practice the joy of being alive
With the forth mouthful, I practice equal love for all beings.
During the time we eat the first mouthful, we express our gratitude by promising to bring joy to at least one person. With the second mouthful, we can promise to help relieve the pain of at least one person. With the third mouthful, we are in touch with the wonders of life. With the forth mouthful, we practice inclusiveness and the love that is characterized by nondiscrimination. After this, we get in touch with the food and its deep nature.
COMPOSTING OUR FOOD SCRAPS
In the garbage, I see a rose.
In the rose, I see the garbage.
Everything is in transformation.
Even permanence is impermanent.
Whenever we throw food in the compost, it can smell bad. Rotting organic matter smells especially badly. But it can also become rich compost for fertilizing the garden. The fragrant rose and the stinking garbage are two sides of the same existence. Without one, the other cannot be. Everything is in transformation. The rose that wilts after six days will become a part of the compost. AFter six months the compost is transformed into a rose.
A WAY OUT
I know the Earth is my Mother,
a great living being.
I vow to protect the Earth,
and the Earth protects me.
We practice eating mindfully not just to heal ourselves and our loved ones, but as a way to help the world out of the difficult situation we are in. We become aware of what to consume and what not to consume in order to keep our bodies, our minds, and the Earth healthy, and not to cause suffering for ourselves and for others. Mindful consumption is the way out of our difficulties, not just our personal difficulties, but also the way out of war, poverty, and climate crisis. The Earth requires now that we consume mindfully if we are to survive and thrive as a species.
RITUAL: A KITCHEN ALTAR
In your own kitchen, you might want to create a kitchen altar to remind yourself to practice mindfulness while cooking. It can be just a small shelf with enough room for an incense holder and perhaps a small flower vase, a beautiful stone, a small picture of an ancestor or spiritual teacher, or a statue - whatever is most meaningful to you. When you come into the kitchen, you can begin your work by offering incense and practicing mindful breathing, making the kitchen into a mediation hall.
This Offering is by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh from his sweet, little book "How to Eat". Photography by Maggie Harrsen