Most people say they don’t have time to meditate; yet we all find time to have three squares a day. Eating isn’t typically associated with the expansion of our soul but with a few mindful moments, eating can be an opportunity to cultivate a spiritual practice.
Here are a couple of ways to invite your soul into your next meal:
When Ricky Bobby (actor Will Farrell) says grace at dinner with his family in the movie Talladega Nights, he prays, “Dear baby Jesus use your baby super-powers…“His wife interrupts to remind him that Jesus grew up to be a man with a beard. But Ricky Bobby likes the Christmas Jesus better, and continues to pray to “the eight-pound, six-ounce baby Jesus who listens to baby Einstein tapes…” Whatever “saying grace” means to you – praying lays the energetic and spiritual groundwork for the meal. Our thoughts and spoken word creates a vibration that influences physical matter. My Native American grandmother used to pray for the spirit of the animals that gave their lives so we could eat. She thanked the farmers who grew the vegetables and always thanked who ever physically prepared the meal. As a child I thought her prayers were too long and thanking the animal was ridiculous, but as I look back on her meaningful words I realize now that it was her way of incorporating her spiritual practice into every eating experience. Each meal was a spiritual journey as she took the act of eating to a deeper level and filled every bite of food with the energy of grace. Through prayer we invite God into our meal making it a blessed and scared experience.
The Cup Concept
Anyone who knows my husband Barry knows about his cup concept. Essentially Barry suggests choosing a cup to eat out of, so that each time you eat, your meal takes on an element of sacredness. A cup that is the same size as your both of your hands cupped together is about the size of your stomach. If you are eating just enough as provided to you by the confines of the cup, you will be less apt to overeat compared to eating from a plate of food on which you can pile lots of food. You hold the cup in your hands, in a prayer-like manner to set your intention. Additionally, I like connecting a cup to the dimensions of the stomach because it is a subtle reminder that your stomach is the “altar of your being.” It is where your mealtime offerings are made to your entire self. If we considered eating as the process of making an offering on the altar of our stomach for its transformation and integration into our being, that might create a different awareness of our intake.
Make a Spirit Offering
Although I grew up Christian, I became acquainted with various spiritual religious traditions through university classes and by studying with spiritual mentors of different faiths. When I traveled to Tibet I noticed in the Buddhist temples that food offerings to the gods are common practice. Food may be simply and silently left on the altar, with a small bow, or the offering might be accompanied by elaborate chants and full prostrations. However it is done, offering food on an altar is an act of connecting with the spiritual world. It is also a means to release selfishness and open the heart to the needs of others.
It is a common practice in Zen to make food offerings to the hungry ghosts. During formal meals or during Sesshin ( an intense meditation retreat) an offering bowl will be passed or brought to each person about to partake of the meal. Everyone takes a small piece of food from his bowl, touches it to the forehead, and places it in the offering bowl. The bowl is then ceremonially placed on the altar.
Hungry ghosts represent all four greed and thirst and clinging, which bind us to our sorrows and disappointments. By giving away something that we crave, we unbind ourselves from our own clinging and neediness to think of others.
If you don’t have time to meditate, use the daily ritual of eating to enjoy and enrich your life by creating enlightened experiences and meals full of meaning.