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Food - Musings and Meditations

Photo: Filip Van Kerckhoven

Last time I talked about gratitude, and how it has become a daily ‘practice’ for me to insert a moment of conscious gratitude several times a day. In the morning, in the evening, but also at different times during the day.

This is anything but difficult, yet it initially required some effort, especially not to forget.

We are so used to rushing through the day in a kind of tunnel vision, from task to assignment to activity, that taking the time for something like a gratitude meditation is not always obvious. But it's like learning to brush your teeth: once you get into the habit, it doesn't feel comfortable NOT doing it. And so it is now a regular daily part of my day, to be consciously grateful several times a day and to have real attention on that gratitude.

But now I have added a dimension to these daily gratitude rituals, and I find that this addition again takes some ‘effort’. Each new habit apparently requires yet another such conscious 'effort' before that habit takes on its own life and energy.

I have begun to realize more and more over the past few months that we no longer have rituals of gratitude for our daily food, our ‘daily bread’.

And that really started to bother me.

Of all those things we take for granted, our food is perhaps the thing for which we could be most grateful every day.

For countless generations, it was the custom for most people to say a prayer before meals, giving thanks for that ‘daily bread’.

But that custom seems to me to be all but extinct in our society. I don't recall ever being a guest somewhere for a meal, where that meal was preceded by any form of expressed gratitude, or by a prayer.

The notion itself immediately seems to arouse quite a bit of resistance for many people, as if the idea itself is some kind of indecent proposal.

Much of that resistance may still trace back to our collective trauma concerning religion, religious indoctrination and centuries of forced conformity to rituals that are now seen as untrue and even harmful. In that respect, we are a bit like children who find out that Santa Claus does not really exist, and who have angrily resolved to never believe anything again.

Even in our own family it has never been a habit, although I dare say that in many areas we have taken many steps to live consciously, to pay attention to all the special things we are granted, and to be grateful.

I am now trying to change that for myself.

I have resolved to say a kind of ‘prayer’ before every meal, an explicit thanks for the food that is in front of me. The word ‘prayer’ should be considered quite apart from the possible dogmatic-religious associations you may have with it, especially if you have no favorable experiences with religion in the traditional sense. Rather, think of the word ‘prayer’ as meditation with a certain kind of energy, and with awareness of all that transcends us.

And I have resolved, in this gratitude-meditation, to also consciously think of all the people who have made it possible for this food to reach my plate.

I also include in my meditation the gratitude for the entire natural world that produces everything we eat, the millions of years of evolution it took each of the plants that are on my plate (I am vegan) to evolve into their being and richness, and the miraculous and incredible diversity of plants and of life on this planet of ours. And so my ‘prayer’ extends to that entire Universe that produces planets like Earth, planets so suited to such wondrous variations on the theme of life as ours.

I am glad that I have finally come to integrate that ritual of gratitude into daily life, and it is already changing how I interact with food, with meals, with awareness about that richness we have come to take so much for granted. I feel myself becoming much more aware of what I'm eating, how wonderful those things are, and how they are so generously produced by our biosphere. I pay more attention to the taste and texture of all those different things on my plate, and how wonderful it is that so many things exist on this planet that are so delicious. And by consciously stopping to think about that at every meal, rather than rushing into it as I used to do, the whole experience of the meal changes. The gratitude changes the experience itself dramatically.

It's still a work in progress, and there are still times when I forget that gratitude meditation before meals, or when I go back to gulping down the food inattentively, barely experiencing the richness of flavor and texture to which I am again being treated.

And I would love to find a way to introduce that into meals with family or friends as well, but that still scares me off a bit. I want to look for a way, an energy, a kind of ritual, that might shift the possible resistance to shared intimacy of gratitude to an openness to a new (and old) form of vulnerability. For being grateful ‘in public’ requires some vulnerability and the shedding, at least in part, of our 'armor' of cynicism or apparent indifference.

I would like to learn to be grateful ‘collectively’, as it used to be, I suspect, more integrated into everyday life in the past.

And so this gratitude is a self-reinforcing phenomenon, as I pointed out last time. By being consciously grateful, we become increasingly aware of how much there is to be grateful for, which in turn brings more gratitude, and so on. It's a vicious circle to ever greater well-being and happiness, because despite the misery and problems in our world, there remains an awful lot to be grateful for, every day. So I highly recommend it as a daily ‘exercise’!

Thank you for reading, and until the next installment,

All the best to you,


Vineyards and fields in Somogy, Province, Hungary. Photo: Filip Van Kerckhoven


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