An outdated, patriarchal, and religious formality said before a meal that holds little truth or relevance in a modern and forward-thinking society.
Why waste your breath? This food is mine, I deserve it, I bought it, I am not religious, I have no affiliation, my time is precious, I am busy, I’m not sitting down, we don’t eat at the table anyway, that’s just for special occasions, it means nothing to me… these were just some of my thoughts on saying grace for many years. What are or were your thoughts? What does it mean in your household, if anything?
When my family and I started eating plant-based more than 4 years ago I was reintroduced to the idea of saying grace. It instantly struck a chord with me and I have been using and sharing the concept ever since. I can’t remember exactly when it was but I have my friend Daniel, a naturopath and energy worker to thank.
It’s a simple concept and one I should have put down on paper long ago.
Are you grateful for your food?
When you look down at your plate, are you grateful for what’s there, for the story behind it, for the preparation of that meal, for the company with you, for the nourishment you are about to receive?
Allow me to share my version (yours will be different).
“Thank you Mother Earth for the food which we are about to receive, thank you for the soil in which it grows, thank you for the farmer who tends to and nourishes the soil, thank you to the lovely lady at the market who drives around to collect the abundance our land has to offer, thank you for the time I have to prepare this meal with love, passion and care, thank you to my children and wife at my table. Thank you.”
This brings up the concept of mindful eating or eating with purpose. In western society in particular our food has become commodified so much that it barely resembles real food anymore, and the consumption of that product is driven by convenience, time and money. How quickly can I get it, how quickly can I eat it, how much instant gratification can I get in each bite and how cheaply.
This culture is I believe one of the main precursors to both mental and physical disease and to a dissatisfaction with life. We are not taking the time to stop! To stop and think about what we are putting in our mouths, about where it came from, about how and why it was grown or produced, about if we are ok with the how and why, about if this is truly nourishing our bodies or just filling a hole and about the cost – the cost to our health, to our environment, to life on this planet (including compassion for our fellow man and all living beings) and to our future. So detached have we become that our children are now growing up believing that ‘food’ comes in a packet, that ‘food’ comes from a shelf at the supermarket… JUST STOP! Stop and take a moment please.
The next time you go to eat, stop. Take your food over to the table, to your office desk, to the park bench, to the ground in front of you and take a seat. Place your food in front of you, close your eyes, take a few calming breaths, open your eyes and look down at your food, and ask your self out loud or in your head – ‘Am I grateful for my food right now?’. The answer may surprise you.
Stop and think about what’s in front of you and if you can then try to say grace, say what about your food right now, in this moment you are grateful for. If you’re staring down at a white bread, cheese, ham and butter sandwich; are you grateful, what is the story behind each ingredient, behind the preparation of this meal, the intention, the energy? If you’re staring down at a packet of chips, what’s the story behind this food, the processes involved in creating it, will this nourish your body? This is not about telling you what to eat or not to eat, it’s about giving yourself the opportunity to know it instinctively. By stopping, by sitting down and taking a breath before you eat you give yourself the opportunity to really connect with your food instead of it disappearing before your mind and body can even have the chance to recognise it… is what your about to eat even really food at all..?
The next benefit to this mindful approach of slowing down before you eat, of sitting, breathing, observing, tasting each mouthful is that your body has the opportunity to actually process and digest it! You know the feeling I’m sure, I certainly do of racing around all day, eating on the run, your heart rate is up, your probably standing, even if you are sitting you might be on your phone or device. Your stomach is getting in knots, maybe indigestion is common for you, maybe your constantly hungry, or not hungry at all. You can’t absorb your food like this, you and I both know this instinctively so why can’t we just stop.
Next time you eat anything just try this practice and commit to it, even just once each day or week! Sit down, take a breath, make sure you phone or computer is off or you are committed to not using it and spend some time getting to know your food, and yourself, and try saying grace to your meal!
Are you grateful…?