Today it is very common to see people talking loudly, watching TV, or using their gadgets while they eat. They mindlessly put the food into their mouths, chew for a bit, then swallow. It happens in public places like cafés and restaurants, and it happens even in the home.
Unfortunately, this common practice takes so much away from the experience of eating, which can be more special and even meditative if we’d just be more mindful about the whole process. Every meal is an opportunity to use all of our senses to appreciate and contemplate the food we eat—its flavors, textures, origins, and benefits, among other things.
Ideally, talking may be kept to a minimum during meals to avoid distractions. Silence allows us to enjoy the food as we nourish our bodies. We get to cherish the experience of eating with the people around us. And we also appreciate and are grateful to the person/s who prepared the food and to all those who helped to bring it to the table—farmers, packers, drivers, sellers, etc.
As we “say grace”, we might want to recite the 5 contemplations before every meal. Written by Thich Nhat Hanh, it is an important part of the Buddhist path.
1. This food is a gift from the earth, the sky, the universe, numerous living beings, and much hard work.
2. May we eat with mindfulness and gratitude so as to be worthy to receive it.
3. May we transform our unwholesome thoughts, especially our greed, and learn to eat with moderation.
4. May we keep our compassion alive by eating in such a way that we reduce the suffering of all beings, preserve our planet, and reverse the process of global warming.
5. We accept this food so we can nurture our brotherhood and sisterhood, strengthen our community, and nourish our ideal of serving all beings.
As we end every meal, we take a moment to appreciate the grace we just received and the satisfaction of our hunger. We are, indeed, fortunate to receive nourishing food to eat, which allows us to fulfill our daily work and obligations.