In many cultures and in many households people pray before they eat.
I did not grow up praying before each meal and always felt a little bit awkward when I found myself a guest at a "pray before we eat" table. I never quite knew what to do. As a child I was always a little bit afraid someone might ask me to offer the blessing. Despite many regrettable mornings at my local Catholic church's Sunday School, I did not feel prepared to offer a pre-meal prayer.
Instead of a "pray before we eat" family, I grew up in a "non-mindful eating" family. A grazing, snacking family. Not an obese family, but a family where your mother might eat the food off of your plate. Or where you (as I often did) might eat something standing in front of the fridge right before dinner because you were hungry and impatient about it. It was a family where you wouldn't get scolded for eating out of the fridge before dinner really, either. Mindful eating was not something we emphasized.
Now I am beginning to think more about the ritual of putting food in my body. Maybe I should be "praying" before I eat. Prayer before a meal has a lot of important functions:
- it slows us down and forces us to pause
- it gives us a chance to meditate on where our food came from and what efforts went into bringing it to our table - from harvesting to cooking. (This might lead us to place greater value on sustainability and home cooking over fast food alternatives.)
- it directly draws our mind's attention to the fact that we are, indeed, about to eat. Certainly the opposite of devouring a bag of chips by mistake while watching TV.
- it makes meal times special and bestows a ritualistic weight upon them
Therefore, every day before I eat from here on out I am going to try to take a moment to pray in my own way. For me, that prayer is simply several deep long breaths. My prayer consists of thinking about the journey my food took to arrive at my table and being mindful of each bite and how those bites make my body feel. It is taking the time to feel my body in a state of hunger so that I can be more in tune with the signals of being full. It is about expressing gratitude and respect for the food I have before me, not wasting it by eating more than I need or throwing any away.
I am very interested to hear from you:
1. Do you have any food-related 2010 Resolutions?
2. If you try a pre-meal prayer or gratitude ritual, does it change the way you experience your meal time at all? Does is impact your eating behavior or the culture of your table?
Happy New Year everyone!