In preparing to write this blog post on eating as prayer, I did significant firsthand research on the subject. Three times a day I ate a meal. Sometimes between meals I would snack. Sometimes my meal was small pieces of fruit, other times four-course events with friends. I ate hot fudge sundaes. Salads with a garden full of veggies. Burgers on the grill. A bowl of cereal. Time of day didn’t matter. Amount eaten didn’t matter. The only difference in my experience was whether or not I paused for the few seconds before or while chewing to mentally acknowledge the experience and admit gratitude for what I was eating. The longer I paused and savored, the more I appreciated, and the more consolation I felt. In a spirituality that seeks to find God in all things, finding God in taste is the most overlooked experience and yet easily the most accessible.
Give us this day our daily bread.In a culture where time is our most precious commodity, eating has become an afterthought rather than a primary experience of our day. We scarf down food so fast that sometimes we forget if we even ate, let alone how it tasted. We live on fast food rather than enjoying the process of preparation or savoring the smell and anticipation of a dinner in the oven. We chew while working or driving or watching TV, almost as if our bodies were cars in need of fuel in the tank. We see eating as secondary to what we are really supposed to be doing. What if instead eating were as primary to our daily experience of God as prayer?
Today when you eat, stop. Stop whatever else you are doing. Turn off the TV; put down the phone; end the conversation. Acknowledge the food before you and the journey it has made to your plate, the nutritional value it holds, the many who will not know a full stomach tonight, and the life that is sustained through food. Then take a bite, a small bite. Savor the taste. Pick out the flavors, the texture, and the mixture of ingredients. Chew slowly. Just as in prayer, if your mind should wander to other thoughts, gently bring it back to the food you are eating, as if every morsel was put into your mouth by the hand of an angel. Imagine all of the tastes of the earth, fruits and sweets and sauces and meats, drinks and liquors, flavors of many cultures and far-off lands, tastes from childhood, and your favorite comfort foods. Imagine all are the creation of an extravagant God eager to give you joy and healing through food. Imagine each taste is an expression of love to you from a God who is the master chef.
For this time, be present here to this gift from God. Taste the goodness of the Lord.
31 Days with St. Ignatius continues with Hearing Places by Michelle Francl-Donnay.
Another blessing from my Lord, as a food addict and all the related issues of addiction. I strive to be more mindful of eating and to recognize why I am eating this again will remind me and others of the Higher Power in our life as we struggle with the addiction that mimics other drugs. I am an overeater and a food addict I confess to you and others. Thanks for the article. Living with the insanity of addiction cannot be done alone, I need God.
Thank you for this reflection,i have not said Grace for many years,you have given me much to think on.
Thank you, Lisa, for this reflection! Mindful eating allows our memories to give meaning to what we eat: how fresh blueberries burst into one’s mouth can bring someone back to their berry-picking as kid, or how the fragrance of caramelising onions reminds me of my grandmother’s cooking.
I once guided a retreat on savouring where we made the unleavened bread to be consecrated with our own hands. It was such a profound experience seeing what we had made be filled with God’s presence.
Humans hve the PRIVILEGE to prepare the food we eat. We take raw i gredients and transform them into our daily sustenence! What a special gift!!
Amazing how just recognizing it as a privilege instead of a drudgery changes the spirituality behind it.
Ecactly the words i was given by my Herbalist, according to him, how we eat our food,makes a diference in our overall health.
I hadn’t even thought of that. I love that you have an Herbalist!
Lisa, Thank you for the “food for thought” to make my grace before meals more than a rote prayer that I rush through, just as I rush through the meal.
I want to develop the attitude of genuine gratitude for breakfast, lunch and dinner, most of which I take for granted.
Seriously, it only takes a few seconds to savor and the gratitude just rushes in. Thank you for considering it.
For a few years now, I have been blessed to taste the love of God when I eat or drink. Isn’t it amazing how, as living beings, we are made to eat to sustain life, but this loving God made plants and animals not only to nourish us but delight our senses with texture, color, and flavor?
I love how you put that “blessed to taste the love of God.” beautiful.
I attended a retreat once that was led by a Cenacle sister, and she talked about eating. She said eating is a gift from God, and therefore, should be savored and enjoyed in an unhurried pace. She does not like the expressions “eat and run,” “quick bite,” “wolf down food,” “scarf down food,” etc. When we eat, she said, we must think and pray for the people who planted the seeds or cared for the animals, those who packed and shipped them, those who sold them at the stores, those who prepared them, and finally, say thank-you to the very source of them all, which is God. Therefore we must eat slowly, chew thoroughly, listen to the crunch, enjoy the blending of textures and flavors and swallow carefully, to fully appreciate this great gift, without which we cannot live.
What a great retreat exercise! Maybe that is a way to bring your retreat back into the daily world with you. Thank you for sharing!
Great insights on something so simple, yet so easily overlooked. I commit today to tasting my food, but not before tasting a bit of gratitude that I have good, healthy, abundant food to eat. For so much of history that has not been the case for countless fellow humans.Thanks, Lisa!
You will be amazed how much better EVERYTHING tastes than you ever realized before!