Thanksgiving's Every Day

"We are how we eat. Every spiritual practice on this blue Earth blesses or gives thanks for food. Like saying Namu Amida Butsu, it can never be forced. Yet we always have occasion.

"Actually, I find food tastes better if I stop to thank it. Try it, and see. I don't doubt that scientists will discover it is more nourishing. Cooks know that food tastes better when cooked with love. And that's true for how it's eaten. Food is love.

"One traditional Buddhist meditation of thanks before eating is the Five Contemplations. The general outline of it goes like this:

"Regarding your food, consider all its ingredients and all the moves they took to come from farm to fork. Consider the roundness of your plate as representing the whole universe, and the food within as its messenger. Be compassionate for the suffering and joy that brought it to your plate, the farmers', the truckers', the grocers'. And be aware of those who have not.

"Regard your meal and vow to be worthy of it. Being worthy of your food means eating it mindfully. Eating a carrot, eat a carrot; don't chew unresolved tensions or anticipated pleasures or anything else but the carrot buddha nourishing your own buddhahood in the present moment.

"Look at how much food there is and vow not to be greedy. Eat in moderation. Recognize there's a point beyond satisfaction where eating becomes greed. Also practice equanimity. Don't identify your personal likes and dislikes. This means that even if you're a vegetarian, you might eat meat if it's offered.

"Consider your food as good medicine. Considering food as medicine means treating food as more than a comfort. Notice its chi, its life-force. Be mindful that food can help cause health or illness. Be mindful of what is and isn't healthy.

"Vow to eat that you may realize the Way. From considering food as a gift from the whole universe, to being a matter of health, it's only a hop to seeing food as holy. See your meals as an essential part of your journey of awakening."