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Posts Tagged ‘eating and the sacred’

How often I catch myself eating too quickly, virtually inhaling a meal as I simultaneously think through something wholly unrelated, rather than savoring it, and doing so with full attention.

Zen Buddhist practice encourages “mindful” eating; an act of being completely present to the act of eating. In Italy, the “slow food” movement is a meaningful corrective for this anesthetized approach to sitting down to a rapidly dispatched meal. Interesting too, that all religious traditions place a premium on certain foods that are to be eaten in conjunction with religious festivals and Holy Days around which there is usually a prayerful rite. While we are what we eat, I guess you could say we are also as we eat. A coherent spiritual practice can in part be measured by the degree to which the times set aside for formal meditation begin to spill over into the rest of our days and all of the activities that we perform.

My young nephew, a very talkative and bright young man, asked me the kind of question the other day while we were catching a bite to eat at a local restaurant that can only come from the mouths of babes.

He asked: “When I go to Jesus will he feed me?” I answered, ” I don’t think you’ll really need to eat”, whereupon he complained: ” Well, if he doesn’t, I’ll die! If he’s not going to feed me than I won’t go!”

I am still chuckling at the sweet and natural way this question was asked, and though I was focused on giving a mature answer, his reply was most definitely so much better than mine. With innocent simplicity, he went straight to the heart of the matter: In being fed, we celebrate our profound need for one another. In a real sense, our requirements for physical nourishment is a perpetual and very compelling reminder of our creatureliness. No matter how lofty our thoughts, we still need to be fed. Delighting in the simple pleasures, like dining with attention ( whether alone or with someone else), transfigures the moments involved and illuminates them. Eating with attention is to eat with gratitude and celebrate the continuous connection to others and the world around us on which we do most certainly depend for our total well-being.

My young nephew, it turns out, is a zen master! Is it any wonder that Jesus admonishes us to “suffer the little children”?

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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