Sunday, November 27, 2011

Be The Web

When I was young, we said grace before our evening meal.
“Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts which we are about to receive from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
No one taught me this blessing. It was simply an ever~present part of our evening ritual~~which likely explains why I rarely thought of its meaning. I loved how the words cascaded one over the other in an engaging rhythm. But did I think about their significance? Seldom.

As I matured, things began to change. I became influenced by forms of spirituality that recognized that all was sacred. This, of course, included the food that came from the earth and nourished the body. During this time, a new grace appeared, one that continues to be a part of my eating life.
The silver rain, the shining sun,
The fields where all the wild things run,
And all the ripples of the wheat,
Are in this food that we now eat.
So as we sit for this­­­­ ­­­­­­______ (adjective~~lovely, delicious) meal,
With ______ (adjective~~grateful, joyous) hearts we know and feel,
That we are eating rain and sun,
And fields where all the wild things run.
Though I loved the poetry in these words, still I used this blessing infrequently. Earth’s bounty and my incredible good fortune in having such wholesome food were too often intellectual concepts rather than heart~felt experience. The habits of unconscious eating were still strong in me.

And then Thich Nhat Hanh came into my life. This gentle Buddhist monk forever changed my relationship to food and the process of eating. The first line of the eating prayer in Nhat Hahn’s tradition is~~
“This food is a gift of the whole universe~~the earth, the sky, numerous living beings and much loving work.”
The oatmeal that warmed me this morning was possible only because of photosynthesis, moisture, vibrant soil, farmer, salt miner, trucker, grocer, stove manufacturer and propane producer. One chain, many links. One web, many strands.

In Buddhism, though, a blessing before meals serves primarily to orient us. As a preamble to the experience of eating, its intent is to encourage us to be fully present throughout the entire process. Full awareness~~an appropriate response to “these Thy gifts,” don’t you think?

I now say grace before most meals. As I look at my plate, I recognize all that it holds. And I see myself there, too. I re~member myself into that vast web. By nourishing my body, the food I eat allows me to move out into the world. How will I honor these gifts and carry them forward into the web?

If someone cuts me off in traffic, letting out an expletive or flipping the bird is certainly not being true to “these Thy gifts”. Walking in a haze through my day, reacting carelessly to whatever arises, does not do them justice either.

No, “these Thy gifts” asks more. It invites a loving attention, a soulful presence. When I’m operating from my best self, I bring nourishment to others. I hope, though, that even when I’m behaving badly, folks can take what I pass to them and turn it toward greater wisdom and overall good.

Many of us honored our gifts this past Thursday. Perhaps we can keep that thanksgiving going. In fact, I’m asking that everyone reading these words~~yes, that means you!~~ commit to sitting in gratitude before your next meal.

If we would each also vow to consciously use the nutrients within that food to fuel our own unique contribution to the world~~and to make it our very best offering~~that would be a lovely thing indeed!

And while we're speaking of gratitude, please feel mine streaming right now to you~~and you~~and you, too~~for all that you do, and all that you are, in this world.

Blessings!

Loanne Marie

P.S. For other Thanksgiving~themed essays, here are some earlier posts~~


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8 comments:

Loanne Marie said...

Ah, Loanne. Such a beautiful invitation to partake in the Uni-Verse - One Song - through the simple act of eating. I love how you follow the "seed" of nourishment from photosynthesis to the propane producer. I have written down the one line from Thich's eating blessing and will follow through now, as I leave the computer desk to sit at the dining table to eat raspberry scones made by my sister-in-law's loving hands, feeding my soul, heart, mind, body and spirit. Namaste.

Loanne Marie said...

This is lovely, Claire! In my mind's eye, I see you sitting at that small table with a luscious raspberry scone on a beautiful flowered plate, aware of the gifts you are receiving, committed to passing them on in your own unique Claire way.

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I find it awkward that I don't say Grace always. Sometimes it is with those that don't. Now I can sit quietly before I begin and remember where it all came from,even if only to myself.
Blessings to you.

Loanne Marie said...

Isn't it funny how we feel uncomfortable saying grace openly? Like somehow it's not cool or we're afraid we'll be seen as a crank or a fanatic. But I certainly don't want to make anyone uncomfortable either, so I often say something silently or make some socially acceptable exclamation about how lucky we are to have such wonderful food to eat. And alas, oftentimes I totally forget gratitude. We are works in progress, aren't we?

Thanks for reading and for writing. Blessings also to you!

Anonymous said...

Loann,

I love the second blessing that was posted in poetry. It flows so lovely and stays true to what is...All that we eat and know is touched by the wind, the raindrops, the sun's glow, and early morning dew...it is wonderful to give thans to the Mother Earth. Then again, knowing me and of my beliefs, this is where my heart is. Thank you for posting this...I showed it to my family and they were equally impressed.

Sara

Loanne Marie said...

Yes, isn't that blessing simply beautiful? I'm glad it resonated with you and your family. It delights me to imagine you all sitting around the table taking turns speaking those words and honoring all the gifts on your plates. Bon appetit!

Thanks for reading and writing!

monica wood said...

I love the traditional Catholic grace; reminds me, too, of childhood. Today I was at a Catholic funeral and took communion, though I'm no longer a Catholic. I see the communion as a childhood ritual that I refuse to give up, and its symbolism--receiving Christ to become more Christlike--still resonates, though Jesus is, you know, no longer... Ah, well. "These thy gifts." Your writing is one of mine.

Loanne Marie said...

These traditions live in the bones, in the soul, don't they? And there's also the symbolism that can satisfy~~or quiet~~our critical and oh~so~modern brains.

For me, it's more than both of those things, though. First, I see Jesus as a bodhisattva and choose to believe 'he' still exists. But during those times of doubt, I think there is ample evidence that a ritual repeated countless times by countless individuals over centuries becomes imbued with a certain power, a certain essence, that we can touch ourselves.

Thanks as always, Monnie, for reading and for writing! You~~one of MY gifts!

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Leia Marie