Published on New York Spirit
It’s time for Thanksgiving. Soon you will be sitting across the tables, perhaps sharing one thing that you are thankful for before relishing the Thanksgiving meal. Since the thanksgiving dinner is already laid down with new silverware on a designer teak dining table; sometimes we might forget to be thankful for the food itself. Not all of us thought to say a prayer before meals as kids, although when we did it was because we were asked to do so. When half of the world goes to sleep with empty stomachs, shouldn’t some gratitude go towards the meal we receive every day?
Thanksgiving started as a way to express gratitude for the bounty of the harvest. In today’s time when the food ritual is to grab a bite while rushing to work, such holidays do give us an opportunity to sit together and mindfully eat while sharing not just the food but the moments of merriment. Maybe grandma can tell you her secret recipe or your kids can meet the cousins they never met before! It is about connecting with each other and understanding the deeper roots of the tradition, which focus on being grateful for the food.
Early humans hunted laboriously and dangerously; food therefore was very much valued. Centuries later, eating became a routine and something that was predictable and easy to obtain. Appreciation for a good meal was greatly reduced. The sacredness of food was overlooked and the understanding, which our ancient societies had, that food is life force energy was taken for granted.
Food is a gift from other living things; they accept at a soul level to feed someone’s hunger. Our thankfulness should be to the millions of souls who went through the pain, be it plants or animals. We should recognize food as a blessing throughout our life and not take it for granted. Gratitude creates a chain of events where we will be rewarded with more such moments of abundance. If we can comprehend that the connection of food with us is more than what we ordinarily perceive, it will have an immense impact on our psychological and spiritual growth. The body gives us clear signs what it needs. Remember, our body gives us signs, not the mind–it just desires! Often we develop allergies to some foods because our body system is telling us to stay away from that food because it disrupts the natural energy flow in our system. What nature gives us is wholesome, fulfilling, and energy-nourishing. That’s why cakes don’t hang on trees!
In Japanese culture, they say “itadakimasu” before a meal. The literal meaning is “I humbly receive” though the phrase actually suggests gratitude for all those who played a role in cultivating and preparing the food. In Christianity, they practice saying grace before meals. In Hinduism, food is considered sacred and the goddess of food–Annapurna–is worshipped. There are mantras to express thankfulness for food, and at times it is first offered to the lord. It is believed that the person who recognizes the significance of food within the five layers of the body helps carry life in the worldly process and consequently seeks to attain the enlightenment. The donation of food is highly praised in Hinduism.
No matter what religion or culture you belong to, the expression of gratitude toward food is universal. Hence, it is not a religious custom, but a soulful practice. It is done with the intent of nourishment of body and soul.
By saying “thank you”, we create a vibration. The thank-you now creates more moments in future to be grateful for. The sacred prayers have divine energies because of the positive words and the combined intentions of people over time and space. So, when everyone is thankful for the food, nature blooms with these energies and gives us more. How important our little act of gratefulness is!
Recent studies have concluded that the expression of gratefulness can have intense positive effects on our health and our moods, too. (Don’t we get cranky when we are hungry?) There’s a proverb:
“If you’ve forgotten the language of gratitude, you’ll never be on speaking terms with happiness.”
Even when Thanksgiving is over and you are eating alone, gratitude and mindfulness should continue. A silent ‘thank you’ before crunching the first bite of that sandwich; five relaxed minutes of relishing it, will allow the body to take in the real nutrition of the food. While cooking too, you can be completely involved in the process by feeling happy about the nature’s gifts and feeling the joy of home cooked food. No negative thoughts should bother your mind while you are cooking. This is one of the secrets to a delicious dish with the same ingredients. A dollop of positive thoughts makes it tastier and healthier!
Let us be aware and appreciative of the efforts that go behind what we eat. He is a farmer so that we can be something else and not bother about growing our own food. He is a grocer so that we can pick from a variety of food. She is a cook so that we can enjoy the tasty meal. We have so many to give thanks to including Mother Nature. Let us feel blessed and create more moments of blessings by feeling gratitude and sharing it with the less fortunate ones.
May each one of us be aware of the significance of nature’s gift of food and never forget the importance it holds to nurture our body and soul!