Last weekend, I visited Thich Nhat Hanh’s Deer Park Monastery, in Encinitas, CA, which I’m lucky to be only about an hour away from.
For those who aren’t familiar with “Thay” or, Teacher, in Vietnamese, as he is lovingly referred to, he is a 'Zen Master and global spiritual leader, poet, and peace activist, revered for his powerful teachings and bestselling writings on mindfulness and peace.'
Although I’m not a Buddhist, his teachings and writings are some of my favorite spiritual “food.” And they have me reflecting on the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday.
During the half day program at his retreat, you attend a group meal that is eaten in silence. Thich Nhat Hanh calls this practice: Mindful Eating.
In the Buddhist philosophy it offers practitioners the opportunity to practice the five contemplations:
· This food is a gift of the “earth, the sky, numerous living beings, and much hard and loving work.”
· Eating mindfully prepares you to be worthy to receive the food, its nourishment, and the blessings of the beings, and the work it has taken to get to you.
· Mindful eating can transform “unwholesome mental formations.”
· It can be used to contemplate how our everyday actions, including eating a meal, can tie us to the web of global life, by ‘reducing the suffering of living beings, diminishing our personal contribution to climate change, and our role and accountability in healing and preserving our precious planet.’ (Nice!)
· And lastly: it can be used to amplify the presence and health of our family, friends and communities; as well as our own call to being of service.
Eating mindfully in silence, benefits us by aiding in digestion, by allowing us to become personally present, and by allowing us to be in community with those at our table. It also gives us the opportunity to think about our place at the larger world table.
It is a moment to call in what is possible for us, for those with us, and for the world. And finally, it allows us to practice gratitude, instead of taking for granted, what we have on our table, and in our lives.
In the Buddhist practice of this tradition, the silence is followed by mindful conversations around the table.
What if you could bring this mindful practice to your own Thanksgiving meal? You might not be able to rally everyone into an entire silent meal…but what about modifying it to your dessert course?
Then, following the meal, you can have your own ‘mindful conversation,’ by going around the table, sharing what came up for you, and what you are each grateful for.
· You can share being grateful for the GIFT of the food on the table, and contemplate the many hands that went into its delivery to you.
· Or, the privilege to access food easily, and hopefully health-fully, with non-GMO and chemical free options.
· You can use the time to shift any irritations you may have experienced at any time in the evening.
· Or, you can contemplate and share how you might be more compassionate in one action tomorrow, that affects another person, or the planet.
· Or, you could simply use it as a practice of being completely present in (a) moment, to see what nourishing information ‘comes in’ for you.
In the end: allow the meal and the experience to support your personal path…the one that leads to nourishing your Highest Self and the Highest good for the human family.
Blessing, Ashe, and Happy Thanksgiving!
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