I offer this practice of eating meditation so that you might use it for Thanksgiving, or any other day. To eat mindfully is to give thanks. The mindfulness is the expression of gratitude.
To begin, I shut down all my electronics, set a timer for twenty minutes, and give my full attention to eating my food. First, I look at my plate. I offer gratitude to the food and all the causes and conditions that came together to make it possible. I try to see the sunlight and the soil in the food, to imagine the earthworms and the rain. I think of the person who might have picked the vegetables, the truck driver who transported it, and the cashier who sold it to me. I tell the story of the food, and I try to see both its joy and its suffering. I see that we have all worked together as a community to manifest this food, and that it was born of love. I also think about my own ancestors who have harvested and eaten similar foods. I think of my parents, loved ones, and teachers, who have made me who I am, and I see that I too, am born of love.
I then focus my attention inward, hoping that in these twenty minutes I might send myself love through the food and send it out into the world as energy. I set the intention of transforming any fears of lack and cultivating generosity towards others and myself. I then send out a wish for all people to have something to eat. I also acknowledge that my way of eating impacts them too, and that it impacts the earth. Finally, I set an intention for the food to fuel my service to others in helping make the world more equitable.
This takes only a few minutes, and I often use what are called “The Five Contemplations” offered in a Buddhist tradition to cover all of these aspects of my meditation.
Afterwards, I begin to eat. I try to focus on each bite, chewing slowly and tasting all of the flavors of the food. When I realize I’m distracted by thoughts, I simply bring my attention back to the movement of my jaws and teeth, the weight of the substance in my mouth. In between bites, I drop my fork and take sips of water.
Sometimes I still finish before the twenty minutes is up, and I simply notice the fullness of my belly as it rises and falls with my breathing. I feel the fullness of not only my physical form, but also the sense of wholeness this practice offers.