This topic happens to fall on the week of our national Thanksgiving celebration. I write this from my Grandmother’s house in upstate New York, where my family has gathered over good food and drink to give thanks for all of life’s bounties. I was initially going to entitle this post, “Mindful Eating,” but upon realizing that Thanksgiving is but a day away, I will deliver my simple message via a short prose, so that I can get back to celebrating with my family, and so can you.
I love to eat. Food is undoubtedly one of my favorite things. I admit, however, that I don’t always “respect” everything I put in my mouth, most often because I am aware that the ingredients may not be all that wholesome for my body but at that moment I am too tired, too hungry, or too transfixed by the sweet, glorious crunchy sugar coating (for example) to care. What follows is usually a mindless devouring of the food in front of me, briefly satisfying as it goes down my throat. But in the end, I am left with an empty hole in my gut, as if the food I just held in my hands was only a mirage in a vast, empty desert. This is a habit I work hard to change, but I can't always expect perfection. Special occasions such as Thanksgiving, however, are great opportunities to put change into practice.
This Thanksgiving, as you sit down to this special meal with your family, take a moment to look at each delicious item on your plate. Imagine the time and energy that has gone into each bite. Think about the people you love who have prepared it, and if you took part in the preparations, give thanks – to God, to the universe, whatever your preference – for your ability to help. Be not just mindful of each bite, but thankful as well. Consider this your one chance to enjoy each bite, chewing slowly with focus and intent. Consider this likewise your one chance to observe the people who surround you, giving thanks for each of them as you enjoy this meal together. Do this today and everyday after.
After all, taking one day at a time, one bite at a time, and one celebration at a time, is the essence of paring down. It means choosing simplicity, but never accepting an empty hole in your gut – the great paradox of balance. So if you love your mother’s pumpkin pie that you get to eat but once or twice a year, don’t deny yourself that extra slice. Being thankful means relishing as well as slowing down. It means filling the void with simple gifts.
How do you give thanks everyday?