Feast on your life
Post by Chintana Ahlund
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien
I sit watching my husband mold sticky rice into the shape of a small pine cone in his right hand. The scene reflects for me, on so many levels, the meeting of east and west: Southeast Asian food on Swedish-American tongue. Sitting at the table is my sister-in-law’s mother, whom we call maa-tow or Grandma. She raves about the rice fragrance and recalls living in Laos, in a small village, when folks waited for green rice or the time for harvesting.
It dawns on me that each meal with my family is a chance to witness the lineage behind each moment. I quietly eat and think about what got us to the dinner table: the Vietnam war, refugee camps, a family in Laos, a family in Sweden, the meeting and marriage of two college students, rice farmers in Thailand, vegetable farmers in America, fish, chicken, an entire manufacturing and packaging process, Publix and its employees, etc.
There’s a long chain of people, animals and actions that directly and indirectly shape the moments at our dinner table. Food and family are staples in all of our lives. With the holidays approaching, I’d like to share a few ways for food to be used in meditation or the practice of mindfulness.
For starters, read and share the below poem. I love its message: Sit. Feast on your life.
Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
Simple Meal Service
Below are four simple ways to contemplate the food that we eat. I learned this from participating in a week long silent retreat where I sat quietly and read the passages prior to eating every meal. I also practiced eating slowly and mindfully, enjoying the experience of nourishing both mind and body. Everything that sits on our plates and everyone that sits at our table is part of our present moment. And behind each morsel of food and person is a story. We can use meal time as practice for honoring the interconnectivity in our lives.
We have food while some have none.
We have each other while some are alone.
2. Food offering:
All you demons and hungry ghosts
Whose desire is never satisfied
Share it with us
Be at peace
note: take a small crumb of food and sprinkle it outside after reading this, feeding hungry spirits
Out of the mysterious source
We and the things that sustain us come
Waking and eating, embracing and sleeping
We walk on the empty sky
We are grateful for this food
The work of many hands
And the sharing of other forms of life