By Tammy T. Stone
Sitting on the cushion, we use various techniques and methods to quiet our minds, clear our heads, become observant of our breath and sensations of the body, and learn to overcome many of the obstacles to peace of mind.
But no matter how we practice, the end goal is the same—we want to be able to carry this feeling of peace with us throughout the day.
We want to be mindful, present and follow a middle way that steers clear of the extremes of attachment and aversion in our everyday lives; extending our practice beyond the cushion is a great opportunity to broaden its scope and impact.
Gratitude, as always, plays a crucial role. Cultivating an authentic feeling of gratitude for the people and things around us is a beautiful, if challenging endeavor.
“When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace.” ~ H. H. The Dalai Lama
I love this gratitude meditation we can do at mealtime. Maybe you’d like to try it?
Sit down before your plate of food, and regard it for a moment. What does it look like? What smells are coming off the plate? Which colours are attracting you and which are more subtle?
As you observe the food, try not to associate it with memories or ideas already familiar to you, but just to see it as it is, right there before you, like you are seeing these ingredients for the first time.
Now, try to trace each item of food on your plate back to its various sources. Picture the people (maybe you!) who cooked the food for you to eat. Picture those who stocked or prepared it for you to buy. Imagine all the people who worked to bring this food to your local store or farmer’s market right back to the source, where you can visualize the farms and fields they came from, with all the people and animals who govern the work processes there.
We can go even farther back and picture all the people who care for the people who worked to bring the food to your plate, and all the support systems those people have, far and wide. Then there are the rain and the sun, bringing life to all things, without which none of the rest would be possible.
Allow your mind to roam freely and encompass as many beings as you can who might be affiliated with the varied ingredients on your plate.
Silently, offer thanks to all those you have enabled you to eat your food today.
The more we contemplate the enormous network responsible for this single plate of food, the more deeply we can feel the truth that we are all interconnected, dependent beings, and develop a beautiful gratitude for our fellow humans, all sentient beings, and the sources of all life.
Editor: Dana Gornall