Thursday, September 17, 2009
September 17, 2009 'Joy and Sacredness of Food'
I had written about the ritual meals of the Jewish religion from the book, Altman, Donald "Art of the Inner Meal: Eating as a Spiritual Path" Harper: 1999, and had read another chapter about the joy and sacredness of food in the Christian tradition. Again, I was tempted to skip over the chapter this morning as I was reading it at the lake because as stated before I am not a Christian.
The author was visiting Brother Roy Parker at the Mount Calvary Monastery which is about 1,250 feet above the city of Santa Barbara, California.. While he talks with the brother about food, spirituality, and the larger meaning of communion, Brother Roy prepares the dough for the multigrain bread that he bakes for the monks and visitors. After a few minutes, he sets the dough aside to let it rise, and the author offers to help him wash and clean the kitchen. in which the brother was baking loafs of bread for the brothers that lived there and for visitors who come by. Well, since I can't eat bread I really wanted to just skim this chapter; but I have learned that this author includes subjects in his book for a reason so I persisted. Usually, when I read in this book I often read out loud as I sit in my car overlooking the large blue lake.
The author loves the bread and wonders why it is so special. Brother Roy explains that even when cooking any food "you just have to have the spirit in communion with what you're doing, and the ingredients will take care of themselves."
The author interprets this as the art of the inner meal means being in communion with all aspects of food, and of life. By expanding our personal concept and practice of communion we make every meal from preparation to clean up joyous and special.
I took my journal and started to write about what I felt food was and it was not being joyous and special. I was taught it was an obligation from my mother and one that she did not like. She did not like having children and felt that we were part of being a woman and that she was angry at being stuck in the house taking care of us and using the spare money to buy us food. I always felt guilty in eating food that I subconsciously carried to this current day. Whenever I was dieting, my mother would look down her nose even if I was eating just carrots. To her dieting was no food at all.
I am an adult and my eating habits are my business now. I write about it so I can take them apart and get rid of the attachments especially those I don't even know I have unconsciously. When I hear my mother's voice in my mind, I can write down that I no longer have to obey her and that it is me that decides what I can feed myself and no one else. Still, I need to tear apart those old habits.
I like Alman's definition of the inner meal. Instead of eating mindlessly and not caring what food taste like or what it does for my body, I want to eat mindfully and know that it is a joy to eat and to expand my life force including all aspects of eating. Too often, I eat in front of the television or computer. I used to eat in restaurants alone because I was traveling for my job. I loved it because I read magazines and newspapers. I could ignore everyone around me. Nothing was worse than eating with people who were talking about something I had no interest in such as work or tearing down someone. Being Buddhist, I could not gossip back so all I could say was "is that so, or really and so on" . They would wait for me to say something back about someone else and I could not do that. I would try and change the subject by talking about books, movies, television shows, news, anything. That usually did not work. I was an union officer too. I was under so much pressure that I needed to eat alone.
I have a chance now to re-think and re-define food and the relationship it has with me. I love going to the lake because I think it is a spiritual place. Nature for me is very spiritual. In that I am very Taoist. I need to think of food that way too, and when you think about it food is very special, spiritual and joyful. If you are eating meat some creature, animal has given its life for you. I still eat meat so I need to be thankful for the sacrifice that animal did. Of course, I did not have that animal killed for me and that would have been to break a precept; still the sacrifice should be acknowledged, I guess. No one really wants to think about it.
I have enough money for food. There were plenty of times I did not have it. Now, I never run out of food. For instance, I know I need cat food soon. It is no big deal for me to buy some. I remember when there was a time that I worried if I would have enough money for such things. I have some money draining problems that seemed to have been resolved lately. That helps. But I have no bills. Everything gets paid. I have enough half and half for coffee and some organic coffee came in today. I love coffee. Eating food is joyful and a sacred duty to myself. It is also a gift from the Eternal or Lord Buddha.