First, seventy-two labors brought us this food.

Zen Mountain Monastery

This is how the Meal Gatha that I learned at the Zen Mountain Monastery begins. It continues:

We should know how it comes to us.

Imagine if those two lines, and only those two lines, guided your thinking about eating. What if, when you sat down to eat each meal, you spent a moment or two reflecting on how each component of your meal comes to be on your plate, or in your bowl.

I can imagine a number of remarkable benefits emerging from such a practice.

Start your reflection with the most immediate labor -- who brought the food to your table? Whether it was you, or a family member, a lover, a waiter or waitress, labor was involved. Hmmm -- perhaps some gratitude is due there.

Then, work your way back in time . . .

  • Who prepared the food? 
  • Who bought the food? 
  • Who transported the food? 
  • Who raised the food?
  • Were animals other than humans involved along the way?

Bring as much consciousness as you can to each step, getting as full a sense as possible as to the conditions and circumstances of every being involved in your food at every step along the way.

Why? Why do this practice?

While each of us is likely to have a different experience with this practice, my guess is that one or more of the following things will arise if you do this practice consistently:

  • A more consistent attitude of gratitude.
  • An expansion of your circle of care and compassion.
  • A growing awareness of health-related aspects of your food.
  • A growing awareness of eating as a political act.
  • An deepening of your relationship with your own body.
  • A more consistent awareness of the interconnectedness of all things and beings.

If even only a couple or three of these start to emerge in your consciousness, it's probably worthwhile, wouldn't you think?