1. Belonging to, derived from, or associated with a divine power; sacred.
2. Regarded with or worthy of worship or veneration; revered: a holy book.
3. Living according to a strict or highly moral religious or spiritual system; saintly: a holy person.
4. Specified or set apart for a religious purpose: a holy place.
5. Solemnly undertaken; sacrosanct: a holy pledge.
6. Regarded as deserving special respect or reverence: The pursuit of peace is our holiest quest.
7. Informal Used as an intensive: raised holy hell over the mischief their children did.
Holy. It’s a small word with deep impact. Most of the time we think of it in it’s more ecclesiastical forms, all related to specific religious belief systems or specific deities. I think too, people read this word and feel a sense of seriousness to it that isn’t necessarily a true story. Holy is serious business, but it’s not necessarily somber.
When I speak of holy, I speak of something well beyond any religious appropriation. I speak to the soul, to unfetter connection, to the easy exchange between people who are genuinely savoring each other’s company, while nourishing their bodies, minds and souls. I speak of a setting and an experience that elevates mood, the sense of self and well being, that soothes and bonds together with themselves and with each other. I’m speaking here, to holy as in sacred, regarded as deserving special respect, belonging to, derived from or associated with divine power, regarded as worthy of veneration, and specified or set apart.
It is my deepest belief that when we sit down to nourish our bodies with intention, deep gratitude and communion, it can be a holy event that elevates the state of our souls.
These 5 practices are simply that; 5 practices. This is not a definitive list, nor are all required for a holy dining experience. They do however, give you an idea of intention, small mental shifts and the simple acts that can elevate you.
1. Come clean.
I remember when I was a little girl, age 4-5, when I attended pre-school at The Little Red School House. Everyday before lunch was served, we would all be lead out towards the bathroom in a single file line, so that one by one, we would wash our hands before we ate. It was a lesson in hygiene, which at the time, I never really thought about, but later as an adult I appreciated. Can you imagine the germ field a 4 year olds hands are?!
Now as the creatrix of Food Practice and a ritualist, I see this pre-meal hygiene habit as a ritual that isn’t just about washing your hands to get the dirt or days grime off of them.
Before we sit down to eat, we get to stop what we are doing and clean our hands under running water. Yes, it’s about cleaning your hands, but the metaphor is there as well. A washing away of anything that gets in the way of your healthful partaking of a meal. What prevents healthful ingestion is not just germs, but also your lack of focus, worry from the day, aggravations, preoccupations, etc. For a few minutes you’re getting a chance to ritualistically wash all that away and then turn your full attention to the meal you are about to have. It’s a mental shift, facilitated by your physical act.
A cleansing ritual.
2. Choose what you will take in.
Most of us have gone through the childhood experience of being forced to eat everything on our plate. It taught us to ignore our own bodies in stopping when we had enough, but also it completely set us up for bypassing this reality or intuition on what we wanted and didn’t want. Many, especially in the States think that somehow more food is better. There is this belief or reflex that if we were presented with a massive bounty, you HAVE to have as much of everything as you can possibly have.
You do not.
In fact this is based on a scarcity mentality and it is a lie. Underneath this behavior is an unconscious drive that believes if you don’t have it all now, regardless of whether you want it or not, then later you might not have the chance to have so much again. Mastery of your own world and abundance starts with the trust in what it is your body is telling you. Only choose what you can eat and those things you like most.
Everything is always available but the act of choosing that which you’ll have and leaving what you don’t want or need behind at the table is an act of maturity and empowerment that refines your soul and sends out into the world a reverberation that is at once revolutionary and healing.
We can choose our bounty and our blessings with responsibility, gratitude and gusto.
3. Choose who you dine with.
Eating is an energetic process of receiving. At no time, other than sex, is a person so open to receiving. You are open, taking in, and if conditions are right, all of you is receptive to what is going on around you. Who you eat with is in the same experience. Connecting, conversing, meeting someone over food is an intimate act even if we never consider it so.
Conversation should be easy, celebratory, about discovery and exchange. Tension, arguing, or any other discomfort with others while you are eating sets you and everyone else up for indigestion and blockages to your energy that linger for a long time.
Strife and tension with those around you while you are eating is a terrible experience for the body and the soul. It’s impossible to take in when you are clenched and defended. By the same token, take a look at what you bring to the table. Come clear, relaxed and open to really savor the food and have wonderful exchanges with those with you.
4. Offer words of gratitude.
Do you pray? Or set intentions and meditate? You don’t need to belong to any specific religion, you don’t even need to believe in any sort of higher power. However, taking a moment to acknowledge the abundance before you and speaking your gratitude out loud for all to share in the awareness with you, imbues your food and dining experience with reverence and a deepening into the experience.
Take a moment to take in the bounty before you.
This doesn’t take long, it’s not in the act but in the intention. This can become a ritual of acknowledging the abundance and embodying gratitude, a feeling and state of being that will infuse your entire eating experience.
Every single one of us that has the good fortune to have a plate of food before us to eat, has an abundance to be grateful for. It does us all well to dwell in this reality and to say a blessing or offer words of gratitude for a universe in which we actually have a resplendent meal to enjoy, is a worthy and gorgeous practice.
5. Turn off the rest of the world.
Whether eating alone or with another, leave all electronics as far away from you as possible. Allow each meal or snack to be a carved out space in time when you simply receive. That is what eating is – receiving nourishment, and it is as much literal as it is metaphorical. Allow this to be the only thing going on in that time.
Elinor Gawel (Eli) says
I recently started a practice of looking at the food and figuring out who to thank, the farmer, the pig and of course the universe. It’s a new practice and I still forget often.
Elena Rego says
I love this, Eli. It keeps us connected to the entire process our food takes. And… it’s a practice. We just keep trying.
This is a wonderful recipe for wholly taking in our food experience. Come clean, I love it!