“Time to eat!” I can still hear my mother calling to me and my dad and my brothers to bring us in from whatever we were doing. Sometimes she might add an unnecessary explanation that the food was hot and getting cold: “Time to eat. Dinner’s ready.” To teenage boys, her voice rang the dinner bell; she wasn’t saying words we thought about. At the table, in an effort to slow us down, Dad reminded us of “our” manners: “You have to wait until your mom takes the first bite.”
As I remember this in the context of our focus on ethical eating, I hear some admonition, and an unspoken hope, and a wish in those words from Mom, “(Let’s take the) time to eat (please)!”
She recognized that it was important to make time to be together as a family and yes, it would have been nice to have a little more appreciation of the creation she had prepared for those she loved. I think of all of us taking, making the time or the space in our day for intentional eating that is more than merely feeding our physical hunger.
Time to eat together, to create community, to say grace, share gratitude, time to be present, time to reflect in memory, tradition and appreciation, time to be and practice being mindful. And then time to learn and plan and shop with awareness and intention beyond calories and savings. “Time to eat (indeed)– and live well!”
November is the month for Thanks-giving. Our Soul Matters theme is abundance. It is a month full of ways and opportunities to reflect – if we take the time. Wouldn’t it feel good to call ourselves in for a moment or two, from whatever it is that we are so busy doing, to pause and nourish our notice and awareness and appreciation rather than continue to merely feed our chronic sense of scarcity and tension.
Of all the moments and opportunities to make and be a difference, mindful eating is the most effective step each of us can take toward living in right relationship with ourselves, others, other beings and yes, our planet. What we eat and how we eat are among our most repeated choices and decisions in every waking hour. To say that our relationship to our food is an essential part of who we are and how we are is really an understatement.
In one of his graces offered before a meal, Thich Nhat Hanh says, “On this plate before me, I see the universe which sustains me.” When we commit our intention toward being in right relationship with our food, we are doing what we can with our life, our opportunity, toward being in right relationship with the universe.
This grand sense of belonging starts and ends with ourselves. Eating is personal. Nothing I suggest about mindful eating should be heard as prescriptive. We each will decide and know and learn to trust what is right for who we are. Intentional need not be heard as intense-ional. Pressure cooked in reproof and guilt, does not sound nearly as appetizing as infused and flavored with love and compassion. Love and compassion are essential ingredients in every recipe for right relationship.
So may your Thanksgiving be delicious and en-joyable. May it be a day with moments where you pause and notice and feel that yes, you are in right relationship. Maybe offer yourself a small smile of gratitude. You do belong. And for that we all give thanks.
“Time to eat. Dinner’s ready!”
—Rev. Jim McKinley, Minister