Divine Dining?

“The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” though I don’t know why this bit of wisdom would be restricted to men only. But I do know that an article in last Wednesday’s New York Times left me wondering if one way to God’s heart might pass through our stomachs.

The story extolled the virtues of “mindful eating,” especially as practiced and promoted at a Buddhist monastery in New York. Presumably, a straw poll of your friends would show most in favor of mindful eating (mindfulness having a certain appeal over mindlessness). Yet mindful eating is not about counting calories or buying organic. And though the Times trumpets its ability to curb societal ills, such as poor health, stress, and our “neuroses” around food, the practice is really about savoring what you eat. What’s that look like?

In silence, people piled their plates with food, added a squirt or two of condiments (eating mindfully doesn’t mean forsaking the hot sauce) and sat down together with eyes closed during a Buddhist prayer for gratitude and moderation. […] Some were thinking, too, about the origins of the food: the thousands of farmers, truck drivers and laborers whose work had brought it here.

These sentences sent me to the bookshelf and to my copy of Ignatius Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises. Initially, I was looking for the “rules for eating,” his counsels for taking food while making a retreat. But that very appropriate prayer of gratitude, for the farmers, drivers, and laborers who bring food to our tables, sent me further into the Exercises. It struck me that Ignatius would have us recall the first Origin of the food, thereby identifying one more Recipient for our thanks. After all, he invites us to ponder that:

God dwells in creatures, in the elements, giving them being, in the plants vegetating, in the animals feeling in them, in men giving them to understand.

Ignatius saw “how God works and labors for me in all things created on the face of the earth,” including “the heavens, elements, plants, fruits, [and] cattle” that nourish us daily. Maybe that lunch or latte has more to do with God than we thought. Something to be mindful of, at least.

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