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Want to Have a Thich-Nhat-Hanh-Thanksgiving? An Easy Mindfulness Ritual for Your Family Meal

Want to Have a Thich-Nhat-Hanh-Thanksgiving? An Easy Mindfulness Ritual for Your Family Meal

Last weekend, I visited Thich Nhat Hanh’s Deer Park Monastery, in Encinitas, CA, which I’m lucky to be only about an hour away from. For those who aren’t familiar with “Thay” as he is lovingly referred to, which means Teacher in Vietnamese, Thich Nhat Hanh is a Zen Master and global spiritual leader, poet, and peace activist. He is revered for his powerful teachings and bestselling writings on mindfulness and peace.

Although I’m not a Buddhist, his teachings and writings are some of my favorite spiritual “food,” and they have me reflecting on the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday. During the half day program at his retreat, a group meal was eaten in silence. Thich Nhat Hanh calls this practice: Mindful Eating.

In the Buddhist philosophy, Mindful Eating offers practitioners the opportunity to practice the five contemplations:

  1. This food is a gift of the “earth, the sky, numerous living beings, and much hard and loving work”
  2. Eating mindfully prepares you to be worthy to receive the food, its nourishment, and the blessings of the beings and the work it has taken to get to you
  3. Mindful eating can transform “unwholesome mental formations”
  4. It can be used to contemplate how our everyday actions, including eating a meal, can tie us into the web of global life, by “reducing the suffering of living beings, diminishing our personal contribution to climate change, and our role and accountability in healing and preserving our precious planet”
  5. Mindful Eating can be used to amplify the presence and health of our family, friends and communities, and our own call to being of service

Eating mindfully in silence, benefits us by aiding in digestion, allowing us to become personally present, and by allowing us to be in community with those at our table, and it gives us the opportunity to think about our place at the larger world table. It is a moment to call in what is possible for us, for those with us, and for the world.

And finally, Mindful Eating allows us to practice gratitude, instead of taking for granted, the food we have on our table. In the Buddhist practice of this tradition, the silence is followed by mindful conversations around the table.

What if you could bring this mindful practice to your own Thanksgiving meal? You might not be able to rally everyone into an entire silent meal…but what about modifying it to your dessert time? Then following the meal, you can have your own “mindful conversation,” by going around the table sharing what came up for you, and what you are each grateful for.

This post previously appeared on Susan and Jen’s blog.

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