“Sometimes, when a person thinks about saying grace before meals, an association is made to some past negative experience while growing up, or an association is made to a religious ritual. Either is often enough to put aside grace and just get to the food. Ayurveda and yoga offer another way of looking at grace.
Imagine that grace is just a moment in time where you can privately connect with the food and with all of the people who participated in helping your food get to your table. This grace honors and respects the food, the person who prepared your meal, and all of the hands, from the farmer to the people at the grocery store. Don’t they all deserve some gratitude?
In Ayurveda, grace is not about God. It is about you and your connection to the Divine. It is a time to open your heart to those who helped to prepare the food and to prepare your body, mind and consciousness to receive the food. Grace opens the door into the temple and turns eating into a sacred experience. The calm created by saying grace focuses and prepares the digestive system so that when it receives the food, it can digest it properly, preventing the formation of toxins.
Create Your Own Grace: When creating your own grace, begin with asking yourself what is important to you about eating. Sit quietly and reflect from the heart on what you are thankful for? Grace can be said out loud or to yourself so no one needs to know what you say. If that is uncomfortable then simply enjoy a moment of silence and awareness of your own breath. In that moment be present with the experience of beginning a meal.
Use a Traditional Grace: A traditional grace is wonderful if the words that you say to yourself are heartfelt. Grace should never be about going through the motions because you feel you “should” do it. Each grace is a heartfelt experience.
A Simple Grace: This is a grace I often say. If you find it meaningful, you are welcome to share it. “Thank you, Great Spirit and Mother Earth, for this food I am about to eat. May it nourish me and give me strength so that I can be of service to others. Bless all of the hands that brought it to this table. And thank you to the food itself.” I often end grace with “Om, Shanti, Amen” which combines elements of my traditional heritage and my connection to yoga. The words Om Shanti mean “in peace.”
Saying Grace in Public: It is natural to be somewhat self-conscious around others when saying grace. Usually, I say grace while bringing my hands together in prayer position. However, when I am in the company of those who do not know me very well, I may just lay my hands in my lap, close my eyes and say my grace. The times I have been “caught” in public while saying grace has always elicited respectful comments and never has anyone expressed offense. Even when eating at the table during a casual meeting, I will often say something like, “Pardon me, I like to take a moment of silence before I eat”. This too has always been met with respect.
Saying Grace as a Family: It is a healthy and harmonious event when the family sits down together for a meal. In our home, we join together for dinner and sometimes for breakfast as well. I know that some people’s family lives are crazier than our own. Saying grace together brings shared calm and sense of the sacred to the table. We often go around the table on different nights allowing each person to lead grace. Even when the kids get silly and say, “Rub a dub dub, thanks for the grub, yea God!” they are still participating, and a healthy habit is being created.”
Excerpt from “Healing Your Life, Lessons on the Path of Ayurveda,” by Dr. Marc Halpern, Founder of the California College of Ayurveda. Available at Amazon: http://amzn.to/1GP7m28 and Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1PsYDUA