the five contemplations before eating

In the Plum Village tradition, we recite the Five Contemplations before we begin eating. On retreat or with friends, we practice eating joyfully together in silence for a period of time. This way we are present for the food, our friends, and the wonders of Mother Earth, without being carried away from the present moment by conversation.

At home, part of my morning routine is to recite my own version  of the Five Contemplations before I eat. This particular version began germinating from an insight I experienced while on retreat in the winter of early 2017. As I ate, I viscerally felt the many forms of suffering experienced by each grain of oatmeal, each piece of bread, each and every bit of food I ate. During that retreat I vowed to act with more kindness and less violence in my thoughts, words and actions. I’m still working on that 😉 Over the next nine months of practicing with the Five Contemplations, I changed or added phrases to remind me of my aspiration. It keeps my practice fresh and alive. Here is my current version:

This food is a gift of the earth, the sky, numerous living beings, and much hard and loving work.

May I eat with mindfulness and gratitude so that I can see clearly into the suffering and sacrifice that brings this food to my plate today.

Taking care of my hungry ghosts*, I vow to recognize and transform harmful habit energies**, cultivate courage & well-being, and practice eating with moderation.

May I keep compassion alive by consuming in such a way that reduces the suffering of living beings, stops contributing to climate change, and heals and renews this precious planet.

I accept this food so that I may deepen spiritual friendships, build our Beloved Community, and nourish my aspiration of serving all beings.

*hungry ghosts have narrow throats and big stomachs, are always hungry and never satisfied
*whatever is alive right now, like craving, worry, fear, pride, agitation, etc.

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