Environment

Meditation on Food

Author: 
Kat Liu

We all need to eat, but how many of us think about where our food comes from, before it was placed on our plate or in our hands?  How often do we think about all that went into the food in front of us?  For this exercise, you will need some food to contemplate.

In fall
it is mushrooms
gathered in dampness
under the pines;
in spring
I have known the taste of the lamb
full of milk
and spring grass;
today
it is beans green and yellow
and lettuce and basil
from my friend’s garden -
how calmly,
as though it were an ordinary thing,
we eat the blessed earth.

- Mary Oliver

 

Look at the food in front of you.  The entire world is in this food (as it is in you). 

If it is plant-based - fruit, vegetable, and/or grain - it started as a seed in soil.  Imagine the seed sprouting, sending a tender shoot up towards the sun.  While it's doing this, the tiny new plant draws energy stored in the seed by its parent. And its parent came from its parent, and so on, and so on. 

Once the shoot reaches sunlight, it receives energy from our sun and CO2 from our air to make more plant cells and grow.  It sends roots into the soil, drawing up water, nitrogen, and other essential nutrients.  The water ultimately came from rain or snowmelt, from clouds in the sky.  

So all four elements are in the plant(s) that became your food.  The fire of sun, air, water, and earth.  

If your food contains meat, egg, dairy, and/or honey, it was produced by an animal who grew by eating plants fed by the sun, air, water, and earth, as well as drinking water and breathing air itself.  We animals cannot store the sun's energy ourselves, but when we eat plants (or when we eat animals that ate plants) we are extracting the energy that the plants stored in their bodies.  We are extracting the energy of the sun.  Also, the nutrients they drew from the earth.

So all four elements are in any meat, egg, dairy, and/or honey that became your food.  The fire of sun, air, water, and earth.  

But let's go back to the growing of the plants (and/or animals) that became your food. Likely, they did not grow in the wild but were instead farmed.  That means people planted the seeds that became the plants that either directly or indirectly became your food.  People pulled away the weeds so that the plants could get enough nutrients and air, and made sure there was enough water.  When the time was right, people harvested your food.  So their work is in your food.  They are part of your food.

And the people did not get there by themselves.  They had parents who birthed and nurtured them.  And the parents had parents.  Imagine them, going back generations. So all the ancestors of the farmers who grew your food are part of your food as well. 

And the farmers had teachers and other people who influenced them.  Siblings.  Lovers.  Friends (both human and other animals).  They are all part of the farmer(s) and thus part of the food.

So all the people who grew your food and their ancestors and anyone who influenced thhem are in your food.  Imagine it.  

You may have purchased the food directly from the farmer who grew it, but more likely it was transported over long distances by ships, trains, and trucks.  Imagine your food traveling to get to you. The people who did their part to bring the food closer to you are part of this food as well.  As are their ancestors and all the beings who influenced them.  

As is the fossil fuel that was likely expended to power the ships, trains, and trucks.  Imagine the oil deep underground, and the people who worked to bring it to the surface and to refine it so that it can be burned to power the vehicles that carried your food to you.  Even if you bought your food directly from the farmer who grew it, very likely you both used fossil fuels to reach each other.  

So the plants and animals that lived millions of years ago and whose bodies then became oil, coal, or gas are also in your food. As well as all the people who worked to make the fuel available and the people who drove the vehicles and everyone who influenced them... all in your food.  

Unless you grind your own flour and process your own sugar and salt, etc, there are other people - likely working in factories - who processed some part of your food for you.  And someone - likely working in factories - put the pocessed food in packaging.  And someone else - likely working in factories - made the materials that were used to package the food that was processed.  Can you see it?  How the whole world is part of your food, and of you?

Once the food was packaged, it was shipped to the stores, where more humans stock shelves and ring cash registers and mop floors.  All of them created by their parents, ancestors, loved ones... All of them contibuting to your food.

And finally, someone cooked your food.  It might have been you.  It might not.  There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people whose labor created the simple occasion of your food at this moment. Imagine them. Imagine them as part of you.  

And all of them too were nourished and grew from food that they have eaten, both plants and animals.  Just like the plants (and possibly animals) on your plate.  These once living beings who became your food, their energy stored within their bodies will become your energy and body.  Every plant and animal you ever ate, and every plant and animal ever eaten by the people who helped create you are part of you.

And ultimately, we are all made up of the same sun fire, rain water, air, and earth.  All of us inter-connected.  All of us part of Mother Earth.

Listen to the Air

Author: 
John (Fire) Lame Deer

Listen to the air.
You can hear it, feel it,
smell it, taste it.
Woniya wakan, the holy air,
which renews all by its breath.
Woniya wakan, spirit, life, breath, renewal,
it means all that.
We sit together, don’t touch,
but something is there,
we feel it between us
as a presence.
A good way to start thinking
about nature
is to talk to it,
talk to the rivers, to the lakes,
to the winds,
as to our relatives.

Air Appreciation

Author: 
Kat Liu

 

These "appreciation meditations" can be as quiet and introspective or as energetic and interactive as you desire.  The aim is cultivating gratitude.  Gratitude is the starting point for generosity and action.  

 

 

When I breathe in,
I breathe in peace.
When I breathe out,
I breathe out love.

- Sarah Dan Jones

 

 

Find a comfortable position, whether seated lotus or on a chair, standing up or lying down.  Find a position that you can comfortably hold for a while.

The first thing we do after we are born is to take a breath.  And we keep doing it - in, out - every moment while we're alive.  Of all the elements, air is the one with which we interact most freely.  Every inhalation, we hold air within ourselves; every exhalation, we set it free - in, out.  It is so natural and close to us that it is easy to forget.  Yet every breath is a reaffirmation of life.  Breathing meditation is used for many things.  This is a meditation in appreciation for breathing itself.  

Take a deep breath, slowly.  Feel your diaphram expanding.

Exhale slowly.  Feel your chest settling back.

Take a deep breath, slowly.  Feel the oxygen rushing in to feed your cells.

Exhale slowly.  Feel the carbon dioxide leaving with the air in your lungs.

Take a deep breath, slowly. Feel refreshed, new energy.

Exhale slowly.  Feel your body relaxing, tensions leaving with the air in your lungs.

Continue breathing at a rate and depth that is natural to you.  

As you breathe in, think "Breathing in is a gift."

As you breathe out, think "Breathing out my gratitude."  

As you breathe in, think "Breathing in, I am alive."

As you breathe out, think "Breathing out, I am grateful."  

Continue for as long as you feel comfortable doing so.

Clean air is a precious gift.  Clean air is life.  Give thanks for clean air if you have it (and even if you don't) and think about how to make sure everyone can breathe free.

Food Appreciation

Author: 
Kat Liu

These "appreciation meditations" can be as quiet and introspective or as energetic and interactive as you desire.  The aim is cultivating gratitude.  Gratitude is the starting point for generosity and action.

We all need to eat, but how many of us pay attention to our food beyond the first bite or two?  How often do we appreciate how wonderful it is to have food?  For this exercise, you will need some food, whether a meal or snack, but something that requires more than two mouthfuls to consume.

 

The seed and root beneath the Earth,
the willful, growing shoot…
the hopeful bud then flowering blossom
turned to glowing fruit.
We thank those who grew this food
from little bursting seeds,
We thank our Mother Earth,
whose gifts fulfill our needs.

- Adapted from Anonymous

 

First, take a moment to appreciate the fact that you actually have food to eat.  Think back to a time when you were really hungry.  Remember how good it felt when you finally got to eat.  (If doing this with a family or group, encourage participants to briefly share their memories.)

Now...

If using your hands, notice the texture as you pick it up, the temperature, and perhaps the color(s). If you're eating from a plate with a knife and fork, notice instead the texture and temperature of the cutlery as you move it toward the food, but still take the time to notice the colors on the plate.

As you move the food toward your mouth, shift the focus away from the hands and more toward the eyes, nose and mouth. How does the food smell? What does it look like up close? And, as you put it in your mouth, what is the taste, the texture, the temperature?  If you wish, try rolling the food around with your tongue to get a better sense.

Do not start chewing until you have put your fork/spoon or the food back down. Give all of your attention to each step of eating one step at a time.  Take the time to chew the food fully. Twenty, thirty chews if you can.  Not only is this a healthier way of eating, but it will allow you the time to taste and appreciate all the different flavors. Notice if the flavor changes while you chew.  Some foods become more complex with more chews; some just disappear.

While chewing, know that you are chewing.  Finally, when ready to swallow, know that you are swallowing.  Notice the sensation of the lump moving to the back of your mouth, and then down.  The feeling of your tongue against the roof of your mouth.  See how far down your esophagus you can still feel the food travel.

Imagine the nourishment filling your stomach, and from there moving to every other part of your body.  Into your limbs.  Seeping into every cell.

Only after you have swallowed, move your hand(s) to pick up your food again.  Take another mouthful, mindfully.  Again, do not start chewing until you've placed your hand(s) back down.  When taking a bite, know that you are taking a bite.  When chewing, know that you are chewing.  When swallowing, know that you are swallowing.  See how long you can do this without your mind wandering to other things.

 

.

Energy Appreciation

Author: 
Kat Liu

These "appreciation meditations" can be as quiet and introspective or as energetic and interactive as you desire.  The aim is cultivating gratitude.  Gratitude is the starting point for generosity and action.  (This exersize is best performed after dark.)

 

May the light we now kindle
Inspire us to use our powers
To heal and not to harm
To help and not to hinder
To bless and not to curse
To serve you, Spirit of Life

- Adapted from Singing the Living Tradition, #453

 

Light a candle.  

Hold your hands towards the flame and feel its warmth.  Feel the energy radiating from the candle to your palms and up your arms. 

The flame of the candle is being fed by the wax or oil.  No matter what your candle is made of, the fire is fed by breaking down long chains of carbon into CO2.  Those chains of carbon stored the energy of the sun, which is released when broken.  So the candle flame in front of you, radiating warmth, is sunlight stored away to be released at another time. It was this stored energy that allowed our ancestors to see even after the sun set for the evening, releasing the sun's rays at night.  It is this stored energy that allows us to live our "modern" lives.  Give thanks to the sun.  

Now we are going to take a brief tour around the house.  (You can extinguish your candle.)

Turn on a light.

Think about what a difference it makes in the room, how much easier it is to see.  Give thanks for the light.

Open the refrigerator door.  See the little light turn on, allowing you to easily view its contents.  Feel the cool air.  (Close it.)

Open the freezer door.  Hear the hum of the compressor.  Feel the even cooler air.  (Close it.)

Think about what life would be like if you had no refrigeration.  What foods do you enjoy that would be hard to keep?  Give thanks for the refrigeration.

Turn on the stove.  Hold your hand a safe distance from the burner.  Feel the heat.  (Turn it off.)

Think about what life would be like if you had no way to cook your food.  What foods do you enjoy that would no longer exist without cooking?  Give thanks for the fire of the stove.
(If doing this with kids, ask them to name their favorite foods that they wouldn't be able to eat any more without energy to cook food.)

Turn on your favorite form of viewing entertainment (tv, internet, etc).  Notice the hum of the tv or computer, or witness the light blinking on.  We take for granted that these sights and sounds will happen when we flip a switch.  Imagine how you would feel if the electricty did not flow?

What are other things in your home that require electricity to operate? 

If you have a car, or even if you don't but take the bus, give thanks for the energy that it takes to transport you from one place to another.  

Almost every convenience that we have in life requres energy.  Give thanks for the energy you have and think about how to make sure everyone has enough.

 

Water Appreciation

Author: 
Kat Liu

These "appreciation meditations" can be as quiet and introspective or as energetic and interactive as you desire.  The aim is cultivating gratitude.  Gratitude is the starting point for generosity and action.

 

Water flows from high in the mountains.
Water runs deep in the Earth.
Miraculously, water comes to us,
and sustains us all.

- Thich Nhat Hanh

 

Pour yourself a glass of water.
(If doing this with a family or group, use a pitcher to pour each person a glass of water.)

Look at the glass of water.  Hold it up to the light.  See its clarity.

Sip a mouthful but do not swallow.  Feel the coolness roll over your tongue, the roof of your mouth, through your teeth.

Swallow.  Feel it moisten your throat as it goes down. 

Imagine the water trickling into your stomach, and from there moving to every other part of your body.  Into your limbs.  Seeping into every cell.  Bathing each cell with life.

Drink another mouthful, gratefully.

Think back to a time when you were really hot and thirsty.  Remember how good it felt when you finally got to drink.
(If doing this with a family or group, encourage participants to briefly share their memories.)

Drink another mouthful, gratefully.

Where did your water come from?  Did it come out of the tap?  Did you buy it in the store?  Did you get it out of a well?  Imagine what it would be like if you could not easily get water. 

Drink another mouthful, gratefully.

As our climate changes, it becomes harder to get clean, drinkable water.  Some places have drought, which means there isn't enough water.  Other places have floods, which makes clean water dirty.

Drink another mouthful, gratefully.

Despite the increasing scarcity of clean water, some companies still gather up water in order to make money from it - they may bottle the water to sell, or use it to grow water-intensive crops to sell, or use it to force oil out of the ground to sell - and do not let the people who live nearby have clean water to drink.

Drink another mouthful, gratefully.

Water is a precious gift.  Water is life.  Give thanks for the water you have and think about how to make sure everyone has enough.

Water Flows

Author: 
Thich Nhat Hahn

Water flows from high in the mountains.
Water runs deep in the Earth.
Miraculously, water comes to us,
and sustains us all.

Water flows over these hands.
May I use them skillfully
to preserve our precious planet.

Blessed Be the Wind

Author: 
Lyall Watson

Blessed be the Wind!

Without wind, most of Earth would be uninhabitable. The tropics would grow so unbearably hot that nothing could live there, and the rest of the planet would freeze. Moisture, if any existed, would be confined to the oceans, and all but the fringe of the great continents along a narrow temperate belt, would be desert. There would be no erosion, no soil, and for any community that managed to evolve despite these rigors, no relief from suffocation by their own waste products.

But with the wind, Earth comes truly alive. Winds provide the circulatory and nervous systems of the planet, sharing out energy information, distributing both warmth and awareness, making something out of nothing.

All wind’s properties are borrowed. Our knowledge of it comes at secondhand, but it comes strongly. And this combination of a force that cannot be apprehended, but nevertheless has an undeniable existence, was our first experience of the spiritual. A crack in the cosmos that widened to let the tide of consciousness flow through.

We are the fruits of the wind-and have been seeded, irrigated, and cultivated by its craft.

Hymn to the Community Garden

Author: 
David Breeden and Christopher D. Sims

This poem is a collaboration and was recited in Providence, Rhode Island in a workshop entitled This Is What Love Looks Like. 

David:
Mary, Mary, quite communitary-
ian, how does your community
garden grow?

With some compost in a vacant lot,
that’s how our community
garden grows.

Christopher:
With community gardens/
The people won't be starving/
Higher prices, the stores are charging/
What they're putting in the food these days is alarming/
I am arming myself with the knowledge to grow my own/
Healthy food, community, and love in all US time zones/
What else do we need: cleaner water and air to breathe/

David:
Mary, Mary, quite communitary-
ian, how does your community
garden grow?

With lots of hard work
in a vacant lot
and no empty lots

to mow!

That’s how our community garden grows!

Christopher:
Community gardens bring the people together/
Community gardens helps us eat and do better/
It's a natural, holistic way to cooperate and be/
I open my door, walk outside, and join in unity/

David:
Mary, Mary, quite Unitary-
ian (Universalist), how does your
community garden grow?

With lessons in growing
and nutritious food, that’s how our
community garden
grows. 

Christopher:
We’re talking tomatoes, squash, bell peppers, and greens/
Planting, nurturing, and growing those nutritious things/
We attend potlucks and farmer’s markets seeing our neighbors/
The food is good whether we eat it now, or save some for later/
The farm to table movement is what we can once again enjoy/
The youth in my city are growing food, becoming employed/
For this way of life, there is no harm or no pressure/
We can use this knowledge and love for the land to end food deserts/

David:
Mary, Mary, quite communitary-
ian, how does your community
garden grow?

Buy into our CSA

—Community Supported Agriculture!—
that’s how our
community garden
grows.

© Rev. Dr.David Breeden and Christopher D. Sims
June 4, 2014

The Detroit Water Crisis

Author: 
Christopher D. Sims a.k.a UniverSouL

Who would be considered the nicest,
After shutting off people’s water
causing a crisis?

Using the devices of power
Hour after hour
To sour the living conditions
of so many.

Three-thousand households a week
are facing shutoffs. Can you imagine
how much those bills cost?!

Babies need water.

Children need water.

Youth need water.

Adults need water.

But it’s money over people.

This is a Human Rights issue.
This is a Right to Water issue.

And if this continues imagine
how many lives will be affected.
I’ve heard that gentrification is
connected to these shutoffs.

So it’s about money and land.
Resources changing from hand
to hand. An American pastime
That many poor and people of
color can understand.

Water is in demand.

But shutting it off in
Detroit is their plan.

© Christopher D. Sims
July 8, 2014

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