by Darvesha Victoria MacDonald
“Each morsel of food is an ambassador from the cosmos,” says Thich Nhat Hanh. He is telling us that in each bite we know the warmth of the sun and the moisture of the rain. Who can imagine that this morsel comes from the earth itself? This earth that is made of the bones of our ancestors. Each seed is a computer chip that no human can fathom. In every bite we participate in the miracle of life. With every bite we know we “inter-are”. (“Inter-are” was Thich Nhat Hanh’s whimsical way of referring to Interdependence.)
“It is thru food that we connect with nature and understand interdependence.”
From the Taittiriya Upanishad Part III:
“Bhrigu went to his father, Varuna, (God of the Oceans)
And asked respectfully: “What is Brahman?”
Varuna replied: “First learn about food,
Breath, eye, ear, speech, and mind; then seek to know
That from which these are born, by which they live,
For which they search, and to which they return.
That is Brahman.”
Bhrigu meditated and found that food
Is Brahman. From food are born all creatures
By food they grow, and to food they return.
“Beneath the veneer of civilization lies not the barbarian and animal, but the human in us who knows the rightness of receiving food as a spiritual gift rather than as a product”
--Paul Shepard, Nature and Madness
The director of Genesis Farm Sister Miriam MacGillis writes, “If we understand the Earth as a living being whose activities are to nourish, govern, learn, heal, regenerate and transform itself (Gaia Theory), then the mystery at the heart of human existence opens up and draws us into the sacramental aspect of our lives through the most ordinary and familiar way: through eating and growing our food. When we open to the contemplation of “food as the holy mystery through which we eat ourselves into existence” then the meaning of existence reveals itself. Food is not a metaphor for spiritual nourishment, but is itself spiritual. We are nourished by the Divine directly.”
She goes on to say, “Our individual awareness of the sacred within creation reconnects the split between spirit and matter. Rather than mortifying the flesh and trying to detach from it, we see that we must nourish and heal our bodies. The sacred arts of farming and cooking are priestly practices...and eating is the daily Eucharistic ritual and the sensate experience of eating is the sacramental communion that affirms the body as an extension of the sacred ‘earth body’, the creation thru which God manifests.”
After doing practices of self-depravation for 6 years, an emaciated Buddha left the ascetics with whom he had been practicing. The first person he saw was the milk maiden Sujata who gave him a bowl of warm rice-milk gruel. He was instantly flooded with immense gratitude and understanding. In that moment he understood that the enlightenment he sought would take place in the body, and that the body is sustained by the nurturing of the earth. This was the beginning of an understanding that would later cause him to say, “When did I ever say consciousness is independent from the base of consciousness?!” That night he sat down under the Bodhi Tree and with the rise of the morning star he won enlightenment. His first gesture was to touch the earth.
Sister MacGilis continues, “We need to see farmers/gardeners as entering the sanctuary of the soil and engaging the mysterious forces of creation in order to bless and nourish the inner and outer life of the community they serve."
“We live in a Universe with an inner spiritual reality. There is nothing that does not participate in the deep sacramental presence: the soils, the microbes, the animals...all are revelatory”