Before I eat, I bless my food. For many people, saying grace in childhood was a time of impatience when adults were controlling the situation, but I’ve discovered that it can become a moment to reawaken a living truth. When I get food, I hold the food up or sit with my hands beside my plate, and I say a blessing. And then I just think about it for a moment and I realize that this whole ritual of praying over food is part of all form, it’s part of law, it’s part of the universe. The food I’m praying over, the bowl of oatmeal or whatever I’m eating, is part of God and I, who am making this prayer, offering up this food, am part of God. And the hunger that I’m using the oatmeal to quiet, the pangs in my stomach, the desires, the fire which will consume this food, that’s also part of God. And I begin to sense the oneness of everything; I start to experience a quietness and then I understand that the deeper I appreciate that it is all one, the deeper I become one with it all, and sense that all separateness is over.
I use this prayer all the time to remind me of this, to bring me home. I’ve gotten so that now I really can’t sit down to a meal without doing this. Sometimes in a restaurant I just quietly go inward; I don’t have to make a production out of it, I don’t have to stop other people from eating.
“Brahmarpanam Brahma Havir
Brahmagnau Brahmana Hutam
Brahmaiva Tena Ghantavyam
(Translation: The act of offering is Brahman. The offering itself is Brahman. The offering is done by Brahman in the sacred fire which is Brahman. He alone attains Brahman who, in all actions, is fully absorbed in Brahman.)
So I suggest that the next time you are waiting for food to be served, feeling impatient or hungry, that you use it as a chance to think of God. And then when you receive the food, say a blessing and let the food remind you that all is one. Then eat. And slowly, as you just watch, rituals can become rigid things or they can become loose things. And slowly over time this ritual becomes a living statement of our connection to the divine; of our at-oneness with everything manifest in the universe.
Excerpt from Ram Dass’ upcoming book “Polishing the Mirror” – set for release in 2013.