by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM January 29, 2021
We are all in some way driven or moved by our hunger. The great herds of zebras and wildebeests thundering across the African plains, braving crocodile-infested waters in search of good grazing. The radiant yellow hibiscus bending across its pot to absorb the nutrients of streaming sunlight. The thoughtful adult planning creative meals to enhance the limits of a tight budget.
One of the consequences of spending so much time at home these days has been a renewed interest in food. Perhaps we’ve been comforted by the family-size bag of kettle cooked potato chips (guilty!) or similar snacks. Perhaps we’ve had the advantage of unexpected time to actually pay attention to what we eat and when and how we eat. Perhaps we find ourselves living with a greater awareness of food, of those who grew it, packaged it, trucked it, delivered it. Perhaps we’re growing into the Buddhist practice that admonishes us to be there when we eat, to be present to the food before us, not multi-tasking while we gulp down a sandwich but instead giving a meal our full attention and respect, chewing slowly, savoring taste, giving thanks.
Another aspect of living during a pandemic and in the turbulence of a divisive political climate has been the discovery of what else we consume and take in that does not nourish our souls or bodies but instead harms or depletes them. During the chaotic years of the previous presidential administration, I noticed something about my limited consumption of early morning news and then the national news in the evening: most of it invaded and disturbed my peace of mind. I slowly began to whittle down even that small amount of time. I eliminated from my diet as much as possible the voices of cruelty and exclusion, the messages of bullying and domination.
And then the question became: what is feeding me in their place? What makes my heart leap? My pulse quicken with hope? My senses stand at alert? Because whatever makes my soul come alive, makes my entire body stand in expectant attention, is sustenance of the most profound kind. That’s what nourishes my deep hunger. That’s where I need to linger and pause. That’s the miracle of the loaves and fishes played out anew in this time and place, where there’s more than enough and the enough fills and energizes me and others.
Perhaps it’s wilderness time, communion with the revelations of the natural world. In a tree gloriously draped in snowfall. In a crow perched like a sentinel on a bare tree top. In an encounter with a foraging deer as we both dwell in the other’s gaze. Perhaps it’s stillness and a deep listening to the Holy. Perhaps it’s the muted colors of Monet or Renoir or the summons in every note of classical or pop or rap or jazz music. Perhaps it’s the way the lines of a poem feel in our mouth. Perhaps it’s our sinking into and becoming totally lost in the pages of a novel. Perhaps it’s the quiet inspiration that is the love of a good friend.
Whatever it may be, may we eat it! Consume it. Chew it. Savor it. Allow it to enter our soul. Take it in, offer thanks, bless it, and know ourselves fed.
Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
Reflect on whatever nourishes or quickens or delights your soul.
Name the creators or the inhabitants of this gift, and what it is that draws you.
Give thanks for this food and for the Creator and giver of every good gift.
Then take another bite, and savor it.
Please remember in your prayer:
Directed Prayer Weekend (in-person) at the Jesuit Center for Spiritual Growth, Wernersville, PA, January 29-31. I’ll be one of the guest directors for this weekend. Please pray for all who will be part of these sacred days. Thank you!
Featured image: Motoki Tonn, Unsplash
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