I grew up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a combination of two towns. In 1849 Winston was designated the county seat. It was named in 1851 for Major Joseph Winston, a Revolutionary War hero and Salem, home of the Moravians.
One of the Moravian followers chose the name “Salem” from the Hebrew “Shalom,” meaning “peace.” The Moravians were German-speaking Protestants who arrived in the area in 1753 after walking from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. They were followers of Jan Hus, a Bohemian heretic who was burned at the stake in 1415. The Moravians are acknowledged as the first Protestants, pre-dating the Lutherans by 100 years.
For years the post office referred to the two towns as “Winston Salem,” and in 1913 that became the official name, and the two were incorporated as Winston-Salem. I’m offering you a little history because when I was growing up, before every dinner, we said the Moravian Blessing. It is a beautiful blessing that I would like to share.
“Come, Lord Jesus, Our Guest to Be and Bless These Gifts Bestowed by Thee. Bless Our Loved Ones Everywhere, and Keep Them in Thy Loving Care, Amen.”
I learned to say the Moravian Blessing in a matter of seconds, because that’s just what kids do. While it is a traditional blessing that many people say in Winston-Salem, as kids we would also quickly say, “God is Great. God is Good and let us thank Him for this food. Amen,” before a meal.
In our family we joke about the time my dad was asked to say the blessing at a fancy Easter dinner at an elderly relative’s house. He cleared his throat and said the “God is Great. God is Good. Let us thank him for this food” a quick blessing, and when he finished, my great aunt said very sternly, “Now we will say the blessing,” and she recited the Moravian blessing. As far as I’m concerned, it is not important what kind of blessing you say before a meal. I know my column is appearing after Thanksgiving, but I want to take this time to say how important it is to be mindful and establish some type of ritual before eating.
Taking a few moments to bless your food may stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest system) and expressing gratitude has been known to lower stress levels, improve sleep, improve heart health and enhance overall well-being. Before eating, take three to five deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling, inhaling the smells and seeing the colors of the food. Chew the first three bites mindfully, enjoying the flavors and texture of the food. Take time to acknowledge the meal as fuel for your body. Consider saying a mantra silently to yourself, like “I am healthy and I am making healthy choices. I am nourishing my body.” If you struggle with overeating, become more mindful of chewing and enjoying the meal instead of rushing through it. That might help you to eat less.
Sometimes when I dine alone, I think about all the people who were responsible for getting my meal to the table, and I bless them — from the farmers and ranchers, truckdrivers, grocery store workers and so on. This can be a very long list if I add some of the people who made the plate I am eating from, it’s an interesting way to approach the meal. It gives me time to have a short metta meditation sending loving kindness to all the people who were involved with the meal I am eating. Next time you sit down to eat, consider mindfully approaching your meal as a meditation. In other words, make your meal more than just fuel for your body. Make it much more than that. Let the moment feed your spirit as well.
I am thankful for my readers. I know holidays can be a difficult time. Feel free to share your thoughts with me: email@example.com.
Ashton Graham is an educator, book publisher, photographer, cowgirl and yoga enthusiast. She is currently studying to become a yoga therapist and lives on a ranch in West Texas. Visit www.ashtoncannon.com to learn more.
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This article originally appeared on Las Cruces Sun-News: Say grace and make it amazing