This food reveals our connection with the earth. Each bite contains the life of the sun and the earth. The extent to which our food reveals itself depends on us. We can see and taste the whole universe in a piece of bread! -Thich Nhat Hanh

It’s true. I found gratitude while eating a bowl of beef stew.

On the whole, I consider myself lucky enough to be happy pretty much all of the time. Even with the stresses of working, staying on budget, cultivating relationships, and everything else that life throws at me, I’m able to keep a smile on my face and in my heart. Though at times, it’s not easy.

Nevertheless, in an ordinary moment of eating beef stew, I was able to make the connection between my practice of gratitude and my happiness.

That’s the key! I experience gratitude in everything I do.

Staring down at a bowl of stew I had just warmed up, I saw each vegetable and thought about the farmer who took hours out of his life to plant, grow, and harvest. I thought about the workers at the grocery store who gave their labor to put that vegetable on the shelf, ring me up, and check me out with a smile. Then I thought about how lucky I was to have enough money to purchase a slow-cooker in which to cook the stew in, the internet connection that instantly provided me access to a recipe how to make the delicious concoction, and the fact that I live in a world where everything is incredibly affordable that I could make a week’s batch for the equivalent of less than an hour of my labor. Awesome.

While I ate, I didn’t check my phone. I didn’t read a newspaper or watch TV. I just sat there, and actively thought about how ridiculously lucky I am just to be sitting at this table, being in this very spot, at this moment.

The volume of external nonsense we plague ourselves with on a daily basis tends to drown out those moments of pure gratitude where you actually can just sit there and think, “Man, life is pretty freakin’ sweet.”

I didn’t do this purposefully, this gratitude just kind of organically happened while I was sitting there and eating. But, in that moment, I was fully practicing gratitude. I believe that it’s my practice of gratitude that allows me to cherish the things I have, and not really care about getting more things just to impress other people. This ultimately leads to my happiness.

It’s funny, even when we get what we want, we rarely slow down to think about how sweet life can be in comparison to those just 70 years ago. Yet, we still make it a point to get frustrated when our cat videos don’t load as quickly as we want them to. There’s even a Twitter account called “first world problems” where you can view all of the ridiculous things we find to sabotage our happiness.

Spark Your Growth

This week, while you eat one of your meals, don’t distract yourself. Just simply be in the moment. Eat slowly. Think about all of the people who came together to make this meal possible. Savor each bite. Focus on the taste of each forkful. Think about the fact that not that long ago, wars were started for spices and salt, which are now purchased at your convenience for a nominal amount of money. Think about how lucky you are to just not be starving right now.

I first learned this practice from reading a book called “Peace is Every Step” by Thich Nhat Hanh. He has another book, which I have not read called “Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life” which I imagine delves further into the topic of mindful eating. If you want to read more about the practice of mindfulness, I highly suggest his books. Both are available in my local library, which means it's likely that they're at yours too!

Also I recommend this awesome six minute video about gratitude here.

Do you have any particular ways that you cultivate gratitude? I'd love to hear your methods in the comments below!