Occasionally, I want to take an opportunity to share some of the ideas that influence how I approach the table. These are more philosophical or experiential reflections rather than the more practical information I hope populate these pages normally. Here is today's Table Reflection:
“Rituals embody memories in communal time” – Krista Tippett
I was listening to a podcast interview of Krista Tippett, the host of public Radio’s “On Being.” She referenced the quote above, from her latest book Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living. It was in the context of religious experiences that people share on the faith calendar.
I found it such a succinct and powerful statement. And as true as this statement is of seasonal holidays or weekly church gatherings, it also illustrates the power of shared meals and the time we spend at the table. If we can see our meal time as a rhythmic opportunity to embody a shared memory: one link in the chain that bonds us together, we can begin to re-imagine mealtime as a meaningful, energizing part of our family life, not simply a chore to get through before we finish the day.
This is not meant to add additional pressure to make tastier or healthier food, but a reflection that every time we come to the table it is a gift we can be grateful for. Why is it then, when we have a mountain of table experiences with our family, do we see so few of them as a valuable, meaningful moments? I’m sure there is a percentage of these experiences we just take for granted, because that’s how most of our brains work. But I came across another interesting observation about how the brain works from Richard Rohr, the Franciscan Priest, who has done significant writings on contemplation:
“Neuroscience can now prove anything negative, fearful or hateful, the mind attaches to like Velcro…but here’s the opposite: anything positive, happy, joyous, loving grateful…those are like Teflon. If you have a grateful, positive, “isn’t that beautiful” moment, you have to savor it for a minimum of 15 seconds or does not imprint on the brain.”
Wow...what a thought! What if in the hurried, event-filled lives that we cram dinner into every evening, we simply aren’t taking the moment of reflection to savor the experience? And as a consequence, anything positive that could come out of that time doesn’t imprint on the brain and fails to make an emotional impact on our shared lives.
If only there were a culturally built-in opportunity to pause and reflect with gratitude on our time at the table. Oh wait, there is! What if one of the keys to creating more meaningful moments at the table starts with saying “grace” intentionally again? Not for God’s sake, but for ours.
So whether it’s over bowls of late night cereal, take-out pizza, or a chicken dinner, try taking at least 15 seconds as a family to soak in the moment. Smell the food. Look into the eyes of the people you love. Listen to the chatter. Enjoy the touch of holding hands. And for 15 seconds, let gratitude, love and joy imprint this moment on your brain.
There is so much more to savor here than food.