The idea for writing a book called The Tantra of Food first came to me like an epiphany during a morning meditation. I heard the title in my mind, whispered into my consciousness by the little voice in my heart that gently guides me.
I knew a lot about food, and I’d read a bit about Tantra as a path of sacred loving. But I’d never heard anyone put tantra and food together. Could our relationship to food be tantric? Could we approach food as we would approach a sacred lover? What would that look like? After reflecting on this, I realized I had been practicing The Tantra of Food for years—I just didn’t have a title for it.
The word tantra means to continually stretch or expand. The practice of tantra gradually expands our mundane or egoic consciousness into the Divine consciousness of the awakened Self. From that awakened perspective, we see all things, people, trees, animals, rivers, ourselves— and yes, our food—in their essential or divine nature.
Of course we can relate to food—the life-sustaining source of nourishment nature provides all creatures—in a tantric way, with reverence, gratitude, and love! Conscious food preparation and grateful eating are at the nexus of body, mind, and spirit. Three times a day, we perform the seemingly mandate act of eating. This is how we take precious nutrients and life force into our bodies, how we stay alive from day to day. Yet most of us take this act for granted, and perform it with minimal awareness of its true significance.
If we prepared and ate our food with awareness of its true significance, our meals would be sacred occasions. We would handle our food with reverence and gratitude. We would savor each bite in a sensual and joyful way. We would infuse the food we eat and serve to others with the manna of our own vital presence and love. And that vital presence and love, along with the life force in the food itself, would nourish others and us.
Reflecting on these ideas, I realized they weren’t new, but were in fact ancient wisdom our modern age has discarded or lost. But some cultures have retained these ancient ideas. In my travels around the world, I noticed that many traditional cultures recognize and honor the sacredness of food.
In 2001, I lived in Kashmir for a month with a local family on a houseboat on Dal Lake. Every meal included a heartfelt ceremonial prayer of gratitude honoring deities, spirits of ancestors, guests at the table, and the food itself. In India, I participated in a sacred ritual of Prasad in a Hindu temple, where a temple priest chanted sacred mantras while preparing food, which he set on an altar at the feet of marble statues of Rhada and Krishna for them to bless. For half an hour, we pilgrims and devotees sang, chanted, and danced ecstatically. After, the priest took the food now blessed by the temple deities and gave it to us to eat.
We might not have time to perform lengthy rituals before our meals, but we can take a few moments to slow down, to reflect in gratitude, to see, smell, feel, touch, and taste the food nature provides to sustain us. This simple practice can turn a mundane meal we might otherwise take for granted and eat in haste into a sacred occasion that unlocks the spiritual potential present in all of our food—and restores us in body, mind, and spirit.
May we all eat in a way that deeply nourishes us back to a healthier and happier us. This is the The Tantra of Food.