Food is a cornerstone of human existence and interaction. Food is a connector. It essentially is a ritualistic, centering process of sacred connection. One that we enact daily and more profoundly at times on holidays or special occasions. I think of the late great Anthony Bourdain who deeply believed in the power of food. He is quoted as saying “Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable from those from the get-go.”
For the last few years, food has been a theme figuring prominently in my life. At every turn, there it is -- situations and interactions around food or about food that call into question what I think I know about the world, what is really at stake, and what truly is my spiritual mandate. It’s like food has been marinating with my soul! In many ways this food thing has been “no small potatoes” (pun intended).
I really started a few years ago when I was headed to Santa Barbara for a lovely birthday celebration with my friend Rhonda. We had rented this marvelous Airbnb on the beach and she surprised me by renting a super cool convertible BMW. We are driving up the California coast from LA which is spectacular and breath taking. All is right with the world. And then we pass through Oxnard, California, I look and I see fields and fields of strawberries and Strawberry pickers. Hot, blazing sun with whole families working. The pickers are at an almost 90-degree angle, stooped down and removing each fruit one by one - something they must do every day, for hours.
For a brief moment, I was not centered in Truth, and I was overcome by sadness, followed by deep guilt and embarrassment to be indulging in such luxuries while others toiled in (literally) backbreaking work in the field.
But then Spiritual Truth stepped back in. Reminding me that I am worthy of God’s grace, bounty, and magnificence. And that my playing sad, guilty, or small would not serve myself or the greater good. And it would not serve the dignity and humanity of those strawberry workers. And I began to do what I know, I began to pray for those families and thank them for their grand service to the world. Farmers in the Golden State export about $400 million of fresh and frozen strawberries every year. We can enjoy strawberry pie, strawberry ice cream, and strawberry margaritas thanks to those strawberry workers.
As we passed, I looked back and they faded into the distance, but I couldn’t get the Beatles song out of my mind “Strawberry Fields Forever”.
I will never look at a strawberry the same again.
This incident moved me to start deeply thinking about where our food comes from. As a city girl, born and raised in Chicago, I haven’t had to think about that. If you are anything like me, you have become desensitized and distanced to the enormous implications of food. In addition, living in a first world nation, we don’t often think about the vast hunger problem in our country, a country that prides itself on progress, opportunity, and plenty.
This food journey started me to thinking- we talk often about material hunger, but what about spiritual hunger which is more insidious. I have seen it time and time again in my work with high-risk/high need populations that you can give them a job and a home but they have still struggle and end up back where they started. And there are people who have it all (or we think have it all) and yet they don’t feel satisfied and they feel a deep longing or disconnection.
We think that giving material things to people is enough to heal, and to heal generations of wounds. No matter who you are—your economic status, your heritage, your gender or sexuality, your skin color—we are all the same in our state of Spiritual Hunger or Spiritual Starvation.
SO WHAT ARE WE REALLY CRAVING? WHAT ARE WE REALLY DESIRING?
Eric Butterworth, a well-known Unity minister who is part of my spiritual teacher tribe and is walking along with me on this food journey. His book, “Discover the Power Within You” was the first book I read when started Unity and the book that brought me to Truth. His book begins with the idea that our hunger and longing is simply a reflection of our disconnection to our Higher Power. We have forgotten that Holy Spirit lives and moves and breaths in us as us.
Remembering who we are seems like an easy task. But every day we are challenged to REMEMBER this connection in a world that values disconnection and purposefully thwarts connection. We only have to look at today’s newspaper, news program or social media as proof of this.
HOW ARE WE TO BE FED? HOW DO WE QUELL THIS SPIRITUAL STARVATION?
Here is the good news: We can satiate that hunger! We just need to cultivate that fullness. Just like growing a tomato, we must take the time and care to cultivate our connection to Holy Spirit. Any gardeners? You don’t just set it and forget it. It takes time, effort, care, and vigilance. Eric Butterworth says, “There is obviously a splendor within us, but it must be unfolded through self-realization and self-discipline. There is no synthetic short cut to the Kingdom” (Butterworth, Power Within You, p.4). We must work at it!
Sometimes Unity can be so into its peace, and bliss, that it is easy to forget that spiritual evolution is not all cotton candy, rainbows and unicorns. It can be painful and it requires discipline. And it takes time.
We have to get rid of the mentality of one and done, the fast food, fast download, drive thru, drive-by culture. It doesn’t work that way for Spirit!
What is required is a deliberate, conscious, daily, disciplined connection with Holy Spirit. Unity gives us the structure, process, and the tools. I always go back to the 5 Unity Principles. We must create in our lives with that urgency, that deep commitment, and that unsatiable desire to be in connection to that Holy POWER.
I wake up every morning and shortly after consciousness, I think about COFFEE. I start to think about it and smell it and taste it and that usually gets me out of bed.
What if we hungered for Spirit the way we craved that coffee or hungered for that juicy steak?
What if we woke up every day feeling that connection with Spirit and feeling that connection to all living things and all of nature? What if every day we arose and thought. “I can’t wait to be God in Action today”?! Could we wake up with that intent and HOLD IT throughout the day. Wouldn’t that be amazing?!
I ask all of you today – ARE YOU READY TO BE FED? ARE YOU READY TO BE DEEPLY NOURISHED AND SOURCED AND RESOURCED?
I will offer you one of the key elements in feeding ourselves. One of the greatest tools for cultivation of that God connection and God network is GRATITUDE. Myrtle Fillmore say we must be "bursting with present fulfillment." Look at the multitude of blessings in our lives right here and right now. Even the smallest of things that make our life marvelous that we take for granted. Plumbing and running water. Paved roads. Right to vote and free speech. One of the biggest things we take for granted is access to food!
When you are sitting at the dinner table, I invite you to thank everything and everyone that made that meal possible. The animals whose lives were sacrificed for your nourishment. The people who picked your food, made your food, served your food, or hauled your food to your local grocer. The earth, the soil, and the trees that provided your bounty. Enjoy it with GUSTO, appreciation for everything known and unknown that has fed you.
Strawberry Fields Forever. John Lennon of the Beatles wrote that song because Strawberry Fields was the name of a Salvation Army orphanage near his home in Liverpool England. Where others saw a dirty dingy place, he went there to play and saw something magical and another world of possibility. The place where he challenged what is real. In interviews, he said this song was probably the most important and intimate song of his career.
Strawberry Fields Forever. When and where can you hold the world in higher consciousness, seeing something more than what meets the eye? How can you see more than strawberries and strawberry pickers? How and where can you hold space for possibility and becoming?
I invite everyone to go forth, feed and nourish yourselves and others. Let’s allow our spiritual desires and passions to grow with fruitful surprises that delight and offer ourselves and others the delicious taste of HOLY SPIRIT. Plants those seeds of LOVE, GRATITUDE, AND SERVICE that will cultivate deep, connected roots that will burst and bloom and change the world!