Spirituality and Food

My trip to Bali in 2008 was not only a colorful and taste filled adventure but also a lesson in spirituality and food. Wherever I went in Bali, I found it easy to eat wholesome and well- balanced meals. They use fresh herbs and spices ground by hand, in combinations that result in clean and complex flavors while balancing the six tastes–leaving you thoroughly satisfied. So many of their dishes are beautifully presented with regard to color and form.

Most noteworthy about food in Bali is, as with so many things there, how spirituality and food are connected. From planting, growing, and harvesting to preparation, offerings, and eating – all of these actions are done with reverence to God. My driver taught me that “we don’t own our food until we offer it to God first, give thanks for it, and get permission to eat it. Only then is it ours to put into our bodies.”

How does this stack up next to eating emotionally, snacking in the bulk aisle at Whole Foods, or remembering that someone labored over planting and picking the vegetables that I am eating today? The Balinese don’t necessarily engage in the constant chatter that we do over our meals. They prefer to eat quietly, often alone, and focus on the process of eating and digesting. I was reminded of this while having lunch with a lovely Balinese man who was barely three bites into his lunch as I finished mine, and also did all of the talking! I commented on the difference, and he simply said “…that’s because I’m chewing my food.” Oh, what a concept!

Balinese women usually prepare food for the day. This is all done in the morning, and the food is left out for family members to eat when, and if, they are hungry. Again, it is not about eating together, but more about eating when the body is physically hungry. It is the men, however, who are in charge of laboriously preparing the spice pastes and food for the numerous festivals and ceremonies. Here, the preparation and eating are done communally, only after respect and offerings have been made to God. In Bali, food comes from the Divine, food is offered back to the Divine, and my own experience with food in Bali was certainly Divine!


About Sheila Wagner PT, CN, BCHN

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Opinions & Feedback:

  1. Tracy Haughton says:

    Sheila, what an exquisite reflection. Much to chew on here, quietly.

  2. Very insightful,
    Thank you for sharing your experience.

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