Cover image for Art of the inner meal : eating as a spiritual path
Art of the inner meal : eating as a spiritual path
Altman, Don, 1950-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
San Francisco, Calif. : HarperSanFrancisco, [1999]

Physical Description:
ix, 230 pages ; 20 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BL65.F65 A485 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Many of the world's religions value the simple act of eating as a powerful means of self-discovery and spiritual transcendence. Eating with awareness brings us into the moment, helping us understand what it means to be alive and connecting us to the mystery and source of all living things. Directing attention to how we choose, prepare, and eat our food can offer satisfaction and gratify more than our physical need for sustenance. In Art of the Inner Meal, former Buddhist monk Donald Altman celebrates the sacred side of eating by exploring the role of food in different religious traditions from around the world. Hindu concepts of food enhance our awareness of the cycle of life, and help us to break our own unhealthy eating habits. The Buddhist approach liberates consciousness through eating in moderation, with compassion and loving-kindness. Jewish tradition focuses on making each meal holy and wholesome. For Christians, meals are a time to strengthen community and enhance communion. Islam's blend of peace and faith provides insight, knowledge, and experience about our inner personal meal. "Whatever your religious affiliation, background, or tradition, you have a unique opportunity to create a personalized inner meal path. You need only draw upon the diverse sources of wisdom and knowledge that strengthen the bond between food and spirituality," says Altman.

A meditation on eating as a means to gaining awareness, Art of the Inner Meal explores the joys of giving and receiving, the art of fasting, the reasons why the wisdom traditions recommend some foods while prohibiting others, and how awareness of what we consume can affect the environment. By understanding the spiritual meaning of food for cultures around the world and creating new rituals and traditions for our own families, we can strengthen family bonds, encourage love, and deepen our connection to the community. Altman encourages us to improve our spiritual well-being by investing the everyday act of eating with the meaning and significance it deserves.

Author Notes

Donald Altman is a former Buddhist monk and a two-time Emmy Award-winning writer. He lives in Los Angeles, CA.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this short, effective book, Altman (a former Theravada Buddhist monk who is a two-time Emmy Award-winning writer) discusses the Hindu, Buddhist and Catholic monastic approaches to fasting and eating in moderation, practices he believes can lead to a heightened spiritual awareness. He also describes the Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Jewish and Islamic customs for using ritual meals to enhance family and communal life. Jewish dietary restrictions, for example, elevate food and "all of life" from the realm of the ordinary to the sacred, while Sabbath dinners and Passover seders make meals "a tangible remembrance of things past." The Japanese Zen tea ceremony, Altman writes in the book's most interesting chapter, is a process that builds both spiritual awareness and community. Altman provides specific and practical advice for daily application of the general principles he explains; for example, he shows how a short, moderate fast can demonstrate that hunger is a learned, yet controllable, response. His monk's training is evident in his especially useful description of how habits influence response and limit one's ability to change and grow spiritually. Each chapter closes with a handy "Practice" suggestion for initiating home rituals or cultivating more mindfulness of food and hunger. This book will appeal to a wide audience of general spirituality readers as well as to those who seek more meaning in the rituals of preparing, sharing and eating food. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Part 1 Spiritual Ingredients
1. Beginnings: Benefits from a spiritual approach to food that nourishes mind, body, and soulp. 3
2. The Primal Source: Explore ancient roots that speak of our sacred connection to Mother Earthp. 12
3. Finding True Self: Use Hindu concepts of food to enhance your awareness and break long-standing habitsp. 21
4. Liberation, Moderation, and Loving-Kindness: Liberate consciousness with a Buddhist approach to spiritual eating that is moderate, compassionate, and kindp. 36
5. Holiness and Family: Learn the Jewish art of making each and every meal holy and wholesomep. 52
6. Community and Communion: Bring service to the community through food and the Christian concept of communionp. 67
7. Surrender, Prayer, and Charity: Discover how Islam's blend of peace and faith create a recipe for the inner mealp. 83
Part 2 Our Daily Seasonings
8. Scared Listening: Encourage your family's unique story to come alive using ancient methods of sacred listeningp. 99
9. Ritual Blessings and Chicken Soup: Create your own rituals and traditions through the power of blessingsp. 115
10. Giving and Receiving a Cup of Tea: Unlock the secrets of giving and receiving as explored in the Japanese tea ceremonyp. 129
11. The Monk's Diet: Discover how to use mindfulness as a powerful tool that makes any meal spiritualp. 146
12. Empty Stomach, Full Spirit: Transform an empty stomach into a full spirit through the art of fastingp. 161
Part 3 Return to Source
13. The Good, the Bad, the Forbidden: Find out why the wisdom traditions recommend some foods and forbid othersp. 181
14. Nature's Connection: Reclaim your place in the sacred web by tuning in to Earth's natural rhythmsp. 198
15. A Personal Spiritual Ecology: Create your own vision of spiritual ecology by integrating inner meal practicesp. 212
16. Mindfulness: Allow space for inner meal thoughts, reflections, and mindfulnessp. 219
Bibliography and Further Readingp. 221
Indexp. 227