This meditation was taught to me by Cissy Brady Rogers, who is a, teacher, spiritual director and therapist in Southern California. Food meditations help to regain a sense of connection to what we are feeding our bodies and reconnect food to our whole selves rather than just our stomachs. In Hale Sofia Schatz’s book If the Buddha Came to Dinner she says, “Our first taste is sweet; the taste of mother’s milk or baby formula, juice, fruit juice, cookies. We naturally identify this as a good taste, so good that many of us develop an insatiable sweet tooth later in life. In this country, the two tastes that predominate are sweet and salty.”[i] She goes on with her argument that the other tastes never fully become developed because we are a nation addicted to those two tastes. The complete five tastes are:
Along with that idea, we also have lost the art form of playing with our food. The five senses are also something she encourages people to explore. The senses are:
So using this as our backdrop, gather a food from each area. Try a raspberry or chocolate covered raisin for sweet. A chip or salted nut for salty. Bitter and sour get a bit harder to find. Kale or arugula work well for bitter and fresh cranberries are extremely sour. A piece of lemon works well too. Radishes are great for spicy because people often only think of chile peppers, but anything with a kick is good.
Before you taste each food, explore all the other senses – smell and touch it, taking in its scent and texture. Does it make noise when you touch it? What about if you break it or tear it? Especially when you are cooking, listen to the food crackle and sizzle and change before your eyes. Look at the food and take delight in the creation. Finally, taste it and as you do, notice how the texture changes in your mouth. Don’t just swallow it. Enjoy every piece of exploring it. If we took in food this way all of the time, we would be satisfying more of our hunger in other ways. We try to meet all of these needs by shoveling food in and the art of setting a table or plating a meal has gone by the wayside.
Additionally, as you prepare and practice this meditation, try to think of what you eat and how you consume it. Choose whole foods that are not chemically processed. A good rule of thumb is: if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it. This is a fun practice to do with a group of friends or in a small group setting. Try gathering all of the five different flavors and spend an evening playing with your food. After you are finished with the exercise, cook together or enjoy fondue… something slow and community oriented around food. Discuss with the group what you are eating and how it affects you in a healthy or unhealthy way.
[i] Hale Sofia Schatz If the Buddha Came to Dinner 99
Food Meditation excerpt from A Beautiful Mess: A Perfectionist’s Journey Through Self-Care. Conversant Life Media 2010.