Disconnecting Through Eating

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.


9781608821013Breaking bread with someone is a form of intimacy. But eating can also alienate. As Lucille Schulberg wrote in Historic India, “A primary impulse behind the caste system was probably the fear of spiritual pollution through food” (1968, 140):

[The Indians believed that] the mana, or ‘soul-stuff’ of human beings was the same as the soul-stuff of food, especially vegeta- ble food. Unbroken cereal food—grasses growing in a field, seeds waiting to be gathered—retained their soul-stuff when they were handled; anyone could touch and eat them safely. But once grain was softened in cooking or seeds were pressed for their oil, their soul-stuff mixed with the soul-stuff of the person who prepared the food… A taboo on sharing food with an outsider—that is, with anyone not in [one’s] own caste—was a protective measure against such spiritual pollution… The higher a caste, the more restricted its menu.

A couple of questions for you.

  • Do you believe that the “soul-stuff” of food is the same as your “soul-stuff”? If you do, how does this inform your eating? If you don’t, how does that influence your eating practices?
  • Also, in what ways are you an eating outcast?
  • How does your eating style isolate you?

Ponder how what you eat might have stratified you socially. Ponder how connecting to something existential or spiritual through eating can also lead to some degree of social disconnecting.

Adapted from Reinventing the Meal …

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Crazy Wisdom of Existentially Grounded Cynicism

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

frJitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins was the second book that I read in English (the first one was The Future Shock by Alvin Toffler). Robbins’ style helped me fall in love with English. It was a long time ago (late 80s). Now the guy has come out (reluctantly) with a memoir, Tibetan Peach Pie. Here’s an excerpt from a recent interview.

Tom Robbins: “What I’ve learned along the way is that existence is cosmic theatre, but paradoxically, we should play our roles to the absolute best of our ability while having the wisdom not to take them too seriously.”

RL: “Would you call yourself a cynic?”

TR: “Basically I agree with the existentialists, but the difference between me and, say, Camus and Sartre is that I don’t let it snow on my fiesta.”

Crazy wisdom, originally a Tibetan concept, according to Robbins is “the opposite of conventional wisdom.” Viewed as such, all wisdom is crazy since all wisdom is a non-cliche pattern break.  Crazy wisdom is half-asleep enlightenment in frog pajamas…


Reference: interview with Tom Robbins by Rob Liguori, The New York Times Magazine, May 2014

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A Bite of Knowledge from a Tree of Mindful Eating

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.


9781608821013When you eat a fruit, such as an apple, you are stepping—wittingly or unwittingly—into someone else’s reproductive cycle, becoming involved in a kind of ménage à trois with a tree and Earth in a life-giving project.

In fact, when you eat a piece of fruit, you are literally eating a plant-based sex organ. A fruit, botanically speaking, is a sexually active part of a flowering plant. When you consume an apple, you eat its fleshy, sweet, pulpy ovary tissue, and then you participate in the process of seed dispersal by throwing out the apple core.

Naturally, if you shred the apple core and its seeds in a kitchen garbage disposal, there isn’t any life-giving going on. But if you eat an apple and toss the core into your backyard, you might just be participating in the birth of a future apple tree. Ponder this apple bite from the tree of knowledge before your next meal.

Adapted from Reinventing the Meal (Somov, 2013)

Share your mindful eating moments at Mindful Eating Tracker





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Craving Control: Controlling By Letting Go of Control

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.


9781608821013Mindfulness involves two essential mechanisms: applying a certain kind of attention and practicing disidentification.

Attention can be active or passive: that of an active observer or that of an uninvolved witness. This distinction is easy to understand through contrasting such verbs as “to look” versus “to see.” “To look” implies an active visual scanning, a kind of goal-oriented visual activity. “To see” implies nothing other than a fact of visual registration. Say I lost my house keys. I would have to look for them. But in the process of looking for my house keys, I might also happen to see an old concert ticket. Mindfulness is about seeing, not looking. It is about just noticing or just witnessing without attachment to or identification with what is being noticed and witnessed. This is where disidentification comes in.

Cravings (for dessert or something specific to eat, or just to keep eating) come and go. Mindfulness—as a meditative stance—allows you to recognize that craving is a transient, fleeting state of mind, and just one part of your overall experience. Mindfulness teaches you to realize that this impulse to keep on eating is but a thought inside the mind. Yes, it’s part of you, but it isn’t all of you—which is exactly why you can just notice it, just see it without having to stare at it. In sum, mindful- ness—as a form of impulse control—is a strategy of controlling by letting …

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Shallow Wells of Presence

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

kaKarl Krolow, one of the greatest postwar German poets, once wrote:

It is a long time

Since I lay so deep in sleep.

Gradually one learns once more:

Wells dry up.

A state of presence is a shallow well. Mindfulness dries up. Its half life is short. Rarely mindfulness transcends the moment that gave it birth. Therefore, it must be renewed in between the strides of our sleep-walk. The well of presence must too be watered.




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Finding the Flavor of the Moment

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.


9781608821013There are two ways of looking at flavor. One is to see flavor technically, as a convergence of taste, smell, and texture. The other take on flavor is more existential. By all means notice the flavor of the food in the tech- nical sense, but also notice the flavor of the eating moment. Time hides itself; it slips away when unattended. It takes presence of mind to experience a moment in time. Ask yourself, “What is significant about this eating moment?” But try not to sink too deeply into this thought; try not to let your mind soar too far aloft. Just open up to the significance, if any, and let go.

Allow yourself to be aware of the irrelevancies of the eating moment. Take them in and note them, but avoid pondering them or considering them to be any deeper than they are. Here you are, Earth yourself, eating Earth, while Earth itself is spinning along on its cosmic ride— the significance of the moment need not be much more than that. Be at home in the moment, mixing mouthfuls and mindfuls

Ask yourself, “What is the flavor of this moment?” At a minimum, if you are mindful you are in touch with reality, touching the world by eating it, being touched by it as the food massages its way inside you, feeling touched by all that lived, breathed, worked, and died for you to have this eating moment. You are …

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Taste of Longevity: Long Life is Sweet

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

chocolatesFascinating new research:

“Bitter tastes could have negative effects on lifespan, sweet tastes had positive effects,” reports Science Daily.  At least, in fruit flies.

Michael Waterson, a Ph.D graduate student in U-M’s Cellular and Molecular Biology Program, explains: “Findings help us better understand the influence of sensory signals, which we now know not only tune an organism into its environment but also cause substantial changes in physiology that affect overall health and longevity. We need further studies to help us apply this knowledge to health in humans potentially through tailored diets favoring certain tastes or even pharmaceutical compounds that target taste inputs without diet alterations.”

Here’s how I make sense of these intriguing findings.  When life tastes good, it seems, the body positions itself for a longer existence.  When life tastes bitter, the body, it seems, fails to thrive.  Conclusion: a sweeter life makes for a longer life, whereas a life of bitterness (and sensory deprivation) might not last as long.

I am sure you heard the expression “life is sweet.”  Perhaps there is a correction in order: “Long life is sweet.”

A take-home message: awaken your senses!

Also makes me wonder, in the spirit of harm reduction, if a sweeter-tasting cigarette would be less dangerous, less life-shortening than a comparable one that is not as palatable.


ps: Coincidentally, the other day, while putzing around in my yard, I spotted an unfamiliar plant – a long, sturdy stalk.  I yanked it out of the ground, for no good reason, and, …

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Eat With Your Eyes Closed

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.


9781608821013Close your eyes to see—with the mind’s eye of mindfulness—what you are eating.

Mindfulness is a kind of “super-vision” because it allows you to see with the eyes shut.

Mindfulness “over-sees”… and, thus, serves as a platform for self-control.


Adapted from “Reinventing the Meal” (Somov, New Harbinger, 2012)

Share your mindfuls at Mindful Eating Tracker



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How Do I Achieve Balance?

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

cuWe pose questions with our minds and we answer questions with our minds.  But body too has questions and answers.

Here’s a question that we ask our minds a lot: “How do I achieve balance in my life?”

For a change, let your body answer this question: find a concrete curb and try to walk it without losing balance.

Notice how your discursive monkey mind has finally shut up and your body has begun to voice its silent words of wisdom.


pattern break by Mindstream


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Uniqueness is Beyond Comparison

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

9781572247567In my work with perfectionists I often ask: “Are you unique?”  Clients typically nod: “Yes.”

And then I say: “To be unique is to be one of a kind, right?  Right.  If you are one of a kind, then no one is like.  Right?  Right.  If so, then what is the basis of comparison if no one is exactly like you?!”

Here’s U.G. Krishnamurti making a related point:

“If you are freed from the goal [of having to be] perfect, then that which is natural in [you] begins to express itself.  Your religious and secular culture has placed before you the ideal man or woman, the perfect human being, and then tries to fit everybody into that mould.  It is impossible. [...] Nature is busy creating absolutely unique individuals, whereas culture has invented a single mould to which all must conform. It is grotesque.”

And so I conclude: “Uniqueness is beyond comparison. You are incomparable. That’s not a compliment. That’s a statement of fact.”

related: Present Perfect


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Reinventing the Meal
Reinventing the Meal
Present Perfect
Eating the Moment
The Lotus Effect The Smoke-Free Smoke Break
Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D. is the author of The Lotus Effect, Present Perfect, The Smoke-Free Smoke Break, and Eating the Moment: 141 Mindful Practices to Overcome Overeating One Meal at a Time.

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