Reading about mindful eating can get you only so far.   Just like reading about what “sweet” is.  At some point, you have to set aside all these books on mindful eating, all these descriptions of mindful eating (this post included), and set a precedent of mindful eating. 

Here’s what Chogyal Norbu has to say on this point:

“We don’t understand in an intellectual way how sugar tastes.  If we have never had the experience of sugar, we don’t know what ‘sweet’ is.  We can read many books introducing us to the meaning of ‘sweet,’ and we can learn and construct many ideas, but we can never have a concrete experience of ‘sweet’ in this way.”  But: “If we get a small piece of chocolate and place it on our tongue, we can have a concrete experience.” (Dzogchen Teachings, 2006, p. 113).

So, here’s what I propose to you now:  put whatever you are doing aside (of course, if you can) and go have a bite of something… mindfully.  Remember to open your mind before you open your mouth.   Set a precedent of mindful eating and then read about it.

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Charles Moore write in “Indian Philosophy:”

“There is no such thing as pure awareness, raw and undigested.  It is always mixed up with layers of interpretation.” (1957, p. 623).

Do you agree?  I don’t.  So, go grab a bite to taste.  Bury yourself in the experience deep enough to forget that you can even think.  Slow down to a mind-still.  Taste yourself tasting whatever it is you are tasting.  Let your interpretations of what is going on vanish raw and undigested.  Bungee-jump into your next mouthful like there is no tomorrow.

“Two birds with fair wings, inseparable companions,
have found a refuge in the same sheltering tree.
One incessantly eats from the peepal tree;
the other, not eating, just looks on.”

This verse is from Rg Veda (or Rigveda), an ancient Indian text of sacred hymns.  What is this enigmatic passage about?  Who is this “other” bird that is not eating and just looking on?  While mindful eating is a wonderful vehicle for weight maintenance, it is also an invaluable platform for daily meditation. Eating is inevitable, but mindfulness isn’t.  When we use eating as an opportunity to awaken ourselves from our zombie-living, we stand to glimpse that elusive, essential sense of self – that silent bird of consciousness – that witnesses our day-to-day behavioral frenzy.  Mindful eating – to borrow another metaphor from Indian (Buddhist) philosophy – is an opportunity to glimpse your Original Face, to come in contact with that immutable, changeless, indescribable sense of presence that is the backdrop to everything else we think, feel or do.

What am I proposing? A simple thing, really!  As you take your next bite, pull back for a sec, and ask yourself: “Who is this who is eating? Who is this who is right now governing this amazing machinery of flesh that is eating right now? Who is this who is silently supervising this marionette, this puppet of the body as it forks, and knives, and spoons, and chews, and swallows? Who is this who is now asking oneself ‘Who is this?'” As you struggle to answer this arguably confusing and recursive question that folds back onto itself, know that you are looking straight into your “original face,” that you are acknowledging that fundamental, inexpressible, yet very real sense of self-presence! And this “you,” this bird of mindfulness that is looking on, is always full, complete, lacking nothing whatsoever, in its primordial perfection!

Are you still reading?

Stop.  Go have a sip of orange juice.  And have a taste of self!  Feel the unmistakable pulp of this present moment.  Feel the acid-sweet poignancy of this moment’s transience. 

Here’s Thich Nhat Hahn in “Blooming of a Louts” (1993, 41):

“Aware of my tongue, I breathe in.  Aware of the taste of orange juice, I breathe out.”

Yes!  Let your tongue of mindfulness speak the language of self-recognition.  Have a mindful sip of what still is.  Let your tongue speak the language of self-presence.  Here you are.  Once again.  As always.  Lingering in the doorway of the gateless gate.  Let this mouth moment be your passport into the ever-land of the here-and-now. 

Mindful eating isn’t about eating.  It’s about being.  So, go be!  Not later.  Now.  When else?