The Bird of Presence
An eating meditation inspired by a verse from Rig Veda (an ancient Indian text of sacred hymns):
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.
What is this enigmatic passage about? Who is this “other” bird that is not eating and just looking on? We’ll get to that in a second…
My guess is that most of the readers of my posts about mindful eating are more motivated by weight loss or weight management than by the meditational aspects of mindful eating. And yet, mindful eating is a wonderful platform for daily meditation.
You see, 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 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! Now and then, as you eat, 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 mindful presence that is looking on, is always full, complete, lacking nothing whatsoever, in its primordial perfection!
Adapted from “Reinventing the Meal” (Somov, New Harbinger, 2012)
Somov, P. (2012). The Bird of Presence. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 20, 2017, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/mindful-living/2012/10/the-bird-of-presence/