Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For week of January 4, 2016

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Eating Presence

(Presence Trigger 3)

Eating with presence means in part to actually taste our food as we eat it, to be aware of its aroma and texture, aware of chewing and swallowing, aware of bringing the food from plate to mouth. Too often we are not in contact with our food as we eat. Intentionally tasting our food helps us to appreciate and enjoy it.

However, eating with presence means more than just tasting our food: it means to be fully present while eating. In presence we are in contact with our entire body, at home in it. We are aware of the thoughts and emotions running through us. We are aware of our reactions to the food, our desires. And most importantly, we are in ongoing contact with our self; we are here, the one who is eating. We become the intention to nourish our body through eating.

The delight that food naturally and rightly gives can easily lead us to fall into identification with eating. Sometimes the desire for food overpowers us into anticipating the next bite rather than focusing on the one we are currently chewing, ironically decreasing the taste experience and satisfaction that we derive from eating. In that situation our food eats us; we are just passive beneath the desire.

Saying a blessing prior to eating can remind us to eat with presence. It puts us in touch with our dependence on and indebtedness for our food. It reinforces our connection with the Earth and with the society that brings us more than we ourselves grow. Ultimately we may eat with respect and even reverence.

So if you are so inclined, say a blessing before your meal, and use that moment to come into presence and heartfelt gratitude, to prepare yourself for the sacred and enjoyable act of eating. A brief blessing, whether done inwardly for ourselves, or outwardly with our tablemates, can create the tone of presence for the meal. Even without a blessing, it helps if we set our intention to eat with presence at the beginning of the meal. We eat with respect for our food, as our essential lifeline.

During the meal we stay aware of the visceral, bodily act of eating, of bringing the food to our mouth, of its aroma, of biting into it, of chewing, of its taste and texture, and of swallowing. We stay aware of our inner reactions to the food, the liking or the disliking, the wanting, the craving for the next bite, perhaps even the gratitude. We stay aware of our whole body and ourselves, of I am eating.

Something unexpected may begin to open when we eat with full presence. Besides the well-known nutritional components of our food, there are spiritual energies within the food we eat. By eating with presence, we gradually come to be aware that presence unlocks those energies from the food and enables us to absorb them as food for our soul. When we eat inattentively, we miss this important opportunity.

How we eat is an indicator of the state of our soul. We work to develop mealtime as a trigger for presence. We let each meal remind us to enter the occasion with presence, to be the one who is eating. For this week, please practice eating presence.


     

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