Let’s go around. What did you learn or did you notice anything new about food or about your eating? I’m not asking about the taste of the food. It is good. What did you observe today?
[A participant] See, I didn’t sit there because the next person [would be first] [laughing] I just always enjoy food, it’s my thing. But it is really delicious and it is nicer after you meditate and you clear your self to take your time with it and enjoy it. I enjoyed lunch.
[Another participant] I didn’t think I was very hungry and then I had a taste of the delicious food. And I noticed immediately wanting more. So that was very apparent. And I also reflected on how I’ve never really had to go hungry in my life, and thinking about how recently many of us have been seeing pictures of the starving Yemeni children and just feeling that the incongruity in a way of “I’ve always had enough.” And, just feeling that just something that felt very heavy.
[Another participant] I noticed that I started to eat fast right away and then I mindfully slowed myself down. And I noticed that when I’m mindful of my food I I’m internally thankful and I have a lot of gratitude built up inside me and then I start, you know the mind is always chattering, but I started to think about how I’m so grateful to be alive and I’m so grateful to be healthy, and so grateful for my friends and family and all of you my brothers and sisters, and I just start to fill up with more gratitude. [Bhante] Good observation.
[Another participant] I like to eat. A lot. And I took too much. But, by eating slowly I realized that I filled myself up faster than usual and everything was tasting so good but toward the last few bites I was done eating, overeating, and breaking the vow that we said at the beginning and I was realizing “Why do I eat?” Then, a lot of reasons I eat are not for good reasons. Those things that are on that paper [the prayer the group read before the meal] are good reasons to eat, but sometimes I eat for the wrong reasons. because I like bread and butter [group chuckles] and I like eating things that are not good for me.
[Another participant] Flavors seem a lot more intense and complex when I’m focusing on when I’m eating mindfully. Closing my eyes seems to help if I kind of shut out one sense. Seems like the senses of smell and taste are amplified a little bit. Very enjoyable. I do like to eat.
[Another participant] I really like the little prayer or statement or whatever you would call it at the beginning but what I, yes, I was grateful too. But, what I notice is that I constantly ask questions. I question everything. And that can be wonderful and that also can be not so wonderful. So, you do not have to answer this question now but I will ask it and that is, food is very cultural in its social meaning, and so, what that statement is reading is very utilitarian and so my questioning was, running around the lines of, I don’t think that all food in daily meals eat like this because food is a social, cultural celebration and giving love to one another a lot of times. So, you can address that later, but that was my train of thought. I ask, probably, too many questions.
[Another participant] Joy, I felt a great deal of joy. I enjoy eating and I thought about how many new different things I was eating that I had never tried before. And I was grateful, I thought about how sometimes I eat a lot of junk but that this really is nourishing and feed me in a good way. [Another participant] Well I thought about finishing the plate the whole time but doing one forkful at a time, it is hard to be patient [laughing]
[Another participant] I appreciated the spicy tastes both in breakfast today and the lunch. I like spicy food and I normally don’t eat it in the morning and at noon. Habitually I’ve been a fast eater so its very helpful to slow down and taste what you are eating and to allow your body to react to that and so I was reminded of a saying that “Enough is a feast.”
[Another participant] I like being able to eat without talking. Eating silently. You’ve taught me that at the residence. It really enhances everything that I eat and gets me to slow down. Yes, it is a very nice not trait, but a nice technique to know.
[Another participant] Well, like father, like son because I was just going to say, I enjoy a quiet meal.
[Bhante] Thank you. I noticed that with your answers that there are a few areas. Some of you helped pay attention to food. And some of you learned about something, like you have noticed sensations and feelings and also some of you have noticed finishing the plate and how the mind plays games while you are eating.
You have managed to eat with the group and eating at one table without talking is a it can be a difficult tradition. Just think about if you are forced to live by yourself it can be be very difficult. But, if you choose to live by yourself that is a blessing. Just think of at home, if everybody puts you in a room and close the door from the other side and you can’t come out. You are forced to be alone. You will recognize that as a punishment. But, if you choose to be in the room by yourself, that is your choice then you will seek that answer your privilege, you want to do that.
In the same way, eating at the table we recognize each other. But at the same time, you have a big job of respecting your meal and eating your meal. That’s what you are doing.
About the mindful eating there are a few things I would suggest you think about for next time. Once, when you have served your meal you can check, “Am I serving or choosing this dish because of the taste I am seeking or because of my hunger?” Supporting my body. It is better to check, “What am I looking for?” “Why am I serving myself?” This is about serving yourself mindfully.
Mindfully serving means that you know why you are serving yourself. Then, you will serve the amount you want. Sometimes the practitioners, when they catch their mind to much attached to certain foods, they try to avoid it. The reason is not to punish themselves but to train themselves and teach themselves that they can survive without [that particular food]. The number one thing is that you have to notice how you are serving yourself. Even the amount.
Once you have served yourself, you go and sit down in the place you are eating and then you have to settle there. After you settle, so don’t sit down until you have everything you want. Water, tea, and everything. Once you are there you have to make sure, “Now I’m here.” But, if anything else comes to your mind afterwards, it is better not to respond to that. Because you will still go with that earlier settlement. In case you have forgotten something, that’s okay, today I’m going to survive without it. This is how you are training yourself.
These are minor details. But all these minor things are teaching you something. And training, training yourself. At the same time, keeping in mind this morning respect each bite equally. Each bite is a new bite.
Let me bring only one more thing, I’ll answer your question later during the question and answer time. Let me bring something into your practice with food. All of you mentioned that it is a good meal. What does that mean? What did we eat? You have eaten some vegetable. You have eaten some grain. But, you are not eating the grain as it is. You are not eating the vegetable as it is. You are eating something that was prepared. You have eaten prepared vegetable. You have eaten prepared grain. Salad. So, before this meal was prepared, as raw grain or as a raw vegetable, this vegetable and grain has carried a beautiful skill or ability. The ability is, they had the nature of being able to let go of what it is. They had the nature of being able to let go what it is. Then, throughout the process it has become something else. Vegetable has become something else. Now it has become a curry or cooked and it has mixed with the spices well.
Just think about, that way, once we become such a dish, we appreciate it more. You appreciate it more because of that ability. The ability that it could let go of what it is to become something more beneficial and more peaceful. Why don’t we cook rocks? Or why don’t we cook wood? Because rocks don’t have the ability to let go what it is in the process of cooking. So, that is why we cannot eat those. We cannot appreciate that at the table. Think about you. Do you want to be a rock in a different sense yes, but in this sense do you want to be a rock or become a vegetable. In the different sense, of course you don’t want to become a vegetable [laughing] Think about grain, do you want to become grain or become a rock. So, think what others and you will appreciate.
I mentioned at the beginning about being by yourself and eating at the table with many. Living with others or practicing with others is not an easy thing. It is not Just think about someone living with themselves or somebody living with many people. When we are living with many people you have to tolerate a lot. That’s a skill. Living with others. Living with others mindfully and usefully is a greater skill. Because that way you have to not lose yourself for the challenge that comes from others. That is a skill. That is why we recognize the practice with others as a great practice because you gain the opportunities to practice more support.
And you may find some challenges when others act imperfect. If you get disturbed by someone else’s unmindful action. This gives you an opportunity to forgive them. At a different time you might be blaming. “Hey, stop doing that. You are not supposed to talk!” “You are not supposed to throw those dishes into the dishwasher with so much noise.” But, you might tell them something mindfully and with compassion. Practicing with others mindfulness and maintaining who you are is a skill.
There are various kinds of dishes. Colors, various colors. Various tastes. But when everything goes to your mouth, it becomes one bite. Going further, when everything goes to your stomach, even after you drink water, it becomes one pool. Even though you separate things on your plate, they all become one thing. That is the reality. So, that effect is equal. It is sharing so as a group you are just like a separate portions on the plate. But, going into this practice, it is just one entity.
The question is, “What are you contributing to the entity?” That is all you can do, all you can think. Who you are becoming to this entity. “Who am I? What am I?” When you go to this bigger scale, “What am I to this Universe? What am I to this Earth?” Sometimes we take this small pill for certain physical challenges. But, this small pill has a big impact on your body. It has a bigger impact even though it is very small. Just like you. You are just one person. We are just a little salt in the food but it has a great impact.
So, let’s continue our practice and keep observing and everything and anything can be important. Be mindful enough to learn from what you see and what you hear and what you observe. We will meet here at two o’clock for discussion and we will discuss your written questions. If you have any questions make sure to write them and put them into the basket.