I sat at a dining table at my first meditation retreat, surrounded by the silence of 50 other retreatants in the small dining hall. Our lunchtime rumination was to sense our food. To observe it- the colors, shapes, and textures of the eggplant, green beans, peppers, and tofu lodged in green curry like boulders on a seashore. To feel the weight of the spoon between my fingers as I raised it to my mouth. To smell the sweet odor of coconut milk and the clean, spicy tang of the curry, growing stronger as I brought the spoon towards my face. To feel the texture of each bite: wet, soft, crunchy, malleable. To taste each flavor as it passed over my tongue: sweet, salty, spicy, salty, fresh, green, sweet.
In this exercise of appreciating a meal like I had never taken the time to do before, I realized that no two bites are the same. The size, texture, and composition of ingredients always change slightly from bite to bite. The experience of the first bite, so anticipated, eliciting salivation and a surge of senses, is so far from the last bite, the bookend, the period on the sentence, arriving at a belly full or satisfied. Perhaps the last bite is dreaded, forced into a space that can hardly contain it. Or perhaps it is savored, as you scrape the last dregs of sauce from your plate with the clean edge of your spoon, wishing for just a few more bites to fill the space left inside or to satiate the cravings of the senses.
I’ve missed so much, rushing through meals, conversations, showers, and all the routine activities of my life. I’ve passed through the present carelessly on my way to the next destination.
This I believe.
But if I stop once in a while, to take stock of my surroundings and experiences, I realize how full life is, how rich, how much pleasure there is in one bite of food, one glance at the leaves changing colors on the walk home, the sound of cars passing on the street below my window, the feel of a favorite chair welcoming me into its soft embrace as I slowly sink into the pillows, and the smell of rain on the pavement rising to meet me like a faithful companion at the doorstep of my life.
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