Sapience: to Taste is to Know!  Did you know that the word "sapiens" in Homo Sapiens stems from Latin verb sapere which means "to taste, to be wise, to know"?  Yes: to taste is to know!  Some say: we are what we eat.  I say: we are how we eat.  

Note that this Sapience RSS feed replaces the "Mindful-not-Mouthful" newsletter.


Metabolize That!

We tend to think of metabolism in purely physiological terms.  I'd like to help you broaden your view of metabolism a bit.  I invite you to think of metabolism as information processing.  Let's take the act of eating, for example.  We can think of eating in purely physiological, metabolic terms... or we can think of eating as an informational process in which an act of tasting is an act of knowing.

I describe this Info-Experiential view of eating in my new book, Reinventing the Meal, but here's a similar perspective from Dr. Hari Sharma, MD, a Western trained proponent of ancient Vedic approaches to healing:

"When the taste receptors first experience the different taste and textural properties of a meal, an enormous amount of information is delivered through the body (primarily through the limbic system), triggering basic metabolic processes."

"The body eventually metabolizes the molecular constituents of the food, but it first metabolizes the sensory experience of taste."

"Long before the food is digested, its influence has spread throughout the body.  A delicious meal is more than a treat; the taste can be nourishing in itself."

"The body metabolizes the emotional content of every experience that it has," writes Dr. Sharma.  And that includes the experience of taste.

In sum, to taste is to experience, to experience is to feel, and to feel is to know.

Metabolize that!


Reinventing the Meal - Foreword by Donald Altman

Reinventing the Meal at Amazon

from publisher:

Everyone wants to feel more relaxed and connected with their bodies, but how? And more importantly, when? Many people's busy schedules leave little time for lengthy meditation practices and when life is most stressful and meditation most needed, many of us dispense with quiet time first. Reinventing the Meal offers a new way to get mindful moments in—by centering these important and beneficial practices around mealtimes. At least three times a day, readers can practice the art of becoming present, mindful, and relaxed.

This “three course” approach introduces strategies for practicing relaxation and breathing, moving forward into meditation techniques, and, finally, learning to eat mindfully. The book offers intriguing exercises, rituals, and meditations rooted in ancient and modern traditions that make mindful eating appealing and possible for anyone. The book also brings global awareness to eating practices and encourages readers to consider the source of their food.




foreword (by Donald Altman)

The robotic behaviors and fixed mind-sets that drive daily eating habits and mealtime rituals are so deeply ingrained in our lives—personally, psychologically, socially, and culturally—that they often defy attempts to reshape or modify them. How many times, for example, have you heard that it’s better not to watch TV and eat at the same time because distraction causes you to eat mindlessly? But did your behavior change?

            Here’s another example: Do you have certain foods that you tend to eat and others that you avoid? Do you remember the first time you really, really tasted something? How about that first grape or the first time you ate a pea? Mentioning those foods now probably brings up a well-established group of thoughts or memories about grapes or peas as something you either “like” or “dislike”—a taste you find “pleasant” or “unpleasant.” It’s normal that sometime after those first tastes of a new food during childhood, we develop sets of rules or concepts about whether or how to partake of various foods. But if you stopped really tasting most of your food a long time ago, how do you start tasting it again? How do you rediscover eating?

            This is the distinct challenge of mindful eating: to break free from entrenched mindless habits and experience things as they really are, including the true sensation of hunger, awareness of flavors, and numerous memories and emotions that arise while you eat, and to be present with each unfolding moment—or morsel, as the case may be. The act of eating can serve as a sacred process that awakens you to all aspects of life and all of the connections that life engenders. Awakening—even a little bit—to the true nature of food, eating, and your own participation in the food chain is no small accomplishment.

            As a longtime professional and author in the field of mindful eating, I rarely happen upon writings that so clearly illuminate what is at the core of all mindfulness practice: the awakening of possibility and the possibility of awakening. Pavel Somov has accomplished this in a way that is simultaneously surprising, powerful, fresh, and effective. In Reinventing the Meal, he presents a new paradigm for eating by serving up a diverse mindfulness menu consisting of appetizing anecdotes; a savory stew of fascinating scientific research, ancient wisdom, and down-to-earth mindful eating practices; and a delightful dessert of wry humor. In doing so, he stretches the limits of mindful eating, providing approaches that can help people break out of limiting styles of eating and antiquated ways of viewing themselves and the world. No matter how stuck you may feel, this book will metaphorically cleanse your palate, allowing you to start anew—with an empty plate and, more literally, a mind empty of preconceptions about food.

            This book offers innovative methods for finding peace with eating, inviting self-reflection, and reconnecting with nature’s sacredness. In his quest to reinvent the meal, Pavel conducts a freewheeling exploration that includes such concepts as oryoki, a centuries-old Japanese eating meditation, and ahimsa, the Hindu concept of doing no harm, bringing a twenty-first-century slant to these ancient practices. And why not? We greatly need to both embrace and transcend old forms as a means of discovering new forms of expression.

            Pavel doesn’t sugarcoat the realities of eating, and he refuses to be limited by current concepts. Rather, he takes an imaginative leap and breaks down old models of the meal to concoct a rich new recipe for making food matter again. He asks that instead of opening your mouth, you open your mind. Prepare to be challenged (I know I was!) as Reinventing the Meal skillfully leads you into deep self-inquiry and the essence of mindfulness. This is a provocative and courageous book that continually peels away layer after layer from the onion, refusing to settle for easy answers.

            As this book attests, your next meal—and the next, and the next—offers an extraordinary opportunity. You are about to embark on a journey that affirms that the fundamental act of living and the light of awakening consciousness are inseparable. Before you venture on, know this: Open your mind, and you will never open your mouth in the same way again. And that can only be beneficial.


— Donald Altman

Author of One-Minute Mindfulness and Meal by Meal


Reinventing the Meal - Table of Contents

Table of Contents for "Reinventing the Meal" (Somov, 2012, in press, New Harbinger)


Foreword by Donald Altman

Introduction: Escape from Circularity

Chapter 1: When the Meal-Wheel Rolled In

Chapter 2: First Course: Reconnecting with Your Body

Chapter 3: Second Course: Reconnecting with Your Mind

Chapter 4: Third Course: Reconnecting with Your World

Chapter 5: Reclaiming the Calorie

Chapter 6: Reinventing the Oryoki Meal

Chapter 7: Reinventing the Dessert

Chapter 8: Reinventing Fasting

Chapter 9: Reconsidering the Ahimsa Meal

Chapter 10: Reconciling Social Eating and Mindful Eating

Chapter 11: Rethinking Obesity

Chapter 12:: Reinventing the Iconography of Eating

Chapter 13: Reinventing the Species

Conclusion : The Sapience of Eating


The Root of the Living Matter

Basavanna, a 12th century Virasaiva saint-poet wrote:

“The root is the mouth of the tree: pour water there at the bottom and, look, it sprouts green at the top.”

Animals – humans included – are, in essence, trees on wheels, trees on legs, we are mobile plant-life.  So, our root is on top, where the mouth is.  Pour in water up there, stuff that mouth up there with food and, look, body sprouts at the bottom.

Just like trees, we are living input/output tubes, only oriented differently, and on leg-wheels.  Mouth is the root, the root of all your bodymind growth.  You literally sprout from these very lips that kiss reality with every bite, from these two rows of teeth that mill the matter of reality into the consciousness that reads this sentence.

So, before you eat next time, notice your mouth.  Clench and relax your jaw, smack your lips, let your tongue maniacally sweep around its cavernous abode, chomp your matter-milling teeth.  Check the equipment of your growth.  Get rooted in the mouth.  Realize: this reality you are about to process is the very ground you sprout from.

Reference:  Speaking of Siva, A. K. Ramanjuan, 1973, p. 80


A Namaste of Metabolic Interdependence

All life distinguishes “inside” from “outside,” i.e.  “self” from “non-self.” This is the fundamental duality (fundamental distinction, fundamental sapience/wisdom, fundamental bias) that all life operates on.  Life is self-serving, partial to self.  It views its own self as a subject and all else as “other,” as “environment,” as “objects.”  All life objectifies other life as “environment” (to use and to eat, and/or to flee from so as to not become used by it, so as to not be eaten by it).

All life is fundamentally unfair to other life, that is, until it enlightens to its inevitable interdependence and, on a higher level, to its essential sameness.

We begin with adaptively-intense dualism of self/non-self.  We start out in a highly self-centered (ego-centric) manner.  It makes sense: we are helpless and scared; so we have to think in a highly conservative manner.  This developmentally early us/them dualism is there to protect us.  We take no prisoners: the world is polarized into black and white.  “You are either with us or against us” is the mentality that underlies our socializing.  We socialize not for fun but for protection, we group into cliques, we circle the wagons.  We are busy surviving. 

As we learn more and more about life, we begin to tame our fears, we begin to distinguish between physical threats and symbolic threats.  If fortunate, we eventually conquer our inner-most fear of dying. As we progress from fear to non-fear, we become less and less invested in all of these us/them distinctions.

Our perception lens is recalibrated to notice similarity, even oneness of our shared essence, rather than the superficial differences in form.  We become kinder and more compassionate.  We even begin to feel bad for the life that we consume as we sit down to eat.  Not just the animals that had to die for us to mindlessly eat another dinner while we zone out in front of TV.  But we begin to relate even to the plant-based life we consume.  We begin to get it that anything that is alive, wants to stay alive, regardless of its level of complexity.  Even grass.

A sense of tender intimacy emerges as we eat: not a guilt that we have to consume something living, organic in order to live, but a sense of interconnectedness, a realization that as we eat this Earth, we become this Earth, as we eat this food, we become future food.  A kind of camaraderie of existence.  A baseline sympathy.  A gradual (but never complete) dissolution of subject-object duality.  A universal willingness to relate, to feel for other.  I guess I am talking about kindness.

So, how does eating come into this?  Eating is a re-union of self and non-self, of me with not-me, of you and not-you, of eater with food through the enmeshment of eating.  Eating is two-fold yoga (union): a yoga that unifies your own body with your own mind, and, at a higher level, a yoga that unifies you with your environment.

An eating moment is a bitter-sweet moment of connection. A Namaste of metabolic interdependence.

from Reinventing the Meal (in press, 2012)