Mindful Eating Meditation Inspired by Rg Veda

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

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.

This verse is from Rg Veda (or Rigveda), an ancient Indian text of sacred hymns. What is this enigmatic passage about? Who is this "other" bird that is not eating and just looking on? While mindful eating is a wonderful vehicle for weight maintenance, it is also an invaluable platform for daily meditation. 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 Indian (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 mindfulness that is looking on, is always full, complete, lacking nothing whatsoever, in its primordial perfection!

Reference: "Meditations Through Rg Veda: Four Dimensional Man" by Antonio De Nicholas (1976)

Pavel Somov, Ph.D. is the author of Eating the Moment: 141 Mindful Practices to Overcome Overeating One Meal at a Time (New Harbinger, 2008) and of Present Perfect: From Mindless Pursuit of What Should Be to Mindful Acceptance of What Is(in press, New Harbinger Publications, in stores in July 2010). He is in private practice in Pittsburgh, PA. For more information visit and sign up for Pavel Somov's monthly "Mindful-not-Mouthful" Newsletter