Friday, May 27, 2011


Ok- so when i eat i stuff my face. STUFF MY FACE. Every time i sit to eat my intention is obliterate all semblance of my appetite. I get nervous before i eat that there will not be enough food for me. This is not rational. i was never oliver twist asking meekly for more please. I grabbed and stuffed my way though hundreds if not thousands of pizzas and breadsticks( in case the pizza alone left me wanting). I have never gone without food or been forced to make do with just enough. Which brings me to my topic today, just enough.

But first a little more about me. I have been practicing zen meditation for around 11 years. only recently have i gained the courage to attend berkeley zen center's morning sittings and service. On saturdays the schedule includes breakfast in the zendo. I was told that i would have to ask the vice abbot for instruction on the eating ritual. this made me nervous. I have to talk? Not only did i have to talk but i had to remember the name of the ritual, oryoki for a week until the following saturday. would i say origami? karaoke? i went home and googled it immediately so i wouldn't forget. Oryoki translated means just enough. a great idea.... eat just enough, but was i up to the task? I sat zazen the following week, asked the vice abbot for instruction (i remembered the name...phew) and was on my way. After the instruction i went back to the zendo found my spot with my borrowed bowls and began the process. Starting with a wrapped package of three nesting bowls, a spoon, chopsticks, a small spatula and three cloth napkins the package is unwrapped and arranged in front of me. the food comes one dish at a time and a mutual bow is exchanged between the server and the served at every delivery. We ate cornmeal grits, mango smoothy and a tofu scramble silently and delicately until we were all finished. we used to spatula to scrape the bowls clean and eat the scrapings. After the licking clean a person comes around and pours hot water in the first bowl. Using the spatula we cleaned the bowl and then poured the water into the second bowl where we washed our other utensils and scraped that bowl clean. The third bowl is much smaller than the others so only a little water is transfered, the rest we drank. after the third bowl is cleaned the water is poured into a large bowl as an offering. the bowls and utensils are now clean and stacked and the oryoki set ends just as it started.

This was the first time i ate a meal mindfully. i was satisfied, felt recharged and certainly not about to pass out from a gorging. i will not eat every meal this way but i will at least once a week.

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