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By Dr. Kirpal Singh Khalsa, Ph.D.
We all know how to eat, right? It’s simple: insert food, chew, swallow and repeat. Often we do it on the run, the less time taken the better. We eat fast food, frozen food, microwavable food, processed food and instant food. Time is of the essence. Any short cut you can take to save time is money in the bank. Wolf a sandwich between meetings, gulp a coffee and doughnut on the way to work, nuke a packaged meal when you get home, use the drive up window—in and out in record time. According to the Yogi we are killing ourselves. It is time to slow down.
Yogi Bhajan explains in a lecture called Bhoj Kriya (August 12, 1992), “If you do not mix saliva in every morsel of your food, you are eating poison.” Yikes! Nobody wants to eat poison. Yet most of us do. We gulp our food. It is totally unconscious. We break up the food with the teeth and swallow. As long as it doesn’t get stuck in the throat, we are ready for the next bite. The problem is that digestion begins in the mouth. Your saliva breaks down starch into simple sugar. Poison becomes nectar by simply eating small bites, chewing consciously, mixing your saliva and tasting the sweetness.
In the same lecture, Yogi Bhajan says, “When you swallow food that is not chewed properly, it swallows your strength, your life. Then nothing is left of you. Slow eating is one of the best meditations on this Earth.” Finally he says, “Your life will be long and your power will be great if you taste every morsel of the food you eat.”
Have you ever watched a dog eat? Chomp, chomp, gulp. The mouth and teeth serve only to break up the food to be swallowed. The Yogi says that most people eat like animals, chomp, chomp, gulp. The alternative is to eat like angels, small bites, chewed thoroughly, mixed with the saliva in the mouth, tasting the sweetness and only then swallowed.
Many people are coming around to the idea that WHAT you eat can have a major impact on health. But the idea of HOW you eat it is still very foreign. We can change this. Yogis have known it for thousands of years. Quite simply, one of the easiest keys to health is slow conscious eating. It takes practice. You will have to completely retrain yourself. Remember, eating is something you have done for your entire life without so much as a single thought about how it is done. Changing this habit will take some serious reprogramming. It starts by counting your chews.
Give yourself thirty or forty chews or, if you really want to make it a meditation, try one hundred and eight. Chew long enough for the food in your mouth to turn to jelly. If there are still little bits of solid stuff floating around, keep chewing. It will taste sweet on the tip of your tongue. After you swallow take a few seconds to clean your mouth with your tongue. Get all of the little bits hiding behind your teeth or in your gums. Only when the mouth is clean, take the next bite.
Eating is not a race to the finish. Grabbing food on the run is not just unhealthy. You lose the joy, the unique tastes and pure sensual pleasure of the food. By slowing down and experiencing the joy of eating you will find the key to good digestion, a healthy body and your ideal weight. Isn’t it amazing? We are not talking about what you eat or about changing your diet. We are simply talking about how you eat. Slow down, “Your life will be long and your power will be great.”
Kirpal Singh Khalsa served as director of Guru Ram Das Ashram, Boulder, from 1972 –1992. He received his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Colorado and taught in the Sociology Department from 1980 to 1992. From 1992 – 2003 he served as Academic Director for Sikh Dharma Education International and helped found Miri Piri Academy in Amritsar, India. He currently lives in the Sikh community in Espanola, New Mexico.