Chew Your Food.
“Chew your food,” Shane says.
Shane is an introverted and anxious guy. He has barely shaken my hand before he gets to the point.
“Like Gandhi did,” I respond,“chewing food into liquid before he swallowed it?'
“Like Gandhi did,” he agrees. He stands to one side of me, as if we are admiring an invisible picture together. “It’s a Gestalt thing. Gestalt therapy. Fritz Perls. Oral stage, I think. The mother gives beast feeding until the baby has grown a strong sense of individual will, then the child is ready to start the anal stage I think.”
A micro-expression of embarrassment and fright flickered across his face as he says “anal stage”. We once had a flustered conversation about Franz Kafka where I came away feeling like I had been trying to catch birds in my hands, so frightened he had seemed by the topic.
“Do you understand what I mean?” he says.
“Not at all,” I say.
“Gestalt. Perls. Fritz Perls,” he repeats, shifting from foot to foot. “The mother stops breastfeeding early. The child gets traumatized by the perceived rejection and gulps down its food. It fears it will be taken away. The result is a personality which over-intellectualises, and gulps down ideas.”
“So over-intellectualising is a way of rejecting the feminine power of physical nourishment before it has a chance to reject it. You’re suggesting that chewing my food is the cure for over-intellectualism?” I ask.
“If you chew slowly, you sit and rest, and you breathe slowly and your mind moves more slowly, and you stay still and give your thoughts time to digest.”
“I tend to gulp my ideas, then let them go for the unconscious to digest for me.”
He glances away anxiously. I have only really ever seen Shane comfortable around women. “So it all sifts down, ferments inside the unconscious, mostly forgotten.”
“Not if it’s important stuff,” I gesture at the meeting we’ve just concluded. “I get reminded all the time of it. It’s always on the boil.”
“True,” he gulps.
“So if I chew my food mindfully, I’ll have greater awareness of my intellectual digestion of ideas,” I summarise.
“Exactly,” he says, relieved he can go now.
“Thanks Shane. That’s a good suggestion. I’ll try it out.”
Food as mother; what a putrid idea.
Perhaps I am trying to please him by taking on his suggestion. I wish Shane would quit his anxious persona and speak in full sentences that stick to the rules of logic. I wish he would give adequate explanations of his context and paradigm before blurting out a suggestion or concept. I wish a lot of things, and most of them don’t happen.
I like Shane. I understand that Shane’s monkey mind drives him to extremes of anxiety, isolation and social discomfort. But I am quite content with intellectualism; I honestly love the intimate feelings of connection to tradition that a liberal education gives me. Within appropriate limits, reason is my bliss.
And tonight I try to find that feeling of connection and intimacy which I normally experience with the wonderful world of tradition as I chew my food.
I chew my food slowly. I chew my food with loving attention on the body. I chew my food and think about Shane.