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According to Ayurveda, the process of digesting our food starts the moment one or all of your senses literally sense the presence of food.
We all know that our senses can deliver an emotional response. When you see a beautiful sunset, it can make you feel at peace and awe. When you hold and touch a newborn baby’s skin, it makes you feel miraculous. Catching a familiar scent can bring back a special memory, and tasting your favorite food has the power to make you feel happy and content.
We have all heard the saying, “you are what you eat,” but the Ayurvedic version says “what you see, you become.” Few of us realize that the smell, sight, taste, touch and sound of a meal is charging your food emotionally!
Five Senses, Five Fingers
In India, it is customary to eat with your fingers. It is understood that each finger represents one of the five senses, which correlate to the five elements. Eating with the fingers allows all the senses to be stimulated and involved in the process of eating.
Interestingly, the Sanskrit word for “emotion” and “taste” is the same. This word is rasa, and it is also the word for lymph. According to Ayurveda, we experience our food with each of the senses, and this multi-faceted experience delivers an emotional charge to our food as we eat it.
Since the food we eat provides the building blocks for all of our cells and tissues, you can think of these building blocks as having a different emotional charge based on the experience of all of the senses at the time of eating.
How to Eat
In Ayurveda, much emphasis is put on “how” we eat. In fact, taking time and relaxing while eating is considered much more important than when and what you eat. According to Ayurveda, the key to healthy eating is becoming aware of what we are eating through our senses.
Along with the experience of the senses, the mindset or emotional state at the time of eating will emotionally charge the food.
If one is eating in a relaxed, calm (sattvic) manner, the food will be positively charged. If the mind is over-stimulated, stressed, or distracted (rajasic) while eating, the food will be charged with stress and hurry. If the mind is depressed or withdrawn (tamasic) while eating, the food will be negatively charged.
This isn’t a metaphysical, purely energetic charge; the emotional charge from each of the five senses during a meal actually charges the subtle rasa, or nutrient essence, of the food. This subtle lymph fluid that is energetically charged at the time of eating by the senses is called sara.
These emotions are carried by sara and become the first digestive fluid, at which stage it is called ahara rasa, or nutrient lymph. Depending on the emotional charge, this rasa or lymph fluid will impact the populations of good and bad bugs in the intestinal tract. The more stressed and negatively-emotionally charged this nutrient fluid, the higher the population of the bad bugs, and the fewer good bugs proliferate. (1)
The Elements and Doshas of Each Sense
Each sense can have a specific effect on either vata, pitta, or kapha depending on the digestive emotional charge. If you are watching a violent movie during a meal, it will aggravate pitta (killing good bugs) via the sense of sight, which is governed by fire. If the sound of a barbecue is very pleasing to you, then that experience can balance vata (support good bugs) through the sense of sound and calm the body during the meal. Let’s take a look at how each sense impacts each body type:
Sense Element Dosha Affected
Sound Ether Vata
Touch Air Vata
Sight Fire Pitta
Taste Water Kapha/Pitta
Smell Earth Kapha
Create Your Experience
In the name of what you eat, see, taste, smell, hear and touch, you become, and building our cells and tissues from the best raw material possible, look beyond the physical makeup of what’s on your plate, and infuse your food with a positive emotional charge. It makes good sense to be present, relaxed and joyful when eating your meals.