Take a strawberry into your hand. Notice the brilliant color, the sweet aroma, the texture of its seeds. Consider these as you sink your thumbnail into the skin of the strawberry… the membrane that so carefully holds the precious juice inside. Notice the burst of aroma and the spray of juice. Feel the sweet, sticky coolness of the juice touching your fingers as you bring the berry to your mouth… feel the saliva glands in your mouth respond in anticipation.
Think for a moment about holding a piece of watermelon, or cooking your favorite meal. See yourself taking a bite and imagine the tastes exploding and filling your mouth, while the juice trickles across your lips. As you prepare your meal, are you beginning to hunger for the savory and enticing sensations your taste buds will soon enjoy?
In the previous two articles, I’ve introduced you to the sense of smell and touch as inlets of spiritual knowledge – to experiencing God. Now I open to an even more profound communication through the spiritual sense of taste. Many know the Psalmist used this very word to describe the intense exultation in knowing Spirit, “O taste and see the goodness of God!” Think of all the words we have to describe “taste” – amazing, appetizing, delightful, enticing, exquisite, divine, luscious, delicious, sweet, savory, mouth-watering, finger-licking, delectable, yummy, scrumptious, lip smacking, distinctive, spicy… to name a FEW. Yet how often do we use those same words to describe an experience of God?
Taste is perhaps the most intimate of the mystical experiences, in which we receive the kiss of the divine in our inmost being. Through the sweet kiss of Spirit, the universe is poured into our deepest recesses. Through that kiss we imbibe the light, the life and the unconditional and infinite love, which is the ultimate source of creation.
Taste is a way in which the presence of God, Spirit, the Divine, whatever you call it, becomes a reality. For Catholics and some Protestants, it can be known sacramentally through the bread and wine of communion, but for others it’s the coffee and donuts or casserole served during fellowship time at church functions. In other faith traditions it is the Charoset at the Passover Seder, perhaps simply a sweet date eaten at the Eid meal to break Ramadan, or the Hindu sacred food of the Devas, ghee.
The ultimate gift of divine union, is symbolized by the sense of taste in which food and drink are consumed and become part of us. It’s one thing to smell or touch something, it is altogether another thing to be penetrated by Spirit at such a deep level. When we eat and drink, we take nourishment into our bodies and it literally becomes part of us. We transform it into our own being and our own flesh, thereby making it a part of our ordinary consciousness.
The more we desire to taste our favorite treats, the more we activate an unbridled thirst for the food we love. We begin to anticipate the pleasure we will experience by slowing down and allowing our mouth to possess the sensations. Go back to the first paragraph again, and savor the strawberry – the key though is to slow down. Too often we move through eating, drinking, and tasting, in quick, unconscious and rote ways. And I believe we do this too in our yearning to know God.
Just as the external senses are mechanisms for experiencing and describing my human life, the spiritual senses open me to the awareness of a divine world. While the five senses can never adequately describe or be a vehicle for encountering what is invisible, behind each awakened sense is an invitation for me to consent to a deeper knowing of my spiritual world – my wholeness. And my R.S.V.P. to that invitation is the activity of prayer. Prayer, in whatever form works for you: the silence, ritual dance, mantras, or a cup of coffee with a loved one, is tasting Spirit with the heart.
When I rest in the stillness of prayer, when I rest in my heart and am no longer seeking anything, I begin to taste what I have been looking for. I begin to know the sweet nectar of profound peace and silence. Prayer is consenting to the presence and activity of God in and as me. Just like the food and drink that I take in and literally make a part of myself, delightfully tasting it as it transforms me, so too does prayer infuse me with Spirit in the same way – making the extraordinary an ordinary part of my everyday life.
Return to the strawberry… consider all that came together in the culmination of the moment you bite into the fruit. Sense the pressure of your teeth on the skin and notice its resistance and surrender. Finally, the juices and flesh begin to fill your mouth and you swallow – the cosmos.
The divine presence infuses all its “flavors” whenever I consciously choose to slow down and pray. Yet it also happens when people gather to remember they belong with and to each other. We taste Spirit wherever and however we gather to connect, listen and honor each other as well as the ever-present Divine. In other words, taste symbolizes the most intimate experience of knowing the divine – here in our human form. Only then is our whole being rooted in God.
Reflections this week:
- What are some tastes that you have experienced in the last few days? How would you describe them?
- Can you describe the experience of God in similar ways? As appetizing, delightful, luscious, delicious, sweet, mouth-watering, yummy, scrumptious, lip smacking, or spicy? Why or why not?
- What spiritual cravings do you have? How do you taste the goodness of God?
- What flavors do you experience in your faith community?
- Notice the words you use when talking with others? What do your words taste like? Sweet or bitter?
With every deep breath in today, let it be a reminder of being more open and alive, to knowing God as real, authentic and attentive.