I had lunch the other day at bliss pure foods, a restaurant on the kora, which is the area that surrounds the stupa. It was a remarkable experience and I want to share it with you.
What “healthy” means is a big debate in the United States. Like everything else, it seems now, there are limitless opinions on what healthy eating is and polarized debate surrounds the conversation. I want to sidestep all that and just throw out two ideas I’ve had: A healthy meal will make you feel immediately better than you did before. Your health and general experience of life will gradually improve if you are eating healthy. I’ve wondered before, if we just used that criteria, instead of jumping on whatever fad appeals to our intellect, maybe we would all be a little more healthy and happy in general.
Anyway, I’ve been lucky to have been exposed to some beautiful food paradigms. I’ve had food “experiences,” if you will, that were significant in inspiring me to eat better and learn what that means. This meal at Bliss brought me immediately back to some of those experiences.
It’s so interesting how I forget. I have an experience, change my behavior, then slowly go back to the old behavior. I’m not aware of it, so I don’t notice the slow drift back. In the case of food, I thought I was eating fairly healthy, but this meal radically altered that perception.
I order the Shojin set meal. It’s a Japanese style meal that found expression in Buddhist monasteries. The first thing I noticed when it was served to me was how small the portions were. I thought, this is so little, am I being ripped off here? Afterward, I was a little embarrassed at that thought. I mean, there was one bite of cooked greens. But there were 12 different items so it worked out. The variety was incredible. So many different flavors, and everything in the box exquisitely done. It was really a treat. I also really appreciate that they took the time to explain how they made each dish, doing everything in the highest possible way.
The Crux of this story is after I left. I started walking back to school and had a very strange feeling. I felt light, kind of blissful, relaxed, expansive. It’s difficult to describe. People talk about being blissed out and I don’t know what that means. But this feeling was definitely on the blissful side of things. And it stayed with me for a while. I thought, this is how one should feel when they eat. This is how I should cook. It was very inspiring.
An hour or so later, I had chai, black tea with milk and sugar. Whoa, I immediately felt strange, somewhat irritated, generally not great. And that stayed with me for a while. Lunch had set a perceptual, feeling based mark that made the experience of tea and sugar that much more intense. I thought to myself, I probably feel like this all the time, with all of the coffee I drink and the generally mindless way I cook and eat. I’d really like to change that.
Buddhists teach three steps to learning. You hear some new knowledge; then you reflect on it and analyze every possible permutation; then you cultivate it in your life so that it becomes a habit, something that is a part of you without having to think about it. This paradigm had been so helpful to me. Generally, what I do is hear something, then reflect on it very partially according to my biases, then blurt out whatever opinion I’ve formed.
In regard to food, I aspire to not let these food experiences go to waste. Rather, I hope to put them into practice, see what works and doesn’t work, analyze my short and long term experiences, and then make healthy eating a habit.
Oh, the best part. The meal cost $5.
Here’s a video review of the restaurant if you want to see some nice pictures of the kora and the restaurant.