Zen and the Art of Eating Tacos

by P. Braithwaite

I’m taking a four week course on Zen Buddhism at the Brooklyn Zen Center.

This in itself is awesomly interesting, but what’s really awesome is that Oaxaca Taqueria is right up the block and they have a 2 dollar taco happy hour that makes me so happy (and full and tired). For the last two weeks I’ve eaten tacos right before meditation and immediately felt horrible: will I fall asleep? Will I be gassy? Why am I such a chubster?

It hit me this morning, in an unrelated moment, that if I give myself permission, tacos can be a spiritual practice. This morning, during my meditation, I had my reoccurring thoughts of inadequacy: am I enough? Is he a liar? Am I loveable?

And each time a thought came up, I was able to identify them with the label “thought.” This labeling process took all of the energy and emotion out of my thoughts. A thought is only uncomfortable if we forget to keep space between it. Thoughts we invest in are uncomfortable.

It hit me and I realized, “holy shit! Awareness isn’t just something I do 20 minutes a day. This thought-labeling should happen all the time.”

Meditation, I’m learning, isn’t a self-contained thing. I meditate daily so that awareness can spill out and inform my entire life. A daily meditation practice is awesome, but pure unyielding awareness is my goal.

In our class we talk about body awareness: becoming attuned to where your body is, how it feels, and what sensations are occurring. So on Monday night (30 minutes before class), instead of being hard on myself, I ordered my two tacos and savored them. I tasted the cilantro and felt the texture of the shell. I felt the warmth in my hands and wiped the salsa from my chin.

Every moment is a pathway and every taco is a meditation…if you surrender.