An aspect of the practice of flavor play that is quite important is the final part when we begin to speak about our experiences, though it may be subtly obvious as to why this is the case. While we are speaking about our experiences of flavors, we are developing our capacity to communicate. Flavor play develops an increasing sensitivity to subtleties, and this encourages more nuanced responsiveness. If you are attending to flavors as you are bringing the right balance of flavors and mouthfeel to a herb sauce you are more capable of finding such balance. This is the opposite of putting salt and pepper on the plate of food that just arrived before you, before even tasting it. With this attentiveness comes the capacity to be appropriately responsive. What is not so obvious is how this relevant to communicating with others.
If you are attentive and more response-able, you are also more capable of speaking from the subtleties of the interpersonal flavors of the person or people you are engaged with more responsibly. To follow my analogy of salt and pepper, think of a situation with someone as a plate of food before you. You are not so effective if you engage most situations by applying the usual salt and pepper on the situation without tasting it first, or by always saying salty or peppery things. There is a lack of awareness of the subtleties of the interpersonal dynamics. Words are like spices we add to the situation.
Yet practicing a new way with words can be a scary thing with people or in situations that are important to you. We can take a cue from Buddhist philosophy, that suggests words are a primary way of relating, and our relationships are saturated with hopes and fears, however subtle they may be. A popular way that people learn a new way with words is psychotherapy. The relationship with the therapist is the opportunity for you to learn to redescribe your stories that you narrate your life with. But this capacity does not stop here, you take it on the road of life. Similarly, the pop motivational speaker Tony Robins speaks of a transformational vocabulary, where you “change your words, change your life.” Both of these example suggest that what we say is not necessarily as relevant as how we say it.
People and situations have “flavors,” as my teacher Julie Henderson of Zapchen Somatics likes to say. Like our relationships, flavors are often difficult to describe and speak about. The difference is, for many, that speaking about our experiences of flavors is not so loaded and important emotionally that we find it a little easier to speak about flavors than our marriage. Of course those troubled by the symptoms that have come to be described as “eating disorders” may not find this so easy, though, in a preliminary way, it seems the flavor play practice may have beneficial fruits here. This is a research project I am very interested in. I invite therapist, psychologists, dietitians, or others professionally interested to participate.
Again, both flavors and relationships or interpersonal situations are often difficult to speak about. Yet the how, the way of communicating about the experiences of both flavors and feelings is similar—we are not talking about static objects, what the philosopher Jean-Luc Marion describes as common or poor phenomena. Mass produced objects are common phenomena and we often treat our experiences as we are having another MacDonald’s hamburger or a new bar of soap, each exactly like the previous ones we have experienced. The other point Marion makes it that we often have a poverty-attitude towards experience, experiencing things poorly. This tendency is flavored by our hopes and fears. With a poverty mentality towards phenomena, we only notice things that we can easily “call it as I see it,” as when we make hasty generalizations or stereotypes, when I close myself off to experience by categorizing (literally, publicly accusing) someone of being stupid or an expert, or when I say “honey, you are doing that again.” When we experience phenomena poorly by naming it prematurely, thereafter we simply experience the word and the story we are telling ourselves, we close off the possibility of experiencing the different fruitful possibilities of that particular situation.
This final part of the flavor play practice enables us to develop a greeter, yet humble capacity to communicate. Humble here means without a poverty attitude towards experience, we are more humble rather than accusatory in our ways with words. Then we can take this capacity on the road of life with us. As I suggested earlier, we can develop this capacity in a situation not so fraught with hope and fear, while playing with your food. I invite you to play with your food and play with your words. Please share your experiences with us at our virtual table: an online discussion for companions of flavor play.