I slid my fork under a bite-sized piece of English muffin and poached egg topped with Hollandaise sauce. The Meditation Bell rang and I paused, breathed, and smiled. After three slow breaths, Thay's voice gently reached through the silence. "In the egg, see the chicken. In the chicken, see the chicken feed. In the chicken feed, see the plant waving in the sunshine, green and dew-dropped in the early morning. See the sunshine, being gathered by the leaves and stored in the chicken feed. See that you are eating sunshine. See the shining smile on your friend's face. Feel the warmth of the sun in your own smile." The bell rang again and I paused, breathed, and smiled.
I looked down at my plate and saw 1 3/4 eggs and English muffins swimming in the sauce. My stomach turned slightly at the thought of eating all that sunshine. Why did I take so much food? How would I normally eat this much? The answers came to me in a rush. Ordinarily, I eat very fast and without really paying attention. I eat for more than myself. I eat for the people I left in Vietnam who cannot eat for themselves because they are dead. I eat too fast because I feel guilty and unworthy of enjoying my food and my life. I have tried, convicted, and sentenced myself completely outside my awareness but with deep-seated conviction and impact on my life. For twenty years, I have lived out this sentence in silence. Eating in silence with Thay and the sangha, and paying attention to what my stomach was trying to tell me, let me see the burden I've carried unnecessarily for so long.
I left it on my plate with the uneaten second egg and walked out into the garden to look at the flowers.