This page develops Mindfulness of Breathing and Smelling from Chapter One.

The Science

Since the 1990s Western specialists mostly agree on five categories to define the different tastes (sweet, bitter, sour, salty and umami), but there are many differing opinions.

There is also disagreement about where we taste, some experts say only the tongue can taste, and the roof of the mouth has no taste receptors – but let's forget the science it's the felt-reality which is important for our feelings.

Personal Experience

I experience a clear sense of different tastes on my lips, on top of and underneath my tongue, between the teeth and lips, the sides and roof of my mouth, the throat and down the central area of my body to the stomach.

In fact, there is a sense of taste throughout the entire body. Food and drink overpower our own body taste, but they enhance our ability to realise that we have a sense of taste throughout the entire body.

After eating or drinking, there will be different qualities of this taste all over the mouth and down the digestive canal to the stomach. After a rich meal i can still feel the taste of that meal for several hours all over my body. If science argues that this is a memory or an illusion – then animals would also have such memories and illusions.

Try eating raw tumeric (with lots of water because it dehydrates), feel it just under your skin for hours afterwards. Ginger or Curry have a similar effect.

Tasting Yourself

The taste of our own bodies from the inside is a 'constant' in our self-identity, and yet we are out of touch with it.

Our taste of ourselves is part of our basic feeling of being alive and our self identity, but it's so taken for granted we never even think about it.

Every day, in the modern world we eat such a rich variety of enhanced foods, the taste of our own body is bland by comparison, it's as though there's nothing there to taste. The taste of our own body has become boring – imagine this condition which we accept as normal: we are bored with the taste of our own bodies!

To start to get a feeling for this self-taste, we need to explore the contrasts between the different taste areas in the mouth.

Use the tip of your tongue, and taste at the back on the soft palate, then up on the roof of the mouth, then at the front behind the teeth, then underneath the tongue, then at both sides, notice the similarities and the contrasts. Then taste at the front between the lips and the teeth, up and down and both sides, and then just feel the taste of your lips (if you lick your lips it disturbs the natural taste).

The very sensitive tip of your tongue will help to clarify the contrasts, but now, without your tongue, take a minute to sense those tastes directly. Take an extra moment to notice there are two particularly flavourful areas at the sides, right back between the jaw bones.

I feel a sense of taste, not just in my mouth and digestive canal but all over my body... i try to taste it, (i imagine a big tongue tasting me inside).

Follow these tastes as far as you can down your throat and down the digestive canal to the stomach and then spread the awareness through this middle area, and stretch it as far as you can. Experiment, for example, notice that the thighs taste different to the lungs.

I notice a variety of different tastes in the mouth. They are all very vague and faint but, sweet, salty, nutty, rich like cooked meat, even fruity like prunes or rhubarb, and watery, and the lips are faintly like strawberries. In the body i notice particularly that bony areas feel salty, compared to fleshy areas being sweet. (I don't find any lemon, peppermint, or fish, tastes inside my body.)

As so often on the subject of inner-body awareness, there are many questions which i would like children to clarify. We need them to teach us. What is the natural approach to body-taste awareness?

I would love parents to ask their four to ten-year-olds year olds : "you know that taste in your mouth, how does it feel in your cheeks, under the tongue, on the roof of your mouth and on your lips? What does it taste like in the different areas, is it sweet or salty or like nuts – and can you taste anything in your neck, or in your body?" – and on 'this picture of the mouth', draw in which colours it tastes like.

Tasting and Relaxing

I found out quite quickly that i have no sense of taste in areas of my mouth which are tense – tasting is a very effective way of increasing the sensitivity and relaxing such areas.

This applies also to the body. Areas which are tense have no sense of taste. We can relax our body by tasting it.

Beginners Tasting Games

If you want fun, you will need a ripe lemon, an onion, a knife and plate, soy sauce, a small glass of southern comfort or a similar sweet liqueur, a small unsweetened bitter expresso, and a cup of tea, water, or whatever is your habitual drink.

Taste just a few drops of strong ripe lemon juice, swirl it around, gargle, feel how in different places it's different strengths. The sensation on the roof of the mouth may be faint, but the taste is clear on the lips, between lips and gums, all around the sides, under the tongue, naturally the tongue itself, and back all the way to the throat.

Then swallow just a little drop, feel it in the throat, and down along inside the spine. Then do you notice how after a minute, a faint sense of this taste spreads into the cheek bones, jaw, the front and sides of your neck – (maybe something like an optical illusion, but that's how it feels).

With the lemon taste still in your mouth, drink a little bitter expresso, swirl it round your mouth, notice the effect, notice the contrasts. And then take a sip of southern comfort and notice the contrasts again. You will recognise that you have a sense of taste all over your mouth, including the roof of your mouth, your throat, neck and digestive canal.

If you're still unsure that the entire mouth can sense taste, put a little soy sauce on a finger, and without touching the tongue, spread it on just one side of the roof of your mouth, (or anywhere else you may feel is numb) notice the contrasts. Also, remember how toothpaste often gives a strong experience of minty freshness all over the mouth.

Please continue with Savouring Scents

Back to Chapter Six : Smelling and Tasting Exercises
Back to THE SENSE OF IT ALL Priority Pages