Thursday, August 1, 2013

Buddhism and living mindfully (eating mindfully?)

This year has been a year of awakening for me. With health/fitness, yes - it's become the WAY I live, with no other option, I have very little fear that I will ever go back to the old ways. But also with something else - my spirit, the way I see and approach the world, how I love.

Losing my dad last year (suddenly, unexpectedly) was a wake up call. It traumatized me in a bunch of ways. I went over there, looking to walk his dog (now my dog) and get some advice as I had just had a huge argument with Chris. Instead, I found only his body - he was gone and had been for a while (I had been traveling that week and not spoken to him for a few days). He had so much left to do on this earth - peace to make, family to love, future grandchildren to meet, daughters to dance with at their wedding. And it was all gone in the blink of an eye.

It made me want to be and go and spread good in this world. To live as fully as possible every day. To regret NOTHING.

I used to read books/passages/quotes about how to live a good life, how to be truly happy, how to be a light in this world. I liked it all. But it never really sunk in.

I would like to think I'm a good person, and at the very least, a neutral person. I don't like to hurt people. I regret hurting people. I like to protect this earth and its creatures. But I have been full of jealousy and anger and all sorts of damaging things.

This year - it sank in.

I have to CHOOSE to implement good things every day. I have to stop myself from reacting to things impulsively. I have to choose love. I have to choose peace. I have to choose happiness.

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist monk and writer/speaker who seems to be the embodiment of the way I want to live. The world has been pushing his name on me all week. The last thing - someone mentioned they are spending a day at a retreat with him in September and I could go...

So I am going to this event, hosted at a monastery about 1.5 hours away from us. On the Sunday that starts our wedding week. I can't think of a more beautiful way to start our lives together than to spend a day focusing on mindfulness (so we can be better to ourselves, to each other and to the world around us):

There will be meditation and practice of mindfulness - I was surprised there would be mindful eating. Hadn't heard of that in the Buddhist sense. From their website:

Before eating, the bell will be invited for three sounds and we can enjoy breathing in and out while practicing the five contemplations.

This food is a gift of the whole universe,the earth, the sky and much hard work.
May we eat in mindfulness so as to be worthy to receive it.
May we transform our unskillful states of mind and learn to eat in moderation.
May we take only foods that nourish us and prevent illness.
May we accept this food to realize the path of understanding and love.

We should take our time as we eat, chewing each mouthful at least 30 times, until the food becomes liquefied. This aids the digestive process. Let us enjoy every morsel of our food and the presence of the Dharma brothers and sisters around us. Let us establish ourselves in the present moment, eating in such a way that solidity, joy and peace be possible during the time of eating.
Eating in silence, the food becomes real with our mindfulness and we are fully aware of its nourishment. In order to deepen our practice of mindful eating and support the peaceful atmosphere, we remain seated during this silent period. After twenty minutes of silent eating, two sounds of the bell will be invited. We may then start a mindful conversation with our friend or begin to get up from the table.

Upon finishing our meal, we take a few moments to notice that we have finished, our bowl is now empty and our hunger is satisfied. Gratitude fills us as we realize how fortunate we are to have had this nourishing food to eat, supporting us on the path of love and understanding.

I think this will be a good practice for me - a jarring and very different experience with food to help my struggles with food. I don't want to be battling food my entire life. I am interested to see what knowledge and insight this experience will give me.

I want to spend a day with people who choose love above all else. Healing my spirit and these injuries it has (sorrow, grief, anxiety, fear) will only help me in this life...

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