Dear Still Water Friends,
This Thursday, we’ll recite the Five Mindfulness trainings and focus on the fifth, which focuses on mindful eating, drinking and consuming.
Consumption is important, in part, because it’s a direct link to our inner world. I find myself wanting coffee mid-morning at work. Recognizing the energy to get up from my desk and head for the door, mindfulness lets me ask what’s happening. Am I simply thirsty? Do I want the taste of the coffee? Do I enjoy seeing the nice people at the coffee shop? Am I actually not thirsty and just have the habit to have coffee mid-morning? Do I just need to stretch my legs? Am I avoiding something? All of the above?
In that moment of awareness, I have a singular moment of freedom—the freedom to stop and examine my own desires, motivations and intentions and, therefore, to both really see the present and in the process to help form the future.
The trainings encourage us to make healthful decisions in those moments of presence because we do have a choice. If we don’t notice or take that moment, we’ll have another chance right around the corner. Mindfulness isn’t now or never; it’s now or later with consequences. The trainings help remind us to be present and make choices that lead to better consequences for ourselves and our community.
This Thursday, we’ll recite all five trainings, and discuss how we meet the fifth training. I hope you can join us.
The Fifth Training: Nourishment and Healing
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming.
I will practice looking deeply into how I consume the Four Kinds of Nutriments, namely edible foods, sense impressions, volition, and consciousness. I am determined not to gamble, or to use alcohol, drugs, or any other products which contain toxins, such as certain web sites, electronic games, TV programs, films, magazines, books, and conversations. I will practice coming back to the present moment to be in touch with the refreshing, healing and nourishing elements in me and around me, not letting regrets and sorrow drag me back into the past nor letting anxieties, fear, or craving pull me out of the present moment. I am determined not to try to cover up loneliness, anxiety, or other suffering by losing myself in consumption. I will contemplate interbeing and consume in a way that preserves peace, joy, and well-being in my body and consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family, my society and the Earth.
Thich Nhat Hahn, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching
If your practice does not bring you joy, you are not practicing correctly. The Buddha asked the monk Sona, “Is it true that before you became a monk you were a musician?” Sona replied that it was so. The Buddha asked,
“What happens if the string of your instrument is too loose?”
“When you pluck it, there will be no sound,” Sona replied.
“What happens when the string is too taut?”
“It will break.”
“The practice of the Way is the same,” the Buddha said. “Maintain your health. Be joyful. Do not force yourself to do things you cannot do.” We need to know our physical and psychological limits. We shouldn’t force ourselves to do ascetic practices or lose ourselves in sensual pleasures. Right Diligence lies in the Middle Way, between the extremes of austerity and sensual indulgence.