Mindful Consumption Nourishes Our Happiness

Mindful Consumption Nourishes Our Happiness

Discussion date: Thu, Dec 14, 2023 at our weekly Thursday evening practice

Dear Still Water Friends,

In our Dharma sharing this Thursday evening we will focus on the Fifth Mindfulness 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 websites, 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.

In this training, Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) reminds us that mindfulness is essential to a happy life. He encourages us to move away from unmindful consumption and to practice continuous awareness and mindfulness in our daily lives. We are encouraged to notice what we eat, drink, and subject our bodies to. We can ask: What movies and shows do I watch? What do I listen to, read, think, and dwell on? What motivates and drives me?

Thay writes in The Mindfulness Survival Kit:

The Fifth Mindfulness Training is about mindful consumption and health. This includes the practice of dwelling happily and peacefully in the present moment. The Buddha has said that nothing can survive without food. This means that our health, our happiness, our love, our peace as well as our anger, depression, and despair need food to continue to survive. This is why we have to consume in a way that supports good health of body and mind. …

Sense impression is another kind of food we eat everyday. Sensory impressions are everything we take in through our senses: eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind. Ads on billboards, conversations we overhear or take part in, videos we watch, and texts that we receive—all these things penetrate into us, whether we want them to or not.

If we want good health of body and mind, we need to consume wholesome nutriments. I remember that many years ago I consumed, on a daily basis, a steady diet of television crime shows. I was using these shows as a distraction, to escape the discomfort and dissatisfaction that was in my life. I was not conscious that I was actually feeding my anxiety and despair. I wanted to be happy but was caught in a web of consumption. Thay speaks to this confusion in The Mindfulness Survival Kit:

The Fifth Mindfulness Training is about happiness. We consume because we want to be happy. But consumption is not true happiness. People consume in order to cover up their suffering. Many people pour themselves a glass of alcohol or open the refrigerator to take something to eat or drink in order to help them forget their suffering, their difficulties, their loneliness, or their weariness with life. This is something peculiar to our modern society.

Happiness is not something that we have to look for and find somewhere else. Returning to the present moment, we are in touch with the wonders of life inside and around us. With the help of our mindful breathing and mindful steps, we can produce happiness straightaway. When we have mindfulness, concentration, and insight we become very rich people who are able to produce much happiness for ourselves and others; we don’t need to run after anything anymore.

It is a huge relief that I do not have to constantly search for happiness, that it is no longer an elusive treasure. I can come back to the present moment at any time and experience joy and touch the wonder of being alive. I experienced such a moment tonight as I was feeding my cats. I recognized I was feeling resentful of and impatient with this repetitive chore. Suddenly I glanced outside and saw the beautiful sky at sunset. The stripes of pink and blue behind the bare trees were exquisite. I felt warm joy and gratitude and found I was smiling.

Recently I have become more aware of the energy of love that permeates the Five Mindfulness Trainings. They are a gift of love that is showing us the way to live our life with more peace, ease, and joy. They are also a powerful call to practice love toward ourselves and the world. When I am mindful of what I consume and what surrounds me, I am helping to create the best possible outcome for myself and all creation. My actions become my gift to those around me and help me to live in peace and loving-kindness.

I invite you to consider these questions for our Dharma sharing:

  • What habits of consumption would you like to change?
  • What healthy habits of consumption have you developed?
  • Do you recall a particular time when you felt the joy of being alive?

I hope you can join us. We are nourished by the energy of being together in sangha, and I look forward to hearing your insights and reflections.

Below are an excerpt from Thay on mindful eating and Still Water’s version of the Five Contemplations Before a Meal.


Linda Jackson

An excerpt from The Mindfulness Survival Kit: Five Essential Practices by Thich Nhat Hanh

When we eat a meal, there are two objects of our mindfulness: the food and the people who are there with us during the meal. Practicing in this way we are sure to find better and better ways of consuming food without exploiting our Earth and other living beings. Before eating a meal you can read, either aloud or to yourself, the Five Contemplations. Of course we don’t just read the Contemplations but we meditate on the words throughout the meal.

Still Water Version of the Five Contemplations Before a Meal

in: Dharma Topics
Discussion Date: Thu, Dec 14, 2023


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