Dear Still Water Friends,
The Fifth Mindfulness Training
Thursday, August 13, 2009
This Thursday we will recite the five wonderful mindfulness trainings, and spend some time discussing the fifth training on mindful consumption.
The fifth training is about refraining from consuming toxins. This means, among other things, that we try not to consume alcohol, and try to eat only foods that preserve well-being in our bodies. One of the most difficult aspects of this practice, for me, is consuming mindfully among friends and family, without making myself seem either odd or “holier-than-thou” because of my choices.
Making healthy consumption choices when those around me are making different choices, can cause me to feel less connected to the group. Eating and drinking with friends and family is an ancient way of socializing, and when I choose not to drink alcohol or resist binging on dessert or foods that contain ‘toxins” when everyone else is doing it, I sometimes feel isolated. Perhaps you have felt this inner conflict as well?
In Questions from the Heart, Thich Nhat Hanh describes the way that the monks and nuns of Plum Village maintain their mindful consumption:
When you’re supported by a loving community, you’ll be able to cultivate new habits. Mindfulness helps us recognize our habits. We say, “Hello, my habit, I know you are here, pushing me to go to the kitchen and open the refrigerator.” When you practice alone, it’s difficult. The temptation can be stronger than your mindfulness. When mindfulness is a collective energy, it’s much stronger.
So if we lived in a sangha, and socialized only with mindfulness practitioners, it would be a whole lot easier. What can we do when many of our loved ones don’t practice in the same way?
So some questions to think about are: How can we practice this training and at the same time create and maintain loving community? How can we make our own clear and healthy choices without ditching our alcohol-drinking and toxin-eating friends and family? How can we make non-toxic choices without making ourselves socially separate from those we care about?
I look forward to sharing how our practices support our growing ability to consume mindfully this Thursday evening.
Fifth Mindfulness Training
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 ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being, and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films, and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society, and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger, and confusion in myself and in society by practicing a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society.