It's not only important what we eat, but how we eat is of equal if not more importance. Our relationship with our plate, our emotional state can turn your plate of greens from 'healthy' to 'unhealthy' in a matter of seconds. If we are rushing down our meals, in a state of panic, anxiousness, fear, or absent mindedness we mayswell be eating a plate of macca's, as our gatekeeper minds can void your body of all the nutrients in the world if it too is not healthy.
As most of you know I recently attended a 10 day Vipassana silent meditation retreat. For those who are not familiar with Vipassana, let me explain ~ Vipassana meditation is a rational method for purifying the mind of the mental factors that cause distress and pain. This simple technique does not invoke the help of a god, spirit or any other external power, but relies on ones own efforts. The 10 day Vipassana program is a rigorous program that allows each student to observe oneself in deep meditation, facing many of our attachments and aversions ~ which as Buddha describes is the cause of all our misery and sufferings. Vipassana meditation gradually purifies the mind, eliminating all forms of attachment. As attachment is cut away, desire and delusion are gradually diluted.
The 10 days are comprised of meditation, meditation and more meditation. No talking is allowed between students, no eye contact, not even smiling. It is designed in that each student is completely with them self. No books are allowed, no music, yoga is not even recommended to practice while on retreat. Your quest is to stay present with what is in each moment, with literally NO distractions from the external world ~ in order to really go deep within yourself. It is explained by Goenka, the current Vipassana teacher as a deep operation of your deep unconscious mind.
So how does Vipassana help with mindful eating and relationship with food? Among the many other benefits of this meditation technique, Vipassana allows one to witness themselves in complete presence. To see the reality of each and every moment for what it is by working with the sensations of the body, and neither reacting positively or negatively to pleasant or unpleasant realities. The meals served on retreat are amazing vegetarian meals, which is probably the only 'highlight' of your day. Apart from this your meditating 10 hours of your day, which can be confronting, painful and arduous to say the least; all in good intention though.
So how does 10 days of silence and meditation help mindful eating?
~ firstly, you aren't distracted, by anything when your eating. You aren't immersed in a TV show, or a conversation with your friends. It can get kinda awkward just staring into the distance looking like a zombie eating, so most of the time I would close my eyes. This allowed me to really go deep into my body and feel exactly how full my belly was. Often I would leave leftovers on my plate, because I felt completely that my body had had enough.
~ secondly, the complete presence allows each and every flavour and sensation to be experienced. The Vipassana meditation technique works on bodily sensations at the physical level. So when it came to eating ~ every single flavour was heightened and recognized in complete presence of the act of consuming each meal. This allowed for a greater 'satisfaction' of each meal, and not that urge to 'want more' because when we eat unconsciously, we don't even realise what we are eating and are left feeling still 'empty' inside and craving more.
~ thirdly, no craving or aversions. Remaining equanemous. The teaching of Vipassana emphasises remaining equanemous, so being in complete balance. Which translates to not reacting negatively bad experiences or sensations, and also not clinging or attaching onto pleasant experiences or sensations. Just remaining the observer always of 'what is' and in perfect equanimity. So when you experience a pleasant taste you are able to witness and really appreciate the taste sensation, without clinging onto the pleasant taste and therefore craving for more.
~ fourth, eating slowly. Because you have all the time in the world to eat your meals on Vipassana (literally an hour per meal), and there is not much else to do; you can really eat slowly in order to assist with digestion and presence at the dining table. I remember counting 30-40 chews each mouthful, wow I felt as though I could taste every single flavour in each mouthful.
~ fifth, observing what is within. Because there are absolutely no external distractions from one self, you are completely with yourself and very in tune and observant of where you are at emotionally. It is never a good idea to eat when we are experiencing anger, fear, or frustrations, as this can completely retard your digestion and create even the healthiest meal into a toxic storm. So by being completely aware of ones emotional state, can dictate whether we eat or not. Some days I would by pass the dinner meal as I had had a huge emotional release and was feeling lots of anger so I intuitively knew not to eat in that mind frame.
So how to implement these techniques in your daily life?
Life on the outside world can be hectic. Distractions are naturally all around us. But by really practising this meditation technique intensively, we can slowly implement such learning's into our daily lives. I know personally I try and maintain mindful eating always, but sometimes life arduousness can sneakily get in my way. It's not to be seen as a bad thing, it just is. But the more we can be aware of when we are not mindfully eating, the greater chance we have at practising mindful eating. It all starts with awareness. Even just implementing one of the learning's like turning off all distractions while you eat can make a world of difference to your mindfulness of meals. Start with small steps to make big changes, and just be gentle on yourself.
If you don't particularly feel drawn to go sit for 10 days in silent meditation to learn mindful eating, do not worry. I have some stellar tips and advice from my own personal journey on how to practice mindful eating in my eBook The Goddess Diet, which you can pick up a copy HERE.
If you are in fact interested in sitting a Vipassana course, feel free to check out the international website to find a centre near you, by clicking HERE.
Have you sat Vipassana? What were some of your experiences and insights? Feel free to share below by leaving a comment...
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