In Part 7 of this series on “The Four Foundations of Mindfulness,” I am continuing my commentary on the meditation practice called mindfulness of the body, which is the first of the practices from the “Four Foundations of Mindfulness.” As noted in earlier parts of this series, one need not be a Buddhist to study this Buddhist approach to meditation. The “Four Foundations of Mindfulness” is the English translation of the name of a Buddhist Sutta, the “Satipatthana Sutta.” These basic practices can easily be adapted to your current beliefs whether you are one who believes in God, one who does not, or one who is not sure what to believe.
Please read the earlier posts of this series, at least the previous one or two posts, to be aware of the principal themes and practices offered so far. To sum things up, for those who may be just coming to this blog series, the practices discussed in this series are, “The Four Foundations of Mindfulness.” There is another way to say this, that may be a bit easier to understand. That is to refer to these practices as “The Four Basic Practices of Mindful Awareness.”
1) You can observe the sensations of the body.
2) You can observe the general mood tone of the moment
3) You can observe thoughts and images of the mind.
4) You can observe the general state of mind in the moment, or as I described above, the general tone of consciousness.
In the past few weeks I have written about various ways to practice mindful awareness of the body. Here is another: to practice mindful awareness of your diet and nutrition and the sensations of eating.
Mindful awareness of diet and nutrition and the sensations of eating.
Being mindful of the food you eat, and the sensations caused in the body by the food you eat, and the beverages you drink is not specifically referenced in the Satipatthana Sutta. But it is a reasonable development of practice that is fully consistent with the teachings of this Sutta.
What are you eating?
Is it healthy food grown by organic methods? Or is the food grown on huge corporate farms with many different kinds of chemical fertilizers and pesticides?
Are you eating foods with lots of sugar, white flour, salt, or grease?
Are you eating foods with excessive amounts of cholesterol or other deleterious fats?
As you engage this practice, you can observe simply and clearly:
There is the experience of moving your arm to move the fork or spoon or knife.
There is the experience of opening our mouth and the sensations of the food impacting the taste buds of the tongue and the sensors of smell in the nose. There is the texture of the food and the sense as to whether it is salty, sweet, bland, or delicately or highly seasoned. There are the sensations of the teeth and mouth and jaw as you chew your food. There are the sensations in your throat as you swallow your food and as it passes down your throat. There are the sensations of whether you have eaten too much or not enough. There are the sensations of being bloated or “stuffed” if you have eaten too much, and those of digestion or indigestion. If you have eaten a lot of sugar or white flour, there is the sensation of the calories being quickly released in the blood stream, causing a mild or pronounced sugar buzz. Similar kinds of sensations are experienced if you have consumed too much salt.
There are the sensations of various beverages you consume, especially if the beverages are caffeinated or alcohol-based.
There are many, many sensations in the body associated with eating and the after effects of eating what you have eaten or drunk.
There is also this discernment. Generally it is suggested people do their meditations in the morning before breakfast and in the evening before dinner. For those who wish to, and have the time, they can also have a meditation session before the noon time meal. This way the digestive tract is as light and clear as good health will allow. Have you snacked in between meals so that the digestive tract is still clogged? Have you eaten foods or consumed beverages that leave your mind hazy and sluggish or light and clear and …smooth? What is the difference in your meditations when you have waited a suitable time since you last ate as compared with when you have eaten in the past hour or two? What are the differences in your mind state after you have eaten lots of greasy animal protein, and lots of sugar, white flour or salt as compared with the times when you have eaten light vegetarian fare or lean animal protein?
How does what you eat and when you eat affect your meditation experience?
Observing the sensations of the body while eating leads very naturally to the mindful awareness of feelings which is the second of “The Four Foundations of Mindfulness.” After all, as we eat, for many of us, certainly for me, I am evaluating if the food is satisfying or unsatisfying.
And again, the mindful awareness of feelings in Theravada Buddhist terms is a bit different from what we may think of in modern times when we speak of feelings. For the Theravada Buddhist authors of the Satipatthana Sutta, mindfulness of feelings is a discernment of the very basic and very general emotional mood tone of the moment. The observation and discernment is this: “Are the current experiences satisfying, unsatisfying, or neutral?”
As simple as these questions seem, there is a lot more to be gained from this discernment of satisfaction or dissatisfaction of the various moments and experiences of our lives than may be apparent at first glance.
Once again the mindful awareness of feelings is the second of “The Four Foundations of Mindfulness.”
If you are wondering whether all these careful and detailed observations of sensations, feelings, thoughts, and consciousness are actually of any benefit, please be patient.
In due course, the benefits will be made clear. In due course, you will find the benefits will be very, very clear.