Mindful Eating

07/07/2016

Mindfulness is a topic of much modern research, and many in the West seek to reap its many benefits.  What is mindfulness?  In summary, mindfulness is a deep state of awareness of one’s bodily experiences, grounding the self in the present moment.  Since the body can only be here and now, whereas the mind can be anywhere at any time, the practice of mindfulness normally involves intense focus on the experiences of the senses–vision, hearing, touch, taste, and smell.  The objective of this practice is to attain a state of nonjudgmental observance, or complete acknowledgement and acceptance of one’s experiences.  The idea is that by paying close attention to one’s feelings, one can become less inclined to react to them thoughtlessly and more inclined to respond to them in a controlled, reasoned way.

Mindfulness as a tool can have many benefits.  It helps us live more authentic, peaceful lives.  It helps us remove ourselves from stress and handle pressure better.  It helps us come to terms with our emotions, rather than suppressing them and waiting to lash out.  It can increase our productivity by enabling us to focus our minds on only the task at hand.  If you’re playing an instrument, a variation of mindfulness that involves concentration only on sound can enhance your musicality.  Mindfulness has also been proven to prevent overeating and can play a major role in weight loss.

For me, the idea of mindful eating used to be ideologically tricky.  I used to be hesitant about it because it meant immersing yourself in bodily experience, which is unsuitable for detachment from the senses, advocated by the Bhagavad Gita for transcending the body and experiencing unity with others.  It seems that deep awareness of the taste, texture, temperature, and smell of food could only fuel any binding attachments to it, so I almost associated yoga with detached, nonindulgent, even mindless eating.  I thought that just like people try to ignore what they’re hearing when they don’t like the ideas being spoken, the truly detached should ignore sensory input while eating.

Now I’ve come to realize that mindfulness is compatible with detachment; it’s awareness free from judgement, and it doesn’t have to be indulgent.  Paying close attention to one’s experiences has nothing to do with forming opinions on them, and, in fact, doing so can allow us to better be at peace with them.  One can still transcend the target of mindfulness by acting as a witness to, not a subject of, experience.

Grudges

07/07/2016

People aren’t always nice.  Even when they don’t have malicious intent, they can hurt us just by being inconsiderate, like when they’re not there for you when you seek their support, or when they dismiss your opinions and don’t take you seriously.  Sometimes people live in their own bubbles.  Perhaps everyone lives in a bubble, and only the size of the bubble varies from person to person.  Whenever someone is stuck in a bubble, someone else’s feelings are bound to be hurt.  When you’ve known people for a longer time and you begin to get a clearer image of who they are, the nature of that bubble often emerges.

In my view, when feelings do get hurt, there are three types of responses.  One of them involves acting on the hurt feelings, and the other two occur internally.  In my opinion, the first, vengeance, demonstrates the lowest level of maturity and is typical of those who are least in touch with their conscience.  The other two are different mental reactions regarding the one who inflicted the damage: forgiveness and holding grudges.

Keeping negative memories of the past actions of others is normally called holding grudges.  The term “grudge” implies so much negativity, and society generally advises against such sentiment.  But if we put aside the past, won’t we repeat the patterns of thought or action that set us up for pain in the first place?  Don’t we have to remember the past to escape that cycle and move forward?  Doesn’t that require us to actively recall the past damages others have inflicted on us?

In contrast, forgiveness generally has a positive connotation.  But in the process of loosening our emotional dependence on those who have hurt us, of moving forward with your perception of someone, it seems any inclination to forgive would only be only an obstruction of progress.  In this case, does holding grudges help?  Without the grudges, without an attitude of skepticism, wouldn’t we set ourselves up to fall in the trap of emotional dependence once again?

On the other hand, maybe grudges aren’t necessary to have a better understanding of your relationship with someone.  Maybe moving forward involves context and realism, whereas grudges involve personal dislike or ill will.  Having a more realistic image of someone isn’t necessarily being judgmental; it’s just being analytical.  If people break your trust or prove a lack of concern for your wellbeing, you don’t necessarily have to resent or think less of them; you just have to be careful about what you tell them, or overcome your dependence on their support.  Understanding that and acting accordingly in the future definitely involves something, whether or not you call it a grudge.  Maybe moving forward and responding appropriately to the hurt feelings is, in a way, forgiveness.  After all, forgiveness doesn’t have to mean forgetting in the same way holding grudges has to mean remembering.