Sunday, September 11, 2011

Our Nourishment and The 5 Contemplations

My quest for healthy living began years ago when I struggled with sinus infections and the regular antibiotic "remedy" prescribed by 'western,' allopathic doctors wasn't getting to the root of the problem. At the same time I worked in a health food store. I quickly learned how directly related what we eat is to our health and wellbeing. This is practically basic common sense nowadays - or is it? I'd say it is, but even those who know it may still have a hard time practicing mindful, healthy eating, even if in their mind they really want to.

Of course, there are many who still don't believe the common knowledge of "we are what we eat" and continue to poison themselves with processed or fast foods. But those who have come to really understand the importance of what we eat may still be having a hard time actually putting it into practice. Well, this might be because we really have to search high and far for healthy food and there can often be a higher price for it.

One the other hand, some of us may have a hard time putting our desires to eat healthier into practice due to what Thich Nhat Hanh calls our habit energies. These are things we do, by habit, pretty obvious huh. But the key is that when we don't apply mindfulness to even our eating habit energies, we end up eating what we're used to eating, which may not be all that healthy. And it takes a lot of energy, focus and mindfulness to not only be become aware of what we eat but to also do the work to change the not so healthy habit food energy into healthier choices.

There are also lots and lots of resources out there now for finding out what would be the best choices for you and your body type. A word of caution though, there are many different "schools of thought" out there and if you do the research it can become very confusing. You'll find info on veganism, vegetarianism, paleo-dieting, high protein, low carb, ayurvedic, macrobiotic, candida cleansing etc... The list goes on and on. I do not promote one over the other but have personally been drawn to some due to what has helped me feel my best.

Below, I'm going to list some books that have helped me but it is always important to find what you connect with the most. Then there is always the importance of seeking out someone who's trained in one or many of the different schools of thoughts out there. See below for links to books and trained professionals that I know of in the area.

Mindfulness is KEY for becoming aware of our bodies and to note when we're getting hungry. If we wait until we're starving to find something to eat, then we usually make poor choices for food. So, it's key to use your mindfulness practice to be aware of when you eat or don't eat, when you get hungry and the choices you make so that you can start to plan ahead and begin to improve the quality of the food you choose to put into your body.

Another key practice that can help improve our eating habits is maintaining mindfulness when we actually sit down to eat our meals. In Thich Nhat Hanh's practice, we practice reciting The 5 Contemplations and eating in silence (which I haven't done in forever) so that we can be aware of our attitude towards our food and how well we chew and allow the food to nourish our bodies. I have been talking about reciting these contemplations for years but only periodically bring them out to read. My goal for writing this post is to memorize them one by one so that I can say them every day during at least one meal a day. I've gotta start practicing what I preach! So, you want to know what the 5 contemplations are? Of course, here there are!

The Five Food Contemplations to be recited before eating.

Contemplation 1:
This food is the gift of the whole universe: the earth, the sky, numerous living beings, and much hard, loving work.

Contemplation 2:
May we eat with mindfulness and gratitude so as to be worthy to receive it.

Contemplation 3:
May we recognize and transform our unwholesome mental formations, especially our greed, and learn to eat with moderation.

Contemplation 4:
May we keep our compassion alive by eating in such a way that we reduce the suffering of living beings, preserve our planet, and reverse the process of global warming.

Contemplation 5:
We accept this food so that we may nurture our sisterhood and brotherhood, strengthen our community and nourish our ideal of serving all living beings.

After almost 15 years of exploring different diets and deepening my own self-improvement path, I have really come to believe that our attitude towards life and food is more important than the actual food we ingest. Now, this might seem to contradict everything I said above. Let me clarify. I do not think a person can eat fast or processed food all day everyday and maintain a great attitude and not suffer some kind of physical consequence. But on the contrary, if someone eats the healthiest diet in the world but has an anxious, nervous or fearful attitude towards their health or isn't fulfilling their passions or life purpose, then this person will also likely have some physical or emotional consequences. Hence, the extreme importance of applying our mindfulness towards our mind and body. Identifying and "consuming" our primary food, that which inspires and motivates us, our purpose(s) in life and then ingesting healthy secondary food - the actual items that we put into our bodies. In harmony and with mindfulness, we can create a healthy balance within our mind, body and spirit so that we can achieve our highest potential.

Breathe. Eat. Purpose. Inspiration. Contemplate. Smile! :-)

Some books I've found helpful are listed below though I do a lot of my research online. I currently eat a non-vegetarian diet, low in carbs but I do eat them and they are 95% of the time whole grain carbs (brown rice, quinoa, etc) and tons and tons of veggies and fruit and nuts!

Eat Right For Your Blood Type
Ayurveda: They Science of Self-Healing
Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing

Two local practitioners that I would recommend:

Sonali Sadequee is a holistic health and lifestyle counselor. Check out her site here.
Caroline Friedlander is a natrapathic Doctor. Check her out here.

The photo for this post was from Nathan Greenwood's profile on Free Digital Photos.

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