From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mindfulness: Minding manners and all else

(Photo by Abhijit Tembhekar)
Pretty much every religion has its moral code.  Within that code is generally a whole set of dos and don’ts.  Do honor your mother and father; don’t covet your neighbor’s wife.  Do share your toys; don’t holler during naptime.

Buddhism, however, goes far beyond just that.  In addition to minding manners, many Buddhists are taught to pay careful attention to all experiences.  You would think that chewing is not particularly spiritual in nature – nor tasting, or swallowing…  However, when done mindfully, all of these gustatory actions become food for enlightenment.

In her article, “Mastering the Mindful Meal,” Stephanie Vangsness points out that United States adults generally spend twice the daily time watching television as they do eating.  Eating has become a facet of multitasking, as evidenced by pop-up breakfasts, business-meeting lunches, and take-out dinners.  Vangsness urges that eating become a unitasking event that is no longer paired with such things as driving and working.  This can result in meals tasting a lot more savory, as well as in better digestion and less obesity.

Because Americans are so out of practice concerning mindful eating, Vangsness offers a simple practice exercise in eating an apple.  It involves taking one bite without immediately chewing, then focusing upon the “taste, texture, temperature and sensation going on in your mouth.”  Chewing then involves “noticing what it feels like” by paying attention to such things as jaw movements.  Finally, swallowing begins.  Vangsness advises first noticing “the subtle transition from chewing to swallowing,” and then following the apple’s movement “toward the back of your tongue and into your throat.”

This type of “slow-motion” awareness can be cultivated while engaging in any routine activity.  There are mindfulness exercises in breathing and walking that focus intently upon inhalations, exhalations, foot and leg motions.  When all of life is enhanced with awareness, it becomes that much easier to also “mind your manners.”


Copyright November 7, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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