Expanding Paradigms - Spring 1997
My parents grew up during the depression. Christmas for them was a piece of fruit, some nuts, and some ribbon candy in their stockings. My mother had such fond memories of these early Christmas mornings that years later she still insisted on filling my stocking with fruit, nuts, & sticky ribbon candy, much to my disappointment. I considered these a waste of valuable space which could better be filled with toys and expensive candy. The fact was, that if I wanted an orange or some Brazil nuts, I could as easily get them from the cupboard or the corner store. I took such things for granted. I have since come to realize that the more we have, the less we tend to appreciate it.
When we get bored and unhappy we seek more and better things to help us recapture our excitement and joy. Each time this cycle repeats itself, we end up with more stuff and we feel less satisfied. This applies not only to possessions, but to food, drugs, relationships, and any experience that we seek out to feel better. To the extent that we continue to look outside of ourselves for enjoyment and happiness, we run the risk of spiraling down into gluttony and depression.
What happens when you bought the stereo system you wanted, the TV, the car, the house, the boat, and you are still bored with life? What then? Happiness is an internal state of mind. It is foolish to continue looking for it in the external world. Only when you look within yourself can you learn to be happy. A happy person never has to look far for an excuse to be happy! Unhappy people likewise find ample reason to continue to be unhappy.
Ultimately, happiness is a choice from one moment to the next. The essence of willpower is the ability to choose one's internal reaction to the external world. This path leads upward along a positive spiral and is actually much easier to begin than one might think. Right now, make the decision to enjoy your next meal by practicing an Eating Meditation. Students are often amazed at how much better food tastes when they take the time to notice and appreciate the food as they eat it.
A single raisin, eaten with sincere appreciation, brings more joy and happiness than a whole box of raisins swallowed unconsciously. Animals can learn mindfulness too! I have a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Chani. She is a big dog and loves bananas. She used to eat bananas like she ate rib bones, crunching them into two pieces and then swallowing both halves, skin, stem and all. One week I decided to teach her the eating meditation using a raisin. Normally she would swallow a raisin without noticing what she had eaten, so I held the raisin between my fingers so that she could only nibble the tiny exposed portion of the raisin. She took my whole hand in her mouth!
After a while she let go of my hand and contented herself with licking and nibbling the exposed portion of the raisin as I slowly exposed more of it over the next minute. She grew increasingly excited, wagging her tail. This might have been the first time she had ever tasted a raisin, although she had swallowed more than her share. After a couple of weeks of this ritual with the raisin, I was amazed when she ate a banana. Instead of swallowing it, she took it out onto the back porch and set it down almost delicately. She held the banana with one paw and peeled it with her teeth, and then ate slowly, wagging her tail, and pausing occasionally to look back appreciatively at me. Finally, when it was all gone, she returned to the banana peel and ate that as well.
We live in a culture of unparalleled material wealth, yet many take this bounty for granted and are unhappy in their lives. It is because we lack for so little that it is so important for us to cultivate sincere appreciation within our souls. If you practice meditation every day, whether it is eating, walking, or sitting, you can infuse your life with additional meaning and appreciation.
Most people eat until they are full, and then continue to eat to satisfy an emotional hunger. Instead, eat the first small bite to satisfy your spiritual needs, continue eating to satisfy any emotional needs, and then, if there is any physical hunger left, eat to satisfy the body.
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|The Other Person|