Part III – Chapter18
Don’t stuff yourself silly.
The use of drugs is but one aspect of a larger vice – that of pursuing sensations. Our bodies and minds are constantly hungering for sensory inputs and outputs – that is their ‘nature’. It is their way of self-assertion, their expression of existence. Such sensationalism, let loose unchecked, is bound to debilitate us. Fortunately, we have inner resources that enable us to judge and restrain such tendencies – our reason and willpower.
The main sensuous dependence of many people nowadays (in our rich Western societies) is simply food. Food is of course natural and necessary to our life and health, in reasonable quantities. But some people are munching for much of their waking hours; or, if they manage to limit their eating to regular meals, they eat far more than they need or is good for them.
A full stomach is not conducive to meditation. Energy that is required to focus consciousness is diverted for purposes of digestion. Food is soporific, or at least tiring. For this reason, meditators control their intake of food – not only its quantity and frequency, but also its quality. It is wise to abstain from heavy, difficult to digest foods, for instance. Many opt for vegetarian diets to various degrees.
Sports (if only a bit of daily exercise or walking) are helpful for digestion, as well as to develop resistance and recover fitness. Physical exercise is energizing, raising one’s level of alertness during meditation, but one should not get overly excited by it to the point that one cannot calm down. To avoid getting drowsy during meditation, enough (but not too much) regular sleep is necessary.
A good way to reduce one’s eating is, paradoxically, to take the time to enjoy it – growing it (if possible) or shopping for it, preparing and cooking it carefully, laying then clearing the table, washing the dishes. Eating then becomes more conscious, in the way of a ritual. Eventually, one finds time to notice the difference between pleasing one’s taste buds and satisfying natural hunger.
One gradually realizes the impossibility of ever satiating the hunger for oral sensations, and the need to resist such pseudo-hunger if only to relieve one’s body of the stress of incessant digestion, not to mention the accumulation of fat.
All this is of course obvious and generally well known. But one has to actually take control. To do so, one must realize that onecanindeed readily do so – by looking upon the stirring of desire as something external to oneself, a mere phenomenon that can and does influence one’s freewill but cannot overwhelm it.
One should not of course eat too little, either. This too stresses the body and disturbs meditation.
Some have called this “slow food”, in contradistinction to “fast food”.