Mindfulness Task

Mindful Eating II -- Looking Deeply
July 14

How intimate are you with what you know to be true?

Something in you signed up for this email group – something responded and said “yes, I want to receive a mindfulness task from the monastery each week!”  We’ve been going for awhile, now, I hope that these emails continue to nourish your spiritual aspirations.

The key to all of the mindfulness tasks is that they must be engaged with (we have to do them) in order to have them bear fruit.  It’s tempting (for this practitioner, at least) to read a task and say “Yes, of course, I understand what that is about,” and thus give (myself) permission not to actually pick up the task (or find some way of reminding myself of the task) during the week.

For the past two weeks we have been working with putting down the spoon between bites.  My short (personal) report is that once I got through the part that was annoyed by the idea of slowing down just slightly, I found that I was MUCH more present when I engaged with the “put down that spoon” task, and that I enjoyed and benefited from the resulting mind states.

The mindfulness task for this coming (one) week is another one from the mindful eating teachings.  We are invited to look into the cause and effect relationships associated with at least one of the items we are eating.

What does this mean?  Picking up, say, a slice of apple, where was this apple before it got into my hands? (Buffet line, and then before that in the kitchen).  How did the apple get to the kitchen?  How did it get to the grocery store? What before that?  How far back can you go?

This actually does not take a long time to do, especially if you are a somewhat visual person, we are talking about one minute or less of “rewinding the video tape.”

Engaging with this task is one way of closing the gap between what we know intellectually and what we are able to remember and embody moment to moment. For some people, the knowledge that the apple is “me” so permeates the awareness that we never “forget” (it’s no longer a matter of remembering).  We all have the potential for this degree of intimacy.

If you are less intimate with/connected to your surroundings than you would like to be, please try doing this task at least once each day this week.

Mindful Eating I -- Put Down That Spoon!
July 14

The mindfulness task for this week comes to us from Chozen Roshi’s teachings on mindful eating.

For at least one meal during the week, we invite you to put your eating utensil down after taking each bite, and then chew and swallow the bite completely before picking the utensil up again (or food item, if no utensil is required).

Try doing this for one meal a day if you can.

Awareness of the Earth
June 14

This week’s task is to be aware of the earth.  There are many ways to do this.  Here are some possibilities:

  • Bring to mind the large ball (planet) under your feet.  Hold this awareness for 3 breaths, or see how long you can maintain it even as you engage in various activities.
  • As you walk, feel each footstep, feel the earth under you feet.
  • Be aware of the earth element (solidity) in the tools you use, in your food, in your own body, etc. (where else?).

One Native American elder has said that if we could just maintain continual awareness of the earth, we would be fully awake (enlightened, without needing to pick up any other practice).   Engaging with this task, we can see something about what he meant by this.

Mindful Eating IV -- Non Dominant Hand Practice
June 14

 

This week’s task is a fun one:  Try eating with your non-dominant hand.  While you’re at it, try other things, such as brushing teeth, with the non-dominant hand.  There is a wealth of potential for learning here; how much can you notice about this practice?

 

The monastery staff is engaging this task as well for the week.  Each time, the group tends to see a new aspect; please feel free to write in with what you notice.

Mindful Eating III -- How Much Is Enough?
June 14

 

The task for this week is to experiment with eating less in one or more of the following ways:

  • 1.      When you are aware that you are eating to cope with a difficult emotion or mind state, try being very present with the sensations of one small bite, or even one chocolate chip.  Observe the effect of this eating on the mind.  Be curious and open to the idea that maybe one or two bites is enough to change the mind state.  Is it?  How much is optimal?
  • 2.      Try eating less than you habitually do at one or more meals.  I am having surprising results with this (actually, probably shouldn’t be surprising with all of the studies out there on how eating less is clearly connected to increased longevity).  I am rarely hungry, and my energy levels are much higher than usual.  See if you can eat so little that you are actually hungry at the next mealtime.  Remember that what we mean by hungry in N. America is very different than what our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world might mean by “hungry.”  Probably in this privileged climate we could actually skip a meal or two without feeling ACTUAL hunger. I am not suggesting that we even go this far, just offering a context to encourage myself (and others) to get beyond a fear of slight hunger and courageously engage the task of eating less.  It’s an adventure – wheeeeee!  Please don’t do this particular task if you are someone who needs to be eating more (instead, you could try eating at least a bit more than you are comfortable with; this can be just as scary and transformative for someone with a fear of eating too much). 

Mindfulness (paying close attention) is the key to real transformation.

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