Food and Nourishment

Green Emotion, Brenda Staples. brendastaples@gmail.com

When it comes to cultivating health, the willingness and interest to examine one's relationship to food and eating offers a tremendous opportunity. Here we look not only at the integrity of the digestive system on the physical level but also cravings, appetite and hunger, and the tie between emotions and eating.

For, while relieving an overburdened or weakened digestive system can rectify so many ailments, making lasting changes requires noble effort as food is so connected to our cultural inheritance, social activities, comfort and pleasure.

So, in my practice, while nutritional needs are considered, more time is devoted to explore the question, "What is nourishing?" And, if we look at the ingestion of food and drink as a metaphor, are we properly digesting and absorbing what we need and eliminating what no longer serves us?

As part of this exploration I share information on proper food combining, elimination or addition of particular foods throughout the seasons, and mindfulness meditation exercises around eating for as we become increasingly mindful and aware of what we eat and why we eat, fullness and emptiness, we cultivate the capacity to be present and awake to life itself.

Inspiration

And here is a bit of nourishment - an excerpt from The Way of Chuang Tzu, a book compiled by Thomas Merton, a Roman Catholic monk, after reading four different translations of Chuang Tzu. Chuang Tzu was a Taoist sage living sometime before 250 B.C. during the classic period of Chinese philosophy 550 to 250 B.C.

The story begins with Yen Hui, a disciple of Confucius, seeking guidance regarding his dealings with an egocentric and corrupt Prince. After sharing different ideas about how to present himself, Yen Hui is confused.

Yen Hui then said: "Will you, Master, tell me what you suggest?"
"You must fast!" said Confucius. "Do you know what I mean by fasting? It is not easy. But easy ways do not come from God."
"Oh," said Yen Hui. "I am used to fasting! At home we were poor. We went for months without wine or meat. That is fasting, is it not?"
"Well, you can call it 'observing a fast' if you like," said Confucius, "but it is not the fasting of the heart."
"Tell me," said Yen Hui, "what is fasting of the heart?"
Confucius replied: "The goal of fasting is inner unity. This means hearing, but not with the ear; hearing, but not with the understanding; hearing with the spirit, with your whole being. The hearing that is only in the ears is one thing. The hearing of the understanding is another. But the hearing of the spirit is not limited to any one faculty, to the ear, or to the mind. Hence it demands the emptiness of all the faculties. And when the faculties are empty, then the whole being listens. There is then a direct grasp of what is right there before you that can never be heard with the ear or understood with the mind. Fasting of the heart empties the faculties, free you from limitation and from preoccupation. Fasting of the heart begets unity and freedom."

"Look at this window: it is nothing but a hole in the wall, but because of it the whole room is full of light. So when the faculties are empty, the heart is full of light. Being full of light it becomes an influence by which others are secretly transformed."