Tag Archives: Breath

Mindful Consumption

In order to shift our patterns of consumption from a non-mindful state to a mindful state, we need a great deal of support. Part of that support can be engendered by an awareness of the consequences of our consumption, yet we also need the support of friends, family and sangha, so that a shift from meat eating to vegetarianism, from cooked food to raw food can be effected. It is helpful if pot luck vegetarian meals are organized on a regular basis with friends, that certain mealtimes with family are conducted in silence, while everyone contemplates the nature of the food consumed. For instance, when I am fully present with my food and look deeply into how it came to be on my plate, there are often wonderful surprises, especially in the summertime when I eat a bowl of raspberries. I slow down, breathing consciously in and out, and before eating these plump red berries I look deeply into how they came to be there. I see raspberry canes, the elements of sunshine, rain and good soil. I see the gardener looking after the raspberries with weeding and composting, people picking them and placing them in baskets, truck drivers taking them to market, people buying them. Above all else I see my grandmother.

As a little boy I believed that my grandmother had the biggest raspberry patch in the world! I would pick raspberries with her, some for bottling and jam, but mostly to sit down with my grandmother and enjoy eating them with her. My grandmother was very special. I would be sent to her house once a week by my parents to do gardening and chores for my grandmother, but she had other ideas. She wanted to spend time with me, her first grandson, and so she hired another little boy in the neighborhood to do the chores and paid him a shilling a week. This clever strategy was one I fully enjoyed. We would talk, have tea, and pick raspberries together. She used to make exquisite lace with a crochet needle, and one of my favorite memories is still that of curling up in her big armchair with a bowl of raspberries, while she sat in front of me making lace. I ate the raspberries very slowly, as I was so happy. She was my first teacher in mindfulness, though it was never called that, but that was its true name. She passed away many years ago, yet eating raspberries with deep looking reminds me that she is with me still, as I touch the elements and web of life that brings raspberries to my bowl. This kind of support is essential to bring about the shift in consciousness that enables us to consume mindfully with compassion.

To assist deep looking at mealtimes, or whenever we eat food, there is a simple exercise to do – the Five Contemplations. If we have a bell at home we can invite it twice before reciting it. If there is not a bell, a half filled glass of water and a spoon to tap it with will do just as well. Once the bell has been invited twice we recite the Five Contemplations:

THE FIVE CONTEMPLATIONS

THIS FOOD THIS DAY, AND THIS FAMILY ARE GIFTS OF THE WHOLE UNIVERSE – THE EARTH, THE SKY, THE STARS, NUMEROUS LIVING BEINGS AND MUCH HARD WORK
MAY WE RECEIVE THEM WITH STABILITY, JOY, AND FREEDOM, AND SO BE WORTHY OF THEM
MAY WE TRANSFORM OUR UNSKILLFUL STATES OF MIND, ESPECIALLY OUR GREED, AND LEARN TO EAT IN MODERATION, AND LOVE IN ABUNDANCE
MAY WE KEEP OUR COMPASSION ALIVE BY EATING IN SUCH A WAY THAT WE REDUCE THE SUFFERING OF LIVING BEINGS, STOPS CONTRIBUTING TO CLIMATE CHANGE, AND HEALS AND PRESERVES OUR PRECIOUS PLANET
WE ACCEPT THIS FOOD, THIS DAY, THESE FRIENDS, SO WE MAY NOURISH OUR SISTERHOOD AND BROTHERHOOD, STRENGTHEN OUR FAMILY AND NOURISH OUR IDEAL OF SERVING ALL BEINGS.

Then another sound of the bell is invited and we eat in silence for 10–12 minutes, looking deeply into our food, the consequences of its production and consumption, and connect to the web of life of the entire cosmos. Part of that connection is to be very aware of the millions around the world who are starving, and as we eat mindfully we may resolve to help alleviate the suffering of world hunger. After the period of silence, the bell is invited once again so that people can speak.

This is a wonderful exercise for families. Place the children in charge of the bell and the reading of the Five Contemplations. When the final bell is invited for speaking – adults talk about what is going right on this day, enquiring about their children’s good experiences. It is not the time to collar their offspring for misdemeanors. No wonder kids often absent themselves from family meals. Rather than intimidation, the children enjoy becoming empowered, as they are on the bell, reading and timing and enjoy exploring deeply what the food meant to them at this meal time. This nurtures family dynamics in a beautiful way.

Ian and Lady at Pine Gate

At home when I am on my own, I make a special effort to prepare and consume meals mindfully. It is such a joy as I have two assistants – my dog Nikki and my cat Lady. As I set the table I tell them that this is a mindful meal and after the first two bells I cannot talk to them. I set a bowl of treats for each of them on the table and after I recite the Five Contemplations, I put their bowls down on the floor and I begin my meal. My two dharma pets always sit quietly after their treats until the bell is invited once again to bring the silence to an end. Then Nikki will want her ears scratched and Lady climbs up on to my lap. They bring such fun and joy to my mindful meals with them.

At Pine Gate Mindfulness Community we occasionally practice eating a formal meal together in the meditation hall. There are two rows facing one another and we sit in silence for a while before standing and slowly going upstairs to where the pot-luck supper is laid out. We file out with Carolyn leading followed by myself and then alternating between men and women. We prefer this form to the monastic style of men going first followed by the women. Quietly we place food on our plates and return to our sitting places in the meditation hall. The Five Contemplations are read out in English and in French by Sangha members. I then state: “The Buddha invites us to enjoy eating our meal in mindfulness,” at which point we begin to eat our food with the attention described above. Slowly, contemplatively, tasting the food and its source, we connect to all the beings that played a part in bringing such food to land on our plates.

When everybody is finished eating, the bell master invites the bell for us to stand. Another bell has Carolyn leading us upstairs as before. We now have dessert to look forward to and tea. We sit in small groups upstairs, or out on the deck and in the garden and talk to one another. Without fail everyone enjoyed the exquisite nature of the taste of food and silence. As much of the ingredients of the formal meal came from our organic garden, there is the natural investigation of the plants thriving in the garden. It is a wonderful way to eat together as a community. Mindful consumption nourishes our minds as well as our bodies.

Pine Gate Meditation Hall

Rainbow Meditation

Meditation at Pine Gate Mindfulness Community

Metaphor is a means for awareness to connect to symbol, so that the spiritual guidance inherent in all that symbolizes the transcendental can be grasped. The metaphor, be it a concept of the Almighty or a symbol for Truth, is an external mental form that corresponds to an internal symbolic structure that is not usually known as personal experience. Meditation places you in a particular energy, or consciousness, that brings forth from the metaphor a personal experience that you integrate with physically. Knowledge is then owned by the body, it does not remain a mere intellectual artifice. In meditation, the focus on a particular metaphor is to bring to the surface specific qualities that are felt as a physical circulation throughout and around your body. Be in this energy in a detached manner so that the qualities of the metaphor become physically encompassed as experience, without any accompanying projections. In this manner the qualities inherent in particular metaphors can eventually be brought into form. These changes create shifts in cognitive/perceptual mind states and permit you to see a larger picture of interconnectedness that was formerly not possible. The Rainbow Meditation may illustrate the experience of metaphor as vibration through the changing focus of colour on the major chakras of the body. Colour addresses all levels of our being, as you will discover when breathing in the rainbow.

Remember that you breathe with your entire body. Accompanying the seven main chakras in this meditation, is attention to particular colours that correspond precisely to each chakra. Each colour represents a tonal chord, or sound current that activate the tonal frequencies of its corresponding chakra. The colour Red is associated with the root chakra at the bottom of the spine; Orange with the chakra located in the sacral region; Yellow with the solar plexus or navel chakra; Green with the heart chakra; Blue with the throat chakra; Indigo with the brow chakra; and Violet and White with the crown chakra. These are experienced in sequence during the Rainbow Meditation.

Rainbows 2

Sit comfortably with the spine erect, with your feet firmly connected to the floor. Place your hands either in your lap or upon your knees. Breathe softly into the heart chakra, up to the crown chakra on the in-breath, and on the out-breath take it down to the toes and relax into the quiet calm of meditative silence. Take at least five breaths, and when you feel ready to do so, breathe in through the soles of your feet and bring the colour Red up through your legs and fill your entire body. Breathe gently in and out as you note the physical sensation of vibrant and alive Red, where it circulates through the body and, most important, where it is blocked and does not flow. Now settle in to the experience of Red for five breaths. Then visualize this colour being pushed out of your body, starting from the head and going downwards, so that the colour Red goes out through the soles of the feet into the earth. Once this is done take time to register with the emptiness in the body. Take five breaths and connect to the emptiness and the vastness beyond. Just be with it.

Then breathe the colour Orange in through the soles of your feet and fill the entire body. Breathe gently in and out. As before, note the changes in energy circulation throughout the body. Breathe regularly within the experience of the vibrational frequency of Orange for five breaths. After a time, visualize this colour being pushed out of the body, like a coffee plunger, from the head down through the soles of the feet and into the Earth. Once more register with emptiness in the body for five breaths. Take the time and moment to register with the emptiness and the vastness beyond. Just be with it.

Then breathe the colour Yellow in through the soles of your feet and fill the body with this fresh spring colour. Note the physical changes in bodily sensations associated with Yellow and the navel chakra as you take five breaths. Then, as before, visualize the colour being pushed out of the body through the feet, and once again register with emptiness for five breaths. Take the time and moment to connect to the emptiness and the vastness beyond. Just be with it.

On the next in-breath bring the colour Green directly into the heart chakra, behind the sternum, and from this location flood the body with a lush verdant Green colour. Breathe into this changed frequency for five breaths and take note of your bodily feedback. After a while, visualize Green being pushed out of the body from the head downwards and out through the soles of the feet into the earth. Register with emptiness in the body for five breaths. Take the time and moment to connect to the emptiness and the vastness beyond. Just be with it.

Then breathe the colour Blue into the throat chakra, and flood the entire body with this tonal chord of energy frequencies and stay with it for five breaths. Circulation may be blocked as expression is frequently denied, so focus Blue through a clear crystal, which you visualize in the center of your throat. This may enhance circulation. Note where the colour moves throughout the body, and the corresponding bodily sensations. Breathe regularly into this energy state, and learn about the properties of Blue and of expression. Then push the colour out through the feet and breathe in to the emptiness within the body for another five breaths. Register with emptiness in the body. Take the time and moment to connect to the emptiness and the vastness beyond. Just be with it.

Then bring the colour Indigo directly through the third eye chakra and fill the body with this frequency. Spiritual Insight is frequently subject to blockage, therefore circulation through this chakra may be facilitated by visualizing an Indigo octagon in the middle of the forehead through which the frequency of this colour is drawn in to the body. Register with changing body sensations, and become familiar with the tonal properties of Indigo for five breaths, then push it out of the body through the feet and take note of emptiness within the body. Register with emptiness in the body for five breaths. Take the time and moment to connect to the emptiness and the vastness beyond. Just be with it.

Bring the colour Violet into the body through the crown chakra on the top of your head with the next breath. This circulation can be enhanced by visualizing the crown chakra as a fully opened lotus flower with a thousand petals, through which you draw in the colour Violet. Feel the special quality of Violet extending within the body and wear it lightly as an internal cloak. Breathe regularly five times into this changed energy state and note everything in the body as before. Then push the colour Violet out of the body through the feet into the earth. Feel an intense emptiness within the body. Register with emptiness in the body for five breaths. Take the time and moment to connect to the emptiness and the vastness beyond. Just be with it.

Then breathing with the entire body, fill yourself with brilliant, crystalline White light and breathe regularly in to this new frequency. Do not direct your breath, simply be aware of in-breath and out-breath and the circulation of energy in the body. Remain in this breathing state for ten minutes. When thoughts arise, observe them, but do not participate in them or fuel them with energy. In this way your energy will remain with the experience of the Rainbow Meditation.

At the end of the meditation reflect on the differences felt during the distinct phases of meditation, and contrast the present feeling within the body to your physical state prior to meditation. Reflect on, and discern, the discrete effects and circulation of each colour, and its association with particular chakras and write down your experience or share with a partner. With continued emphasis on this delightful meditation you will feel new and changing connections between chakras. A sense of unification and harmony within all aspects of your being is now possible, as the chakras connect with one another as a single unified energy.

Rainbow 3