Food And Meditation, The Mysteriously Good Match

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Sometimes it’s good to streamline. There’s a practice called Nyoung Nay that’s pretty much made for that. It’s two days plus an early morning at the shortest, and can go on for months if one is really dedicated and has the free time. It’s a practice that involves fasting, silence, and not drinking anything. Today is the first day of my mini-version Nyoung Nay. I’m still allowed to talk and drink water. The Buddha didn’t say anything about internet use, but I think it’d be a definite no-no for tomorrow, when the silence begins. Because even though typing and talking aren’t the same thing, it’s pretty much the same territory: focusing on the outer world instead of the inner one. So here’s a hello from the time when I can still talk.

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This is a practice for when you need to be cradled, uplifted, challenged, thrown into the wind to see that you can fly. I’ve heard that people either love it or hate it. I love it.

This practice pulled me out of a gnarly winter depression and helped me start the springtime with something resembling confidence and good health. After my two-day experience last year I gave up eating dinner, which is part of the practice and also recommended as a general support for meditation practice. I never thought I’d be willing to give up one third of my daily boost of joy and comfort, but I found that this habit actually helps me balance my attachment to food with the awareness that what I eat has consequences for my body.

I still struggle with sugar cravings and cheese overdoses and chronic intestinal issues, but connecting food directly with my meditation practice makes me more vigilant about what I eat and more forgiving when I don’t take as much care as I’d like.

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Meditation has also encouraged me to think of food as an offering, as something I offer myself directly, and something I offer others through wishing that they may have the nourishment and culinary joy that I am lucky to have. Also, this isn’t in any text I’ve ever read, but I know that what I eat affects my health and thus my mood, so in a way, each meal is also an offering to others in the sense that the more care I take of myself the better I am able to take care of others. And this can be extended to lots of things besides food.

The longterm goal of Buddhist practice is to attain enlightenment, but Jigme Rinpoche often reminds that it can also help a lot in the immediate. Sometimes it’s nice to accept that I’m allowed to feel better when feeling better is an option. Nyoung Nay practice helps cultivate that option.

If you ever have the chance to try it, it comes recommended. Talk soon (but not tomorrow). 🙂

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