Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Happy Bodhi Day

Today, December 8, is Bodhi Day, which commemorates the day that the Buddha, while sitting under the Bodhi tree, attained enlightenment. I once asked a Buddhist friend how to observe the day, and she suggested eating an orange mindfully. Since the orange is obviously not the point, but, rather, mindfulness is, perhaps this is a good day to begin or renew a mindfulness practice, which usually means sitting in meditation.

Meditation, it seems to me, is about setting aside a little time to step outside of our daily activities for the sake of a few moments of mindfulness. I've no doubt that's a good thing. But the appeal of eating an orange (or eating anything) mindfully is that it brings mindfulness to our daily activities. Or at least one of them—and one that most of us are especially inclined to do without awareness, while our monkey minds are racing ahead to the next thing on our to-do list.

But what does it mean to eat something mindfully? A friend once told me that her doctor gave her guidelines for doing just that, advising her to consider the texture of the food, each little nuance of flavor and so forth. I remember listening to her description of those instructions and thinking that it sounded like way too much work. It was more like eating analytically—and I can't help but think how typical it is of Western medicine to complicate something that should be elegantly simple and natural, to the point of making it seem unnatural.

I prefer an eating-for-pleasure approach: slow down, savor, enjoy. It's explained very nicely, without prescriptiveness, in this interview with nutritional psychologist Marc David.

Happy Bodhi Day. Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. I think it is interesting that she chose an orange to suggest. Oranges lend themselves to mindfulness. The various steps you take before you actually eat the orange get you in the right frame of mind; the peeling, the scent, the sectioning all prepare you for the experience of the eating. Just thinking about it is causing me to salivate. One section at a time, slowly, savouring the slightly tart slightly sweet flavour of the can't avoid mindfulness...your eyes draw in. Great suggestion. I hope you try it.


Thanks for reading, and for sharing your thoughts.