Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Thinking, mindfulness, fitness, and nutrition.

My meditation teacher always encouraged us to frame thinking as "thinking was happening', rather than the more agency-centric, "I was thinking".   There is a quality of thoughts that is similar to the experience of other senses -- they come and go, as sounds or smells do, sometimes with rhyme and reason, but sometimes randomly. However, some thoughts, if not recognized as such, and if allowed to, can cause psychological pain.  Holding onto an argument long after it is over, or guilt, is not particularly pleasant and can do real damage.  

I like the phrase, "tail wagging the dog".   When I am sitting around angry, 'am I angry', or 'is anger happening'?

I always recommend that the takeaway from reading material from people talking _about_ meditation like that  should be to start or continue a regular mindfulness practice.  This prose, but unsupported by a practice, is of little value.

So, can I make a connection to nutrition?  Is hunger 'just happening' or is it a matter of willpower and self-control?  

The way I like to think of it, with a certain eye towards adaptability, and against rigidity, is to think of the willpower and self control going into the implementation of wise practices. With avoiding starch and sugar, or smart aerobic exercise, one builds capacity to handle the stuff we largely don't have agency over. What this does, like meditation for taming a monkey mind, is create a milieu in which hunger can be tamed, and which forward progress towards health can be achieved.

For this reason I don't like the idea of cutting calories or portion control, any more than I like the idea of just stopping thinking.  It isn't wise advice, it's a recipe for the problem getting worse, not better.  Better to be smarter about what we put energy into.

The meditation allows us to start noticing what is happening, and creates the conditions for a better psychological path through life, or at least a more conscious one.  The exercise and nutrition practices  create the conditions for managing when a bad food environment is happening, or when stress is happening...etc.  Rather than going straight for 'reduction', they represent a wiser approach.

So..  the beginning of meditation for me is coincident with coming to the place where I could lose weight.   I recommend it as something in the toolkit, and just generally.