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Mindfulness of eating
September 15th, 2014

illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)

Mindfulness of eating
[Indian diary (3)]

   One of the 'amazing' sights that the life in hotels provides is breakfast buffets: on the basis that breakfast is included and the buffet "unlimited", many people just stuff themselves!
   I was to write "stuff themselves like there's no tomorrow!" but that'd be inaccurate because they don't need so much food to live for just one day, until tomorrow. The more accurate description would be "stuff themselves like there's no more food today and  tomorrow and  maybe even the day after that, but still a long life to come!"
   Such a behaviour is not limited to breakfast in hotels though, it is well shared with other venues like e.g. Chinese restaurants offering buffets… or like evening meals during Ramadan, or other "festive seasons" (Christmas period). In some contexts, there might even be social conventions that make difficult to refuse food without vexing the host: stuffing yourself is the social expectation, not just your own!

   While such a 'stuffing' behaviour might have an evolutionary basis, it isn't adapted to modern society in most parts of the world (where access to food is a lot more regular —in particular for anyone who can afford a night in a cheap hotel, or a buffet restaurant… but even for the poorest!— than it was in prehistoric times).

   To over-consume  food is a great example of lack of mindfulness as the body isn't particularly good as storing food.

   If you regularly over-consume food, you become fat but the fat also becomes an unusable solid, slowly degenerating from a store of energy into a 'dead' weight (you reach a state where you can die of starvation while fat:  protein —including from your muscles— is pretty easily converted to glucose. Fat can also be turned into glucose to some degree but that's an inefficient process. When you can't rely on your fat stores to be converted into the minimum glucose you need e.g. for your brain, you attack your own lean tissues… so you might 'eat' your heart —muscle— before the fat!).
   If you irregularly over-consume food, you might store it as mobilisable fat if you needed it, or you might simply waste it (as it'll come out, no longer usable, the other end).

   To waste  food on the planet —by storing it in unusable fat, or by pooping it— is a major lack of mindfulness… in particular when not everyone on the planet has access to a healthy diet, when over-fishing is a major threat, when deforestation is a major threat, when GMOs are major threats (on top of impoverishing the already-poor communities… GMOs usually are sterile, so the grain from one crop cannot be used as seeds for the next, and increasing prices can be used to extract economic 'growth' in developed countries from selling new seeds every year to poor countries!).

   Over-eating food, just because it's available, 'free', 'already paid for' or 'included', runs against any "mindfulness of body" practice as well as rides on unwholesome mental fabrications… It generally runs against the Middle-Way itself, not just against the mindfulness practices.
   Even if the food wouldn't be given to the poor if it wasn't eaten, the production of wasted food did require to strain the eco-system for no good reason: "waste" equals "unnecessary strain".
   Just like Theravādin monks are allowed "fish and meat that are quite pure in three respects: if they are not seen, heard or suspected to have been killed on purpose  for a monk", we all need to find a Middle-Way where we value what is available but without straining the eco-system!

   Not wasting reduces the pressure to produce food, and the lower pressure on the eco-system supports the first precept of not harming others. Pretending that our waste is not impacting others would be a form of blindness, of 'ignorance' of inter-dependence.

   I previously wrote ( on vegetarianism and on waste, and while I don't support a form of dogmatic and/or absolute vegetarianism (or veganism), I do support abstemiousness.
   A patimokkha  rule stipulates that a monk is not allowed to ask for preferential food (hence should eat meat if that's what's given…); this is a practice to cultivate equanimity. However, an exception is explicitly allowed when the monk is unwell: then, the monk is allowed to ask for dairy products, oil, honey, sugar, fish, meat… So, clearly, fish and meat were allowed to the monks (let alone to laypeople), but the rule also hints that non-vegan products are allowed as medicine  (i.e. as a necessity in the situation at hand, rather than as a wilful choice to ignore the suffering of other sentient beings).
   Let's consider that the whole  conversation about eating is on the same ground: eating should be on the basis of necessity, of need, of medicine… not of waste, not of preferences and not of "because I can" without consideration for the wider, less self-centric, impact!

#Buddhism   #Dharma  
unattributed photo, copied and edited too many times on the net.