Meditation as a doable, daily dose of mental wellness

wildmind meditation news

Hannah Trumbo, Smith College Sophian: When you think of the word “meditation,” you might imagine a guru sitting under a tree for several hours, just breathing. Or maybe you think, “I don’t have time to sit and do nothing; I have so many things to get done.”

That’s what I used to think. I was the person who always wanted to meditate, but every time I tried, I could never stick to a practice. That is, until I went to the Helen Hills Hills Chapel’s weekly meditation group, which meets every Monday from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Yes, the concept is similar. We do sit quietly for an hour, but the environment is open and accepting of all different meditation backgrounds – whether you practice an hour a day or are a complete beginner.

Interfaith Program Coordinator for the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life Hayat Nancy Abuza defines meditation as “involving the shifting of attention to a still point of focus, with the aim of increasing calm and peacefulness.” The idea sounds simple, she said, but meditation isn’t necessarily easy. Like any activity, “practice will help.”

Practicing meditation does not have to involve sitting on a cushion for an hour. According to Abuza, “one can meditate while walking to class, before sleep, doing yoga, while standing in line at the post office and while eating.”

Yes, even eating.

Abuza encourages students to attend the “Mindful Munching” lunch workshop in the King/Scales private dining room on March 7, 21 and 28. Eating meditation can be particularly helpful for those who chow down on Smith’s pierogies on their way to Neilson.

Any kind of meditation can help alleviate stress, improve sleep, and mental focus overtime, stated Abuza. It’s especially good for students who can get wrapped up in the whirlwind of homework, extra-curricular activities, jobs and internships.

“Even for a short time, it is very valuable in a hectic setting like Smith to learn to leave behind one’s outer concerns and focus on one’s inner life,” Abuza explained.

Original article no longer available


Wildmind is a Community-Supported Meditation Initiative. Click here to find out about the many benefits of being a sponsor.

standing in line at the post office and while eating.”

Yes, even eating.

Abuza encourages students to attend the “Mindful Munching” lunch workshop in the King/Scales private dining room on March 7, 21 and 28. Eating meditation can be particularly helpful for those who chow down on Smith’s pierogies on their way to Neilson.

Any kind of meditation can help alleviate stress, improve sleep, and mental focus overtime, stated Abuza. It’s especially good for students who can get wrapped up in the whirlwind of homework, extra-curricular activities, jobs and internships.

“Even for a short time, it is very valuable in a hectic setting like Smith to learn to leave behind one’s outer concerns and focus on one’s inner life,” Abuza explained.

Alex Grubb ’11 agrees.

“When I know I have to stay up late to do homework but am really tired, I meditate on my bed or in the shower and it’s very rejuvenating and it helps clear my mind,” Abuza and Grubb are not alone in their opinion on the benefits of meditation and mindfulness. Research suggests that meditation has potential psychological and physical benefits. In a study conducted by the American Journal of Psychiatry, researchers found that subjects with generalized anxiety disorder were able to reduce their symptoms of anxiety by following a meditation-based stress reduction program.

While Smith students might not have the opportunity to participate in a formal program, just a few minutes of mediation a day can be very helpful. I recently started meditating five minutes a day, five days a week, for five weeks, called the “5-5-5” meditation practice, that Zen Buddhist Priest Ryumon Baldoquin described to me in December.

While I know that I won’t reach nirvana anytime soon, the five minutes do calm me down after a long day of studying.
So how does one begin to meditate? There is always Google, where you are bound to find millions of sources just by typing “meditation” in the search box.

Or, you could drop in on Monday’s meditation. Led by Baldoquin, the hour-long practice includes tips on how to sit with good posture as well as a walking meditation. The environment is safe, accepting and open – an hour to breathe, walk slowly or just sit peacefully before tackling the mountain of homework. Grubb said.

Read More

Russell Simmons on money, bliss and veganism

wildmind meditation news

The message of music mogul Russell Simmons’ latest book, “Super Rich: A Guide to Having It All” (Gotham), may seem contradictory: A person can become “super rich” by reaching the state of needing nothing.

Simmons, the self-made millionaire often credited for putting hip-hop on the map with Def Jam Recordings, is one of the wealthiest black Americans in the country, but he argues a person can become rich not by obsessing about money but by giving to others.

Being rich is about finding the happiness inside, he says.

Slender and with a kind smile, the 53-year-old still looks youthful, part of what he attributes to a strict vegan diet he embraced 10 years ago.

“The last book helped change so many people’s lives. I wanted this one to do the same,” he says of the new book he co-wrote with Chris Morrow. (His previous one, “Do You! 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success,” also co-authored by Morrow, became a New York Times best-seller upon its release in 2007.)

The following is an edited version of our interview:

CNN: What does it mean to be rich?

Russell Simmons: The idea of “Super Rich” is likened to a state of yoga, being in a state of needing nothing. There is this space where you are awake, a heightened awareness, and this kind of space is very attractive.

The title is a little deceptive to some. It certainly is the road to having success in the world, having the toys, the trappings people refer to as rich. (It’s also about) those people who are good givers and feelers — the book practices to bring you toward a more enlightened state.

CNN: Has your definition of rich always been this way?

Simmons: No, I think “Super Rich” is a fun title, and I think I couldn’t call the book “Christ Consciousness.” It’s really about being in a blissful state, and I think all of us are looking for that.

CNN: What is that blissful state?

Simmons: I think the idea is we want to be happy, and happy is something that is not based on the outside forces. It’s something from inside. And when you’re calm and you’re in a state of needing nothing, it’s a place of operation and of abundance.

CNN: Do you think you’ve reached that state?

Simmons: I certainly can’t say I’m enlightened. I have faith in the process.

CNN: Why did you write the book?

Simmons: This is my second book on the subject. The last book was a big best-seller. It was fun bringing all the scripture together and making it simple and putting the book out. I never expected it to be so big. So many people from the last book — “Do You!” — came up to me and told me that my book changed their life.

I wrote this book more as a “how to” book but with a greater intention. It was not just — can I bring these teachings together but can I really make it an offering.

CNN: What are some of these teachings people can incorporate into their everyday life?

Simmons: The idea of giving. Wake up in the morning and decide on what you are going to give. Those people, who are selfless servants, always are successful. Many of my interns from Puffy, who you could put your left hand out and there would be a cup of coffee. … If you make someone better, then they keep calling on you to make them better. Then one day you’re their president, and they look to you for inspiration.

CNN: What are the ways you give?

Simmons: I run many charities. I make music. I have a financial service company that is very special.

CNN: The book talks a lot about being focused and awake. How can we do that?

When I say you need nothing, it’s a state of awareness so you can be focused on your work. People are sometimes focused on their results, and it can be a distraction. Be focused on the action, the work, and that’s what we want to teach people.

CNN: People can often link success to material objects, perhaps a new car or house. How do you break away from that belief when so many people are inundated with material objects?

Simmons: There is a simple chapter on meditation to watch your thoughts just a bit — to not to be a sheep through that practice and other practices. You start to think on your own, and you can check what society is telling you, whether the collective unconscious behavior is your behavior or your future. Do you have to do what everyone does?

As you come to meditate and look inside, you can make your own choices. And entrepreneurs absolutely have to think outside the box, don’t they? You want to have the creativity and a spacious mind. The book is about creating that kind of mind-set so you can be a better entrepreneur.

CNN: Meditation is one way to achieve that clarity. Are there other ways?

Simmons: Take stock in yourself. When you meditate, you take inventory before you transcend the thoughts. As you come to know what they told you is true … when you hear the truth, it rings a bell. This book is written in such a way that many people who might not hear it from their mother, their preacher, their prophet or their scripture, they are hearing it in this book.

CNN: Tell me about being vegan.

Simmons: I’ve been vegan for more than 10 years. It’s maybe the worst disaster in human history — 15 billion suffering farm animals. And I don’t want to participate in it. I’m 53 years old, and do I look sick to you? I don’t eat animal or animal products, and I feel fine. I feel pretty healthy.

CNN: What are your favorite dishes?

Simmons: I like this spicy tempeh dish. I like that a lot. People ask my favorite stuff, and I say the thing in front of me a lot. Right now if I weren’t on a liquid diet, if I had an avocado roll and some soy sauce, it would be that.

CNN: What can people learn from your book?

Simmons: I hope people become more compassionate and happier, and I guess the fringe benefit is they will be successful in the world.

Original article no longer available


Wildmind is a Community-Supported Meditation Initiative. Click here to find out about the many benefits of being a sponsor.

Read More

“Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life,” by Thich Nhat Hanh

On New Year’s Day, many of us will resolve to lose weight. But before we finalise our weight loss plans, writer Mandy Sutter recommends taking a look at Thich Nhat Hanh’s interesting new book, Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life.

For millions of us, overweight is a seemingly intractable problem. We start diets and exercise programmes with good intentions, and may succeed in losing weight. But our new, low weight is hard to sustain and the pounds creep back on, sometimes gradually, sometimes indecently quickly.

According to Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr Lilian Cheung, authors of Savor, our difficulties aren’t entirely of our own making. The ‘obesigenic society’ we live in makes it tricky to live in a healthy, balanced way. There’s a proven link, for example, between the rise in obesity and the rise in TV watching. And food manufacturers are generally more concerned with turning in a good profit than with safeguarding people’s health.

A significant part of Savor is devoted to observations like these, backed up by intelligent discussion and reference to up-to-date scientific studies. The emphasis on interconnectedness is no accident (we Buddhists tend to bang on about such things) and marks the book out as more than just another book on weight loss. It takes the sting out of one’s own struggle too, and relieves the self-blame that strikes as one reaches for another chocolate in front of the afternoon film.

But having put our problems into context, the authors don’t let us rest on our laurels. The book is stuffed – perhaps a little surprisingly – with practical advice on eating and exercise.

A seasoned dieter will have seen much of this before, but what’s different about Savor is that the benefit of following the advice is described not just in terms of the self but also the wider community. Interconnectedness again. For example, it’s pointed out that riding a bike to work will not only help you lose weight but safeguard the clean air in your town, as will your next step: trying to persuade local government to build cycle paths.

Another thing that marks Savor out is the meditation exercises peppered throughout, the reference to Buddhist sutras, and gems like ‘the 7 practices of a mindful eater’. The exercises and references to Buddhist texts are well explained and justified within the weight-loss context, and therefore accessible to non-Buddhists.

I do wonder, however, if exhorting us to recite Thich Nhat Hanh’s Five Mindfulness Trainings once a week (pg 209) isn’t a bridge too far for the non-Buddhist reader (at whom the book seems to be aimed).

And although the book’s approach will fall like manna from Nirvana to some, it will alienate others (including Buddhists fat and thin alike) who don’t buy the idea that our society is in a bad way or even that our planet is in need of saving. Very occasionally the text degenerates into hectoring, as if one is attending a very right-on party and has been trapped (on the other side of the room from the food and drinks table) by an earnest bore.

But these slips are minor ones in a book that’s thoughtful, concerned, well researched and pleasingly wide-ranging.

Ignore the blurb on the cover, which makes mindfulness sound like the new ‘fix’ to help people lose weight. In fact, the book gets it the other (right) way round: our problems with weight offer us a golden opportunity to learn to live more mindfully.

Read More

Newest weight loss strategy: Meditate before eating your meal

Jimmy Downs, Food Consumer: Weight loss needs a reduction in caloric intake, which can be realized by simply practicing some meditation before eating meals, a new study suggests.

The study led by Dr. Carey Morewedge from Department of Social and Decision Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University shows people tended to eat less of a food if they imagined the eating process repeatedly before they actually ate the food. And the study found the more food a person “ate” in his imagination, the less food subsequently he would eat.

In the study, according to what Dr. Morewedge told NPR Science Friday radio program, study participants were told to imagine the process of eating M&Ms, including moving the candies into a bowl, and then asked to eat the real food. Those who imagined eating 30 M&Ms ate much less real M&Ms than those who imagined eating only 3 M&Ms.

Dr. Morewedge said simply imagining moving the food did not help.

He said you also need to imagine eating what you are going to eat to reduce the consumption of the food. The study showed when participants imagined they were eating M&Ms, and then when they were assigned to eat cheese cubes, no matter how many M&Ms they ate in their imagination, they ate the same amount of cheese.

What works behind this trick is a process called habituation, according to Dr. Morewedge. According to this theory, people are less responsive to what they got habituated to. In the study case, after the participants imagined they ate lots of cheese cubes, they felt less urged to eat the food and they ate less of the food as a result.

But Dr. Morewedge told NPR that this imagination method does not work for other habits like smoking, which involves a more complex mechanism and imagining smoking could actually boost a smoker’s craving for smokes and the smoker could actually smoke more.

Dr. Morewedge used cheese and M&Ms for the study. It is unknown whether this method would help people cut their consumption of a real meal which consists of multiple foods. Should the diners, like people going to have some Chinese buffet, imagine all the foods they are going to eat to reduce the consumption of the variety of real foods? Or would this method work at all in this case?

The study was published in a recent issue of Science, a prestigious scientific journal.

In China, two idioms describe two pitiful situations in which people don’t have water to drink to quench their thirst and don’t have food to eat to satisfy their hunger. In these situation as the idioms suggest, people may “look at prune to quench your thirst” and “draw a cake to satisfy your hunger”.

Original article no longer available…

Read More

Actress Lindsay Wagner takes a holistic path

wildmind meditation news

Bruce Fessier, The Desert Sun, Palm Springs, CA: You may know Lindsay Wagner as the patched-together heroine of TV’s “Bionic Woman.” But even before that 1970s series, she was an ardent advocate of holistic health.

Wagner, 61, will speak Saturday at a Palm Springs Women in Film & Television luncheon in La Quinta, where she’s had a home for more than a year.

But she wasn’t sure what to talk about because she’s been more devoted to her holistic health studies for the past decade than her film and television career.

Wagner has devoted much of her time to working with convicted assailants in Los Angeles jails and conducting workshops with their families on how to awaken their human potential and heal emotional scars.

For her, finding ways to integrate body, mind and spirit can help anyone with their personal growth.

“That is what was going to keep me in balance while going through this strange and unnatural process of being a star and an icon,” Wagner said while eating a vegetarian meal at an El Paseo restaurant.

“It’s a very strange life and I found that (while) working 12 to 18 hours a day, learning things like health and meditation and power naps and understanding those principles were very helpful to my health. On an emotional-psychological level, to have a spiritual path that was grounding and richening was so valuable to keep my sanity going.”

Wagner is of a protege of Dr. Gladys McGeary, one of the founders of the holistic health movement in the United States. McGeary ran the Edgar Cayce Outpatient Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., and wrote “The Physician Within You.” Wagner once did promotion for McGeary and recently attended her 90th birthday celebration.

Wagner also is a student of the late William Hornaday, co-founder of the Church of Religious Science with the late Ernest Holmes. It was Hornaday who actually started Wagner on her holistic journey.

“I had a very bad case of ulcers when I was a kid, just before I turned 20,” she said. “UCLA was wanting to operate, but Dr. Hornaday and a colleague, who was a medical doctor (and) a practitioner of Science of Mind, came to me because Dr. Hornaday’s secretary was my boyfriend’s mother. They offered to help me if I wanted to possibly avoid the surgery. They taught me to meditate, they taught me self investigation, they put me on a severe fast (and) they taught me to do spiritual mind treatments, which is using the visualization of a healthy body with calling on the divine.”

After six weeks, her ulcers were gone, she said. She doesn’t recommend that regimen without professional supervision because she ingested nothing but skim milk for six weeks while meditating.

But Wagner said she learned so much about her human potential that she decided to begin a lifetime study of Hornaday’s philosophy of integrating the body, mind and spirit.

“By the time I started acting, I was already convinced,” she said. “I considered actually quitting the business at one point to become a homeopath.”

Listening to the body

Wagner actually practices several types of meditation. She sets aside at least an hour each morning for whatever technique she needs to balance herself — whether that means relaxing or re-energizing.

“When I’m talking about being balanced, I’m not talking about some horrible thing that happened to me yesterday,” she said. “(It’s) everything from the toxins in our food and the toxins in the air we breathe. To have the chakra system – the energy system of the body – balanced, it’s (about) going to the core. The core knows exactly what we need. In one moment we need more energy than we do at another. So to be connected to our core, that’s a lifestyle that helps me have more energy when I need it and be calm when I don’t need it all.”

Wagner, who has co-authored books on acupuncture and vegetarian food, supplements her diet and meditation with herbs and vitamins. She found primrose oil and Vitamin E helpful with the hot flashes associated with menopause. But she’d rather “listen to my body” than follow a strict regimen. She often discontinues using some supplements for a week or so.

The key to her holistic approach, she said, is “looking at the body and the mind and the spirit altogether. You can’t eliminate any one of them. You have to be balanced to have the total healing.”

Wagner says she’s more productive now than when she was younger because she can manage her energy better.

“I have learned through my life that the more grounded I am, the more energy I have to give to what I’m doing in the moment,” she said. “That’s way less tiring and way less draining of energy, so I outlast a lot of kids, so to speak, when I’m doing the same type of thing. I’m using my energy much more efficiently.

“I feel better than I used to feel ever. There are some times I wish I had some of that excess energy, but, when I look at it, I wouldn’t trade where I am today.”

Original article no longer available


Wildmind is a Community-Supported Meditation Initiative. Click here to find out about the many benefits of being a sponsor.

Read More

Three books on mindful eating: a review

The Zen of Eating, by Ronna KabatznickWith so many of us being overweight or having “issues” with food, there’s been a welcome interest in — and a slew of books about — learning to eat more mindfully. Freelance writer Mandy Sutter gives us a “taste” of what three of these books has to offer.

As a former yo-yo dieter, ‘mindful eating’ was an idea I skirted around when first encountering Buddhist practice. It sounded too much like a diet. But the phrase still lurked in a corner, like a giant spider you can’t help looking at. Eventually I had to coax the spider onto a piece of cardboard, cover it with a beer glass and take it outside — in other words, buy three books on mindful eating: The Zen of Eating, by Ronna Kabatznick, Ph.D, Eating the Moment by Pavel G Somov, PhD, and Meal by Meal by Donald Altman.

Kabatznick presents herself as a specialist in weight management first and a long-time mindfulness practitioner second. But The Zen of Eating is a book about spiritual practice: she sets out to show how accepting the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths can stop you overeating. She goes on to analyse the Eightfold Path in terms of its relevance to food choices. It’s a worry that the Middle Way might end up being pressed into the service of fatties everywhere, and sometimes the text creaks as detailed aspects of Buddhist practice are forced into relevance with eating, but most of the book works very well. In her section on ‘Right Aspiration’ for example, Kabatznick talks about how mindful eating can be undermined when motivated by vanity. If a choice to restrict certain foods is made to benefit others though, there can be meaning behind the action. She suggests dedication of merit: offering any benefit that comes from your commitment to healthy eating to specific people or groups of people (for example cutting back on red meat could be dedicated to heart disease patients).

Verdict: although contrived in places, The Zen of Eating is a thoughtful, intelligent read.

Eating the Moment, by Pavel G. Somov

Pavel G. Somov’s Eating the Moment offers a completely different take on the subject. It’s practical and it’s funny. Somov has the florid, enjoyable writing style of a raconteur, addressing us as ‘dear reader’ and advising us to phone in sick to make time to experiment with all the different ways of cooking eggs.

His book is a collection of varied suggestions to overcome overeating: 141 in all. Some relate to spiritual practice as much as to eating: for example, he suggests watching a lava lamp as a visual metaphor for the morphing nature of thought. Another suggestion ‘The Admittedly Annoying Thorough Chewing Exercise’ is geared at self-awareness, and another ‘The Carrot Cake Fight’ has us throwing ‘snowballs’ of carrot cake at a tree in order to stop carrot cake saying simply ‘eat me.’

Verdict: delightful to read, but will you practice the techniques? I tried three then got overwhelmed by the number of suggestions.

Meal by Meal by Donald Altman

Meal by Meal by Donald Altman offers a third approach: a year of daily meditations. I’m a sucker for being told what to do on certain days, even though in voracious frames of mind I’m capable of reading and even doing a whole week’s worth of suggestions. In dilatory states I fail to pick up the book at all, of course, and am tempted to time travel if I don’t like one particular day’s suggestion. So, right from page one, the book’s format brings you into contact with yourself.

The meditations themselves are quite lengthy, exposing you to a quotation, asking you at least one probing question, then suggesting an action. Some are beautiful, if pious. On March 15th, you quiet a diet-crazed mind by repeating a meaningful word, like Om, to yourself at the table. Some verge on the polemical, and are therefore complicated. On July 21st you’re asked, ‘do your current food choices leave you wanting fewer side effects and discomforts? Is temporary food pleasure worth discomfort or even long-term health problems?’

Others are imaginative: on October 21st you reflect on how cookbooks and diet books are often placed opposite each other in bookshops. It’s a metaphor for your conflicting desires: can you walk through the aisle without grabbing either?

Verdict: overcomplicated, but containing real gems.

All three books are worth a look. The Zen of Eating came top for me, because I loved its rigour and commitment; the way it reached into all the little corners of its subject. I trusted its author the most. But if you want something practical I’d recommend Eating the Moment and if you value answering questions about yourself as a way to awareness, I’d recommend Meal by Meal.

Read More

Vegetarian diet for five days reduces levels of toxic chemicals in the body

People who adopted a vegetarian diet for just five days show reduced levels of toxic chemicals in their bodies. In particular, levels of hormone disrupting chemicals and antibiotics used in livestock were lower after the five-day vegetarian program. The pilot study suggests that people may be able reduce their exposure to potentially dangerous chemicals through dietary choices, such as limiting consumption of animal products like meats and dairy.

Twenty-five participants lived in a Buddhist temple and adopted the monks’ lifestyle – including their traditional vegetarian diet – for five days.

At the beginning of their “Temple Stay,” participants completed a questionnaire about what they had eaten in the previous 48 hours. They gave a urine sample to provide information on level of exposure to antibiotics and phthalates before the program began. None of the participants had taken any antibiotics or pharmaceutical drugs in the previous month. After five days of following a traditional Buddhist monk lifestyle and diet, participants again gave a urine sample so that levels of chemicals in their bodies after the program could be assessed.

Because it is difficult to measure levels of phthalates directly, researchers typically measure levels of their breakdown products in the urine samples. In this case, the scientists looked at levels of six different phthalate breakdown products as well as concentrations of three commonly used antibiotics and two of their breakdown products.

The researchers compared levels of phthalates and antibiotics in the body before and after the program. They also examined how the foods eaten in the days prior to the start of the Temple Stay related to the before levels of chemicals in their urine.

Participants varied greatly as to which antibiotics were detected in their bodies at the start of the study. By the end of the study, in many cases, participants’ antibiotic concentrations were too low to be accurately measured. For those samples that could be measured, moreover, both urinary levels of the antibiotics and the estimated daily intake of antibiotics had decreased after the Temple Stay.

Every participant had measurable levels of all six phthalate breakdown products at both the beginning and end of the study. However, after the five-day program, levels of all but one had dropped significantly, as had the estimated daily intake of phthalates.

The researchers also found that the foods participants ate in the 48 hours before starting the program were related to the concentrations of antibiotics and phthalates in their bodies. Beef, pork and dairy were associated with starting urinary levels of the various antibiotics, suggesting that those foods may be major inadvertent routes of exposure to the pharmaceuticals. Similarly, levels of one particular phthalate breakdown product were related to number of servings of dairy products consumed in the previous 48 hours.

The dramatic reductions in antibiotic and phthalate levels resulting from the five-day Temple Stay program of lifestyle and dietary change suggest that the body’s chemical burden can be reduced even within a very short time frame.

At the same time, phthalates remained in the urine of all 25 participants, albeit at lesser levels, even after the five-day program. The finding reinforces current thinking that diet is an important source of phthalate exposure but not the only one. Other sources of exposure include personal care products, home furnishings and dust.

Antibiotic levels showed a more dramatic drop, suggesting that food is, in fact, the major route of exposure.

This study is among the first to look at how diet affects phthalate and antibiotic levels in the body and shows that reduced consumption of animal products may be important. However, it also leaves many questions unanswered. The specific type of vegetarian diet and the Buddhist monk lifestyle adopted by participants in the Temple Stay are not described in great detail by the study’s authors. Vegetarian diets can vary considerably and because no additional information on the Temple Stay diet was provided, it is difficult to make more specific dietary recommendations on how the public can reduce chemical exposures.

For instance, the authors don’t report on whether the Temple Stay diet was free of dairy products as well as meats. Whether the foods consumed by participants were mostly fresh and unprocessed is also an important question. When it comes to chemical exposures in the diet, the specific foods consumed may prove to be less important than how those foods are processed, packaged and prepared. Further research is needed to examine those issues, particularly in isolation from other lifestyle changes.

Aside from the dietary changes during the Temple Stay, the adoption of a traditional lifestyle during the five-day period may have also contributed to reduced chemical exposures in the participants, particularly phthalate levels. Although lifestyle factors likely played a lesser role compared to food, without knowing more about the participants’ living conditions and surroundings during the program, it is impossible to rule out the importance of phthalate exposure through the environment. Nevertheless, this initial finding provides strong evidence that dietary and other lifestyle changes can reduce exposure to a range of potentially harmful chemicals even on a very short time scale.

[via Environmental Health News]
Read More

Buddhists say you aren’t what you eat, but how

With his round cheeks and ample belly, the Buddha may rank somewhere close to sumo wrestlers on most Americans’ list of go-to sources for healthful eating tips.

But the ever-present image of a fat and happy Buddha owes more to China’s ideal of prosperity and ability to mass-produce figurines than to historical accuracy. In Japan and India, the Buddha is depicted as trim and lithe, said the Rev. Jan Chozen Bays, a Zen priest and pediatrician, and his teachings may be key to overcoming Americans’ increasingly troubled eating habits.

Bays, who goes by the Dharma name Chozen (“clear meditation”), is a student and teacher of “mindful eating,” a practice that borrows liberally from Buddhist psychology and meditation techniques.

For calorie-counting Americans, mindful eating preaches an alert, moment-by-moment focus on emotions, food and fullness. Buddhism teaches that “right mindfulness” is a step on the path to nirvana; in mindful eating, it could be a step toward a smaller waistline, especially for people struggling to keep those New Year’s resolutions to shed a few pounds.

Bay says hunger is only one of several reasons people eat.

Read the rest of this article…

Frustration, sadness, irritation, boredom, anxiety, anger and insecurity are all additional — if somewhat hidden — spurs to snacking.

“There’s no guarantee that mindful eating will help you lose weight,” said Bays, author of the 2009 book Mindful Eating. “But it will help you enter a balanced, helpful relationship with food again.”

Aside from the Buddha, mindful eating also draws lessons and inspiration from Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program, which introduced the masses to a secularized form of meditation in 1979. Since then, studies have shown the positive effects of mindfulness meditation on everything from substance abuse to psoriasis, and hundreds of hospitals have established mindfulness clinics.

Dr. Jean Kristeller, a psychologist and director of the Center for the Study of Health, Religion, and Spirituality at Indiana State University, has studied meditation for 30 years. As co-founder of the Center for Mindful Eating, Kristeller has also received two grants from the National Institutes of Health to study the effects of mindful eating. Though the studies’ results have not yet been published, Kristeller said she has seen firsthand that mindful eating works.

Some, but not all, proponents of mindful eating are Buddhists, said Dr. Brian Shelley, who developed a mindful-eating program at the University of New Mexico. And though advocates are open about the Buddhist roots of mindfulness, they are not out to gain converts.

“It’s more like a cognitive therapy than a spiritual practice,” said Shelley, who meditates and studies the Buddha’s teachings but does not consider himself a Buddhist. “We are very clear that this is not a course in Buddhism or spirituality.”

Many nutritionists — including mindful-eating teachers — now think the problem with American diets is not only the food we eat — it’s also how we consume it.

The Buddha told monks to take meals silently, with no books or conversations to distract them, only an awareness of what their body needs to get through the day. When they felt full, they stopped eating, even if that meant leaving food in the bowl, Bays said.

Studies have shown that people tend to eat more when they are given larger portions and are distracted.

Bays begins mindful-eating retreats with a single raisin, asking practitioners to consider how hungry they are on a scale of one to 10 while they investigate the color, texture and taste of the raisin. The goal, she said, is to replace thinking with awareness.

“In Christian terms, it’s called communion,” Bays said, “coming into union with everything happening at that moment.”

Read More