Even in the US Congress

  • Even in the US Congress

Last month I had the pleasure and honor of teaching the weekly meditation group in the Congressional Offices in Washington DC. This group was started a few years ago by Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio - a long-time meditator, a serious and committed proponent of mindfulness, and the author of A Mindful Nation, a great exploration about the ways mindfulness can change our culture. As mindfulness and meditation become more mainstream and the benefits of developing mindful awareness become widely known, it’s perfectly natural that even members of Congress and their staff are meditating.

  At the end of the class I invited feedback and after a fairly long pause, one man broke the shy silence and said, “I feel great!” Then another person asked how to bring the balance, focus and clarity developed in meditation into the regular course of one’s day. This is perhaps, one of the most important questions of all.   If we don’t bring the fruits of the practice into our daily lives, then we’re missing the point of meditating at all.  In fact, as one’s practice becomes a regular and integrated aspect of one’s life, mindfulness becomes not something we necessarily do, but something we more naturally are. It informs how we see the world, how we see our own lives, and it slowly becomes our default way of seeing and being.   It gives me hope that mindfulness has made its way to the highest level of government. May it soak in and support our elected officials and their staff to make wise decisions from the ground of balance, focus and clarity.   Here are a few practices to bring into your day.  Mindfulness of Food:
  1. Notice your food. When you sit down to eat your next meal, take the time to really look at it - its colors, textures, shapes and aromas. Then think about where it all came from – where it was grown, how it was farmed and by whom, all of the distribution and supply chains necessary to get this food from its origin to your kitchen and onto your plate.
  2. Taste your food. Take a bite and put your fork down until you’ve thoroughly chewed and swallowed this bite. We’re so habituated to have the next bite of food ready to go in our mouths before we’ve barely chewed the first bite that we stop noticing its taste. And it's this kind of mindlessness that can lead to overeating as we’re oblivious to the sensations of satisfaction and satiation.
  3. Recognize satisfaction. There’s a wonderful teaching from the Buddha that invites us to eat only until we’re five bites from full. But how do we actually know? We have to slow down and pay attention to the sensations and the direct experience of eating. When we do, we get to know what satisfaction feels like which helps us redefine our sense of enough. We learn that being stuffed to the gills is unpleasant and unnecessary. We can apply Five Bites from Full to all of the ways we consume – food, drink, the media, our shopping habits, time cruising online, spending time alone, spending time with others. Recognizing satisfaction develops balance.
Mindfulness of Desire:
  1. Notice wanting. The holidays are a supremely seductive time to indulge in our endless desires and notice how it shows up and takes hold. Start with just noticing when it comes up. What are the triggers? Can you feel it in your body? What is your mind telling you? Just notice.
  2. Fulfill this wanting. Once you’ve satisfied your desire notice how this feels in your body and your mind. Is there a sense of relief? Does it make you happy?
  3. Let it go. Forget about noticing desire. Go back to your daily routine. How long does it take before a sense of wanting comes back around? It’s endless.

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