Eating Times and Meditation

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Eating Times and Meditation

Posts: 97 Join Date: 5/6/09 Recent Posts
Forum: Practical Dharma

Hello everyone. This is the first thread I've started at DhO, so please bare with me…

I'm curious to know how many of you schedule meal times around meditation practice. I'm asking because I normally eat breakfast and drink coffee immediately after waking up. My meditation practice comes after breakfast. This morning I decided to sit before eating (but still after drinking coffee). I found that my level of concentration during this sitting far surpassed my normal abilities, and the amount of fatigue in my body decreased as well. Could waiting to eat breakfast until after meditation help me to focus, or was this just a fluke?

I have never been to a meditation retreat, so I don't quite know what the feeding schedule is like on such retreats. Would anyone like to share from their experience how this plays out? I'm hoping to get a small piece of practical advice from some of the more advance practitioners (which in my case means just about any of you).

Thanks,

Jackson
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RE: Eating Times and Meditation

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hi Jackson,
personally I don´t care a bit about scheduling my meals around meditation. For me there is no conflict between the two but if there would be I would consider the quality of meditation to be more important than the meals ( of course not if this would mean to scip the meal). I have never really thought about this so it´s interesting what you have to say about it.
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RE: Eating Times and Meditation

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
Hi Jackson,

Meditation before breakfast: that's what I do, but mainly because there would be no more time for meditation after breakfast: our daughter goes off to school and I leave for work and so on. I take a shower before meditating, to get the circulation going.

When I get a chance to do so, I try to eat lunch in a secluded, quiet spot, and I make an insight practice of it, noting the motions and intentions and tastes and smells and so on.

Not that I consider myself particularly advanced, and I've never been to a retreat either.

Cheers,
Florian
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RE: Eating Times and Meditation

Posts: 97 Join Date: 5/6/09 Recent Posts
Thanks for the reply.

I had a feeling that some of the DhO members would have little to say about this. I agree that the quality of meditation is more important than the meals. I was just curious if there was a reason why I was so much more focused than usual this morning, and the only reason I could think of was when I ate breakfast.
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RE: Eating Times and Meditation

Posts: 97 Join Date: 5/6/09 Recent Posts
Hi Florian,

Noting while eating sounds like a good way to increase the amount of practice you do each day. I might have to follow your lead on that one. Thanks for the tip.

It's good to know that there are those of us who are practicing regularly even though we've never gone to a retreat. I think I would benefit greatly from the experience, but I haven't decided to make the time for it yet.

Thanks for the reply.
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RE: Eating Times and Meditation

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
If you really want to go for it you should try to note one day through, with everything that you do (weekend would be better tha´n workday because you don´t want to get fired because of the practice, do you). I do this on free days as much as I can and it gives you a whole new perspective. It is hard but doable. Read some stuff about Dipa Ma to get some extra motivation for this.
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RE: Eating Times and Meditation

Posts: 24 Join Date: 9/9/09 Recent Posts
Hi Jackson -

I meditate before breakfast and meals. After a meal, your body starts investing energy into disgesting the food, part of the reason why we're naturally more sluggish after eating. Most retreats will be organised to get you meditating before breakfast, and the breaks will generally be arranged after meals. A traditional Buddhist retreat will involve not having any food after it gets dark - the first retreat I went on, the last meal of the day was 'lunch' - at 11am. On retreat, you will generally be offered less calories than you're used to off-retreat, but it's not usually a big issue - you're spending most of the day sitting on a cushion, so it's not as if you need a huge dose of calories.

My advice is that your concentration is likely to be better if you've not eaten recently. But as long as you're noting the drowsiness and working with it, I can't see why meditating after meals should come between you and enlightenment.

Best wishes!

Duncan.
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RE: Eating Times and Meditation

Posts: 97 Join Date: 5/6/09 Recent Posts
Hello Duncan,

Thanks for the advice. It makes sense that my body would devote extra energy to digesting food right after meal. I'm not very experienced with noting, so noting the drowsiness does not come very easily yet (then again, who said practice was easy?!). I think I'll try and stick to meditating before meals. I'll take any extra energy I can get.

Jackson
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RE: Eating Times and Meditation

Posts: 97 Join Date: 5/6/09 Recent Posts
Hi Martin,

Are there any particular books or webs article you recommend regarding Dipa Ma? I don't know much about her and would love to learn.

Thanks,

Jackson
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RE: Eating Times and Meditation

Posts: 4 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
Generally one would avoid sitting still to meditate immediately after meal, unless "meditation" is you sitting and contemplating beautiful sites and sounds with a glass in your hand.:-) Let's be reasonable with this one.

If you have a weak digestion, you will always feel drowsy and tired after meal, which tends to get worse if you overeat or intake heavy food. With good digestion and appropriate food - both quality and quantity - you should feel energized physically, though not so alert and sharp mentally as before the meal (but definitely not drowsy). You should also consider sugar-blood levels, glycemic index of different foods etc. It's not just a matter of one or two factors.

As to eating less on a retreat, it depends on individual physiology (see constitution types, slow burners vs. fast burners etc.), and also on the type of practice. If one does hundreds of prostrations or intense mantra practice, in some phases you will eat much more than average. The relationship is not linear, just as it's not linear with sleep (despite the myth that deep meditation always reduces sleep).

So, after taking these several scales in account, you may find what is best for you at different times. Hope this helps.
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RE: Eating Times and Meditation

Posts: 211 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Hi Jackson,

I know you asked Martin, but I figured I'd answer your question about Dipa Ma resources, as I've read a couple of things about her. The best resource is the book written about her, entitled "Dipa Ma: The Life and Legacy of a Buddhist Master", which you can find on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Dipa-Ma-Legacy-Buddhist-Master/dp/0974240559/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1219333737&sr=8-1

There is also a good article about her in Tricycle magazine, can't remember which issue. She was definitely an interesting and inspiring practitioner.
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RE: Eating Times and Meditation

Posts: 97 Join Date: 5/6/09 Recent Posts
Thanks Vince. I'll put it on my reading list.

I've considered subscribing to Tricycle, but I haven't decided whether to buy the online- only or print version. Do you subscribe? If so, which way?

I've also heard you talk about Shambhala Sun and Buddhadharma magazine on Buddhist Geeks. Of the three magazines, which do you find most valuable?
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RE: Eating Times and Meditation

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: AlanChapman

Hello Jackson,

Christian mystics used to use coffee as an aid to meditation. I've certainly had similar results to you after a dose on an empty stomach.
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RE: Eating Times and Meditation

Posts: 15 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hiya, I'm new here really, so bear with me, and I don't know if what I say is worth much really, as it's very particular to me.
I used to always meditate just after I woke, before breakfast (or instead of depending on if I'd slept in!).

However, nowadays it's kind of random. I have odd issues with my tummy, so if I need to eat, I need to eat, and if that's before meditation, then so be it.
But then, having eaten, I tend to get a bit sleepy, so meditation sometimes isn't the best thing after a meal.

I do find that if you're hungry though, and it's causing problems, an apple is a good thing to have; apples have the right kind of energy to sustain you, and don't make you sluggish, and I find they give me a good energy boost. I can't have coffee or anything like that, and I find that they're bad for you anyway, but an apple first thing in the morning wakes me up well, and gives me good energy for meditating.

I have a very fluid approach to meditation; if I'm feeling up to it I do it, but that's because of my disabilities. I'd say if you're really hungry, it's only going to affect your meditation anyway, so eat something small, and then maybe have a proper breakfast afterwards?
Hunger's one of those things that the mind likes to keep reminding you of.

Nicola

Djon Ma
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RE: Eating Times and Meditation

Posts: 97 Join Date: 5/6/09 Recent Posts
Hey Alan,

I didn't know that the Christian mystics used coffee, but it makes sense. I know that the Chinese and Japanese Zennies used green tea to aid their practice.

Lately, I've only had about a half cup of coffee before sitting in the morning. I drink the second half afterward. I didn't plan this, really, but it seems to be a good natural balance.
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RE: Eating Times and Meditation

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
Ugh, cold coffee! You'll want to watch those ascetic practices, or it'll be "dwelling under a tree" and "always sitting and not lying down" next. emoticon

Cheers,
Florian
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RE: Eating Times and Meditation

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/26/09 Recent Posts
I think hokai posted some decent advice above.

I don't know if it's worth getting too neurotic about food and stimulant intake in relation to meditation. I'll wake up, roll out of bed, take my cushion out of the bench, then sit. Or if i'm more pressed for time I'll take care of my morning routine and then sit. One thing I find is that upon waking any remaining sleepiness, for me, if it isn't a result of poor sleep or from waking in the middle of a dream cycle or because my cats want to play at 4 am, is either a desire to change consciousness or to avoid pain... in other words, nothing that a little concentration won't fix. If eating is making you sleepy, maybe consider altering your diet or feeding times... if your morning coffee/tea/methamphetamine routine gets in the way of practice, then push that back.

so in short I find that putting practice first--i.e., upon waking, or before making dinner, etc., is a way to ensure that I will actually practice. It's not like the refrigerator is going anywhere
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RE: Eating Times and Meditation

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: thorjackson

I've found that first thing in the morning is a bit difficult to concentrate, in my opinion due to subtle moods created by are dreams. Half hour of physical movement like having a shower or what ever. I think shower is a good one because I think water has a cleansing affect not just physical but spiritual. After food also is difficult due to energy being used for digestion like duncun says. Also when your stomach is full it doesn't relax as much as it can do empty. Try not eating for 24 hours then meditate, you will be suprised of the difference. Don't go silly though, stavation has led to many emaciated bodies. Moderation is the key.
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RE: Eating Times and Meditation

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: buffduff

If you are noting sensations on the body (as in S.N. Goenka's style of Vipassana), practicing before eating, eating vegetarian, and not eating very much (no meals after noon) are the general recommendations for helping lead to sensations of lightness in the body, which can aid practice, especially for getting a free flow of vibration throughout the body. I find this useful on retreat, but don't pay too much attention off retreat.

Some people find it significantly more difficult to notice subtle body sensations when eating heavy, greasy, or meaty meals. As always, pay attention to the reality you observe at the phenomenological level, as individual results vary significantly.
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RE: Eating Times and Meditation

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/26/09 Recent Posts
Is that why there is so much goddamn peanut butter at IMS? I mean come on, serving "Sweet Potato and Peanut Butter Stew" as a "tea meal" at 530 PM on a retreat where the supposed "theme" (never mind the question of, what does an insight retreat need a theme for) jhana?

sorry, maybe i will make a substantive comment later
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RE: Eating Times and Meditation

Posts: 138 Join Date: 8/25/09 Recent Posts
I practice mindful eating to prevent myself from over-eating. I also practice walking meditation after preparing the meal and walking to the place i will eat it. I also practice walking meditation on the way to get 2nd servings.

Definitely the worst for me is meditating after eating. I can't believe how anyone can pull that off, considering if they serve you greasy and sweet stuff. Sweet Potato and Peanut Butter doesn't sound too hot, sounds pretty challenging.

I Have trouble meditating right out of bed too. I usually have a coffee and some bread first.
However, I did try meditating straight out of bed for a time, but only for 10 minutes. It didn't work for me.
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RE: Eating Times and Meditation

Posts: 138 Join Date: 8/25/09 Recent Posts
so, the conclusion im getting is: the less food you have in your system, the clearer your mind will be.
so the smart thing would be to meditate b4 eating.
the potential problem then would be for the thought of eating/hunger disturbing the sit.
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RE: Eating Times and Meditation

Posts: 362 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
There is no end to what you can learn about your body and mind by applying mindfulness to eating, digesting and excreting. I wouldn't know where to begin to recount all that I have learned in this way. It's taught me more about myself and people in general than I would have ever thought possible certainly. For instance, most people in the west are on a kind of insulin rollercoaster that starts with that first cup of coffee in the morning and ends with an overlarge meal in the evening.

For serious retreats I have found that either breakfast and the mid day meal or just the mid day meal are more than enough food for the day although this also carries with it a bit of that same insulin rollercoaster effect, that is the nature of the thing and part of that is the period of post meal torpor.

As for meditating while eating, that can be highly instructive but it can extend eating a bowl of food into hours if you are doing it correctly 'the Mahasi way'. I found that I was able to read my body signals to the point where I knew which spoon full of food should optimally be the last spoon full of food taken that day. But bear in mind I have been reading my body this way for about thirty years now so don't expect that sort of thing overnight. Just continue to observe the whole nutriment cycle in action and you will find that there is plenty to be discovered about how this stuff works [and how that process influences the mind and visaversa] if you just pay attention to what the whole body is telling you instead of only the taste buds.

w/ metta

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