Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Vipassana Retreat, Installment 18

SATURDAY, JULY 11, 2009, 6:05 AM
Friday’s Conscious Eating Meditation Lunch was especially profound. One of the sitters quipped that Pam should charge money for the sessions, or go into business. Pam said, “Funny you should ask”, and told us that she was going into business, that her business cards were on the table next to her facilitation sign in sheet. (I picked up one of her cards later.  The card says, “Eating Dynamics; An integrative approach to eating, weight management and nutritional health. Pam Tarlow, Pharm. D; Interactive Pharmacist.
Tel: 310-798,5772; Fax: 310-427-6545;; )
            Each lunch, Pam focuses on a different aspect of mindful eating. Yesterday, she instructed us to choose a technique and apply it while we waited for everyone to arrive and for her to deliver her pre-meal talk. She suggested some variation on FOCUS IN, but since I’d been working with FOCUS OUT all morning (which allowed me to keep my eyes open while meditating, thus helping me to stay awake) I decided to continue with it.
            We were instructed to take two mindful sips of water as a group. Then we slowly took our first bite, holding it our mouths a few seconds before we chewed and swallowed. We then noticed whether food tastes the same at the beginning of a mouthful as at the end; to pay as much attention to our last mouthful of the meal as to the first, to pause at any point in the meal so that we can have another “first bite”, and to pay attention to our own internal signaling as to w hen we should come out of that pause; to periodically direct our attention to our stomachs (are the full, do we need to keep eating?); to eat each food item divorced from our history with it, as though we were eating it for the very first time.

        Toward the end of each eating session, Pam would invite us to share our experiences. One eater said she experimented with setting her fork down between each mouthful. When she held on to it, she discovered issues of driven-ness arose. Putting the fork down created a mindful mini-pause between each bite. (I tried it, found she was right.) Don said he was so used to eating unconsciously that, even if he’d eaten an excellent meal, he’s scarcely aware of haven eaten it.
Several eaters shared their issues and negative judgements toward those of us who had meat with our meals. As an omnivore, I feel under a certain amount of pressure. I’m not defensive; I’m like an alcoholic who hasn’t hit bottom. I’d like to be a vegetarian; I’ve tried at least 3 times over the years to stop eating meat. But I can’t seem to make it stick. I’d love it if there were a 12 Step program for carnivores. 

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