Ah yes, so we’ve gotten to a point where you think: “Yes, meditation is good for me. But when I try to sit for meditation, my mind is all over the place, or my body doesn’t want to stay in one place.”
Well, can’t you just order your mind and body to cooperate? Easier said than done, and this lack of ‘cooperation’ from your self is part of the reason we need meditation.
The good news: yoga masters have developed a number of techniques to help us focus in meditation.
There are general descriptions of these techniques in my book, “Meditation: Searching for the Real You.”
For today, let’s talk about what works on the physical level. These are all tried and true techniques. The main ingredient you need to add, to make meditation work, is your willingness to do these things. It may mean you have to think or live outside your present box. But if you can make your health and meditation better, why not move into a bigger box, or move outside the box altogether?
In this and the next two blogs we’ll discuss exercise and cleanliness as aids to meditation. Today: Food!
First, a general point: our body, mind and spirit, the three parts of every person, are linked in various ways. An obvious example is with sickness, which can affect the whole person. A headache, for example, makes meditation difficult. This holds true for many, if not all, physical illnesses.
So a number of yoga practices help us keep physically healthy.
Concerning diet, we hear the phrase: “You are what you eat.” I don’t take this literally. When I eat salad, I don’t become leafy and green. But our food intake affects our mind.
If you do meditate, you may want to fine-tune your diet
Yogis, researching diet and meditation for many centuries, realised food can be beneficial, neutral or negative, for both the body and the mind.
A classic yogic diet then aims for food that is good for both the body and the mind. We call this type of food ‘sentient’ food. Something is sentient if it is, or if it supports, consciousness, awareness, clear perception.
Sentient foods are also vegetarian, but not all vegetarian foods are sentient. Yogis would leave out such foods as onions and garlic, which, though having health benefits, excite the mind and make it hard to concentrate. Mushrooms on the other hand, can make our thinking a bit slow and dull.
These points may not be so obvious or important to someone who doesn’t meditate, but if you do meditate, you may want to fine-tune your diet, which helps to fine-tune your mind.
I don’t believe that ‘one diet fits all’. Depending on your age, health, the climate you live in and other factors, different foods may be needed. But virtually anyone can live on a sentient diet.
Sentient foods include most fruits and vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds, legumes, cereals, most herbs and spices and if one is not vegan, it also includes most dairy products.
Our body, mind and spirit, the three parts of every person, are linked in various ways
Here are some other helpful hints on diet, from “Meditation: Searching for the Real You”. You may want to consider adapting some or all of these points:
- Don’t eat more than four times a day
- Make breakfast or lunch your main meal, not dinner
- Try to finish eating at least two hours before sleeping
- Eat raw food (vegetables and fruits) regularly
- Chew your food well
– “Food taken in anger turns to poison,” is an old yogic saying. So eat when your mind and surroundings are calm
– Wait some time (1/2 hour to 1-1/2 hours) after eating before drinking
– Wait several hours between meals to allow for digestion
– Rest after lunch, walk after dinner
Meditation leads to a healthy, balanced life filled with both challenges and joy. But, as I note, to make our meditation work best, we may need to work at a more well-rounded life than many of us presently have.