Five Senses - Mindful Eating

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Day 6: “Five Senses Exercise” (Mindful eating)

“Water if you don’t stir it will become clear; the mind left unaltered will find its own natural peace.” – Unknown

The Problem

Are you in control of your senses? Or are your senses controlling you? Most of us are in fact overstimulated and do not even realize it! We experience so many external environmental elements everyday from daily errands, work, even social media, that it is easy to shut down and become overwhelmed.

Symptoms include:

  • Irritability

  • Avoidance

  • Muscle tension

  • Outbursts

  • Exhaustion

The Solution

When we shut down we turn to our vices. What do you turn to when you are stressed? Wine? Chocolate? Shopping? Yoga?

Pratyahara is a discipline that allows us to control our senses and direct the mind inward.” - John Douillard

Ayurvedic and Yogic philosophy developed a practice called “Pratyahara” to mindfully take control of the senses. It comes from two Sanskrit words, “prati” which means “away or against,” and “ahara” which means “food.” Meaning, practicing Pratyahara helps control the intake of things that nourish us.

There are three types of ahara that nourish us. The first is food itself, which sustains and builds the body composition. The second are the impressions delivered to the mind through the five senses. The third are the subtle impressions felt through the heart that impact our emotional body type.

This is not to say that sensory stimulation is bad. Rather, that because we are often subconsciously controlled by our senses, we fall victim to our brain’s reward system which is driven by dopamine. Our brain’s reward chemistry is not something we can rid ourselves of, but it is something we must have at least some control over.

The Practice: Indriya Pratyahara 

One of the best ways to gain control is to take a break to meditate. Meditation helps slow down the thought process and bring the attention inward, but we can practice Pratyahara while doing just about anything! Walking, sitting, even eating.

During a meal today, practice paying attention to each one of your senses one by one.

Look – open your eyes and carefully note the colors, shapes and textures that surround you. What areas of movement or areas of stillness attract the eye? Reflect, breathe, and move forward.

Touch – you can hold a small object such as a stone or meditation mala, or you can simply reach forward and touch the earth. Let the feeling of “touching” tether you to the environment, connecting you with the physical reality of your existence. Reflect, breathe, and move forward.

Listen – let the sound of your environment (or lack of sound) call you to the present moment. Let each moment’s passing reveal some new element you may not have ordinarily noticed. Reflect, breathe, and move forward.

Smell – close your eyes again and breathe in through your nose, absorbing fully the scent of your surroundings. Observe which sensations feel like natural smells and artificial smells. Reflect, breathe, and move forward.

Taste – whether you taste, air, water, an item of food, or the back of your hand – find a way to awaken the most intimate sense, and observe how the experience gives insight into the inner portion of your being. Reflect, breathe, and move forward.

 
 
 

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The Elements