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Fasting Diet & Buddhism

Photo on 03-03-2018 at 12.03

Fasting Diet & Buddhism

Meditation in the bath in the mornings, rather than listening to a ‘lifestyle guru’ I like to play a ‘Dhamma Talk’ by one of the Buddhist Ajahn’s from the informative website of Amaravati Monastery.

This morning it was Ajahn Metta and just labelled ‘Dhamma Talk’. Her voice was very quiet and was difficult to hear above my abolutery splashing sounds, but I laid still to listen to see whether to change it – and am I glad that I didn’t!

She was discussing fasting and diet and how the ‘switch off’ for religous fasting was easier than a controlled diet and being a meditator and Buddhist, the process of watching her mind on a diet was important. I am currently doing the same thing with both intermittent fasting and a ketogenic diet so this was ‘gold dust’ for me.

I will summarise her points and add my own notes in my own way:

Pooh Bear said ‘the most delicious taste whilst eating honey is the moments before you put it in your mouth’. This is the rising of desire (our anticipatory mind).

If you recognise this arising, don’t push it away, investigate it fully. Ajahn Metta received the food, smelled it and put it on her shrine to examine her mind. The desire was to eat, it appeared that her body craved nourishment, when denied it eventually eased, but after a while would come back again. When denied again, it would appear with a different face, like sexual desire or ‘wanting’ something.

Her point was that desire had many faces but in fact was the same thing. Many lifestyle gurus would want us to use that desire to energise us to work for other things we may want in life, but Ajahn Metta was saying that if you just observe it, eventually it calms down, leaving you with an incredible sense of peace. I like that.

The problem is that if you don’t deal with the desire, it will inevitably control you and allow others to use it to suit them all of your life.

I realised that when I fasted and controlled my food the diet worked well, but when my mind fell foul of the different faces of desire I could get confused. When a diet guru says you can eat as much as you like of….. what happens? Gluttony means you overeat whatever you are allowed, it’s crazy but you’re being driven by a demon without realising it, thinking you are still doing good. I remember friends on the Atkin’s diet eating masses of meat and cream because it was ‘okay’ and failing because they didn’t realise that they were not addressing their real problem and desire was simply wearing another face!

Buddhism teaches you to watch your mind. Mindfulness and self examination are the key to success. A greedy person can be chasing ‘success’, food, wealth, sex and be allowing it to control their life from the outside in and their are many guru’s, businesses and politicians happy to exploit those weaknesses.

Diet is about being disciplined, not punishing yourself, but become your more ‘natural’ self by examining your thoughts, wants and desires and their results, that way wisdom can arise and the balancing is permanent.

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Obesity – What Happened?

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I had been really struggling with diet over the last few years, 68 years old with dodgy legs I couldn’t move around enough and years of infection and strong antibiotics, painkillers, stomach and blood pressure meds had really taken their toll.

I have been vegetarian for over 40 years don’t smoke or drink and still practiced Tai Chi and meditation every day so I was in a reasonable place to clean my act up a bit more. I gave up all soft drinks and sugary food and that helped a bit and started to research.

Intermittent fasting was fairly easy for my disciplined mind and I started with a 16hr fast each day and my weight started to drop, I increased that to a 20 hour fast and it dropped faster, I lost 2 stone (around 12kgs) in 4 weeks and then it plateaued, so I researched further.

Humans were originally wandering ‘hunter gatherers’ so would pick the food in the area that they were in from the surface and plants and trees and hunt and ate animals. The further we moved away from that lifestyle, the more obesity and bad health has troubled us, medicine has negated some of those problems but now we have reached a crisis point.

When agriculture started we grew starchy foods underground and wheat and maize and that quickly became our easily stored and ‘go to’ foods. This was also fed to the ‘farmed’ animals changing them radically into nothing more than bloody plant and seed holders. Politicians¬† and business very quickly took charge of this way of rooting, ‘enslaving’ and taxing people so instead of being relatively healthy and independent people living in small tribes they became ‘working slaves’ to feed the rich and powerful. Add religion and nationality into the mix to bind people into huge cultural and national ‘tribes’ and you can see the build up to the mess we’re in today.

Being vegetarian there was no way I could start eating meat so I looked at the alternative ways to reduce my starch, hidden sugar and general carbo hydrate levels to a more healthier mix.

A friend in Scotland Karim Belgacem out of the blue kindly sent me the book ‘Sapiens’ that helped fill in the societal gaps and I read about ketogenics and paleo dieting and they were on the same path as me, I watched the film ‘The Magic Pill’ on Netflix and that gave me a clearer outline to my thinking and studies, I re-arranged my diet to continue my fasting, now more on a 19 hour fast with a good vegetarian carb lite ketogenic style meal midday and something light a 5pm and my weight has started to drop again and I feel much healthier and cleaner inside.

I realised that I still had cultural ‘blind assumptions’ that I didn’t have the perspective to see before, that I still had to resolve my emotional attachment to food, whenever I saw food my anticipatory mind was already preparing me eat it, so watching my mind became far more intense.¬† I also learned from friends with a far healthier attitude to food than me.

And the biggest lessons are:
You’re never too old to learn;
Whenever our problems seem big, it means our mind is too small and we need to change our perspective.

Links:
Sapiens book
Vegetarian Ketogenic Diet info
Magic Pill film on Netflix

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