February 1, 2012
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to do an internal cleansing due to food poisoning. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of such an experience, it literally purges you from the inside out and, unfortunately, is not very pleasant. After a couple of days of purging, I was able to slowly start introducing some appropriate liquids and foods back in my body. I know from previous experience that at this point it critical to be mindful of what I try to eat. It is important to only eat/drink easily digestible nutrients and to do it slowly. This brings me to my thought – abandon poisonous food.
Two days into my food poison cleansing, I returned to the Buddhist temple in Long Beach. In the back of the temple in a storage area I came across an old whiteboard easel with “Abandon poisonous food” written on it. What a timely lesson! In this context it is a reference to one of the commitments of a Tibetan Buddhist teaching on mind training. It is a reminder that our spiritual food is very important. We need to make sure that our practice is not tainted with self-centered grasping and motivation. If so, instead of flourishing in our spiritual practice, it becomes poisoned and withers, often leading to us down an incorrect path of self-importance.
However, at that moment, the statement struck me in another way. I had me reflect on how important it is to be mindful of all that we take in. The environments we put ourselves in, the material we choose to read, the sights and sounds we take in, the television, the radio, the people and places we choose, and, of course, the actual food and drink we consume. All of this feeds our being and we are what we eat.
This an especially timely lesson as I will soon be choosing the “food” I take in for myself. As a monastic you eat what is offered. You learn to absorb the nutrients of all that is presented whether it is actual food or challenging situations. As a renunciate, one learns to not be attached to worldly things and transform our experience. Now, still a renunciate, but no longer a monastic, I am now in a position to purchase my food and think about what I should put into my body. To some degree I will also have the opportunity to make a conscious choice in where I live, what I listen to, what I watch, what I study, who I visit, what do with my body and time. If I want the best possible opportunity to use this precious life for it’s highest purpose – to authentically add to benefit of all, I need to be mindful and select the best possible “food” available when I do have such choices.