By Susi Amendola
"You have everything on the middle path, including peace of mind and tranquility." -- Sri Swami Satchidananda
I recently looked down at the big bag of butterless popcorn in my lap, and it was gone. Where did it go? Did I really eat the whole bag? I remember those first few bites and somewhere I lost track. Somewhere between the mindful moments of pleasure and the mindlessness of unconsciousness I left my awareness. I don't even like popcorn that much. but somehow I managed to eat the whole bag. I think I really enjoyed the first few bites, but after that I don't remember. It's like my awareness was hijacked.
How do we maintain a sense of moderation in our lives?
At the core of moderation is mindfulness. They go hand in hand to help us find balance. When we over do or even under do, we lose our balance. It's easy to say, "Since I can't seem to eat in moderation, I just won't eat anything." Because of this, many people start fasting as a way to gain control of their mindless impulses. But that too can have its pitfalls and we can end up out of balance in a different way.
Yoga teaches moderation in all things as a road to peace and happiness. It is the middle path. In his book on the Bhagavad Gita, Swami Satchitanada writes: "Those who eat too much or eat too little, who sleep too much or sleep too little, will not succeed in yoga. But those who are temperate in eating and sleeping, work and recreation, will come to the end of sorrow through yoga." Our endless desires push us and pull us in all directions. If we spend our time chasing after all the pleasures that surround us, they eventually lose their meaning. It's when we are able to maintain a sense of moderation that we experience balance, meaning, and peace.
Have you ever had a day when you overslept? The feeling of grogginess can be hard to overcome. And yet, there is a similar feeling we encounter when we don't sleep enough. Neither feels good. It's the same with our work life. There is something so unnerving about overworking. We start to lose the joy in our work and it becomes about our ego, "look at me, how hard I work, I am such a good person because I work so hard." That can bring us a temporary sense of satisfaction, but when our health suffers from overdoing, where is the joy in that? There is also the side of not working. We can start to feel lazy and that our life has no meaning or purpose. We start to crave the feeling that meaningful work brings to our lives.
Setting the Wheels of Moderation in Motion
Our daily yoga practice can teach us about moderation. As we bring ourselves to our mat each day, we can find the place in our movement practice where we are not pushing or pulling ourselves. Just underneath that place of comfort and discomfort lies an edge. We look for that comfortable edge and we hang out there and breathe. If we soften to that edge, we might find that more movement opens to us. If we push past it, our muscles tighten to protect our joints and we may experience pain or discomfort. If we don't move close enough to that edge, the mind begins to wander and we are no longer engaged and mindful. It's finding that sweet spot that allows us to experience the benefits of mindful moderation.
Mindfulness in Meditation
In our practice of meditation, we are holding two techniques. One is of concentration and the other is that of mindfulness. We allow our thoughts to arise and dissipate and we attend to what is arising in that very moment.
Mindfulness in Eating
We can also apply this to our daily relationship to food. We can start to notice when we are full. We can tune in to our food and stop when we no longer need nourishment. When we eat with awareness, our bodies speak to us with gentle resolve. Eating too much and eating too little both have consequences that affect our health. Try this "Eating Meditation."
Mindfulness in Fitness
When we are exercising, it's the same process of finding our moderate pace. Research has shown that moderate exercise can help reduce depression and improve our fitness. When we over exercise we place wear and tear on our joints and muscles, not to mention the pressure it puts on the heart. (See post on overtraining.) Yet if we don't exercise at all our bodies cry out from the affects of lethargy. If we are mindful of our bodies when we exercise, we can find a pace that is moderate.
Mindfulness in Relationships
In our relationships, we can find moderation in our communication styles by developing a balance between compassionate listening and mindful speech. Are our words helpful, kind, necessary and true? Can we offer others the insight of our own feelings without judging or analyzing theirs?
When we keep everything inside, we can lose our connection to others and risk severing a lifeline to our health and happiness.When we talk too much, our connections can suffer when we don't leave room for the hearts of others. Infusing our lives with mindfulness and moderation helps us prepare a foundation of good health and peace of mind. I think Goldilocks was on to something when she was searching for just the right balance at the house of the three bears. I'm going with the Goldilocks strategy the next time I reach for a snack and I'm going to stop eating popcorn when I feel just right.
Are there ways that you can be more moderation in your life? Which of the Ornish four pillars do you need to bring more moderation to?
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