Mindfulness, Meditation and Therapy

photo copy 2So how are mindfulness, meditation and therapy related to nutrition?  I’ve just returned from an invigorating conference entitled Mediation and Psychotherapy: Deepening Mindfulness with Thich Nhat Hanh, presented by the Harvard Medical School.  Let me try to convey the unusual experience of sitting with hundreds of therapists, psychiatrists, PCPs, nurses, nutritionists and other health professionals who showed up to learn how meditation and focused attention can be used to build new brain circuitry to make us healthier, happier and more joyful.

We sat and listened to practitioners who have been practicing meditation themselves for years and who have not only discovered positive effects in their own lives, but have developed treatments for helping their patients improve their health outcomes too.  Some of the practices that patients have been engaging in have helped them reach deeper insights into the source of their discomfort, while helping them heal suffering.  This process can lead to compassion, calm and even joy as the burden of anxiety, overcoming past trauma or medical illness can be momentarily lifted.

To make things more interesting we had the opportunity to observe seasoned therapists demonstrate how using mindfulness practice can be effective.  As if we were watching theater, we participants observed how using breathing skills and careful attention to suffering, can lift an individual out of a stuck place that seemed calcified.

Imagine if you will, hundreds of practitioners being led on a silent, mindful walk through Boston’s upscale Back Bay, with shops, tourists and all the business of a midday Wednesday, with taxis blaring, gawking onlookers and half-clad mannequins as a backdrop to our heightened awareness.

Observing our unfocused minds in action as we jump from one thought to random thought is reflected in our bodies, more specifically in our food choices and eating styles.  How often do we want whatever we happen to see or smell or finish food in no time flat when we are already comfortably full?  What would happen if we slowed down enough to tune into our feelings or bodily sensations as we truly smelled, tasted and chewed our meal?

The practice of mindfully being present as we walk, eat, wash the dishes or take time to observe the color or shape of a cloud can be a treat to the senses that might lead us to a new awareness.  If we opened up to this experience we could go a long way towards achieving our personal health and weight goals.  If we all began to notice our bodies, our physical space and how we experience ourselves and our surroundings, we might make different choices, we might consume less…and perhaps not just food, but all the rest.

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09 2013

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