This website is now published on my mobileme account. Any opinions expressed, however, are totally my responsibility.
The original website was published through the courtesy of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Jim Andris, Sept. 17, 2003.
Dieting as Meditation
I meditated for eight years in the late 1970's early 1980's. I had joined a meditation group in Edwardsville, Illinois that practiced a form of meditation developed by Guruju Paramahansa Yogananda and practiced by the Self-Realization Fellowship, which he founded. Yogananda was himself preserving a form of meditation practice passed on to him through a line of gurus. The core of this teaching is a practice called kryia yoga, and is only taught to initiates who have followed a prescribed lifestyle for a period of time. However, this general approach to meditation is a matter of public record.
Calling attention to God
One Eastern tradition has it that we are one with God, but because we live in a world of illusion, we have lost touch with this connection. In the SRF teachings, we are encouraged to look inward instead of looking outward. If we look outward, we see people and things, and in addition there is another layer of thoughts about these people and things. We can stop seeing the people and things by closing our eyes, but then we are still confronted with the constant chatter of our busy mind. We also must stop this mental chatter before we can bring our undistracted attention to God.
SRF teaches several techniques which are designed to clear our minds. We can meditate on a mantra, such as Ohm. We can repeat the phrase "Hong Sau," saying "Hong" on our breath in, and "Sau" on our breath out. We can focus our eyes on the Bindi spot at the origin of our nose in our forehead. There are other techniques that are taught by other organizations. However, in my humble opinion, all of them are really just methods to get to a place. It is the place to which we are trying to get which is sacred, not the methods. I suppose there are some people yet today who can just BE in the presence of God and don't have to have all this external discipline.
One of Paramahansa's favorite metaphors was seeing our consciousness like the perfectly placid surface of a crystal clear lake. Not a ripple of thought or perception of the outer world of sense mars this mirror-like lake. So . . . now that our mind is not busy reflecting our reconstruction of God's creation, it might just, on occasion, be able to reflect God's presence.
Reflecting God's presence
Again, according to Eastern and other religious traditions, there are many paths to God. SRF devotees are just that, they are devoted to God. However, I feel that I cannot speak for SRF, so I will speak for myself here.
There is an epistemological paradox implicit in this approach, at least for most unself-realized people: being devoted to God means remaking ourselves to be more as He/She wants us to be, and yet, how do we know what God wants if we do not yet know God, or even wonder if God is? The Eastern approach places great emphasis on devotion to the Guru, who is Himself or Herself an embodiment of God. A more Western approach would be that we can be good even as others before us have been good and have shown the way.
Anyway, skipping merrily past philosophical tangles that have pestered thinkers for ages, the point here is that to reflect God's presence, we must put out a deep and heart-felt call to God to connect with us and help us to find our path. So, properly prepared, sitting at the edge of that crystal pool of silence which is our purified consciousness, then we put out our beseeching call: God, Oh, God, my love for you is welling up inside me. Please touch me with your presence. Make me a God-realized being. Greater minds and souls than I have put out such a call, and have been blessed by a knowledge of the Divine One.
God is Love
A person who reflects God's presence is not subject to fear, sadness or anger. God has nothing to fear, nothing can harm God. God has no deprivation of any kind, so God cannot be sad. God controls everthing, and so nothing or no one can frustrate God. When we are reflecting God, we give up fear, sadness, and the will to control, and we unite with God's Love. We are at peace with ourselves and with the world, including other people.
Meditating as a metaphor for dieting
There really is an important parallel between meditating and dieting, but it takes us clear away from the usual palaver about why people want to diet. I am saying that the best reason to diet is to be closer to God and God's Love.
One of the things we focus on in meditation is learning to become aware of our breathing, and use this awareness to free our mind of extraneous thoughts. Breathing is just our way of saying "I want to be alive. I need oxygen to fuel my body's cells." Meditation, on the other hand, is saying I want to be alive so that I can reflect God's love in my own consciousness.
Now this same exact relationship could be pointed out between eating and drinking and consciousness. There really are very rare people who haven't eaten or drank liquids for years. If you doubt me, do some research on it. Others have. But, not to get distracted by this, more than six billion people still need to eat and drink to stay alive. That is what we are saying when we eat and drink: "I want to be alive. I need nourishment and water for my body to function." Nothing wrong in that.
However, we could go the next step and say, "I want to be alive so that I can reflect God's nourishment of me." It seems to me that this would involve putting our attention on our hunger/satiation and thirst/satiation in the same way that meditators pay attention to breath. Just as we have a natural tendency to take in air when we are low on oxygen, so do we have a natural tendency to take in food and water when we are low on nourishment or liquid. Dieting can really be seen as mediation. How is that? Well, we diet because somehow we have lost attention to this important process of nourishing ourselves. Either we are being manipulated by food ads or food pushers into eating for another reason than to satisfy our natural need for nutrition and liquid.
I am not the first to point out the metaphor of the body as God's Temple. It is our body that makes our consciousness possible, and, properly nourished and disciplined, our consciousness can be a dwelling for God's presence. If you look back at some of the points I have made earlier, you will see that "Jim's Diet" is largely made up of attempts to focus awareness on this fact.
Make your dieting a window to God's presence in your life. But let it be the God that speaks to you. I am convinced that for most people, this process of becoming closer to the Source of our Existence, however we choose to define it, is the most important process of our lives. We need to honor it in ourselves and others.