Question: I cannot stop the habit of over-eating.
Life is continuously changing, it is a flow. Habits are stagnant. The more you are surrounded by habits, the more you are closed to life. You don’t have any communication with life; you go on repeating your habits. They don’t fit. They are not the right response to the situation, to the moment.
If the quality of unconsciousness is there, if mechanicalness is there, if it has become a fixed routine, if it has become a habit and you are a victim of the habit and you cannot put it aside, you are no longer a master of yourself.
The real problem is the habit.
Step 1: Identify the Habit
Whatever the habit, whether it be over-eating, nail-biting, smoking, chewing gum, worrying, being late,…… identify it.(You can apply this technique to any habit you choose). Bring your attention, energy, and focus to it.
Important tip: only work with one habit at a time. Choose the easiest one first, and when you have experienced success, choose the next one.
Step 2: Identify the Reward
Notice the reward you get from the habit. Whenever you are emotionally disturbed you immediately start eating. It gives you a kind of relief, comfort, you become occupied. Your mind is distracted from the emotional problem. Often when people feel tense they start smoking, or eating, or biting their nails. The problem is tension, the problem is emotional disturbance – the problem is somewhere else; over-eating is just an occupation. So you become engaged in the food and you forget for the time being… you are distracted from all your anxieties
Step 3: Be Conscious
Have you tried hard to drop a habit? I’ll bet you have not tried to be conscious of it. Without bringing conscious awareness to the habit, it is not possible to drop it. It will come back, because your mind is the same, it’s needs, problems, anxieties, tensions and anguish are the same. And when those anxieties arise what will you do? Immediately, mechanically, you start searching for food.
You may have tried many times, and every time you have failed…….not because over-eating is such a great phenomenon that you cannot get out of it, but because you are trying from the wrong end.
Rather than becoming aware of the whole situation – why you over-eat in the first place –you are just trying to drop it. It’s like pruning the leaves of a tree without cutting the rotten roots. And the whole point here is to cut the roots, not to prune the tree.
By pruning the leaves and the branches the foliage becomes thicker. You will not destroy the tree, you will be helping it, in fact. If you really want to get out of it you will have to look deeper, not into the symptoms but the roots. Where are the roots?
You must have underlying anxieties otherwise over-eating is not possible; over-eating is a by-product. You must be so concerned with inner disturbances, carrying such a big load of worries on your heart, that you don’t even know how to forget them. You don’t know how to drop them. Over-eating at least helps you forget about them temporarily.
If you are constantly trying hard to not over-eat you will kick in the Law of Reverse Effect. This Law states that if you try hard to do something without understanding the fundamentals, just the opposite will be the result.
Many people try avoiding something with great effort, and they fall back into the same pit. That is not the way to avoid it.
Step 4: Relax and Watch
Be relaxed. Don’t try hard. It is through relaxation that you become aware, not by trying hard. Be calm, quiet, silent.
Zen believes in effortless understanding.
Eat as much as you want to eat – but eat meditatively. Watch. Slow down the process. Take the food out slowly, with awareness. Don’t do it in a quick, mechanical way, as you always do. Start eating, slowly.
You will be surprised. By watching your eating, with non-judgment, slowly, slowly, eating becomes less and less, until you eat just the right amount your body needs. And one day, suddenly…the over-eating is gone. You have not made any effort to drop it; it has dropped of it’s own accord,because by becoming aware of a dead pattern,a routine,a mechanical habit, you have released a new energy of consciousness in you. Only that energy can help you; nothing else will ever help.
When something withers away of it’s own accord because you have become so silently aware of the stupidity of it that no effort is needed, when it simply falls,just like a dead leaf falling from a tree,it leaves no scar behind and it leaves no ego behind.
Do whatsoever you are doing, but remain a witness, a watcher, to it, and immediately the quality of your doing is transformed.
Pragito Dove M.A., C.C.H. is the leading authority on Expressive Meditation in North America. Using the principles she now teaches, Pragito transformed her pain and fear into joy and inner peace. Founder of the Laughing Buddhas Network and an internationally recognized master trainer, speaker, and meditation expert, Pragito is the author of two best-selling books, Lunchtime Enlightenment (Penguin Group), and Laughter, Tears, Silence (published in six languages). She has a private practice in Northern California from where she teaches highly acclaimed programs such as the Laughter Meditation Teleclass Program Series to an international audience! Pragito’s website is: http://www.discovermeditation.com
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