By Jill Talvé
Do you eat with your eyes? Something that looks good can have ability to override the body’s natural appetite, and you may try to eat more than your stomach can handle. Do you eat with your nose? When something smells good the body begins to trigger the enzymes in the saliva to prepare to digest what is coming. But when you eat with your mind, there is really no end to the emotional appetite.
Eating is easy; compared to some of the daily travails of life. And in that moment of challenge when the thoughts or actions we have to choose from seem undoable, reaching for something edible takes the temporary pressure off of being truly uncomfortable. It could be in the privacy of your own space, or out at a restaurant you frequent, or on a trip in a new environment, but the animal is the same; too much food, often too fast, trying to replace (or repress) the occasional unpleasantness of daily life.
In yoga, there is a concept known as Pratiyahara, or the withdrawal from senses. This is a step on the path to prepare one’s self for meditation. This concept is also at the root of the cure for habits such as this. The idea that “If it feels good, do it” or, “If it feels good, it’s right” has become a mantra for many of us. But Pratiyahara teaches us that as we ingest the entire world through our senses, we have to recognize them as just that- a mechanism that creates a portal to understand and accept what is, pleasant or unpleasant. Sometimes what’s right doesn’t always feel good, as evident in a bitter tasting herb to bring the heat in the body down or the “bitter” truth when given “cold, hard” facts.
Withdrawal from the senses is to understand that the senses are to be managed and respected, and in this way can be sharpened and protected. Clear senses are the best way to engage the outer world with inner intuition. Clear senses help to tell you what’s really happening. Alternatively, Overindulging or numbing the senses disable one’s ability to truly take in the world, leaving the inner self detached, disturbed, and disconnected.
In those idle moments of unhappiness, think about the senses and critical role they play in the frontline of your body’s defense. Keep them unburdened and light and they will reward you with clear perception and insight. You will begin to see that it’s really a craving for loving nourishment you are seeking in order to balance the regular challenges of life.
Instead, take a deep breath and turn inward. Wait five minutes, and ask it from the reserve of love that resides within!