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Our teacher Fred cares deeply about the wellbeing of the sangha. Through nourishing our wellbeing we support our personal transformation and the transformation of the world. 

In the sutras, the Buddha taught that there are four kinds of food that human beings consciously and/or unconsciously consume everyday: Edible Foods, Sensory Impressions, Intentions/Volition, and Mind States. He pointed out the simple truth that consuming things that are wholesome and nutritious leads to happiness, calmness and wellbeing, while consuming things that are unwholesome often leads to unsatisfactoriness and dis-eased outcomes. Those were simpler times wherein 'simple truths' were more obvious.

In our modern complex world, we can’t help noticing that many of the things we consume into our body and mind on a regular basis are often unexamined, purely habitual, and patently or potentially unwholesome—having a negative impact on the health, wellbeing and long-term sustainability of ourselves, society and even our planet.

In order to care for our community and nourish our wellbeing, Fred is encouraging all of us to embark on a journey together over the coming year to examine our patterns of consumption within the framework of the Four Kinds of Food. Hopefully, our examination will naturally lead us to healthy choices and positive changes. Our intention is not to impose rules or standards on our community, but to help us to explore individually and collectively the consumption choices we make in our lives. The goal is for us to have the healthiest bodies and minds possible, to learn to nurture fulfilling and meaningful relationships, and to show up in the world in a way that is beneficial to others.

The following is a "path" that may help support your exploration of how to best nourish your wellbeing. Teachings, Reflections, and Resources will be added as we progress along this path. We hope that these offerings will be supportive of your journey. We are also offering a Discussion Forum where FCM members can share their challenges and insights and support each other on this path.

Topic  Explorations, Teachings and Practices

Introduction to the Four Nutriments

The First Nutriment: Edible Foods

We begin our explorations by looking more deeply into the first nutriment, edible foods. In his May 6 video, Fred invites us to begin by reflecting on how we really view our body: is it an object for pleasure or ego-gratification, or is it a vehicle for realizing our aspirations for our lives? The Reflections are included below ("How Do I View My Body?"). 

You are also invited to begin exploring the practice of mindful eating, with the video and articles in Resources, below, provided for support. There are also many excellent books on this topic, such as Mindful Eating by Jan Chozen Bays.

We also invite you to begin to tune in more closely to what is present in your body. As discussed in the "Introduction to Mindful Eating" video, we often reach for food as an automatic reaction to something other than hunger, such as being stressed, lonely, bored, or restless. The 15-minute body scan will help you become more present to sensations that are arising in your body, including perhaps tension or other signs of a lack of ease. We want to begin to be more present to what is being felt at the moment we reach for food, drinks, or other substances to see what (besides food!) may be wholesome and needed at that time.

The First Nutriment: Edible Foods (cont)

  • How do I view the relationship of my body to all sentient beings and the world around me? How does my eating support (or not support) the wellbeing of both myself and the planet? Please share your reflections on the Discussion Forum.
The First Nutriment: Edible "Foods" (including exercise and sleep) (cont)

  • This body is a vehicle for supporting my own wellbeing as well as for serving others. Beyond how I eat, how do I nourish my body through how I exercise, sleep, and in other ways? Please share your reflections on the Discussion Forum.
  • As shared on the Plum Village website: "Over the years, Thich Nhat Hanh and his monastic community in Plum Village, have developed more and more ways to integrate mindfulness practices into every aspect of their daily life. A few years back Thich Nhat Hanh began to develop gentle exercises based on Yoga and Tai Chi movements. Initially designed as mindful stretching breaks between long periods of sitting meditation, Mindful Movements became a popular tool to complement to sitting meditation extending Thich Nhat Hanh’s trademark gentle approach to Buddhist teachings into a series of physical movements. These movements enjoy a growing popularity amongst his students and have become integral part of his retreats. These simple and effective practices are meant to reduce stress and tension to help the practitioner gain the serenity he needs to return to a state of mindfulness. When done as part of a full mediation practice, theses movements can address mental, emotional, and physical stress."

    Ten Mindful Movements of Plum Village

  • In addition to movement, proper sleep is imperative for nourishing both our bodies and our minds. In fact, when we do not get adequate sleep we are actually shortening our lifespan and increasing the likelihood of illness. The following article provides recent science in the area of sleep.

    The Shorter Your Sleep, the Shorter Your Life
The Second Nutriment: Sensory Impressions

We continue our explorations by looking into the second nutriment, sensory impressions. We begin with considering how all of the sensory "food" we consume through our five senses and the mind affects the quality of our lives. From the minute we awake and even sometimes through our dream states, we are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching things, and as each sense consciousness encounters an object, a response is triggered. These sensory impressions can feed many things in us, thus it is important that we begin to notice what we are consuming and whether or not it is nourishing wellbeing within us.

We begin our exploration by gaining a deeper understanding of the second nutriment, with Fred's talk on the Second Nutriment, as well as Dharma talks and articles by others, such as by Brother Phap Hai of Deer Park and Sister True Dedication of Plum Village. 


The Second Nutriment: Sensory Impressions (cont)


THE DIGITAL WORLD:  Just as we consume various kinds of food for our bodies, we also feed our minds with various kinds of digital media  - TV, websites, news feeds, email, texting, social media, videos, podcasts, even Dharma talks. How can we bring our mindful awareness into the digital world so that we can be aware of what is healthy and wholesome, and what is not? Please consider exploring the Digital Use Assessment below to learn more about your personal digital consumption and how it may or may not support your wellbeing.


The Third Nutriment: Volition/ Intention

The Third Type of Nutriment in the Buddha’s teachings on the Four Kinds of Nutriments is Volition. Volition, also referred to as intention, aspiration, desire, or will, is the energy that motivates the actions we take in our lives. It is the underlying motivating force that is directing our activities of body, speech and mind.  Just as the quality of the Edible Foods we eat (First Nutriment) and the Sense Impressions that we see, hear, smell, taste and touch (Second Nutriment) determines the quality of our minds and bodies, so too, the quality of our Volition (Third Nutriment) determines our happiness or our suffering. 

  • Fred Eppsteiner - Discourse on the Four Kinds of Nutriments: Volition    

    Audio | Video

Reflections/Contemplations:  Resources:
  • The Vow-Powered Life: A Simple Method for Living with Purpose by Jan Chozen Bays, MD (Shambhala Publications, Boston: 2015). In this inspirational book, Zen teacher Roshi Jan Chozen Bays helps us see vows as powerful conduits for our volitional energy. 
  • The Heart of Intention: Setting Intentions is not the Same as Making Goals. Understanding the Difference Can Lead to More Skillful Living and Less Suffering by Phillip Moffitt
  • Nurturing the Intelligent Heart: From Aspiration to Insight, the Practice of Bodhicitta leads to a Natural Embodiment of Wisdom and Compassion by Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel, Tricycle Magazine (2018)

The Fourth Nutriment:
Mind States/ Consciousness

We continue our discussion of the Buddha's teachings on the four kinds of nutriments that affect the well-being of our bodies and our minds by looking at the nutriment of consciousness. In a recent Dharma Talk, Fred Eppsteiner  explained that the suffering or the well-being we find in our minds has a direct relation to what we are doing with our minds throughout the day. Until we begin to become aware of what is going on within our own minds, we will continue to unconsciously sow the seeds of many afflictive emotions by what we think about, ruminate on, and the mind-states we give play to. Once we turn the light of mindfulness on toward our thoughts and our mind-states, it becomes clear which are producing well-being, and which are producing suffering. Once we are aware, then we have a choice whether to continue or to tread a new path. In addition to stopping the cultivation of negative mind-states in this way, Fred explains that it is key to also consciously bring-up and cultivate the positive. In this way, overtime, we can transform the landscape of our minds.


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