Q&A interview with Buddhist meditator Brian Callahan
I am very excited to share with you what I learn about the current energy of integration (aligning mind, body and spirit), because you have already started the process with nutrition and are likely to be more receptive to a more authentic way of living.
Following the stunning breakthroughs with Geneen Roth’s Women Food and God, I continue to explore the connection between meditation and nutrition on overall well-being.
My interview today with Brian Callahan, an experienced buddhist meditator with Vancouver Shambhala Meditation Centre, doesn’t have a food focus but it does demonstrate the profound universal messages that are being communicated across all traditions on the value of meditation in our lives.
1. Why is a meditation/mindfulness practice more important today than it ever has been?
Meditation is more important because we face increasingly complex and overwhelming demands on our attention. As a culture, we find ourselves being overwhelmed by information, isolated from each other emotionally, and disconnected from our hearts and our environment. Meditation allows us to counteract these influences – while remaining relevant and engaged in our lives.
2. What are the benefits of this practice?
Meditation can connect you to your heart (emotions), thoughts, and experience – in a way that allows you to wake-up to your own life. As a by-product, meditation generally produces a quality of mindful presence that is calm, accepting, and open to new possibilities.
3. How can one start and what obstacles should we be aware of as we get into it?
One can start with a short practice of mindfulness. There are lots of instructions available on the internet, in books, etc (see below for the smart foodie’s suggestions). Eventually, you will want to connect, in person, with a teacher.
Meditation is an experience that is passed along from one person to another. This personal connection is of great importance. Consequently, its important to take the measure of any ‘teacher,’ to make sure they are the real thing.
In practice, starting with even 5 or 10 minutes a day is helpful.
As in learning any new skill, consistency is helpful. One of the obstacles to meditation is that it is boring – and a threat to our more usual, unfocused-non presence. So, the new meditator often gives up or stops practicing. Then nothing happens.
Another obstacle is having an incorrect understanding of what meditation is and does. Most beginners regard meditation as a way to escape thoughts and feelings, to have no thoughts or only blissful feelings. This is not really presence.
When the new meditator realizes that they are still thinking and feeling, they feel disappointed and give up. Here is one of the places where a teacher can help, help keep it real and help re-focus.
4. What are your thoughts on the link between nutrition and meditation? What kind of foods help or hinder our practice?
There is an intimate connection between the body and the mind. When the body is at ease, comfortable and well nourished, then meditation is easier. I don’t have any specific foods to recommend or offer cautions about. However, I find it easier to meditate if I eat lightly, smaller meals, and refrain from intoxicants.
Suggested readings on meditation
Books by Pema Chodron
Nothing Happens Next by Cheri Huber