Thanissaro Bhikkhu:”In order to attain strong states of concentration, the mind must be nourished, the heart must be nourished, and the body must be nourished”. Body – It’s extra hard in ill health, on drugs, or even on a diet!
Is it true that the body needs to be well nourished to have a good meditation? That was actually a very important moment for the Buddha. He had been fasting for years, with no success. It was only when he had a good meal that he reached enlightenment! Now of course, we in 21st century America are much more likely to go the other direction, that of eating too much. If you’ve ever been on retreat, you know one of the worst times to try to sit is just after lunch. That’s why “work time” or walking meditation are traditionally just after the meal.
This is just a simple physiological response. We should be lethargic after eating. We should rest and take a nap after lunch. It’s our bodies’ natural response to shut down our energy after eating so the body can focus all our resources on digesting. After a tiger eats, it is so lethargic you can go right up and sit on it, and it won’t even flick its tail. It’s not that extreme for us, but pretty close. Meditation is connected to the body, and we have to take care of our health if we want good meditation.
We all know that our state of mind has a profound effect on our meditation. If you are busy, stressed out, angry at your boss, whatever, it’s hard to have a deep meditation. Now, that’s not to say you shouldn’t meditation when you’re stressed! Meditation might be just what the doctor ordered! But it likely won’t be as deep or as stable.
Now why would that be? The Buddha said that the quality of meditation is how successfully one abandons the hindrances to meditation. Anger, doubt, etc. When we’re unhappy and agitated, those are precisely the mental states that are at the fore.