Using the Thousand Petal Lotus Meditation for Weight Control

Yesterday I reviewed the book Meditating to Attain a Healthy Bodyweight by Dr. Lawrence LaShan.

I said I thought it could be a helpful book, but one of the caveats I made was about the difference between a “therapeutic” or medical approach to meditation and what mediation means in Buddhism (or any other spiritual discipline, for that matter.)

I said that I thought the book was still current in terms of how many psychotherapists are trying to find ways to bring meditation to the pscyho-physical aspects of bodyweight, diet, and eating problems.

To give a feel for the kinds of meditation Dr. LaShan utilizes with his patients, I thought I’d share a brief excerpt from the book. After discussing some general meditation techniques, this is the first meditation that he specifically gears toward the problem of weight control.

Let the Lotus Bloom

The meditation he recommends is based on the Thousand Petal Lotus technique, an ancient practice in Hindu meditation. Actually, it’s more a contemplation than what Buddhism would call a mediation. It definitely strengthens concentration, though, and involves a watching of thought that can lead to insight, although the idea is definitely not to follow the thoughts as in psychological free association!

This practice is not as easy as it might appear from its description.  Give it a try, and you’ll find out it requires real concentration, and willingness to let go of the discursive mind’s desire to interpret and control everything.  Once you try this, you may well find this kind of contemplation and the insights that come after it are useful for other problems and issues in your life.

Again, as I said in yesterday’s post, the important thing is to be skillful with any method or aid to practice and to use what works and abandon what doesn’t. May this teaching be helpful to you, and may you use it skillfully with attention and wisdom!

Excerpt from “Specific Meditations for Weight Control” in Dr. Lawrence LaShan’s Meditating to Attain a Healthy Bodyweight:

The first of the meditations specifically concerned with dieting is generally called the Thousand Petal Lotus technique. It is widely used, particularly in Eastern meditational schools. In its original form, it was designed to help the meditator realize that everything in the universe is connected to everything else and that:

All things, by immortal power,
Near and far, hiddenly ,
To each other linked are,
That thou cannot stir a flower
Without troubling of a star.

This was its original purpose, but it has also been adapated to a number of special problems, as we are adapting it here to the problem of weight control. It is a mediation of “the inner way” in which we meditate on the activity of our own consciousness rather than on an object (as a seashell) or an activity (as our own breathing) outside of our consciousness.

Choose the Center of Your “Lotus”

We begin by choosing one word at the “center” of the lotus. Pick a word such as “hungry,” “diet,” “thin,” “fat,” or your favorite “binge” food. (Mine are Mallomars, but choose your own.) Then get comfortable and “regard” the word, and simply wait. Soon or later you will have an association to the word.

Suppose you have chosen the word “hungry” and your first association is “full.” You now have three things—the word “hungry,” the word “full,” and the connection between them. Do you understand the connection or not? In this case, you do. You know quickly what the relationship is between the two words and why you made the association. You then go back to “hungry” to regard it, and wait for the next association

Suppose the next one is “starving.” Again you look at the three things for five or six seconds. And again, you understand the connection. You go back again to “hungry,” and wait, just as you did before. Suppose the next association is “roof.” You look at it the three for the five or six seconds and this time you do not understand the connection. You still go back to “hungry” and wait.

And so on for the full time you allotted in advance to this meditation. You respond the same way—regarding the two words and their connection for five or six seconds and then going back to the center word and waiting—whether or not you understand the connection.

Meditation Not Free Association

This is not free association in which you just go from one association to the next. You always go back to the word you have chosen as the center. Nor do you try to “understand” anything except whether or not you make sense of the connection between the center and the association. No matter how juicy or tempting the lead, whether or not is seems to deep insights into the workings of your unconscious, just stay with the discipline. Insights are to be tasted and possibly explored after the meditation.

When you violate this rule, and you will, you will find that, as a resistance technique, all sorts of fascinating insights are suggested by the associations, but that they do not pan out. They turn out to be a bluff with no substance. Real insights will appear from this meditation if you follow it vigorously, but they will appear after you have finished a good number of sessions, not during them (and particularly not during or after the first few sessions.)

This is the most frequent form of resistance to appear with this meditation—the strong feeling that if you abandon the discipline and follow up an idea that has come up from the associations, or go on with a free association technique, you will learn something fascinating about yourself, about others, or about the workings of the universe. These feelings are red herrings and will successfully lead you away from the meditation and any value you can get from it until you learn successfully to resist them. However, practically no one learns this except through experience.

So, do your best not to violate the discipline in this way, smile ruefully at yourself when you find you have done so and joined the club, and get back to work.


About Steven Goodheart

"I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them." Spinoza

2 Responses to “Using the Thousand Petal Lotus Meditation for Weight Control”

  1. a very helpful post, I appreciate your informative distinction between free association and meditation.

    I’ve been working on something similar myself in terms of curbing excesses of all sorts, and have associated my lack of center with the rosary and other prayers to bring me back to center.

    meditation changed my life, and I’m glad you’re sharing its insights with the rest of us.

    • Thanks friend Eli! I can totally see how a Christian could do something similar, and I know there are some wonderful “centering” prayers and practices in the faith.

      It’s too bad that some Christians have almost a reflex reaction to the word, or idea, of meditation, when in fact, it’s a great part of Christian, and indeed, Judaic traditions.

      In biblical terms, it’s really just this: “Be still, and know that I am God.” In that “I Am” will finally be found all the “I am’s” that were, are, or ever will be. We are just working out the details!

      Always great to have you stop by….don’t miss the earlier post by Jacob Needleman; I think you’ll find it of interest.
      Best wishes,

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