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Lions Roar : July 2013
40 SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2013 shrink and tighten as soon as I step outside. Yet, right now I and 375-pound Body occupy this space that is free of judgment, free of ridicule, free of self-loathing. Mostly. Peace pervades this yoga studio in Oswego, New York. Incense permeates the space, candles flicker on windowsill ledges, and Buddha presides at the front of the rectangular room. Played over speakers is the sound of bells, like the ones that tinkle at temples in Thailand. Today, I am learning to walk. We go from one end of the studio to the other, twelve of us in varying speeds and strides. Our instructor, Howard, tells us to feel the floor. “You are connected,” he says. I usually bristle at anything touchy-feely. Such sayings strike me as melodramatic and unnecessarily deep, like bad fortune- cookie slogans. But I let Howard’s words sink in because I like Howard. I like his patience with me and Body, like his words of encouragement when I do positions that Body is unaccustomed to. Plus, Howard’s gray beard is glorious. I fixate on the word “connected.” I try to merge my mind and Body. I say, step. I say, walk. I say, gentle. The opposite happens. My feet slap the floor, startling my glassy-eyed neighbor, who flinches at the sound. The floor creaks and cracks. I am pain- fully aware of how clumsy Body is, and when that happens I turn on myself. I say, fat. I say, ugly. I say, stupid. “Walking is difficult,” says Howard. “We never think about it.” I take another step. Lift the foot. Place pad of foot on floor. Follow with heel. Shift weight forward. Again. “This is how we are meant to walk,” Howard says. “No shoes, no socks. Feel it. Skin against earth. Let that sensation spread from the bottom of your body to the top.” I lose my balance. I stagger. I sigh. “It’s okay, Ira,” Howard says. He moves behind me, watching my steps. I’m conscious of my loud walking, of my audible breaths, thick and hot. The others are like stealthy ninjas, gliding over the surface of the floor, absent of thought, just doing. “What are you thinking?” Howard says. I don’t tell him the truth. I don’t tell him how much I hate myself, how much I hate Body. I don’t tell him how much I hate that I can’t walk correctly. “I’m thinking heel then toe,” I say. Howard doesn’t buy it. He tilts his head and puts a hand to his bearded chin. It is the look Santa might give when he’s deci- phering whether you’ve been naughty or nice. “It seems you are disconnecting. Am I right?” I shrug, but he is. Body and I are not one, have never been one. I have disconnected from Body, allowed him to do what he wants, when he wants. I have lost control, and I started yoga to get it back. To connect to Body. But this exercise of walking— fucking walking—has depleted hope that this will ever happen. “You can do it,” Howard says. “Give it time.” Being large and diabetic, time is something I may have little of. ODY AS LANGUAGE: You are a fat run-on sen- tence that feeds like high schoolers on riblet day— no—hyenas at the feast—no—the famished, and you are never sated never happy because you have long since forgotten what happiness feels like— real happiness—not the quick illusion of it you experience every time you sit and eat because that happiness is temporary and what follows is a loathing that makes you want to pluck the hairs off your legs one at a time—no—scream until your throat bleeds—no—tear hunks of your meaty flesh and fling them off because when you eat you have forgotten the sensation of satis- faction, the meaning of the words enough or plenty or sufficient or full, because full suggests there is no more space no more room to justify one more bite of something that will cut your life by another year. The surprising thing is you find more room, because there is always more to choke a heart to choke the veins to choke the arteries. Still, you can’t help but feel there are places in you that are empty and starving and you can’t seem to feed them the right food. You can’t seem to figure out this puzzle of hunger and you feel this endeavor is pointless, like feeding gold- fish pieces of goldfish—no—like a food critic at McDonald’s— no—like a milkshake without the shake or the milk, and these moments have become the saddest recognition of your life because it means you are powerless against what hurts you most. Which means you are powerless against your own self, which means you can’t stop what is sure to happen—who can? A T THE YOGA STUDIO, my favorite time is the darkness at the end. Howard turns off the lights and we get into relaxed positions—lying supine, legs raised on a chair—and concentrate on breath- ing. His voice leads us into our relaxed states. “Close your eyes,” Howard says, “and release all your worries.” The darkness is a comfort. In the light, Body is front and center. In the dark, he disappears. He ceases to matter. B IRA SUKRUNGRUANG is the author of the memoir Talk Thai: The Adventures of Buddhist Boy and the co-editor of What Are You Looking At? The First Fat Fiction Anthology and Scoot Over, Skinny: The Fat Nonfiction Anthology.