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Lions Roar : May 2017
enormously helpful. I actually tried an experiment where I spent the entire half- hour meeting thinking negative thoughts. I still lost weight. And the weight slipped away. I lost about forty pounds. It was great. Then, I stopped going, and it came back. So now, a decade later, I’ve found myself crawling back to Weight Watchers. Six months into the plan, I’ve lost thirty- five pounds. I’m not sure of my final goal at this point, but it will be in the neigh- borhood of shedding ten or fifteen more pounds. I am on the home stretch. The second time around with Weight Watchers, I’ve noticed how aspects of this endeavor have dovetailed into my life as a Buddhist. Specifically, I’ve found three lessons: One—the world I live in often isn’t the real world. Two—I need friends to help out, but not everyone who says or thinks that they’re a friend really is one. And three—what you see is what you get. The “Real” World What “point counting” has done for me is rub my face in what appears to be my near-infinite capacity for self-deception. An avocado is eight smart points. But this particular avocado in front of me sure looks on the smaller side. I think I’ll record six points. Which is great, until I’m standing on the scale in front of that little old lady. As someone who has been practicing Zen for about forty-five years, I shouldn’t be surprised. I’d hoped I’d seen into most of the nooks and crannies of my heart, but it turns out that greed, hatred, and delusion arise endlessly. So this reminder has been helpful to me beyond the weight loss endeavor itself. My “Real” Friends Second is the lesson about friends. When it came time to declare a goal weight, my physician suggested picking a number in the thirty-pound range—something I felt I could live with. I had a different goal in mind, one that my spouse suggested was too optimistic for me to maintain. So I put it to my Facebook friends. Now, we all know that a friend helps you move, a real friend helps you move a body, and Facebook friends are probably neither of those. My Facebook “friends” inundated me with all sorts of opinions about food and eating. Sometimes their opinions were informed by a rational course of study, but more often they were spun out of some random, prob- ably inaccurate, headline that conformed nicely to a preconceived view: “It’s a first world problem.” “Spiritual people don’t get fat.” “You should only eat fruit that has fallen naturally from the tree.” Putting this out there in Facebookland, I learned that people are often quite adamant in their guidance, whether it is wildly wrong or only sort of wrong. As a walker of the Zen way for all these years, I’ve encountered many fel- low practitioners willing to share what’s what with me. On occasion that’s help- ful, sometimes amazingly so. But it is incumbent on me to listen to the right friends—people with some humility and deep commitment to the practice. You need friends, but know who your real friends are. Hang with the ones who help your heart to break open and to see larger, those friends who goad you on to doing the right thing. Spend less time with the ones who’ve just discovered a doughnut diet or a new twist on a Zen weekend at a cost of only $2000. The “Real” Results Finally, there’s the last lesson: what you see (and do) is what you get. I like Michael Pollan’s three rules: Eat food, mostly plants, and not too much. There is no divide between the spiritual and the material—it is one thing. What we do is seeable. What we do counts. That’s true in losing weight or meditating. What I like, what I want, what I wish, and what I actually do are revealed whether I’m sitting on my medi- tation cushion or standing on the bath- room scale. Intentions become actions. If not, they’re just dreaming. ♦ Summer Retreats in Santa Fe, New Mexico SEE ENTIRE CALENDAR, TEACHINGS, AND MORE AT WWW.UPAYA.ORG SANTA FE, NM 505-986-8518 ext. 112 REGISTRAR@UPAYA.ORG june21-25 An Ethics of Care Taught by Stephen Batchelor, a Contemporary Buddhist Teacher and Writer Best Known for his Secular Approach to Buddhism. 21 CEUs offered for Counselors, apists, and Social Workers july7-23 July Zen Circle Enter a Time of Retreat, Learning, Meditation, and Participation with Upaya’s Residential Community and Sensei Joshin Byrnes, Sensei Genzan Quennell, and Sensei Kaz Tanahashi ntire Circle or Attend a Specific Retreat: july 7-9 Dogen Seminar: Exploring the Genjokoan led by Byrnes & Quennell july 11-16 Sesshin: Dogen’s Body-and-Mind Study of the Way yrnes, Quennell, & T july 21-23 Calligraphy: Heart of the Brush instructed by T LION’S ROAR | MAY 2017 26 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE