You Can’t be a 376 Pound Buddhist!

11 02 2012

“What are you – 376 pounds?” she said sharply with a disgusted scowl and a piercing tone that cut through the silence so that everyone in the room took notice.

“Yes, about that.” I replied in a hushed voice, now looking down at the floor and refusing to make eye contact with anyone. In came the familiar rush of shame. She had hit the number exactly which was no great surprise really, as she’d been slowly sifting through my “obstacles” over the past nine months and showing them to me like the perfect reflection in a mirror. This one was handled a lot less delicately though. It was akin to bringing a chainsaw into surgery and I felt my heart just come spilling out onto the floor.

“I want you to go home and think when you eat! Pay attention!!! That is the only meditation you need to be doing! You can’t be a 376 pound buddhist!” she said angrily. Class dismissed. And with a huge lump in my throat, I made my way down the stairs to the small coat room, slipped on my shoes, grabbed my prayer book and headed for the door with car keys in hand.

As I drove out of the long drive way, I thought about what another teacher there had told me recently – “Long after The Dalai Lama visits, long after the crowds have left, long after we are gone, John will still be here studying the practice.” That is what I wanted. I wanted to be the perfect student and deep down inside I knew my teachers wanted the same for me. I thought about it, tried to rationalize the experience. Sometimes the asian way or the buddhist way seemed to be to shock the student into confronting the elephant in the room. And maybe it was a test to see if I could get over my pride and my ego and return more humble; return like an empty vessel ready to be filled with knowledge. That’s what I would do. I would show them that I would not be dissuaded. I’d come back the following week. I would show them that I’d make the necessary changes.

Except I didn’t. Instead I pulled into Burger King, bought a king sized value meal with a extra thick vanilla milk shake and a second burger and nurtured my pain with that old familiar poison. Sitting in the parked car, eating lunch through my tears. Angry that someone who could seemingly peer inside of me wasn’t more delicate with my vulnerability. I never returned to class. Instead I went home and did the exact opposite of mindful eating. This has always been a pattern for me. Get lectured about my weight, self destruct and let my weight skyrocket. And it did. That was late 2007.

As long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in many different expressions of spirituality. I’ve amassed a huge collection of books, most of which I’ve read, some several times. But I’ve never really mastered much. I’m not a very good student. I find the study so very fascinating but putting it all into practice is often difficult for me.

Many times, I repeat mistakes until I’m backed so far into a corner that I have no choice but to make a change. That is was happened 4 years later. I was sick and it was time to get on the path to better health and wellness. There really was no other choice anymore. To not address it and do nothing was a road that I could not afford to stay on any longer. My pride and ego completely shattered, it was time to chart a new course.

This weekend I prepare to take my first vows with an independent catholic Franciscan community. I’m blessed to have brothers who are supportive and encourage me. I’m thankful for the way things have worked out. The journey to get to this place has not always been without it’s challenges. But those challenges make us who we are. They hopefully impart some wisdom on us and we come out the other side stronger for having worked through them. I pray that I will continue to be a better student in the many facets of my life. I pray that after years of abuse, brother body will continue to get healthier and will become well. The road is long but “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. I’ve taken a few finally. Better late than never.



3 responses

13 02 2012
noël jones

Are you kidding? A BUDDHIST teacher said that? That speaks a lot more about her, and what she doesn’t know about Buddhism than the challenges that you are taking on. What a horrid woman.

Almost all progress is incremental, as much as we in this instant society would much rather focus on THE GOAL or prefer an epiphany that changes us overnight. The more usual scenario is that we advance incrementally, partially because we tend to take three steps forward and then back slide a step, for a net gain of 2 steps out of a few tries. So what matters is not beating yourself when you backslide so that you don’t backslide even farther.

The most important and most helpful thing, I think, will be to eliminate all toxic people that say things like that woman said from your life–even if those people are family, or so-called friends. You need to surround yourself with only friends who appreciate you for being the thinker that you are, and for being compassionate enough to want to share what you learn from your experience with others. For being a good writer, and for seeking spiritual inspiration and balance. People who like you for the person you are, not people who judge you for your weight. If you surround yourself with these kinds of people, I think you will find yourself beating yourself up less and loving yourself more, which will make holding on to each increment of progress easier and more gratifying than the old comfort of fast-food.

You can, little by little, begin to love doing what it takes to become healthy. Please do not let awful people like that woman hurt you like that–just think to yourself, “I am so glad that I am ME, and not her, living her life, saying things like that to people.” You are a much better person–you are compassionate and open and striving and you WILL succeed.

13 02 2012

Thanks so much for your words. I’m so very happy to be meeting people like you.

I think you are right in many, many ways. Positivity is infectious and falling down is human. Success really isn’t a straight line, it’s more about picking ourselves up when we fall and continuing on. I think that until recently I was just not ready to get on the path to health. Sometimes we need a push to get going.

I hold nothing against my former teacher though. Even in her aggressive way, she was teaching me. We all have our struggles and obviously a big one for her was her anger. If I had her life’s experiences, I’m sure it would make perfect sense to me. Hopefully we can all overcome our struggles and find some peace along the path.

15 02 2012

Most of the beautiful Buddhist sculptures I have noted do NOT to have six pack abs. Noel is spot on.

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