Fall Down Nine Times, Get Up Ten: Further Thoughts on Zen & Weight Watchers

Fall Down Nine Times, Get Up Ten: Further Thoughts on Zen & Weight Watchers January 5, 2018

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Not long ago on one of my Facebook groups where people gather to gas about Buddhism someone posted the question “how can a fat person be a Zen teacher?” I admit I didn’t feel like following the thread so I can’t report back on that little subset of people who like Facebook, think about fat and human beings, while also having an interest in Buddhism and Zen, came down on the subject.

Me, I’d suggest don’t trust a fat person.

But, also, thinking of the thin, I find myself recalling Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar warning us:

Let me have men about me that are fat;
Sleek-headed men and such as sleep o’ nights:
Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
He thinks too much: such men are dangerous

I also have my doubts about people who are of average size.

Maybe the real challenge is to not put another person’s head on top of your own. Some smart person said that once. While I believe guides are important, I think making the final call yourself makes a lot of sense.

But, digging a little bit more into questions of purity and Zen teachers, it might be helpful to visit the literature surrounding Zen’s famous Fox koan. It’s just possible a person looking for a teacher whose poop no longer smells is not looking in the right direction.

That all noted, here in the moment I find myself reflecting on my own spiritual path. Which is, I notice, an equally messy conglomerations of several things. Zen is a central thread to my life. Deeply. Profoundly. Pretty much the principal focus of all I do. Yes, modified in some ways by a rationalist, but to my heart clearly Buddhist universalism. Something for another conversation.

And, what captures my notice in the moment, since about April of 2016, I’ve also been with Weight Watchers. Since that time I lost about forty-five pounds. Felt pretty good. However. Then starting in November there was a serious lapse, or a sequence of small lapses and a couple of bigger ones that rather quickly became a gain of about fifteen pounds. And. It sure seemed a lot easier to gain than to lose…

However, I kept going to meetings. And, after wobbling some, I managed to reclaim the critical WW discipline of recording everything I ate. And, as I write this, with some hesitation, I seem to have been able to correct course. as of this Thursday’s weigh in, I have both stabilized and lost a couple of pounds.

Of course, it can all change on a dime. Or, with a cookie…

My take away from this rough patch?

It really is all one continuous mistake.

I continue to find the Zen path and Weight Watchers are rather comfortable fellow travelers, not unlike for my friends who are both Zen practitioners and members of AA. I would say this particularly as how in my Zen life I’ve become the teacher, and while I have peers, and I do use them, I am for the most part the teacher. So, having somewhere to go with a genuine accountability and people who don’t care about my Zen titles is probably an amazing gift. If one I’d just as soon pass on. If I could.

If I could. However, it seems to me there really are two kinds of people: those who eat to live and those who live to eat. I’ve never understood those who only eat to live. And like Caesar I’m a bit suspicious of them. Me, I’m full on a person who lives to eat.

I love food. I prefer good food, well prepared food. But, it turns out I’ll settle.

What I actually find helpful about WW as opposed to AA is that with alcohol the working solution is to not touch the stuff. Now there’s a lot to be said about abstinence as a spiritual discipline. But, this is a practice of a different kind. With food not eating just isn’t an option.

So, in Weight Watchers consciousness becomes the secret sauce. There are ways consciousness is brought to the project. Number one is counting points. Points are numerical units applied to foods, based on a number of things, but mostly calories. Number two is attending meetings.

Throughout consciousness as the secret sauce. And that’s where the Zen thing comes in.

Zen is the ultimate path of consciousness. It’s always about noticing. Zen is all about just being present.

And with it, with zazen, and koans, and retreats, and vows, that other Zen saying. Fall down nine times, get up ten.

Now, Zen is about something rather more important than losing weight or keeping it off. But, there are some powerful commonalities here. Worth, if you will, noticing…

So, in losing weight or even in stabilizing one’s weight, notice. Eat. Notice some more. Maybe find a little help. Notice. And when it doesn’t work. Start again. Mainly by noticing.

Fall down nine times, get up ten.

That’s the deal. pretty much all of it. As is said in my circles, even the Buddha is still practicing. Me, I’m glad to have heard that. It’s the deal.


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