I have just noticed that I dropped about 10 pounds in the last month. Do not congratulate me for this, or offer any encouragement. Why? Because I realize that what has been different this last month is that I have not been trying to lose weight. Offering encouragement or congratulations would be inconsistent.
The teachings I follow in zen buddhism warn frequently and repeatedly of the pitfalls of "gaining ideas." Now, while this is a clever pun when writing about weight-loss, I don't intend it that way. Gaining ideas are those which assert that there is a self, separate from the world, which has something it can (or even more powerfully, needs to) gain, achieve or possess. These thoughts are the life-blood of the ego-self, that part of us that works in competition, that wants the nice car/house/job, the hot lover, the fast computer, and yes, this is the part of us that wants enlightenment. It is that which desires to be free of gaining ideas.
We can't rid ourselves of gaining ideas, life itself is a gaining idea. We can learn, through diligent practice, to not attach to them. We can watch them come and go, even act on them when that is the thing to do, but we do not have to get wrapped up in the notion that this is what life is about. Very closely related to this is the notion that we are not enough as we are, that there's something about us that needs to be fixed.
Whew! Is that ever a notion I have been fully invested in with regard to weight-loss! I have literally been waiting my entire life for a day when I could actually begin living, that day when I was thin enough to "fit in." That day when I could be accepted for "who I really am" and not be judged on the basis of my fat body, which I have always identified as "not me."
Folks, particularly those younger than I (47), hear this. I have wasted a lot of my life, that is, let opportunities pass, because of this notion. I can never recover my 20's, 30's. and most of my 40's. Whatever life I have yet to live will be lived as I am now. Waiting for a day to come when I could live the life I wanted robbed me of the life I had.
Yesterday I was walking down 14th street on my way to see a consulting client. Walking towards me in the other direction was a very attractive woman, walking with a man, who was talking to him with animated gestures. She than began to dance down the sidewalk in a very sexy manner, apparently in an attempt to convey something to him, and she saw that I was watching her move and smiling. She looked at me and continued to dance as we approached each other, when she was within ear-shot she said jokingly to me "yeah, I know, I have some great dance moves!"
I looked over at her and without thinking what came out of my mouth was "you're also very hot."
She laughed, stopped in her tracks and turned around and called after me "then why are you just passing me up?"
I stopped, turned around and said "you're with a guy."
She smiled and said "He's my brother."
Until this moment I had been operating with no gaining ideas, just acting out of attention to the world around me. Then it started, my ego jumped in, my heart starting racing, and I didn't know what to say or do. Well, that's not true, she was practically picking me up, I knew what someone who was thin and attractive should do, i.e., ask her for a phone number or something, but I was frozen in the midst of this flood of thoughts of "you're fat, she's going to reject you, you couldn't handle it if she said yes, women like this don't want anything to do with you," etc, etc, etc.
She rescued me with "I'm married, but you've got a great smile."
"Thanks," I said "you just made my day."
"That's Moo-chul" she said with a humorous and vaguely germanic accent, she then smiled again, turned around and kept walking with her brother, who was clearly impatient with her spontaneous exchange with me. There was a definite wiggle in her walk, she turned her head and made sure I was watching, and then she turned her attention away from me and walked on.
I just as well could have been wearing silk boxers.
This moment was made possible by my temporary inattention to my gaining ideas, that is, the idea that I need something, that I lack something, that there's something I can gain which will get me what I want in the *future.* I was, I realize now in retrospect, just living in that moment, seeing this vision of hotness dance on 14th street and simply letting the reaction seeing her do that caused in me, i.e., arousal, happiness and pleasure, arise on it's own, without plan or attachment to outcomes.
For as long as I could exist in that moment, things went swimmingly well, I was living the life I've been waiting all my life to live, enjoying myself, enjoying those around me, being in the fullness of every moment, fulfilling my desires as they arise without an agenda or a benchmark to achieve. I was everything I needed to be, I possessed all I wanted.
I have also been living that life with regard to eating for the last month. I had grown weary of all the struggle, so I just let myself be. I didn't indulge my cravings, don't get me wrong, this was not a month of pizza, cheeseburgers, chocolate and ice cream, though I have eaten each of those things in the last month on one occasion or another.
No, this was a month of using what Dogen calls "the parental mind" with regard to eating. That is, I let go of trying to eat in a way that would get me something I lack, weight-loss, and instead I lived just taking care of things in the moment. I ate what was in my best interests at the time, striking a balance between what was healthy for me, what I wanted, and what was available to me at the time. I let go of the notion that there were "right" and "wrong" things to eat, I just ate what seemed to be the best choice, I made choices as I would for myself if I was my own kind, compassionate and wise parent. I did not seek to deprive myself or indulge myself. I ate every meal as if it were my last.
In other words. When I was hungry, I ate. When I was thirsty, I drank.
I've had this notion for a very long time that there was something I needed to learn or get in order to finally lose weight. How interesting it will be if that was the problem all along.