Friday, June 4, 2010

Heavy Dharma

I'm a member of the Cambridge Zen Center and something almost all of us do occasionally is give a dharma talk.  CZC has them every Thursday night at 7:30pm except when there's a visiting teacher and then they have them on Friday night.  A student (such as myself) gives a short talk about their experience practicing zen and then a teacher answers questions.  I'm up on June 11 and I was wondering what to talk about.  Then, thinking of this blog and last Saturday's post, I thought, why not talk about my weight.  Weight and body image are a good subject for a dharma talk because of how much attachment there is to this issue both for myself and society as a whole.  My weight is a hard teacher.  I'm not sure exactly what I'm going to say but I'm looking forward to talking about it.  The Korean Zen Master who founded our school always said to turn your bad karma into good karma and I'm looking forward to doing some of that next week.


  1. DSSN wasn't a lightweight, and he struggled with diabetes & heart problems, both of which many skinny folks peg as being "fat" diseases. Because he was a Zen Master, I'm guessing no one had the nerve to guilt-trip him about his physical problems by suggesting he "should" eat better, get more exercise, etc.

    Unfortunately, other folks aren't so lucky, and I've seen a lot of body-shaming in Zen circles, with a "mindful" diet being held up as a magic-bullet to solve weight problems, illness, etc. The implication, of course, is that if you aren't skinny with a firm yoga-butt, you must not be "really" practicing, eating properly, etc.

    DSSN was a great example of how you can be a vegetarian who meditates a lot & does lots of bows, but that doesn't necessarily change your basic body type. DSSN had a particular kind of physical karma, and his Zen Master lifestyle didn't change that. What it did change, though, was his reaction to his physical challenges. His body was challenged, but his mind was clear.

  2. Hey Lori,
    Your comment really brings out a basic problem with how fat people are viewed. There is a general feeling in our society that if you are fat, you are somehow just not trying hard enough, as you put it "you must not be 'really' practicing". I had a quick health screening at the school where I worked one fall years ago. I had been riding my bike all summer and had done three centuries in the month of August. The nurse took my blood pressure which was 105\70 and my heart rate which was 51 bpm. When I commented that my bp and heart rate were pretty good, her response was 'Well, you're still very overweight.' Even after all these years and all the sitting I've done, that comment still makes me livid. I guess more practice is needed :-)