Sunday, February 8, 2009

What's Your Deepest Intention?

I read the following story recently as part of an online course I’m taking through Insight Meditation Center.

A Cherokee Legend

A grandfather is talking to his young grandson about life. He tells the boy, “I have two wolves inside of me, struggling with each other. The first is the wolf of peace, love and kindness. The other wolf is fear, greed and hatred.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win, grandfather?”

The grandfather replied, “Whichever one I feed.”

If I look at these wolves through the lens of weight loss and weight maintenance, I see how I feed them both.

The first wolf is at peace with my body, and loves and is kind to my body. The second wolf fears weight gain and doesn’t trust that I know how to stay thin; it is jealous and compares my body with other people’s bodies, and hates its shortcomings – its skin and stretch marks and other vestiges of morbid obesity’s abuse.

In a recent talk on the Buddhist view of sense of self, IMC teacher Gil Fronsdal encouraged participants to spend some quiet time alone reflecting on what their deepest intention is. When I examined this question in terms of weight, I thought about those wolves living inside me, and I realized I’ve been guided through my weight journey by one deep intention. I just hadn’t appreciated it in those terms before.

Often we’re motivated to lose weight on the spur of the moment. We see a get-thin-quick diet in a magazine or just get fed up one morning when our jeans are zipping tight. Maybe the thought of losing weight buzzes in the back of your mind and you dabble for a day or two in reducing calories or you go for a few walks, but you haven’t given real thought as to why. In a week or even a few days, you’re back to the buzzing.

Been there, done that, and have the receipts for the dozens of sacks of fat and thin clothes donated to Goodwill.

I’ve lost weight hundreds of times in the past, always with the “intention” of being good enough for other people. Four years ago, when I started losing weight the final time, I’d spent the good part of the year before wondering whether to lose weight or accept myself the way I was. It was a series of sh*t or get off the pot conversations I had with myself. I’d reached a point where I couldn’t vacillate between the two sides anymore.

Ultimately I decided to lose weight, mostly because my health was sinking fast. I had near diabetic sugar levels and my blood work indicated I was a walking heart attack. I had to decide if I wanted to eat my way to an early death or live the healthiest life I could for as long as I could. That decision became my deepest intention.

Did I falter once in awhile? Yes. But ultimately, I always went back to the intention.

That intention continues to guide me in maintenance. Without it, I’d behave the same way I always did when I got to some weight goal: by not paying attention to my food intake and slacking off on exercise. After all, my “intention” was merely to be good enough in someone else’s eyes. Once that was accomplished, I could go back to “normal.”

With my deepest intention being to be the healthiest person I can be physically and emotionally, I’m better able to pay attention to what my body and mind need and to work with them as a unit and not separately.

When I forget my deepest intention, I feed the second wolf – the wolf of fear, greed and hate. When I am focused on my intention, I feed the first wolf – the wolf of peace, love and kindness.

Which wolf do you feed? Which wolf do you want to win? What’s your deepest intention? I’m not asking so that you’ll tell me. You owe me or anyone else none of your thoughts. But they are good questions to ponder before or during a weight-loss or maintenance journey. As Gil said in his talk, it can help clarify how you find your way.

13 comments:

  1. Thanks for giving me something to really think about. I am not sure of the answer right now, but I hope I can find it as you have.

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  2. That legend sends a powerful message. It really hit me when I read it. I think this will take a little thought. I hope you don't mind if I link to you, this is something that really speaks to me.

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  3. I can relate to those wolves on far deeper levels than food. Thanks for posting.

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  4. Yeah, Lynn, I was going to say the same thing as Carla. I've heard that legend before, and I hope that my deepest intention is something other than weight loss/maintenance.

    But in regards to weight and food, while I sometimes get distracted by wanting to look better, I remind myself that my deepest intention is to be as healthy as possible, and to continue this for the rest of my life.

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  5. Oh my "deepest intention" in my overall life is hardly about weight loss! LOL I'm a little deeper than that, guys. But I stand by what I said: to be successful at weight loss takes a deep intention and commitment.

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  6. REALLY good post.

    Loved this one:
    That intention continues to guide me in maintenance. Without it, I’d behave the same way I always did when I got to some weight goal: by not paying attention to my food intake and slacking off on exercise. After all, my “intention” was merely to be good enough in someone else’s eyes. Once that was accomplished, I could go back to “normal.”

    That explains it perfectly.

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  7. I needed this post today. Thank you.

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  8. I love this post because it puts into words how I feel about weight loss this time. I finally got to a point where my health and spending time with my family mattered more than the number on the scale. As a result, I was (and am) able to eat healthful foods every day without feeling deprived of all the junk that I used to eat. I look at each day as a victory, even the ones that aren't "perfect" foodwise because they are all getting me closer to my goal. It's not something that I've ever experienced before with weight loss and it really has made it so much easier for me not to throw in the towel over a weekly result that is not what I wanted.

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  9. Hi Lynn,

    Long time reader, first time commenter! This post really spoke to me. I sometimes feel I have two conflicting versions of myself. "Good Lauren" who eats well, exercises, stays focused and feels amazing. She makes herself a priority and doesn't let anything get her down. She is someone I truly want to be. Then there's the matter of "Bad Lauren." And to quote PastaQueen, "How do I control that b*tch?" Haha.

    I truly feel that way sometimes--like I have an alternate ego out to sabotage me! But this post reminds me that I can choose which ego I will enable. Blaming my actions on "Bad Lauren" just amounts to making excuses. Thanks for your inspiration, as always!

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  10. Lauren, I hear ya. "Bad Lynn" is loud and obnoxious some days. Man oh man. Glad you put a comment out there :)

    Wahoostampingirl, I like how you said every day is a victory. I hadn't thought of this journey that way. I needed that today since it's one of those days I want to eat everything that isn't nailed down. I can be victorious today, even if I'm not perfect.

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  11. Great post, Lynn! I totally agree with McLauren. I have Good Rhonda who wants to be healthy and enjoys eating foods that make her body feel better, look better and run better. Then there's Bad Rhonda who just doesn't give a rat's @ss. ;) I just wanted to ask you, How did you stay motivated to lose all of the weight? I want to and I need to but I just am not motivated to. Why!?!? How did you stick with it and not give up?
    Thanks for blogging and always giving me something to think about, Lynn!

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  12. A good parrabel, it should have been taught to people in the finance industry.

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  13. Thanks for the good chuckle, Saint Patrick :) You're right - a few Wall Streeters and bankers could learn a thing or two. Although, I suspect they like feeding the greed.

    Rhonda, I seriously stuck to my diet because of my health. I knew if I didn't change, I would die young. It was that simple. I let that be my constant motivator and guide. Now that I have a grandbaby and another one on the way, I'm even more determined to stick around this earth as long as I can.

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