Claire and I went to Borders yesterday. It’s not the first time she’s been in a book store, and her mom takes her regularly to their local library, as do I when she visits me. Still, she was amazed by all the books, like she was seeing them for the first time.
I’ve lived in my body all my life, and yet it wasn’t until I was 41 that I started to really pay attention to it, like I was seeing it for the first time. Six years later, I’m still paying attention and learning how it all works, and I’ve expanded this awareness into other parts of my life as well.
On Lynn’s Weigh on Facebook last week, I posted: “The truth really does set us free. I faced the scale after my ‘just a few bites’ weekend, and while it was up a little, knowing my number - the truth - is WAY less scary than what my head said it was. The truth isn’t always easy, I know. But what truths are you not as likely to run away from anymore or want to stop running away from?”
April wrote: “I think getting out of the ‘I’m destined” to be fat mentality was big for me....NO ONE is destined to be fat. A truth that can be hard to face especially for a girl who weighed 206 her Freshman year of HS. This is how I know myself, and convincing myself not to confuse my identity with the ‘wrapper’ has been VERY hard.”
Tammy replied: “Hmm…probably the truth that I’m also not destined to be fat. Genetics may not be on my side, but that is no reason to throw in the towel and surrender. My great-grandparents aren’t forcing me to shove a jelly donut down my throat, so I just need to own it.”
We live so much of our lives on autopilot and in fear. We accept things we’ve not tested or questioned as truth, and we find comfort in doing things the way we’ve always done them, even when doing so hurts us or holds us back.
When I was 300 pounds, I knew I was obese, but I didn’t want to see it. I wanted to like things the way they were, when in truth, I was afraid to change. Afraid to fail again. Afraid to find out what was underneath the weight I’d added to the person who – even when thin – was flawed, often sad, and had run away from some pretty big truths.
It still takes some convincing for me to stay present sometimes, and I’ve still got fears ‘o plenty. But I know that until I ask, “What do I REALLY want or need” and make an honest inquiry about what keeps me stuck, I cannot change.
Most of have done this at some point in our lives. We stay in our habits, hoping things will change “some day” and in the meantime, we continue to suffer emotional pain because we allow ourselves and others to treat us unfairly; suffer from heartburn, high blood pressure and other diseases because we eat too much; suffer physical pain because we don’t use our muscles; and suffer self-sabotage because we don’t appreciate and love who we are.
Seeing things for the first time can be scary, but it can, in time, lighten our hearts and our bodies, if we so choose. Facing that fear is what in Buddhism is known as “having tea with Mara.” Tara Brach retells the story of the demon Mara in her book “Radical Acceptance”:
“One of my favorite stories of the Buddha shows the power of a wakeful and friendly heart. On the morning of Buddha’s enlightenment Mara, the fearsome demon who symbolizes the shadow-side of human nature, fled in defeat and disarray. In Sanskrit “Mara” means “delusion” – that craving and fear that obscure our enlightened nature.
But it seems that he was only temporarily discouraged. Even after the Buddha had embarked on his teaching career and become a revered figure throughout Indian, Mara continued to make unexpected appearances. Instead of driving him away, however, the Buddha would calmly acknowledge the demon’s presence saying, “I see you, Mara.”
He would then invite him for tea and serve him as an honored guest.
Offering Mara a cushion so that he could sit comfortably, the Buddha would fill two earthen cups with tea and place them on a low table between them. Mara would stay for awhile and then go, but throughout, the Buddha remained free and undisturbed.
You see, when Mara visits us in the form of troubling emotions or fearsome stories, we can say, “I see you Mara,” and clearly recognize the craving and fear that persists in each human heart. The objective is to see what is true and to hold what is seen with kindness….
Our habit of being a fair-weather friend to ourselves – of pushing away or ignoring whatever darkness we can – is deeply entrenched…. We truly befriend ourselves when, rather than resisting our experience, we open our hearts and willingly invite Mara to tea….”