Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


Craving Sweets

I'm craving sweet things tonight. Chocolate, cookies.... Even the ads for sweet, non-vegan, overly processed things on the television look good! I had some more yams and broccoli with some slightly sweet, Thai-style peanut sauce (thin kind), which addressed the craving a little. I'm guessing I'm still feeling the major sugar-fest of Halloween and Diwali. So many yummy treats from Sweet Pea, so much sugar!

I am more aware now of the cravings, more mindful about them. Before I just indulged them when ever they came up. Really I know the cravings were more emotional based, just wanting satisfying things to eat because I was unsatisfied with my life. It isn't that I don't feel that kind of craving from time to time, I just am more aware of it, much more able to say to myself what my body needs as opposed to what my mind is clamoring for.

One thing that has changed about it is the ability to notice how the body does crave sugar, above and beyond the mind wanting to be satisfied with something sweet. Whenever there's a few days in a row where I have sweets I find myself feeling my body craving them.


Open to the World

Once again I slept poorly. I just couldn't seem to fall asleep, my mind was racing around. Not even truly anxious, just busy. I kept controlling the breath, trying to focus on it, but only would start to doze before I ached and needed to move or I felt my brain start planning work, planning conversations, planning, planning, planning. When my alarm went off at 7AM, which I had planned so I could get up at sit zazen, have a shower, and work for a little before we would take me to my office and DW to her appointment.

Instead I tried to sleep a little longer, getting up at just before 8AM to get on the daily status call. I found problems as I checked my mail right as the call started. Spent part of the day dealing with that, re-doing work from Saturday night, and sitting in on meetings. Around 2:30 I left to pick up CK at the airport.

She looked tired and I was so glad to see her. I drove us back to her flat and we looked at her photographs from the trip, had some popcorn and chai. It was nice just sitting with her, talking and being close. I rubbed her feet a little bit and then had to change to go over to the community center and teach.

I put up the picture of myself from October 1999 on my Facebook account. My friend MP commented to me how he'd been thinking "how concentrated" I had become. It made me laugh and wonder if I wasn't dilute before. Just aspects of personality filling up the space, not the whole me.

At times it begins to feel less awkward. I guess I'm getting a little more used to my skin, even the extra, leftover skin. It is that I feel any less exposed, like I'm just making it up. I guessed I'm getting used to being that way, being open to the world instead of only interacting with it through a narrow slice.



I happened to spot an old picture of myself from October 1999. When people ask me how overweight I was this is one of the images I think of. Nine years ago I loved this photograph me, I thought I looked lovely in it and used it for some of my online profiles. Now it is like seeing a ghost.


There was a time where I was entirely comfortable being that person. I weighed over 290 pounds. I could be loud, brash, imperious and over-the-top, knowing about sexuality. This was the person I became in response to a life filled with distractions; food, sex, video games, television & other media, trashy novels... really anything that kept me from thinking about why I was trying so hard to entertain myself at all costs.

Nine years later and I weigh less than half that and look much more like the person who graduated from Beaverton High School in 1987. Seeing 1999 Sherri, thinking of who I was then, is almost this sad experience. This larger-than-life personae I invested everything into. This facade who needed a substantial dose of anti-anxiety medication to keep her on an even remotely even keel. Who was avoiding the misery in her life, a long history of it.

I'm not sure what started to change first, video games I think. When I split up with my ex-husband, AP, he took all the computers so the LAN games were a thing of the past. I quickly grew bored with the Playstation games I had, which has always been the case with every console game I've owned.

When I started changing my approach to food it began to affect other things. I was vegetarian by 2002, not really intending to go that way but ending up there after meat began to taste very bad to me. It was my cholesterol I was trying to change, not my weight, so I'd started trying vegetarian dishes hoping it would be healthier and found them so good I just opted for them. In the end my cholesterol would increase (all the dairy), but I would fairly easily loose 100 pounds.

At that point, January 2003, I began to investigate hatha yoga. After only one year I wanted to teach and would spend another year intensifying my practice toward this goal. Three years ago this month I would teach my first class. Now I am intensely studying again, working towards certification through Yoga Alliance. Two asana practices a week in addition to the two beginning classes I now teach and six hours of theory, anatomy & physiology, technique, assists, modifications, and ethics.

In 2005 AM and I both began to investigate Buddhism. While trying out meditation one evening at the Ch'an temple I discovered that sitting caused intense pain in my legs, hips and back. The herniated disc at the base of my spine irritating all the nerves, tendons and muscles into constant spasm. I would seek out a cushion and would in turn discover the Jizos for Peace project in the summer of 2005. In considering my beginning to teach beginning yoga I was drawn to the Zen Community of Oregon.

Last night, during sanzen, I asked HB if I could receive Jukai, to take refuge, next autumn. To all my anxiety and nervous energy around asking that's been building for months now he answered, "Sure, I don't see why not."

Now months to finish tasks. Writing about the precepts, all sixteen of them. Sewing the Rakusu, a representation of the Buddha's robe. Attending sesshin, which worries me greatly since getting through half that amount of sitting last winter at the women's retreat I was having muscle spasms during the last meditation practice. I am sure a way will be found is what I try to remind that anxious voice.

Seeing that ghost me increased my resolve to set myself toward this next goal. I've known for over two years I have wanted to do this, I've just been afraid I'd never really fit in. That if I wasn't playing the role of "Good Zen Buddhist" I wouldn't be able to join the club. Again and again I've been shown I am a part, that even someone who finds their way out on the edges, in the narrow margins is just another person seeking to settle and wake up.



A couple of weeks ago I was walking out of the Farmers Market, looking for where AM was waiting in the car. I wasn't easily spotting him in all the busyness. He hadn't waved at me or done anything to catch my attention. When I finally did make it to the car he remarked that he hadn't recognized me for several moments.

This is a strange, new milepost. AM has always recognized me even when friends, family members have done double takes upon seeing me after many months or years. I guess it is understandable since I sometimes do not recognize myself in the mirror and at times seeing my reflection go by feels as though I'm seeing the past. I more closely resemble myself at 16.

Most people at 39 would be thrilled to find that they looked so much younger would be reassuring, pleasing. It isn't that I'm not thrilled, it is rather gratifying to still be asked for identification when I purchase a bottle of wine. It is just part of the strangeness of it all, of letting go of the elaborate persona I must have started to craft from the moment I left Portland for college in Wisconsin. A bit of play-acting that become everything I was.

Online I've been been touching base with people I've not seen in years. None of them have mentioned the change so far. Maybe they think the photo isn't current or it just isn't as dramatic through an online photograph, but no one has said much. I can feel myself bracing for it, the questions.

CB and HB have both said I need to be proud of this and at times I almost think I can start to figure out how to do that. Then I run into the strangeness of not being recognized by someone who's spent a great deal of time with me these past 9 years or anticipate old friends wanting to know what happened. At those times I feel like I miss a step in embracing pride over the accomplishment.

Maybe it is the feeling of attention being called to it, to me, that leaves me a little uncomfortable. I can recall wanting to be the center of attention as a child, to be popular like my cousins. I would thrust myself into the center, yet was never quite comfortable there, the effort was always forced. By the time I was in college I was just starting to move from that kind of behavior, building the habit of staying to the sidelines that turned into kind of withdrawal.

In losing weight I never set out to be in the spotlight, to have attention drawn to me. I merely wanted to live a more healthful life. I wanted to be sure I would be here for those who love me, that I wouldn't suddenly leave due to heart problems or diabetes (two things that affect the women in my family quite a bit). Learning how to be in the center and have people truly interested in my being there feels awkward. Different from the forced quality of my youth, just awkwardness as I keep doing what I've been doing for the past few years; the behavior that has put me in the spotlight without seeking it.