Archive for December, 2011

Dough, sauce, cheese, meats and veggies. There’s a lot happening on top of that pizza. I must admit I love them. Pizza is one of my favorite foods. I’m sure a significant portion of my extra weight can be measured in pizza consumption. Today, while enjoying stumbleupon to kill some time and find random things that might be interesting, I cam across this story about healthy pizza.There are vegetarian and vegan options that look really good. Check it out and see if any appeal to you.

Healthy Homemade Pizza Recipes

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Happy Rohatsu

Today is the eighth day of the twelfth month. In Japanese, that’s what Rohatsu means. Why is that important? Because it’s also Bodhi day. This is the day where Buddhists commemorate the historical Buddha gaining enlightenment. The Buddha had spent the previous few years living a life of extreme asceticism where he practically starved himself to death trying to gain an understanding of why there is suffering and death. Before that, he had spent years studying meditation and spiritual matters. He had been so successful in those studies that he was asked to take over the schools of his teachers. He chose not to follow that path either as studying deeply did not answer his question.

Eventually, after having tried extreme spiritual practices and extreme ascetic practices he realized that the answers he was looking for were not to be found there. This is when he realized that there had to be a better path, what became known as the Middle Way—avoiding extreme materialism or asceticism. At that point, the story goes, he decided to sit under a Bodhi tree and meditate until the problems of suffering and death were finally solved. According to many accounts, he sat for 49 days in meditation and finally received enlightenment and the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path were revealed.

As will happen with any tradition that is over 2000 years old, a lot of other stuff gets added on and the historical accuracy of some of the stories can often be hard to come by. Whether this is a completely accurate account of what happened or not, it’s been a consistent enough story for two and a half millennium that I feel comfortable with the story as it is traditionally told.

For me, Rohatsu is special because it reminds me of the importance of the Middle Way. I have found in my own life that this is extremely important. I have tried dealing with my suffering through excess indulgence. All it got me was an extra hundred pounds of fat. I have tried living a life of extreme spirituality and found it to be lacking and unfulfilling. When I walk the Middle Way, I find balance and peace. I may never gain enlightenment but I can still walk the path and follow the teachings. I can meditate and choose to live a life in peace and harmony with the world around me. In this I have found a way that makes sense, a way that actually addresses life just as it is, a way that doesn’t push me to extremes of imbalance. I will go through today and keep in mind the importance of walking the Middle Way and of pursuing it until I find the way to save all sentient beings from suffering.

On another note, Rohatsu is in December so, when someone wishes me Happy Holidays, I consider this to be the one they’re wishing me happiness for. What holiday you choose to be happy on is up to you.

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Getting Close

It’s nice to see the numbers on the scale going a little lower each day. Especially after going away for a weekend to Boston where there was fast food, breakfast buffets and things that are generally not beneficial towards healthy eating. I think I can safely say I’m back in the swing of things when it comes to making healthy choices.

Just a few minutes ago, I looked back at the post I had last year from the first time I dropped below 300. It was one of the happiest moments I had while losing weight. I think that this time it will be just as sweet. I’m already starting to see some results as my clothes are fitting better and I am beginning to see a difference in the mirror too. Dropping back below 300 pounds will really feel like an accomplishment. For some reason that number is huge in my head. I’m doing my best to not get stuck on it but it is a challenge.

I’m not sure how long it will take to get past these last 3-4 pounds but it’s exciting to watch the numbers go down ever so slowly toward this mark. Perhaps it will be my Christmas present to myself.

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This is the second part in a multi-part post about why I started following a Buddhist path.

As I said in my last post, I had left my faith behind but I still had a lot of questions about suffering and the nature of suffering. I was still suffering and was dealing with depression, excess weight, a host of family problems and a general pessimism about life that made living seem almost unbearable.

Cover of "Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful ...

Cover of Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life

Eventually, I reached a point where I broke down. I could no longer go on living the way that I was. I knew that if I didn’t make some serious changes in my lifestyle that my physical and mental health would deteriorate rapidly and I would find myself dying early. As bad as my outlook on life was, a basic desire for self preservation would not allow this to happen. When I broke down, my wife shared a book with me that she had recently picked up. The book was called Savor. It was written by Thich Nhat Hahn and Dr. Lillian Cheung. The book was looking at the problem of obesity from a Buddhist and a medical perspective. As I read through the opening chapters, I began to see just how important the issue of suffering was to Buddhism. Eliminating suffering was the foundation of the entire Buddhist perspective.

I had studied a bit about the basic beliefs of Buddhism in college as part of a World’s Religions class. I had a basic understanding of what Buddhists believed but this was the first time I had ever seen Buddhist principles put into action. It amazed me at how simple and straightforward the application of the Four Noble Truths could be.

The other thing that struck me at that time was the almost single minded focus Buddhism put on the world as it really is. There was no mystical magic being to relate to. Buddhism always brought things back to your self. In the Buddhist perspective, there is no external world that exists outside of the self. The mind is the final arbiter of the world that we perceive. Everything in the world comes to us through our five (six in the Buddhist view) senses. We then add meaning and context to that sensory information and start to relate to it. This is how we build up the world and this is where suffering begins and ends. Finally, I had found a reasonable explanation for what causes suffering and what can be done about it.

I decided that I should give Buddhism a try. The approach was so simple and pure and the practice was designed to integrate into ones daily life. It was a practice with a purpose. It meant I would have to learn how to meditate but I figured that having tried so many different ways to deal with suffering that one more couldn’t hurt. I did some research and found that in the town just north of me there was a Zen Center so I gave them a call and arranged a visit. My experiences with Zen and what I thought about the experience will have to wait for part 3 of this series. However, before I end this, I’d like to share a quote from Brad Warner in his book Zen Dipped in Karma Wrapped in Chocolate about his experience in discovering Buddhism. He’s a great writer and his words capture my feelings better than my words can.

When I say that Buddhism worked, I don’t mean that it was a magic solution to my problems. Nor do I mean that any miracles happened or that I was able to erase all doubt and fear from my mind through some kind of special power. What I mean is that Buddhism…provided the most truly realistic and practical way of dealing with life. It isn’t spirituality, but it isn’t materialism either…Buddhism does what no other philosophy I’ve ever come across is able to do. It bridges the gap between these two forever mutually opposing ways of understanding reality. It negates both spirituality and materialism yet simultaneously embraces them. And it’s more than just a way of thinking about things. There’s a practice involved — zazen. You cannot separate the philosophy from the practice. If you don’t do zazen practice you cannot ever hope even to come close to comprehending the philosophy.

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