Sally in the Zen

Confessions of a Befuddled Zen Buddhist

Introspection: I Can’t

I HATE these words.  I truly despise them.  I loathe hearing them, and absolutely loathe saying them.


Because these seemingly simple words are poison to the mind, heart and the soul.

Zen Master believes that a human being is capable of anything.  He has always taught me that if I can think it, I can do it. 

The one true obstacle that stops me from achieving my potential, from becoming the very best person that I can be is me.  By harboring self-doubt.  By lacking courage and faith in myself.  By saying and believing in I can’t.

He has been preaching this to me for as long as I can recall.

I remember a conversation from when I was either 9 or 10 years old:

Zen Master:  Why don’t you focus and be a doctor?

Me:  Nah, malpractice sucks.

Zen Master (more persistent):  Being a good doctor makes a lot of money.

Me:  Nah, malpractice sucks.

That was the extent of my thought process back then, which is to say that I absolutely had no focus and I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up.  But the truth was that I believed I couldn’t be a doctor because I just wasn’t smart enough. 

That’s the beauty about hindsight and the 20/20 thing.  While there is still breath in me, I still have the chance to learn from my past failings and grow from them.  I tackle each new day with this attitude.

That’s progress, right?

As a Zen Buddhist, I’ve come to understand that fear closes off my mind from my heart.  Fear in whatever form, whether self-doubt or afraid of looking stupid or whatever, is poison to the mind.  I’ve also come to understand that to overcome this poison, I simply embrace it and still move forward.  Because moving forward is progress.  One more step towards Enlightenment.

But it’s hard.  Sometimes I falter and fail.

Like on Thursday night, when I was working out at my night-time gym.  Our group exercise was straight up and simple. 

Military presses. 

If you don’t know what these are, here’s what I found on Youtube.

I really don’t know who Kara Bohigian is but I’m in awe just watching her go to work.

Back to my story.  Our workout on Thursday was military presses:  5 sets of 5 MP, with increasing weights for each round.  For me, it was in increments of 5 lbs.  And this was the first time I have ever done such a thing.

During round 4, I had struggled with 50 lbs and if it wasn’t for my instructor standing in front of me, pushing me on, I would have dropped that barbell and quit.  But he wouldn’t let me quit.

My 5th and last round stopped at 55 lbs.  In my mind, I kept thinking Oh my God!  I can’t do this!  I can’t do this!  And as I struggled that barbell up over my head for the third time in this last round, I actually shrieked “OH, JESUS, HELP ME!!”

I wasn’t too far gone to not notice the snickering in the room.  And no, I didn’t forget my religion when I was screaming Jesus’s name in vain. 

As I finally pushed and grunted my 4th thrust up, my mind screamed STOP!!  YOUR ARMS ARE TOO WEAK AND YOU CAN’T FINISH THIS!!

But I heaved that damn thing up over my head, completing that 4th lift.  And as soon as that happened, my balance faltered and I dropped that barbell on the ground.

There was only one more lift in this final round and I refused to pick it back up.  I instead walked away.

Now let’s put this into perspective here.  I was exercising alongside an older gal who pushed through all 5 sets ending at 55 lbs.  She was calm, cool and focused.  And she was half my size in build, height and stature.

And she got it done.

Moral of this lesson:  Try it.  Do it.  Finish what I’ve started. 

And believe a little bit more in myself because at age forty, I still have a lot more life to live and more challenges to face.

And I can’t is a complete buzzkill.

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