Sally in the Zen

Confessions of a Befuddled Zen Buddhist

Easter Sunday

Zen Master looked at me with distress. 

“We have to go back to work tomorrow!”  He wailed loudly.

Zen Mum nodded.  “Sucks.”

Yes, my friends, Spring Break 2011 is finally over and the kids are upset.

Spring Break 2011 was a staycation for them, puttering around town and just staying local.

Some time ago, while Zen Master was waiting to pick Zen Mum up from work, he observed a track and field down the hill.  And decided to see if they could use it during their vacation.

Which they did throughout the week, when it wasn’t raining.

So where were we on that beautiful and warm Easter Sunday morning?

Yup, we were trekking all around that track.

After one lap, I stepped it up and mixed in light jogging and power-walking, and when I saw the concrete stairs leading up from the field, I powered up the stairs until I reached the top, huffing and puffing as if I just ran a marathon.  And when I finally caught my breath, I jumped up and punched the air with my fists, hooting and hollering like Rocky.

Because I made it up there without passing out!

Mount McKinley, here I come!

Uh, not.


When I caught up with Zen Master and Zen Mum, they were sweating and red-faced. 

And grinning like fools.

“This is better than walking around the neighborhood.”  Zen Master stated as a matter-of-factly. 

“How you figure?”  I asked.

“No pollution from cars driving by.”

Hm.  Never thought about that.

So for an entire hour, we trekked around that track, panting and gasping for breath, puffing with other like-minded people who wanted nothing but a good run.

Zen Master counted twelve laps when we finally called it quits.

Let me state for the record that I am a Zumba fan, shaking body parts that cry in protest. 

I am all about Step Class, stumping and jumping like nobody’s business.

And I live and breathe Body Pump, for I vow to get myself a JLo butt.

I am an athlete who gets ragged but bounces back with always my second wind.

Okay, so I’m using the word athlete quite liberally and loosely.

So when we finally got home, what did I do?

I washed up and went straight to bed.

The kids actually puttered me out.

And my bed never felt so good.

The End.

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Graceful is a ballerina.

Elegant, slender, trim and lean.  When the ballerina walks, she’s grace in motion.  Effortless, sleek, like poetry floating in air.  Every movement is smooth, every motion is mesmerizing.

When I see grace is motion, I find myself thinking Wow, that was grace in motion.

Now that we got that out of the way, let me just say…

…that’s so not me.

Just so we’re clear.

I dribble food on my shirt constantly.  If there’s a crumb hanging, I slurp it up. 

Just because, you know, waste not, want not.

My most favorite sweatshirt that I sleep in is thread-worn and quite faded.  It doesn’t matter to me that I have to wear another sweatshirt with this sweatshirt.  It’s just so comfortable and soft.

And not even Zen Master can get me to toss that lovely item away. 

My sneaker size is a 8 1/2. 

Yup, I’m a big foot.

And I don’t dance.

I have absolutely no rhyme or rhythm.  When I dance, people think I’m twitching. 

Enough said.

So, with my rhymeless, twitchy self, I walked to my new gym and shuffled into a Zumba class.

I know it’s dancing, with hips-shaking, butt-wagging, arms-flaring movements but I need the cardio.  If it wasn’t for the fact that I needed the cardio, I wouldn’t even touch Zumba.

What you gonna do?

When I walked into the room, it was packed with anxious and eager ladies who were ready to get rolling.  There were so many of them in the room, that it left little personal space around me.  And when the lights dimmed and the instructor walked onto the raised platform with her microphone and headset on her head, she pushed a button and the music began. 

This was my first Zumba class and I checked my inhibitions at the door.  I was resigned to the fact that it was useless to be embarassed about my twitching because I just needed the cardio.

I couldn’t see the instructor so I followed the ladies in front of me.  Let me just state for the record that there are so ladies who take their Zumba quite seriously.  They mimic their movements just so, toss their hair back just so, and reach their arms out just so.



It was ok.

Because it was so packed with people, I ended up in a corner right under the speakers.  After an hour of jumping, doing grapevines, strutting forward and back, doing endless butt wriggles, arm flares and lots of twitching, I left that place soaked with sweat and winded.  I think the sweat was more from heat that came from that mass of bodies waggling in that room.

And my left ear was deaf.

At the start of the class, I overheard someone say that the more you do Zumba, the better it becomes.  I would become more familiar with the movements and the instructor who was commanding such a packed house was top-notch. 

All good to hear.

Would I go back?


Because my twitchy self needs the cardio.

And it was fun.

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Blame it on the rain

“How long has it been since you worked out?”  I asked Zen Mum last night as I was brushing my teeth, getting ready for bed. 

She gave me a blank stare.

“Ho-kay,”  I said as I pat her on her shoulder.  “We’re going to do some in the morning when we wake up.”

But it was only a few minutes later when I felt something shaking me awake.

I opened one eye and saw Zen Mum leaning over me. 

“We’re exercising before breakfast, right?”  She asked. 

“Yeah,”  I said as I turned over and got ready to go back to sleep.  “In the morning.”

But I felt her shake my shoulder again.

“It’s morning already.”

“Wha?”  I snorted as I looked at her, now with both eyes opened. 

“Do you want to exercise or not?”

And then I happened to notice that morning light was streaming through my window.  I shuffled over to the window and peeked out.  The morning sky was gray and overcast, and it was raining!  I watched and listened to the soft, steady drip-drip of rain against my window.

But how can it possibly be morning already?

Then I heard Zen Mum in the living room, popping in her exercise DVD into the player and getting busy.

It’s been over two months since I went to the gym.  Where’s my motivation?  Where did it go?

I used to be so gung-ho about exercising, being so dedicated.  Where had that wind gone? 

But more importantly…

Where’s my coffee?

I’m gonna blame it on the rain, just like Milli Vanilli. 

Yeah, that’s it.

That’s the ticket.

So later, Zen Mum came into the kitchen, flushed and wide awake.  I was sitting at the table with Zen Master, sipping my yummy hot cup of excellent coffee.

She came up and promptly poked me in my soft round tummy.


I love my family. 

Who in the world would be unafraid of voicing such constructive criticism to me when I really do need to hear it?

Even though I really don’t want to hear it.

God bless Zen Mum.

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Last night.


Sluggish, tired.  Shuffled home and wanted to stay in.  But forced myself to change into gym gear and made myself go to my night-time gym. 

Hate the gym.


Exercise was 5 sets of 5 dumbbell floor presses.  (Laying flat on the floor and thrusting up dumbbells, with incremental 5 lbs increases per round.)

Puffed and grunted through first three rounds.  Glasses fogged up.

Endorphins kicked in.

Screamed like a banshee through the last two sets, ending at 30 lbs.

Grinned like a fool because I didn’t quit.


Got back home, energized and ready to run around the neighborhood.

Shortly thereafter, passed out cold and snored like nobody’s business.  Zen Master said he could hear me all the way out in the living room. 

LOVE the gym!

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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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An Ounce of Pain

Last Friday while at my daytime gym, I made my gym instructor quite unhappy with me.  And as a result, she took it out on the entire class.  I apologized profusely but to no avail. 

Just because I was going to eat a fried chicken sandwich with french fries after her class.

I ask you, is that really so wrong?

Fast forward to this week.  I took her Spin Class and she was particularly tough on me.  I might have been hallucinating, but it seemed that she was singling me out.  Every time she passed my exercise bike, she would check the amount of sweat that was dripping off my face. 

Okay, so I wasn’t dripping sweat, but I was indeed glistening. 

And then it hit me.  That damn tasty fried chicken sandwich.  Those damn tasty french fries.  With ketchup.

I asked her if that was the reason for her being particularly harsh with me, and she answered my question with a question.  I hate when people do that.

“How did it feel eating that after my class?”

“Just great.”  I couldn’t lie.  “It went down just fine.”

It’s not like I eat badly every day.  Usually just Fridays, because that’s my treat to myself for having been good during the rest of the week.  It’s just one day. 


“Exercise doesn’t give you the right to eat badly, you know.”  She reminded me.

And then she moved the class off the exercise machines and destroyed us with her killer abs exercises.

I didn’t take any of this personally, though.  I still adore her and her killer ways.  I believe that this ounce of pain, this exquisite torture, is the only type of pain that is good for me.

I think.

Let me ponder that over a fully loaded chicken cheesesteak.

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A recent conversation between me and Zen Master:

Zen Master:  You’re looking a bit round.

Me (shocked):  WHAT?!

Zen Master (shrugging):  I’m just saying. 

Okay, I’m always good with constructive criticism from people, most especially Zen Master and Zen Mum.  If it’s a valid observation, I would stew and ponder and worry it until I figured out how I could make myself better than what I was before. 

But round?

Excuse me, but I happen to be voluptuous, thank you very much.

So I stewed. 

And then I pondered.

The thing is, I love being active.  I also love the wonderful endorphins that happen when I keel over from exhaustion.  I really do.

I work out at two gyms, one at work (at a really low fee) and the other off-hours.  I attend regular sessions with very fit and lovely instructors because I have zero motivation doing it on my own.  Zero.  Nada.  Not even.

Okay, let’s put things into perspective first before we go on.  Being a member at two gyms should excite no one.  You gotta use it to lose it, and I usually clock between 3-5 hours a week.  If I can’t do it at work then I do it off-hours.  No biggie.

Then why two gyms?  Three simple reasons, really.

  1. I have no life.
  2. I’m going to hit the big 4-0 soon and supposedly when that happens, it’s all downhill from there. 
  3. I must be ready for my dream dates.  No telling when they’ll happen and it’s always good to be ready.

The key to my workouts is by participating in classes.  I need someone to holler at me, to push me for that extra lunge or that last jump.  I absolutely love their motivational techniques that are inherent with these wonderful instructors.

“Come on, Sally!  Kick your knees up higher!  Tighten your flabby abs!  You can do it!”


“Drop and give me fifty pushups and no on-your-knees crap!”


“If you want that J-Lo butt, you gotta squat all the way down!  Now give me hundred more!”

Thank you, but no.  Thanks for asking though, Teach.

Now I’m round.  After all this, I am round.

Excuse me, please.  I need to go get some cheese curls.

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