“The storehouse of treasures opens of itself. You may take them and use them any way you wish.”

~ Dogen Kigen

For reasons that may seem obvious, when I read this koan at this time of year, it reminds me of the sumptuousness of celebrations during the holiday season: piles of presents spilling out from under the tree, a second piece of pie with whipped cream and another glass of red wine. In talking recently with a friend about the holidays, he recited a few lines he recalled from the I Ching, The Book of Changes: “He is chained to the banquet table, a prisoner of his own rich fantasies.” I guess that pretty much sums up my experience. Thank you Dogen Zenji for your approval.

An embrace of gluttony ~ at least seasonally ~ probably represents some progress for me in recent years. A while ago, while living on the Upper West Side of New York City, I joined the Equinox health club, a national chain that at the time had only two gyms. That first winter, I remember the gym sent out a newsletter before the holiday season, counselling its members on how to stay fit and avoid unwanted weight gain during the challenging last six weeks of the year. The discipline called for was severe: a recipe for latke cakes without using chicken smaltz or full-fat sour cream. I vowed to follow the regime, for a few thought cycles, then made myself a cup of mint tea and ate a piece of chocolate. I do exercise regularly. But not not during the holidays.

So about this time of year, I chain myself to the banquet table, and explore the opposite of concepts like diet, low-calorie, non-alcoholic, healthy, and sugar-free. I transgressed a couple of days ago and actually put some Stevia in my tea, but soon got a headache, so I stopped. Observing my holiday lifestyle at a recent family gathering, my brother-in-law offered some friendly advice: “You’re gonna need a bigger cushion.” He is probably right.