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Lions Roar : November 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2008 46 for him (“May I tempt you with just a spoonful of this custard, Allison?”), and my mom was holding off my dad with garlic and crosses. But I didn’t have anything to do, no special role, and I began to think that was probably good. I noticed that when I wanted anybody in that room to be different, it became rather painful. “Dad, ease up. I mean, she’s dying. She doesn’t want to eat.” Or, “Mom, he just loves you and he’s trying to be helpful and it probably would help if you ate.” Or, “Girls, you could re- lax; the oxygen is not going to help her now.” I had all those let’s- improve-the-world thoughts, but I noticed that when I didn’t go with them, everything was completely at peace. People were doing what they were doing because they needed to. Who am I to know what they should be doing? It was beautiful appreciat- ing how much they cared about each other. The koan for that situation is, “Not knowing is most in- timate.” What if someone shouldn’t be improved? Maybe if they gave up smoking, they’d turn out to be a serial killer. How about not wanting to change others? How about not wanting to change yourself? We spend a lot of time whipping the donkey. If we stopped doing that, we might find we change in unexpected ways, and others do as well. Most projects to change other people or ourselves are really projects about interior decoration for the prison. A spiritual practice is really about jail-breaking. When you show up for your life, what kind of ride do you want to take? Do you want to spend your time telling other people they should be different? Love means bearing people’s differences without trying to change them—not just bearing, but valuing and appreciat- ing and loving people’s uniqueness. That’s a path all by itself. What if the fact that you’re different from me is a gateway rather than an obstacle? JOHN TARRANT, Ph.D., is a Zen teacher who for many years had a practice in Jungian psychoanalysis. Author of Bring Me the Rhinoceros and The Light Inside the Dark, he teaches physicians and executives at Duke Integrative Medicine and directs the Pacific Zen Institute. The Training of Love BY POLLY YOUNG-EISENDRATH THE BUDDHIST lay precepts can be translated as, “I vow, I set my in- tention, to take the training not to kill, not to harm, etc.” The precepts ask us to commit to a training of the mind. If you enter the path of relationships, you are vowing to take the training of love. It is a training to break your heart. If you’re willing to break your heart, you’re willing to take the training of love. It is a training of the highest level, requiring an enormous amount of devel- opment, because love is not something immediately present at birth. The potential for love is present, but the requirements for love are actually quite demanding. Love requires knowledge. One must know, really know, the beloved. Sometimes we wonder whether the people who supposedly love us, such as our parents, really know us. We wonder whether we really know the people we supposedly love. You have to have a knowledge of the beloved to actually love. The other requirement is equanimity, a friendly, gentle, matter-of-fact awareness that you return to again and again. Combining knowledge of the beloved and the equanimity to accept what is presented by them with a friendly, appreciative attitude is the very stuff of love. Why would Buddhists have anything particularly special to say about love and relationship? At a basic level, the buddha- dharma is about being taught by reality. As long as you can love reality, it will teach you. You will learn that loving is train- ing for a broken heart. How could it be otherwise? When you feel an enormous connection with someone, when you really get to know someone, which is the first re- quirement for love, then you know that they’re going to get ill, you know that they’re going to grow old, and you know that they’re going to die. You know that everything is going to change. Of course you don’t really like that, but love requires that you continue to cherish them even while those things are taking place. That’s the equanimity part. Broken hearts happen because of impermanence, which in Buddhist teaching is one of the three marks of existence. When we idealize, as we so often do in love, we try to overlook the ups and downs of life, but that means we’re avoiding the training that’s offered, the training of the broken heart. My current teacher, Shinzen Young, first trained in Rinzai Zen but then decided that Vipassana was the best way to teach Americans. Vipassana teaches us the awareness of ever-present expansion and contraction, and having no preference between them. There are good feelings and bad feelings, good days and bad days, expansion and contraction. That is the way it is for all of us. Nobody gets anything better than that. But we so often make a steady state our ideal, especially in relationships. When you pick someone, you think you’re going to escape suffering, get out of the expansion and contraction. Your ideals for relationship might be so high that you never get into one, because every time you put your toe in, you say, “Ahh! This doesn’t work. This is falling short.” You never even get on the path of love, because you’re holding on to your ideal. PHOTOBYLISAFARRERPHOTOGRAPHY) NOV 40-47.indd 46 NOV 40-47.indd 46 9/1/08 12:19:39 PM 9/1/08 12:19:39 PM