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Lions Roar : September 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2011 90 weapon in our hands. Our hands are empty of aggression and we show this by offering our hand and taking the hand of another. So the handshake is more intimate than the bow, but the intimacy is predicated on the possibility of aggression. In contrast, by bowing we are acknowledging a friend- liness and respect, but also a distance. A bow expresses our love and respect, but the space between us when we bow also expresses that we understand our alone- ness, and that we can never assume we understand one another. We meet in the empty space between us. A space charged with openness, silence, and mystery. A WHILE AGO I met two middle-aged people who had recently gotten together as a couple. Each of them had had noth- ing but troubled relationships their whole lives through, starting in childhood, but they were hopeful this time around. Given their past conditioning, they were understandably nervous and they were seeking help. They’d already ordered sev- eral books; they were looking into couples therapy; and they wondered what Zen relationship advice I had for them. “Practice this every day,” I said. “Do it first thing in the morning (or, preferably, second thing, after meditating together): Sit facing each other and say to one another, ‘I am grateful today that you are in my life.’ Say the words, even if you find it difficult. If you don’t believe them, say so. Say, ‘I just said that I was grateful that you are in my life but I don’t really feel that this morning, although I would like to feel it,’ and then try it again. Try saying it three times, and if you still don’t mean it, you can say so and give up until tomorrow. Then try again the next day, preparing yourself in advance by reminding yourself that you really are lucky to be alive, to be whole and healthy, and to have someone willing to share his or her life with you.” None of these things are automatic; none of them are permanent. To be alive with others—nothing could be more basic, yet there is no greater spiritual practice. ♦ When You Greet Me continued from page 45