Recently from a member of the Energy Collective: “One thing I get curious about is nitty gritty examples. Wife, Kids, Best friends, parents…. How is it that no matter how gross or challenging those relationships can be, they are coming into harmony with something more important? Maybe it’s not right to go into that stuff though. Just a thought from me!”
I thought I would just have fun writing a bit in a casual real way about relating. I’ve written about it before as it is a favorite subject of mine. I feel that the advanced practice is in relating with others. Anyone can have a deep experience in isolation, but being with people and functioning from that true place is not so easy. Bringing the sublime aspects of our practice into a normal integrated life is a great task! For more detailed explanations of Relating, please look here: A, B, C. But I thought here I would write a few snippets, a montage of my thoughts about the nitty gritty of relating.
Many people are operating on an alpha level wolf pack unconscious way of interacting. Their motives are largely unconscious. You think you are having a straightforward conversation, and there you are sizing each other up, under the table is a fight for dominance or manipulation. Like two sled dogs vying for position. This is the main conversation of most interactions, and the sooner we see this, we have the chance to not be hooked into these types of battles. For instance: I live in a Co-housing Community. Everyone wants to be nice and they want everyone to think they are nice. And yet, when big decisions come up about something, there seems to be many chefs in the kitchen! It ends up being a few people nicely yelling at one another about what color the roof should be or where to plant that bush! Meetings can include subtle warfare over dominance, in between meetings there are Navy Seal operations to overthrow decisions. And we are all like that in some way.
So many interactions are people in life trying to convince another person that they are right or better or smarter or more important or more adorable. It’s a contract we hold out and demand people sign. This is what is mostly happening when people talk with each other. And we can feel that. These unseen motives. People are unconsciously rude to the waiter or the barista because of these unconscious motives running their day. Maybe they are afraid, and are trying to feel safe, and are driving a narrative which makes them feel worthy. But it’s the unconscious aspect that often makes it so interesting and confusing.
When we start to see this all playing out, and when we get a bit more free and out of that game because of practice, we can sense where people are coming from a mile away. Of course, it is all so humbling because we know and recognize that we have done all of that. We’ve been in the game, and so we try not to hold it against people. And we slide back in to these power games when we least expect it, or if we feel a little insecure, or don’t feel as genki that day. There we are, gotta keep being honest with ourselves.
The Roshi used to say that this training does not give you the ability to read minds, but it gives you the ability to see where people are going. So as we deepen and become clear, we can feel where another is going. We are not blindsided. We feel them coming and we step out of the way, or give it a little gentle nudge. They come at us looking for a fight, and we stop it before it happens. We meet them at the door and lead them to calm down. We read the silent cues. We feel their subtext, their intention, and adjust. This is so fascinating.
The Roshi told me to be real real real. But in the monastery, there are a lot of position jockeying games. People don’t have to mature in many ways. They may go deep in their states mind, but maturing and being with people out in the real world has been great for me after my training.
Out in the world, no one cares if you had kensho. No one cares how hard Rohatsu was. No one cares that you did not lay down for a year but sat up in meditation. No one cares about energy or Zhan Zhuang. They want you to listen to them and validate them as people. They want to be acknowledged. I spent a long time after my training missing the cues to shut up and not push my agenda, my self importance.
It’s a great practice to figure out how to offer ourselves to society. Seeing what people actually need. This is a huge slow maturation. In the training, we learned to receive people, to receive life, and it takes a long time to put into normal life.
Slowly a gravitas emerges. As we become more centered, more integrated, we know what works and what does not. We bring the unity of practice to life. People feel that. We are not messed with. We are not unskillful energy sorcerers anymore, but grounded. The rubber hits the road. We thought we’d be rock stars of spirituality, but instead we’re simple, clear people who can be depended on.
Being with people, caring about people, lifting them up, listening to them, appreciating them, showing them that they are beautiful and that they are connected to life. Life is not against them. Being yourself, loving life, welcoming them into your joy. Not forcing them to see the light. Letting it be contagious. Most of my work has been covert operations to spread joy and unity. Connecting with them and with this great life energy always there, it feeds everyone, everyone is lifted.
Our life deepens and it’s less a practice and a life. It’s all one thing. It’s all an artistic expression. This is difficult to articulate.
We meet people, we are with them, and become them. There they are, we merge with them. As someone in class recently said, “I feel like I am hugging someone who is near me.” He added: “Also regarding relating. I have been lately discovering that talking to people can be sometimes (depending on the talk also) an immensely creative act, with a huge transformative potential for the people involved.” I love this! YES! Becoming the kids, the parents, partners, bus driver, customers. And in that people feel heard and seen and mysteriously uplifted.
I’ve got a wife and three daughters. They’ve helped me so much to get over myself and to be real. I am constantly being checked for unconscious male superiority slips, mansplaining, narrow views, giving my opinion when no one asked, unconscious blindspots. Often my job as a papa is to just be wrong, and be okay with that. My job is to take their emotions and not be moved by them. I’m a husband and dad, but I am also the way they all test how to deal with men, and I gladly take that on.
I’m very affectionate with my family. I want the girls to have a father who kisses them and hugs them and wrestles them. My primary way of communicating is wrestling. I often find they just need to be thrown around in a safe way and any anxiousness goes away in their bodies and minds. Therapy with Papa, not verbal, laughing, kissing and “wrastling”. I think most of us need some physical play and roughhousing in our lives. Being physical often gives us a dump of good hormones in our system, and we feel and think and remember better because of it. If we are blue or stuck, a good bit of rough housing can be a good remedy.
My oldest daughter, now going on fifteen, no longer likes wrestling, so we skateboard and watch movies from the eighties! I’m in awe of all of their brilliance and savvy. They all think circles around me. I am a much better person because of my family, and having them soften my hard edges has made me a decent facilitator for my growing group of practitioners. If I had stayed in the monastery for all of these years, I would have missed the ripening needed to support a group of unique individuals. I can also say that being with a partner for all of these years is a continual beautiful unfolding process which keeps me honest and self reflecting and flexible.
I’ve always had certain clairvoyant tendencies. And the training often magnifies these abilities. This is wonderful in some ways, but often it just ends up me knowing which person I will run into in five minutes at the grocery store. Not too special. It also gives one the ability to read others extremely well. But one must be careful not to use this to suss out the faults of people in the first minute of a conversation, as this really helps no one. It is easy to use our sensitivity and inner seeing to find faults in others. That makes life small. That’s a lonely road. I’ve found that it is better to lift people up.
Little by little, sensing into situations, over time I have been happy to learn to venture into unknowing with people. In this field of unknowing, often transcendent healing, joy, etc comes about. For me this has been refined in the laboratory of therapy I have been practicing for a decade. In being with people in a simple way, being allowed to creatively explore what will help them, given the space to let go, miraculous things happen. Often I think I am doing one thing, and then something magical starts to happen, and I see that something more beautiful is available. This gives me great confidence in life, in being guided by a greater order, and what keeps me working with people.
I have a good friend, George. He’s kind of like the Godfather of Zen. A tough cookie, but also very generous and always ready for socializing. In my more introverted way, after my formal zen training, I could have easily shied away from people and kept to myself for the most part, but I think spending lots of time with George has shown me what it is to be a host and to make people feel welcome. Being with people, being polite, telling them that you are glad to see them. Telling them it was fun to see them when the evening is done and the wine is gone, the philosophical discussion ended. These simple things have taught me to be a good host. It’s a practice to learn how to make people feel good in a very simple generous way. It can be done in a fake way, but it can also be done in a very sincere fashion, and I’ve found real value in that.
Some people use spirituality, use that same energy of zazen, which can also be sexual energy, to manipulate people. I’ve see quite a few people go down the road of finding a way to create a glamour around them. They use this spiritual energy to learn to connect, and in their insecurity and thirst for acceptance and power, often unconscious, they begin to use that glamour to get what they want. They see that it works, and that encourages them to keep doing it. This slowly creates a culture of spiritual manipulators, a culture of mini deception. When you are with someone like that you feel very good in some way, like you are held and enjoyed. And you want to do what they ask of you. Often in their presence you feel like you can’t say no. And then when you leave them you feel like you’ve been beat up in some way or knocked off balance. Some kind of relational TaiChi has occurred. You feel like someone has drained you or you feel needy or ashamed or blindsided. These days, I watch out for this type of situation, and can usually see it when it is coming, but I am not always as skillful as some master manipulators!! And early on in my training, I knew I did not want to be like that, not that I had the choice, as I was more the stumbling honest fool than the skillful manipulator.
When I met the Roshi I knew he could be my teacher because I knew nothing I did or said would move him around. I could work through my mess with him and it would not phase him. I needed that. To have someone who would not be overwhelmed by my intensity, my fears, my emotions. I trusted him in some way I had never trusted anyone before. That was a huge gift he gave me, and I try to give it to others in my life and in my classes. To be present, unmoved by them.
The Roshi showed me how to be real and to become what is in front of me, down to the molecules. My family and clients, leading the Energy Collective group members, continually keeps my bullshit from creeping in and to slowly ripen some transformations. I’m not the most social guy. I value my alone time, but I also love people. I love sharing with people. I am very much in love with humanity. People want control and they want to feel accepted, loved, acknowledged. They often have very unclear motives driving them. Maybe running on autopilot, in some kind of survival mode. Being with people is ever changing. I think we can find harmony as we move along, melding with each situation. I’ve seen over a couple of decades that a more connected way of being is always trying to happen if we are honest and sincere and courageous enough. It may not always look as we had once expected. But I encourage people to creatively find the unchanging amidst the changing. There is a light which never dims. There is no need to put concepts on top of our bright clear mind to meet life. I’m so excited to live inside of reality and share this source. To be of use. It’s so humbling and fascinating! Thanks so much for reading. Take good care!
P.S. Soon I will do a blog post on Being a Zen Husband!