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Thread: Knocked by Life

  1. #1

    Knocked by Life

    A couple of excellent questions were emailed me by folks (who said I could post parts here). I thought to print one today, another maybe tomorrow. The first connects to the "Life & Death" thread, and when life comes and hits us on the head.

    Someone wrote to say that a loved one had a big health scare with a potentially serious diagnosis, the writer was overcome with feelings of dread and helplessness, was agitated by it and couldn't calm down (they later did and the health emergency turned out no so bad).

    But this left the writer to ask about the nature of marriage and romantic relationships from a Buddhist perspective. The person said that, in a sense, romance is defined by attachment, and it becomes stronger as the attachment becomes stronger. So, the writer asked, "How can you build a life with someone without becoming deeply attached? Is such a thing possible? ... How can one have children without developing extreme attachment? In short -- what is the Buddhist view of marriage and family, specifically with regard to attachment?"

    I wrote this in response ...

    Hi,

    Having a sick loved one, or getting this kind of bad news ... it is one of the most difficult times of life and relationships. Your reaction of panic, dread and the like is so expected and universal that it is truly the "natural" reaction. It was a shock, your mind fills with all the "worst case" scenarios, dread and sweating and depression ...

    Our Zen Practice is not about never losing our balance (some folks think that Buddhism is about that, about never reacting in a "human" and "negative" way, but I do not think so). It is about being able to return to our balanced, center point more easily after life knocks us for a loop. It is about getting back on the bike after we fall off. Thinking that a loved one will have a serious illness will sure knock someone off the bike.

    This is one of those times when I believe that Buddhist Practice is recommending something very different from the "either/or" way of looking at things that most of us think is necessary (e.g., either I am attached or I am not, either I am happy or I am sad, either I am calm or I am worried etc.). Instead, we can be both (or many things) at once.

    So, for example, my attitude is that we should be completely in love with our loved ones, throw ourselves into it without reserve, savor each moment of time with them, do not resist that ... yet be willing to release them when the time comes. This is "being present in the moment" while yet "not being attached" or "clinging" to that moment when it ends. It is like looking at a beautiful scene ... a painting made of chalk on the ground, for example ... just appreciating it while it is there, but allowing it to wash away when the rains come. (Is that, perhaps, a kind of "unattached attachment?")

    We can also be "happy" "sad" "grieving" and "peaceful" all at the same time. When faced with a dangerous situation, we can even learn to be "worried" and "calm", "accepting" and "not accepting" simultaneously (trust me, we can!). So, for example, my first teacher, Ikuo Azuma Roshi of Sojiji, lost his wife after I had known him a few years. For many weeks, he was not himself and was easily a bit teary eyed. I was SHOCKED because, of course, Zen Masters are supposed to have surpassed life and death and all such petty human emotions. So, as I had known him so long and we talked about anything and everything, I asked him about this, "If life and death are states of mind, why are you upset?" He said to me, "Life and Death are nothing; I am sad because wife die."

    That shut me up. He looked at me like it was the most obvious thing!

    When my own mother died a couple of years ago, I was sad, I missed her ... I was also amazingly happy. In fact, I threw a funeral for her that was more of a "birthday party", saying to my relatives that "I am just as happy about ending the show of life as I am about celebrating the start". They thought I was a bit crazy (maybe so ... they are used to me by now), but that is how I really felt.

    And one more thing: When we get bad news it is natural to want to run away. Sometimes we should, like when the house is on fire. Sometimes we need to stand our ground. Finding your balanced center will help you make that choice. And being present with a relative during a long illness is (not only something almost none of us can avoid sometimes in life), but is a gift ... the true battlefield where our Buddhist Practice is put into action. It is a time for a great maturing in Buddhist Practice.

    It is important to know that "being home" is not a matter of "staying" or "going". If you leave, that is where you are. If you stay, that is where you are. Sometimes it is best to go, as with that house on fire. But sometimes if you go, you may or may not find the peace that you would have found by staying. Only you can know which is the right choice in your life, and Buddhism does not fill in the details of the choices we must make (only your own heart can do that).

    As to Buddha, Dogen etc. having something to say directly on this subject ... Buddhists of old just left their families at home and moved into monasteries with the boys!. :-) So, this is really something that they did not write about very much. As Buddhism has come out into the world, there are many new situations to which we must apply very old Wisdom and Compassion.

    Did that help?
    Gassho, Jundo

  2. #2

    Re: Knocked by Life

    Did that help?
    Yes!! - your answer is complex and sums up the true mix of emotions, when you are hit by life's steam-roller. Thank you for not giving a short "life & death are one and the same" answer - I appreciate that.

    Kindest regards

    Jools

  3. #3
    Treeleaf Unsui rculver's Avatar
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    Re: Knocked by Life

    This subject has been on my mind a lot lately. I lost a good friend about a month ago and it made me start thinking about "attachment" especially in regards to my wife, kids etc..

    I also appreciate the fact that Jundo's post is not some feel good load of crap.

    Life is complicated and I don't think there are any easy answers to this kind of stuff.

    Thank you for the post.

    Ron

  4. #4

    Re: Knocked by Life

    It is important to know that "being home" is not a matter of "staying" or "going". If you leave, that is where you are. If you stay, that is where you are. Sometimes it is best to go, as with that house on fire. But sometimes if you go, you may or may not find the peace that you would have found by staying. Only you can know which is the right choice in your life, and Buddhism does not fill in the details of the choices we must make (only your own heart can do that).
    These are the words that really resonate with me, probably because "staying" or "leaving" has been the question of my life although for a different reason.

    I believe that emotional attachments don't really have to do with love for the actual person but with our ideas of what that person can do to make us happy, feel better hence the fear of not being loved enough or being abandoned. Attachment inevitably leads to putting demands: you have to be like this or you have to do like that (one becomes sort of a "junkie" for love and attention) to make me feel good and anything short of that makes me feel less or incomplete or whatever. Can we truly love someone we need? Going beyond one's perceptions of the person in line with the Buddhist practice can make any relationship stronger because I actually allow a real person in and because I don't make my happiness dependable on her (which is a heavy weight to bear). In a way it feels that dying to the need for someone opens new ways for love.

    I lost a few friends in my teens and remember that although I was crying for them I was actually feeling sorry for myself, feeling abandoned and myself fearing the unknown, grown ups not willing to talk about death. The feeling of loss is still here but is less complicated: my dear friend is not here but my love is. Somehow it feels my friend is living in whatever I do, too.

    I think I am gonna give my folks (whom I haven't seen in 3 years) a call and let them know I love them.

    Thank you Jundo for bringing up the topic.

    Irina

  5. #5

    Re: Knocked by Life

    Hi Jundo, please forgive my ignorance. Isn't practice about noticing and releasing our tendancies to react and grasp at things and open to the moment? When we notice our impulse and that our attention is focused on one specific thing we notice that and bring attention back to the moment where we can act instead of react? Is there anyone reacting and acting anyway? Sometimes someone might call me Will ie. "Hey Will." and I get a feeling like What is Will? Like this name that I have really doesn't represent anything.

    Thanks

    Gassho

  6. #6

    Re: Knocked by Life

    Quote Originally Posted by will
    Hi Jundo, please forgive my ignorance. Isn't practice about noticing and releasing our tendancies to react and grasp at things and open to the moment? When we notice our impulse and that our attention is focused on one specific thing we notice that and bring attention back to the moment where we can act instead of react? Is there anyone reacting and acting anyway? Sometimes someone might call me Will ie. "Hey Will." and I get a feeling like What is Will? Like this name that I have really doesn't represent anything.

    Thanks

    Gassho
    Hi Will,

    Yes, Practice is about that. That is one Bat-tool on Batman's Utility Belt. It is also about many many other perspectives too.



    Don't get attached to one idea of non-attachment! :wink:

    If it ever should come that you fall head over heals for someone, you might take to writing love songs about 'broken hearts' instead of about 'heart sutras'! :wink: :wink:


    Gassho, Jundo

  7. #7

    Re: Knocked by Life



    Gassho

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