Relationship Meditation

The holidays often seem to bring out relationship issues with the people we care about.

Caring is bad…

Ok, it is fine to care. But sometimes when we care deeply about something and that thing is not going our way our reptilian brain takes over and it resorts to anger.

Anger is OK, it is not the real problem. The problem comes in when we allow it to override our rational brain, and we fail to restrain that anger. You see, I think we have to train both of these together.

I can not seem to escape Buddhist law. I don’t think anyone can. If I felt differently I don’t think I could call myself a Buddhist Zealot.
So here is the deal, you (or what you think of as you) are going to die.

Let that sink in for a moment. Reading this can wait. Sit with it, go on, and come back here in a bit.

Those closest to you are going to die too. Pick someone close to you. Sit with that, sit with them lying down, decomposing, showing bone, falling apart, and flesh falls away from the bones, bones bleaching, and eventually turning to dust.

I know it is gruesome. Go sit with it anyway.

Go on now, do it, hate me later.

I totally freaked out when I had the vision above unexpectedly play out in my head with my then three year old daughter in the role of the corpse. It sucked. A good friend told me I should look for the teaching in that. I spat back that I already understood impermanence! She said; what about attachment? Yeah. Expletive deleted. That hit me pretty hard. I am totally attached to the ones I love. I do not think that is a big problem though.

The problem arises when we expect a person we care greatly about to behave in ways that they are not behaving in.
We care and want to hold them close, and they squirm to get away. We care and try to push them into roles or situations that they are not ready for or otherwise are resistant to and they become resentful. What do we do? Naturally we get angry! My (insert loved one here) dose not understand the importance of such and such!

expletive deleted!

14, 40, 65 age dose not make much of a difference, we get conditioned by our own (faulty)feelings and have a hard time breaking away from them. And of course our own “faulty sensory perception” (thanks Mike C) exasperates(read may be the cause of) the problem of this conditioning.

How do I modify the behaviors of this person to meet my perception of how they respond?




You see, that person, is not yours to change. You can advise and encourage. But you’re not going to do that with a stick. You just make them smarter at doing whatever it is that you don’t want them to do. The American prison system is a good example of that. Person “A” committed a crime so we punish them by locking them up with a bunch of people that have also committed crimes. We create a criminal university, hooray! Extreme example I know. But that is an example of how we think. We want to protect the rest of the herd by excluding those who do harmful things, without examining the cause or trying to be compassionate to their needs.

So what do we do?

I contributed ½ the DNA for my girls. I say “My girls” but really they are not mine at all. I don’t own them. I am by law, responsible for them. But even that is indicative of our wrong outlook. How can we be responsible for a sentient being? We can’t. We are responsible too them. Wrap your mind around that for a bit. We are responsible too them.

Interestingly, if we investigate the word responsible we find it is rooted in “Respond.”

So what do we do?


Respond with love. Respond with compassion. Perhaps most importantly respond with empathy, understanding, and appreciation.

It is really a precious thing to come into this world as a human being.
Do not waste this opportunity.

"We're Only Gonna Die From Our Own Arrogance"

Early man walked away as modern man took control.
Their minds weren't all the same, to conquer was his big goal,
So he built his great empire and slaughtered his own kind,
Then he died a confused man, killed himself with his own mind.
We're only gonna die from our own arrogance. [x4]


Barry said...

There's only one person we can change: ourselves. And no one else can do the work of change for us. So let's get to it! A good resolution for the new year!

Thanks, Jordan

oxeye said...

Jordan, That was a big bite. I might want to chew on it awhile before swallowing.

Uku said...

Yes, it's all in our minds and by changing our attitude, by getting rid of our deluded thoughts and actions we can change ourselves and therefore we can help others too. We're all here together.

Thank you Jordan, great post!

With palms together,

Mumon K said...

Thanks for this post; it's quite resonant with things I've dealt with and no doubt will continue to deal with.

There's a reason there's oxherding pictures.

Sure, sure sure there's oodles of conditioned behavior, and of course there's no beginning to the situations that flare up into angry outbursts.

That is why practice must happen off the cushion. That practice must involve deep mindfulness that is "neither too taught nor too loose."

As I mentioned on my blog, I have recently been reading more of Hakuin. In the Oradegama Part 1 Hakuin notes that this makes the lay practitioner the equivalent of monks.

I'd go further: after a while I just don't know how to be any other way that doesn't result in problems sooner or later

The trick is to maintain the energy to do this; that's not trivially easy but itself takes practice and takes continued zazen as replenishment.

Of course, I'm not any kind of authorized teacher, blah blah blah.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great post. i have been dealing with a specific family member for some time now, and it seems to get more complicated, not less. She is the only one who has access to the really deep buttons, so in a sense, she is my greatest teacher (and I have told her this more than once). I am working on the love and compassion, but for now I need a break!

Practice, that is what it always comes back to.

SlowZen said...

Barry, I am reminded of the joke:
A Monk goes to a hot dog vendor, hands him a $20 and says “I’ll have one with everything.”
The Hotdog vendor gives him his Hotdog.
The monk asks for change, and the Hotdog Vendor says “Change comes from within!”

Thank you,


I could not swallow it all at once either.
Thank you for the kind words, I am of the impression that our delusions are not so easy to get rid of. I think if we are enlightened about our delusion; that is a good start.

With respect,

Thank you for the kind words.

I hope you can tell me more about the Demon Hakuin sometime. He dose not strike me as the type to care too much about someone being any kind of authorized teacher.
I once heard a story of a Rinzai Priest who tore up his “Certificate” citing that he had no use for paper Zen. I wonder if the Japanese patriarchal lineage hierarchy and certifying system has much relevance today.

Try and keep warm and dry!

Yes, my greatest teacher is my greatest frustration! I do not think it could be any other way for me. I often find myself looking for comforting words to use to help fortify myself in dealing with life’s frustrations. The Reiki principals are nice:

Just for today I will give thanks for my many blessings.

Just for today I will not worry.

Just for today I will not be angry.

Just for today I will do my work honestly.

Just for today I will be kind to my neighbor and every living thing.

Like the precepts, the promise of these thoughts will be broken, maybe we could say just for this moment?

Thank you all for your comments and inspiration,
Keep on keeping on!
Jordan (who is smelling the stink of Zen on himself and needs some washing off now)

Mumon K said...

Thank you. I'm just getting my feet wet, so to speak.

Have a good New Year.

Unknown said...

Jordan, thank you your kind sharing. You are correct that our greatest attachments and greatest aversions are also our greatest opportunities. Zen asks us to welcome our aversions. This is so hard to experience when we are rubbed up against those attachments and aversions.

In that light, I'm a little hesitant to wish for us to have many great opportunities in the coming year. Thank you for your kind sharing.

oxeye said...

Jordan, A Lot of People would like see change in the world, but few do the work on themselves necessary to get it done. Your efforts inspire me to keep trying. Thank you and Happy New Year!

Uku said...

Happy this year 2009, Jordan! Thank you for your efforts and practice!

With palms together,

SlowZen said...

I may have some extra boots laying around…
Thank you for the well wishes!


Thanks, that reminds me of the Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.”
Wishing boring times toward you!


Change is happening; I endeavor to be up to responding to it well enough.
Glad you are with me on the way.

Thank you and may you be well and happy in the New Year.


108 prostrations for all your efforts this year, Best wishes for the next!

Thanks for looking!