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Relationships, Connection, and Grace


Dì | Connection

Love is or it ain't. Thin love ain't love at all.” ― Toni Morrison, Beloved


I'm not saying I'm right. I'm not saying I'm wrong. I'm saying this is my experience from my cloud and water notes journal that I've kept as a record of my direct experiences. Such is my intro, when talking about subjects wherein people can have a lot of mixed, convoluted, and confusing set of experiences, unsure where they personally land. “Love is or it ain't. Thin love ain't love at all.”


For myself, there was a time that I needed to answer the question: What and where is the wisdom of holding out hope... allowing myself to be placed on a shelf, at someones arbitrary whims... waiting for someone that's physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually unavailable; hoping, wishing and praying that they'll show up? Over the years there were different names, but the themes tended to be the same. There's a certain dignity and grace to accepting the realities of what is, instead of what's not. “Thin love ain't love at all.”

In short simple sentences, my experience was growing up in a family where there could be the appearance of closeness, without being held close. In fact the word "Family," seemed to be an oxymoron. I can't say I recall anything ever being "Unconditional." Approval seeking, to validate my existence became a way of life. Being liked or loved, seemed to always have stipulations or caveats. “Thin love ain't love at all.”


Children are blank slates of consciousness and understanding. Those responsible to their care have a very unique opportunity to impart aspects of ourselves on their sense of personhood and identity. Those imprints can happen in subtle and not so subtle ways. It's happened to all of us. When things work, as one would hope, awesome. But when it doesn't on a spectrum... it doesn't on a spectrum. That's when the awkwardness and challenges of developing or working to learn and manifest healthier relationships within oneself and others begins. There have been times when interacting with people, places and things I've slowed the interaction down, asking myself... "Is this authentically me or my parents response?" For me personally, I was an introvert, living in thought world seemed seemed seemed easier than dealing with people. It was a way of experiencing, “Thin love ain't love at all.”

It wasn't until my late teens, and ending up in Twelve Step recovery that I first got what thought and felt like an inward view of “Authentic,” family, as a "Newcomer." It's the sensation of people rallying around you, for your "Highest best good." It was strange that past mistake, and mis-takes were‘t held against me, or used as a method to hold me out of other people‘s heart and mind. Their primary purpose to help a person who was young, vulnerable, rebellious, and reckless… a teenager that didn't know how to be comfortable inside their skin with or without chemicals in his body. It was surreal. I used to refer to that time as ”M.A.G.I.C.” Me and grace in conscious-contact. “Love is or it ain't.”

Prior to entering recovery, and for years after, i suffered a lot as a result of the malware of thought-world of mind that influenced me into being distant and aloof. Through the therapeutic value of one human helping another, I came to understand that I was afraid of being hurt by others, that I was trying to connect with… at the exact same time. It was the proverbial ego maniac with an inferiority complex. One person after a meeting said to me… “It’s gotta be a rough road, being your own crisis creator. If you allow us in, we could help you untangle yourself from your self.“ The result of that was me getting honest with me about appearing... seeming... gesturing at... to give of myself without actually or really doing so. What he said made a lot of sense and I discovered a new understanding of surrender: Letting go of everything the mind thinks it knows about me and everyone else. It was a relief. “Love is or it ain't.”

I was giving hints and maybe's of doing so, but never really did. It was The activity of resisting taking off my running shoes and not allowing myself the opportunity to settle, test and experience the possibility of being with a person. In this way during that time, very oddly I was the architect of my own suffering, because of my skepticism about relationships, doubtful that I was truly lovable, worthy of that sort of connection. “Love is or it ain't. Thin love ain't love at all.”


In my direct experience Zen Practice has a way… If… If… If… We are deeply determined to dissolve false conclusions as a result of narrations of mind trying to protect its sense of comfort from being overthrown, updating perspectives, seeing and being with fresh eyes. As one of my friends likes to say: "My story hasn't changed. What's changed is how I understand my story." “Love is or it ain't. Thin love ain't love at all.”

When people sit down to practice Zazen, most like myself have a lot of ideas about what meditation is, or what could potentially happen. It's usually the hope that the 1.0 version of ourselves will be removed and in its place will be a 2.0 or 3.0 version upgrade, and we'll live happily ever after. Thin love ain't love at all.”


In reality, most people aren't prepared for what usually does happen. In authentic Zen training and practice, we don't offer people props or a bunch of toys to entertain the intellect. We're invited to meet ourselves with baggage and all. We don't put warm blankets around physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual insecurity.Love is.


If we're one to have have the ego identities ass on our shoulders a lot, True Zen doesn't play along. This is one of the reasons people give up so easily on Zen. I won't soften or sugarcoat the truth. The mind has a way of relitigating our past against us, as it tries to maintain control and dominance over the relationship that it has over us. The common experience that I've seen many have to sit through... literally is that instead of us getting enlightened (coming to completeness) like we imagine, we get disassembled by a lifetime of grief stored within the folds of our brain. It's phantom missing limb person with ourself and others, that we have to feel, deal, assimilate, integrate and heal; if we're going to come to genuine completeness at depth. “Love is or it ain't. Thin love ain't love at all.

In my personal experience, until I did that, I was going through the motions of Zazen... meditation... without actually doing Zazen; because without initially being aware, my thoughts, feelings, I and i were stuck. That's one of the reasons, the names changed, but the themes remained the same. The interesting thing is that once I pierced that initial story... pertaining to my family... in a strange way, I discovered it connected to every other experience and story, and how they tended to play out. Practicing through the lifetime of grief, was like pulling one thread and it connected to everything else. My sponsor called it the "Quantum field effect," of doing our work, that helps us leap forward so that we can be in our present moment experiences in a much more solid way. “Love is.”

I can recall when I was living at the Monastery, Dai Bosatsu Zendo Kongo Ji and on retreat. We were sitting for about 17 hours a day. It was a silent retreat. The only talk was what we called "Functional talk." There was no chit-chatting. There was no complaining. It was sitting in a room with people, trying to stay awake, and not drift into thought world, and face the minds iron-wall of itself. It sucked. “Thin love ain't love at all.”


During that particular retreat, the relationship with the mind was very different. It was holding court. It was replaying my past, play by play. It had me pretty convinced that I was wasting my time, that things were at the end of the day, never really going to get better. In the process every chance I got, because I was in so much physical,

mental, emotional, and spiritual pain, I took keisaku... the encouragement stick... being struck to pressure points along my back to relieve tightness and pain. At one point, I placed my hands in gassho... palm to palm to take keisaku, cause it was voluntary... and the stick didn't fall on my shoulders. I kept gesturing, but nothing happened. As I was leaning forward, the hand of a monk by the name of Seigan, pulled me straight. Instead of hitting my back and shoulders with the stick, he whispered in my ear... "The pain is not yours." Instantly I burst into tears. His words at that critical moment, pulled the thread that tied together a life time of grief. “Love is.”

It was something more than free. And after that, Zazen really began to practice what I'd used to think of as so-called "Me." I wasn't a 2.0 or 3.0 version. I was simply myself without so much baggage... and that influenced not only the way I related to myself, but was the beginning of relating to people in a deeper way. And that's when I understood one of the open-secrets of Zen. Though it appears, we're sitting there practicing with ourself. In truth, we're practicing with relationships within our self and others, reconciling... harmonizing... manifesting authenticity and integrity in our present moment experience; to the best of our ability. “Love is or it ain't. Thin love ain't love at all.”


In a book entitled "The Bluest Eye" Toni Morrison wrote: "Love is never any better than the lover. Wicked people love wickedly, violent people love violently, weak people love weakly, stupid people love stupidly, but the love of a free man is never safe. There is no gift for the beloved. The lover alone possesses his gift of love. The loved one is shorn, neutralized, frozen in the glare of the lover's inward eye." mmm mmm mmm... real words. They're born of a deep and crisp experiencing. It's a koan worth dedicating our time and attention to, that could be a kind of "Can opener," as Roshi used to say that is a portal to freedom.


What is the nature of authentic Zen practice? Coming to terms with causes and conditions that influence our suffering. In the practice of zazen a daring, courageous attitude is essential. It's deeply and intimately understanding Toni Morrison's words... “Love is or it ain't. Thin love ain't love at all.” Please verify through your own direct experience.


一Dignity and Grace

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