Monthly Archives: March 2018

Compassionate Confrontation

In addressing conflict and considering confrontation, the best way to deal with other people is to be mindful, present, and compassionate in your interactions.

Try to see things from the other person’s point of view. When they speak, listen. When they have said what they need to say, before you respond, imagine how the situation is hurting them. See if what you need to say will add to their pain or ease it. If you are suffering too much to imagine the other person’s pain, then connect with your own feelings of hurt. See if you are angry. If you are hurt and angry, confrontations can be explosive. Be careful.

Pausing to recognize how you feel gives you the opportunity to take in what the other person said. Thinking about how they are feeling, gives you the opportunity to empathize and imagine the situation from their perspective. Seeing things from another person’s perspective gets you outside of your own head. Like looking at the clouds in the sky, it helps you focus outward. Listening and empathizing helps you be both present and compassionate. If you are hurt and angry, pausing allows you to be more skillful in your confrontation.

Being able to recognize the truth in what other people are saying, seeing how they are right and you are wrong, gives you insight into your own position. If you need to convince the other person how you are right and they are wrong, then understanding where they are wrong and right helps you focus your argument in a way they might better understand.

Being present and compassionate in your interactions with people gives you options about what the best way to respond might be. Having options and taking the time to reflect on options lets you connect with your wisdom and make the best choice. In the next moment, see how that choice went over and make your next choice. If you are skillfully compassionate, whether confronting or agreeing, the suffering in the situation will ease.


Attachers and Attachments

Letting go of attachments is changing how we experience being human. We tend to form identities around our attachments. I have this, I don’t have that. I like this, I don’t like that. I am this way, I am not that way. This is good, that is bad. Although it is perfectly human to do this, a lot of our attachments lead to suffering. It is human to suffer.

However, when we recognize how our attachments are kind of arbitrary and it is possible to be ourselves with completely different thoughts and ideas, we can explore what it is that attaches and how those attachments influence the quality of our lives. As children we attach to ideas of Santa Clause. As we grow, we get different ideas about how presents get under Christmas trees. Letting go of attachments allows us to grow and to experience life from different perspectives.

In Zen our practice is to cut through our delusions and experience the world as it is. The biggest delusion is our sense of self. It is perfectly human to have such a delusion and our attachments reinforce it. The aim of practice is not to let go of attachments, but to get beyond ourselves. Seeing how we attach to things gives us insights into how we think about what we are. What attaches to what? It is not so much about the attachments as about the attachers.

On the way to seeing the world without a seer, thinking about how and what we attach to, beliefs, ideas, habits, feelings, people, and things and how those attachments create and ease suffering, we learn new ways of seeing and being. When we hold firm to each of our attachments, they get ripped from us one by one as the world does its thing and we suffer from each loss. Being able to let go is a valuable skill when we are human and so sticky and clingy.


Zen Dating

The Zen approach to dating is to cut through all the games, to be your authentic self and to be present and compassionate toward whoever is with you.

The biggest game in dating is wanting something from another person and pretending we don’t. We want all kinds of things from other people when we date them. We want love, acceptance, appreciation, understanding, confirmation, sex, commitment, money, security, healing, and on and on. We bring every want and need in our lives into our relationships. In a dating situation it is a brand new relationship and so we play the game of pretending that we are complete, have lots to offer and need nothing. Playing that game is already taking something from the other person as we rely on them to support the fantasies we project about ourselves.

To approach a date from a zen perspective you go into your date as an enlightened person. You can’t just put your enlightenment on for a date like a sweater or scarf. That would be playing a game. You have to use that as your approach to life. You must approach life as a process of personal growth, learning to be who you are, where you are in all circumstances. Going out on a date, is a special opportunity to catch yourself at your normal habits, pretending to be things, and wanting things from other people.

Dating is a time of heightened judging and self-consciousness. When you find yourself being present and connecting with another person you judge positively, imagining a long life of happiness together, or getting what you want from them. When you are not connecting, you imagine you are wasting your time, that the person will not give you anything that you need or want. You sense that they may want something from you that you can’t give.

Whether you are connecting or not connecting changes moment to moment and instead of connecting, you wonder if you are connecting or not. If you think the other person is great, you may start to worry that you are not enough. If you find them annoying, you’re not too worried about how good you are, and you may even find yourself being mean. As you wander away from the present moment, indulge your judgments, and forget your compassion you lose your enlightenment. You find yourself involved in a transaction rather than an interpersonal connection. You are swallowed up by your own game. Zen is remembering to come back to the present and be who you are where you are.

When a date is over, you continue working on yourself, your presence, your compassion and your enlightenment. When you notice yourself playing a game, recognize the game and respond compassionately. When you are deciding what to do, ask yourself, am I playing a game or am I engaged in real life? Ask yourself if you are being authentic or manipulative. If you are bashing yourself, be compassionate with yourself. If you are acting toward another person be compassionate with them.

As dating progresses and you become more intimate, more authentic, with another person, walls crumble, or stand firm. Illusions pop. Pretenses are exposed. You grow and change. You may get married, you may go separate ways. You continue to work on being present, compassionate and enlightened. That is a zen approach to dating.