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the wake of anger, you may find the strength and determination to live
differently. If you don’t, you haven’t yet seen fully to the needs of
your own screaming child. You are rejecting it still.
time. You’ll have many opportunities to quiet the rage. You’ll have
many chances to apply the alchemy of your own gentle attention to
whatever is disturbing you. Screaming babies go to sleep, eventually,
and every wise parent learns to let a sleeping baby be.
Be Completely Sad
When you’re sad, be sad. — MAEZUMI ROSHI
we despise, but sadness, we might cherish. At least I did. Sorrow can
seem such a rich and complex place to dwell; we might forget that it,
too, is impermanent.
time I went to see Maezumi Roshi after a meditation session in which
the tears streamed in rivulets down my cheeks. “I’m sitting in a field
of sadness,” I said to him. I was a tiny bit pleased by my poetic
expression. I thought we might talk about it, rooting out the cause, and
apply a treatment.
you’re sad, be sad,” he said. And that was all he said. I confess I
found it abrupt, considering my experience with other counselors. He
didn’t criticize or correct me, he just didn’t dwell. I was unaccustomed
to making so little of what felt like so much.
We usually have an impulse to do something
with what we judge to be a “negative” emotion. Perhaps we should
explore, explain, or fix it. Surely it’s not “right” or “normal.” Is it
possible to be sad and then be done with it?
is a good guide and even a good sign. Sadness may initiate your
spiritual practice. Because most of us suffer when we are sad, it can
lead us to seek solace and resolution. You might notice, for instance,
that when you begin a meditation or yoga practice, you cry for no good
reason at all. This can indicate that you are releasing long-held
emotions and fears.
be sure, grief is its own teacher and takes its own time. It feels good
to cry. And it feels good to stop. By itself, crying always ends.
Sadness changes to something else, because all things, even thoughts and
emotions, change when we let them.
enough you’ll see that a heartbreak doesn’t break anything for long.
Take care that you do not turn back and take up permanent residence in
the ruin, or you will condemn your life to the shadows of the past. Keep
going straight on.
Sit Down for a While
Through the process of sitting still and following your breath, you are connecting with your heart. — CHÖGYAM TRUNGPA
copied this quotation in a personal journal I kept during my breakup
eighteen years ago. Now I can see how clearly the dharma always leads us
back to ourselves.
surest way to keep going through any difficulty is to sit down and stay
put—specifically by practicing meditation. It’s what all the teachers
tell us, and you can prove it to yourself. Meditating while you are
angry, sad, disappointed, or afraid is the most direct way to resolve
the difficulty. Why? Because you’re facing it. Meditation is the
practice of facing yourself completely, cultivating intimacy with your
breath and awareness. It is an intimacy that goes far beyond the
companionship and gratification we seek from another. Keeping company
with yourself can change the expectations you place on a relationship.
Through a mindfulness practice, you see firsthand what it means to take
responsibility for your own happiness and fulfillment, and you
experience love of a different kind—unconditional love, which arises
spontaneously as your true nature.
you practice formally with a group, you’ll have the opportunity to sit
in silence for a day or more alongside someone you’ve never met.
Eventually, your mind will grow quiet and your concentration will
deepen. You will share proximity without the judgments and expectations
we usually impose on those around us, and be in relationships that are
not conditioned by what another person is doing for you or how they are
serving you. This is what happens in a silent meditation retreat. At the
end of the time together, you might be inclined to do what I do: turn
to the stranger sitting nearby, smile, and spontaneously say, “I love
you.” The thing is, I really mean it. Is it possible to love in this
way? Yes, from the very bottom of your heart and mind, when everything
else drops away, it is possible and it is effortless.
Now, can you live that way with people you actually know?
The Romance of No Romance
Where there is no romance is the most romantic. — HONGZHI
surely as trees bud in spring and leaves fall in autumn, couples in a
long relationship encounter all the same stages as those who don’t make
it. Yet their union endures. They survive anger and resentments,
disappointments and reversals. They watch their interests diverge and
their devotions ebb. Their responsibilities grow; their families expand;
their houses fill and then empty again. What is it that favors one
partnership over another? Some say it is magic, the machinations of
fate, the movement of stars, the right choice, or sheer luck. I think it
is something we have the power to realize and actualize for ourselves.
Love that lasts allows the love story
to end. It isn’t laden with romantic fantasies or regret; it’s not
defined or limited, not stingy or selfish. Without form or name, this
love allows all things to be as they are. It sees all of life in every
season as a process of perpetual change, growth, maturation, and
renewal. This love is our inherent treasure, and when we practice, it
shines. It is true love because it is truth.
years after my lover left me peering into the emptied medicine chest, I
got married to another man, and he and I have been together now for a
long time. I make no claims for our future, nor do I sentimentalize the
past. Our toothbrushes sit in silence side by side on the bathroom
counter. They stand sentry over a life shared through mutual courage,
acceptance, forgiveness, and very small kindnesses.
morning I reach for my toothbrush in a transcendent act that will
spread boundless love wherever I go. I brush my teeth, brighten my
smile, and begin again.
Maezen Miller is a teacher at the Hazy Moon Zen Center in Los Angeles.
Her most recent book is Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an