“If he comes we welcome,
If he goes we do not pursue”
We all want love. We are all searching for some lasting relationship. Yet it always seems as if relationships are difficult, difficult to find, to keep and to enjoy. Though many do all they can, problems, complications and disappointment arise.
But from the Zen point of view, struggling to find and keep love is the opposite of what is needed. First we must learn ‘do nothing’. We must learn how to let go of control.
Rena started Zen practice after losing two important relationships. Devastated, she was convinced she could never hold onto love.
She told the Zen Master, “I can’t bear losing even one more person.”
“You will lose many,” the Zen Master said.
“What can I do about it?” Rena shot back.
“Do nothing,: the Zen Master said.
This ‘do nothing’ is active and vital, the very opposite of passivity. In order to understand this, we must take a step back.
We are born wanting to control our world and the people in it. We scream to get food from mother, smile to receive the attention we crave and, when our needs aren’t met kick up a great fuss. As infants we feel that others are here simply to care for us and keep us content. This kind of attitude can be very hard to outgrow. In fact, it can be said that 99% of our precious life energy goes into controlling others so that our desires can be fulfilled.
What we call love in relationships is often no more than having someone who makes us feel good.
The Zen way is the opposite. We do not try to use others, control events, or demand that life fulfill our dreams. Instead, we grow aware of and accepting of all that is given, and learn to take care of the world we live in. As we do this, an odd thing happens, we become more and more fulfilled. As we grow in compassion and simplicity, all we truly need then comes naturally.
The only real miracle is to stand still. -Henry Miller
Unfortunately, the idea of ‘doing nothing’ has been greatly misunderstood. It does not mean be passive. Just the opposite. Do nothing is the most challenging, demanding, revolutionary instruction that can be given. It means, when faced with life’s challenges – let go of control.
In order to learn how to do this in Zen meditation we are given this instruction – “Don’t Move.” Usually we move (and react) all the time. When something bothers us, we shift, change our position, do anything we can to fix it. Although our behavior alters the condition for a little while, it usually comes back again, sometimes more intensely, sometimes in another form. Likewise, no matter what action we take in relationships, often there is nothing that will cause the trouble to go away.
As we surrender control over the condition, we allow things to be as they are. We allow the entire world to play itself out in front of our eyes. This profound action implies an immense respect for the intrinsic nature of people and events, for a larger design in the universe, which brings our good to us, and removes that which no longer belongs.
How often we try to grasp and hold onto that which is no longer suitable, or to desperately maneuver to obtain that which may be entirely wrong. When we do not control, but rather appreciate what is happening, (or who is coming our way) we are yielding to a higher wisdom, permitting life to take it’s own course.
When we’re in a difficult situation, most of our actions create more upset and complications. These are not truly actions, but reactions. True action is something different. It is clear, spontaneous, purposeful, direct.
In order to arrive at true action we must, first, do nothing. This means we must stop doing what we used to do, cease our knee jerk reactions, stop living like Sisyphus, rolling the same rock up the same mountain. We must be able to bear the temporary discomfort of stopping our usual ways.
As we do this, many upsets dissolve naturally. We do not fan the flames. We do not turn a summer rain into a violent thunderstorm, which can tear an entire relationship apart.
When you are faced with a difficult knot in a relationship, or when you are trying to find someone new to love – don’t squirm and wrestle, don’t enter into a struggle. “Do nothing” give up control. Stay centered and immovable in the middle of the storm and see what the life is truly bringing to you. Keep clear and compassionate. Let the situation unfold as it will. Don’t get picked up and whirled around like a leaf in the wind.
Relax Your Grip
Zen teaches us how to relax our grip. As this happens we begin to see each person as they truly are, not as we wish or demand. We also realize that it is not an act of love, to try to change and control another. It is an act of love to discover and appreciate who they truly are.
When we let each moment, each person be exactly as they are this is the great work of doing nothing. It is the work of non-interference with the primal wisdom of the universe, which runs through all things and beings, including ourselves.
When we step back and allow this harmony to take over, our entire lives are healed and enhanced. That which is right for us comes naturally, and difficult situations find their own healing as well. When we honor and uphold life as it is given, then inevitably, life honors and upholds us.
Brenda Shoshanna, Ph.D., psychologist,workshop leader and author is a long term Zen practitioner whose work integrates Zen and everyday life. This article is based upon her most recent book, Living By Zen (Timeless Truths For Everyday Life) http://www.livingbyzen.com. Take a minute to go to the site to find out more about the book. Dr. Shoshanna, the relationship expert on i.village is also the author of Zen And The Art of Falling In Love, (Simon and Schuster), Zen Miracles, (Finding Peace In An Insane World) and many other books. She can be reached at Her personal website is http://www.brendashoshanna.com.