Saturday, April 3, 2010

Celebrate Your Contributions

"Oh, what a catastrophe, what a maiming of love when it was made personal, merely personal feeling. This is what is the matter with us: we are bleeding at the roots because we are cut off from the earth and sun and stars. Love has become a grinning mockery because, poor blossom, we plucked it from its stem on the Tree of Life and expected it to keep on blooming in our civilized vase on the table." -- D. H. Lawrence

In our practice we are often encouraged to 1) pay attention to everything, 2) not believe anything, and 3) not take anything personally. Life is not personal, we are directed to consider. Even more difficult than that to wrap our conditioned minds around is the information that life is love. This, of course, makes no sense at all since much of life doesn’t seem or feel loving.

Every religious or spiritual tradition attempts to point out that we use one word, love, to represent both a dualistic and a nondualistic reality. For example, we use the word love to point at what is opposite to hate. That’s pretty iffy right there but we’re used to it, doing it all the time. We can love our children, our job, our house, and pasta without ever asking ourselves, “What does that mean?” And, we “hate” just as easily—companies and foods and groups of people—like those with opposing political views. These unexplored habits of thought and speech are fertile ground for egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate--what we haven’t considered carefully and come to terms with can easily be used against us. And is.

Growing up, “conceited” was about the worst things a person could be called. Yes, I’m sure there were worse things but not in my set. The guidance seemed to be “strive to be the best, ignore all success.” Who knows what the messages were meant to be, we never talked about any of it directly, but that’s what I gleaned. Do all necessary to get to the top while being humble and self-effacing. Oh, and navigate puberty with grace and aplomb.

Then I encountered an awareness practice designed to provide the experience of waking up and ending suffering that encourages people to be kind to ourselves, let go all self-talk that is critical and judgmental toward us, and “do unto ourselves as we would have others do unto us.” That’s a really hard sell. It just feels wrong.

But that moment of “but how can I be nice to myself when I’m so flawed” is the whole point of the whole practice! And the answer is one of the wickedly, delightfully paradoxical Zen conundrums: “You/I” can’t.

This is where we go from “love” to Love with an understanding that we’re moving from dualistic to nondualistic—there is Love but no Hate—and this enables us to celebrate our contribution without advancing a relationship with egocentric karmic conditioning. Only the Unconditional, All That Is, That Which Is, Authentic Nature, or “God” can truly rejoice in the efforts of we humans, and we must be at center not to take personally the person making the contribution.



  1. "Being kind to oneself", and yet "not to take personally the person making the contribution": this is a tricky place for me. Doesn't being kind to myself CONTAIN taking personally the person making the contribution? Don't I WANT this person to feel good about their contribution? And isn't that person one aspect of myself? To "not take personally" implies to me that I SHOULDN'T feel good about my contribution.

  2. Seven years now of loving compassionate awareness, of caring for the boy who truly longed to merge with the Sacred Heart at the First Holy Communion rail, the egocentric conditioned voices still buck and throw the kindness off, leaving me dusty, bruised and weary.

    So what if seven mores years of vowing to deeply train this mind is needed?

    What else would one do....?

    Gassho to the Sanga willing to ride the bucking bronco.

    Gassho to the Zen ancestors who showed us we could do it.

  3. Love the last paragraph about "love" and "Love". I have glimpses of that. What a relief to celebrate contributions without needing to be separately special. True celebration.

    This practice blog really works for me. It reminds me of reading "Sweet Zen" which I have done continuously since it was published.