Zen and the Art of Dating

This is a guest post by Shane as part of the article swap, part 3 within the Buddhist blogoshphere. I am posting over at Peace Ground Zero today. - Al Hi everyone and welcome to article swap 3.  I’m posting here at Al’s house and Jomon is posting over at mine regarding Zen and Food. When I started writing on this post, I was approaching it with a discursive and relative based mind.  I wanted to look at how Zen had made me approach dating differently…hopefully better.  I wanted to explore how non-attachment and equanimity could be balanced with passion and romance.  I wanted to know how I could be equanimous when what I really wanted to do was jump some bones or engage in an argument.  I found myself approaching Zen and dating in a very non-Zen way. So I said to myself…”self…what the fuck?” In the practice of Zen meditation, the brain moves toward a state of being very quiet.  So quiet, in fact, that it stops it’s normal thinking and perceiving processes.  Different teachers and different flavors of Zen have a variety of ways of describing the quiet and it’s aspects…no mind, equanimity, illuminated mind, etc…the problem being that when you are in such a quiet state of no thinking and no language, trying to describe it in words usually comes out sounding kooky as shit (at worst) or somehow inappropriate (at best)…’the buddha is a shit stick’…seriously? More to the point it can be difficult to say how Zen and the art of anything really works out because Zen is beyond words.  Talking about Zen and dating is like talking about Zen and the sky.  We end up talking about the clouds and weather patterns when what we really want to experience is the sunlight. Here are a few of those clouds chosen randomly for you (some are quotes that caught my eye, some are responses from friends whom I asked for feedback from, some blog post quotes, some book quotes, etc). Fellow Dharma Punk David says “I think a lot of people in Buddhism have this idea that ‘enlightenment’ or ‘non-attachment’ means some kind of automaton, some stoic, emotionless robot that does not want or desire anything. I suspect that it is little more like having a little space between those desires and our actions.”  This touches on an idea that I have had as I’ve been going thru this most recent dating experience.  Practicing Zen meditation has allowed me the space to see my attachments for what they are and disempower them.  I have had a strong “ugly duckling” complex all my life that has led me in the past to gravitate either to men who would make me ok or men who I felt were worse off than me whom I could fix…makes it damn hard to find an equal.  For once in my life, my boyfriend and I are on equal ground.  Refreshing or scary?…well, depends on how much meditation I’ve had :-)  With enough meditation, it’s neither…the situation just is exactly as it is. Fellow blogger Jomon (and also my <a href=”guest post writer for this article swap) wrote me a response which I will include a bit later.  What I want to put in this spot is her description of her feelings on her Zen wedding day when she was the most awesome Zen Bride.  She says “I was nervous, excited, trembling, tearful, joyful, irritated, tired, panicked and peaceful, sometimes all at once.”  Now if that don’t express the experience of being in a relationship at all stages, I’m not sure what does.  I had some hope that being a “good” meditator would make me immune to these things, but what I did that was an improvement for me, was to decrease my attachment to the feelings as well as having to make unnecessary meaning out of them.  Zen has taught me experientially that meaning making has a shit ton more to do with me than it does with the situation.  (as an old counselor, I knew this as book knowledge, but in my old age I finally got it as a practice) My mentor (Zentor?) Flint says “Most men want to find that special partner that will save them - from whatever - and make it all better, as if love really does conquer all.  But there is no person, no practice, no teacher, no nothing that will save you from life as it is, and that is what practice makes possible, facing life as it is,” and  “Sometimes we meet someone and it is as if we say, one way or another, “Life is kind of a challenge.  Want to do it with me?”  That’s about it.  Everything else is drama.  Ain’t that the shit?  That’s why when I feel my ass is in a crack, this is the man I email for guidance.  I love thinking of a relationship as defined by ‘Life is kind of a challenge.  Want to do it with me?’.  That is something I can do that allows both me and my boyfriend to be exactly who we are and no one has to fix anybody else. And another from Jomon… “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”.  Amen sister. From Chan Master Sheng Yen (as one of the OG’s of Chan…Chinese for Zen…he is the shit…I get so much out of his teachings that I had a very hard time deciding what to use, but I think this quote really hits to the core).  “When you awaken and vexation (his translation of Dukkha) becomes wisdom, you will understand that the past mind is no different from the present mind.  Therefore, there is no need to resent your mind of vexation.  Simply practice hard, and quite naturally this mind of vexation will become the mind of wisdom.”  I think I chose this quote because it feels like I have come around full circle and dating is still dating but I’ve reduced my vexation about it.  (I just love the word ‘vexation’, it feels like using a beautiful antique as if I were wearing a top hat and tails as I write this) To bring this craziness to some kind of close, I want to sum up this random ball of Zen and dating into some short ideas that will help me to keep my head on correct (not straight…you thought I was going to say straight, but fact is I’m a big old fag). Shit is still shit and my Zen shit don’t make shit any less shit than it is Don’t make shit up cuz you’ll probably be wrong and it’ll be your shit and not his shit that’s the problem anyway If shit ain’t broke don’t fix it Don’t worry about your past fuck ups cuz all shit is now Life is kind of a challenge.  Want to do it with me? :-)