We are meant to live a life of love. When we're not in love, something's the matter. Unfortunately, most of us become resigned to disappointment, loss and upset in relationships. No matter how successful we are in other aspects of our lives, most of us don't feel naturally entitled to the same success in love. "Being realistic about relationships" is considered natural as we "grow up" and give up the fantasies, foolishness and dreams of childhood. But nothing could be further from natural. The fantasies, foolishness and confused expectations we develop as we grow older are precisely what put us into a state of paralysis. We don't realize that when we are not in love, something's wrong.
Being in love is the most mature and realistic thing you can do. It energizes your life, fills you with positivity, creates generosity and makes every moment beautiful. Being in love immediately dispels the sense of purposelessness and disconnection that many grapple with. The body heals, the heart is happy.
Being in love is our natural state. The real question we should be asking is, why aren't we in love all the time? What is it that keeps this most precious inheritance away? How can we reclaim it for our own and return to the intrinsic wisdom and spontaneity we had as children, when each moment was fresh and exciting and filled with adventure?
Contrary to popular opinion, real love never hurts or wounds. Only our confused expectations can undermine our lives and lead us to negative consequences. There is a Buddhist saying: "Give up poisonous food wherever it is offered to you." Once we know what is poison and what is nourishing in our relationships, once we learn the laws of love and how to practice them, we will be able to live a life of love and build relationships that cannot fail. Zen shows how we can turn our lives around at any time.
There are two different schools of Zen training: Rinzai Zen and Soto Zen. Rinzai Zen emphasizes koan study, breaking through the barriers that keep our life force tied in knots. Soto Zen emphasizes the application of Zen to everyday life. Although training in both schools goes on in a zendo (a place where Zen meditation and other forms of practice are taught), the fruits of practice appear in our lives and relationships. Both Rinzai and Soto practice are included in this book.
Zen practice offers us an entirely different way of looking at love and relationships. In Zen practice we learn how to make friends with every aspect of ourselves and others -- nothing is rejected, nothing is left out. We return to basics and become able to distinguish between real needs and false ones. In Zen one learns to sit, to breathe, to focus, to let go, to walk with attention, to cook, to clean, to receive blows and to be prepared for intense and intimate encounters. As we do this cravings, addictions, fears and compulsions of all kinds slowly dissolve.
Zen and love are incredibly compatible. The wonderful, ancient practice of Zen is actually the practice of falling in love. When one focuses on and welcomes all that life brings, each day becomes a good day in which you are able to fall in love with all of life, to continually find wonder, kindness, friendship and playfulness.
The book is divided into three parts and each part offers new building blocks to help you prepare to love and have a deeper understanding of love itself.
Part I, "Starting Out," emphasizes the initial steps we take in Zen practice. Not only does it explain the specifics of what a Zen student learns (including how to do Zen meditation), but it also shows how these steps apply to relationships and how they help prepare an individual to know himself more fully, release control and become available to love.
Part II, "Zen in Action," describes the ways in which the focus and insight attained in meditation is then transferred to all our actions and to our everyday lives. We see how Zen principles -- such as emptying yourself, being there for others, taking new steps and dealing with blows -- are crucial building blocks in developing and maintaining loving relationships.
Part III, "Advanced Training," takes us to the top of the mountain. As training progresses the individual develops the ability to deal with moments of intense confrontation, decision, conflict and the need for endurance through difficult times. As training advances and the student gains an entirely new awareness of herself and the world around her, she finally becomes able to "meet the beloved," to experience the essence of love.
In each part readers will learn new means of dealing with the usual trouble spots in relationships, such as miscommunication, lies, betrayal, jealousy, insecurity, boredom, feelings of worthlessness, loss and disappointment. As readers look at these issues through the eyes of Zen practice, they receive life-changing perspectives, instructions and outcomes.
Although Zen practice is simple, it is not always easy. The reader is asked to suspend judgment and disbelief, to be willing to become a child once again -- to explore, play, hug, cry and feel that the world is filled with endless possibilities, which it is, once you are willing to see it that way. Zen also requires the ability to say no to all of the people, beliefs, habits and desires that can take your faith and love away. Falling in love doesn't mean being blind or entering into fantasy. It means waking up out of darkened dreams to finally see the beauty that surrounds us.
This book is not only for those who wish to experience loving relationships, but also for those who wish to be able to enjoy their lives to the fullest. It is an invitation onto this wonderful path. A little endurance is required, along with the willingness to face the shadows that will dispel as soon as we invite in the light.