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When someone we care for is hurting and will not seek help or listen, we too can suffer greatly, feel guilty and helpless. There are wonderful ways of healing this situation though, brand new ways of being with the person that can heal everything.

The Zen Master and His Nephew

There is a beautiful story describing a Zen master and his nephew. This story points to what is needed for a person to feel truly cared about and for a relationship to grow.

A Zen master’s brother called him one day and begged him for help with his son. This boy, the Zen master’s nephew, was unruly and getting worse. No matter what the brother tried to do, the young man wouldn’t listen. He was out late at night carousing, drinking, listening to wild music; he wouldn’t obey his family at all. The master’s brother was desperate. “We are at our wit’s end. I need you to come to our home for a week to help.”

Accompanying Another

The Zen master agreed. He went to his brother’s home, unpacked, and greeted his wild nephew warmly. The nephew didn’t know what to expect. The Zen master then simply decided to spend the week accompanying the young man wherever he went. He went along with the nephew to the bars at night, joined his group of friends.

The young man waited to hear a scolding when they came home, but the Zen master said nothing at all. He then accompanied his nephew to parties, rock concerts, houses of ill repute, wherever the young man went. At the end of each day the young man waited for a lecture, but it never came. The Zen master simply joined him, kept him company wherever he went.

Finally, the week ended, and the young man didn’t know what to think. The time came for the Zen master to go home, and he went to his room to pack his things. Sad that his uncle was leaving, the young man joined him. He sat quietly watching his uncle pack. Still no words of guidance were offered.

Then the Zen master bent down to tie his shoelace, and as he did, a tear fell from his eyes, down his cheek. The nephew saw it and was shocked. He was so touched, he could not say a word. After that, even though he may have wanted to, the young man could not return to his old life.

What Happened?

The nephew was spending the entire week, waiting to be reprimanded. That never happened and then he saw the tear roll down his Uncle's cheek and realized that he was truly cared for. And, he also realized the pain he caused others by his behavior. The fact that his Uncle never rejected him, scolded him or tried to control him, touched the nephew deeply. It ended up turning his entire life around.

Can You Accompany Yourself?

What does it take to truly accompany a person, with no judgment and no blame? Who do you truly accompany? Can you even accompany yourself?

To experience love and connection, we must be willing to accept ourselves and others just as we are. We let go of demands that others be a certain way and rejecting them if they are not. The Zen master could do that, and in being with his nephew in an unconditional way, truly getting to know him, a spontaneously loving response occurred that allowed his nephew to see what he was doing, and heal naturally.

Discovering A Healing Connection

What else is needed to develop a healing connection, become real, and dip into your storehouse and wisdom? A wonderful teaching from the Lankavatara Sutra (Buddhist teaching) helps answer this:

“Don’t look for what is real. Just let go of all that is unreal, and that which is real will come to you all by itself.”

First become aware of the ways in which you cling to that which is not real—to games, masks, toys and diversions. Often these provide a sense of self-worth. But that sense is not long lasting, and a hollowness comes later on. But when you let go of that which is unreal, your natural self, along with its ability to create healing connections appears all by itself.

“When we are little we play with toys. When we grow up we want the real thing.”

—Kosho Uchiyama Roshi, Zen Master

Finding The Real Thing

How much time you spend each day escaping what would truly make you happy. Take note of how many times you offer a prefabricated response, not really looking, listening, speaking, or considering what is important to you. Inevitably this drains the meaning from your life, the joy out of your day and lessens your abiity to heal.

Learn To Be There For Yourself

Most do not know what it is that their heart treasures. They have numbed themselves so much that they’ve blocked it out? But in order to truly be there for someone else, we must first learn how to know and really be there for ourelves.


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