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Zen and The Art of Falling In Love

Zen Relationships

Zen and Love are the most natural partners. Most think of Zen as distant and remote.

Nothing can be further from the truth. Zen is a practice of true intimacy, with

ourselves, others and our very breath.

“We never ask the meaning of life when we are in love.” --Bhagwan

We are meant to live a life of love. When we’re not in love, something’s the matter. Unfortunately, most of us, unaware of this, 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. This is considered natural as one “grows up” and gives up the fantasies, foolishness and dreams of childhood.

But nothing could be further from the truth. It is the fantasies, foolishness, and confused expectations we develop as we grow older that put us into the constricted position, into the semi-paralysis most describe as being an “adult” or “becoming realistic about relationships.” 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. As a great teacher once said, “We never ask the meaning of life when we are in love.”

Being in love is our natural state. Not only with another person, but with life itself. 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?

Real Love Never Hurts

Contrary to popular opinion, real love never hurts or wounds. It is only our confused expectations that 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.” But most of us have little idea what is poison and what is nourishing in our relationships. Once we know the difference between real and counterfeit love, 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. The fact of the matter is that we can turn our lives around at any time.

From the psychological point of view, not falling in love, in and of itself, is not a symptom of anything wrong. It is believed that many can do very well, live fully and yet never get over their disappointments in love. Even though they may never learn how to give or receive love, this is not central. There are many ways to sublimate this need: a productive work life, strong interests. They can then easily experience a satisfying life.

Hungry Ghosts

But even though much is one’s life is in order, without knowing how to give and receive real love, something is missing. These individuals can be called hungry ghosts. Even though hungry ghosts attend a banquet, spread with all kinds of delicious food , no matter how much they eat they cannot be satisfied. They aren’t able to taste or digest the food. No matter how much they eat, they’re hungry, continue to search for more.

Hungry ghosts might sample one relationship after the next, not knowing how to digest it. They never know who the person is in front of them, or who they are themselves. All they know is that they want more and more. They fantasize that someone else, the perfect person, will walk into their lives and change everything, compare everyone to their secret fantasy. Certain hungry ghosts appear available for love, but they are really only intent on seducing and teasing the people they find. As soon as love is demanded from them, as soon as they need to become real, they reject the person. Their pleasure is in rejection, in withdrawing the love they seem to provide.

Hungry ghosts enter huge rooms filled with single people and immediately say, “There’s no one here tonight.” They cannot taste, digest or be satisfied with that which life presents. They go around and round on the merry go round, grabbing for the gold ring, always just beyond their grasp. Or, if they do catch the ring, they soon discover, that it is not true gold, but brass.

All of this is exhausting, and disheartening and makes the hungry ghosts very sad. Even when they are with someone they love, they are often haunted by the notion that their true soul mate is somewhere else. Their problem lies in the fact that they are starving for nourishment which is right here, but which they do not know how to enjoy or digest.

However, the good news is that this painful affliction can be remedied through the practice of Zen. As we sit still, see who we are, let go of fantasies and delusions, and are willing to taste and savor the moment fully, we see that we are already swimming in an ocean of love. It is a simple matter then, to allow this love to flow into our lives and the lives of others.

This article is based upon my book Zen and The Art of Falling In Love


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1 Comment

Aug 21, 2023

Thank you Dr. Shoshanna. I love this article.

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