Last Tuesday I wrote about an instant, while hiking near the Swiss border, when I felt as one with the earth on which I stood and the trees that rose up all around me. In fact, the were no “I” and no “trees,” no me, no them. What happened that morning was, in retrospect, a falling-away of duality which governs how we live our lives. Bernie Glassman writes:
We human being possess a number of characteristics that separate us from the experience of oneness. One is the brain. The brain operates dualistically, that’s the way it thinks. When I’m aware of something, I’m aware of it as other than myself. Whenever we’re aware of other people, we’re aware of them as separate from ourselves.
I’m thinking about all this today because my heart-mind is troubled. I’m having difficulties with a friend’s action. I feel as if our unspoken understanding to be kind to each other has been suspended. I’m frozen in place as to how to proceed, how to broach the subject in a way that won’t offend but bring us to clarity and harmony. I realize that my fears are based on ‘stories’ I conjure up, stories that are deeply rooted in the traumatic experiences of my early years when I, along with the young of that time, were mistreated and had few role models to teach us healthy ways.
So what am I to do? How might my practice as a Zen student inform the way I see the world, the way I feel, and the way in which I go about returning our relationship to a state of balance? Bernie’s words provide a clue; they cause me to ask questions of myself: Is your friend part of you and are you part of him (as the rocks and trees were on that hike)? How is your friend’s happiness yours? What is it about your friend’s actions (as you see them) that reminds you of the behaviour of others, even your own? What is it?
Bernie Glassman: A peacemaker steers his life according to harmony. He sees the identity of the absolute and relative. Each person, each encounter, is nothing other than the oneness of life, nothing other than him. …
We take care of things. Not just any actions, but intimate action. Action that comes out of connection, the knowledge that we are each and every sentient being in the universe. …
In Buddhism we call such action compassion. Com-passion means with suffering. Peacemaker actions comes about when we are the suffering of others.
Today will be an interesting day.
source: Glassman, B. (1998). Bearing witness: a Zen master’s lessons in making peace. New York: Bell Tower, pp. 48, 59.