with and without you

July 15th, 2010

Since my last post on Shambhala SunSpace about practicing with a teacher stirred up so much dust, I’ve not done much writing or thinking about it except when people ask me directly. Usually people ask whether a teacher is necessary, or whether a teacher can be harmful, and how to protect themselves from exploitation.

This is an important question, because it points to the heart of all our relationships, whether those relationships are with a person, place or thing. Frankly speaking, we always expect to get something out of our relationships – something like happiness or wholeness, even something as benign as respect or validation. When we expect to be enriched by a relationship we invest ourselves in an external source of fulfillment. We place the responsibility for our own well being in something or someone else: a better job, a newer city, the right mate, a benevolent teacher or wise leader. If we look closely, we might see how deeply we want to relinquish responsibility for ourselves.

That never works, and if it appears to, it doesn’t work for long.

Continue reading this post on Shambhala SunSpace, and please leave a comment there if you choose. I want to hear what you have to say.

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  1. Oh Oh Oh this is so gooooooood!! This idea that there are people out there who are “experts” has always felt strange to me, because how can everyone know what there is to know about anything? I will always be in a place of practicing the art of releasing all expectations, and I know that I will never “master” this. And I see my most important teachers not as people who have something I don’t have, but as people who ~ by their example ~ inspire me in a number of ways.

    Comment by Swirly — July 16, 2010 @ 1:19 am

  2. What a discussion on the Shamblala website! But your answer was spot on, Karen, as always. Thank you for you wise, and precise, words.

    Comment by Els — July 16, 2010 @ 7:23 am

  3. Causing trouble again I see!

    Comment by Mama Zen — July 16, 2010 @ 5:47 pm

  4. I’m a bit of an outsider, so I can’t speak directly to this subject, but I am surprised to see a little back and forth, even mild testiness, in the zen community comments. I guess this is proof that everyone is human after all!

    Comment by Neil — July 16, 2010 @ 7:41 pm

  5. I’m as surprised as you are Neil. No one needs more evidence that people are human, but a little evidence that Buddhists practice Buddhism would be nice. 🙂

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — July 16, 2010 @ 7:53 pm

  6. “I want you to practice with me and without me.”

    Maezen,these words have been in my head for days. They make me feel so happy, but also so very sad. Sometimes I find my practice to be a very lonely thing.
    I thought this post was sweet.

    Comment by nova — July 19, 2010 @ 5:53 pm

  7. Solitary yes; lonely no. Keep practicing and soon you’ll see that to be without is the only way to be totally with.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — July 19, 2010 @ 6:02 pm

  8. I’m a bit late in arriving at this post but I’m hoping you can answer a question for me. How do you balance the faith you put into teacher with the connection your have with your spouse (when your spouse is non-practicing)? I’m considering taking the next step in my practice: practicing with a teacher. However, I can envision my husband having a problem with this, and can understand why he might not understand. My family is of the utmost importance to me; yet, as I grow into my practice, I’m realizing that doing it on my own soon isn’t going to be enough.

    Karen, from reading Hand Wash Cold, I know that your husband is not Buddhist. Do you have any pearls of wisdom for me on this subject?

    Comment by Crashing Waves — August 15, 2010 @ 12:54 pm

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