"To be enlightened is to be intimate with all things."
– Dogen-Zengi, Zen master in Japan c. 1200-1253 *
Founder of the Soto School.
In a cartoon that was on many refrigerators in the 90s, Ziggy walks up the mountain and addresses the sky, “What is the secret of happiness?” A voice from the clouds answers, “Fasting, celibacy and poverty!” After a pause, Ziggy asks, “Is there someone else up there I can talk to?”
Camille and I have been listening to that other voice, the one that speaks on behalf of intimacy. Our work describes a path that that embraces pleasure, sexuality, and abundance. We speak for the path of intimacy and involvement with life rather than denial. We celebrate meditation as a marriage of body and soul, earth and heaven, outer and inner, sensuality and spirituality.
When researchers ask Americans what they most desire in life, both men and women say, “A close and lasting intimate relationship.” We find the same craving in the people who come to study meditation with us: they seek more intimacy in life, and have a hunch that contact with their inner essence is the foundation for all outer relationships. They want to suffuse their bodies and hearts with loving energy and then take it out into the world. They suspect that this is what enlightenment really is: a full-bodied, deeply relational state of love.
This craving is beginning to revolutionize the field of meditation in the Western world. The needs of students ultimately dictate how teachers present the work, and right now people need meditation to be a place where every level of their being can come together. This emerging understanding is breaking up the old thought-forms of denial and dissociation that have for centuries been associated with meditation. It is not a loner enterprise anymore.
Many teachings on meditation ignore intimacy, or imply that your personal life is an obstacle to your spiritual practice. This is because until about thirty-five years ago, and for the previous thirty centuries, almost all meditation teachers were solitary, celibate males, removed from the world. They were not in intimate relationships and knew nothing about them. Ziggy is causing all this to change.
Our premise is that meditation and love relationships go hand and hand. We point out the obvious but startling equation that “meditation is loving attention and loving attention is meditation.” Meditation provides a sanctuary of solitude to help you regenerate for contact; it opens the heart to give and receive love.
We describe a path that embraces every emotion, every longing in the heart, and every contact with other beings as a teaching on meditation and a doorway to intimacy. Relationship is challenging, whether it is with yourself, with life, or with another human being. You have to learn to tolerate new and intense sensations and emotions. Everyone can use some help. We speak realistically about the obstacles to intimacy and provide practical methods for navigating through them.
When we are tender with ourselves in meditation, the heart and soul can give voice to longing – for love, touch, communication, security, excitement, or acceptance. In our teachings, we describe beautiful sensory meditations that guide you, step-by-step, into engaging with these qualities. We illustrate how to use meditation to be at home in yourself, create inner security, and clarify your emotions.
In every relationship there is a dynamic between opposing desires: we want to be close, but we also want to be free; we want to be listened to, but we also want the other person to speak from the heart; we want to feel safe, but we also want excitement. These opposites are what attract us, drive us crazy, and make us laugh. What relationship does not dance with the opposites of passion and equanimity, pleasure and pain, relaxation and urgency, time together and time apart, talking and listening?
The tension between conflicting desires can tear us apart, drive us to drink, or call us into meditation. In this book, we reveal the realm of intimate polarities as the natural turf of meditation. Meditation techniques all emerge from the tension between opposites. The aim is to turn the tension into energy for life.
The chapters reveal how each of these sets of opposites can co-exist harmoniously, in your meditation practice and in your everyday awareness. The opposites are not contradictory; they need each other. The health of every relationship, whether with yourself or another person, depends upon working out a balance of these polarities. Every point we make has a little practice, something you can notice in daily life and in meditation that helps keep love alive.
In our work,
• We address intimacy with both the self and with others.
• We give simple sensory practices you can do in meditation or as you move through your day.
• We propose the revelatory notion that the natural elements are the stuff of intimacy.
• We show how sensual and multi-tonal meditation can and should be.
• We take a both/and approach. Sometimes it is appropriate to be closed instead of open. Sometimes it is better to say no rather than yes.
• We show how meditations that over-emphasize detachment can harm your capacity for intimacy.
We correct some profound misunderstandings in the field of meditation itself. Techniques intended only for monks and nuns are frequently taught to people who are married and have jobs, and this causes confusion. Unless people know these secrets, they are liable to use meditation practices in such a way as to damage their ability to be intimate. The preponderance of the literature is still in the First Voice that Ziggy encountered – the one that insists that enlightenment can only be achieved through denial.
Meditation is above all intimacy with oneself. People often have a sense of failure when using rigid, traditional techniques. The struggle within meditation is not to block out thoughts, detach, or make yourself calm. The challenge is to tolerate the intensity of intimacy. Each secret we offer includes helpful tools for dealing with these challenges.
*actually, we haven’t been able to trace the source of this quote with any academic rigor.