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7 - The 3 Tenets (relationship)

The three tenets of the Zen Peacemaker Order, founded by Roshi Bernie Glassman, are: not knowing, bearing witness, and loving action. To say that parents are peacemakers by occupation is to speak an inherent profound truth regarding our role and our work. Indeed, to be committed to any relationship is to be engaged in a peacemaking mission that requires the highest level of consciousness available to us at any given time. Our peacemaking activities, within the home, extend to all of the relationships, between all of the family members, all of the time. And, as with the practice of loving kindness, the place where peacemaking starts is with ourselves. We must practice making peace with our own inner and outer, conscious and unconscious, conflicts. We can learn to tame the conflicting thoughts and emotions that persist in the midst of challenging circumstances, and the resulting low levels of consciousness that accompany them.

Not Knowing

We start by first taking a position of not knowing – by actively embracing a philosophy of not knowing the answer, not knowing the future, and not knowing the particulars of a situation. When we know something or someone, we preconceive how they will present themselves to us, what they will say, what they will look like, as well as their talents and usefulness regarding certain tasks.  By knowing, we alienate the situation or the person from ourselves. This is no way to be in relationship.   What we desire is intimacy and connection, and these things will not come if we approach the relationship with knowing. You can see this by looking at a new romantic relationship – two people are falling in love and they are embracing in this great sea of not knowing, and once they have learned everything about the other person, the relationship becomes habitual and lacking in spontaneity. The very act of knowing makes something unknowable in its present form. So you can see how important it is for a peacemaker to embrace this philosophy of not knowing, for it is in not knowing that the truth reveals itself, and not otherwise. By taking a position of not knowing in response to things, we resist the urge to react to a situation in a way that is hurtful rather than helpful. Instead, we take the time necessary to see things clearly as they are before we act with skill and compassion.

Bearing Witness

When we have embraced the approach of not knowing, we are in a position to witness things, people and situations, as they actually are, in the present moment. We bear witness to things with fresh eyes, with eyes unencumbered by prejudice and obscuration. We see clearly not only the thing, but we also see our own thoughts and feelings arise in response to it. With our children , we open ourselves to sense into their feelings and needs, as well as our own and come gradually to know what is needed in the situation. It is when we are in this most humble natural state of observation that we experience the deepest sense of connection with our kids, and the joy that arises is unmistakable. Think of when your child was an infant and you held them and looked into their eyes with no fixed ideas about who they were or what to expect from them, and the profound love that is present in that simple connection, a love that inspires a perfect appropriate response to there needs, without words, without instruction, without knowing – but simply being in intimate connection.

Loving Action

I have heard it said and seen it written that parents have all the tools they need to parent well, they simply must follow there natural parenting instincts. The first part of this sounds reasonable to me, but the thought of relying on instincts scares me. Instincts are directed by our reptilian brain and are generally concerned with survival. The innate natural tools that we posses are few – we may posses the skills necessary to keep a child alive until they are 18, but the development of a meaningful, lifelong relationship takes practice and work. We must develop patience, and the discriminating insight that is required to model and teach emotional intelligence and needs intelligence. Just doing what our fathers and mothers did will not honor their desires and intentions for us to excel beyond their skill level and evolve the family tree. We have a purpose to evolve the species as well and that evolution comes in the form of an increased capacity to love and show genuine compassion toward each other. The love, compassion and skillful means that emerges out of this evolved consciousness asserts itself as the natural consequence of practicing the first two tenets of not knowing and bearing witness. Authentic, effective, loving action arises naturally out of paying close attention after checking our assumptions.




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