Zen & Dharma

Intimacy in relationship

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am working on intimacy in relationship, from the epic to the microscopic.

When I worked at the bike shop, sometimes I would challenge myself to have an intimate relationship with every person who walked into the store that day. I know, that sounds like a good way to catch a disease. But that’s not what I mean.

I would decide, if I sell a customer an inner tube today, i want our relationship to be intimate. From helping them select the right tube to leading them to the register, to swiping their debit card and handing them a receipt. I want that interaction to be intimate: mutual, respectful, and complete. I must not forget to give them the receipt, and to thank them for their visit. Complete, in its form, and in its realization. I want for myself and the customer to feel satisfied by the interaction in its wholeness. I want for both of us to feel fully met.

I try to practice that intimacy or relationship when I buy bus tickets at the variety store, or discuss the qualities of various squashes with a woman at the co-op, or talk to my brother on the phone, or when I am alone with my lover.

I want my relationships to be intimate beyond people. I want to get up-close-and-personal with the limp brown leaves on the trees and the wet stony dirt in the potholes. With the gulls, with the dogs, with the flies buzzing endlessly around the lightbulb. With Stephen Harper. With my toothache. With the cars, and the road, and the rain. I want to apprehend the intimacy with which the cars meet the road, and with which the road accepts the rain.

Intimacy demands respect. By ‘respect’ I don’t mean, ‘I respect that it is your basic nature to buzz past me on my bike, in your car, at 90km/hr on a blind curve…so I’m just going to practice with this feeling of near-death, and god speed you on your way.’ Uh-uh. I don’t need to approve of your behavior, or accept it, in order to respect you. But I want to try to understand that you didn’t do what you did with the express purpose of killing me – and that there are inherently benign reasons why you do what you do. I’m sure you desperately needed to get to the store to buy whipping cream before it closed. Or something. The point is, that respect relies on being fully met. We don’t need to agree, but we need to meet each other neutrally, in the understanding that we mean each other no harm.

I know for sure that I cannot be intimate if I take things too personally. If it is all about me, then I can’t even have an intimate relationship with someone I love—let alone with someone who is annoying the piss out of me, or who may be wilfully opposing me. I want to be intimate with those people too. So I just have to let go of me. Letting go of my self – I am no-self! – means there is no one out of whom the piss can be annoyed.

Thats the theory, anyway. I snooze out all the time. I think i’m being oh-so-present and then I realize that in this moment of ‘intimacy’ i am actually just thinking about how intimate I am, or about what a great blog post this will make, or about what might happen next…and how this reminds me of that other thing that happened once before, and how that really messed me up and I want to prevent that from happening again and … snap! Out of intimacy and into attachment. Out of the present and into the story. Me. Again.

So lately this has been my click-click-mantra-trick. When i  feel myself peeling away from my own experience, I say: I am no-self. I am no-self. And this helps me get just a bit closer, a little more intimate. With others, and with me. With the cars, and the road, and the rain.

4 Comments on “Intimacy in relationship

  1. What a coincidence, i have just seen my son off after a weekend together. He travels a lot , so I don’t see him often, and I so wanted to connect intimately with him. We watched movies together, and argued about them, cooked and ate together, and were silent together. But what I think went well was our visits to friends , where I stayed in the background and allowed him to takeover, he’s very chatty anyhow. It was so nice to observe him , he even took away a meditation book from the monastery. I haven’t had him share cleaning the bikes yet , maybe next time!

  2. This post describes my intention pretty well, you make words that explain what I’m doing and trying to do, thank you. And you make me think more about my life, this ghost that is me moving along, trying not to brush up too hard against anything. I will always have attachments but it will have to be ok. I will get hungry, or want to play music or love on my dogs and that’s just me filling in the ghost. It’s qll very interesting.

  3. So aptly put: your “click-click-mantra trick”: ” I am no-self’. Thank you for that. Looking forward to seeing you on Cortes (I hope) in the summer. I am volunteering again.

  4. The first thing I thought of as I read this post is: If more people were intimate and in the present moment with customers, shop owners, neighbors and everything, it would make the city we live in smaller. My town would be smaller, my county would be one big city, et. Weird thought. Im practicing being intimate with everything I come in contact with. The food is me. The dishes are me so I wash and dry them carefully. (Yes, I dry them because I being wet in cold weather is uncomfortable.) I obviously couldn’t tell anyone else about this because they’d lock me up.

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