The Zen story goes:
In a mountainside village, a teenaged girl got pregnant. She was so terrified to tell her parents the truth, she told them the father was an old monk living nearby. When the child was born, the outraged parents took the baby to him and said, “This baby is yours,” and gave it to him.
Over the next few years he loved and cared for the child as if it were his own. The child flourished under his tender care, and he delighted having the child in his life.
Meanwhile, the child’s mother was overcome with remorse until she could not stand it. She finally admitted to her parents that her boyfriend was the child’s father, not the monk.
Her parents stormed back to the monk’s cottage. Pounding angrily on the door, when he answered they demanded, “Give us back the child. It is not yours.”
The monk responded calmly, “Is that so?” and handed over the toddler.
(Adapted from “The Woman Who Walked to Paradise” by Robert Stevens Fish.)
We could criticize the monk for not speaking up the first time. We could point out how he had no backbone and let people do whatever they wanted to him. We could berate the girl for bringing untold work onto the old monk. We could admonish her for shirking her parenting responsibilities out of cowardice. We could chastise the parents for their anger and judgment of the monk, without hearing his side of the story, then snatching away this child he’d lovingly cared for.
We could, but we won’t, as none of that is the point of the story.
As I see it, the point of the story is to strive to live, as much as possible, in non-attachment. I know, I know, this is one of those much easier to say than do kind of things. The story is over the top in non-attachment. So let’s bring it back to — of course — dating.
When you begin to like, be sweet on, or “kinda be likin’” (as my teenaged nieces would put it) a guy, it’s natural to start to become attached. It’s part of the emotional bonding that takes place in the formation of a committed relationship.
However, this attachment can go awry when you are first exploring each other. You may have emailed, talked on the phone and perhaps gone out on a few dates. You like him and he seems to like you. You begin to let yourself fall for him.
Then, poof, something happens and he’s gone. Or his formerly nice, kind, attentive behavior has become aloof. He doesn’t call as often, nor is he as complimentary. Instead of suggesting dinner out, now all he wants to do is bring pizza to your place with a DVD, knowing it will be easier to seduce you, and less expensive.
You get angry. It’s easy to do. You feel he’s led you on.
What if, instead, you said, “Is that so?” to whatever has happened. You just release him with as much compassion and kindness as you can muster. You remind yourself that you can get angry, but that doesn’t change the situation, it only raises your blood pressure, which of course, doesn’t affect him at all!
So try it. Whoever or whatever you are angry about right now, try just saying, “Is that so?” and move on. How does it feel?
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