(Practical Zen Steps To Falling In Love)
Brenda Shoshanna, Ph.D.

"We never ask the meaning of life
When we are in love."
Bhagwan Osho

We are meant to live a life of love. When we're not in love, something's the matter. However, no matter how successful some are in other aspects of their lives, they don't feel it's possible to have the same success in love. They tell themselves to "be realistic." Being realistic about relationships" is considered natural as we "grow up" and give up the fantasies, foolishness and dreams of childhood. But nothing could be further from natural. Being in love is the most mature and realistic thing you can do. It energizes your life, fills you with positivity, creates generosity and makes every moment beautiful. The body heals the heart is happy. The real question is, why aren't we in love all the time? How can we learn to fall in love with all of life? The world of Zen is filled with guidance and practice that permits us to open our hearts, clear our minds, become present, be who we are and be able to discover the wonderful secret of falling in love with all of life. As a great Zen Master says,

"When there are no unnecessary thoughts in your mind Everyday is a good day."

Here are some directions from the world of Zen. The following exercises,

(based upon the Zen And The Art Of Falling In Love, ) will show us how to turn our lives upside down, clear away weeds in our gardens and be ready to feel love wherever we are. As Zen practice reminds us - "the entry point is right where you are."

Most of the time we are searching and searching for the right person. Zen suggests that we stop running around seeking and see what is right in front of our eyes. Look at a person who is close to you right now - anyone it happens to be. Notice the ways in which you push him away. Stop doing that. Allow the two of you to be together in whatever way you are. Let all of it be fine just as it is.

Do the same thing tomorrow with someone else. We dismiss so many people who are in our worlds, while waiting for the "right one" to appear. The more we can be "right" with everyone, the more we can open up to what is being offered now, the fuller and more joyous our lives will be.

So many complain that they are not loved. The reason for this can be quite simple. They are so busy playing roles and games that the partner never gets to know who they really are. Notice what roles (or games) you play in relationships, and what roles you demand of others as well. See if you are in love with the person, or with the role he is playing right now. Turn this around for a little while. Try playing different roles. Try being with someone who plays roles you are not accustomed to.

Now, become aware of the difference between who you are and the roles you play. Let the roles go and simply be who you are. Who we are is always loveable and beautiful. It's the roles that get in the way.

One great obstacle in living a life of love is the tendency to hold on. We grasp and cling to each, preventing the freedom of love from arising on its own. When someone comes into your life (or day) practice letting him come. Welcome the person - whoever he is. Enjoy what it is he brings. When it is time for a person to go away, practice letting him go. Do not turn the person's leaving into an experience of rejection, loss or abandonment. Realize that his leaving has nothing to do with you. It is simply time for him to go. Do this with yourself as well. Let yourself come and go freely in life, not tying yourself in unnecessary chains. The more we free others and ourselves, the more easily we fall in love.

Many feel that love is not possible unless all their demands are met. They can be quite amazed to discover that these demands don't lead to happiness. They just may be obstacles to falling in love. Take a look at what you feel is absolutely necessary in relationships. Now look at it again. Realize this is baggage you are carrying that may be keeping all kinds of people and possibilities away. Not only that - this baggage can be making you fearful and rigid, not open to what is available for you.

Let one of these demands subside. At first let it go for just one day and see how it feels to be without it. (Remember you can always take it back again). Now try another day. As we do this many times, we may find that that which we thought was crucial for our lives was really getting in the way. The more we do this the more light and happy we will feel. Not only that, but all kinds of new people, possibilities and situations we never noticed will start coming onto our path. We have made room for them by putting our baggage down.

Giving and receiving are the essence of relationships. When we are in love this is never a problem. We naturally give and are happy with whatever is offered in return. To open up to falling in love, it is important to adopt this state of mind - start giving naturally.

What gifts do you give others in relationships? Take a few moments and also see what you hope to receive in return. Now find something new you can give to somebody. Give it. Do this everyday. Each day give something else. It does not have to be fancy or expensive, just something that will add to his or her day. Then do this with all kinds of different people. Do it quietly without great fanfare and without expecting something in return.

Then do this with yourself as well. Each day take a moment to find out what kind of gift you would like today. (Can be simple - a walk in the park, new lipstick, time with someone you care for.) Now give this to yourself each day. Although this exercise is simple, it is extremely powerful. Doing this daily in your relationship can turn everything around. When you give, remember not to look for anything in return (not even a smile or thank you). Just give to give, no expectations, no demands. By living with this open, generous mind, all kinds of other gifts come to you naturally.

Many say they are lonely, even with a partner at their side. This is simply because they have not yet made friends with themselves. Once they make friends with themselves and are able to be who they are, it is impossible to be lonely anymore. Make friends with yourself. Spend time noticing who you are. Accept all parts of yourself. Stop judging and rejecting what is going on inside. Be still and look within.

Pay attention to your breath and just notice what is going on. Let it be. Accept it, and return to the breathing. Understand that breath by breath, underneath the clamor, you are perfect just as you are. Can you choose to be this natural self in relationships? Can you choose to have relationships with those who want and appreciate just what you are?

"When you become you
Zen becomes Zen
When you become you,
The whole world falls in love."
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Author's Bio: 

Dr. Brenda Shoshanna, psychologist,speaker and long time Zen practitioner is the author of ZEN AND THE ART OF FALLING IN LOVE, (Simon and Schuster), ZEN MIRACLES, (FINDING PEACE IN AN INSANE WORLD), and other books. The relationship expert on i.village. com, she has a therapy office in Manhattan, offers workshops on Zen and Relationships, and runs The Gateless Zendo, for those of all religious persuasions and those of no persuasions. www.Brendashoshanna.com. She can also be reached at Topspeaker@Yahoo.com