12 Dec
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Relational Energies in the Body

I keep listening over and over to a fascinating little talk (only 24 minutes long), called Relational Dhamma, given by Ajahn Sucitto, in which he says:

“Take something like Sangha — Community. Why is that a gem? Why is kalyana mitta [spiritual friendship] the ‘whole of the holy life’? Why is that considered so basic, so fundamental — to have people, and to be in a situation, where you have a relationship that is trusting, accepting, truthful. That’s not trying to make something out of you. Not judging you, but able to mirror…

“The fundamental model is sangha. But even more specifically: the teacher with the disciple. It’s a relationship that’s very close. The word for ‘disciple’ in the Pali text is ‘one who shares living space with you’. That’s close. ‘The one who shares the same dwelling as you’ — they get up before you; they prepare water for you; you talk to them; you do things together; you interact. That’s the fundamental place in which learning can occur.

“Because the learning of the heart is never through a book. What we learn most profoundly is from other people.

“And often what you learn from other people are very confused messages. Messages about what we should be. Message about the models of what we’re supposed to be, but not the message of: I am with you. Or: How are you?

“So I’m trying to emulate this in some sense. Certainly in monasteries there’s a lot of interaction. But I cannot say [laughs] that monasteries are by any means ideal relational experiences — but the nature of the disfunction does becomes more apparent… [more laughter] It becomes very obvious: the projections and the withdrawal from contact and the comparisons and all that kind of stuff that goes on.

“I am interested in a model whereby we begin to learn from each other, not from our personalities talking or adjusting each other, but from something far more basically human than our personalities, much less messed up and socialized than our personalities. (Personalities are really a series of structures that arise through contact in the social domain. That’s how we get a personality.)

“But prior to that, we have a simple thing: sentiency. I sense: a human being…feels pain…likes pleasure…there’s uncertainty…wants to be loved, is able to experience being loved…objecting to it. That would be helpful. What the personality is, that’s secondary.

“Interestingly enough, what I’ve been practicing with, is using this very body as a sense organ. Just using the somatic intelligence of the body. Which immediately tells me, when I’m drawn in with another human being, I feel a certain: Hey, what’s happening? I want to know. I want to know if that’s OK. And if it is OK, I feel a sense of happiness.

“And in that sense of forming a somatic bond with another person, one can begin to align one’s relational energies to something that’s far more fundamental — and far healthier — than the personality relationships.

“Some of us have been doing this together for about twelve years — this Somatic Presence Relationship Work. Often very confusing. Because it’s not always that clear…you can’t always get the words in your head as to what’s happening. But when I’ve tried to present this model, whatever is said (which is often minimal), what occurs at the end of it is that everybody feels: accepted, somehow belonging. The words they come up with are: belonging, accepted, trusted, relaxed, at ease.

“It’s because for one time they didn’t have to come up with something smart, polite, clear, interesting, wonderful, profound, etc. They’re just saying how it is. And the other person can add: how is that. Just encouraging them to track the relational energies as they occur in the body, prior to the personality…

“So when I say I’ve been interested in relational practices, this may sound kind of strange in a way. Because, you know, I am a kind of ‘recluse’. But I don’t see this as forming — whatever this word ‘relational’ can mean — sometimes people think almost immediately: ‘sex.’ That’s how bad it’s got. That whenever you’re having a relationship with someone, it’s sexual. That’s how bad it’s got in our society. The idea that any kind of quality of love can only occur if there’s physical contact and so forth. That it’s impossible outside of it. Unless it’s with a dog. (That’s why people get dogs, of course.)

“But I don’t do physical, sexual relationships. (Which is another topic all together.) I’m much more attuned to how I can learn and how I can sense — respectfully, as a sentient being — other people’s actual presence, as they are, rather than as projections in my mind. Rather than what I judge them to be. Or how I measure them. This is a great step.”


The transcript above begins at about 13 minutes into the talk and is edited. Click here to listen to the full talk.

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