By Monastic Brother Phap Man
As a monk, the most important thing I’ve learned about relationships is to not be afraid to be wounded by love. This is the hardest thing. It’s to keep loving when you’ve been hurt; to keep yourself open and approach your feelings with openness and kindness no matter what has taken place in the past. We can use loving kindness as a gift and if there’s any pain, that’s also a gift. We can use that to open ourselves again with compassion, so we can love ourselves more fully. We never know what it is that we are going to learn in a relationship.
But if we’re afraid, we won’t enter. Each time is so precious. Abandon everything for the sake of love, and it’s a very difficult thing to say. I’m not encouraging people to be reckless; that’s not wise. But there’s a sense that if you know and feel true love is calling you, don’t be afraid to enter. Enter with all of your heart, respect, kindness, joy, openness, wonder, inclusiveness, wisdom, and reverence. In the process we don’t know what will happen. But we are guaranteed to learn and grow to open many doors of the heart and even more possibilities.
I think we have to approach the practice like true love. It’s not like, “Oh, I will practice 10 or 45 minutes today so everything’s going to be fine.” It’s about being in the moment with the people, the environment, and ourselves. It’s also allowing that to unfold, whether it’s joyful and very full, or painful, in the space of practice and mindfulness. We breathe in order to allow things to be, recognize and be present, to come in deep contact, and learn.
I think it’s also my experience: the more you can love yourself, the more you can love other people. Being in relationships with others, you learn about yourself, which allow for deeper and more wholesome connection with others. That’s why I share the most important thing is to allow. Don’t let fear block your path.
My biggest dream for the practice and the community is to really allow the teaching and the practice to develop in a free, unconstrained way so that it can become more beautiful and enriching, more appropriate to our time and our environment, our societies, our peoples. I see what is happening in the world, which is the connection that’s taking place between cultures. It’s a time of sharing and coming together. It’s also a very inspiring time because we’re also learning about the mind and brain through science. So we have the chance to really fine tune the practice to what works and what we have understood through science and through the traditions. We’re also seeing religious groups connecting to each other and supporting each other. We’re seeing the universal nature of spiritual and religious practice and truth.
At the same time, we’re seeing increasing conflict. The world is shrinking and resources are becoming scarcer. Extremes of wealth and poverty increase, while we continue to take much more than we need and live out of harmony with ourselves and the environment. We’re in a time when practice is very precious for everyone on Earth. My only wish is for everyone to have the opportunity to be in contact with practices that are beneficial for them, that open the path of transformation and healing. I want this to be accessible and to keep opening it, exploring, and enriching it together. My experience tells me the only way that practice works is when it takes place in a living community with a foundation of love — this takes us back to love!
That’s the point of why we should do anything. The kind of connection and understanding we yearn for is available in our daily lives with the people around us. That’s a great exploration for us, and there are conditions that make it possible. However, it’s difficult to go on a path of love and understanding if you don’t have enough food to eat, or if you are living on or near a battlefield. We have to look into all these conditions and give young people the opportunity to do things together; the young people who would love to heal some of those conditions for our planet and ourselves. We can live this common human dream of fulfilling our potential, which has a lot to do with our capacity to love, to take care, and to be good stewards of ourselves and all life.
There was a time when Thay spoke about a conversations he had with the Earth and his feeling of connection. He was saying to the Earth, “You can rely on me.” This really resonates with me now. One big motivation for my practice is to become that reliable, stable person the Earth can rely on, and to open the door for others to become stewards. To feel this oneness with the Earth. To fall in love with the Earth. Not in an abstract sense, like “Oh, I love the earth,” but in a real intimate connection and deeply feeling sense of being in love with Mother Earth, the wind, the sky, soil, rain, plants and animals, with Mother Earth in our teachers and our friends.
To someone who’s never heard of Wake Up before, Wake Up is doing all the things you love, but in a way that makes them 10 times deeper and more meaningful because you know how precious it is. It’s not about doing anything different in the Wake Up community (though we can do things differently) but to do what we really want to do and do it in such a way that we get the benefit; we are really present. Maybe we see new things that we didn’t see before and we also see when we look together that there are so many possibilities. I would emphasize that the community is like a dynamo which makes things possible that we never imagined, and that allows us do the things we really love together and to enrich them, even the simplest things that we do.
Click here if you’d like to read Brother Phap Man’s reflection about his journey to discovering true love.