More on Zen and relationships
Lessening self- centeredness – both the idea of an unchanging self at the center of things and the habits and behavior that constellate around such a self – is the essential task of every spiritual practice, including Zen. This is why a marriage or any sustained, intimate, committed relationship has the potential to function as a spiritual practice place. Marriage becomes a kind of monastery when we treat it as a place to recognize and work on our defenses, to try to put our selfish desires aside in favor of another person’s needs, and to identify and work on our delusions and mistakes.
One reason marriage offers enormous potential for practice is because it pulls many of our most precious fantasies and desires to the surface. In an intimate, committed relationship, this material is exposed. At the same time, eventually, our mistakes and limitations are impossible to conceal. The initial glow of falling in love loses some of its luster and the mood lighting yields to the less flattering light of day. Our partners see us and we see ourselves through their eyes. We find out what we’re made of. We live in a hall of mirrors, and not all of them are flattering. We recognize the challenge our habits, cravings, and delusions represent to our partner. We see the pain our self-centeredness and our inconsideration cause our partner. In a nutshell, we see the extent to which we succeed or fail to bring our deepest ethical and spiritual intentions and our awakened mind to life, day in and day out.