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Buddhadharma : Summer 2015
or have risky, deep, empathetic connections in their lives. But as the Buddha said over and over again, if we are to find any peace, we need to have wise, deep, spiritual con- nections with other people in our lives. The cushion creates a safe container, but even- tually we need to find another person and disclose not just the pretty feelings but the dark feelings of loneliness, despair, sadness, fear. I need to talk to you and bring that to you. You need to talk to me and bring that to me. Koshin: The reason we founded the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care was this huge gap that we saw in practice, in our own practice—the need, yes, to meditate, to study with a teacher, to be in a commu- nity, but we also needed to learn how to be in a relationship. What do we do in that moment when we feel another person withdrawing or angry or really having a wonderful time, you know? And what do we do if we’re uncomfortable with that feeling that we’re being empathically attuned to —ambition, jealousy, envy? Also joy. A lot of people have difficulty actually feeling joy. Josh: And grief. For me, it’s an important to examine how in the early Buddhist sut- tas, the Buddha sort of teaches that people who were grieving and demonstrating deep sorrow were making some kind of self-indulgent mistake or being unskillful. In fact, in the Sala Sutta, the Buddha says it’s not by weeping and grief that you gain peace; to fall under the sway of grief, he says, is not skillful. To me, as Buddhism integrates itself into the West and into our Josh: What’s your experience with spiritual bypass? Koshin: When I began doing clinical work, I found myself walking down hallways think- ing that I was this spiritual, helpful person, very compassionate. People really wanted me to be with their anger and their jealousy and their rage, and I realized that in some ways, I ’d used my practice to avoid those parts of myself. I wasn’t really living fully. How about you? Josh: I started practice when my dad became a Buddhist, and I’d been practicing for years— well, decades—when 9-11 happened, and shortly thereafter, I started to have a clinical depressive episode. I’m quite good at developing concentrated states, and I can use mindfulness to open to experiences, but there was still this under- lying agenda, this hope that if I meditate, I won’t have to feel any of this. I thought, these feelings are not supposed to be here. That not only undermined the ability of these feelings to arise and pass, but it actu- ally added the secondary story of, I’m not doing my practice well enough because I’m feeling sadness, I ’m feeling grief, I ’m feeling confusion. I had to completely start over in terms of realizing that practice is about welcoming, holding, opening to and nur- turing these feelings. A lot of people who come to New York Dharmapunx have had difficult relational experiences—painful childhoods or break- ups—and there’s this hope that somehow Buddhism will be the way that they can live without having to become vulnerable Josh Korda and Koshin paley ellison explore the problem of spiritual bypassing. dialogues 24 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly summer 2 0 1 5 PHOTOS(TOP)merzmohlberg(BOTTOM)bobbysheehan kosHiN pAley ellisoN is cofounder of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care josH kordA is the dharma teacher for Dharmapunx New York and Brooklyn