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Buddhadharma : Spring 2015
spring 2 0 1 5 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 37 experience of life that is effortlessly ever present in all living beings, and yet it does not deny the unique- ness or similarities of our embodiment. It simply arises along the path of life, if we allow it. The tenderness that arose in my life brought with it a liberated and full-hearted engagement with life; it was a transformation of pent-up anger, rage, and disappointment. Instead of sinking into pain and separation, I did a very scary thing. I allowed tenderness—a gentle opening, a softness of mind and body—to surface. I followed that opening until the way of tenderness unearthed itself as a liberated path. It is a natural, organic, innate medicine or teaching within the body itself. I used to be afraid of being seen in this softness, afraid of being viewed as “soft.” How could I be tender in the liberated sense and also be strong and safe? How could I meet disrespect or disregard with tenderness? How could I trust it? When I contemplated being tender in this way, I realized that it did not equal quiescence. It did not mean that fiery emotions would disappear. It did not render it acceptable that anyone could hurt or abuse life. Tenderness does not erase the inequities we face in our relative and tangible world. I am not encouraging a spiritual bypass of the palpable feel- ings that we experience. The way of tenderness is an intangible elixir for the clogged arteries in the heart of our world. Complete tenderness is an experience of life that trusts the fluidity of our life energy and its extension into those around us. On the way of tenderness we allow rage and anger to flow in and out again and again instead of holding on to it as proof of being human. We can let go of stockpiling our rage for fear that our suffering might go unrec- ognized or that we’ll appear apathetic or naive. A liberated tenderness is a way of lessening and finally removing the potency of our tragic pasts as sentient beings. It is what will change that which leads us to annihilate the unacceptable differences between us. I remember when I was a child, my father tipped his hat to strangers on the path. I would smile and nod along with him, and the strangers would nod back. What I received in the nod back from the strangers was recognition that we were living beings. It meant that my undeniable difference was nonetheless seen as part of the landscape of life. To be recognized as a living being without so much as a spoken word was to acknowledge a life that cannot be seen in a mirror but rather is seen only in each other. The way of tenderness is acknowledgement— acknowledging and honoring all life and all that is in the world, fully, with heart and body. This acknowledgement is wordless and expressed in a deeply felt nod to every- thing and everyone—an inner bow to life, so to speak. The way of tender- ness is a response from below the surface of what appears to us when we are seeing, hearing, touch- ing, smelling, tasting, or thinking. It is a response beyond the mind but of the body. It rises up quite naturally, without precon- ception, without our knowing the reason for the tears, fierce anger, or laughter that come with it. With the welling up of tenderness, we are like new- born babies simply experiencing the sensations of being alive. It is our own unique experience. The way of tenderness is not a method for how to behave, how to be kind, or how to transform our behavior with each other. By this point, we have grown past formulas, techniques, and strategies that teach us how to honor life. It is time to recognize that we already know something of ourselves. The question is, can we integrate the heavens that our hands reach up toward and the earth our feet are planted in? There is far too much hate in the world, and far too many lives are snuffed out because of it. When we fully know in our hearts who we are as living beings, we can share a deeply felt, visceral acknowledgement of each other. We can submit our interrelationship to the blue flames, unafraid of being burned away. We have bodies so we can engage life. We need our bodies to experience our hearts and minds. Most of us will not transcend them until death. If the body can withstand the arising and ceasing of pain and suffering, there is no need to transcend it. We need to transcend, instead, our belief that spirituality does not include the body. Given the deep relationship between awakening and the body, we must explore the surfaces of this body—its race, sexuality, and gender—in relation to awakening at its heart. PHOTO | simbWala schultz