Jack Kornfield: I’ve found myself attracted to spiritual practice from very early, going off to be a monk, because I needed it desperately for one reason or another, for my own pain and suffering. Some connection with the life of renunciation and detachment. I loved it. Then when I came back from the first period of five years in Asia, of practice and study, once I became involved back in the world, in graduate school and relationships and so forth, I discovered that I could love a lot of people in my meditation, but it was a whole lot harder to love the person I was living with.
Or if I was in a somewhat protected environment of the monastery, where our relationships were governed formally by the vows and so forth, that helped me, and there was a great sense of emptiness. It was very, very still. So I found, just for my own life, I found myself working my way down the chakras. Some people kind of try to work themselves up, but for me it was from my mind first, then down.
I realized that I was emotionally backwards, infantile in some ways, and that to have a close loving relationship with another person was terrifying. I was incredibly needy, I was terribly mean, and fears of abandonment and all these things were so prevalent.
I did ten years of work with both therapy, and medications like forgiveness and loving kindness, and compassion, just to learn to trust and to love. Heart work, really.
Then gradually I found that I also didn’t live in my body so much. I mean, I used it, I could sit all night in the monastery and so forth, but it was something I used rather than really lived in. How I walked and ate and live on the earth is as important as the other pieces of meditation.
That’s been my journey, and for me I’ve needed to take that kind of risk. If I didn’t take the risk of my marriage, and my child, and the kind of love relationships and communal relationships I have, I would have very easily been caught in an emptiness that had fear and aversion in it. So somehow my inner task has been to enter that and to remember it.
I believe for myself, somehow, that the universal understandings that I have in meditation – the type of freedom the Buddha speaks of – is only fulfilled when I can enter the realm of form and see it as empty and be with it as the uniform.
Ram Dass: Yeah, I understand what you’re saying, and I think that the spiritual community has all too long tried to up-level psycho-dynamics. I agree with you. There are such incredibly neurotic people in the spiritual community, and their neurosis are fueling their spiritual work. Working only from the mind.
I have noticed in my own life the fear which I share with you, with your past, the fear of passionate involvement in my life, because of the intensity with which I was entrapped in my first 35 years or so. I dabble, I dip back into it a little passion and a lot of emptiness, and then slowly watch how I engage more deeply and still have the space.
– San Francisco, CA, 1994