Interpersonal Hunger

All this fall, I have felt a very deep shock after studying Greg Kramer’s “3 hungers in relationships”:

  1. The craving for interpersonal pleasure and sensual pleasures
  2. The craving for being, which is the desire to be seen and acknowledged
  3. The craving for non-being, which wants to escape the difficulties of relationships, the fear of intimacy and the fear of exposure.

— From “Insight Dialogue,” chapter 5, The Second Noble Truth, Interpersonal Hunger

We can see in these newly interpreted insights by Mr. Kramer, how we construct our sense of a separate self and how deeply that penetrates beneath our stories no matter what the content of our stories are.

I have felt grabbed in my hara, shook up and disturbed. I can see chunks of my behavior flying off me, as I’m jostled by the movement of the dharma wheel. I feel like a tree, shaken at its trunk and its leaves falling off. Painfully, I also see how my mind holds on to relational neurosis and then holds on to it again. Hopefully, the pain I feel in this new level of seeing will start to fade away as I gradually learn new ways of entering presence, endowed with more freedom from these habitual habits of relating and reacting. Awareness is healing, so the Buddha says.

I think the most jarring awareness is boomeranging back and forth between wanting to be seen, praised, and acknowledged; and wanting to escape or run away. This fall’s study has exposed the deep contrast of wanting praise, with the underlying fear of exposure. Adding to this is seeing how much we all want to avoid conflict, almost at all costs. Oh how insidious is “Manas,” the part of our consciousness that solidifies a permanent self and then tries to protect it.

This teaching has dropped me down underneath the stories of my social interactions. It exposes for me a deeper structure of the construction of a self that permeates all my relationships. It inspires me to begin anew; to try to understand this teaching. It moves me away from my past understanding into new territories of practice.

Which brings me around to presence. Presence is the ability to stay in the moment, exactly as it is. This requires quite a capacity to stay with my bodily sensations and to trust that the process of staying with the now, will bloom into what to do in the next now. Can I radically accept what is arising in my body/mind and let it be.

Pause . Accept . Open. This requires a great “compassionate presence.”

Mindfulness is inherently receptive. It is accepting. It sees clearly what is arising without identifying or grasping on to the experience (non-identification with emotions). Awareness sees the movement or flow of life (life’s impermanence). Even this emotion that I have great aversion to, is actually changing right now. If I can stay with it, it will develop into something else. Can I trust this flow without putting my mind to work, finding the “fix.” This is “Trust Emergence.”

It returns me to now. Presence is now. Relationships, and life of course, are lived in the now. Even though we know that the past inherently produces the present and our responses to the present will produce the future, our practice is actually staying in the current stream of experience exactly as it is. We don’t have to leap into “how to fix this” or try to avoid this experience through turning away. We can open and listen deeply to the current experience. This is formal zazen and zazen in life. How hard that is to do! Coming from the current aliveness of experience, we can speak our inner truth without fear. We can trust in the process of life unfolding and our particular life responding. Our life experience is not actually under our “deluded isolated self’s” control. We are made up of a huge system of inter-relatedness. Staying in our current experience, whether we like it or not, we can begin to trust that “total dynamic working” will do all the rest.