> jumping into life.

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Last night, in the lamplit dining room, my favorite Zen teacher gave us an orientation to the practice period: this is when we'll wake up (5:00), this is where we'll go (the zendo), these are the events you're required to attend (morning zazen and service) and these are suggested (noon service, evening zazen, morning workshops, evening classes), et cetera. Paul is my favorite teacher in part because I don't know many teachers, but also because he sees straight into me and he does it with kindness. He gave a Dharma talk at Tassajara this summer that began with a poem: It is not a crime to be Romeo or Juliet. It is not a crime even to die for love. I cried until I woke up the next morning, and I signed myself up for dokusan that day.

Dokusan, or pracitice discussion, is a tradition in which a student sits down formally with a teacher to discuss whatever issues are coming up in practice at the time. My issues all summer revolved mostly around what my life has revolved mostly around for the past decade or so: the need to be Romeo or Juliet, all the time. The compulsion to be in love, to be giving everything to love, all the time. Which compulsion is romantic and benign-seeming enough - even positive-seeming - to allow me to ignore the neurotic, fear-driven, manipulative side of it. The compulsion to make someone else be in love with me, all the time. The compulsion then to test that love - how far back can I draw and still have him follow? How hard can I push before he gives way?

An ugly part of the reason I left him back in January is that he sees straight through me: Stop running, he says. Stop pushing. Cut it out. The ego doesn't like that; the ego doesn't like much, and these days I don't like my ego, either. But my habit-energy is strong, and I am not as good at pinning myself down. So I find myself up against a wall (pinned and wriggling on the wall), with the edge of a long-evaded decision against the soft skin of my insecurity, my ambiguity, and my fear. I've been trying to hold on to him without letting it be so obvious that he could call me on it, but he called me on it. My defenses caved in one by one, but they were up again by this morning so that when he called and said, cut it out for real and mean it, I swerved out of the way.

It is not a crime to be Romeo or Juliet. I wish I could find the rest of the poem. I sat down with Paul and told him I didn't know what I wanted to talk about, but I knew I needed to talk to him. He asked me about my practice; I told him I couldn't tell when love was good and when it became destructive.

But I do know. It is destructive when I clutch it, when I try to wrap myself in it so that it will protect me and also so that I will be able to slip out of it if I so desire. I do not think I made a mistake in leaving him; I think that I had wound us both in my neuroses and we needed out. I needed out. If I come back it will be with my eyes open, my heart in my teeth. If I come back I will be mudsoaked and bonescared with my bloodstained teeth, grinning.