How do we dance? When I got married, maybe before I got married, I took dance lessons at Fred Astaire studio (Fred wasn’t there) to learn the steps of ballroom dancing, and I felt confident once I had a plan, steps to follow, a path if you will. But without the steps, I was terrified, awkward, embarrassed, and exposed.
I got married in 1960, so I was coming out of the 50s where life was planned. Only the Beatniks were breaking out with no steps and dancing alone. (metaphor).
In a nutshell, my whole life has been learning of how to dance without programmed steps, a path and a plan, and as a couple. Could I dance alone? Was I Zorba or Fred with Ginger?
So I got married. As Zorba said, the whole catastrophe. I would dance as a couple and follow the steps I learned in the ballroom dance studio. Life would be a ball.
Dancing alone on the ballroom floor means you have nobody. You are exposed. All eyes are upon you. “What’s the matter? You couldn’t get a date?” Dancing alone divides your mind Eye into two eyes: one eye is you dancing, the other eye is the Other looking at you and measuring your performance. How dare you exist the malevolent eye says. What gives you the right to break from the plan, from the conventional steps? Who do you think you are, Jesus Christ? And so the Other Eye goes. So I felt quite incapable of dancing alone. The exposure was just too great. I would seek safety and security dancing as a couple.
Having been married now, dancing as a couple, for 60 years now (would you believe that?) I’m still learning how to dance alone, while still dancing as a We. it is not easy to break out from the security of a pattern, from a dance step, while you are in the pattern.
That is the thing here. It is easy, and our only recourse, when we feel trapped in a pattern, unable to dance spontaneously, that we just exchange partners. But how can you dance alone while dancing with a partner? How can you be spontaneous—and that is what dancing alone means—while following a dance step? How can you be Zorba and Fred and Ginger at the same time?
Well, there is no dance step or path to the answer here. This is the pathless path.
Discovering how to be spontaneous in a pattern, how to be empty in form is Zen. Zen is not a pattern or path, but the illumination of seeing into the pattern, through the pattern, into its emptiness. Look at a whirlpool. It is a pattern of water, but it is empty. You cannot see a whirlpool by itself. The whirl is water, the water is the whirl. Form is emptiness; as pattern all things are empty, including you, yet you are the pattern. you cannot figure this out.
We are always trying to get free from a pattern when it becomes a problem; a problem pattern. We are taught to exchange a problem pattern for a new pattern, a new way of thinking, perhaps. But thinking comes as a pattern. Thinking is a pattern. But we are also taught that the Thinker stands alone. Here is the problem. The Thinker is the thought it thinks, so the Thinker is a pattern, an unconscious pattern to be sure because the Thinkiner believes it is not its thought. Like Yahweh, the Thinker believes it is outside of the patterns of thought, or creation. Our world is created by thought and its unconscious patterns.
The goal of life is to be conscious of the patterns. That is Zen. The patterns are made transparent. What’s left? The Seer is left, the face before your parents (thought patterns) were born.
When a loved one dies, what happens? There is a hole in the pattern that was our loved one. The relationship is when our pattern is grafted into another pattern and as a relationship, a new pattern is created. Deth is a hole in the pattern. The form that moved in the pattern is gone so there is nothing upon which to fix the pattern, no twig upon which to hand the web that was our other.
When we restrain from creating another pattern, a pattern of blame and Why Me? Grace can flow through that wound. For in that death, for a moment we are free from our own pattern. A familiar pattern held in place by our loved one also holds us in a pattern. Death is the end of patterns, for a moment. But new pattern comes rushing in to fill the emptiness, and once again we suffer the contractions of being looped in a pattern.
Grace is what we feel when we are free from being locked unconsciously in a pattern. Grace is compassion, the joy of liberation from the pattern and at the same time the sorrow of being held in a pattern. Christ is the joyous participation in the patterns of life, in the cross. Christ chooses the pattern joyfully.