Guest Post by Zalman Schachter-Shalomi from his book, From Age-ing to Sage-ing: A Revolutionary Approach to Growing Older
This month’s guest post is an excerpt from the book From Age-ing to Sage-ing: A Revolutionary Approach to Growing Older by the late Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. Since we are in the holiday season and since we are living in the Age of Covid and in need of ways of being together, we thought you might appreciate this slightly edited excerpt taken from the rabbi’s inspiring book. Enjoy.
When we think of meditation, we picture ourselves sitting in a conventional meditative pose, with eyes closed, back straight, and attention focused inward. But there is a more interactive form of inner work that we practice in our workshops that we refer to as “socialized meditation” also known as “talking meditation.” It involves sitting with a trusted partner in spiritual intimacy, a state of openness and trust that inducts both of us into meditative states of awareness.
Normally, when we are busy “looking out for number one,” we relate to people in what philosopher Martin Buber calls an “I/It” relationship. We treat others as objects to be manipulated, controlled, or exploited for personal gain. When we overcome this dualistic way of perceiving, we can enter into what Buber called an “I/Thou” relationship. Psychologist Abraham Maslow calls this a state of “being cognition” in which we cherish the other in his or her uniqueness without any utilitarian considerations.
When we practice this form of meditation, we create the conditions for an “I/Thou” relationship to emerge. In this sacred form of shared discovery, we speak to our partner from the heart in an emotionally safe environment that is free from the often critical, judgmental nature of normal communication. We are a caring partner who acts as a mirror, a reflector of consciousness. Through our nonjudging presence and genuine interest, we each feel safe enough to drop our habitual defenses and to explore our thoughts and feelings without fear of shame or censure. In this partnership, sometimes we are the receiver, listening in silence as our partner speaks from the heart. At other times, we become the sender while our partner listens attentively.
In this process, we share the unvarnished truth of our fears and difficulties, our aspirations and successes, our most tender feelings and radiant moments of spiritual exaltation. We don’t have to censor our thoughts and feelings as part of the normal public relations campaign we run to convince ourselves and others that we are lovable and worthwhile human beings. We can confront blind spots in our personalities, welcome back emotions and perceptions we deem to be unacceptable to others, and unearth and heal painful memories that may have dogged us for decades.
At the same time, we enter the mystery and grace of the present moment. In this form of sacred homecoming, insights come tumbling into our minds and out of our mouths with a childlike openness that delights and surprises us. Our partner appears to us in such precious humanness, and radiant splendor. And as we see ourselves reflected back in their eyes, we encounter ourselves with gentleness and love.
We have been practicing this form of meditation for many years on a nearly daily basis and have found it to be profoundly nourishing to us as individuals and to our relationship. We frequently hear from students and clients requesting tools that can enhance their relationships. This form of meditation is always at the top of our list of suggested practices. You don’t need to be in a committed partnership in order to reap the benefits of what Rabbi Zalman refers to as “Socialized Meditation “. We and many others have found that this practice will deepen and enrich any relationship that you have with a partner, trusted friend, or relative.. Why not give this present to someone you love. It’s the gift that keeps on giving..
Charlie and Linda