Spiritual practice is a yearning for many of us. One can certainly feel the desire to renounce the world and live a contemplative life in a secluded monastery. But Zen priest and milkman Jonathon Flaum advises that spiritual growth can be found in the everyday. Echoing the teachings of the Buddhist philosopher Dogen, Jonathon warns us that the seeds of awakening can be cultivated by taking care of what’s in front of us, no matter how worldly they may be: from mopping the floors, delivering and organizing bottles of milk, or cleaning a rug full of fur to relating with our life partners, children, and friends.
In this episode, Jonathon and I discuss the insights he has culminated in his practice as a Zen monk and milkman. We discuss what working as a milkman taught Jonathon about taking care of things - and of people. We explore how the practice of Zen can be found in something as mundane as housework and ponder how establishing a relationship with chores helps us relate with people. We also elaborate on the wisdom that could be found in committed relationships like marriage and how - if we remain open - they can give us an opportunity for spiritual awakening.
“The thing about zen practice is we start with relating with very small things, like sweeping the floor. It’s about establishing a relationship with the environment and treating them like they matter.” - Jonathon Flaum
This week on Relationships! Let’s Talk About It:
- Bringing the perspective of Zen in the art of relating
- Revering the things around us and how Zen teaches us to relate with small, everyday things
- The wonders of a silent Zen retreat
- Why Zen isn’t about perfectionism and how perfectionism can be aggressive
- Bringing the Zen practice to delivering milk and in daily life
- How putting the time and effort to take care of things creates a connection with people
- The subtlety of human relationships and the importance of paying attention to the smallest of things
- The old man, his art, and the value of taking care of what’s in front of you
- Cultivating a relationship with chores, the house, and honoring the humans in it
- The difference between cleaning up before and after everyone
- Opening the hand and relating with emotions
- Misconceptions about the Buddhist practice of non-attachment
- Steadying as you go in marriage and the importance of allowing ourselves to get surprised
- Marriage as the spiritual practice and how to see the magic in our partners
- Treating everything equally and Dogen’s instructions to a cook
- Opening the Hand of Thought: Foundations of Zen Buddhist Practice by Kosho Uchiyama Roshi
Connect with Jonathon Flaum:
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Theme music “These Streets” provided by Adi the Monk
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