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Come Rain or Come Shine

Meditation and yoga allow you to weather the sudden storms in your relationships.

By Mark Epstein, M.D.

Chuck had difficulty allowing the fight to disappear by itself. He kept wanting that apology. Several nights after their fight when going to sleep, Chuck had turned his back to Rachel but was surprised as she nestled against him. Almost against his will, he moved into her softness and warmth. She felt good to him, and he momentarily appreciated her gesture. Some of his anger melted. "As in yoga, so in the emotional life," I said. The movement between forms is as important as the asanas themselves. If you are fixating on what an asana should look like, you are not really doing the asana. Awareness is more important than the external form, and awareness may pass through several states: anger, frustration, or bliss. Yoga is accepting all the states without holding on and without pushing away.

I told Chuck a story from Jack Kornfield's new book, After the Ecstasy, the Laundry (Bantam Books) about Zen master Suzuki Roshi of the San Francisco Zen Center. Students were always asking him how to deal with difficult emotions like anger, even though they already knew what he would say. "You tell us to just sit when we sit and eat when we eat, but can a Zen master just be angry in the same way?" someone once asked him. "Like a thunderstorm when it passes?" Suzuki Roshi responded. "Ahh, I wish I could do that."

Mark Epstein, M.D., is a psychiatrist in New York and author of Going on Being (Broadway Books, 2001). He's been a student of Buddhist meditation for 25 years.

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