Odds and Ends

Sin, Zen and the Art of Emotional Skills

Practice and Balance
Practice and Balance

When I was a child, I went to a fairly fundamentalist church. We had this Christian tract that showed man on one side and God on the other, with “clouds of sin” in between, obscuring man’s view of God. Repentance and faith in Jesus would “clear the air.” There was another one, with which you are probably familiar if you’ve ever been exposed to these things, where man is on one side and God is on the other and there is a big gulf of sin in between. The cross ends up being the bridge that allows man over the gulf.


Now that I am a grownup I lean more toward skillfulness than faith. However, the idea of “clouds” obscuring a “true view” of reality still appeals to me. These clouds are not sin now, they are ineffective cognitions, whether cognitive distortions or negative emotions. I see the interaction between two people as a dance or a piece of music in which each plays a part. Training, practice and conditioning all come into play when one is preparing to dance. If a dancer over-thinks, she is sure to fall on her rear or step on her partner’s toes. If one’s mind is engaged in cognitive distortions or negative emotions, one can’t dance properly.

Years ago, I read “Zen and the Art of Archery.” In the book, the author has to develop a certain mind-set to hit the target. Much of this mind-set involves getting out of one’s own mental way and practicing the skill until it becomes second-nature. Whether it is archery or dance or interpersonal relationships, I find that much of the time, most people get in their own way and end up a tangle of resentments, anger and emotional pain. There are too many automatic thoughts and learned emotional responses that cloud a person’s ability to perform effectively in a relationship.

My suggestion to counteract this is for people to:

  1. Clear the mind of cognitive distortions and negative emotions
  2. Don’t assume another person’s motivation
  3. Practice effective skills to the point of complete mastery
  4. Relax, take a breath, slow down

You can purchase “Zen and the Art of Archery” here:

Zen in the Art of Archery

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