Becoming Blackbelts in I – Thou Relationships
by George Breed

As a young man, I pondered the concept of sin. What is sin, I concluded, but separation? Separation from God, separation from all. Building a wall. Maintaining the wall. In Martin Buber’s exquisite language, it's living in the world of I – It (rather than I – Thou). 

We make life into a continuous series of I – It. We surround ourselves with Its. We are a shattered kaleidoscope with unmoving or barely moving parts. The world becomes a fearful place. We must be on guard constantly. We do not know what all these Its will do. 

I began to understand this more deeply in my experiences with the martial arts (recounted in my book The Inner Work of the Warrior: A Manual for Embodying Spirit). The lowest forms of martial arts are beef on beef: an It trying to do something to another It. This is living in the world of separation. One It dominates. The other It succumbs. This is all about attitude, the I – It attitude. The higher forms of martial arts, however—and all relationship arts—are in the I – Thou realm.

These arts are more difficult at first (it is easier to destroy than to create), but they become easier with time. Within their structures, we move with the Other, rather than against. We move with the Other's energies and assist “them” in the way “they” wish to go. Individual stances become one dance.

I found this insight very helpful in my experiences as a psychologist. Rather than oppose the person in emotional and spiritual pain with an I – It attitude (I am the professional; you are the amateur; do what I say), I moved with the energies of the other person. The I Thou relationship, once formed, worked. The person in difficulty and I often ended the session laughing. 

This is true with all our relationships: the I – Thou stance / dance is creative and healing. It is a matter of our state of consciousness. When you move out of regarding all around you as an It, the world and you inter-breathe, interflow. No separation. It’s I – Thou all the way!

Where do you get your black belt in I – Thou? Right here, of course. The entire world is your training arena. When is practice time? Now. Always now.

George Breed is the author of several books published by Anamchara Books including The Inner Work of the Warrior: A Manual for Embodying SpiritJesus and Lao Tzu: Adventures with the Tao Te Ching, and The Hidden Words of the Living Jesus: A Commentary on the Gospel of Thomas