Archive for the ‘ Life and Relationships ’ Category

Know Thyself

Knowing others, one is learned;
Knowing thyself, one is enlightened.
Conquering others requires force;
Conquering oneself requires strength.
Knowing contentment, one is rich;
Having perseverance, one is firm;
Abiding in the center, one endures;
Even in dying, one enjoys eternal life.

-Lao Tzu
(As seen on People for Others)

Process

Life is a process,
You have to go through it.

You can avoid it as long as you can,
But it will simmer under the surface
Until it gains enough strength
To tear your world apart.

Don’t avoid it.
Go through it.
Be brave,
Have trust.

One moment
Will not dominate your life
Unless you avoid it.

Repetition of Concepts

It’s very easy to hear something and immediately dismiss it as something already known. If you’ve heard it before, what’s the value in listening again.

I find that sentiment springing up in me now and again when I read books about spirituality and psychology.

It is times like these that I need to step back and think about what part of myself is listening. Why am I reading this? Is it to expand the banks of knowledge in my head? Is it to attempt to find and then accumulate some new way of thinking?

Or is it the heart that should listen? Am I taking the words as inspiration to look deeper within myself?

I may have heard words about outer masks and inner authenticity countless times, but do they prompt me to reflect on the new ways I may be deceiving myself? Or do I dismiss the concept as known?

If I truly want to be authentic, I must take these words into my heart, into my very being, and not just into my head.

Listening

“To communicate with one another, even if we know each other very well, is extremely difficult. I may use words that may have to you a significance different from mine. Understanding comes as we, you and I, meet on the same level at the same time. That happens only when there is real affection between people, between husband and wife, between intimate friends. That is real communion. Instantaneous understanding comes when we meet on the same level at the same time.

“It is very difficult to commune with one another easily, effectively and with definitive action. I am using words which are simple, which are not technical, because I do not think that any technical type of expression is going to help us solve our difficult problems; so I am not going to sue any technical terms, either of psychology or of science. I have not read any books on psychology or any religious books, fortunately. I would like to convey, by the very simple words which we use in our daily life, a deeper significance; but that is very difficult if you do not know how to listen.

“There is an art of listening. To be able really to listen, one should abandon or put aside wall prejudices, pre-formulations and daily activities. When you are in a receptive state of mind, things can be easily understood; you are listening when your real attention is given to something. But unfortunately most of us listen through a screen of resistance. We are screened with prejudices, whether religious or spiritual, psychological or scientific; or with our daily worries, desires and fears. And with these for a screen, we listen. Therefore we listen really to our own noise, to our own sound, not to what is being said. It is extremely difficult to put aside our training, our prejudices, our inclination, our resistance, and reaching beyond the verbal expression, to listen so that we understand instantaneously. That is going to be one of our difficulties.

“If, during this discourse, anything is said which is opposed to your way of thinking and belief, just listen; do not resist. You may be right, and I may be wrong; but by listening and considering together we are going to find out what is the truth. Truth cannot be given to you by somebody. You have to discover it; and to discover, there must be a state of mind in which there is direct perception. There is no direct perception when there is resistance, a safeguard, a protection.”

-J Krishnamurti

Letting Everything In

There is a certain comfort in letting certain things in and excluding others from our view.  The same goes with people.  There’s people who have God, and people who don’t.  People who know what’s up, and people who are idiots.  People who pay attention when they drive, and people who should never be let out on the road.  People who have truth, and people who have no grasp of it whatsoever.

This method of looking at others has it’s comforts, has it’s securities.  It is a means by which we can understand the world by translating it into what is approved and what is not.  It certainly makes life much more simple.  Here’s what’s on my list of approved things, ideas, and people, and I reject what’s not on this list.

We all do this, to a certain extent.  And it makes sense.  We *are* trying to constantly simplify our experience to make it easier to handle.

But it’s interesting what happens when you stop putting people and ideas in categories.  You start looking closer, you start seeing more.  Because you’ve stopped filtering things out.  The priest at the church Ben and I go to was leading us through a meditation, and she said for us to stop filtering, and to let everything in.  Do not exclude any sounds, feelings, thoughts…just let it all flow and observe it.  Then, you start to see deeper.

The same is true for people and ideas, I think.  When you stop trying to declare something as either bad or good and just witness it, you see deeper.  And seeing this way allows you to see the truth hidden in everything, because it frees you from your misconceptions and even your opinions.  It humbles you because you *have* to let go of the things that make you comfortable in order to let everything in, and in doing so, brings you closer to truth.

Compassion and love break down barriers.  They stop us from doing this categorization and from simplifying the world.  Love asks us to look at the whole, to see each person, each idea, each moment as valuable in some way.  There is no in group or out group.  There is only truth, and what it is buried underneath.

And when you see things this way, you approach conversations, people, ideas with an entirely different perspective.  You start to understand the subtle language of the heart, and how it is speaking even through people’s so called intellectual ideas.  You start to see how someone’s pure intuition or pure desires were led astray.  And instead of feeling contempt for their ignorance, you can feel nothing but compassion and love.  You see their soul buried under so much weight, and you long to free them.

You are no longer distracted by the wrongness of what people say.  It seems petty to argue about it, almost tragic.  And it gives you patience and strength.  When you talk with someone it’s more like a jazz improvisation…each of you contributing ideas and playing off one another to build something interesting that may open up both of your understandings.  You don’t feel attached to (or the need to reject) any one concept or dogma because you sense the truth in all of them.  This gives you a freedom, a spontaneity, a creativity that you never had before.

And it is all in ceasing to seek comfort, and treating people and even their ideas and their words with compassion and love.  It’s not always about simplification; often, it’s about inclusion and integration.

Seeds of Truth

In my experience, people hold to their opinions because on a very deep level, they sense truth in them.  It’s an intuitive truth that they feel regardless of logical implications.  And this is why so often logic is not enough to sway a person, because what they have latched onto is not logical, it’s intuitive.

The thing is, they have *rightly* latched onto this deep truth within their view.  But what most people don’t realize is that we build on top of these…or when we hear an idea we will eventually accept, we sense that seed of truth, and because of that we accept the entire idea.  Because we received them at the same time, this leads us to believe that every part of that idea is essential, and to let go of one detail would be to deny the entire truth, which we are not willing to do.

This picture offers us two useful pieces of advice when dealing with truth.

The first is on a personal level, when you are looking within yourself and deciding (or examining) what you believe.  Look for those seeds.  Probe deep into your views about life, about God, about science, about your personal relationships.  What is it that brought you to accept these views?  What little seed sprouted into the view you currently possess?

This is more difficult that it may seem, because often we sense these truths on a subconscious level, and at the forefront of our brains cannot tell the difference between the seed and everything that has been added onto it.  This is not to say that the add on’s are bad and should be removed.  It’s only saying that you will understand yourself better if you know the deepest reasons you hold your beliefs.

The second insight this can give us comes when we are trying to engage others in debate.  Rather than attack the details of a particular set of beliefs, try looking deeper into the other person’s view and find that seed of truth that keeps them holding fast.

If you can expose this seed to them, and it makes sense to them, suddenly they understand what is most important about their views.  If you then acknowledge the truth of that seed, and go on to say that such and such detail is different, you will have a better chance of changing their minds.

But again, this is very difficult.  You need extraordinary perception often much practice to discern what it is that is really important to a person.  Especially when it is so easy to pick at the logical inconsistencies within their view.  It’s not easy and there is no sense of winning. Instead of seeing the other as an opponent, you see them more as a lock.  Only the right key will open them, and you must find it.
Just something I was thinking about today.  Does it make sense?  Would examples help?  It’s hard to think of examples that wouldn’t be too controversial for the point to be seen.

Love, Understanding, Strength, and Patience

Ben showed me this article today.  It is really very interesting.   To be honest, this is the kind of love I aspire to be able to show to people.  I just hope I am strong enough throughout my life to live up to these goals.

Fighting Words

(I copied the text for those who can’t get the link to work)

Modern Love

Those Aren’t Fighting Words, Dear

 

Published: July 31, 2009

LET’S say you have what you believe to be a
healthy marriage. You’re still friends and lovers after spending more
than half of your lives together. The dreams you set out to achieve in
your 20s — gazing into each other’s eyes in candlelit city bistros when
you were single and skinny — have for the most part come true.

Two
decades later you have the 20 acres of land, the farmhouse, the
children, the dogs and horses. You’re the parents you said you would
be, full of love and guidance. You’ve done it all: Disneyland, camping, Hawaii, Mexico, city living, stargazing.

Sure,
you have your marital issues, but on the whole you feel so
self-satisfied about how things have worked out that you would never,
in your wildest nightmares, think you would hear these words from your
husband one fine summer day: “I don’t love you anymore. I’m not sure I
ever did. I’m moving out. The kids will understand. They’ll want me to
be happy.”

But wait. This isn’t the divorce story you think it
is. Neither is it a begging-him-to-stay story. It’s a story about
hearing your husband say “I don’t love you anymore” and deciding not to
believe him. And what can happen as a result.

Here’s a visual:
Child throws a temper tantrum. Tries to hit his mother. But the mother
doesn’t hit back, lecture or punish. Instead, she ducks. Then she tries
to go about her business as if the tantrum isn’t happening. She doesn’t
“reward” the tantrum. She simply doesn’t take the tantrum personally
because, after all, it’s not about her.

Let me be clear: I’m not
saying my husband was throwing a child’s tantrum. No. He was in the
grip of something else — a profound and far more troubling meltdown
that comes not in childhood but in midlife, when we perceive that our
personal trajectory is no longer arcing reliably upward as it once did.
But I decided to respond the same way I’d responded to my children’s
tantrums. And I kept responding to it that way. For four months.

“I don’t love you anymore. I’m not sure I ever did.”

His
words came at me like a speeding fist, like a sucker punch, yet somehow
in that moment I was able to duck. And once I recovered and composed
myself, I managed to say, “I don’t buy it.” Because I didn’t.

He
drew back in surprise. Apparently he’d expected me to burst into tears,
to rage at him, to threaten him with a custody battle. Or beg him to
change his mind.

So he turned mean. “I don’t like what you’ve become.”

Gut-wrenching pause. How could he say such a thing? That’s when I really wanted to fight. To rage. To cry. But I didn’t.

Instead, a shroud of calm enveloped me, and I repeated those words: “I don’t buy it.”

You
see, I’d recently committed to a non-negotiable understanding with
myself. I’d committed to “The End of Suffering.” I’d finally managed to
exile the voices in my head that told me my personal happiness was only
as good as my outward success, rooted in things that were often outside
my control. I’d seen the insanity of that equation and decided to take
responsibility for my own happiness. And I mean all of it.

My
husband hadn’t yet come to this understanding with himself. He had
enjoyed many years of hard work, and its rewards had supported our
family of four all along. But his new endeavor hadn’t been going so
well, and his ability to be the breadwinner was in rapid decline. He’d
been miserable about this, felt useless, was losing himself emotionally
and letting himself go physically. And now he wanted out of our
marriage; to be done with our family.

But I wasn’t buying it.

I
said: “It’s not age-appropriate to expect children to be concerned with
their parents’ happiness. Not unless you want to create co-dependents
who’ll spend their lives in bad relationships and therapy. There are
times in every relationship when the parties involved need a break.
What can we do to give you the distance you need, without hurting the
family?”

“Huh?” he said.

“Go trekking in Nepal. Build a yurt in the back meadow. Turn the
garage studio into a man-cave. Get that drum set you’ve always wanted.
Anything but hurting the children and me with a reckless move like the
one you’re talking about.”

Then I repeated my line, “What can we do to give you the distance you need, without hurting the family?”

“Huh?”

“How can we have a responsible distance?”

“I don’t want distance,” he said. “I want to move out.”

My mind raced. Was it another woman? Drugs? Unconscionable secrets? But I stopped myself. I would not suffer.

Instead,
I went to my desk, Googled “responsible separation” and came up with a
list. It included things like: Who’s allowed to use what credit cards?
Who are the children allowed to see you with in town? Who’s allowed
keys to what?

I looked through the list and passed it on to him.

His response: “Keys? We don’t even have keys to our house.”

I remained stoic. I could see pain in his eyes. Pain I recognized.

“Oh,
I see what you’re doing,” he said. “You’re going to make me go into
therapy. You’re not going to let me move out. You’re going to use the
kids against me.”

“I never said that. I just asked: What can we do to give you the distance you need … ”

“Stop saying that!”

Well, he didn’t move out.

Instead,
he spent the summer being unreliable. He stopped coming home at his
usual six o’clock. He would stay out late and not call. He blew off our
entire Fourth of July — the parade, the barbecue, the fireworks — to go
to someone else’s party. When he was at home, he was distant. He
wouldn’t look me in the eye. He didn’t even wish me “Happy Birthday.”

But
I didn’t play into it. I walked my line. I told the kids: “Daddy’s
having a hard time as adults often do. But we’re a family, no matter
what.” I was not going to suffer. And neither were they.

MY trusted friends were irate on my behalf. “How can you just stand by and accept this behavior? Kick him out! Get a lawyer!”

I
walked my line with them, too. This man was hurting, yet his problem
wasn’t mine to solve. In fact, I needed to get out of his way so he
could solve it.

I know what you’re thinking: I’m a pushover. I’m
weak and scared and would put up with anything to keep the family
together. I’m probably one of those women who would endure physical
abuse. But I can assure you, I’m not. I load 1,500-pound horses into
trailers and gallop through the high country of Montana all summer. I
went through Pitocin-induced natural childbirth. And a Caesarean
section without follow-up drugs. I am handy with a chain saw.

I
simply had come to understand that I was not at the root of my
husband’s problem. He was. If he could turn his problem into a marital
fight, he could make it about us. I needed to get out of the way so
that wouldn’t happen.

Privately, I decided to give him time. Six months.

I
had good days, and I had bad days. On the good days, I took the high
road. I ignored his lashing out, his merciless jabs. On bad days, I
would fester in the August sun while the kids ran through sprinklers,
raging at him in my mind. But I never wavered. Although it may sound
ridiculous to say “Don’t take it personally” when your husband tells
you he no longer loves you, sometimes that’s exactly what you have to
do.

Instead of issuing ultimatums, yelling, crying or begging,
I presented him with options. I created a summer of fun for our family
and welcomed him to share in it, or not — it was up to him. If he chose
not to come along, we would miss him, but we would be just fine, thank
you very much. And we were.

And, yeah, you can bet I wanted to
sit him down and persuade him to stay. To love me. To fight for what
we’ve created. You can bet I wanted to.

But I didn’t.

I barbecued. Made lemonade. Set the table for four. Loved him from afar.

And
one day, there he was, home from work early, mowing the lawn. A man
doesn’t mow his lawn if he’s going to leave it. Not this man. Then he
fixed a door that had been broken for eight years. He made a comment
about our front porch needing paint. Our front porch. He mentioned
needing wood for next winter. The future. Little by little, he started
talking about the future.

It was Thanksgiving dinner that sealed it. My husband bowed his head humbly and said, “I’m thankful for my family.”

He was back.

And
I saw what had been missing: pride. He’d lost pride in himself. Maybe
that’s what happens when our egos take a hit in midlife and we realize
we’re not as young and golden anymore.

When life’s knocked us
around. And our childhood myths reveal themselves to be just that. The
truth feels like the biggest sucker-punch of them all: it’s not a
spouse or land or a job or money that brings us happiness. Those
achievements, those relationships, can enhance our happiness, yes, but
happiness has to start from within. Relying on any other equation can
be lethal.

My husband had become lost in the myth. But he found
his way out. We’ve since had the hard conversations. In fact, he
encouraged me to write about our ordeal. To help other couples who
arrive at this juncture in life. People who feel scared and stuck. Who
believe their temporary feelings are permanent. Who see an easy out,
and think they can escape.

My husband tried to strike a deal. Blame me for his pain. Unload his feelings of personal disgrace onto me.

But I ducked. And I waited. And it worked.