Passion and Engagement
Well, it's been quite a week, culminating in my leading a great 2-day workshop. In the interim, I had enough ups and downs to write a couple of books, and am still curious as to how much of it is going to spin out. I'm back to being grateful for the opportunity to simply feel my feelings and to get on with my life.
I mentioned that I was "doing" a kidney stone a few weeks ago, in the midst of talking about finally painting a new painting. Well, the stone showed up on an -x-ray, it's 5 mm, and they're "going in" (the men, especially, don't want to know how . . . ;-) ) to remove it on Oct. 17th. Wish me luck.
I've also had many people drop me a line with words to share. Take a look down below for some quotes. But I had to mention one specifically, from one of my dearest friends, Susan Lee. Susan lives in Hong Kong and in Portland, and I met her while doing Phase 3 at Haven. She knows me all too well, and has a delightfully insightful way that often arises from her deep and passionate Buddhist faith. She wrote the following, which I suspect applies to one or two other people I'm intimately involved with:
I had a very enjoyable lunch with a friend today and gave her two of your books. I am also sending her a copy of Into the Centre. When I read your writing, I always have a warm smile on my face imagining you speaking in person. When I told Judith that old souls means slow learners, she said you must be a slow learner. My response to that comment was "you are a very very slow learner."
Old soul. Slow learner. Yup. Me, in a nutshell. Thanks Susan! You made my day, and I cherish your friendship!
I'm finding myself in an odd space this week, grateful for the topic at hand - that of passion and relationship, and noticing my own process as relationships I choose to be in are unfolding, unwrapping, sometimes seemingly unraveling, and how, as I choose to feel my feelings, I am running through the gamut of emotions.
And the truth of it is: I am finding myself in an odd space this week. Again, and again, as I process what's been unfolding, I bump up against. . . myself.
I've also just finished leading a 2-day Bodywork workshop - one I run twice a year. I'm impressing myself with the work the people present were able to accomplish, once they gave themselves permission to slide out of their need to plan, to order and understand. Stunning insights, waves of feeling, all happening within the framework of "making contact."
In the end, I know, it's never about the context -
it's always about the contact.
It's oh so easy, in our fractured way, to look outside of ourselves for what's going on, to default to old behaviours, to abrogate responsibility for where we are and what we are choosing. I don't buy it. I'm convinced that, as long as I am alive and breathing, I am choosing what I am doing. I certainly am adult enough to chose to own, with the people I love, who I am. I am adult enough to own, to claim, with those I love, responsibility for my own life.
I've just started to read a new book on relationships, called, The Mystery of Human Relationship - Alchemy and the transformation of the Self, by Salant. He makes the point that the alchemists were ostensibly "about" transforming one substance into another. Underlying this exercise, and perhaps more important, was this: the alchemists were also and fundamentally transforming themselves. They were doing their personal transforming through the interaction with and the working with elements.
For our purposes, then, we need passion for transformation of ourselves - and the vehicle or the laboratory for that transformation is found in our relating. (In other words, the transformation rests in the action of relating, not in the fact of the relationship, per se. In the relating, the self, the soul, is transformed.)
The passion we're talking about today is both deep and profound. The movement of this sort of relating is the direct opposite of the safety of mere communication - away from head trips, explanations, wonderings and musings about "why" and "what's right," to the sharing of the heights and depths of ourselves - the revealing of our pain, our secrets, even our outright strangeness.
I have long since learned my patterns for relating, and one pattern has to do with wanting to fix things. I have a burning desire, when, for example, Dar is hurting, to want to jump in and make it all better. This leaping in, at its root, is not about Dar - it's about me trying to "fix" my discomfort with her pain. To simply sit with her as she explores her pain, or even more difficult, to sit with her as she simply chooses to be in her pain, seems, to that part of me that wants to "fix," to be impossible.
Until I take a breath.
In that moment of inner focus, I can see my fear of change, fear of pain, emerging. In my fear I forget myself and begin to turn my attention outward, trying to move the universe so I can be happy. In this process, which I so loudly declare is all about Dar, I am actually discounting her and her issues. If I see this, I can begin to choose differently. I can begin, with effort, to turn my focus back where it belongs. To me and to my curiosity. I can begin to be curious about her and her experiences, while being responsible solely for my own.
Often, relationships break out of the fear of intimacy, while the parties involved loudly proclaim that intimacy is what they are seeking. True intimacy, however, is about the opening up of the self for examination and sharing, and the ownership of my process. I must reveal all of it, and especially the parts I wish to hide, or wish I could get rid of. (see the letter, below, from Debashis, for more on this!)
To quote Ben Wong and Jock McKeen, in The New Manual for Life,
"In our view, change of the basic personality is not possible. Often, seeking for change is a way of anesthetizing the anxiety of nonbeing that accompanies life. To accept one's deep structures and tendencies often involves embracing this anxiety. To devote oneself to knowing one's basic patterns (and accepting the accompanying anxiety) rather than trying to eradicate them, will allow for more self-acceptance, more self-responsibility, a greater inner strength and heightened self esteem. . . .The more thoroughly people know their patterns and tendencies, the more varied, creative and spontaneous they can be."
This knowing of the self, and accepting of the self, presupposes letting others in on what's going on for me. Often, we want to hide the dark stuff we consider to be too black for public consumption. Yet it is only in the dialog, the sharing of self, all of the self, that choice becomes available. It is only after I admit to my games and foibles that I open, for myself, the thought, the intent, of doing things in a different way.
Relationships, good relationships, are difficult. They require time, focus and commitment to self-revelation. Mostly, when the going gets rough, they require nothing more than staying directly in contact and continuing curiosity. Plus a deep willingness to share who you are in that moment of conflict.
Life was never meant to be easy. We are complex creatures, driven by motives and passions that are as old as we are- that link to generations that came before us. We bring ourselves, all of us, into relationship. The height of silly would then be to pretend we can hide the parts we judge to be unacceptable. The depth of wisdom is to reveal all, and be witnessed fully, with no cop outs, no pleas of "I don't know what I'm doing" no excuses, and no running away.
In the end, I choose to relate to a few carefully chosen wise souls, and to refuse to walk away when the sledding is bumpy. I get it "wrong" as often as I get it "right," but the challenge, the passion and the joy of seeing myself more deeply, as well as through another's eyes, makes it all worthwhile.
Letters to Into the Centre
Thank you for your insightful and timely articles each week. I find it so amazing that each week's letter is addressing exactly the issue I'm working on. . . one that has been brought up for me to look at during the past week. I love living the mystery!
My friends Debashis and Adrienne are also Havenites, and I actually officiated at their wedding last year. They've since become real friends of the heart. Debashis wrote about a past article. However, what he wrote really fits with today's topic -- about learning to be OK with those aspects of our selves that we might judge to be problematic:
I read this week's issue of Into the Centre. I was reminded of what I learned at phase 1 - the 4 A's:
- awareness - acknowledgment - acceptance - action
Certainly to become of aware of our good parts and "the parts we want to discard", we have to begin to NOTICE and be very aware. This process, in and of itself is very enriching, from my own experience. It's a very "living" experience to simply be aware of all our patterns.
The acknowledgment process is similarly life-producing - being able to say "oh there I go again, how cute and wonderful - how me" gives me a smile and the opportunity to treat myself a little more gently. I give myself perspective that I am what and who I am. And it's all cool.
Acceptance - I find this to be difficult. Being able to say " here I go again, and by George, I love me." That's tough when there's a part of me I want to change. However, when I truly imagine my gentle self holding and cradling my not-so-gentle self, I fill myself with such an enormous empathy and patience, I just become overwhelmed. Rather, I overwhelm myself. And this too, is active living for me. It's feeling and being and breathing
And the action phase is similarly difficult. But so very full-of-life. To take responsibility for choices, for continuing a pattern; for breaking (or changing) a pattern, for going back to a pattern, for DOING something and OWNING it as MY OWN REACTION to my perception of things - scary, isolating, BUT SO incredibly freeing. It is then, when I make active choices that I truly realize that I was born alone and I will die alone (as I have repeatedly observed from your e-zine). And yet, I don't feel so lonely anymore.
Something you said to us when you and Dar came over for dinner has stuck with me. I think we were talking about Phase 1 and incorporating these ideas and concepts and you said something along the lines of "to capture even some of this stuff is enough for one lifetime." I was overwhelmed by that because I acknowledged to myself that gaining knowledge about all this life stuff is one thing -living it is completely another thing. So, instead of scrambling to gain knowledge, I continue to remind myself to live.
Just some thoughts and responses upon reading your article and reminiscing.
And a follow-up comment, to my reply:
Good reminder for me about acknowledgment being done with a witness. I remembered from Haven that if I can find ONE person to witness me through the 4 As, that is enough. But, finding more people who can equally share and participate in the witnessing-revealing invites the opportunity for increased intimacy with a larger group of people, I imagine.