- The difference between spirit-led v ego-led relationships
- How can someone who may feel that they are “not enough” in a relationship, view themselves in a non-judgmental way.
- How to determine which way to go to have the best possible relationship
I was working with a couple recently who are in the midst of dissolving a long-term relationship. At one point in the conversation, one of them said, “I’m so sad and angry that, with all these years we had together, we just couldn’t get it together…work our stuff out.” There’s many reasons why that often is the case for couples, but I’ve come to see that if you find yourself in that boat, on any level, it’s probably because you’ve been waiting for something.
This handsome Dude you see on the left recently gave me a HUGE reminder of another cost of waiting…for love, for the “right time,” for when you feel “safe” enough, etc. Let me introduce you to Michael Anthony Childress.
Mike has been a friend, a member of one of the Men’s Groups I lead, an extremely accomplished ICU/Critical Care Nurse for over 15 years, an ex-husband, a former football player, a lover of fast cars, an irreverent smart-ass, and an extremely loving Soul who constantly was trying to figure out what this Love thing was all about…’cos it seemed to him that he just couldn’t “figure that s**t out” (to quote Mike directly).
Last Monday, on the 18th, after wondering why Mike hadn’t shown up to our men’s meeting on the 14th, and after having left him several messages, I found out that Mike had died of a sudden massive heart attack 2 days previous to our meeting, at the age of 45. This wonderfully loving man had been laying on his living room floor for several days before being found. I am quite sure it wasn’t in Mike’s plans that day – especially given how hard he worked out every day for years to create a body that was in incredible shape – to be getting ready to go to the gym, and literally drop dead.
In fact, what I imagine was more on Mike’s mind was what he’d do after the workout, what he’d be doing next to find a new nursing job, how he was going to make it back from one of the hardest years of his life. Mike was like a lot of us…in the face of things going badly where they were, his first tendency was to try to out-think the circumstances…to come up with better strategies…to try/work harder at making things work out.
Yet, after the last year of hell he’d been through, he’d had a revelation that I trust and hope allowed him to leave this life happier…he learned that trying to control his life and ignore what his heart was telling him and needing was a s**tty strategy. He learned that the one thing that had been so hard for him – letting people support him and love on him – was what made the biggest difference in turning his life back in the direction of high self-love and a comeback-in-the-making that inspired me and all of us who knew him. This made it all the harder to make sense of him suddenly dying when it all was finally starting to go in the direction he longed for.
So, why am I taking up your precious time having you read about a guy that mattered to me, but you didn’t know from Adam? Because the best way I know to honor my friend is to have his seemingly meaningless death, at such a young age, have meaning beyond what he could’ve imagined. Here’s what I suggest that meaning and value can be for you, as it surely is for me.
You often hear platitudes about making the most of each day, because you never know when it’s going to be your last. You know it’s good advice, but the mind kicks in with its arrogant belief that you’ll be the one to cheat it somehow…or, at least, that you’ll live for decades more. You may be lamenting why you can’t get a relationship to work out…or, how come you can’t seem to feel too excited or inspired with the one you have…with you, your partner, your life.
You might be trying to figure that out…and odds are, you’re waiting for something….for the perfect partner to show up that meets every single thing on your wish list for a lover. Maybe you’re waiting until you get that next promotion, that next pay jump that will give you the extra money you need to be able to finally start creating “The Dream.” Maybe you’re waiting until you get through the next deadline to take your partner and/or your kids on that road trip where you’ll just be able to have fun and connect. Maybe, you’re waiting until your ego-mind assures you you’re absolutly guaranteed enough of being safe that you’ll finally start letting people see – and love – who you REALLY are.
I’m not saying all this to discount the importance and value of getting things done, being in action to create the life you want, etc. What I AM saying this for is to encourage you to re-look at what it’s all for…is what you’re trying to create in your life being driven by the highest priority being survival or to serve love in myriad ways? I just read a survey that says a LOT of people expect to maybe enjoy 10% of their life, and are just passing time until the end, hoping it won’t suck as bad as they fear it could. I don’t know how real that number really is, but what I know from working with so many people over the last 17 years is that it may not be THAT far off….and that breaks my heart and, hopefully, would break yours.
In my opinion, the way to avoid becoming a part of that statistic is to make love your top priority…don’t wait for love to suddenly arrive or for the “perfect” or convenient time to give love to yourself and others…hell, what would your life be like if you found a way, by hook or by crook, to love on someone even when you feel like crap? We KNOW it makes you feel better! Don’t wait until you have time, or convenience, to call the person you just thought of that you haven’t talked with in a long time…if you thought of them out of the blue, it’s because your Spirit knows you need to connect with that person for reasons you don’t know…or, even need to know.
Stop waiting for love and make it…have sex with your partner to heal separation, instead of waiting to not feel separate to get in the mood. Call people. Write someone you love a quick note telling them three things you love about them (or better yet, call them and tell them). Stop what you’re doing and just tell your kids you love them and why. Do the same for yourself.
Don’t be a statistic…be the love that you were born to be and don’t wait. Mike reminded me of that, and I’m joining you in making that the top priority that can guide me – and must – in all that I create and open to.
When you hear the expression, “Love is blind,” what do you normally think of first? Do you conjure up an image of blind dates from hell? Does it bring up a rationale for overlooking something about someone (or yourself) that you really ought not to be overlooking? Is it a pathway to be able to find something to love in your partner that drives you batty more often than not? Maybe it’s the phrase you use to truly believe that love is enough to overcome anything and everything.
What I find a lot in my work wtih couples is that “love is blind” would be more accurately stated as “love is important enough to stay blind, so you don’t lose it and don’t look where it might be uncomfortable.”
When couples get together, there’s so much of the initial infatuation/lust that truly is blind…you can start feeling such strong emotions and drives without really having much of a clear sense of why you feel that way…you just do. The feelings are SO strong, we let them carry us away and transport us to an emotionally and hormonally driven run down a semi-blind trajectory to what we’re sure will be romantic Nirvana. But, sure as Carter’s got liver pills, when that bio-chemical fever dream wears off, you get down to where the rubber really meets the road…building, growing, and nurturing a thriving relationship versus a “good” one…which is what most people I see have come to settle for.
This is where love can’t afford to be blind. Whether you’ve been together for 3 years or 30, I’ve found that one of the single biggest causes of relationship discord is what you don’t say…and, not so much what you don’t say to your partner, but what you’re not saying to yourself first!
Most couples I’ve met, when they really dig down into the truth within themselves, have KNOWN their relationship was not in great shape. Yet, by the time things have gotten bad enough to actively (and often desparately) seek help, the stagnancy has already gotten pretty thick, often with a high level of resentment to go with it…resentment that often can be the death knell to possibility and to the relationship itself.
Why is that, you may be wondering (or not)?
In my opinion, it’s often due to a few key factors that are consistent among most couples that I’ve helped out:
- You’re terrified of pain
- You don’t want to see what you don’t want to see in yourself (good, as well as not so good, by the way)
- You’ve gotten complacent with where you are in your life, and aren’t willing to risk discomfort by challenging status quo
- Your fear has lulled you into believing that a good relationship isn’t one that’s great, but is one that doesn’t suck…period, or more than it has in the past.
- You’ve forgotten that you have the inherent strength to stare change squarely in the eye and embrace it as the only alternative to being part of the walking dead or numb, even if it scares the wee-wee out of you.
I certainly can say that any or all of these have been factors that have been part of where I’ve been astonished at what I haven’t seen until it’s blown up in my face and/or others’.
One key way to avoid this, or start turning it around, is to decide that, as Eckhart Tolle said, “Evolve or die” has proven to be demonstrated in so many areas of life and the world. that it is actually true…and, that your relationship is not an exception.
If you choose to operate accordingly, then you will see that rigorous honesty must be combined with an equally huge commitment to never allowing the thought “I don’t want to upset them” to be the centerpiece of how you show up – and how you don’t – in your relationship.
What you don’t say to your partner to avoid bad feelings or conflict…start looking at what you’re not wanting to upset in yourself, challenge that, and start trusting your love for each other more than you trust the fear of risking pain.
Do you have trust issues with your partner (and/or someone you’re not romantically involved with)? If you don’t, you’re a rarity. With so many couples I work with, it looks like communication’s a major issue (which it is), but more often than not, the more fundamental issue you’re dealing with is what you trust and what you don’t with your partner. If you’re in this dilemma, odds are that your willingness to mend your heart, and get majorly re-connected with your partner has become inextricably linked with your mind demanding that the other person prove to you that they’re trustworthy. They have ample evidence of their partner’s untrustworthiness, and they continually wait to hope they can find that trust, often with almost hopeless skepticism that frequently ends up being a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Granted, the other person who’s not being trusted has most likely earned that mis-trust. To the degree you’ve earned your partner’s mistrust, the responsibility is on you to be looking at your behavior, your integrity, and your follow-through. If you don’t do what you say you’re going to do often enough, your credibility is swimming around at the bottom of the commode, where it’s a looong climb out. But, there’s another monkey wrench that I feel can help you make inroads into re-establishing trust with whoever you’re separating yourself from.
Interestingly enough, it’s all about looking at yourself (surprised, if not annoyed?). Specifically, how trustworthy are you? As I write this, one of my Mom’s favorite expressions when I was a kid is coming to mind, which was, “I don’t trust them farther than I can throw them.” When I look back at the people she most mistrusted, I can see (now) how much her beefs with them were often begun by how she had made herself untrustworthy to them first.
You don’t mistrust your partner unless they have some kind of habit of breaking their word or doing things that are out of integrity with themselves and agreements you may have with each other, right? Well, again, not to take responsibility away for the other’s actions, but how often do you break your word…especially to yourself? I was listening to a recording of my colleague, Ronda Wada, and she spoke about how often people break agreements with themselves for “Me Time.” I do that ALL the time! And, it got me to thinking…if you can’t trust yourself to love and honor yourself sufficiently, how can you trust your partner to “take care of me or my needs?” It’s not inconceivable that that unconscious behavior could get projected over to your partner.
If you’re doing that, what goes with it are usually unconscious and/or unexpressed expectations that your partner/friend is going to handle the heavy lifting for your desires that you’re not. When those expectations don’t get met, then our ego-minds go into child-like temper tantrums that are held together with the mental construct that the other person’s going to have to work even harder to get your trust back…when, really, you need to work to get your own trust in yourself back! To get your trust in yourself back, you need to face what the fears may be that your lack of self-integrity are pointing to that need attention.
Sounds easy, right?
Not usually…the promises to ourselves (and our well-being) that we break are legion and often unconscious. When was the last time you didn’t put the toilet seat down, take your supplements, meditate, work out, balance the check book, surprise your partner with that gift you’ve been saying for months you’re going to give them, eat the right thing, forego the toy so you could put more dough in the vacation savings account, etc.? When WAS the last time you broke a date with yourself? Hell, when was the last time you worked for more than 10 hours and got to bed at half past way too damn late?
If you want to test this, pick three things in this next two weeks that you’re going to commit to…with your partner, with yourself, or both. Write them down, and when you’re going to do them. Be specific. Have them be measurable in time and space. Then, when you go to bed, get the list and see how many of them you did. Also, notice how much you’ve taken care that day to consciously connect with your partner. See what kind of correlation there is, and with your mood and “neediness.” If you notice the latter increases the more you’re not doing for you, then I rest your case. From there, it’s time to start looking at what you need to do to get back on track with yourself and your integrity. The more that happens, the stronger the trust levels your relationship will have, which will give you that sense of being able to trust yourself and your partner farther than you can throw them!
These are the last words you’ll ever read from me.
Are they really?
I hope not.
However, that’s one of the fears that came into my mind when my heart told me I needed to write this particular article today. In the past, that fear would have been enough to stop me from writing it, and doing an article that was going to be “safer,” or one I would presume/assume you’d like better. Now, it simply can’t stop me, whether I wish it would or not. So, buckle in…this is going to be a longer article than most, but I believe taking the time to read the whole thing will serve you.
It’s time for me – and I’d suggest for ALL of us – to really get naked (not literally, except with a willing partner, of course). This is not a retro throwback to free love I’m advocating. What I’m doing today is I’m getting emotionally, mentally, and Spiritually naked. If it ends up having you not want to read this eZine anymore, that’s a risk I’m willing to take, because I feel and believe it to be so important for all of us – in some way or another – to get naked in the way I’m about to.
First, though, a little background. When I was first coaching back in 1995, the prevailing wisdom was that you never told your clients anything personal about yourself, and you didn’t reveal any of your own neurosis (at least not blatantly), because you needed to be an expert and authority on whatever you were coaching about and give the impression that you had your s**t together. After all, who would want to get coached by someone who didn’t have aforementioned guano together? Yet, over time, I’ve come to realize two things: 1) most people are dramatically suffering because of thinking and believing that in their daily lives, no matter what they do for a living; and 2) doing that “looking good and together” thing is one of the things causing so much physical, emotional, Spiritual, and environmental damage.
So, if I’m really an authority or expert on how to live and have an authentic, rich, and Spiritually led/driven relationship and life…I better not have all my s**t together, because having that kind of life means having a relationship with your baggage and wounds that takes it all out of the closet and acknowledges that they’re a part of you worth loving, honoring, and appreciating (while not letting them run your life). They’re not parts of you to kill off. And…I better be willing to be totally real and authentic, or I’m a friggin’ hypocrite. So, it’s time to come clean.
If you’re a regular reader, then you’ve seen me write in the past about some of the intricacies of navigating the terrains of your ego-mind (what I call the grandiose part of our ego that’s committed to controlling our lives, your Spirit (your heart and emotional body, if you don’t like the word Spirit), and whatever you may hold as a Higher Power or Consciousness in your life. For the last several months (most of my life, actually, but I’ve only just recently really seen it clearly), I’ve been living a war. It’s a war that all of you are living, one way or another, whether you realize it or not. One of my mentors calls it “The War Within.” It’s the war between my ego-mind, and all its innumerable distortions, and my heart/Spirit that is the clearest, most pure part of me and everyone else (in my opinion). How do you tell the difference between the two? I’ll get really transparent here about how I do, by sharing what each of mine look like.
My heart and Spirit, from the time I was a little boy, has never been anything but joyous, deep, compassionate, extremely tolerant, very empathetic (and empathic), generous, wise, playful, trusting, deeply rooted in the certainty of just about anything being possible, and love personified. That heart, as a child, sat in the body of a boy born with a cleft palate, and hare lip, who – literally – from the first day of Nursery School (yes, I’m that old) until about mid-way through my sophomore year of high school, was in some way ridiculed, teased, rejected, humiliated, and excluded. That was just at school. That was where I got to get away from a broken home with a clinically depressed, alcoholic mother (if not bi-polar), a biological father who literally abandoned me at age five never to be seen again, and – for a few years – a step-father who was an abusive drunk that terrified me (now 40 years sober and one of the loves of my life). I know I’m far from being the only person with painful, traumatic stories…but, I want you to understand that your versions of this kind of hurt, confusion, betrayal, feeling invisible…you name it…they’ve all had some kind of effect on building the constructs of your ego-mind that war with your heart/Spirit on a daily basis. They’ve all been a part of building the debilitating beliefs that you plague and sabotage you right and left…the ego-mind’s favorite tools, you could say.
As all that horrible and painful stuff was happening to me, I grew to become someone who felt horrified to ever have to speak, period…not just in front of people, but I’d get self-conscious about speaking, at all, with anyone other than my family. I had few friends all the way through high school, I tended to be housebound a lot to take care of my Mom when she couldn’t hack life (which was often), and I had no Dad from 6 to 16 that could help me get what it was about to be a boy (and, someday, a man). My need to act like an adult by age 6, combined with all the loneliness and isolation that I thought at the time was my best protection against pain left me feeling ugly, unwanted, unappealing, and that I couldn’t count on anyone or anything other than myself…period. But, I didn’t want anyone seeing any of that.
I covered all that (the beliefs, the feelings) up by being a fabulously co-dependent and seemingly indispensable caretaker of countless people (mostly in my family, originally); cheerleader for everyone other than myself; workaholic; over-achieving, make-it-all-look-good upper management corporate slave; and over-eating, 275-pound walking dead person with the great family, income, and house with two cars and two dogs. Then – as now, lately – my ego-mind would keep feeding me a steady diet of shame, doubt, fear, constant reminders of “nobody can be trusted,” endless worry about how things were going to turn out (especially financially), and rarely letting love in…from myself and those who loved me that I couldn’t believe really could. When I was drinking that Kool-Aid, I never really felt like ME.
I started healing all that, shifted my career from corporate zombiehood to life coach, then relationship coach…and I found a Spiritual Path that really worked for me. But, here’s the thing I really couldn’t grasp. Unlike a lot of people that I feel go onto some kind of Spiritual Path to try to bypass their pain and wounds into some Nirvanic constant feel-good, my path has actually required me to get that being connected with my Spirit requires me to also not shirk, run from, or deny all my remaining layers of current and old pain, my frailties, my fears…in fact, damn it, it requires me to love all those parts and aspects, along with the true nature of my loving, compassionate heart that I’ve been blessed to help so many others do.
But now, the stakes are higher than they’ve ever been. There are so many planetary, economic, metaphysical, and socio-cultural shifts happening around the world – at a pace more rapid than I’ve ever seen in my 54 years – and people (including me) are fundamentally scared s**tless, and the fear’s only getting intensified by the very distractive way of coping with it that helps create it in the first place! You may not be admitting it, or maybe even aware of it. But, I’m seeing it all around me in the way that people are struggling to hang on to material things and lifestyles that they don’t even see are keeping them more and more disconnected from themselves, from love, and from their loved ones. Making money has become more important than love. We are deifying our ego-minds, and achievements…not that achievement’s bad…but being deified above heart and Spiritual Alignment…that’ll kill ya.
So, I wanted to come clean that I’m scared too. My ego-mind for the last couple of months (not-so-coincidentally, by the way, right as I made an even more serious commitment to living a life dedicated to bringing love to as many as I can reach) has had me waking up many mornings feeling low-to-enormous levels of anxiety and fear, pre-occupation with trying to control my future (particularly with my business) and being scared to death when it seems I can’t, fearing that people are finally going to realize I don’t know a damn thing (even in the face of years of successfully helping clients get themselves truly back to themselves), and being absolutely convinced that I’m only days away from living under an overpass somewhere, even when I’m nowhere near that.
You see, your ego-mind, and mine, tells bald-faced lies, all rooted in an inaccurate sense of self-insufficiency, that defy what’s actually true (or even could be), and continually strives to keep you feeling out of control and in a sense of constant threat of some kind. That way, you’ll work harder to try to control it all, you’ll DO more, and you’ll deify DO-ing and getting – over BE-ing and allowing your Spirit (and the Divine, if you believe in such a consciousness) to guide and get you through everything – good, bad, and ugly – with flying colors.
I KNOW I’m not alone in all this. How I’ve been “fighting the War” lately, to get back to returning to my connection to who I REALLY am and have always been, has been by: 1) letting go of my attachment to not feeling pain; 2) ceasing hiding this part of myself from those I love and trust (including all of you); 3) finding and constantly doing the Spiritual practices (or for the athiests and agnostics out there, practices that connect you with love) that I KNOW work, but my mind tells me I don’t need to do; 4) getting coached from those who’ve lived this War Within longer than I consciously have; 5) building a personal team of trusted loved ones around me that I can vent to who won’t tell me what I want to hear, but what I need to hear; and 6) remembering that my (and, I assert, everyone’s) life mission isn’t much about what I do for a living, but how I will live as an Emissary of Love, no matter WHAT I’m doing…and no matter WHAT.
“You’re not here to get; you’re here to LET…” – Rev. Michael Beckwith
When it comes to both life and relationship happiness, I’ve come to see that one of the greatest sources of what I would deem unnecessary suffering is how focused so many of us are on getting. That’s not an unconsciously incomplete sentence…”getting” is deliberately being used as a verb, because – in so many ways – most of what you DO each day, whether conscious or not, is about getting, isn’t it? Aren’t a lot of your days (one way or the other) about getting ahead, getting caught up, getting the right love partner, getting the right job, getting enough money to not have to worry about survival, getting happier, getting more sex, getting thinner, getting numb, ad nauseum?
The rest of what Rev. Beckwith says in the above quote is that what we’re here to LET is our Soul…that we’re here to let our Soul, and its purpose, emerge. I add to that that it has to follow its natural trajectory of expansion, which happens when it gets as fully expressed internally and externally – as often as possible. More than contemplating your navel and dreaming of Porsches appearing at your curb like The Secret film said you could, this path being deliberately pursued with commitment is much more likely to bring you what you really wish for in your life and in your relationships.
So, easy for me to say, but what makes it so challenging to be on a regular basis? Your relationship to F.E.A.R., the most insidious alphabet soup that you swim in so much of the time, whether you know it or not. F.E.A.R. tweaks everything…how you talk, how you listen, how you choose, how you decide what to choose, and how much of your time you’ll spend trying to get instead of letting your Spirit run, guide, and infuse the show.
There are two versions of this acronym I like a lot that really speak to the point of this article: False Energies Appearing Real and Forgetting That Everything’s All Right. When you’re afraid, your mind desperately wants to get rid of that fear, even though it’s the mind that usually creates that fear. Our lizard brain is so hard-wired to look for the next threat, that it doesn’t really know what to do with itself when things are going well for too long. Then, it wants to create and exert control.
One of the best strategies for which (to the ego-mind) is to try to predict the future and then have you believe you can and MUST make it happen. When you get sucked into that rabbit hole, you are working harder, more focused on whatever it is (including an inner state) that you’re trying to GET to/acquire, your level of presence goes to hell, and you forget that everything just may actually be more than alright. Then, the false energies appearing real kind of thoughts that are telling you “Things are good now, but what happens when…?” ignite even more of the forgetting that everything’s alright kind of thoughts, and off you go into trying to make them all right. See what an exhausting cycle that is? So, what to do instead?
You need to re-connect with what it is you’re here to LET out, to LET emerge. What are the qualities of your essence and core truths that, when not lived and expressed, make you even more miserable than not getting all the other stuff you’re trying and working so hard to get (or NOT get)? What are the aspects of you that are alive and dynamic whether you’ve got money or not? Whether you have enough stuff or not? Make a list of them. For example, for me, my compassion is first and foremost on that list. That is such an integral part of my Soul’s nature that to not be connected to it and give it freely, no matter what, is painful for me. It also makes me feel miserable, particularly when I’m denying myself that compassion (sound familiar?).
Then, once you have the list, see where/how your pursuit of getting is blocking the qualities on your list getting let out. Once you start looking at things that way, you allow your heart a pathway into a different kind of collaboration with your mind…one that can evolve into a partnership, rather than a competition. Pick one thing on your list each day that, before you make your mundane To-Do list (that you never seem to have time to get done anyway) you’ll take on bringing committed focus to letting out. If you don’t know how to do that, then focus on paying attention to where you’re going to do something or prioritize something that’s going to prevent the letting…then, make a different choice.
What do you have to lose that you’re not already losing by focusing on F.E.A.R. and getting?
CAUTION: If you happen to be someone who doesn’t have ANY kind of Spiritual path/philosophy you care about (or don’t believe YOU have a Spirit that guides you in any way), please don’t read any further. Doing so will either confuse you and/or piss you off.
It can’t be a secret to you how volatile life seems to be feeling these days. You’re probably used to gauging how “good” things are by looking at your economic picture first, if you’re like most people I know. If your money’s good, then everything else can be “taken care of.” Yet, there was an article in the Huffington Post recently that spoke of the rising suicide rates in Europe, as they are going through their version of what we’ve been in the midst of for the last several years. Reading it horrified and saddened me, because it made it all the more clear how much we’ve come to see our value, our identity, our worth, and our reason for living to be so fundamentally tied to whether or not we’re ok financially.
I’m not disputing that financial well-being is good; but, as a meaning for life and a main criteria for whether you want to hang around on the planet!?
There’s also the volatility around social change, both in our country and around the world…and it’s only accelerating (much like life, and time, in general). Haven’t you noticed how, in the midst of all the various political hot potatoes happening now, civility, compassion, and respect seem to have gone right out the window? Whether or not you happen to be someone who believes in global warming, there’s no disputing that Mother Earth seems more than a little pissed off, or at least has a lot of heartburn going on.
This all seems to be coupled with levels of personal turmoil, drama, and upheaval I don’t think I’ve ever seen before in the 16 years I’ve been working with people.
So, in the midst of that, how do you possibly stay happy?
At the risk of sounding like a cross between a bad Lifetime Network movie of the week and Scrooge, I believe that the beginning steps are 1) let go of having your life be about being happy all the time (more on that shortly); 2) have love be THE focus of your life; and 3) do everything you can to cultivate mastering being present.
One of the most disturbing and upsetting things I ever heard was when a noted Spiritual Teacher said to an audience years ago that “The secret of having the happiest life is to realize you’re not here to be happy…you’re here to evolve…to have your Soul evolve.” Well, no one was particularly pleased to hear that (certainly not me), and it took me years to finally “get it.” If you can realize you’re here to go through the whole spectrum of experiences (including pain & dissatisfaction), you can stop chasing the 24/7 dream you may say out loud you KNOW isn’t possible, but inside keep wishing/dreaming that you could have someday, if you just figure out the formula. Your ego will likely say, “Hell no!” Your Spirit knows better.
No matter what’s going on in your life – good or bad, happy or sad – love is the only thing, I believe, that will get you – and humanity – through what you’re in the midst of. If you look into so many faces, for example, in New Delhi…a city with massive levels of poverty and squalor…you can see peacefulness and serenity in their eyes, even as they may be sitting in their own waste. In our culture, we seem to need a major disaster to happen to tap into a sense of universal love that inspires us to selfless action.
If you want to be “happy,” you must make it the number one priority of your life to live Love in every waking moment possible. It must start with you, and how you treat yourself, your body, and others in your life. I know…basic stuff, right? But, our current global situation makes it pretty damn clear we’re not handling the basics. If you’re struggling with loving yourself, one rapid way to get to a loving feeling is to love on someone else selflessly. Be of service. Go serve meals in a homeless shelter, and see if you can see Spirit in the eyes of those you’re serving who have nothing left but life itself. It may not make you instantly gratified, but it will bring you and Love into quick communion.
Lastly, do you have any idea how present you are? If you need a long time to answer that question, chances are pretty high that the answer for you is “not very.” Take a moment right now to stop reading this article, and just close your eyes, feel the soles of your feet, and scan how your body literally feels (that is, what are the sensations) right now. Notice how your heart feels, emotionally. If you would do that once an hour, every day…your life would be radically different…and happier. Would you always feel happy? No. But, would you be feeling…at least for that one hourly interlude? You bet. And, love, awareness, and presence all start not in the mind (contrary to what your ego wants you to believe) but in the body.
My Teacher recently equated the struggle that we face individually, and as a Species, as if it’s a battle between the Soul (our own, the Soul of the Earth Herself, and the unified oneness of all beings) and ego for supremacy. If you were to look at Love as one of the purest forms of Light, the more love you allow in and emanate, the more your ego goes into conniptions. Look at it like putting a steak on the grill, and the steak gets grilled and cooked by the Light. If you’re not happy in your life, I suggest that you see if you’d be willing to let your ego identity be put on the grill to be cooked not out of existence, but transformed into the finest quality piece of digestible, loving Essence that forms the focus of all you do and all you be. I know for me…I’m taking my steak well done, thanks. Is it going to be easy or fun all the time? No. But, you don’t have to look very far around you to see how poorly the alternative’s working.
“Denial – a defense mechanism in which a person is faced with a fact that is too painful to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence. The subject may deny the reality of the unpleasant fact altogether (simple denial), admit the fact but deny its seriousness (minimization) or admit both the fact and seriousness but deny responsibility (transference).”
I’ve had many a stunning – and seemingly unfortunate – awareness over the years – or even in the last few weeks – of how I’ve been swimming pretty deeply in the river of denial. Like everyone else I know that has such revelations, I found myself wanting to find some sort of Spiritual meaning in it. Now, you might ask yourself, “What could possibly be Spiritual about denial?” Of course, if you ARE asking yourself that, the the problem built into the question itself is that, if you knew the answer, you couldn’t be in denial anymore, right? This is all no fun for the parts of our mind that regularly like to redeem frequent flyer miles from the Frequent Denial Program. However, in life and in relationships, that shouldn’t keep you from looking at it.
One of the key things you and I have been in denial about at one time or another is how things are going in your relationship…not so much with your romantic partner (though that’s fertile ground for massive amounts of denial), but the most important relationship in your life…the one with yourself. One of the reasons your mind likes you being in denial about THAT relationship is because it allows you to maintain an illusion that your ego’s very fond of: that there’s some place you’re going to arrive at (if you work hard enough at it) that will be that magical place where everything’s been healed, you’ve got everything figured out, your plans will now be guaranteed to come out just the way you want them to, and you now have a life ahead of you of unfettered joy and coasting.
Your ego doesn’t want you facing the possibility that what you may be going through in the way of challenges in your life is a recurrence of some pattern, some belief that you thought you’d gotten handled over the course of your 120 years of therapy you feel like you’ve done, and the 4,000 self-help books you’ve devoured in the endless pursuit of trying to fix and heal yourself. The way to confirm this is to watch how often you say in your mind, “But, I’ve done SO much work on that” when you once again repeat a behavior pattern that’s plagued you for years.
Another way to gauge how much denial may be in the driver’s seat in your life is to see if you can track how hard you’re working to keep yourself distracted from your feelings and/or those of your Partner….and when you can’t distract yourself any longer, you’re often feeling resentment about how others are treating you, rather than take a realistic look at how you’re treating yourself.
If this is all hitting home for you in some way, then you may want to look at the great blessing, that’s bigger than you could imagine, of popping the denial bubbles. As painful as it can be to come out of denial about anything, if you have the courage to go the distance with it, you have virtually unlimited potential for freedom and growth in every part of your life.
When it comes to relationship, if you can develop the habit of seeing EVERYTHING as it ACTUALLY is, with an open heart, then anything’s possible and anything can be shifted.
If you add to that the skill of taking 100% responsibility for everything that’s happening in your life (“Now, THAT one’s REALLY irritating” your ego is probably saying right now), you can bring so much more of yourself, your compassion, and your love to every relationship and begin healing the one with yourself more easily. It’s hard to do that when you’re constantly looking at a Hall of Mirrors in between your ears.
In case you want to take this on as a practice for yourself, here’s a few common ways of interacting with life that indicate you may be in some pretty hefty denial:
- “It’s all up to me”
- “I HAVE to have the answers”
- “I’ll be a bad partner if I can’t figure it out by myself”
- “I’ve got it all under control”
- “Whatever’s going on, I can fix it, and don’t need to really let anyone know”
Whenever you’re catching yourself in any of those kinds of thoughts, and want to start enacting a “Get Real” approach that allows you to get realigned with the flow that your Spirit has in mind for you, try doing something as simple as noticing how long it’s been since you told your partner how much you love them and why; hug your children (because you really want to, rather than because you should); or let yourself consciously get moved to tears by someone else’s good fortune and love…and then, cry at your own good fortune to be loved by someone.
Doing any of those types of things that you’ve had in the deep freeze for awhile, and you will find yourself no longer going down the river of De-Nile without a paddle.
Ok, if you’re not a Pink Floyd fan – and/or haven’t listened to the Dark Side Of The Moon album (it’s been pointed out to me recently, by the way, how badly I’m dating myself by even using the term “album”) – this article may take you a bit more time to get in the groove of.
There’s a song on the Dark Side album called “Speak To Me/Breathe.” The first verse contains the following lyrics:
Breathe, breathe in the air
Don’t be afraid to care
Leave but don’t leave me
Look around, choose your own ground
For long you live and high you fly
And smiles you’ll give and tears you’ll cry
And all your touch and all you see
Is all your life will ever be
Now, you may be wondering if I’ve lost my mind, using Pink Floyd as any kind of reference for how you can improve your relationship, but bear with me. What had me even begin to think of this song was a conversation I had with a friend recently about some relationship dynamics they were experiencing. The person was struggling with how to relate to, and be with, the current state of things in what could be a budding relationship without really knowing the “rules of the game.” Without certainty about where the other person involved is at about where their relationship is headed, or not, my friend was struggling with how to figure out how to be or what to do without a plan or a sure bead on where the other person “is at.”
Now, in any kind of currently “traditional” paradigm, you want to know where you stand…with your partner (if you have one), with your future, with your life plan, with your friends, with your job, etc. If you’re like a lot of people, the only surprises you really enjoy are parties, lottery winning, a free car and/or wardrobe, a free trip somewhere great, and – hopefully – an unexpected night of hot sex with your honey. So, to avoid any of the other kind of surprises, you consciously – and more often, unconsciously – try to manipulate, strategize, and “plan” what your future is going to look like. Then, when it doesn’t look like it may turn out how you’re planning it, you may even then go into trying to adjust variable and control it even more to get it “back on track,” right? When you go that route in your relationships, you’re likely to have a rough time. This is where Pink Floyd was really onto something in 1973.
When things are starting to feel rough with your Partner, how often do you start “dealing with it” by breathing? In fact, how often do you even pay attention to consciously breathing? I highly recommend trying it. It will get you in your body more, you’ll feel more (yes, including difficult feeling, but also including ecstatic ones), and it can even vastly improve your sex life! However, most of us simply react and go up into our strategic brain when things don’t look like they’re going to plan.
Some of you pretend you don’t care…but you really do. You just choose to hide it or withhold it (and what’s really going on for you, to boot). If you really care, you need to communicate that to your partner. If your Partner’s pissing you off, or hurting your feelings, you need to let them know you care. The passive-aggressive stoic route is way outdated. One way you can choose to go in that kind of situation and if you are withholding is to check out. So, “leave, but don’t leave me” can translate into go inside yourself…check in with your heart, gut, and mind to see what’s really triggered your reaction, take responsibility for what’s really your stuff, and then come back to your partner and fill them in on how you’re taking responsibility for your experience!
The lyric of “Look around, choose your own ground” is all about trying to bring FULL awareness to EVERYTHING going on around and in you. It’s about being fully present as much as possible with yourself and your partner. If you’re not, the ground you choose (i.e., how you’re likely to respond) is more likely than not to be distorted and full of projections. Choose what’s true for, and in, you…and, then communicate just that…not what you’ve already decided is true for your Partner.
The rest of the lyrics, to me, speak to the critical skill of recognizing that you (and your Partner) are neither your thoughts nor your opinions (and even perceptions, a lot of the time). To make a relationship work solely from the mind is certainly doable…but, watching paint dry is likely to be vastly more entertaining. To have a really juicy, vibrant, and dynamic relationship (or even life), I suggest you’ll do well to pay more attention to what your body tells you and knows…through all five senses and through all your feelings…they’re a much better reference point, in my experience. Your body cannot lie to you, no matter what. Your mind? That’s a whole ‘nother story.
Notice how much you’re trying to manage your life and your key relationships to some plan (which you’re never going to have a 100% guarantee of working out, no matter how hard you try), and try even a few days of ditching the plan…see how much more present to yourself and your partner you really are…and enjoy the moments more, rather than experiencing moments as benchmark measurements to gauge how well THE PLAN’s going.
Given all the cachet given to Valentine’s Day, and how many traditions there are around what it means, how it should be celebrated, etc., I find that it can actually reduce the true experience of love to commercially determined parameters that don’t even come close to actually capturing what the love we have really has to offer. As many common ways as there are to honor our Valentine/Partner, I am always searching for how to express and feel my love – be it for Sarah, my children, my friends – to new depths.
One way that you can always find to do that, in one form or another, is to remember and make alive that love in its purest form – no matter who or what it’s attached to – is, in my opinion, an expression of the energy of the Divine (whatever that means to you…God, Budhha, the Universe, or even Ralph). There is an Irish distinction about love that you can experiment with that may fill the bill of taking your love to an even deeper, more visceral experience…which is always the est medicine for what ails you in this roller coaster ride we call being human.
In 1997, former Catholic priest, John O’Donahue, wrote a bestselling book called Anam Cara: A Book Of Celtic Wisdom, with Anam Cara being a Celtic term for “Soul Friend.” In the book, O’Donahue writes:
“The Anam Cara was a person to whom you could reveal the hidden intimacies of your life. This friendship was an act of recognition and belonging. When you had an Anam Cara, your friendship cut across all convention and category. You were joined in an ancient and eternal way with the friend of your soul.”
Another anonymous writer has written this about Anam Cara:
“Your anam cara always beholds your light and beauty, and accepts you for who you truly are. In Celtic spirituality, the anam cara friendship awakens the fullness and mystery of your life. You are joined in an ancient and eternal union with humanity that cuts across all barriers of time, convention, philosophy, and definition. When you are blessed with an anam cara, the Irish believe, you have arrived at that most sacred place: ~HOME!”
Now, if you read those two quotes, do you get a sense of what love is at a level that’s got more profundity and depth than a Hallmark card? Doesn’t it offer a different perspective on what any relationship can truly behold besides just “getting your needs met?”
I really believe that, if you were to focus much more on seeing and connecting with the anam cara’s in your life, and truly mined the depth that the very definition of anam cara illuminates, there would be a phenomenal difference in your life and on the planet. This isn’t to minimize the value of conflict and differing opinions, needs, and wants…but, most of the time, you’re working those conflicts and differences out from the Ego’s agenda.
What could shift, and/or be richer, if you were to sort things out through the energyof being one’s anam cara? What if your relationship was treated less as a thing that you “work on,” and more as a Soul vehicle that’s to be ongoingly nurtured and maintained for peak expressions, over and over again? Your ego’s never going to be satisfied…it always wants more and better. Your Spirit, however, has different criteria for satisfaction, and has much longer lasting feelings with infinite breadth to go with them. With an anam cara, that connection is always more than enough…yet, can always grow, without ever feeling insufficient. How many other things in life do you experience that way?
So, let’s see how you can play with this whole notion.
For me, I have several anam cara’s, but my life partner, Sarah, is the one I’d have to say is at the top of the list, which may or may not be true for you. But, if it is, let’s start there. She literally fulfills on every aspect of the quotes above. I don’t believe a true anam cara needs to fulfill every single facet of the attributes, but if someone mostly fills the bill, that’s likely to be close enough for government work.
So, I invite you to first make a list of each of the qualities/conditions that are laid out in the two quotes above about what an anam cara is and represents. Then, be sure you’re seeing how YOU may be your own anam cara (just as a fringe benefit). Then, make a list of all the people in your life who are that kind of soul friend for you, and jot down what that connection has brought you, and continues to, as an illumination of your own Soul’s flavor. Lastly, look at how you’d want to honor and acknowledge that anam cara. If you can’t think of anyone, then it’s indicative that you’ve got work to do to become your own soul friend. If your partner isn’t on the list, it will reveal the edge of growth and learning available to you to explore. But, if you’ve got anam cara’s that you intuitively feel would be hugely served to be honored as such, I have a ceremony that you can do that’s extremely moving and powerful. If you’d like to get a copy of that (it’s too lengthy to place here), then simply drop me a line asking for it here.
To wrap up, the anam cara’s in our lives transcend and go beyond our love partners. To me, it ideally begins with yourself…so, start there. But, if you’re in a relationship with a Partner, or a friend, that’s struggling…see if they may fit the description of what anam cara is all about, and it may just give you a bigger game to play to connect more deeply than the normal “Who’s right and who’s wrong” paradigm that plagues most relationships.