I recently made a new Facebook friend named Kristian --who you are about to meet. Kristian friended me, I asked him why and we began talking about The Three Principles. Messaging back and forth.
Lead by his thoughtful questions, Kristian and I reflected together about "the voices in our heads," obsessive thoughts, why we all get scared and how we stay safe.
I asked him if I could share our chat here on the blog. He said yes. At first I thought I would edit this to be shorter, but I've decided not to. So...
Here is the unedited dialogue between this wise fellow and myself exploring the nature of thought in the context of The Three Principles.
A question, do you think there are "evil" forces that can control peoples action or is all that just thought?
For example, sometimes people do these really bad things and say stuff like "that was a voice in my head that told me to do it" ... Therefore I thought that is very scary for me at times. "What if I suddenly ..." and then the worst possible thing that I can come up with like kill someone etc..
Have you ever met one with these kind of unwanted almost obsessive thoughts? If so, what makes you think they become obsessive when you don't even want them in the first place... This is where I get confused with our "free" will.
Thank you Elese,
All my love,
Elese CoitHi Kristian, How wonderful to meet you. What a thoughtful place to reflect. Here is what I have found most helpful to know about thought. See how this lands for you and let me know.1. Everyone has every kind of thought. The most beautiful to the most terrible. The Principles do not say you will not have "evil" or "obsessive" types of thoughts. They say: you will feel the content of your thinking, whatever it is. Notice in your own life and see if this is true. 2. Everyone has had and continues to have (daily!!) thoughts that they ignore. We ignore "I could eat that whole cake!" even though we have the thought. So, we do know how to let thoughts come without making them a big deal (even awful ones) and simply allow them to pass. I find that is nice to remember about ourselves. If you can find one example in your experience, you have established that thought cannot take you over. That is what I call free will. 3. When thoughts come alive in our 5-senses, we feel them very intensely and in full 3-D. This feels compelling, true and real. And it is. However, most people feel compelled to do something about them to stop the feeling. That means they will act on the outside of themselves in order to get rid of a feeling they don't like: strike out, get revenge, eat the cake... etc. Most people will do this and will truly feel they had no choice to do anything else. Now this is going to sound a bit tricky, but see if you can see that makes sense to people -- but only if feelings are coming from outside of us! (Which they are not). So here is the REAL KEY: Once you know that your feelings are coming from thinking, and reflect the content of thinking alone, you do not need to act on the outside world in an attempt to rid yourself of a feeling. The more you understand where the feeling is coming from, the less you need to do "out there" to resolve it. (In fact, the less you need to do to resolve it at all. That includes improving on yourself.) 4. Remember, all feelings WILL and in fact MUST change. It is the nature of feelings. There is nothing you can do to stop yourself getting a new idea (and the feeling that will go with it) at any point. If you want to test out number 4 for yourself, try to take one feeling, any feeling maybe anger or rage and see what you would have to do to keep that feeling going -without a break in the feeling at all. Most people cannot last one minute with a single feeling. Within seconds they are thinking "I'm hungry" or "how long have I been doing this?" and the feeling they are trying to sustain will simply subside. This shows you just how much natural feelings are moving along with the thoughts behind them. So how does this help you to trust that is what is happening and know that it is the Principles that keep you safe, not the content of your thinking? Love, Elese Elese Coit
P.S. and YES, just last week I was totally enraged and wanted to hit someone. I told a friend of mine in the Domestic Violence prevention unit, I could totally see how wives beat husbands and husbands beat wives. I could easily have been one in that red hot moment.
Luckily, I told her, "The Principles kept ME safe because I know what is happening to me -- what they did not do was keep me "safe" from having the thought in the first place!"
Does that make sense?
Elese, all I can say right now is WOW! I acually found myself smiling with a deep sense of relief as I was reading your answer - thank you so much!
What you say just make perfect sense Elese, becouse if we think that our emotions really comes from something or someone then there is no wounder that one might think that we are controlled by something, when we in fact are feeling our own thinking! Thank you for helping me see that
Im starting to realize more and more that there can't simply be any "evil", it's rather a absense of god! In the same way that cold is the absense of heat and darkness is the absense of lightness like Einstein was on about. The way you came across with it made it very clear to me!
For me it feels like that the more we start see our true identity, the less scary our thinking gets simply becouse we just think we need to feel fearfull of it. I mean just look at a little baby, it does not get scared of spiders or snakes or even the most brutal horror movie becouse they don't even know what it is! It's all conditioning!
Or am I all lost when I say that we are learned to fear most things that we are scared of Elese?
Glad to be in this reflection with you
As to your last question, here is what I think we learned: we all learned to "attribute." We had a feeling, looked for the reason for it, and then just pointed to something outside ourselves and said, "this made me feel ..."
We learned to attribute this way because no one knew any different. I certainly didn't before I came across the Principles and began to reflect on what they mean in practice...
So what we attribute to is random. Which makes sense because no one is afraid of the same things right? It's kind of amazing if you think about it, that we have never noticed this is the reason!!
Anyway, my favorite way of talking about this is "No one can make you feel ...X"* Nothing can make you feel it, but you can attribute feeling to something and believe yourself. That's not something wrong with us, it's just a misunderstanding...
does that help as you reflect on your question?
*(With thanks to Mara Gleason who put that on the white board when teaching at Supercoach
First of all I want you to know that your amazing kindness and wisdom means so much to me
The way you explained how we "attribute" makes perfect sense to me! I can really see how this missunderstanding makes one think that there is something wrong with us, when in fact there is nothing wrong at all!
Elese, what do you do when you get caught up with negative feelings from your thoughts?
Sometime I find myself feeling sad but I could not identify what kind of thought that caused it and I tend to get into this strange gap between stress and wellbeing.
Once again thank you Elese!
Hm, a question on this one ... tell me, why would you want to "identify" the thought that caused the feeling?
It's funny how we give meaning to meaningless things. The moment I read your response a statement made by Einstein came up in my head:
"Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts."
Identifying the thought that caused the feeling would be like identifying the tiny object on the road that caused a flat tire on a bike. Focusing on that object will not do me much good...
I guess we're so used to focus on our mistakes so our habitual thinking kicks in.
Anyway, thank you Elese for questioning my thought and helping me look at it from a new angle!
Elese Coit Wonderful. No one could say it better. Even Einstein. Hey Kristian, I'd love to share some of our conversation on my next blog. Would you be happy with that. I can remove your name and such -- I just think everyone has these questions and it's a comfort to people to know that everyone else does. We often feel we are the only ones, and everyone else "gets it" -- never the case!What do you think? I could send you a draft before publishing if that would be helpful. Love, Elese
Thank you so much and it would be a honour for me to be part of your blog! You can use my name if you want. Im grateful and excited about the possibility to help others find food for thought in our journey in this amazing gift of life!
Once again thank you so much Elese for all the loving kindness and wisdom you've given me and so many others with all awesome things that you do!
All my love!
With immense gratitude to Kristian for allowing me to share this dialogue. *bows* We may be individual thinkers living in our individual worlds, but in this sense we Are all in this together!
We are all wearing masks. I'm not talking about the professional mask you put on to go to work, I'm talking about the mask you call YOU.
It's the shell you've wrapped round your authentic, natural self. Let's call it your "personality." I've had one for years and I don't know how I couldn't have one. What gets tricky is when I think that me and my personality are the same thing. It is a bit like putting on a mask and then forgetting about it. There's this weird uncomfortable feeling, but you can't put your finger on why...
If you have an uber-competent personality it may look like that serves you well. I thought mine did. And yet I had to face some inevitable facts:
- The personality is not you.
- The personality is actually the biggest barrier to knowing you.
- The personality is not what people really appreciate about you.
All the time spent evaluating ourselves, measuring and comparing, has never been put on pause long enough to consider the deeper question that lies behind it. Unless we do, we may look in the mirror many times a day and the greatest mystery on the planet remains the face staring back.I rarely reflected on the question, "Who am I underneath who I think I am?"
I could tell you who I thought I should be
. I could tell you who I was trying to become or how I was doing in relation to so-and-so. But me? On a deeper level? Very blurry. I just assumed that I was my personality. I tried to make this personality of mine better and "special." I tried to make "me" into someone I would like. ( Remember "love yourself"? ... I did not succeed). We construct a version of a person that our own constricted minds are thinking of and within those parameters, of course it's going to be an imitation version. Roll on the self-improvement ...
"Mi, a name I call myself..."
As I began to ponder "what is me?" I began to notice that the personality I had became used to referring to as "me" was entirely composed of -- just things I think about myself. There was a the tableau of traits and characteristics that I called myself, but these were no more than a bunch of thoughts I'd had. They just happened to be about something I call me.I had made myself up out of nothing. Out of thought.
Other people did not necessarily share the view of who I thought I was and so I also incorporated their opinions into my own thinking about me.
I remember first getting a glimpse of the depth of this as I came to know Robert Holden (listen to my radio show with him) who called the ego "the sum total of all the smallest ideas you've ever had about yourself."
It hit me that I really had constructed me. And I was terribly small. It began to dawn that, since the personality was a construct in itself, it could never find the answer to Me. The answer was beyond the content of my own thinking.
I look out through two eyes from something I call my body. I think the limits of my body are "me." I pass or fail a test, I think the results tell "me" something "I" am suited for or not suited for. I get divorced and I think this means something about "me." Thoughts. All just
thoughts. We minimize our capacities -- based on opinions that just float past -- and yet talk about them as facts and live the limitations as truth. I was reminded of this recently when I had a client here in San Diego for a 3-day retreat and I related how people walk up to me when I am on my skates and just blurt out, "I could never do that!" The truth is, they can't possibly know that. They don't have the slightest idea. But this does not stop people from deciding precisely what they will or will not believe about themselves.
When you realize that what you think you are made of is nothing more than a jumble of ideas, maybe it's time to start asking "What is beneath what I think I am?"
"Everyone in this world shares
the same innate source of
wisdom, but it is hidden by the
tangle of our own misguided
personal thoughts"- Sydney Banks
The Missing Link
A great woman, friend and mentor, Debbie Ford departed this week, as her sister Arielle said, "into the waiting arms of her ancestors and guardian angels." I'll miss her. She played such a big part in my life the last 8 years that it's hard to think of her without feeling her shimmering aliveness.
Debbie's list of accomplishments are long. The newscasts and eulogies
are reminders of how one woman with a heart bigger than her whole body, can actually change the world. But you could never list it all. Her life was dedicated to all of us. Her impact was massive. She flung herself out there in order to give us back ourselves. And left this world peopled with unspeakably precious gifts.
I want to say Thank You to a woman who blessed my life, who practically saved my life, and who left me with so much to be grateful for.
I found Debbie reading "Dark Side of The Light Chasers." A light went on inside me. Many more insights followed during my time training with her, assisting at the Shadow Process and hanging out. And what I most recall now are lessons I learned from her realness and her humanness.In the time I was honored to be with her, she helped me see:
You will never be rid of your foibles. Give up trying.
You can only be yourself. You have no choice.
The only problem is you think that "yourself" is awful. And it is. But it is also beautiful.
Half the people will dislike you no matter what you do, the other half will love you no matter what you do. Get on with your work.
You don't have to settle for "surviving."
Beyond your comfort zone is your life.
Tell the truth and listen well to the truth about yourself from others. You'll get used to it.
Let It All be bigger than you are. You are Divine. Can't handle that? Though shit.
Everything you ever struggled with is going to help someone.
No matter who you think you are, you are way more. And then some.
Thank you, Debbie, for all of this and for ...
the people who are in my life only becuase of you
the healings and insights I had because of you
the way I can be with myself and others because of you
and the roads I never would have taken, were it not for you.
I Love You.
In April 2012, when I stopped broadcasting my live radio show
, it happened in the strangest way. I had to choose to continue or not, and frankly, I just wasn't sure. Up until the last possible cliff-hanging moment, I didn't know whether to go on or stop.
All I can tell you is I waited and waited and waited and I got no Inner Gong
The sound of that "Gong" is one way I refer to the feeling that I get inside when I know something is right for me. It can be a tingle or a feeling that my heart is bursting, or a simple internal whisper of Yes
Which is great, except for that I had nothing. Nada. Zip.
Which meant I also wasn't getting an inner "No Way
!" This was beginning to look like a bit of a problem. Then I thought, "Well, without a clear yes or a clear no, what shall I do?" I decided to simply let go of the show and wait.
Now if you know me, you'll know I'm a workhorse. I can be pretty tough to keep pace with. I walk fast. I eat fast. Normally I decide fast. I am not the kind of gal who just sits around and waits.
So maybe I should clarify what I mean by "let go and wait."
What happened really was, I tuned in. For once in my life, I slowed down just enough to not rush forward into the void, and began to turn my full attention inward. Not just my partial attention.
Over the last few years I've learned enough about how the mind works to know that you cannot solve problems by getting busier, speeding up, forcing things or taking on more. The only way to know yourself, to know your own mind, and therefore to really hear what you want, what you'd love and what you think would be wonderful -- you must listen.
I have not listened
for most of my life. Case in point (FYI, Elese), there's a much better chance I might not have married a heroin addict in college if I had. (Amongst other things which would take me way off topic...)
This time I opted for listening before doing.
I mean, I needed to learn how
to hear, but most importantly to what.
So it has been an ongoing education for me, culminating in this very strange situation with the radio. With a quarter of million listeners behind me, I just simply didn't continue moving forward with something that was successful and growing, based on well, let's be fair, a guess.
I made a guess that if I waited, I would hear something eventually. Then it all went pretty quiet. Didn't expect that. So there I was, watching it end, with nothing new to go on and no direction to go instead. (Here's the blog I wrote at the time
) To follow my gut this time round meant allowing myself to release what was working, not for something better, but for something unknown.
I'll admit during the following months it felt like I was being stretched on a rack! It seemed like I was in the unknown without a map and with a GPS system that refused to cooperate. I realized I couldn
't make it talk but also, since most of my mistakes happen in the gap between not-knowing and not being comfortable with that, I knew I wasn't willing to try to force it.
Tough one. If you are me.
The longer this went on, the more challenged I was. I would get some notions, follow a few ideas, throw things out there -- but my inner gong still wouldn't play my way.
I had got myself by the "short and curlies," as they say.
For eight months things kind of fell apart and were replaced by one increasingly large question mark. I'd love to say I was comfortable with all of this. The truth is I went up and down a lot. And that is the nature of the mind. Luckily I also knew that and it helped me immensely. I was able to stay in the discomfort zone and even to relax there, and as I did, I started to get finer distinctions for myself about the different tones of the gong. Eventually I began to be moved by something within that I could hear clearly.
There is no real end to this story, but there are some interesting conclusions. Today I have more clarity about my reason for being on this planet than I ever have, and that's pretty amazing to me. (Read my newsletter
of today for more on this). Had started this process with that in mind, I am not sure I'd have seen that result. Maybe. But that is certainly not what my clever mind thought I needed at the time.
Could I have learned all this without dropping everything?
At the same time I have to admit I feel so much more myself. Even though it
doesn't feel like I'm the one holding the mallet.
During eight months winding along a path of hairpin turns with no horizon in view, something else happened. One day I woke up and wrote down Ten Keys I use to recognize and tune in to my Inner Direction. I hadn't noticed these before.
In the autumn of 2012 I shared these Ten Keys with people in the form of an free ebook, which is still around on iBooks
. I loved choosing the photographs for the book. They are amazing! You can check them out on a copy I have available here
if you don't have a device with iBooks.
In addition, many people wrote me and shared their stories of following Inner Direction. I have not compiled these in the book -- yet. Why? No reason, really. They are all really great and wonderful. One day I might. Or not.
Isn't it nice to know that nothing has to be wrong -- or even right -- for you to steer in any direction you want? And for no reason at all except you.
Sounds like freedom to me.
In the last two months I've added exercises to Inner Direction (based on many of the questions I asked myself going through this process of change and inner attunement) and expanded the book content, plus I've included pages you can take notes on. More Here.
One day it occurred to me: for EVERYTHING I've ever done, there was a time when I had never done it before.
Obvious. Clearly. Yet this had never struck me as deeply before.
I was speaking to a client recently and we were talking about how we are all hard on ourselves, thinking that we should be further along than we are, or moving faster than we are moving.
It is so common in coaching
and in consulting
that clients downplay their progress with these kinds of comparisons, forgetting to look beyond events in order to see the underlying plate tectonics.Take my client recently. In the middle of an argument with his spouse he had the idea to slow down, listen and try to understand what was being said instead of the defense/attack strategy that was in play at the time. As we talked about how this had happened it was obvious to me that he was underplaying the importance of what he had done. I wondered why. "It really wasn't going very well" and "I could have done this sooner" were threatening to wipe out the significance of a momentous occasion: in the middle of a deep quagmire, he'd actually found his bearings, had a fresh idea flash before him, acted on it and turned the conversation in a more positive direction. Amazingly, with no provocation and in the worst possible conditions for a new idea to arise, it did. And he listened. Yet what I heard as a sign of success, he was viewing as a near-failure. How was that possible?Along the course of our lives we seem to have (most of us, me included) picked up a nasty habit of thinking we should be better than we are in any given moment.
This keeps us from knowing what to look for and from perceiving what is happening on a deeper level.Ruminating over our performances we often judge them to be less than successful ("I could have prevented that" / "I never should have got there in the first place). We compare ourselves to standards no one really ever lives up to: "I should have been able to create an open space of pure listening."Really?
No you couldn't have done that, because you didn't. Are you missing what did happen, however?
No wonder people head in the wrong direction -- thinking they need to double up their efforts, or be even harder on themselves, as if the point of life were to eventually be perfect. Or nearly.That's not to say one can't do better next time, but surely we are missing the point. The point of self-awareness and self-observiation is self-understanding -- not self-condemnation.
Seek to understand and what you see will change. Judge something and you cannot see it at all.Let's give ourselves a break. This self-flaggelation thing has really run its course. There is so much research out there
clearly showing that the carrot and the stick do not work.(Just watch Daniel Pink below on Motivation) Personally speaking I think it is amazing that I can even have a change of perspective in the middle of a near-brawl, much less to act on it. Compared to the number of times I've ignored by own voice of reason!Why not look at our lives from the gentler -- yet equally true -- perspective?Not only does that mean recognizing the significance of our small triumphs, but realizing that they are not just one-off anomalies. Take our example as a case in point. Consider for a moment just the fact that he got this new idea in the midst of a bad moment between two people. What does that tell you about what human beings need to do to have new ideas? If you or I, or my client, can have a new thought in the middle of an argument, then surely there are no conditions to be met for us to "get grounded" or "be good listeners" or anything of the sort. What it suggests is that our ability to hear afresh and to change is natural. Or as my client put it, "something you can count on."This implies you don't have to be "good" or spiritually advanced, deserving, forgiving, listening attentively or any of the other pre-conditions we sometimes set up.Imagine. You can just be going about your business and you can count on your ability to see anew just being there.
Regardless then of how badly we think we are doing when we play the game film, there is always the basic movement from: "now you don't see it / now you do." And this movement is always happening in us. We aren't making it happen with our self-development programs. Or better said: We might be becoming more aware of how it's working; but we are not making it happen.
I know it's common to consider the self development pathway as one in which we get progressively better at this thing we call life. But really, everything we will ever do will always be something that one day, perhaps just the day before, we could not do or had never thought of doing, so I think this whole notion of "progress" and preconditions only gets in the way of that natural flow.Every person on the planet knows how to shift
from not knowing something one moment to knowing it. We did it with walking, talking and eating with spoons. We've been doing it for our whole lives and we'll continue doing it.
Let's start counting on it.
A friend asked me how our new mangement consulting business
will attract clients.
I sat back and thought, "How do I know that we are supposed to "attract" anyone at all?"
For those like my friend who find business building and marketing exhausting, there is a spiritual school of thought that says, "It's OK. Stop trying and start attracting. You are a spiritual being and the law of attraction will have your clients find you." Well, yes, we all are more than just our bodies. Talk to anyone who has had a near death experience, like Anita Moorjan
i (video below). But you can't unplug your personal plan and just plug in a new spiritual marketing plan. I am not seeing this working for people. And I'll get to what's missing in a moment.
Whether my techniques are old-school marketing and cold calling or new-school "attracting" it seems to me, the problem is: I am still working on the level of myself, Elese the human being using techniques to the best of her ability. It's as if we say, " I have tried marketing techniques, social media techniques, affiliate techniques, now I'll go for spiritual techniques."
We cannot substitute personal effort with spiritual effort.
In fact, I'm not sure there is any such thing as spiritual effort. What do I mean by this?
I mean, I don't think we MAKE ourselves spiritual, and I don't think we have any role in making spirituality work on a personal level -- anymore than we make electricity work.
To use "attracting" as your sales plan is just another technique, no different from traditional marketing, it doesn't work unless what is behind it is authentic. So if you are a coach, or a human services provider...
I believe you can't substitute any technique, spiritual or otherwise, for improving the base quality of your work. And the quality of your work is related to the depth of your own view of who you are and how you function.
Think of a magnet. A magnet does nothing to attract. When the right metallic components are in range, the polarity takes care of itself. I think we love the idea that we make ourselves into great magnets through our work and then people just get attracted. No. You don't make your polarity. You ARE the polarity because of your nature. Should you just stand there and radiate? Will they come? Maybe.
Or are you thinking that your job is to increase your polarity? Well, it's not. You job is to dance your dance. You don't even need to go deeper in anything unless it is useful to you to not only be who you are but to have awareness of who you are. But, you are already who you are. You are already the base metal and so is everyone else. Without your concept of who you are and your ideas about who you are, you would just simply be you.
So who am I and who do I think I am. Am I thinking of myself as someone who needs to attract clients? Where are all the areas I tend to forget who I am and become afraid and insecure? What's underneath my insecure thinking?
When was the last time you really reflected on: Who Are You?
From who you think you are flows everything that you do to make yourself happy, everything you think you need or is missing, all your problems and all your concerns. You are doing everything in your life right now based on your best guess about who you are.
I was raised in a Christian Science family and I was told from the earliest of ages, "you are not your body." I never believed this, even after spending the first 18 years of my life dedicated to this metaphysical study. So I do not expect that anyone, not you, not me, should take anyone's word for who you are. Belief should not come into it. You cannot sit solidly on a belief. But inquiry can get us beyond who we think we are.
We are too quick to accept everything we think as a true and accurate picture of life and of ourselves. We speak far too easily about ideas like "Law of Attraction," "ego" and "spiritual self" and have not taken enough time to investigate these beyond the level of concepts and pop culture.
Everything we do as humans is an attempt to remedy a life that is the direct result of accepting whatever crazy things we think and living them as true.
Most people I know (including me!) suffer at some point from some form of dwarfed or warped self-image. Most people simply try to apply this idea of "attraction" using their self-image. This image is made up of what we think of ourselves, but what is underneath it is actually what is most attractive about us.
At some point, if you are a coach and you are growing your business of service to others, the investigation into who is "Me" is a necessary investigation that has taken my clients and will take you through to the next level.
Forget attracting. Get to know yourself.
Many years ago, I was in a serious relationship and living with the man I thought I would marry. he had given up everything to be with me, moving from the US to the UK, leaving his job and even selling his car (he loved that car). He arrived at the airport with a few personal items and carrying a promise: we would be together. Forever, I thought.
This was not to be. And it was the greatest lesson in love I ever learned.
After a year of living together and enjoying life together I noticed he was becoming irritable. He complained about city life. He felt like a foreigner. I jumped into action with everything I knew to show him the best sides of my city, my life and myself.
I thought, despite these little concerns, that we would marry and be together always. I was deeply in love and as I looked at it from the bright side, it seemed we could live anywhere and do anything we wanted to. We'd work it out...
About 14 months after we moved in together, he sat me down one day in the living room. It was spring and grey skies were lifting. I had noticed that his mood had not. He seemed to spend his days in the house now, smoking more often. He had more complaints when I arrived home in the evenings -- some about me, but mostly about life.
As I sat on the floor he began, "I want to go home."
I guess I had felt something
coming. Recently our discussions about the future and marriage had got very sticky. I felt I was pushing him. A bad feeling was growing in me. Something was wrong. In my usual haughtiness, I assumed something was wrong with Him.
"Back to San Diego?" I inquired.
Well, that seemed a reasonable thing. He had lived there for years and we met there. My mother lived there. It sounded like a good plan for us, but somehow I knew he wasn't talking about our plan.
"...I am leaving in July on my ticket and I don't want to plan to come back."
As each word landed I felt the ground rumbling under the pounding hooves of large oncoming herd of buffalo. Now b
eing an American in the UK has challenges. allows you only so much time in any one sojourn so the sand in the hourglass is always dribbling. You cannot work and you have to leave regularly in order to renew your visa. You can also only renew a tourist visa a limited number of times. If he were to come back after his current ticket was used, we knew it would be the last time and we were aware of the dangers of marrying under pressured circumstances. (Small detail: he hadn't asked). We could both live in the States, however, so we had talked about moving. My head was swirling. Maybe that's what he was talking about...
He was looking at the floor. This was something more.
I asked questions. Did he want me to come with him? Would I come later? Would we try living there for a while? Live in both places?
His answers were sad and clear. He could go live with a friend who had a room. I probably wouldn't like that place. Also, he didn't want to have any more possessions. Only the minimum needed to live. He would live a life "off the grid."
"Does this plan include me?" I asked, anxiously.
"If you can live that way," he replied still looking down.
A life "off grid" he explained would involve living only with recycled and found items, buying nothing new. He would get furniture or anyting else he needed off the street. But he didn't expect to need that. Sleeping rough in his room would be fine. A computer and a few hangers would hold his life. Enough consumer items have been made to fill a planet already, he would have no part of encouraging "them" to make more.
My head was exploding in two directions. First, I felt accused of being some kind of reckless consumer. I felt frivolous in my choices, the amount of clothes I owned, my spending on food and entertainment. I felt as if a great finger of shame was pointing at me. As if that wasn't bad enough, I was starting to feel sick. My stomach had sunk to the floor. Tears were burning my eyes. He had planned this. He had already thought it through. ohmygod. For some time! He knew exactly what he was doing and how much he would budget. It was all worked out. I was not being consulted. I was being informed.
He was leaving me.
In the months that followed I did little else but cry and cry some more. I was hurt, betrayed and I felt pitiful. "The one I love who I thought loved me, is leaving me." I begged to understand how I could fit in to this plan. Could the plan be modified. What about this? What about that? I got angry the more I realized I couldn't fit in. I yo-yo'd between grief and fury. I settled for despair.
The one thing I did not do, was act like someone who loved him.
It tooks months to see beyond the pain to the lesson I would eventually find. OH, the pain! I was sliced and diced. I could hardly eat. I was sleepwalking at work and when I wasn't actually sleeping I was crying. I woke up crying, I showered crying, I sat on the toilet crying.
As July approached and my once-lover, not-future-husband packed to leave, I had found some self-help books and leaned on friends to help me get through this major life event. But my suffering was intense and at Heathrow airport his parting words flattened me. What I longed to hear, "I can't leave you, let's figure this out somehow," fluttered through my hopeful heart as we shared a coffee and watched the clock in silence. Then we stood up, walked to the gate, he hugged me, ticket and passport in hand, he whispered, "I made a mistake. I wish I had made love to you one last time."
And then he disappeared into the security check and the crowd beyond.
Zombified, I walked to the car. Called a friend. Pretended like I felt OK and drove home blind with tears.
Some while later I found myself transferred to the US with my job and living in San Diego. Briefly my lover and I reconnected and I had a revelation that showed me everything I had been unable to see.
My revelation was this: I loved him, but I actually didn't know what love was.
You see, when I arrived in San Diego I began to notice a happy man living exactly as he wanted to. He was enjoying the life he had made "off grid." It was everything he had hoped for and more. He had a great life. For him.
The terrible truth dawned on me: that day of his revelation in my living room, I didn't want him to have a great life; I wanted him to want me.
THAT was all I cared about.
This is not love.
To love someone is to want what they want for themselves. To love someone is to want them to have their happiness. Even above you.
I realized that if I had truly
loved him I might have sat on my floor that day full of curiosity about the life he was planning and interested in his happiness and his joy. But No. I was thinking "What about ME?" and "How can you leave ME!" and "Oh, my God, there goes MY life down the toilet!" Selfish Elese. I didn't give a shit what he wanted. I didn't care.
Thinking what I did seems perfectly normal and completely understandable when you get a shock. The problem came when I mistook it for love. I even thought my bad feeling came from the fact I loved him.
It did not.Love loves that the other person loves what they love and leaves them free.
There are still many, many ways every day that I forget this lesson of mine. I still am fully capable of trying to shape the lives of others for my own selfish reasons, whether it is my family or my friends. And of course, it remains a challenge in any relationship too. I'm a human so life has it's variety. I continue to fail to be happy for other people's choices and to judge them. I continue to fail to leave people to their own devices, to bless them, to honor them and to continue on my way without still feeling some tug to intervene.
When I am at my most clear, I see that the intervention needed is for me, not for them.
But my personal folklore about Love has shifted. Most of the ways we all talk about love and what it looks like are simply sentimental and untrue. A piercing look into our love relationships may well show us, not the faults of the others, but the dark places in ourselves. We can refuse to step into these places at our peril. The danger being that we continue to experience love as nothing more than a form of pleasurable self-interest that comes with a sting in the tail the moment we don't get what we want.
I learned a hard but beautiful lesson and sometimes I need to remind myself of it. Bruce de Marsico said in this article To Love is To Be Happy, "you only fail to love if you get unhappy."I know that I can
- be happy with another person's choices -- though I don't have to share them
- be happy with their predilections and habits -- though I don't have to indulge in them
- be happy with their lives as they see fit to lead them -- even when that does not involve living with me
Love has only one face and very simply, we know it by a feeling of love and happiness. To know that face we must stop trying to choose happiness for others and choose it for ourselves. Only then will we finally meet the other person as who they are and perhaps we will find they are as flawed and as lovable as we are.
My postscript. 8 years on...
Now and again I run into my ex and I see clearly we wouldn't have worked out as a couple. We've very different lives. Now I can appreciate him and that he gifted me this lesson.
Thank goodness for him. Thank goodness he had the strength to remain steady in his conviction instead of submitting to my misguided and misdirected will. What a mess of a compromise we would have made! Each trying to love one another at the cost of our happiness. I love that he is happy. I love to spot him from time to time riding his bike, smiling from the saddle of his free and unencumbered day. His life is not for me. And it is perfect for him.
I Love that.
I've spent the last two days in hospital at the bedside of a friend, while he recovered from his own death.
I was recovering from his death as well, as it happened in my dining room. He was chewing gum and singing one minute. Barely breathing the next.
My neighbor and I did our best to keep him alive while the ambulance angels arrived, thronged into my living room and whisked the grey-faced body to hospital as quickly and calmly as only they can. You've never seen people moving so fast take things so slowly!
Two days later in the Intensive Care, he was musing on being lucky to be alive. "Good thing there's no brain damage," he said, barely able to speak after the tubes and lines were removed that had kept him alive for a day. "I'll be the judge of that," I quipped. We laughed.The recovery had begun.His journey to recovery will be whatever that turns out to be: the body healing, the mind recovering full equilibrium, and who knows what else may come to him.For me, I can already tell you two odd things have shifted. Both point to something bigger.Everything I've eaten today tastes sweet. Water tastes sweet. Soup tastes sweet. My mouth tastes fresh.
Odd. Not unpleasant, but odd.I also walked into my closet and realized I could be rid of half my clothes.
No problem.Only days before I was on a mission to clear out anything I don't wear. As all girls will know, there is always a moment of truth to be had when you are deciding to "throw" or "not to throw."I was having some trouble letting go of a few pieces that, although I hardly wear, cost me more than I'd like to admit. I was hesitating and stammering and frankly, attached. I think I felt a bit foolish getting rid of them. I felt even more foolish standing there now looking at what only days before had seemed so important. The "I might need this one day!" attitude had left me. I had no desire to see these things hanging on the rail for another year. The logic that keeps closets all over the world filled to bursting, is a curious one. I've talked about it in my book in the chapter on Wants, Desires and Addictions
and how "so much of our wanting is fused with our self-esteem and personal identities."
As happens so often, I come back to my own words. "Once we know how long we have to live, our desire to experience life intensifies."These things I have do not constitute Life. Life can only be experienced. It cannot be owned.
As I returned from hospital today to my closet I couldn't imagine that only 48 hours before I felt so attached to pieces of clothing. I knew I would easily let go of this and more. In my mind's eye, I saw my closet full of things I love to wear, not things I can't bear to throw out. It is very strange all the little ways I learn about myself. As I considered all the things that would now be leaving my home forever, I felt an intense desire to get back to my own life's work.
It is often said that our personal beliefs are what limits our potential. As I thought about this, it appeared to make a belief sound very solid, and by contrast potential sounded a bit ephemeral and abstract. But is this really true?
What are beliefs? What is Potential? How do they relate to one another ...
We certainly talk about beliefs as solid things. We need to get over, overcome or leave them behind us. We sense they limit us, and we speak and act as if they were both within us and "out there."
It is funny how the more we see beliefs as limiting, in the way, or something to deal with, the more important they appear. And the more real. But are they? (See the radio show on Thought Ruts
In my experience, beliefs are not solid things. They are just thoughts. A thought never hurt anyone all by itself. A thought never hurt you either. Even the feeling of a thought never can hurt you. Even if you have been believing or thinking something for a long time and no matter how many other people agree ("The earth is flat!") look and see, is it really anything more than a passing idea?
We are quick to consider our thoughts and beliefs as "truth." But it does not make them so.
Potential is something you have inside you. Think of it as untapped ability.
A horse may not ever in the whole of it's life jump a fence, but it certainly has the potential, or the ability to jump.
Potential is not what you think you can do, it is what you use to do what you decide to do.
I can't pack a parachute properly. My potential to do so lies in the innate intelligence I have to learn anything.
Potential is a very interesting things to consider, because it is not a belief. It lies behind what you think and believe, as permanent possibility. Only its expression can be limited by what we think is possible.
In fact, anyone believing certain things to be true about themselves will conceive of their potential and their possibilities in a particular way. If their thoughts are limiting, that sense of limitation and the feeling of constraint is a real experience in the moment, but not a permanent truth. And, more importantly, it doesn't change what potential is.
You cannot tarnish potential just because you see yourself as limited. But you can experience yourself as limited.
Your potential is a power. It is an unseen force that is expressed very differently in each of us in beautiful, unique ways.
What happens to your ideas about your own potential when you think of potential as a power?
What happens to your ideas about change when you think of beliefs as solid?
On this note, it's interesting to remember that even matter
is not solid. Modern quantum physics says an atom does not have a nucleus made of "particles" in the way it was once thought.
Energy in the nucleus, electrons, can express in forms of waves or particles. It depends. (See Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle
). So even matter, although it's hard to grasp this, is not that solid. And since electrons can express in different forms, that means the core of an atom is actually potential
Just like the core of you.
Time to go into the darkwhere the night has eyesto recognize its own. There you can be sure you are not beyond love. The dark will be your wombtonight. The night will give you a horizonfurther than you can see. You must learn one thing:the world was made to be free in...(David Whyte, Excerpt from Sweet Darkness)
As I write this I am preparing the last live broadcast of my show "A New Way To Handle Absolutely Everything" on Contact Talk Radio (iTunes podcasts will continue
) What lies ahead, I'm not entirely sure.
I must admit, I have always been a great big know-it-all. And a planner. I like to think I have a future, some influence over it, and that I know something.The truth is, I don't.
Only the other day I was about to state one of my opinions as "fact" when I caught myself. As I pulled back I noticed I quieted down inside and settled into the nicest feeling of not being a somebody. I remembered how important it used to be to me to know (or to not look like I didn't) and to be seen as having authority. It's amazing, isn't it, how life is hard enough and yet on top of that we have the full time job of managing our image
I've learned so much about this and have relaxed much more into my authentic self in recent years.
In "101 New Pairs of Glasses
" I included quite a few chapters on releasing this kind of strain and my favorite is the chapter on mystery. In it I advocate for the art of not-knowing. I'd like to remind myself of this message today
How do we listen and just let it become clear as we go?
Are we able to just rest in the fresh scent of the unknown and see what happens?
I'd like to share this piece from the chapter on mystery, mainly as a reminder to myself how valuable it is for me allow mystery to be here as I take each step...
"The desire to know, or worse, the desire to look like we know is a modern plague. In one fell swoop it destroys listening, understanding, cooperation and learning. It undermines peace of mind and peace amongst nations.
Consumed by our desire to know, or not admit that we don't, we finish other people's sentences, we hate people we have never met, and we cling to things we have long outgrown.
Living in the world of familiarity our lives are choked off by the smallness of our ideas. Crowded in by the known we become selectors instead of creators. The death of curiosity is surely the birth of the ego, as children give up on being explorers of wild imaginings and doodads without names and become regurgitators of facts.
Our lack of curiosity leads directly to our unwillingness to fail and spreads from there to our unwillingness to try - because we already know. We know too much. And what we know isn't worth learning.
To allow wonder and mystery into your life is to suddenly find yourself in weightless spaciousness. We work so hard to fuel personal creativity, business and product innovation, but we would automatically have all of these if we added just an extra dash of curiosity to our daily vitamin supplements.
Imagine not knowing your boss, not knowing your children, not knowing yourself - being totally open. You'd listen closely. You would see new and amazing things. You'd discover the people you live with are people you've never met before. In the freshness of the moment you would unable to locate that familiar feeling of disconnection.
You would see into how your world is constructed. You'd gasp to realize you are much bigger than you ever imagined.
You'd lose your fear."
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