Falling in love is easy; our biological imperative to mate kicks in naturally opening our hearts and flooding our nervous system with the euphoric experience of idealized connection. In these early moments of love’s embrace, we receive love viscerally. Every exchange is charged with the energy of passionate recognition and the deep cellular relief of being embraced just as we are. And yet, often this early abundant receiving of love doesn’t stick. As the hormonal magic wears off and we are required to mature into the endurance sport of love over time, we lose the ability to feel the love that has accumulated inside of us. We allow small differences to evolve into heartbreak.
Archive for the 'Earth' Category
I live among teenagers, which brings me into intimate contact with the often crippling kind of self consciousness that awakens in the human mind during adolescence. The experience of being seen in these years swings between a primal desire and a punishing shame. Constantly conscious of what others think of what they look like, what they are doing or saying, we parents watch in dismay as our child’s once natural ability to be fully one’s self in the present moment erodes into habitual judgment of self and others. Gone is the playful innocence of being one’s goofy and changing self; it is replaced by a lingering defensiveness that colors almost every interaction. Relationships large and small become matters of dissection and the opening to new and different people begins to shut down. It becomes increasingly challenging to separate the internal filter of how we think we are being seen with the simple reality of being.
I am not proud of the moments when something cracks in me and I become someone I hardly recognize. The times when a powerful storm lets loose inside me without warning, remain stubbornly unpredictable. The triggers are complex; rarely can I trace them to some direct input. Rather they are reflections of the internal conflicts, which more often than not go unnamed and unattended. They are the invisible cracks in our own heart that control us in ways that are potentially damaging precisely because they are invisible. These emotional prisons define our relationships in our intimate lives as well as our careers, and they are strengthened by our ignorance. Not knowing what we want, how we feel, or where our boundaries lay makes it impossible to align our ideas of life with reality itself. Getting stuck in these deep places in ourselves turns internal conflict into a smoldering ash that can be ignited by seemingly innocent events.
I have been working on my capacity for receiving for some time. Teaching myself the ways of opening to love and affection, learning how to sense the feel of love in my body and noticing how it lasts or dissipates with my attention. The ability to receive manifests itself in everything from our capacity for sexual pleasure to our sense of financial security. It also lives in the endless human transactions that make up our days, not only within our most intimate relationships but in the ways we meet strangers, participate in groups large and small and generally experience belonging and isolation in our lives.
It is that time of year again, when the garden performs its ritual magic of re-creating itself anew. Regardless of the challenging and changeable winter weather conditions, the perennials in the garden re-emerge each spring, a blooming demonstration of what it means to weather the storms of life. Perennials for me are the defining feature of an evolving garden, because we trust them year after year to sustain the shape of our garden. Finding the source of perennial sustenance in our selves is how we shape our own evolution. For me, after years of searching outside of myself, I am finally waking up to the singular truth of life that has been articulated by way smarter people than me- that our world is created from the inside out.
“I know that when a door closes, it can feel like all doors are closing. A rejection letter can feel like everyone will reject us. But a closed door leads to clarity. It’s really an arrow. Because we cannot go through that door, we will go somewhere else. That somewhere else is your true life.” -Tama Kieves
Rejection might well be the source of our greatest fear and anguish and for good reason. Looking back at our tribal origins, rejection is imprinted in us as a matter of life and death. We humans were never meant to live alone; we are herd animals. I learned again last week just how deeply this lineage of rejection runs in me when I was “un-invited” to a small business group. Never mind that I wasn’t sold on the idea of joining this group from the beginning or even after the first meeting walked away doubting my decision to participate; still the call of rejection stung deep and left circles of reactivity around me for days.
Most people would probably agree that if all they needed to remember about giving and receiving love, they learned in kindergarten, they might also add the caveat that most of what they need to forget is what they learned in high school. I have noticed in my dealings with the many teenagers that I find myself around lately, through the Positivity Club I helped launch in our local high school, as well as the strained relating with my own teens, that there are a few consistent behaviors that disrupt relationships and impede emotional development that are worth forgetting. In the Valentine’s Day spirit of opening up to all the love that surrounds us, here is a short list of useless habits of the heart that will only enhance your feelings of being loveable by letting them go.
“One day a monk spoke bitterly to the Buddha. All he wanted to talk about was the unbearable sorrows of the world. The Buddha remained silent while the monk talked, then a faint smile appeared on his face. He pointed to the ground below his feet and said,“On this earth I have attained awakening.” -Buddhist Mondo
It is easy to become bitter by the weight of so much unresolved sorrow in life. I feel my heart get hard and my attitude towards life turn sour sometimes when I spend too long scanning the newspaper or fixating on the CNN newscasts while at the gym. Bad news travels faster than ever and the continuous in-your-face coverage of the unceasing violence from seemingly endless human conflict and its destructive aftermath can overwhelm me to the point of withdrawal, or worse still, indifference. But my indifference doesn’t stick; over and over I am pulled back into the stories of suffering from around the world with an earnest desire to know what is happening and to find my way into being part of the solution. I know that I am not alone, struggling to find center in this pendulum swing in my relationship to suffering.
“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.” -Fyodor Dostoevsky
As I read the caption “disgraced” under Lance Armstrong’s photo documenting the interview of him finally admitting to drug use throughout his notorious cycling career, I wondered if he would walk away finally relieved of the enormous burden of his deceit or in the planning stages of his next role as the repentant star. Now, after 13 years of denials and false accusations, there is no simple truth that he can share that will reckon the years of aggressive manipulation of the truth in which a single lie became an extravagant lifestyle that he forced onto everyone and everything he touched. Apologies at this late juncture feel puny and almost like adding insult to injury. What we want instead when people are finally willing to speak the truth is a true reflection on the whys; a window into the slippery slope of lies that consume us whole.
Insecurity is a natural consequence of our mortal human experience. The most primal hardwired function of our brain is driven by a survival instinct, which is governed, to a large extent, by a negativity bias that operates without our conscious awareness. Negativity bias creates thinking mechanisms steeped in our worst fears and limits our view of the world with rigid judgments. This natural closing, left unchecked, translates into a defensive posture that impacts our capacity for relating, especially within our most intimate relationships. Re-thinking the source and experience of safety in the world is one of the most powerful shifts of intention we can bring to our relationships to life, as well as to the people we love.