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Archive for the ‘Relationship Dharma’ Category

“When we’re lonely and cut off, when we suffer and need healing, that is the time to come home to ourselves.  We may also need to be close to another person. . .  Every one of us is seeking emotional intimacy.  We want to be in harmony.  We want to have real communication and mutual understanding.”

~~ Thich Nhat Hanh, Fidelity:  How to Create a Loving Relationship That Lasts

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“Every human being wants to love and be loved.  This is very natural.  But often love, desire, need, and fear get wrapped up all together.  There are so many songs with the words, “I love you; I need you.”  Such lyrics imply that loving and craving are the same thing, and that the other person is just there to fulfill our needs.  We might feel we can’t survive without the other person.  When we say, “Darling, I can’t live without you.  I need you,” we think we’re speaking the language of love.  We even feel it’s a compliment to the other person.  But that need is actually a continuation of the original fear and desire that have been with us since we were small children.”

~~Thich Nhat Hanh, Fidelity:  How to Create a Loving Relationship that Lasts

I was sick last week and did not get to post this. . . Aug 2nd was my parents’ 52 wedding anniversary.  I wish that everyone could experience the ups and downs that they have and the bond that has kept them together.

Much love and deep bows of gratitude to Bob & Judy Stevens.  Thank you for all the love, sacrifice, and compassion they have fostered in our family!

Namaste, Jennifer

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“Your relationships would also benefit great from a commitment to never part in anger.  If the other person in the relationship is willing, make a commitment to one another that if there is a problem, a moment of anger, you will stay and work it through until you can part in love.  We have seen over the years that if the final interaction with a loved one was of anger, the grieving process can be much more complicated.”

~~John E. Welshons, Awakening from Grief:  Finding the Way Back to Joy

One of the harder things for the bereft to deal with is things that didn’t get said.  Sometimes, an even tougher thing to reconcile with is the things that did get said.

I like John’s suggestion that if both partners (romantic, familial, etc) are willing to pledge to work on never parting in anger, a relationship can be stronger and the grief less complicated.

People may talk about kids having magical thinking… “I got made at my sister and told her I wished she was dead” and then at some point the sister dies and the child believes that they are the cause for the disease, accident, etc.

But adults do something similar… they may have had a relationship with someone for decades, a loving relationship where the two people really cared for and about each other, and there are harsh words or a rift of some sort and one of the people becomes very sick or dies.  We tend to focus on that rift rather than all of the thousands of ways we showed that we cared.

Think about the adult child who has to put their aging parent in a nursing home because of ill-health, dementia, etc.  The adult child might have promised that parent that day would never come and now it’s here.  Or the parent went to live at the home and died…

In our grief, we will not think about all the doctor’s appointments we took that person on.

Or the trips to the store to get their favorite ice cream at 10 pm.

Or the holidays where we always made sure they had their favorite dish.

The flowers that they bought for no reason except that they loved the person.

But all that gets over looked because that one day when you had three hours of sleep you said to yourself, “When will this end.”

Or you fought about something minor and didn’t get the chance to make things right with each other.

Grief gives us the opportunity, more than many other experiences to do two things:  to learn compassion and to learn forgiveness…. both of these in regards to ourselves and in regards to others.

If you need to walk away and cool off, do it… but don’t let a lot of time go by without at least saying, I’m angry and I love you.

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Over a long time taking pictures of the nature...

Over a long time taking pictures of the nature for a change (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Yes is openness.  Nature opens itself to everyone without discrimination.  This universal generosity happens to us when we awaken to loving-kindness.  Likewise, nature does not retaliate.  The man who litters the beach may nonetheless catch a fish the same day. . . Nature is such a great resource in living yes:  the model of yes and the gift of yes.  Looking at a flower and honoring it as a guide, no just as something beautiful, helps us relate to nature in a creative way.  This kind of upgrade in consciousness is how the subtle guidance from nature unfolds.  A flower becomes a symbol of the tender life in us that can only grow by firm anchoring to the earth, by welcoming the seasons, and by passing without complaint through its phases.  Then a rose is not just a rose but an escort to rebirth.”

~~ David Richo, The Five Things We Cannot Change. . . and the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them

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“When you are a loving person, love, which is itself nothing other than your essential nature, manifests.

If you find a partner, she or he also is a manifestation of the same loving essential nature.

When this insight is a reality for you, even as you wait for a lover, you directly experience that love has already arrived.”

~~ Ellen & Charles Birx, Waking Up Together:  Intimate Partnership on the Spiritual Path.

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Excerpt from The Five Things You Cannot Change by David Richo

Our spiritual practices have a direct impact on the possibility of our showing love in relationships in an adult way:  Mindfulness helps us practice attention, acceptance, and allowing.  Loving-kindness helps us show affection and appreciation.

As a spiritual practice, ask yourself about the signs that your love for someone is truly unconditional:

  • You feel a sense of connectedness with the other that endures and cannot be supplanted no matter what.
  • You consistently have well-meaning thoughts and are wishing the best for the other.
  • You can act kindly, at times even anonymously, with no expectation of anything in return.
  • You sense your heart opening when you are with the other or thinking of her or him.
  • You maintain a commitment to nurture the other and the relationship more than your own ego demands.
  • You are no longer pushed or arrested by fears of closeness to or distance from the other.
  • You do no engage in ego competitiveness or aggression, actively or passively.
  • You are sensitive to how the other feels and go to any length no to hurt him or her intentionally.
  • You have an effortlessly compassionate, forgiving, generous, and non retaliatory attitude in your thoughts and actions.  (There is no vindictive force in the universe.  Revenge is exclusive to humanity.)
  • You keep your own boundaries intact so that your love is always unconditional, but your commitment is intelligently and appropriately conditional.
  • You are aware of your partner’s negative traits and you see them with compassion and amusement without letting them impinge upon you.  Am I willing to play on relationship’s full check board of light and dark?

Finally, unconditional love is entirely in the present tense.”

Some people may have learned all they needed to in kindergarten but somehow I doubt they learned some really vitally important lessons that many people in long-term commitments never learn.

When I read this passage, what I was reminded of (and am often reminded of) is how importance the cultivation of presence and compassion are, both to ourselves and to our interactions with others.

If we cannot be there and show up in our own lives, we cannot do it in a relationship.  And let’s face it, if we cannot show up and be present, we have no relationship.

I am also struck by the fact that when we have this basic goodness, we can move farther up the hierarchy that Maslow put forth for us.

We have difficulty when those basic needs are not met or better yet, when we have the perception that our basic needs are not met.

But think about this:  as a society , we are become more unhealthy — due to stress, diet, environment, community, pharmaceuticals, lack of priorities, etc.

Are we creating a society whereby in the pursuit of the “good life” we have created a living situation that impoverishes us and keeps us from achieving our highest potential?

The more we endanger our food supply, our surroundings, our bodies, our minds, the less chance we have of being able to be whole — or holy — and the less we are to be able to truly be in communion with each other and our world.

It’s an idea to think about . . . how do we reach the top levels of the pyramid, or greatest good, or anything transpersonal (or unity consciousness, etc) if we have food that does not nourish us, water that is undrinkable, and pain and disease from a multitude of sources.

Can we really have a lived bodily experience and sense of our Oneness, our interconnectedness, or our Interbeing as Thich Nhat Hanh suggests, if we are so ill at ease (dis-eased) in our world?

Can we use our spiritual practices to cultivate deep understanding of how the mandala of life truly comes together in harmony?

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Fundamental group of the circle

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My first real experience with this shape was in high school.

I was in a program that combined peer counseling, leadership training, and learning how to provide a day camp experience for children.

It was the dreaded circle.  I could not come to pull my chair into the circle.  I didn’t feel like I belonged.

In college, I was part of a year-long intensive, studying Rogerian therapy in a program that was didactic and experiential.

I would not trade this for the world, but we were in circles again.  And as this was the second great experience that taught me about group process, it also taught me that groups can have a shadow side too.  There were times that business didn’t get finished.  People walked back to their dorms hurt, hand in heart, not knowing how to cope with what came up and how to live with it for the following week.

As a project for a meditation class I took in my second philosophy class, I visited my first Zendo. . . in New Paltz, NY.  And I was greeted into a strange circle where people sat facing the wall, in a dark room, with incense billowing.

After school was done, I went to work in social services. . . circles for staff meetings and staff retreats, circle for support groups . . . I couldn’t get away from them.  I was part of a women’s group — all of us were therapists, educators, etc and we came together to process.

As I became a group facilitator, I learned to love the group process and felt comfortable in the dreaded circle.  I was welcomed into a wonderful sangha in Madison, WI — Snowflower Sangha, in Thich Nhat Hanh‘s tradition and I got to see deep listening and compassionate speech.  I got to see a Starting Anew ceremony.  And I saw a wonderful community — like I got to experience at Upaya Zen Center in April.

Along the way, I came across a book, The Way of Council.  I yearned for this kind of group experience.

The lessons, guidelines, and spirit that is conveyed in The Way of Council works for a family, for close friends, for team members, for intimate relationships, etc.

Calling council gives one the guidelines and means for sustaining deep connections in community, to invite ritual into one’s life, and shares ideas for holding council in all of the relationships just mentioned above in the previous paragraph.

I will be writing more about holding council, about nonviolent communication, deep listening, compassionate speech.  I hold these practices in high esteem.  I have seen the light and shadow sides of groups (and families that I have worked with in therapy and in home visits through hospice, staffs that had a lot of undercurrents and lack of health).

I cannot think of a greater gift that I could give to the readers of this blog — to the therapists, to those who might want to start a peer-led grief group, to those who want to create intentional communities and have deep and meaningful relationships.

Creating the intimacy of council, of truly being present, is scary, doesn’t come easy, sometimes hurts, always heals, and is worth the time, energy, attention, and intention.

I hope you enjoy the blogs that will follow.

In the next post on this topic, I will discuss the Four Intentions of Council.

Stayed Tune.

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