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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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A stack of the iPods I now own... included are...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know I have at least one friend who is reading this title and laughing!

I have a specific reason for the title though, I promise…

So, those who know me know that I’ve been called Gadget Girl … I have several iPods, an iPad, two laptops, and a desk top. . . a scanner, a printer, a mobile printer, and well, an all-in-one…   I have several digital recorders, timers, biofeedback equipment, etc.

I’m not bragging. . . . please let me say that right off…

But there is a point to this inventory. . . my point, there are certain things I like to use for certain specific tasks AND I’ve never found an all-in-one that I really loved because it truly cannot do everything I need it to do.

I like to write my blogs on my macbook air but put them “together” on my HP laptop.  I like to take photos with my iPhone but listen to music and audiobooks on my iPod classic.

It’s easy to justify having all of them, but I would rather spend time appreciating their place in my life. . .  and sending gratitude to the universe for being able to have things on which I have come to depend.

And for some reason, while cooking dinner tonight, I kept hearing, almost as a mantra, “No one can be all things to you”  and I figured if it was that important to be sitting right there in my awareness while I was futzing in the kitchen, it was important enough to write about.

So here we go. . .

No one can be all things to you. . .

I think back over my life and there are “constants” that seem to always be there, in one shape or form. . .

lessons of the heart, mind, body, spirit, sangha, community, etc….

Some constants come up as recurrent themes like Roshi Joan Halifax‘s chant at the end of her dharma talks “Do not squander your life” and how that is sitting so profoundly with me right now.

Other times it’s been Thich Nhat Hanh‘s “I have arrived, I am home” or “Be here now” or “Loving is saying goodbye”, etc etc etc.

And I think that “No one can be all things to you” is a constant.

I’ve lived in many different states from the time I was in college until 2000 years, mostly so that I could remain near family.  I’ve learned time and time again that no one is everything or everyone…

My main mentor was in no way, shape, or form the only wise woman in my life.  She was one of many and we had a heart connection because of our shamanic call to be present with dying.  But there were others that came before her. . . my mom being the first of the long line of graceful, loving, intelligent, no-nonsense women. . .

No one can be all things to you. . .

There was a beloved philosophy professor from school in NY who introduced me to the Dharma and probably doesn’t even realize that she saved my life… well, my existential life.

There have been crusty old hospice nurses told it like it was, gentle and kind therapists/colleagues, and a wonderful mentor in gratitude school who has an all-encompassing sense of grace about her.

No, woman were  not the only one’s who influenced my life.

My dad and his father certainly did . . . while I was growing up, the sun rose and set around me in their eyes.

As it also did for a family friend who was like a second dad to me.

And my brother… well, I’ll tell you a secret… (Mike was terrified that he’d be forgotten. . . and yet, he gave me the gift of companioning him through his dying and in doing so has touched the lives of thousands through me and my work).

So if you have a similar fear, love someone and you will never be forgotten!

No one can be all things to you. . .

There was the French teacher in high school that scared me half to death but pushed me harder than anyone else in my life and I learned what I could achieve because of it.

There were wise professors whose feet I sat at and a few friends whose shoulders are probably still stained with tears during years of deep connections, retreats, and stories about  love affairs.

And I realize that no one friend, no one mentor, not even one parent can be or has been everything to me.

There have been times in my life that my dad and I were inseparable and others times, it was my mom and I.

I’ve thought this lover or this partner — well, of course he was going to be “the one”.

People have moved in and out of my life, and I, physically, out of their lives.

Each connection bringing with it a kind of grace, depth, and compassion that has a different flavor than all of the others.

No one can be all things to you . . .

A young couple who look very much in love by t...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When we think that we will find “the ONE” who will be there through it all, no matter what, forever, our relationships are filled with delusion and attachment (not the healthy kind of attachment).

We can practice mindful awareness of the time that a person is in our lives, the gifts that we share, and the nuances that they bring to the totality of our lives.  And bless them when they are no longer here with us.

There was a poem that we read at hospice often that always moved me to tears of gratitude, forgiveness, gentleness, and great compassion.  Here it is linked to a song by Enya. . . http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HaI7V6eB9M&feature=fvwrel

No one can be all things to you . . .

Let us be grateful for what we have had,

what we were,

what we are.

Let us savor the moments,

the kiss, the touch, the lesson, the love and may we always part gracefully ~~

whether by dying or by conscious choice. . .

Let us know in an embodied way that we are One and that

we do not need to wait for “the ONE”.

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image from colorbox

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-4817/The-Secret-to-Finding-Your-True-Love.html

I would love to share this article with every middle school girl out there… but that might be too late.

We live our whole lives looking for the elusive one, sometimes not able to stand the “one” that we are. . . because we aren’t smart enough, not thin enough, or whatever else we’ve come to believe about ourselves.

If we don’t learn to foster compassion for ourselves we get into a relationship that might be good for us and then we start to think. . . I don’t think I’m smart enough, thin enough, etc. . . of course the object of my love, who I hold in such high esteem, must think that to.

And then comes, who do they think they are?

Or OMG, if they got close enough, they would learn that thin and smart are just the surface… there is so much more than is wrong with me.

And that perfect mate, perfect relationship, is sabotaged, wrecked, and over before it begins.

I tell my friends time and time again that I am not sure if we need to teach kids how to read, write, and do math when we can’t teach them how to be compassionate and can’t show them compassion.

Does algebra really matter if we haven’t been able to connect with others, develop some sort of healthy self-worth?

I hope that the current trend to teach kids mindfulness continues to flourish.  We have kids who are detached, self-absorbed, unable to parent when they get older, and believe, like many of our CEOs and politicians, that the “other” is just someone to take advantage of, no matter who that “other” may be.

Attachment parenting has been in the headlines since the cover of Time a few weeks ago and I know little about it.  I don’t know if we need to breastfeed for much longer than we need to or sleep with our kids to foster safety.

I do know that I see parents, good people, treat their children like objects.  Referring to them like, “I picked up the kid from soccer practice. . .”

I see teachers and parents not give attention to or appreciate the voice that children and elderly have.

We are so busy that it seems like it benefits us to see “the other” as an object because then they can be manipulated — tailgating until we push them around, used to climb the corporate ladder, livelihoods taken, etc.

There has to be some middle ground between seeing corporations having personal rights and depersonalizing the people in our lives but I think it goes back to basic things . . .

Fostering presence and acknowledging the person we are with

Deep listening

Compassionate, thoughtful speak that seeks to find compromise, clarity, and communion

Cultivating a broader perspective and being able to step back to see our basic interconnectedness or as it is called in Thich Nhat Hanh‘s tradition, Interbeing.

Slowing down and taking time — put down all of the distractions and things that won’t matter some day when we are at the end of our lives.

Taking care of ourselves so we can be stewards of our selves, our resources, and our relationships.

All of these things come with contemplative practices.  And I don’t mean to say that everyone needs to become Buddhist. . . MBSR has shown us that a practice does not need to be religious or even spiritual.

I think that any contemplative practice in any tradition of any kind will help us to work on the things that will make us healthier, create stronger relationships, and bring about true peace.

What are we waiting for?

We all have breath to follow.

We all have access to fire to light a candle to focus on.

We have a treasure trove of literature and spiritual/therapeutic texts out there to teach us about the present moment and how to foster awareness.

I ask myself these questions of our greater world and I ask them of myself every day.

Is it time to embrace our enlightened-nature and foster deep connections with the essential self of others?

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Happiness

No Excuse

No Excuse (Photo credit: Mike_tn)

Attachment is the very opposite of love.

Love says,

“I want you to be happy.”

Attachment says,

“I want you to make me happy.”

~~Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, “No Excuses”

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