When we fall in love, we typically do not yet really know the subject matter of our love. We may fall in love with a person, a place, a job, a pet, and even an inanimate object. Falling in love, says Alan Watts, is an act of trust. Thus the word “fall.” We take a leap of faith, not knowing what the future holds in store for us, and thrust ourselves, often blindly, into the arms of the beloved.
Therefore, whom we fall in love with, is nothing but a figure of our imagination. This is important to understand. With some exceptions, such as falling in love with an old friend, one we knew for many years, and suddenly an arrow from Cupid makes us see that friend in a different light, we don’t really know who we fell in love with.
Over time, we get to know our newfound love, the person, the town we just moved into, our new workplace. It is then, more often than not, that we get disillusioned. This is because, hardly ever, our love subject can realistically meet the expectations set by our imagination. It is then that friction begins. We wish for them to be something they never were. Yet the fault is not theirs but our own. They were never that which we imagined. As the idiom goes, love is blind. We only saw what we wished to see; we ignored the rest. What follows is typically a disappointment. I love you, you’re perfect, now change, was the title of a 1997 musical comedy. It nailed it. The perfect we imagined, never was. When we realize it, we end up wishing to mold our beloved into the ideal existing only in our mind.
As mentioned above, this process happens not only with a person.
We may land a dream job. The employer offers great benefits, amazing work environment, lovely co-workers. But after we work there for a while, the things we could not see when we were in love with this new job, suddenly surface. Maybe the company promotes the wrong people to managerial positions. We encounter dirty office politics. Benefits that look great at first, turn out to have catches we didn’t notice when we signed the employment agreement. We then fall out of love. Unrealistic expectations meet disappointment.
In another example, we may move to a new town that looks like the ideal place to live. Yet, after residing there for a while, the ideal we imagined in our mind, is not what transpired. Yes, we may still like the place in comparison with places we lived at prior, but, here too, we fell in love with something that never was.
Same applies with a leader we may follow, be it social, political, spiritual, religious, or otherwise. At first we think the world of this guru. We miss realizing that they are only human, with challenges and faults. Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, MLK, just human. There is much to be appreciated about some of these figures, to draw inspiration from, but when we idealized anything, we do wrong by both the subject matter and by us.
What I am learning over the years is not to evade falling in love. Falling in love is, well, lovely. Rather, I came to understand that it is a process. I realize that the intoxication that comes with falling in love is a form of illusion. I may allow myself to enjoy it for a while, yet if I surrender to this substance, disillusion must follow. Striking a balance between the joy of being in love and reality, is a skill I am developing. The key seems to be expectations. Realizing that the subject matter of my love is not the one that is changing over time. Rather, it is me who loses some of the blindness cast by Cupid’s arrow. Once I can accept that I fell in love with an ideal imagined only in my mind, I can be content with the relationship long-term, celebrating the nectar of falling in love, yet evading the disappointment that otherwise follows.
When I was recently wronged by a close friend, hurt by her words and actions, I felt anger rising within me. I didn’t like this feeling, and I was looking into a different approach. As emotions are energy in motion, what I wished for was to turn this energy of anger into compassion. The words of Jesus came to my mind. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” While I do not follow a religion, what these words mean to me, is that when someone wrongs me, they are missing the bigger picture, and often seek satisfaction in injury to others. Can I find within myself, I asked my higher-self, compassion for a misguided friend?
It turned out that I can. What this required, was for me, for just a few moments, to imagine myself being the other person; feel their feelings, identify with their wounding, past and present. Of course that I cannot fully do that. I can never step into someone else’s shoes as to do that I have to experience their entire life. But I can imagine. And when I did, I was able to understand and thus create a channel of unspoken communication; a connection. It does not mean that I agree with their words and actions, but this exercise did allow for compassion to appear at the doorstep of my heart.
Someone I know well shared with me, that a romantic relationship he had for a while, just ended. It was a great love affair, and the woman in the relationship was the one who chose to terminate it. While this was first done at good terms, shortly after, it became ugly. He found out that she is spreading tall tales and lies about him. He was hurt, feeling betrayed and confused. This was a woman he loved, and, at the time, still did. “How could she do this?” he confided with me? “Why is she so mean?”
While I was unable, nor wished, to justify her deeds, it gave me a chance to put my thoughts about compassion into practice. “Can you,” I asked this person, “see it for just a few moments from her point of view, taking into consideration her life’s journey?” Turned out that this woman was severely abused as a child, and no less by her own mother, who belittled and even hated her from birth. She grew up without a father, never knowing who he was. Her world was filled with adults who were alcoholics and quite violent. As an adolescence, she finally left home and got married at a young age to a narcissist. Laboring two kids she ended up splitting from her abusive husband, and, to support herself, entered a career of over twenty years as a sex worker. Thus, from a very young age, this person needed to do what she could to survive. It included telling lies and mastering the art of manipulation. My friend told me that at some point in their relationship, she bragged to him that she can manipulate most men, and quite a few women, to do as she wished. She has fierce sexual energy which she uses in a manner only someone with much practice can. In her forties, this women finally departed from the sex arena, embarking on a spiritual journey. While she realized her past wounding, she never really released it. She thought she did, but these are very deep seated patterns. The healing was never complete.
When the relationship came to end, although by her own initiative, those old patterns kicked in. She had to tell herself a story, a tale in which she was abused, the victim, and my close friend had to be placed in the role of the abuser. If it meant lies and manipulation of facts into fiction, so be it. I trust that she actually believed her fictional tales or else she would have created an inner conflict. But much like the people who believe the Flat Earth Theory, the fact one believes in lies, does not make them true. Taking all this into consideration does not mean agreeing with her behavior, but it does allow for compassion to rise, versus emotions of anger.
This is a place where faith can come in; faith that, ultimately, my friend’s friend, will find her way to the light without his assistance. We all have our journeys to make in this life, our lessons to be learned. It is not our role to help others find their truth. We can only work on ourselves.
No one really knows what God is. We have ideas, beliefs, and convictions. But no one can provide solid proof that their experience is the only real one. For me, God is unknown, but its expression is love and compassion, kindness and understanding to others. Anyone who claims to be of God but that does not act in the manners of which God expresses itself, is living in delusion. That friend, unfortunately, does not walk the walk. She talks high talk, but her words and actions lack kindness and compassion. And as she is so convinced she is in God’s arms, she is unable to see how her deeds are anything but a reflection of the Divine.
I am leery of anyone who claims that they work with God, carrying God’s will. The zealots of Islam (and other religions for that matter,) perform horrific acts of violence in the name of God. Years ago I followed a guru who claimed to be in God’s embrace. He allowed himself to abuse his disciplines on God’s behalf. There’s a reason for the saying, “If you meet a Buddha on the road, kill him.” The one who claims to be a Buddha cannot be the real Buddha. Thus my leeriness of proclamations related to God. I trust that the almighty doesn’t interfere in our day to day affairs. We live the Divine Plan our soul created ahead of arriving into this body, into this life. We are the actors in a screenplay we ourselves composed. God just provides the means for us to learn what we desire to learn every time we come back into a physical form.
I wish this friend, as well as others living in delusion, that one day they will realize their condition. I realize that it is not my role to make the horse drink. All I can do is create circumstances in which those who wish, will see what they need to see. Whether they see it or not, whether they transform or not, is not my responsibility. I am releasing my savior complex. I let go. I have my own work to do on myself, and that is plenty.
Years ago, there was a campaign in Israel against road-rage, with the slogan, “On the road, don’t be just, be wise.” I find that, over the years, I care less about being just. To be righteous is an uphill battle. It is tiring and, ultimately, not worth it. I no longer need to convince others that my perspective is the only correct one. I let go. To each their own.
When I offend someone, which would typically be unintentionally, and it is brought to my attention, I am less defensive; I simply apologize. I seek peace and harmony, not to be right.
In recent weeks I had a couple of instances where actions I took and actions I didn’t take, were offensive to some people. In one instance, I forgot to offer condolences to a person who’s family relative had passed away. I was preoccupied with other matters, and since that person and I are not that close, it skipped my mind. When this was brought to my attention, I sent condolences and offered an apology for my tardiness. The apology was accepted and harmony restored.
In another instance, I made comments that to me sounded innocent, but were taken otherwise by the other party. Rather than trying to justify and defend my position, I offered an apology. If the other person chooses to accept it, that’s fine. If they do not, it’s their choice. While I elect not to be righteous anymore, I also set boundaries as to what I am willing and unwilling to do. “You cannot shake hands,” I believe it was Gandhi who once said, “with a clenched fist.”
The passing years, as well as the spiritual work that I do, taught me some hard-learned lessons. Being right all the time is not only tiring, it also prevents me from really listening to what the other person says as I am too busy defending my position. When I lower my defenses, I can hear, and adjust what I say and do. This is valuable so that next time I can do it better.
In the field I’m involved with, namely spirituality and healing, the terms light and darkness are often used. “I work in the light,” “Lightworker,” “May you find your way to the light.” And then there’s… “He’s surrounded by darkness,” “She is lost to the light,” “They work in the shadow.” I used to use these terms. It made me feel good since I consider myself working in the light, thus I’m one of the good guys.
Recently I realized how much ego and arrogance this terminology includes on my part. I’m now shifting my lingu somewhat. What is the reason for this change in perspective?
I realized that I’m yet to meet a person without shadows, or one without a spark of light. We tend to paint the world in black and white. Yet, in fact, reality is a large spectrum of grays and various colors. Why do we do this? Why do we feel a need to label, take sides? Likely because it gives us an excuse not to look at our blind-spots. It gives us a sense of superiority.
When we look at the Yin-Yang symbol, we notice that when the Yin, dark side of the circle, reaches it peak, it already has the seed of Yang, white, and vs verse. And while Yin, represented in black, is nothing negative but a metaphor for a certain force, one aimed inwards, it illustrates well also the work of light and darkness. We constantly shift, change, hour to hour, day to day, year to year. When we paint others with darkness, it may be our own darkness that clouds our eyes to see what we need to investigate. This is not to say there is no darkness. Theft, murder, abuse, are all forms of darkness. But rather than labeling, I realize that good and evil are relative and very subjective.
This post is just a reminder for myself to watch out. Watch out for people, including myself, calling others to follow them onto the light. They may be blind to their own shadows as I occasionally have been.
I was recently tasked with building a spiritual community.
Creating such an environment, I quickly realized, is very different than setting up a company. With a company, there is an expected structure and hierarchy. With a community, where involvement is a critical and integral part of the structure, the development is not the same. There are differences in opinions, emotions, and lots of friction. How this friction is handled makes all the difference.
With a company, the managers are the authority. Their word is the final word. With a vibrant community, everyone’s opinion matters, that is, if the intent is to keep all involved and engaged. The leader’s role is to bridge gaps, allow for greater tolerance, and bring in compassion, understanding and kindness. That is not always that easy, especially as some of the community members may come with an agenda, and when their views are not accepted they may work to sabotage the community at large. My teacher is in the habit of saying, twice St. Francis, once Archangel Michael, i.e. approach conflicts twice offering compassion, but if that doesn’t work, it is time to pull out the sword and cut.
I’ve been learning that lesson quickly. It is a harsh lesson and I have much more appreciation for past and present spiritual leaders such as Gandhi and the Dalai Lama. Granted, what I am setting up to do is not to the scale of what they have built, but in the micro, I see the enormously macro. This is where faith comes to the rescue. When things seem to full apart, it is time to call in trust and surrender; not surrender in the sense of laying down and doing nothing, but acceptance that things are as they are. Human nature is such that is creates friction. Accepting it, knowing when it is time to let go of what I wished things to be vs what they are, is faith.
I am sure more lessons are coming my way, and I embrace the process of learning, evolving, and growing. I lead by standing in my weakness, exposing my own vulnerabilities so others may do the same. By doing so, I hope to inspire a deeper sense of connection, so that something beautiful can emerge.
Let’s face it – some days life just sucks. During such times, I wish I had a button to skip that day, or just click fast-forward. Suck days include instances of receiving bad news, of facing conflicts, of experiencing challenging raw emotions including but not limited to anger, sadness, fear, and grief. Why can’t we experience love and joy all the time?
Motivational speakers are split on this matter. Some will tell us that we can be happy all the time, that it’s just a set of mind. Others will encourage us to go through the emotions, find our courage, our center, and other such things motivational speakers are in the habit of saying. None are wrong and… none are right. It is good to remember that it is so easy to give advice to others, but when life sucks, it is what it is, no easy way around it.
As I seem to have lost my life’s remote control at birth, or maybe I mistakenly left it in the womb, skipping or fast-forwarding is not an option, at least not for me. I have to face the darkness and that’s that. But there are some words I keep in mind.
Will Rogers is quoted to have said, “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” Good advice. Often my most challenging moments are ones I myself created, or at least, incited. It is easy to blame others for what is going wrong with my life, but I am pretty much done playing the victim. It never served me any good. I learned to take responsibility for – well, everything. Even for a recent president (for the records – I didn’t vote for him.) Yet in some ways – maybe my choice to disengage from anything political, might have helped him rise to power. When I take full responsibility, I am empowered, and that is a good starting point for climbing out of the hole.
So long as I quote Will Rogers, another good quote from Will is, “Never miss a good opportunity to shut up.” I am still working on this one. Too often I am being reactive. I find that when I can hold my tongue, a difficult situation starts to resolve itself, while if I respond, I pour more gas onto the fire.
A quote, attributed to Winston Churchill, (although some question if it was he who said it,) “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” It is pretty much self-explanatory. I will only add that it may look contradictory to the quote about digging a hole, but it is not. The former is a hole you are digging, the latter is a hell you find yourself in. It is also a reminder that hell, at least in its human form – the one we create, does have an end.
A saying which came, or so I was told, from Hebrew – not sure by whom, is, “Don’t shorten your winters.” There is a reason a bad situation is happening, and a lesson to be learned. If we rush through it, we don’t absorb the teaching, and the lesson will return, likely with an even greater challenge. I therefore sit with it, let the winter’s cold in, and rather than focus on the challenge, I keep asking myself, what am I to learn from this? (aside of putting on warmer clothing.) Often, when I can get at the root cause, Spring appears.
This reminds me of another favorite quote, this one, if I am not mistaken, is by an Israeli singer named Matti Caspi. “You can’t rush French fries.” Yep. To get it just right, crisp and tasty, we need patience. To grow and evolve, I need patience, patience with myself, patience with others.
In the healing work that I do, we also say, “If you don’t face the darkness, the healing will never come.” Self-explanatory.
I’ll end with one more quote – this one is from The Science of Being Great: The Practical Guide to a Life of Power, a book that is almost a 100 years old, written by Wallace Delois Wattles. It’s not a book I can highly recommend as it’s a bit too religious to my taste, but one concept stuck with me which I like a lot. It is that everyone is perfect just as they are, we are just still evolving. We tend to judge, have expectations, projections. What I am realizing is that I should not judge a bud for not yet being a flower. Judgement, expectations, and projections, often account for these moments and days in my life that suck. It drains my energy, hides my inner light. I am not there yet in terms of no judgment, but then again, I am still evolving.
I love music; both listening and playing. I started playing guitar in my teens, but was not persistent, and ended up dropping it over the past twenty plus years. When I decided to go back to playing guitar, I knew I cannot dedicate a couple of hours daily for the practice. I decided to put in whatever time I can, which meant literally about ten minutes a day. It seemed meaningless, but I decided to give it a shot all the same and see what transpires. I further decided that I would practice one or two new songs every month, starting with easy melodies in terms of chords, and slowly make my way through more challenging chords and rhythms. The first few nights of practice, my playing sounded quite challenging, but I didn’t give up. I stuck with it. Sure enough, with only ten minutes of daily practice, I got better. My fingers seemed to remember where to go, and there was less effort involved. Over the course of a month, I ended up learning new chords and honing my guitar-playing skills. Nights I could put in more than ten minutes, I did. But I didn’t force it. I also made sure to pick songs and melodies that I like, thus the chore was fun and I was motivated to continue.
What I learned from this process is: 1. Not to give up if it doesn’t work the first time around. Persistence pays off, even if it means little progress via small chunks of time. 2. Find a way to motivate myself. A song that initially looked like I will never be able to learn, didn’t give up on me, and I didn’t give up on it. 3. I used YouTube.com and Ultimate-Guitar.com to find online lessons and learn chords and passages that I was unable to figure out on my own. It is good to seek outside help rather than stick with pride of figuring it out on my own. 4. While my voice was not developed for singing, I sing for joy, not for compensation. My reward is my own pleasure. I care not for judgement by others, nor do I criticize myself. I am having fun! 5. Patience pays off.
Applying these simple lessons to life at large, be it exercising, starting a diet, or learning a new skill – all can be achieved in the same manner. Play on!
Is there an individual soul, a grain that is carried through endless time, which is me, each one of us; that is reincarnated time and again, preserving some essence? Or is the breath of life we receive when we are born, that carries us through this life, and that leaves us when we pass on, has no unique essence in the simplified meaning of the word? Is it a form of spiritual energy that comes back to a larger pool, only to reform into another body, like a drop of water in the ocean of life?
This question is at the base of many philosophies and religious traditions. While many believe they have the conclusion, none can prove that theirs is the true and only answer. I, for one, do not know. I choose to believe that we have an essence, but it is what I wish to believe.
Contemplating this question, I looked at how the possible answers affect my everyday life. For some, their actions day to day may be affected by a wish for heaven, for good karma, for some sort of a future reward. For others, the approach is that we only have one life to live, thus we may as well make the best out of this life for ourselves. This can lead one to a life of a sage, or a life of a hedonist.
I looked at what makes me feel good. I know that when I do good deeds for others, it not only feels right, it also leaves me feeling great. When I am being reactive, when someone insults me and I respond in a negative manner, I may have short-term satisfaction, but in the long run, I usually do not feel I honored myself. Same when I indulge. It carries short-term satisfaction, but long-term ramifications.
Whether my soul is, as the Bhagavad-Gita 2.20. states, “For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain,” or whether my soul is that drop in a large ocean of energy, without everlasting existence of its own, I choose to offer service to others with the best of intentions. If I would be rewarded for that in the after-life, in the next life, or if I would never see benefits beyond this life, all this is irrelevant. Either way, doing good deeds serves me best whatever path I choose to believe.