Archive | April, 2013

Falling in Love

20 Apr

The following is an excerpt from Byron Katie’s book “I Need Your Love – Is That True?” (pages 61-65).

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Falling in Love

The search for approval from friends, associates, and family members is a full-time job with no vacations. At its center lies the search for ultimate approval, the search that all the songs are about, for the person who will look at us and say, “You’re the one.” We call this “falling in love.” In this chapter we’ll look at falling in love and becoming a couple, and we’ll see who is really “the one.” 
     Falling in love is usually understood completely backward, like so many other important things. There’s no mystery to falling in love. We have fallen out of the awareness of love and are ecstatic when we find our way back, misunderstanding how we did it. Remember the little girl doing flips in the corner of the playground? She has the key. Look at her face, lit up with the excitement of perfection. She’s overjoyed just to be there with her legs and arms to play with. There is absolutely nothing more that she wants or needs, and she’s too absorbed in the moment to realize it. The flip she does is an expression of love itself. When she does the flip again, looking to see if she can win applause, she shifts her focus outward and cuts herself off from love. But love doesn’t go anywhere; she just loses her awareness of it. Later in life, people call experiences like this “falling out of love” and think that they’re about the other person.
     The little girl is innocently misdirected. She begins to think that the way back to her happiness—to a perfect moment—depends on the reaction of the other kids. Even though the awareness of love is always available, years might pass before she has it again, years she devotes to searching for love and approval outside herself. 
     When you’re constantly trying to be likeable, you leave no gaps in your life in which you can just breathe and notice what you already have, no chance to experience the unlimited options that those gaps are filled with. Even after you’ve attracted admirers and supporters, you’re still busy seeking results. You have to make sure that your friends do all the things friends are supposed to do—invite you to parties, send work your way, console you when you feel depressed. And it‘s never enough. You’re constantly on the lookout for any evidence that you’re not approved of or adored. 
     “Falling in love” is a powerful experience. If you look back, you may remember it as a moment when you stopped seeking. You stopped because you thought you’d found what you were looking for. Your mind was no longer filled with the effort, the desperation, of seeking. What you found is what you had in the corner of the playground and never really lost. But now you think it’s coming from another person, someone who is “the one.” 
     Many people fall in love for the first time as teenagers. By that time the simple playground joy has vanished (actually you left it, but that’s not how it seems). Dark thoughts appear—anxiety about how you’re not all right and how no one can ever love you. Then the miracle happens: Suddenly there is someone to love, and you can stop searching. Maybe it’s a boy in your chemistry class or a singer you saw at a rock concert. Maybe it’s a movie star or your best friend’s new girlfriend. With this kind of love you’re just as happy when there’s no hope of return. You don’t mind if a kiss is completely out of the question because you have braces on your teeth, or because you would never betray your friend, or because there is no possibility of meeting the rock star. These may be the very reasons that you let yourself love completely. 
     When you look back on that first crush, it’s possible to see that the girl you adored had nothing to do with it. Years later you can run into her again, stare at her all you want, and not have a clue what you saw there. You would have done anything to marry her, and now you’re grateful that she never noticed you.
     If the love isn’t coming from the other person, then who does that leave for the love to come from? There’s only one person left: you. You gave yourself the experience. The blissful feeling was not caused by how wonderful or sexy your best friend’s girlfriend was. It was you who felt the wonder and the excitement. Someone held up a mirror and showed you your heart. 
     There are those who say that a crush is a delusion, that it wasn’t real because it all came from you. Another way to look at it is that the crush was as real as any experience you’ll ever have: you just made a mistake about where the joy was coming from. The source wasn’t the brown-eyed girl or Leonardo DiCaprio; it was your own long-lost capacity to experience pure joy. When you had the crush, you found your way back to the child doing flips, just for herself. That’s the one you abandoned in order to seek an identity that you thought others would recognize. What we may think of as “first love” really takes us back to love itself, which is what we are to begin with.
     You find other ways to fall in love when you get older. As you leave your teens, the worst of your awkwardness diminishes; your approval-getting skills get better with practice. After many trials, you may find someone who approves of you so much that they tell you, “You’re the one.” You like that. You like to be approved of that much. And maybe you approve of them for other reasons as well (and maybe not, and even that won’t necessarily stop you).
     Since you’ve been approved of, you can ease up for a while: there’s much less straining to please and charm. Without your efforts getting in the way, love just flows. You bask in the happiness of it. Sometimes it seems like there’s enough love to include everyone and everything you meet. Again, you’ll probably think it’s all about him, the one who thinks you’re the one. But the happiness is really you returning to yourself. Love was there all along; only your painful thoughts obscured it.
     How long does that joy last? Grownup love is like the crush—it lasts only until painful thoughts cover it over. “What if she doesn’t really love me?” “He doesn’t listen.” “She shouldn’t have flirted with that guy.” Any one of these thoughts will destroy your happiness. And one way or another, that happiness will have to vanish as long as you believe the thought that love—the joy you stumbled into—depends on the other person.
     Most people believe that having love in their lives and escaping loneliness depends on finding some special person. This is an ancient belief, and it takes courage to question it. But if you do, you’re in for a big surprise: You can feel love either with or without someone in your arms. And no, that doesn’t mean that you won’t have a partner. Why would it? When with and without are equal, you notice that both are good: life allows all flavours, and all of them turn out to be your favourite.
     The old song asks, “Why do fools fall in love?” Actually, only fools don’t fall in love. Only a fool would believe the lonely, stressful thoughts that tell him that anything could separate him from another human being, or from the rest of the human race, or from birds, trees, pavement, and sky.

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Seven Tools for Personal Transformation

5 Apr

Evolution of a young plant

This is my shortlist of tools for personal transformation.

1.) Seek Truth
If we are interested in personal growth, then we must cultivate a love of truth, which means observing ourselves and learning that there is a difference between what we think and what we are (“the map is not the territory”). When we seek truth we stand outside of ourselves and evaluate our feelings, our relationships, and our assumptions. As we seek truth, we look for that small light peering through a crack in our stories and we scratch at it. As we learn to accept what is real in the present moment, we are more able to accept whatever arises in us, because we know that it is not the whole of us. While our automatic reactions can derail our search for the truth, acknowledging their presence brings us closer to the truth. When we are willing to be with the whole truth—whatever it is—we have more inner resources available to deal with whatever we are facing.

2.) “Not Doing”
The process of spiritual growth sometimes seems paradoxical because we speak of struggle and effort as well as of allowing, accepting, and letting go. The resolution of these apparent opposites lies in the concept of “not doing” or what I’ve previously called “radical acceptance.” Once we understand “not doing,” we see that the real struggle is to relax into greater awareness so that we can see the manifestations of our own shadows. By neither acting on our automatic impulses nor by suppressing them, we begin to understand what is causing them to arise. Not acting on our impulses creates openings through which we can catch glimpses of what we are really up to. Those glimpses often become some of our most important personal transformation lessons. At first, we may need to intentionally set aside time to practice “not doing,” but over time we may find this practice more fully integrating into our day-to-day way of being (as a friend of mine once said, “the point of basketball is not the timeouts”).

3.) Cultivate a Community
The more support we have for our personal development, the easier our process will be. If we are living or working in a dysfunctional environment (family, community, work, etc.), personal growth is not impossible, but it is more difficult. Most of us cannot leave our jobs or our families so easily, even if we are having difficulties with them, although we can seek out others who give us encouragement and act as witnesses to our growth. Beyond this, we can find groups, attend workshops, and put ourselves in situations that foster the other six tools listed here. Getting support also entails structuring our days in ways that leave room for the people that nurture us. It’s likely that you already have some people like this in your life, but if not then you can easily seek them out. Just remember that support comes to those who offer support (universal law of karma), so you’ll have to risk being vulnerable.

4.) Learn from Everything
Once we have involved ourselves in the process of personal growth, we understand that whatever is occurring in the present moment is what we need to deal with right now. And whatever is arising in our hearts or minds is the raw material that we can use for our growth. It’s common to flee from what we are actually facing into our imagination, romanticizing or dramatizing our situation, justifying ourselves, or escaping into distraction. Staying with our real experience of ourselves and our situation will teach us exactly what we need to know for growth. As we seek truth, we must also be willing to learn from it and develop a “learning orientation,” which means that we look for opportunities to  grow rather than opportunities to accomplish. When we learn from everything we’re free to take chances and make mistakes.

5.) Find Self Love
It has been said many times that we cannot love others if we do not love ourselves. But what does this mean? We usually think that it has something to do with having self-esteem. Perhaps, but one central aspect of a mature love of ourselves is caring about our growth sufficiently not to flee from the discomfort or pain of our actual condition. We must love ourselves enough not to abandon ourselves—and we abandon ourselves to the degree that we are not fully present to our own lives. When we are caught up in worry, fantasy, tension and anxiety, we become dissociated from our bodies and our feelings—and ultimately, from our true nature. True self love also entails a profound acceptance of ourselves—returning to being present and settling into ourselves as we actually are without attempting to change our experience. It is also aided by seeking the company of people who possess some degree of this quality themselves.

6.) Use Your Body
When we think about personal transformation is it easy to intellectualize it and get wrapped up in the changes that happen emotionally, but we must not forget that physical changes often accompany any changes that happen inside. Some people may start with physical work (exercise, diet, yoga) and find that other areas of their life get better, while others may find that as they do interior work, they are starting to feel better physically. The point is that our interiors (thoughts, emotions, beliefs, attitudes) and exteriors (neurons, brainwaves, cells, body) are linked to each other, so if we’re going to endeavor towards personal transformation then we must account for and activity engage the physical body.

7.) Have a Practice
Most transformational teachings stress the importance of some kind of intentional practice, be it spiritual (meditation, prayer, relaxation), physical (weight-lifting, running, yoga), or intellectual (reading, writing, Sudoku) or some combination of them. The important thing is to set aside some time each day to reestablish the scaffolding that you need to support your growth. Practice interferes with our deeply ingrained habits and gives us opportunities to wake up from our trance. Eventually, we understand that every time we engage in our practice we learn something new, and every time we neglect our practice we miss an opportunity to allow our lives to be transformed.

One major obstacles to personal transformation is the expectation that we attain results. The ego seizes on breakthroughs and wants to recreate them on demand, which often only furthers the illusion that we can control everything. The reality is that we are always growing and changing whether we want to or not. The key choice we have to make is whether we want to grow elegantly and intentionally or just get dragged along for the ride.

The Key to Happiness -Build a Boat

1 Apr

If you observe a truly happy man, you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, educating his child, growing double dahlias or looking for dinosaur eggs in the Gobi Desert. He will not be searching for happiness as if it were a collar button that had rolled under the radiator, striving for it as a goal in itself. He will have become aware that he is happy in the course of living life twenty-four crowded hours each day.

– W. Beran Wolfe