It's Tuesday and time for me to try to make sense of the lessons I've learned this week and the whirlwind of accompanying thoughts. This week I have been reading four books.
Dying to Be Me: My Journey from Cancer to Near Death, to True Healing by Anita Moorjani
What if It All Goes Right? by Mindy Audlin
A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin
Cat Fear No Evil by Shirley Rousseau Murphy
Go ahead and think it. "Four books! What are you, crazy? Aren't they meant to be consumed one at a time?" I used to think that too. It came to the point where, instead of reading several books at once, I read no books at all. A foolish solution because reading has to be one of the top ten things I enjoy doing.
My coaching coach, Gil McIff, frequently says, "The cause of suffering is ignorance of our true nature." In my experience, it is a somewhat uniquely Buddhist concept and is referring to our attachment to what Eckhart Tolle would call "The World of Form." While we wear this suit of flesh, we forget that we are more than this suit of flesh.
I think that is actually limiting things a bit.
This week, I would say that the cause of all suffering with a capital "S," the life and death questions, is because of our ignorance of our true spiritual nature. The cause of the "every day" sufferings, the mere annoyances that give us road rage and petty grievances at least some of the time, might just be our ignorance of our true nature while living in that suit of flesh. In other words, not knowing who we truly are. Like forcing ourselves to read one book at a time, when our mind wants to juggle four. It turns out there is a moment in each of the books that illustrates just what I'm saying. Well, except for "Cat Fear No Evil." Cats, whether they are real living breathing ones, or fictional talking ones, always seem to know who they are.
In "Dying to Be Me" cancer survivor Anita Moorjani tells us of her multicultural upbringing and how she tried to force herself to comply with the expectations of her own culture despite having a personality which thrived on much fewer limitations.
In "What If It All Goes Right?" Mindy Audlin describes a moment I recognized as very similar to ones I myself have had, where she makes assumptions about a person based on her own beliefs of shortcomings or limitations. In other words, she judges someone as being guilty of judging her. What does she think the person is judging her about? She doesn't say it outright, but all of the things would seem to be the big bad ugly things she sometimes tells herself or hears in her head.
In A Clash of Kings, George R. R. Martin gives us poor Theon Greyjoy. Born a Greyjoy, but raised by his father's enemy Eddard Stark, Theon has no idea who he is or what he thinks. Desperate for love and acceptance, to the Starks he will always be a Greyjoy and to the Greyjoys, he seems uncomfortably indoctrinated as a Stark.
In my coaching studies, I've learned that negative emotions are good indicators that you are resisting "what is." Eckhart Tolle sees it as a special sort of madness, resisting "what is" and wanting it to be something else. These moments of mad negative resistance are also good signposts to limiting beliefs. In my case, one of them is "others will see and understand things the same way I do."
Have you ever found yourself doubting a romantic partner because "if he/she really loved me" he or she would behave in a certain way? I had the opportunity to talk with a partner I had formerly questioned like that. Before my coaching studies, I found him very aggravating and compared talking to him with talking to a dog. (As Mindy Audlin, who suggests if we are making assumptions about others, we should always make good ones, would say, it wasn't a very empowering way to view him.)
Specifically, there were times when we were together where I would have preferred he spent the night at my house or showered there instead of going home. When I mentioned it to him at the time, we both would behave as if we felt our own opinion and approach was the more sensible one. Since learning about NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming,) I've come to understand that he and I have very different reference maps as to how the world works. That's at the core of why we see things differently.
At the same time, if it was just a question of different maps, why did the misunderstanding strike me as a lack of love on his part? As it happens sometimes, asking myself that question was like finding a corner piece in a jigsaw puzzle. Things suddenly made a lot more sense. You see, one of my favorite things to do in most of my relationships, has been to spend some quality time, frequently by myself, in a partner's living space. Not to do any snooping. I have never once searched a partner's drawers. For me, there is something deliciously intimate and special about sleeping where my partner sleeps or showering where he takes a shower. Every time I offered my living space to my partner, I was offering intimacy. Every time he rationally chose to go home instead, "because that's where my stuff is," I felt rejected and unloved.
My aha! takeaway? Those moments of resistance and disappointment? What if, instead of using them to judge partners as to whether or not they are a comfortable fit, we used them to better understand ourselves? After all, if we all have different maps of how the world works, how can your partner begin to understand yours if you don't understand it yourself?
At the same time, we are told that before we can truly love someone else, we have to love ourself. I don't necessarily agree with that. You see, my "self love" has always been there. It's a stubborn persistent sort of thing. I know it's there because I never really give up on myself. At the same time, I have had an instance where I was willing to sacrifice myself nearly completely for someone else because I loved him. It was a futile exercise, pointless, misguided and doomed to fail. Totally resisting "what is," in other words "mad," but that doesn't mean it wasn't "love" and it has given me a blueprint for what I need to do. With that same intensity and detailed emotion, I need to sacrifice my Theon Lovejoy-esque need for love and acceptance nearly completely. For me. Because I love me.
I think we fall in love by meeting someone, noticing things about him/her and telling ourselves stories as to who that person is. We fall in love with our own stories. This week I got to know Angela a little better. She likes to read four books at once and sleep in a bed or with a pillow scented by someone she deeply cares about. Isn't she great? I just love her.