In my role as Crone (third stage of life, after Maiden and Mother), I often find myself listening to younger people with “relationship issues.” I try to find ways to help them find balance within themselves, so that they may then work towards balance with others.
It strikes me that we are all in the middle of a relationship crisis — not just with each other — and not just nation to nation, individual to corporation, etc. — but first and foremost, with our own bodies! And that these bodies are clearly toxic, due to environmental inputs. Whether from fast food and/or chemtrails, bad water, drugs (legal or illegal) , alcohol, wi-fi and other electronic pollution, we all suffer the effects of continuous toxic overload to our livers. So that even if we want to move into equanimity, it becomes exceedingly difficult, given liver toxicity. Flashing and chronic anger, repressed or projected, are the result.
This business of a toxic liver came home to me during menopause, when, for years, I would wake up furious, every night at 2 a.m — liver time, according to Chinese medicine. I ended up doing liver cleanses regularly, along with castor oil packs applied to the skin across the liver. Extremely helpful. I was less likely to want to kill my husband!
I still tend to wake up at 2 a.m., but I do not attribute my nighttime suffering to any outside “cause.” Instead, I ask to remain present to the experience, to be with what is and is becoming, no matter what; to consciously breathe my way through the experience. By strengthening my internal witness to the spreading present moment, I am less identified with my own physical/emotional/mental suffering, and largely able to retain my equanimity.
But then, I’m 74 years old. I’ve been in training a long time. And have had my own “relationship issues” over the decades, some of them confounding at the time, and all of them instructive, a part of my own “lesson plan” for this lifetime.
The most succinct definition for “permaculture” is that of Penny Livingston: PERMACULTURE IS RELATIONSHIPS.
I’ve noticed that the most difficult part of permaculture is relationships with people. Is actually committing to, and then successfully negotiating, all the continuing pitfalls of “living in community.” Especially in this country, when individualism has been so much the driver of “success.” Community requires cooperation and adaptation. Can we extreme individualists do it? I would hope so. Indeed, I consider the most interesting part of permaculture to be creating and continuously adjusting the balance between individualism and community. In my view, only as each person expresses his or her passion fully can he or she be counted on to be capable of successfully cooperating with others who are also doing the same. For unless and until we do manage to discover and express our passion, we will suffer from depression, anxiety, resentment, bitterness, revenge, jealousy, unexpressed rage, etc. The point is not to be come look-alike drones, but to allow our vibrant, living human connectedness inside the abundant expression of the natural world.
When toxic people get together (and who of us is not toxic?), what happens? This past weekend, one man shot three people with whom he was living nearby, and then killed himself a day later later. This scenario is repeated all over the world. Toxic people acting out. Just now: Orlando again. Are we numb yet? I don’t think so.
Here’s an article that I’ve just begun to give to people that speaks to all this, with a Buddhist slant. Thanks to Darvesha.
Loving the other without losing yourself
By Christopher K. Germer
OVER THE YEARS I’ve come to a conclusion: Human beings are basically incompatible. Think about it. We live in different bodies, we’ve had different childhoods, and at any given moment our thoughts and feelings are likely to differ from anybody else’s, even those of our nearest and dearest. Given the disparities in our genetic makeup, conditioning, and life circumstances, it’s a miracle we get along at all.
Yet we yearn to feel connected to others. At the deepest level, connectedness is our natural state—what Thich Nhat Hanh calls “interbeing.” We are inextricably related, yet somehow our day-to-day experience tells us otherwise. We suffer bumps and bruises in relationships. This poses an existential dilemma: “How can I have an authentic voice and still feel close to my friends and loved ones? How can I satisfy my personal needs within the constraints of my family and my culture?”
In my experience as a couples therapist, I’ve found that most of the suffering in relationships comes from disconnections. A disconnection is a break in the feeling of mutuality; as the psychologist Janet Surrey describes it, “we” becomes “I” and “you.” Some disconnections are obvious, such as the sense of betrayal we feel upon discovering a partner’s infidelity. Others may be harder to identify. A subtle disconnection may occur, for example, if a conversation is interrupted by one person answering a cell phone, or a new haircut goes unnoticed, or when one partner falls asleep in bed first, leaving the other alone in the darkness. It’s almost certain that there’s been a disconnection when two people find themselves talking endlessly about “the relationship” and how it’s going.
The Buddha prescribed equanimity in the face of suffering. In relationships, this means accepting the inevitability of painful disconnections and using them as an opportunity to work through our own difficult emotions. We instinctively avoid unpleasantness, often without our awareness. When we touch something unlovely in ourselves—fear, anger, jealousy, shame, disgust—we tend to withdraw emotionally and direct our attention elsewhere, or project blame and see the cause of the feeling outside of ourselves. But denying how we feel, or projecting our fears and faults onto others, only drives a wedge between us and the people we yearn to be close to.
Mindfulness practice—a profound method for engaging life’s unpleasant moments—is a powerful tool for removing obstacles and rediscovering happiness in relationships. Mindfulness involves both awareness and acceptance of present experience. Some psychologists, among them Tara Brach and Marsha Linehan, talk about radical acceptance—radical meaning “root”—to emphasize our deep, innate capacity to embrace both negative and positive emotions. Acceptance in this context does not mean tolerating or condoning abusive behavior in others, or an excuse to abuse others. Rather, acceptance means fully acknowledging, understanding and opening to our own pain.
One of the trickiest challenges for a psychotherapist, and for a mindfulness-oriented therapist in particular, is to impress on clients the need to turn toward their emotional discomfort and address it directly instead of looking for ways to avoid it or project it. If we move into pain mindfully and compassionately, the pain will shift naturally.
We all have personal sensitivities—“hot buttons”—that are the result of our own conditioning and cause for our distorted perceptions. They are evoked in close relationships. Mindfulness practice helps us to identify them and disengage from our habitual reactions, so that we can reconnect with our partners. We can mindfully address recurring problems with a simple four-step technique: (1) Feel the emotional pain of disconnection, (2) Accept that the pain is a natural (3) Compassionately explore the personal issues or beliefs being evoked within yourself, (4) Trust that a skillful response will arise at the right moment.
Mindfulness can transform all our personal relationships—but only if we are willing to feel the inevitable pain that relationships entail. When we turn away from our distress or project it upon others, we inevitably abandon our loved ones as well as ourselves. But when we mindfully and compassionately incline toward whatever is arising within us, we can be truly present and alive for ourselves and others.