When I am the most important one for another

Merlina, our beloved cat, helped me get something more viscerally.

For her, I was one of the two or three most important beings in the world. When I was with her, I was the most important being in her world. It was very clear2.

How can that not wake up a sense of awe, reverence, and responsibility in me? How can that not change my behavior to be more attentive and wanting to make her life the best possible?


That’s how it is in my life in general. I am the most important person for my spouse. When I talk with someone, I am (very likely) the most important person in the world for that person at that moment. They are giving me their precious time and attention. They chose to give their attention to me over all other beings in the world. I become an important presence in their world.

If I am getting this viscerally, how does it change how I am with that person? Am I more present? More attentive? More interested in them and their world? Less distracted by my plans, agendas, and hangups?

I am far from “perfect” in this, but realizing it and getting it more viscerally is doing something with me, and I wish for it to change me and how I am with others.


The other wing on this bird is realizing and getting viscerally that the other is fundamentally consciousness like myself. To myself, I am consciousness operating through and as this body1. The world as I perceive it happens within and as the consciousness I am. That’s very likely the case for all beings.

We are all fundamentally consciousness to ourselves. We operate through whatever body is here – human, cat, insect, or whatever it is. To us, the world happens within and as the consciousness we are. We are a world.

That too opens up a sense of awe, reverence, and curiosity about myself and the other. It does something to me. To the extent I stay with this noticing and deepen into it, it transforms me and how I am with others and in the world.


As usual, this is an ongoing exploration.

There is a lot of room for deepening and maturing into it, in my case.

And that’s part of the exploration and the adventure.


This is an example of a combination of direct noticing and imagination, as so much is.

I notice my nature. I am fundamentally consciousness and the world to me happens within and as this consciousness. That’s the direct noticing.

I imagine that others are that way too, whether they notice or not, and stay with that imagination and let it work on me. That’s the imagination part of it. It’s making use of projections.

It’s similar to being the most important person to the other. It comes from noticing that it’s that way for me. When I am with someone, that person is the most important being in the world to me whether I want to or not. That’s the noticing. And I imagine it’s the same for others. That’s making use of imagination and projections.

(1) This body happens to be human with a particular identity but it could be any other body of any species. That realization itself is transformative. The consciousness I am could, if things were a little different, function through and as any of the bodies out there. In some ways, it does since consciousness – pure consciousness – is very likely the same everywhere.

(2) Maybe it was more clear because she was not an imagination-fascinated human. She was more here and now. She didn’t get lost in her imagination about the past or future. She was here with me. I was her world.

The image is created by me and Midjourney

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More intentionally using Non-Violent Communication

My wife and I are using the essence of Non-Violent Communication (NVC) more these days.

I learned it 15-20 years ago in Oregon – read books, went to workshops, and also a weekly practice group.

It’s amazing what it does. Situations that could escalate because of poor communication, hurt, and fear, now lead to closer connection and intimacy.

It seems so simple. It is simple when we do it.


What’s the essence of NVC?

It’s been a while since I heard or read anything about it so it’s filtered by time and what I find interesting.

To me, it’s to use some version of “I feel… because…” and to be as sincere as possible.

For me, I find fear under almost anything – anger, frustration, sadness, and so on. So I may say “I feel angry because… and really, I feel fear, I am scared because….”.

Similarly, when I say “because….” I can mention a trigger in the situation, and I may also add what’s really going on which is a painful belief I have or an old emotional issue.

So for me, it often takes the form of: “I feel X because of Y, and it’s really fear because of this painful belief and this old issue from childhood”.

This is not about a specific language or formula. It’s more about being aware of (a) what I feel and (b) some things about why, and then communicating it in whatever way is real and seems helpful in the situation. The “I feel… because…” formula may be a good support at first and in more charged situations, and as we get more used to it, it becomes more organic and we find our own way with it.

This tends to defuse the situation. The other may say “thank you” and share what they feel and what triggered it.


The other essence of NVC for me is to differentiate needs and strategies to meet those needs. We can get overly focused (and obsessed) with a particular strategy without recognizing or exploring other strategies that may work as well or better. We may also not be very aware of what the need is.

So I can first identify my need and then explore a range of strategies to meet that need. That makes it easier for two or more to find strategies that work for both or everyone.

I find that my needs are usually quite essential and universal. At one level, it may be food, water, shelter, rest. And at another level, safety, love, being seen and understood, and so on.

Image by me and Midjourney

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Oneness and how we experience others

When we notice what we are, how do we experience others?

The essence of this is relatively universal, although it will vary how clearly we notice and how much we take it to heart and live from it. I have also chosen to include a few pointers that are related but more culturally dependent.

How I experience others when I notice what I am

They too are awake no-thing taking the appearance of that human self, whether it’s noticed over there or not. They are what their experiences happen within and as.

To me, they happen within and as what I am. They happen as awake no-thing along with everything else. They happen within and as oneness.

How I relate to and treat others is how I relate to and treat what I am, in the most direct and immediate way.

Some related pointers

Here are some pointers that are more culturally dependent, don’t automatically follow from noticing what I am, and still can be very helpful, fill in the picture, and help us shift conditioning.

As who they are, as their human self, they are expressions of this universe and this living planet. They too are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe.

Their human self is a bunch of conditioning just like this human self, and the causes of everything they are go back to the beginning of time and stretches out to the widest extent of space. In this sense, what seems and is most personal about us is ultimately quite impersonal.

As who I am, at my human level, they mirror me. What I see in them is something I can find in myself. When I turn the stories I have about them to myself, I can find specific examples of it in my own life here and now, including in how I relate to them, and in the past.

Also, as who I am, I know they too want a good life free of suffering, just like me. They struggle, just like me. They have struggles hidden from me, just like they don’t know all of mine. They sometimes operate from their reaction to their own (unloved, unexamined) pain, just like I do. They sometimes operate from separation consciousness, just like me.

When I perceive others through separation consciousness

This is how it is when I am more clear and notice what I am and what’s going on.

And sometimes I “forget” some or all of this and operate, to some extent, from habitual separation consciousness. I may forget they are capacity for their own world and take them primarily as a human self, I may take what comes from their (impersonal) conditioning personally, forget that they too want a good life free from suffering, and so on.

Exploring my perception of others

A part of noticing what I am, and exploring how to live from it, is exploring how it influences and changes how I perceive and relate to others.

How is it to remind myself that they too are what I am? That they are capacity for their world? That their world happens within and as what they are? That they are awake no-thing full of their world?

How is it to remind myself that they are the local expressions of the universe and this planet? That they too are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe?

How is it to remind myself that as who they are in the world, as a human being, they are a collection of conditioning just like me? That they are made up of influences from innumerable sources – from their parents and families to friends, culture, and history, and the evolution of our species, the living Earth, and the universe as a whole?

How is it to remind myself that I mirror what they are, just like they mirror me? That they react to me as they react to the sides of themselves they see in me? That their reaction to me is not personal?

How is it to remind myself that they too sometimes operate from the painful sides of separation consciousness? That they too sometimes operate from their reaction to their own pain and issues?

How is it to remind myself that they fundamentally want the same as me? That they too want to have a good life free from suffering? That they too struggle, in ways I am not aware of?

Allowing how I experience others to shift

How I experience others is partly a product of old conditioning and separation consciousness.

So a part of noticing what I am, and exploring how to live from it, is exploring how this shifts how I perceive others.

In this moment, how do I relate to this person? Does some come from separation consciousness?

How would it be if it was more aligned with what’s alive for me when I notice what I am?

How would it be if noticing what I am was more alive and extended to how I perceive others?

Working with these pointers

All of this is an ongoing exploration, and each of these pointers is a medicine for a particular condition.

Each one has value to the extent it’s alive here and now and I allow it to transform me. And there is always more to discover, clarify, and deepen.

It’s good to explore one of these at a time, whether it’s a short visit or over longer periods. After exploring each one of these over time, they tend to be more available in the moment.

Different types of knowing

The examples I give above come from different types of knowing and it’s good to differentiate them.

Noticing what I am and that others and my whole world happen within and as me, is a direct noticing. It doesn’t require thought or any conventional knowing.

The rest require a combination of personal experience and conventional knowing, and they are culturally dependent.

Through reports from others, I assume they too are what I am. They are capacity for their own world, their world happens within and as what they are.

Through working with projections, I come to see that others – and the whole world – is a mirror for me at a human level, and it’s very likely the same for others.

Through examining myself, and through reports from others, it’s very likely they too want a good life free from suffering, and that they too sometimes get painfully caught up in separation consciousness.

Through the universe story, as told by modern science, I see all of us as an expression of the universe and this living planet. We all are, in a literal sense, the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe.

Through exploring myself, and through reports, I assume just about all of who we are at a human level has infinite causes stretching back to the beginning of time and out to the widest extent of the universe. It all has innumerable causes.

For me, all these are useful pointers and go together. Each helps shift a certain type of conditioning.

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Say the fear instead of acting on it

This is very basic but makes a crucial difference in our life.

When I am with someone else and something is triggered in me, how do I relate to it? Do I react to it and act on that reaction? Or do I notice the fear and discomfort in me and acknowledge it to myself and perhaps the other person?

This is especially important in our close and intimate relationships. And this is also, hopefully, where we can feel more safe to practice acknowledging what’s going on.

My partner says something. It triggers a reaction in me. I notice what’s happening and perhaps the temptation to go into reactivity and defensiveness. Instead, I can find and acknowledge the fear behind what was triggered in me. And if I feel ready and safe enough, I can say it to my partner.

When you say that – when you give an ultimatum, when you make things black and white like that, when you blame me – I notice I feel scared.

The honesty of it is often enough to diffuse a situation that otherwise could be tense and go into reactivity-dynamics on both sides.

At first, it can feel less safe. But is it really? Is it safer to go into defensiveness and reactivity? Is it unsafe to be completely honest and vulnerable?

If it feels unsafe, we can examine it for ourselves in this way. And we can also talk with our partner – or another close person in our life – about it in advance. We can set the stage for trying this out in future situation. We can even support each other in this.

It can be a beautiful shift in how we relate to ourselves, the other, and perhaps each other.

Sincerity on the spiritual path

Professor Broom: In medieval stories, there is often a young knight who is inexperienced, but pure of heart.
John Myers: Oh, come on. I am not pure of heart.
Abe Sapien(who’s psychic) Yes, you are.
Professor Broom: Rasputin is back for him. What I’m asking of you is to have the courage to stand by him when I am gone. He was born a demon; we can’t change that. But you will help him, in essence, to become a man.

– from Hellboy (2004), quoted in Wikipedia

One of the most valuable qualities on a healing and spiritual path is sincerity, a pure heart. As Broom says, this is a recurrent theme in some of the traditional legends and perhaps most famously the grail legend (Perceval).

Sincerity allows us to be more honest with ourselves, and that’s essential for emotional healing, awakening, and embodiment.

Is also essential for having a meaningful and juicy relationship with ourselves and others, one that allows for authenticity, growth, and surprises.

If we have some sincerity, it doesn’t matter so much if we are young or inexperienced on the path we are on. Sincerity is gold, and we can always learn tools and we will gain experience.

Is sincerity something we can learn or develop? Perhaps not. But I can notice when I am not sincere and I can then shift into sincerity.

Sometimes, it’s not so easy. We may be caught in fear of a situation or something coming up in us and retreat into defensiveness to try to stay safe. That’s OK. Again, it helps to notice. I can be honest with myself about what happened. And that, in itself, is sincerity.

It also helps to notice what in me takes me away from sincerity. What is the fear about? What is the fearful story? What beliefs do I find? Identifications? And then explore it further, befriend it (find healing for my relationship to it), and perhaps find healing for the issue itself.

As I wrote the second paragraph (“Sincerity allows us….”), I noticed a synchronicity in the lyrics of the song I was listening to:

There are times when a man needs to brave his reflection,
And face what he sees without fear,
It takes a man to accept his mortality,
Or be surprised by the presence of a tear.

– Sting and Rob Mathes, I love her but she loves someone else

Image: The Achievement of the Grail by British Artist Sir Edward Burn-Jones design, William Morris execution and John Henry Dearle flowers and decorations, from the Holy Grail tapestries 1891-94, Museum and Art Gallery of Birmingham, wool and silk on cotton warp.

Craig Thompson: Blankets

From Blankets by Craig Thompson
From Blankets by Craig Thompson

I just finished Blankets by Craig Thompson, a beautifully drawn and told story about his own childhood and teenage years.

I’ll mention a couple of things that stood out to me.

Wholeness. After meeting a young woman who becomes a close friend and then his lover, he says in the presence of my muse I no longer needed to draw.

He hasn’t yet found his own wholeness, so his girlfriend fills the hole he experiences in himself. I assume drawing normally filled the hole for him, and now his girlfriend does so he no longer experiences a need to draw. Of course, when we find our own wholeness more fully we can still very much enjoy relationships, art, and anything else in life. And it now comes more from joy than neediness.

Most of us try to fill the holes we experience in ourselves through relationships, work, status, and other things in the world. It’s natural and it helps us taste wholeness and how it is to feels to be more whole. As we realize that these are band-aids (they are temporary and not completely satisfactory), we may explore finding our own wholeness in ourselves. The wholeness that’s already here. And the wholeness that’s filled out and becomes richer as we develop parts of ourselves.

Christianity and duality. He has a conservative Christian upbringing. And although a basic experience of duality is reflected in most religions and worldviews, Christianity is perhaps especially strongly dualistic. It comes with ideas about a strong division between of heaven and hell, virtue and sin, body and soul, and so on.

When Craig meets his girlfriend, it triggers these images. On the one hand, he is afraid of being led into temptation and eventually to damnation and hell. On the other hand, he sees her as perfect and a goddess. This is normal. We all do it to some extent. It’s the nature of projections. It’s what happens when our mind invests an overlay of imagination with energy (associates it with sensations) so the imagination appears real, solid, and true to itself.

When this happens, we miss out of the intimacy that comes from recognizing the other as ourselves, as a complex and ordinary and ordinarily extraordinary human being. Again, it’s normal. It’s part of being human. It’s part of the play of life as it plays itself out through and as us human beings.

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Trauma-informed relationships

A first date question: “How aware are you of your traumas & suppressed emotions and tell me about how you are actively working to heal them before you try to project that shit on me.”

Unknown (to me) source 

I love this question. 

In a mostly trauma-unaware relationship, one or both get trauma triggered, react on it, and may project whatever was triggered onto the other. It’s easily a vicious cycle. 

In a more trauma-aware relationship, both are aware of the typical signs of triggered trauma (reactivity, over-reaction, defensiveness, blame, going into stories and ideology, etc), recognize it when it happens in themselves or the other, are able to step back and put words on it, are willing and dedicated to resolving and finding healing for their own trauma, and support the other in finding healing for her or his own trauma. 

Of course, life is messy. It’s not always so clean and clear-cut. But if this is the general trend and orientation, the relationship can be very beautiful and serve as a source of deep healing for both. The general rule is to take care of your own shit, as the quote says, and give space for the other to take care of theirs. When it happens for me, I can acknowledge it and put words on it, and actively seek resolution and healing for it. When it happens for the other, I can notice, quietly support, and allow the other to notice for themselves and put words on it. (And sometimes, I may share how I experience it, how it impacts me.) 

I also find that in these type of relationships and interactions, the love can be more of a constant even as these traumas are triggered. I notice I love the other, I notice trauma triggered in myself or the other, and the noticing of the love can continue as a stream through it. Of course, that’s not always the case either, but that’s OK. That’s part of the process. The love is still there whether it’s noticed or not. 

Love addiction and polyamory

Love addiction comes from not feeling loved sufficiently. We typically have an identity as someone unloved or unlovable, and we are also unable to love ourselves fully and in a satisfying way. We are unable to sufficiently find love and kindness towards our own emotions, emotional and physical pain, painful thoughts, and general discomfort and unease.

We were not shown how to do this as babies and children. Our parents were perhaps unable to give us sufficient unconditional love, and they were unable to do it to themselves as well. So we didn’t learn it.

What we did learn was to seek it outside of ourselves, from others. Many of us spend a lifetime trying to find love from others, to fill that hole in us through the love of others. It works to some extent, but not completely. It may not be sufficient, it may be uncertain and withdrawn, and since the only real remedy is to give it to ourselves it will never be enough when we try to get it from others.

I was reminded of this when I talked with a friend who is in a polyamory relationship, somewhat against his preference. Polyamory may, for some, be a strategy to find that love. We get it from multiple sources, and we always have one or more backups if one should fail.

It can be just another way to avoid facing the pain of feeling unloved or unlovable, and to avoid the challenge and discomfort in learning to truly and more consistently meet our own experience with kindness and love. The other side of it is that it can provide a setting for us to learn to love ourselves, just as any other setting – whether we are single, in a conventional relationship, or in an open or polyamorous relationship.

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Relationships are about waking us up

Relationships are not about holding hands and walking into the sunset, they are about waking us up.

– Paraphrased from unknown source

This is very true. And it really helps to remember. My partner is not here to fill the voids in me. She is here to show me what I am running away from so I can meet it.


I read an article about self-abandonment in relationships and it resonates with me.

Self-abandonment is behind a lot of our struggles in relationships and otherwise in life.

As the article points out, we can abandon ourselves in many areas of life. We can abandon ourselves financially. Relationally by depending on others to feel OK or loved. Healthwise by not taking care of our health. We can also abandon ourselves by abandoning our integrity when we don’t follow what’s right for us for the sake of acceptance, love, keeping our job or any other reason.

In the bigger picture, we can abandon who we are as a human being as described above. And we can – and often do – abandon what we are however we understand and label it. (Spirit, presence, that which the content of our experience – including our experience of who we are and the world – happens within and as.) Whenever we get caught in identifications/beliefs we abandon ourselves as what we are.

I know this from lessons in my own life. I was reasonably good at not abandoning myself in my twenties up until my marriage and moving to Wisconsin. At that point, I abandoned myself by going against my clear guidance and what I know was right for me (which was to stay where I was for longer and not go to Wisconsin). I abandoned my guidance and what I knew was right, and through this, I abandoned myself in many other ways. I abandoned myself in terms of education, work, financially, friends, meditation, art, my deep inner connection, and eventually health and more.

Why did I abandon myself in these ways? I did it – as I suspect we all do – from being caught in fear, identifications, wounds, and shoulds. I was caught by unloved parts of myself. I was caught by unquestioned stories. I was caught by unfelt feelings. (Feelings I was trying to avoid.)

More specifically, I wanted to live up to my ideal of being a good spouse. (She went there for a graduate degree and I left mine and much of what was most important to me to support her.) I wanted to avoid judgment from family and others if I left the marriage or didn’t live in the same place as my spouse. I acted on fears of being alone or not finding anyone else. I acted from the pain of a recent previous missed relationship opportunity.

I also see how I have been repeating the initial abandonment trauma which may have happened in early infancy. (My parents were loving and good parents in many ways, but for a little child even situations that seem smaller to an adult can be quite traumatic.) I have abandoned myself the way I experienced being abandoned back then.

The remedy is being honest about it. Recognizing the consequences. Looking at what beliefs, identifications and fears I acted on. Meeting the fear I tried to escape. Finding love for the unloved. Question the unquestioned. Feel the unfelt.

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Jeff Foster: To see and be seen 

Conflict in relationship is not a sign of failure.It is inevitable, just as pain as inevitable in the body.

Pain is not the problem; it is our relationship with pain that defines the quality of our connection.

Are we willing to connect, despite the pain?

Are we willing to let our hearts break together?

Each instance of conflict is an opportunity.

For misunderstandings to be brought into the light.

For recognising the places where we have stopped listening to ourselves, and to each other.

Where we go into fantasy, where we dissociate from the living truth.

Where we blame each other for our own unhappiness.

Where we blame ourselves.

Where we forget our true nature.

In conflict, we can come together, or we can be driven apart.

A wound has cracked open, and wants some loving attention.

Conflict is inviting us to growth, to know our triggers more clearly.

To touch the parts of ourselves we have been pushing down, the thoughts we have been suppressing, the feelings we have been denying, the truth we have been running from.

We must go beyond this dualistic language of ‘failure’ and ‘success’, and return to the living truth of the moment.

A relationship that seems conflict-free may simply be a relationship of quiet desperation, two held-back hearts holding terrible secrets, bodies numb to pleasure and pain, agony and ecstasy.

Two unhappy people, addicted to each other, afraid to share their truth, afraid to lose each other, clinging to comfort and an old dream of security…

And all in the name of ‘love’!

Bound by the image, numb to pain, blind to the depths of presence.

Love is a risk, a challenge; a journey, never a destination.

And love will destroy every single concept you have about ‘love’.

Sometimes healing involves the upsurge of uncomfortable feelings.

Sometimes breaking free involves feeling more pain.

Sometimes when we avoid conflict, when we hold back from truth, conflict only buries itself more deeply in our bodies.

We are traumatised, but we claim we are ‘happy’, and relationship becomes an image instead of an aliveness.

Conflict is inevitable, but if there is love, we are willing to work through the conflict together, to share honestly, and to listen with the fullness of our being.

To feel our pain, and listen to the pain of the other.

To let go of our dreams, and fantasies, and futures, and meet each other, almost as strangers, in the Here and Now.

So conflict becomes the fertiliser, and trust can take root.

So conflict is not ‘negative’, but opportunity and opening.

To begin again. Yes. To begin.

Love as a beginning. Love as a curiosity.

Love as a great mystery that helps us find each other in the darkness, a great beacon of safety and presence.

Love not as clinging, love not even as letting go, but love as connection, authenticity, listening, the courage to be vulnerable.

To hear, and be heard.

To see, and be seen.

– Jeff Foster

If you love someone, set them free

If you love someone, set them free. 

Or…. if you love someone, you set them free.

You naturally set them free.

When we care for someone, we want the best for them. We support them in what’s best for them, even if it may not be our preference. It may even be that they leave our life, even if we would like them to stay.

There is a big catch here. It requires that we are not caught in our own wounds and neediness. It requires that we are not trying to meet a sense of lack in ourselves through the other person. It requires that this sense of lack is reasonably healed in us.

How do I find healing for this part of me? For me, it’s the usual ways. Inquire into beliefs creating the sense of lack. See if I can find the lack, or the one having a lack. See if I can find the perceived threat. Meet it with kindness. Rest with it.

P.S. Sorry for the goofy 80s video! Even good songs can have less than amazing videos.

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Relationship addiction, love addiction

As the new relationship shifted back to friendship, I experienced a new sense of spaciousness that came from not having a partner to focus on as I had done for the previous 17 years. In this newly opened space came both immense pleasure, and pain. Debilitating thoughts and intense sensations arose that I labeled fear, and sadness. Using inquiry and embodied rest I journeyed through rotating stories and beliefs, many of them tied to childhood experiences that I had not yet unwound. Feeling utterly alone as a child was one of my biggest sources of trauma, around which I had built a lot of conditioning to protect myself from feeling. There was layer after of layer of feeling unsafe, unloved and simply unable to live without being in relationship for fear of being alone. The various awakenings experienced were no match for the conditioning and trauma that lived in the space of my body.

I was raised believing that I needed a man to take care of me, and on subconscious levels I believed this, even though rationally speaking I would swear it’s absurd. All the studying of feminism, philosophy, and psychology in the world couldn’t have saved me from subconscious belief systems and biological programming which helped form various stories: needing relationship to prove sense of worth, to feel special, to be important, to be loved, to be safe. Being in a relationship distracted me from coming face to face with my various deficiency stories, and the life I created through intimate relationships kept me from fully diving into my ultimate fear of being alone. Nothing could have prepared me for the intense feelings of wanting to be held and touched, that almost seemed to command me to be in relationship or have sex. Over the last six months I’ve learned to hug myself, and love myself, and be with myself in deeper ways than I had ever imagined.

– from The Addictive Nature of Relationship by Lisa Meuser, one of the senior Living Inquiry facilitators

Lisa is describing it so well that I don’t feel I need to add much to it, other than that I recognize this from myself. I too have a relationship addiction, and a love addiction.

And it’s there to compensate for or cover up a sense of lack, loneliness, feeling unlikeable, unlovable, unpopular, an outsider, and more. All of this was there when I was a child, and it’s still with me to some extent.

Relationships makes me feel OK about myself. If she likes me, loves me, wants to have children with me, then I must be OK. Especially if she is attractive and popular.

This is no reason to not be in a relationship.

But it’s good to notice, and it’s something I want to look at.

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Dream of a future and more

I see a whole set of hopes, fears, deficiency stories and more connected to relationships, and especially intimate relationships.

Here are some of them:

A dream of a future. A sense of how it feels when I am with a soul mate. (A deep soul and heart connection, deep sense of rightness and alignment.)

A woman/relationship that will save me. (Complete me, enliven me.) A woman/relationship that will destroy me. (Of being stuck in a relationship that doesn’t feel right.)

A fear of missing out. An identity of being unlovable, unloved, only half filled-up with love.

Feeling frozen on the threshold of something more than friendship. Fear. (Concern about how I am seen.)

Missed relationships. Lost relationships.

There is also a recurrent childhood dream of falling through blackness into a cauldron stirred by a witch, looking up at me and grinning. (Representing knotted emotions in women, and myself?)

I can explore these through Living Inquiry, for instance can I find the future or this particular dream of the future? Does it exist outside of images, words and sensations? Can I find a real threat there somewhere? Can I find a command to live that dream, or “see through” the dream? How is the soul-mate feeling created? What’s there in images, words and sensations? (And so on.)

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Inquiry: A relationship will save me, complete me

Even during the initial opening, it was clear that any hope and fear is a projection. Anything that appears “out there” and not also “in here” is a projection. Any idea of a being, existence, separation, is a projection.

Any idea that anything can save me, or that there is anyone who needs to or can be saved, is a projection. Any idea of lack of completeness, someone or something that can complete me, is a projection.

It’s all created by images and words, apparently stuck onto sensations, and made to appear solid and real that way.

I have seen this for a while now.

I also notice that any idea that I can find fulfillment or completion in a nice house, car, education, work, travel and so on are seen and felt to not be true. At least to a large extent.

What’s left right now is the idea that a relationship can or will save me, make me complete, and make me come alive.

There is a partial truth to this. A relationship, and perhaps especially a new one, can trigger all of these experiences. Still, it doesn’t last. And it’s like taking a pill, it’s dependency on something to make it happen. (Neither is wrong or bad at all, it’s just an inherent limitation.)

The invitation is to examine these identifications and beliefs. And often it’s the pain of relationship loss that brings us to it in a more whole hearted and sincere way.

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More or less whole in a relationship

Relationships sometimes make us feel more whole or less whole. And in that is the often seductively addictive and illusive nature of them.

Is this true for you? Are you really less or more whole in various relationships? Check it out.

– Lisa M. on FB

I know that I can experience myself more or less whole in different relationships, and also in different places and circumstances.

If I don’t already feel whole, I may feel more whole with some people, in some places, and doing some activities. And likewise, with others, I may feel more fragmented and less whole.

Is it true that I can be more or less whole? If I feel more whole, is it true I am? If I feel less whole, is it true I am?

What’s happening is that some people brings up my wholeness for me, and others brings up my sense of fragmentation. If it’s unquestioned, it really appears – and feels – as I am getting more whole with some people, and less whole with others. And that makes it especially painful when I lose people who brings up that sense of wholeness in me. I am not only losing that person, but my own wholeness. It feels like I am losing myself.

So this is an inquiry that can be very helpful in everyday life.

I feel more whole. Does it mean I am really more whole?

I feel less whole. Does it mean I am really less whole?

Is it true that the wholeness I am looking for is not here?

Talking about you and me

Here are four levels of communication:

Level 1 – superficial (weather, sports).

Level 2 – meaningful, something you care about (activist topics, politics, someone close to you).

Level 3 – about me, personal (revealing what’s going on inside).

Level 4 – you & me, about me and the other person (our relationship, how I see you/feel about you, what I wish for).

I notice the fourth is by far the most challenging one for me. Not talking about you and me is also what has created the situations in my life I have regretted the most, usually because of missed opportunities. And I also see that when I don’t bring up level 4, or am not transparent and real at that level, the other person may make up stories about how I see our relationship, and act on those stories (which can be quite different from what’s really going on for me).

Talking about you and me, what I fear the most would happen is….

I will be too vulnerable.

You will think I am weird.

You will see me as nervous and awkward.

You will share and it will hurt.

You will talk about me behind my back.

You will reject me.

You will see me as too sentimental.

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Some simple questions to ask about relationships:

Do you want to become more like this person? Chances are, you will.

Do you feel deeply peaceful with the person? Does it feel deeply right?

Do you need the other person to change to be happy? *

Are you aligned in your deepest values and what you want in life?

Does the relationship nurture you?

Does the relationship support you in following your heart, your truth?

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Clear on stories and priorities in relationships

This is a theme that has come up in different ways recently…..

When I am clear on my priorities, my connections with others are much more simple.

I am clear that my basic desire is for connection, with myself, others, life, reality, God. This is primary.

I may then have desire for connection with a particular person. This is a preference, it may be strong or less strong, and it is – as any preference – negotiable.

And I may have desire for that connection to look a certain way. Again, this is a preference, and it is negotiable.

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Doing The Work on and with another

One of the most beautiful and transformative ways of using The Work is to do it on and with another, whether it is a friend, family member, partner or whatever relationship you may have.

Write a Judge Your Neighbor worksheet on each other, without holding anything back. Be as petty as you can.

Then take turn reading it to each other, and facilitate each other through one or more of the most juicy statements.

This can lead to an amazing transformation. It clears the air. It is liberating. It gives a clear and compassionate guidance for oneself. It reveals the deep caring behind the statements, even if they at first appear judgmental. It brings a beautiful sense of intimacy with oneself, the other and life. And it opens for a new level of honesty, freedom and trust in the connection.

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Sequrity and freedom

In any relationship – with friends, family, co-workers, lovers – there is a desire for security and freedom.

And both comes from clear and honest communication, balancing passion for self with compassion for others*.

There is security because I trust myself and the other to speak freely. I trust each of us to bring up anything related to our relationship, for both of us to be clear about our needs and desires, and for our capacity to negotiate ways for each of us to fulfill our needs and desires. Giving ourself and the other the freedom to speak freely, there is trust.

And there is freedom because of that trust. When there is trust, I allow myself and the other freedom to be who we are, and to communicate honestly, to express our desires, and find ways to pursue those desires in ways that support both of us.

Freedom feeds trust, and trust feeds freedom. If there is a commitment to truth and love – which are really two names for the same – there is over time a deepening of trust and freedom.

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The Work as relationship work

The Work is naturally relationship work. As I inquire into my own beliefs and find what is more true for me, all my relationships change – to life, people, myself and those close to me.

If both are interested, there is also another way to use The Work as relationship work.

  1. Write down your judgments about the other. How do you want her/him to change? What do you think about them? How do you criticize them? What do you complain about? Don’t hold back. This is our chance to get all of our internal criticism and judgments out in the open.
  2. Read your list of judgments to each other. (This is where it helps if the other person is already familiar with The Work! If not, they can easily take it as more solid and serious than it is.)
  3. Select the one judgment (among your own judgments)  that has the most juice, and have the other facilitate you through the four questions and the turnaround. Then, go through the turnarounds for each of the other statements. And switch so you facilitate the other in the same way.

For me, this is a beautiful way to find that (a) what the other person wants for me is – in almost all cases – what I want for myself. (b) What I want for the other person is what I really want for myself. The advice is for myself. And (c) that it is all completely innocent. What may seem serious and solid if resisted and kept under cover, is revealed as a simple – and helpful – advice for myself.

The air is cleared. There is a sense of getting to the substance of what is going on. And I get some good pointers for myself.

Meeting people where they are

The long form improv guideline of Yes, And is a great way of meeting people where they are.

We find the grain of truth in their perspective, which is always there, acknowledge it, and then add another perspective to it.

It is a way to meet people where they are, and then gently expand the perspective. We expand our own by taking into account the truth in theirs. And we expand theirs by adding something new.

It is also a quick way to finding common ground, simply by noting the truth in their view.

And it is a way to stay in integrity. I find the genuine truth, for me, in their perspective. And then add something on my own.

It is very simple, almost childishly so as so much else in this journal. But it has a profound impact if we really bring it into our life.

Meeting others where they are

As part of uncovering who and what we are, we need to meet ourselves where we are here and now. We need to take our own immediate experience seriously. Any journey starts exactly where we are. For real results, we need to be real with ourselves.

And the same goes for our relationship with others. For a real relationship, we need to be real with them about where we are, and we need to meet them where they are. We need to take their experience seriously, no matter how different it may be from our own. (If we are honest and look, we can most often find it in ourselves.) And we also need to take their intentions and goals seriously, no matter how different they may be from our own. (Any advice that comes up for us, whether about goals or anything else, is always for us, not for anyone else.)

As we treat ourselves, we treat others, and the other way around.

How do I treat myself when it comes to take my experience seriously? I don’t have to look any further than how I treat those around me.

Where two or more are gathered

Someone once said where two or more are gathered in my name, I will be.

Probably anyone who has been doing any form of spiritual practice has noticed this. For me right now, it is especially noticeable when I do Breema.

Doing Self-Breemas on my own is great and has many benefits. But giving or receiving bodywork, or doing Self-Breemas with others, goes far deeper. In terms of an alive Breema atmosphere, and filling up the belly with the rich nurturing fullness, something different comes in when it is done with others.

There is a different aliveness. A sense of being held by the atmosphere that comes in. An experience of it working far deeper in and on me.

Right now, when I don’t have my usual groups available to me, I am very grateful to have just one person to do Self-Breemas with, and a few happy recipients of simple bodywork.

Relationships we cannot so easily escape

One of the many gifts of families is that they bring relationships we cannot so easily escape. Instead, we are invited to work with them more consciously, as they are, over the long term.

Some of the ways we can do this…

  • Inquire into beliefs
  • Being with our experience, fully allowing it in a heartfelt way
  • Open our heart (to all of us, and all of ourself) through tong-len, prayer, well-wishing
  • Working with the others on the relationships, clarifying, engaging, working things through and out as well as we can
  • Allowing it all to humble us, wear of the hard edges, become more deeply and fully human, through receptivity at the view (inquiry), emotions (fully allowing and being with), and heart (tong-len, prayer, well-wishing)

And as usual, any of these can invite a shift in any and all of the others. For me, I find the shifts from the heart work especially noticeable.

Also, of course, the one relationship we cannot so easily escape is the one to ourselves. Any other one highlights aspects of this relationship. As we relate to ourselves, we relate to the wider world. (Or said in a more headless way, as this human self relates to itself, it relates to the wider world.)

The gifts of ancestors

Our relationships to our ancestors has come up for me in several different ways lately, partly through shamanic sources and partly through Process Work (which has a strong shamanic influence).

The wider world is a mirror for our human self, and the way we relate to different aspects of the wider world reflects how we relate to similar parts of ourselves. The wider world is the world “out there”, in space and time, and our ancestors is an important part of this world. Our relationships, or lack thereof, to our ancestors says a great deal about how we relate to ourselves and the world in general.

When I explore it for myself, I find two main aspects in a more conscious relationship to my ancestors: healing and gifts. A healing of relationships, and a receptivity to and harvesting of their gifts.

There are many ways to do this.

We can use journeying, as in shamanic practices. I can meet some of my ancestors, hear what they have to say, work on my relationship with them, see what I can do for them, and also be receptive to the gifts they may have for me. What insights do they have? What qualities do they express, which I may find and pick up in my own life? 

We can use voice dialog, or the Big Mind process, and do something very similar. I can shift into the voice of particular ancestors, hear what they have to say, see how their relationship to the other voices and this human self is and how these relate to this ancestors, explore their insights and gifts, see what I can do for them, and so on.

We can use group practices, such as Joanna Macy’s Harvesting the Gifts of our Ancestors, where we walk back in time through the generations, tasting how it could have been to live their lives, and then walk forward harvesting their gifts.

We can deepen into gratitude for specific ancestors, and our ancestors in general, for their existence, their lives, their work and efforts, their insights… without which none of us would be alive today.

We can work specifically on healing through any of the above practices, and also healing and for instance tong len.

We can work specifically on harvesting their gifts through any of the practices, and maybe specifically through the journeying, voice dialog, the group practices, and through invoking specific ancestors and their qualities in our daily life, finding it in our selves.

And of course, all of this includes daily life work on our relationship with our own ancestors (including parents) and those we are ancestors to (children, grandchildren), and an awareness of deep time and the passage of generations.

Integral relationships

This is going to be another simplistic skeleton post (as so many others here), but that is what comes out these days…

William Harryman, eBuddha and others have had a discussion going on integral relationships, and although I am interested in the topic, I must admit I haven’t read many of the posts (maybe I will in the future).

I don’t really know about integral relationships, but I know what comes up for me around more mature relationships, and I can always filter it through a simple aqal framework…

  • It involves working on myself (upper left, inner/one) and directly on the relationship with my partner (two, inner/outer) including in a social and cultural context (many & inner/outer, aware of impacts of norms, expectations, etc.)
  • It involves awareness of a range of levels of being, and the impacts and processes going on at each (evolutionary psychology, depth psychology, group processes, social psychology, cultural/social impacts, etc.)
  • It involves seeing my partner (intimate and otherwise) as a mirror for myself. Whatever I see there is also here in myself (projections, shadow work).
  • It involves recognizing when beliefs and identities are triggered/threatened (contraction, tension, stress, unease, sense of something off) and knowing how to work with it (question/explore the beliefs/identities)
  • It involves deepening into the evolving fullness of who I am, as a human being, with a widening embrace of all of what I am, and the shared humanity I find in that way.
  • Working with beliefs, identities, projections and shadows invites a more open/receptive mind and heart, and a deepening recognition of (and empathy for) the other and myself, especially for the areas where we are still stuck and blind.
  • It involves holding the space for myself and the other to notice and explore all of this (when we are ready for it).
  • It also involves recognizing what level each of us operate from in the moment… ego/ethno/world/kosmocentric… which has to do with (a) the type of belief we are caught up in, and (b) the strength of the grasp on the belief (tends to be a lighter touch as the circles widen, allowing for an easier recognition of the truth of the reversals)

According to eBuddhas suggestion, I may be qualified to say something about this as I have been in a committed relationship for about a decade, and have been into (or at least interested in) integral frameworks and practice for longer than that, but I don’t feel all that qualified (not at all, actually).

I can’t even say I know what a successful relationship is. At one point, I thought I did (especially as I was well aware of many of the conventional definitions from psychology, family therapy, etc.), but not anymore. It may sound radical, but the more I explore my relationships (through Process Work, The Work etc.), the more genuinely I see any relationship as ideal, as it is. It is life working itself out, in its immense wisdom. Sometimes it looks beautiful to us, and other times ugly, but neither of those are even close to telling us how “successful” it is…

As useful as frameworks and models are, life is always more than and different from any of them… and sometimes it feels inappropriate to even try to apply neat frameworks and models to life, and especially certain areas such as intimate relationships. It is something that is far too alive, too mysterious, working itself out in ways hidden to me… trying to make it fit into a framework can too easily stifle its life and mysterious unfolding (not really, but it sounds good), which has an inherent intelligence that goes far beyond my own (if there is one thing I have learned about relationships, it is just that).

It is a too technical approach to something far too alive, mysterious and inherently intelligent. I guess it is that way with all of life, but for me it is especially clear in relationships.

Embracing the wanting-to-change-self/other polarity

How does it look when we embrace both ends of the wanting-to-change-self/other polarity?

One end is to just notice the other as a mirror for myself. Whatever advice comes up is really for myself. And it only takes one, and a good deal of differentiated clarity, to be happy. This is what we do through the The Work, and it does work.

The other end of the polarity is changing the other, or at least wanting and trying to. This can work to some extent, but if this is all we do, it typically brings a great deal of frustration and is not ultimately satisfying.

Including both ends of the polarity

So how does it look when both are included?

Well, I work with the projections, find some clarity, see that the advice is for myself and take my own advice, and resolve the struggle right here.

At the same time, I may talk about it with the other person.

:: Reading our judgements about the other to the other

For instance, in The Work, we write a Judge Your Neighbor worksheet on the other person, and then read it to her or him (if she/he is receptive!)

And what we find, most or nearly all of the time, is that what one person wants for the other (a projection, when it has a charge) is what that person actually wants for her/himself. For each of us, we both want the same. There is no difference there.

So the gift is triple (or more): The person writing and reading the worksheet get to become more familiar with their advice for the other (judgments) and apply the advice to themselves. The person listening gets to see that they – most often, want the same for themselves. And it certainly relieves shadow-pressures in the relationship, and opens for a deeper sense of intimacy.

:: Picking up a dream process in the other

In Process Work, there is a very similar process.

As a facilitator, I may pick up something “in the field” and bring it out through words or movement, and see how the other responds. Whatever I pick up about the other, may be something that wants to come out in them. I may be dreamed up by the other and our shared field, to bring it up and into the open. And the feedback from the other tells me if it is really about the other, or just about me.

So by noticing what comes up in me and bringing it out in the open, I offer the other the gift of seeing if it is also in them. On my end, I will of course relate to it in my own way, so it is also a gift for myself.

Spirit as You and you, specifically YOU

At the end of the chapter on We in Integral Spirituality, Ken Wilber talks about how contemporary western spirituality tends to be very comfortable with Spirit as I and it, and less comfortable with it as You, or even you.

This goes at least for Buddhist and Adveita circles. I suspect those practicing within traditionally theist traditions, such as Sufism, Christianity, Sikhism and Hinduism, have more of a familiarity with the You and you of Spirit.

And there are of course several aspects to Spirit as You, and you.

Spirit as You

One is the traditional one of prayer and devotional practice, of praying to Spirit as You, of submitting to Spirit as You. To place myself, as a human being, under and at the mercy of Spirit as You. This itself can be very enriching and speed up the process of awakening and of maturing and deepening as a human being.

Spirit as you, yes you

The other is maybe less familiar from Western traditions, although it seems more common in some Eastern traditions. This is spirit as you, yes you – as a human being, as my partner, my children, my parents, my neighbors, my co-workers, homeless, politicians, those living half-way around the world. This too is Spirit, in all its richness and fullness, the current manifestation of Spirit as form and evolution.

The richness of Spirit as you

This is Spirit as you.

As confused, living from mistaken identity, with its inherent love and wisdom shining through the cracks. As awakened to its own nature.

This is Spirit as you, mirroring exactly myself.

This is Spirit showing me myself, in all my richness, as you. As my partner, my family, my friends, my neighbors, everyone.

This is Spirit as you. As lovable, annoying, as a helper, as a problem, as intimate, as a stranger, as infuriating, as inspiring, as one I want to spend more time with, as one I can’t stand, as one I experience magic with, as one I am bored with.

As one bringing me face-to-face with myself, nudging me along in my own deepening as a human being.