Love the One You’re With

“If you’re down and confused
And you can’t remember who you’re talking to
Concentration slips away…
If you can’t be with the one you love, honey
Love the one you’re with
Love the one you’re with”

– Stephen Stills (1970)

Only Love Heals


I want to impart something to you that I consider important and extremely useful. The words and practice herein contained I have found to be an amazingly simple and reliable portal to inner peace – something you, me, and our fellow brothers and sisters on planet Earth can’t get enough of. Interested? Read on.

Here is the simple truth that will move you most expediently through absolutely every unwanted and unwelcome feeling, state or condition you may descend into. It works like a charm with every single one of the so-called negative feelings or states. It works with anxiety, fear, sadness, anger, hurt, shame, pain, guilt and grief. It works with jealousy, nervousness, despondency, disorientation,loneliness and discouragement. Here is the simple way to “pop”, like a floating bubble, any of these inner feelings or states that seem to plague and torment you.

Love it. That’s right. Love it and love the person who is experiencing it. Love it. Accept and embrace the feeling or state. Whatever arises, love it. If you truly love it, it will leave you and disappear as the ephemeral illusion that it always was. Every time.

There is however one more aspect of this practice of self-love that must be considered. Though love may be simple, for most human beings, for reasons too complex to go into here, it is not easy.

For love to be love one of its uncompromising requirements is the utter and complete relinquishment of judgment. If say I want to release the anxiety I feel, I cannot hold a shred, a sliver, a single solitary speck of judgment for it. I cannot resist it or distract myself from it in any way. I cannot, for example, try to medicate it away, eat it away, run it away, work it away, TV it away, drink it away, sex it away, holiday it away, humour it away, intellectualize it away, read it away, rationalize it away or even meditate or yoga it away.

You see these activities and approaches can all be subtle forms of resistance and distraction. And, in the inner world, whatever you resist will persist and get bigger. Another way to put this is that all defenses that I employ to seemingly protect me from my own feelings and experience ironically increase those very same feelings and experience. No, I must acknowledge the feeling. I must accept the feeling. I must have the feeling. And then I must love the feeling.

The first step in this process, often the most difficult, is my willingness to let go of even perceiving the feeling as unwanted, negative or bad in the first place. After all, it is really just a feeling, is it not? Who decided to label and treat some feelings as good and others as bad? Some as positive and others as negative? Some for which I place a check mark in the box; others with a black, bold X?

In many cases you may not at first be able to do this practice by yourself. This is where the love of another like a guide, dear friend or totally trusted family member can come in handy. Someone who can love you for parts of you that you, by yourself, cannot. Someone who can love, accept and embrace your feeling or state for you until you can catch up and do it for yourself.

Finally there are often times when no one is around or no one who has the depth and skill to enter your inner world and be with and love that which is arising there for you. Then it can be helpful to sincerely appeal to and receive a trans-human Love, an unconditional Love that can only come from God or Jesus or Spirit or Truth or Higher Power or Yahweh or Buddha or angels or a beloved and departed family member, ancestor or master.

Love is simple and everywhere. It is your very being. It is your birthright. It is as natural and effortless as breathing. Allowing it, accepting it, receiving it, and surrendering to it, and perhaps most challenging of all – feeling like you deserve it, can be the biggest impediment on the path to inner peace. This is what makes it simple but not necessarily easy.

What if, to paraphrase the poet T.S. Eliot┬╣, the end of all of our seeking is to return to the person you always were and will be and to love yourself for the first time? Loving exactly what arises in you from moment to moment? Could enlightenment be not the seeking or ascent to a higher state of consciousness but being totally O.K. with all of your humanity?

┬╣”We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time”.

Communication: Something Most of Us Have Never Done

17068-a-woman-and-older-man-sitting-at-a-table-pvIn the more than 30 years that I have been working with couples I can unreservedly say that by far the most critical factor determining whether a couple will stay together and how happy and fulfilled they will be with each other is their ability to communicate. If a relationship cannot talk about itself, that is if one or both persons cannot or do not talk about their actual experience of it, the relationship and the love in it will hit a glass ceiling above which they cannot rise. Both the relationship and the love between the partners must become ever expansive and refreshed if they are to remain vital, alive and rewarding over time.

For this to occur the skill and art of communication must be worked on and fine-tuned the way a master woodworker hallows a delicate and beautiful bowl out of a standard, spindly, rough-hewn piece of wood. From my observation the number of us that have the ability to effectively communicate is dramatically less than the number of artisans who can create a work of art out of ordinary materials.

What most people consider to be communication is not communication at all. It is accusation and attack. It is being right and making the other feel bad and wrong. It is portraying oneself as the victim and assigning the exclusive role of the offender to the other. Ultimately the unspoken intention that lies behind these imposters to real communication is separation not union, and attack and defense not forgiveness and compassion.

The net result of every single interaction that you have with a loved one is that the intimacy, trust and goodwill that you have with each other will either expand or contract. There is nothing in between. This means that relationships are dynamic. They never stand still. They grow or die with every single exchange.

If either person in any interaction in a relationship is left feeling blamed, guilty, bad, wrong, put down or flawed, not only has communication failed but the relationship has been set back, rendering the liklihood of future success in communicating even more remote.

In my view to call what you are doing when you open your mouth and speak words communication, the person who is talking must embody four particular traits or features in their delivery. To personalize them they can be stated as follows:

1) Am I honest?
2) Am I vulnerable?
3) Am I humble?
4) Are all of my statements self-referential?

If you are not honest, vulnerable, humble and self-referential when you speak it would be wiser, in my opinion, to keep your mouth shut. It just won’t work! The only unknown will be how much the speaker is actually setting the relationships backwards.

Let’s delve further into these courageous, brilliant and beautiful ways to make it safe for another person to be in communication with you:

1. Am I honest? – Am I being congruent with what is going on inside of me? Am I willing to be known? Am I courageously sharing my truths, feelings, needs and wants without making demands on the other person and with few or no expectations?

2. Am I vulnerable? – Am I open? Transparent? Real? Am I showing my humanity and frailties or concealing them behind a false show of certainty or strength or self-righteousness or power? Do I feel defensive or defenseless, closed-hearted or open-hearted when I share? More importantly still, even if I am convinced that I am vulnerable as I speak, how does my significant other experience me?

3. Am I humble? – Am I tentative rather than authoritarian in my delivery? Do I realize that whatever I am saying is based on the flimsiness and narrowness of my viewpoint only? Do I realize that what I am sharing are my perceptions, interpretations and conclusions only and not the Laws of the Land? How badly do I have to have the last word or final say?

4. Am I self-referential? – Am I only talking about myself? Using “I..” statements instead of statements that begin with “You..”, or “You are…”, or “These are your issues”, or ” I feel that you…”.

Communication is a discipline and a skill and, like any other discipline and skill in life worth having, it is not achieved easily or overnight. Hundreds, if not thousands, of repetitions are required to become good at it. Failure and feelings of inadequacy are guaranteed. The goal is for both people to feel good after the communication and actually be happy that it took place. Not easy. Not common. But how badly do you want to keep the other person in your life? And how much do you want to share a life of peace, joy and abiding closeness with him or her? I call what I do with couples the Work of Love. It lives up to its name.

Forgiveness: It Has Nothing To Do With the Other Person

14957032599_62bb39d273_b A relationship ends and you feel angry, hurt, even betrayed. A friend does not remember an important occasion in your personal or family life, and consequently does not ask you about it and share your joy. A colleague makes a scheduling mistake and, for the second time, stands you up for lunch. How do you maintain your inner peace? How do you cleanse and release the negative feelings that may now be residing, perhaps even growing, inside you? How do you restore the lost trust, harmony, and good will in your relationship with the other person?

We human beings are an imperfect lot. We lead extremely busy lives. We have a lot going on in our minds and thoughts, rendering us off-kilter, distracted, and, often innocently, self-absorbed. At the same time we are very sensitive creations – our feelings can be easily hurt, our egos easily bruised. We can hurt or disappoint others without even knowing it. We can fail to meet their private, unspoken expectations, unintentionally and without malice or rudeness. In anger or fear, we can utter cutting, demeaning words hastily, unfeelingly, regretfully. We are all capable of these small but consequential acts of man’s inhumanity to man.

There is no higher act of love that we can bring to our bodies and health, our relationships and our world than our mutual need for forgiveness. No one, and I mean no one walking this earth, is exempt from the need to forgive and be forgiven. And yet what truly is forgiveness?

Forgiveness is not between two people. Nor is it in anyway for the benefit of the person being forgiven. It is a spiritual practice, rising from a humbled, softening, sincere heart, that releases me from the pain and pressure that my unforgiving and unloving thoughts are causing me. The resentments, judgments and grievances that I hold on to are only hurting me – my health, body, moods, sleep and peace of mind and my relationship with others. Forgiveness is about the quality of my life. Holding onto my grievances is exactly the same as my drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Holding on to rage and bitterness about them is like carrying a hot coal in my palm. Whether I only think about doing it or actually throw it, it won’t land anywhere else with the damage it is already causing me.

Two of the lessons from the three hundred and sixty-five that comprise the Workbook for A Course In Miracles are: “I am affected only by my thoughts” and ” I can be hurt by nothing by my thoughts“. Wholeheartedly practicing and applying these lessons shows us that, though it may look as if the world “is coming at me”, in truth, it “is coming from me.” In its entirety, I create my experience of the world. It is my thoughts and my thoughts alone that entrap and frighten me. It is my thoughts and my thoughts alone that can set me free and give me peace.

If these spiritual principles are true, I don’t even have to tell the other person I have forgiven them for it to work. At the core, what I am really doing is forgiving myself for the resentments and attack thoughts that I am generating, that are eating me up inside. Forgiveness is letting go of what’s hurting me. In essence then, all forgiveness is forgiveness of oneself.

Forgiveness also has nothing to do with behavior. It has nothing to do with being nice. Or being the better of the two people involved and pardoning the spiritually inferior or less evolved other person. That is just more ego nonsense. A Course In Miracles calls that “forgiveness-to-destroy”. Instead it is realizing, at a very deep level, that “I am the other person ” – that I too can be manipulative or competitive or jealous or petty or insensitive or inconsiderate or self-centered, or whatever I am supposedly seeing and reacting to in the other person’s behavior. I, too, can and have hurt other people. I, too, will hurt other people again. I, too, can feel, say and do things that are mean and short-sighted when I am overcome by fear or anger, when I am riddled with pain or anguish. To emphasize this once more, who amongst us, if we are being totally honest with ourselves, cannot acknowledge the “secret sins and hidden hates”(ACIM) that we try so hard to pretend are not really there deep within us? What is love for humanity but our mutual and urgent need to forgive and be forgiven?

One more thing. You do not have to hang out with the person you have forgiven, if that is something that you do not choose to do. You may still leave your marriage. You might elect to communicate your feelings of hurt or disappointment to that friend who forgot your important event, but you might also decide to no longer confide in that friend or trust them with tender and personal matters-of-the-heart. You might elect to go to lunch with a different colleague. It is not about the behavior – what you do or don’t do. It is about the complete relinquishment of being anyone’s victim, of having been “done to”. It is about the total release of antagonism and ill-will. It is about the shedding of any moral or spiritual superiority over the other person that you may have granted yourself. It is about seeing and, if you are truly willing, experiencing your shared oneness and your shared humanity with them. It is about touching that place inside of you that realizes that it is not even “you” who forgives. You can only go as far as handing your grievances over. Then, in silence, trust and willingness, you might discover that “God is the love in which I forgive”. (ACIM, Workbook Lesson 46)