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Archive for November, 2011

We are really, just like copycats.

What we learn, we pass on
making others our duplicates.

Much like how we are duplicates to our forefathers

either passing on a holistic ritual
or a habitual routine

either passing down ignorance
or wisdom

depending on what we are at that moment.

In either that we choose
in the moment

either refining our beingness
or fouling the spirit

either way, it serves its purpose.

The only question is, who and what are we serving?

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*published in The New York Times, July 31, 2009*

LET’S say you have what you believe to be a healthy marriage. You’re still friends and lovers after spending more than half of your lives together. The dreams you set out to achieve in your 20s — gazing into each other’s eyes in candlelit city bistros when you were single and skinny — have for the most part come true.

Two decades later you have the 20 acres of land, the farmhouse, the children, the dogs and horses. You’re the parents you said you would be, full of love and guidance. You’ve done it all: Disneyland, camping, Hawaii, Mexico, city living, stargazing.

Sure, you have your marital issues, but on the whole you feel so self-satisfied about how things have worked out that you would never, in your wildest nightmares, think you would hear these words from your husband one fine summer day: “I don’t love you anymore. I’m not sure I ever did. I’m moving out. The kids will understand. They’ll want me to be happy.”

But wait. This isn’t the divorce story you think it is. Neither is it a begging-him-to-stay story. It’s a story about hearing your husband say “I don’t love you anymore” and deciding not to believe him. And what can happen as a result.

Here’s a visual: Child throws a temper tantrum. Tries to hit his mother. But the mother doesn’t hit back, lecture or punish. Instead, she ducks. Then she tries to go about her business as if the tantrum isn’t happening. She doesn’t “reward” the tantrum. She simply doesn’t take the tantrum personally because, after all, it’s not about her.

Let me be clear: I’m not saying my husband was throwing a child’s tantrum. No. He was in the grip of something else — a profound and far more troubling meltdown that comes not in childhood but in midlife, when we perceive that our personal trajectory is no longer arcing reliably upward as it once did. But I decided to respond the same way I’d responded to my children’s tantrums. And I kept responding to it that way. For four months.

“I don’t love you anymore. I’m not sure I ever did.”

His words came at me like a speeding fist, like a sucker punch, yet somehow in that moment I was able to duck. And once I recovered and composed myself, I managed to say, “I don’t buy it.” Because I didn’t.

He drew back in surprise. Apparently he’d expected me to burst into tears, to rage at him, to threaten him with a custody battle. Or beg him to change his mind.

So he turned mean. “I don’t like what you’ve become.”

Gut-wrenching pause. How could he say such a thing? That’s when I really wanted to fight. To rage. To cry. But I didn’t.

Instead, a shroud of calm enveloped me, and I repeated those words: “I don’t buy it.”

You see, I’d recently committed to a non-negotiable understanding with myself. I’d committed to “The End of Suffering.” I’d finally managed to exile the voices in my head that told me my personal happiness was only as good as my outward success, rooted in things that were often outside my control. I’d seen the insanity of that equation and decided to take responsibility for my own happiness. And I mean all of it.

My husband hadn’t yet come to this understanding with himself. He had enjoyed many years of hard work, and its rewards had supported our family of four all along. But his new endeavor hadn’t been going so well, and his ability to be the breadwinner was in rapid decline. He’d been miserable about this, felt useless, was losing himself emotionally and letting himself go physically. And now he wanted out of our marriage; to be done with our family.

But I wasn’t buying it.

I said: “It’s not age-appropriate to expect children to be concerned with their parents’ happiness. Not unless you want to create co-dependents who’ll spend their lives in bad relationships and therapy. There are times in every relationship when the parties involved need a break. What can we do to give you the distance you need, without hurting the family?”

“Huh?” he said.

“Go trekking in Nepal. Build a yurt in the back meadow. Turn the garage studio into a man-cave. Get that drum set you’ve always wanted. Anything but hurting the children and me with a reckless move like the one you’re talking about.”

Then I repeated my line, “What can we do to give you the distance you need, without hurting the family?”

“Huh?”

“How can we have a responsible distance?”

“I don’t want distance,” he said. “I want to move out.”

My mind raced. Was it another woman? Drugs? Unconscionable secrets? But I stopped myself. I would not suffer.

Instead, I went to my desk, Googled “responsible separation” and came up with a list. It included things like: Who’s allowed to use what credit cards? Who are the children allowed to see you with in town? Who’s allowed keys to what?

I looked through the list and passed it on to him.

His response: “Keys? We don’t even have keys to our house.”

I remained stoic. I could see pain in his eyes. Pain I recognized.

“Oh, I see what you’re doing,” he said. “You’re going to make me go into therapy. You’re not going to let me move out. You’re going to use the kids against me.”

“I never said that. I just asked: What can we do to give you the distance you need … ”

“Stop saying that!”

Well, he didn’t move out.

Instead, he spent the summer being unreliable. He stopped coming home at his usual six o’clock. He would stay out late and not call. He blew off our entire Fourth of July — the parade, the barbecue, the fireworks — to go to someone else’s party. When he was at home, he was distant. He wouldn’t look me in the eye. He didn’t even wish me “Happy Birthday.”

But I didn’t play into it. I walked my line. I told the kids: “Daddy’s having a hard time as adults often do. But we’re a family, no matter what.” I was not going to suffer. And neither were they.

MY trusted friends were irate on my behalf. “How can you just stand by and accept this behavior? Kick him out! Get a lawyer!”

I walked my line with them, too. This man was hurting, yet his problem wasn’t mine to solve. In fact, I needed to get out of his way so he could solve it.

I know what you’re thinking: I’m a pushover. I’m weak and scared and would put up with anything to keep the family together. I’m probably one of those women who would endure physical abuse. But I can assure you, I’m not. I load 1,500-pound horses into trailers and gallop through the high country of Montana all summer. I went through Pitocin-induced natural childbirth. And a Caesarean section without follow-up drugs. I am handy with a chain saw.

I simply had come to understand that I was not at the root of my husband’s problem. He was. If he could turn his problem into a marital fight, he could make it about us. I needed to get out of the way so that wouldn’t happen.

Privately, I decided to give him time. Six months.

I had good days, and I had bad days. On the good days, I took the high road. I ignored his lashing out, his merciless jabs. On bad days, I would fester in the August sun while the kids ran through sprinklers, raging at him in my mind. But I never wavered. Although it may sound ridiculous to say “Don’t take it personally” when your husband tells you he no longer loves you, sometimes that’s exactly what you have to do.

Instead of issuing ultimatums, yelling, crying or begging, I presented him with options. I created a summer of fun for our family and welcomed him to share in it, or not — it was up to him. If he chose not to come along, we would miss him, but we would be just fine, thank you very much. And we were.

And, yeah, you can bet I wanted to sit him down and persuade him to stay. To love me. To fight for what we’ve created. You can bet I wanted to.

But I didn’t.

I barbecued. Made lemonade. Set the table for four. Loved him from afar.

And one day, there he was, home from work early, mowing the lawn. A man doesn’t mow his lawn if he’s going to leave it. Not this man. Then he fixed a door that had been broken for eight years. He made a comment about our front porch needing paint. Our front porch. He mentioned needing wood for next winter. The future. Little by little, he started talking about the future.

It was Thanksgiving dinner that sealed it. My husband bowed his head humbly and said, “I’m thankful for my family.”

He was back.

And I saw what had been missing: pride. He’d lost pride in himself. Maybe that’s what happens when our egos take a hit in midlife and we realize we’re not as young and golden anymore.

When life’s knocked us around. And our childhood myths reveal themselves to be just that. The truth feels like the biggest sucker-punch of them all: it’s not a spouse or land or a job or money that brings us happiness. Those achievements, those relationships, can enhance our happiness, yes, but happiness has to start from within. Relying on any other equation can be lethal.

My husband had become lost in the myth. But he found his way out. We’ve since had the hard conversations. In fact, he encouraged me to write about our ordeal. To help other couples who arrive at this juncture in life. People who feel scared and stuck. Who believe their temporary feelings are permanent. Who see an easy out, and think they can escape.

My husband tried to strike a deal. Blame me for his pain. Unload his feelings of personal disgrace onto me.

But I ducked. And I waited. And it worked.

~ Laura A. Munson is a writer who lives in Whitefish, Mont ~

**deepest thanks to J for sharing this beautiful article**

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I can never influence another. Not consciously, anyway. For by my conscious influencing, is to convince another my way is best and that itself is a form of attack which will inevitably lead to a defence from the other party which is also reflecting my own defence of my own ideas of what is true to me in addition to wanting the other to ‘see’ it my way. A harsh form of attack would be to impose on others of what I think is true to me, failing to understand that everyone is also like me, holding on to what is true to them. And for those lacking integrity within themselves, they will find themselves succumbing to the ‘impose’ or ‘convince’ posed by the one who seems to be influencing and hence making the illusionary influencer in existence.

As said above, I can never influence; what more to teach or to inspire. But what I can do is to be true to myself in every moment, allowing wisdom to unfold in me with regards to my response to another, and I have to be mindful that it is never about another in this instance. Even if I am to react from the space of defilement, defending and/or attacking – all for me or more rightfully, the ideas I hang on to in the mind hence propelling righteousness, that is what I would be ‘teaching’ to the world subconsciously especially to the one in front of me. And if the other is at least, sufficiently wise, the other person will be able to discern and learn from my movement if it is beneficial or not for him or her. Hence, it is the other teaching him or herself through the observation of my actions or words either being disgusted or inspired by it.

It does sound pretty contradictory to how I can never teach but somehow is already ‘teaching’ at some level. The difference here is that I can never consciously teach someone when my attention is outwards but by my living it, I am already ‘teaching’ another subconsciously when the other is open enough to observe my way of living, or rather reaction or response to myself or the world.

To add on a little more, the only way to ‘teach’ or ‘inspire’ others is to live it and what I mean here is to live what is true to me and always having to be conscious that this is what I have chosen for me and not for others to follow. Whether it is a conscious change of attitude or a result from natural transformation, it is what and how I am or what my life is leaving it nothing to do with others – for it is for my own inner peace and freedom. And people who are open enough to observe me will be inspired if that is the way of life they would like to have – that is to have inner peace and freedom within themselves and again; and that too, would have nothing to do with me. It only becomes inspiring to them if where you are is where they wish to be and hence become inspired. So it is really them inspiring themselves having me as a catalyst – the one who is living it truly for themselves – rather than I am inspiring or teaching them.

A loved one commented that I would in some ways influence the little one on how to become a human being. I explained that what I do is that I share my point of view. There was once, the little one was catching on not-very-appropriate words which we usually term as vulgar from watching YouTube. As a mother, if I were to stop her by just imposing her to ‘STOP IT!’ she might very well stop watching it in front of me and while I am not around continue to do so. In that way, has she learned? And have I successfully taught? Obviously no. What I did was to share with her that those were not very nice words to be used while conversing with people and I posted an example of someone saying it to her. I allowed her to imagine what it was like and she later agreed that it was true as she wouldn’t like it if someone did say it to her because of the tone of voice or mannerism of action. It is also possible that as a child, she could sense the energetic field of those words used out of ignorance. Being an inquisitive child, she asked me what they are meant and to be honest, I found myself caught as how do you explain the word ‘mother f*%ker’ to a 5 year old? Well, believe it or not, I did not say anything like “just trust me, kid… it is a bad, bad word!!” I actually explained to her in the context that it was a word that doesn’t really mean anything but said out of anger from a person to another person to hurt the other person. And for that, the meaning of the word is ‘I am hurting you’. And I asked her if it was a nice way to converse with others. Being a wise child, she said no and she understood that it was not a very nice word to be used although she did mention that the word itself sounded very funny to kids. Ah well, the innocence in a child’s world! Anyway, she still watches these you tubes at least now more aware of what words are appropriate to be used in a conversation or not. And I understand how some parents will oppose to this, but my take is this, I rather than she is honestly and openly sharing with me what she is currently interested in and at the same time also learning through her very own unique ways about the other parts of the world with discernment. As a conscious parent, my only ‘influence’ on her is just to live it and at the same time share with her so that she could see the other perspective of it. At the end of the day, whatever she chooses – it will be delusional for me to say that I’d have any control over it. Because with or without my permission, she’d do it anyway.

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*dedicated to my teachers, my loved ones, my friends and all who had touched my life, in one way or another…*

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performed by U2 (Anton Corbjin Version)

Is it getting better?
Or do you feel the same?
Will it make it easier on you now?
You got someone to blame
You say

One love
One life
When it’s one need
In the night
One love
We get to share it
Leaves you baby if you
Don’t care for it

Did I disappoint you?
Or leave a bad taste in your mouth?
You act like you never had love
And you want me to go without
Well it’s

Too late
Tonight
To drag the past out into the light
We’re one, but we’re not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other
One

Have you come here for forgiveness?
Have you come to raise the dead?
Have you come here to play Jesus?
To the lepers in your head

Did I ask too much?
More than a lot
You gave me nothing
Now it’s all I got
We’re one
But we’re not the same
Well we
Hurt each other
Then we do it again
You say
Love is a temple
Love a higher law
Love is a temple
Love the higher law
You ask me to enter
But then you make me crawl
And I can’t be holding on
To what you got
When all you got is hurt

One love
One blood
One life
You got to do what you should
One life
With each other
Sisters
Brothers
One life
But we’re not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other

One

One

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performed by Def Leppard

Walk away if you want to
It’s okay if you need to
You can run but you can never hide
From the shadow that’s creeping up beside you
There’s a magic running through your soul
But you can’t have it all

Whatever you do
I’ll be two steps behind you
Where ever you go
And I’ll be there to remind you
That it only takes a minute of your precious time
To turn around
I’ll be two steps behind

Take the time to think about it
Just walk the line you know you just can’t fight it
Take a look around you’ll know what you can’t find
Like the fire that’s burning up inside me

Now there’s a magic running through your soul
But you can’t have it all

Whatever you do
I’ll be two steps behind you
Where ever you go
And I’ll be there to remind you
That it only takes a minute of your precious time
To turn around
I’ll be two steps behind

There’s a magic running through your soul
But you, you can’t have it all

Whatever you do
I’ll be two steps behind you
Where ever you go
And I’ll be there to remind you
That it only takes a minute of your precious time
To turn around
I’ll be two steps behind

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Mommi said to the daughter,

“Precious, I am going to a play.”

The daughter asked,

“Mommi, are you going to be in the play?”

Mommi said,

“No, precious… Do you wish for Mommi to be in a play?”

Then the daughter said,

“Mommi, I was just asking if you are going to be in the play.”

Mommi then said to the daughter,

“Oh precious, Mommi is already in a play, and so are you, in this play called ‘Life!’”

The daughter smiled and said,

“Mommi, we are like characters in a book and when we talk to each other, it is like someone is reading us.”

Mommi laughed and said,

“Well honey, who do you think the reader is?”

The daughter said,

“Oh, I don’t know Mommi; but the Reader sure likes to read alot…!”

😀

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