Posts Tagged ‘spirit’

Crimes against the Heart, Part 1

December 20, 2016

In the dating world, there are many ways to commit crimes against the heart–the hearts of others and your own. Some are serious offenses, malfeasance. Others are minor offenses, misdemeanors. But crimes they are.

The concept of friends with benefits is a good example of something fraught with possibilities of doing damage. First, there is no real consensus about what a friends with benefits relationship is, let alone what the difference is between this arrangement and a f*** buddy. Some believe you must be friends before you can have a friends with benefits relationship. Others believe it is foolish to believe there is any friend component to a friends with benefits relationship. There are numerous and diverse “rules” about these relationships, and depending on who is coming up with them, they can be contradictory. In some quarters, it is believed that there should be no cuddling after sex, no sleepover, and no daily texting in a friends with benefits (FWB) relationship. Why? Because it is thought to be a short road between these things and both intimacy and emotional connection. And a friends with benefits relationship for many is, in theory, one that involves sex without the impediment of feelings, let alone deep feelings.

The problem with this is that the human being is a fourfold one with mind, body, spirit, and emotions. The head might be totally on board with the concept of a FWB relationship. The body will definitely be on board. If it is not, there is no point in such an arrangement. But what about spirit and emotions? Can you disconnect mind and body from spirit and emotions? If you can, for how long? And if you can, what does that say about you? If you cannot really disconnect them, what are the consequences of trying to do so?

My own view of what might constitute a FWB relationship was a work in progress. I didn’t necessarily think one had to be long-term friends to have such a relationship. I did think it needed to be between two people who had no expectations of one another, including no expectations of long-term romantic relationship, apart from the expectation of behaving with respect and human dignity. Compassion, kindness, affection? Yes. Bells-and-banjos love? No. Chemistry and sex? Definitely. Friendship or at least friendly connection? Yes.

I had seen Jake twice, and we had over a thousand texts between us. Despite the fact that we had not really known one another beyond a phone conversation and some messages before our relating went from dinner to dessert, I thought of the connection as a friends with benefits one, in part because there was an underlying kindness in his behavior towards me, in part because I gave a damn about him beyond the bedroom, and in part because we had actually conversed about things other than sex. I knew he did not see me as a potential long-term partner. As far as I could tell, some of that hinged on the age difference between us and some of it hinged on the fact that I was not connected to the dance world that was so important to him. Beyond those two things, I had no idea.

Did I view him as a potential long-term partner? No. It wasn’t about age. It was more about lifestyle. I doubted that Jake had the breadth of interests I need in a man. And I doubted he had the depth I need either. But I liked the handful of things I was coming to know about him, I had affection for him, and I had a level of trust in him as a sexual partner. For me, trust in the bedroom is related to what happens outside the bedroom. If I am dismissed, disrespected, or demeaned by a man outside the bedroom, there is no way that man is going to be invited into my bedroom. There will not be enough trust to get him there.

Was a friends with benefits arrangement or something similar sustainable between us for anything beyond the very short term? I knew that some people had sustained such relationships for a matter of years, though I doubted there were many such people.

My heart had cracked open a long time ago, and every time I thought it could not crack open any further, I was proven wrong. The heart, it seems, has an infinite ability to expand. Thus far, I had been able to feel affection and compassion for Jake without any sense of attachment but with a desire for his happiness, whatever that meant to him. I wasn’t concerned about committing a crime against my own heart or his. And I knew that if I began to feel I was at risk of committing such crimes, I would end the relationship.

I wasn’t so sure about Jake, though. I was pretty sure he would drop me like a hot wire if he thought I was getting too attached. And I was pretty sure that he thought he had command over his own emotions, at least where I was concerned. But what about the state of his heart?

Jake professed to want a long-term relationship, and he had what he frequently referred to as parameters for that relationship. It had been a dozen or more years since his divorce;  he’d been single for a long time. From what he had told me about his experience, I knew  he’d formed his own rules around whatever casual sexual relationship he had with a woman. A kiss, a hug, getting naked, and going home afterward were the essential components of it. In his way of thinking, the next time he saw a woman might be the last time, either by his choice or hers. He should not get too close. Which was why, I suspected, he used diminutives when referring to me instead of my name. But he was sufficiently savvy to figure out enough of what a woman’s boundaries and needs were  to stay within her good graces, at least for a time. Still, he was very self-protected. He attempted to keep things completely out of the emotional realm.

The problems with that were three-fold. First, the next time we see anyone in our life might be the last time we see them. Life is fragile. So are human relationships. Any attempt at utter control is futile.

Second, he was not just a nice guy, he was a basically kind person. To the extent that he could keep his heart and his sexual contact with a woman bifurcated, he risked committing a serious crime against his own heart. I did not believe it was in his nature to be hard-hearted. And the longer he tried, the more calcified his heart was going to become.

The third problem was that he had spent enough time attempting to keep emotions out of his sexual relationships that I had serious doubts he could effortlessly turn the emotions back on with a sexual partner he loved and wanted a long-term relationship with. He wasn’t risking a Madonna-whore complex because this wasn’t about a woman he would necessarily have a child with. He was risking something more fundamental: a beloved-whore complex. Would he be able to have abandoned, fun sex with a woman he saw as his beloved after keeping his heart out of the bedroom for so long? I had my doubts.

Jake was at risk of malfeasant crimes against the heart. And if he committed them, he would get a ticket from the karma police he might not want to pay.

Note: The name Jake is fictitious and has been used out of respect for the man involved.

 

Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall

Staying on the Old Road, Part 1

April 28, 2013

If you should not leave the old road for a new one, does that mean you need to spend years in therapy rehashing your past? And do we really spend the first half of our lives becoming dysfunctional? What do I mean when I use the word “dysfunctional” anyway?

The three blog posts on not leaving the old road for a new one elicited comments and questions, some on the blog, others on my Facebook page (to which I copy my blogs), and still others in e-mails and conversations. One reader asked if “dysfunctional” was the correct word to use. She suggested that you live your life and realize at some point that it isn’t working quite the way you planned. You may even feel as if your life is falling apart. You build a road with the wrong materials, keep adding to it with the wrong materials, and even go back and repair potholes with the wrong materials.

Are “the wrong materials” the equivalent of “dysfunctional”? Well, I believe we build the road with the materials we have on hand. And those materials on hand include everything that has gone into making us who we are. We develop strategies to help us navigate our way through life. And some of those strategies become barriers between the persona we create for ourselves and our authentic selves. And that, in my vernacular, is dysfunctional.

If our future becomes our past unless we do something other than keep repeating it, why aren’t a few years in therapy a good idea? They may be for you. My attitude is this: whatever works. But my preferences are clear, based on how I’ve lived my own life. I’m educated in the field of psychology. I have respect for it. I even worked as a therapist for a while during and after graduate school. But I found my way to shamanism and stayed there because I found it a more useful approach . . . for me.

The work of becoming a shaman is very much about working your way back to your authentic self by staying on the road you arrived at to “here” rather than simply leaving the old road for a new one. It is the work of courageously facing yourself as you are, accepting it, healing whatever needs to be healed within you, and making a choice to live a life of integrity—and by “integrity” I mean the kind of completeness you achieve with harmony of mind, body, spirit, and emotions. As it happens, that kind of harmony seems to support “integrity” as most people think of it—a fundamental incorruptibleness.

We so effectively keep ourselves wrapped in the comfortable cloak of our persona that it takes serious excavation to face ourselves as we are. And if you go looking for something buried somewhere other than where you buried it, what do you suppose your chances of finding it are? Exactly. So you stay on the old road.

I’m not going to delve into shamanic practices like recapitulation here. At least, not yet. It’s helpful, I think, to take a look at how we construct a road that takes us away from our authentic selves in the first place. And to do that, I’m going to borrow a concept from Buddhism as I, a non-Buddhist, have come to understand it: the cocoon.

To be continued.

Copyright 2013 by Melanie Mulhall

How Does Any of This Relate to Use of Time?

May 19, 2008

Helena Mariposa posted a comment on my “Life is Four-Part Harmony” post that inspired me to think about how we use our time and how that fits with living the dream and being in harmony with body, mind, spirit, and emotions.  And because there is really only one of us in the room anyway (as Marianne Williamson has been known to say), I received my weekly inspirational message from my friend, Tom LaRotonda (http://www.corematters.com), within minutes of seeing Helena’s post and thinking about some of the issues with how we use time. Tom’s email inspiration was complementary to my thinking.

I have set and accomplished goals in my life and have found goal setting to be a useful practice, particularly when I keep my energy open to possibilities not originally part of the goal or planning around it. And, as the author of the book Helena has referred to seems to suggest, goals and use of time are–or should be–related. For instance, when I had the goal of writing my first book (Living the Dream–A Guidebook For Job Seekers And Career Explorers), accomplishing it required me to think of that goal and include it when I thought about how best to use my time. While my writing style is not as regimented as some authors I know (many, actually), linking the goal to the use of my time helped me actually finish and publish the book.

It did not, however, take over my life. And that is the risk in over-planning the use of time. Now I know that many people would not make it through the day and retain their sanity if they did not have their time planned out with some discipline, and even precision. And I have enormous sympathy for what the pace of life today does to us. But I don’t want to forget how important the simple daily encounters and frequent disruptions to my plans can be when it comes to living my own dream, helping others live theirs, and making a difference in the lives of people I may never know I have touched.

And that is where my friend, Tom LaRotonda, comes in. Tom wrote, in his piece titled “Your Life Makes a Difference,” that whenever we touch another’s life by listening to them and telling them we appreciate them, we are making a difference in the world. We are, in fact, changing the world, he purports. I not only agree with him, I have seen it operate in my own life.

Two days ago, I received a call from a woman I hadn’t heard from in several years. I knew her in a former (corporate) life and reconnected with her several years after stepping out of that life. I helped her with some career matters at that time and stayed in touch as I could. She was calling me to tell me how important all of that had been to her and, in fact, continued to be. I remember when we reconnected, years earlier, and if I had not been paying attention (not just with my eyes and ears, but with my heart), I might have exchanged a few words with her and that would have been the end of it. In fact, I was busy at the time and easily could have let my own concerns distract me from the heart message. I’m sure I have actually done that, again and againg, and I’m happy I didn’t do it that day.

And this all reminds me of one of the most riveting experiences I have ever had as I have attempted to navigate living the dream, living in harmony, and how I use time. I was at the Carmelite monastery in Crestone, Colorado–Nada Hermitage and the Spiritual Life Institute. It is one of my favorite places (and one I am feeling pulled to again, of late). I checked out some tapes from the monastery’s considerable library and one of the tape sets was the monastery’s own Sister Sharon Doyle speaking on leisure. (That’s leisure in the medieval sense of the word, meaning “stillness.”)

Sister Sharon commented on how busy the lives of the monks at the hermitage was and how often they were so wrapped up in getting things done that they did not take the time to just be with one another. Wasting time with one another was how she put it and it was a good way to say it because we are so enculturated in our society to not waste time. She believed that taking the time to waste time with one another was important.

I was stunned by her comments because my rather innocent image of monks and monastery life at the time was one of simplicity, unrushed doing, plenty of time for being, a healthy dose of communing with nature, and, of course, plenty of time to be with the Divine. And I thought to myself that if the monks at this (and other) monasteries were having as much trouble with time as the rest of us, the world was surely going to you-know-where in a handbasket.

I am still stunned by the thought, though I have a great deal more understanding about the issues than I did then. (Sister Sharon’s reference to Walter Kerr’s wonderful book, The Decline of Pleasure, and Peeper’s great work sent me off on a delicious inquiry that has never really ended.)

As we explore what it means to live the dream and live life with four-part harmony, as we explore how we set goals and use time as part of that, I, for one, am going to remind myself–frequently–that we make a difference in simple ways that have profound impact and taking the time to listen, be with another, and really be present with life matters as much as the pursuit of any goal.

Life is a Four-Part Harmony

April 25, 2008

One of my client-friends is confronting the issue of balance in his life at the moment. Living authentically and walking his talk is important to him. He is writing a book to help people live their dreams consciously, with purpose and with abundance, so he is sensitized to his own process.

Balance is a trickly thing for those of us focused on living our dreams. The image that comes to mind for some of you might be of someone perched on a highwire, teetering and trying to avoid falling off. Others may get the image of scales, the sides perfectly–or not so perfectly–balanced.

There is nothing wrong with either of those images, but I prefer to use the word “harmony” as many people use the word “balance.” Why? Because balance often implies portions in equal buckets (like those scales) or  the threat of crashing and burning (like falling off that highwire). Harmony suggests something quite different: a congruent and pleasing arrangement of parts.

I believe that life is a four-part harmony comprised of body, mind, spirit, and emotions and that all of these components have a being and a doing quality. My client-friend has discovered in himself a tendency to over-do, to plunge forward with activity, sometimes at the expense of his health, well-being, and . . . yes, at the expense of maintaining harmony of mind, body, spirit, and emotions. He is consciously attending to the being side of all four, as well as the doing side. In doing so, what I am witnessing from the outside is a period of amazing transformation in him.

Living the dream is about four-part harmony: attending to it, making it a priority, and being conscious about both the being and the doing sides of each one of the four components. I don’t suggest it is always easy, but the experience of harmony is delicious enough to bring you back, again and again. And, in the end, everything seems to flow easier in harmony.

What’s your experience?