Friday, August 25, 2017

How to Have a Great Relationship

Have you experienced disappointment in any of your relationships? I certainly have, and on more than one occasion. Given the demands we place on relationships, pain and suffering are inevitable. We get into relationships to gain something or to benefit, only to find that relationships can't offer a permanent fix to our hungry souls.
Frequently, there's an inner desperation, one that we don't know we have, that slithers its way into our primary love relationship. We go into a relationship during our finest hour, only to lose our brilliance once the clock strikes 12. We put on a show for about six weeks, then revert to our self-centered, got-to-get-more of something mode, must have a better version of something, or a different version of something from this relationship. We try to get our partner to change, to fit our model of how things should be, and if the relationship endures, we go to work on it. We accentuate the pain as the pleasure recedes beyond our reach.

Relationships do not work when they are applied as a bandage to life. They can only add richness when we are already full. Relationships  are the dessert of life; they can never be the main course.

How do relationships get this way? What makes relationship failure a pandemic disease? Hold on to your ego; the following might be distressful. We suffer because we foster multiple relationship illusions. We take the Daffy Duck approach with our significant others. Remember Daffy? He was one of the first animated characters that showed up and acted like a screwball! When we believe the following ideas, we get screwball results:
  • We must belong to be happy.
  • We must have a mate to be a success as a person.
  • Getting married brings safety and a sense of belonging.
  • Someone must love us or we can't be happy.
  • We cannot be happy without a significant other.
  • Single people are sad and to be pitied.
  • People will stay, and if they don't, we have the right to feel abandoned. (Maybe they will stay, but not all the time. They divorce us, die, and emotionally check out.)
  • The romance lasts forever. The chills and thrills are required, and if they are gone, something is wrong.
We experience a diminished interest in our relationship when we see our beloved cannot fill enough soul holes. Once we see the illusion, that relationships will not fulfill our fantasies on a permanent basis, we try to find another way to realize our illusions. Maybe we go on to the next partner. We might have an affair. We may emotionally block out our partner and pursue other means of fulfillment, such as work or a hobby.

Hopefully at some point we figure it out. We've been looking for love in all the wrong places. We have been looking at love in false concepts and beliefs. We place our salvation (happiness) in the hands of another person. This is the worst place to put it. Our happiness and well-being belong to us, not to others.

When we get to the end of the relationship road, it's time to go where fulfillment lies, and, if we are sensible, we will start that inner journey. It seems simple, but few people are willing to give up delusional thinking. The mind believes that without this self-defining thinking, it (the mind) would be left in an endless void. The mind cannot deal with the angst of losing its limiting concepts. These limiting concepts define our minds and what we believe to be our selves.

When wisdom dawns, we find that the mind exists only as the concepts it holds. The mind as we know it consists of limited viewpoints, memories, and future projects. Emotions work symbiotically with mind to create the entity we call ourselves. We further limit this self-constructed entity by believing that it is a body. Even though bodies and complex belief systems give us a point of reference for reality, they are merely a limited viewpoint. The less we identify with the mind and body, as who we are, the freer we become and the more we experience reality as it is. The experience of reality is different than the second-hand version we define and refine to fit our beliefs.

There's an old tale whose point illustrates our unwillingness to look inside for our divinity. We prefer our souped up version of reality. Our version of life is exciting and full of purpose, even if the purpose is only to get out of the dramatic situations we create! What we fail to see is that our divinity is our identity, and until we know this and live from our divinity, our relationships are doomed.

So rather than studying relationship techniques and trying to get our significant others to give us what we need, we would be better served to spend our time practicing the Presence. Home work is the practice that teaches school children certain skills. We take time to practice the guitar. People take golf lessons and play round after round of golf. The more practice one gets, the more proficient s/he becomes at golf. Do we practice the presence of our divinity? And if not, why not?

Don't answer that last question. Looking at the problem can release us, but too often it sends the mind spinning and lands it in another useless intellectual pursuit. It's simple. Practice going to the center of who you are as frequently as you think of it and put as much silence in your mind as you can. This practice takes on a life of its on, and as our awareness expands into the Stillness, we lose our need for external fixes. The sweetness of the inner world calls us to this Radical Presence, and when it does, our relationships become the dessert of our lives. We get to enjoy them rather than place demands on them. We get to have fun in our relationships rather than having to control them. We get to experience freedom rather than the feeling of being trapped. We get to feel okay, whether we are with our significant other or not. When we practice the Presence, we discover our identity as divinity, and the need to strive disappears.

Practicing the Presence is the easiest way to bypass the multiple avenues of relationship distress and to come into the joy of being. Good relationships are the byproduct of our inner divinity and inner joy; they are not our reason to live nor the cause of our happiness.

Let's give up our need to find a partner, fix a partner, or get rid of a partner. None of these actions will deliver what we need. But practicing the Presence will deliver the fulfillment we seek. Try it and you will find that your life becomes EZier and EZier.


Friday, July 21, 2017

Creative Solutions

I used to have an office in a strip shopping center. The outside was barren, so I placed a flower-filled whiskey barrel by the front door. It welcomed clients and softened the look of the otherwise stark entrance.

Unfortunately, the plants vanished. I would replant, but after a few days, they would be gone. The plant thief took them one by one, as if by disappearing slowly, I wouldn’t notice. The plants were perfect for the front door, but I was unwilling to keep replacing the plants. How could I discourage the plant bandit?

My intuition buzzed with the perfect answer. I printed out a small note and placed it prominently in the glass window behind the planter. The note read, “These are planted in honor of my beloved Aunt Lima, who passed away recently.” It worked. There were never any more plants taken. I started having fun and honored my friends’ and clients’ deceased relatives. “These plants are planted to honor the beloved mother of Jane Stiles.” I changed the dedication sign every few weeks and my friends and clients felt comforted as they passed by the planter. I used real names for the deceased and loved ones. It felt right to be straight and to make this more than a ploy to fool the plant snatcher. The process eventually moved from being a solution to a problem, to a sacred act of honoring others.

My office was in an isolated area, so I tried to leave my office at night with my last client. One evening, when I had stayed late to do paperwork, there were several teenagers hanging around the front exit. None of them looked like the girl next door. They numbered six, so I waited for them to leave, but the night wore on, they remained near the door, and I was ready to go home. My intuition hummed. When I exited, I greeted them, “I am so glad you are here. It is scary to come outside alone at night. Will you watch and make sure I get to my car safely.” The Hell’s Angel’s lookalikes smiled and collectively responded, “Yes ma’am. We will take care of you.” I felt safe and protected as I slid into my car. I waved goodbye to my newfound heroes.

Once again my intuition served me. I’m not sure if I was in danger or not--maybe the kids were safe, but I didn’t feel safe, and the creative solution released me from my bondage. In another similar incident, my daughter and I delivered a carload of Christmas presents to the projects. We drove into the impoverished area in my late model El Dorado Cadillac, which was fashionable at the time, and parked in front of Miss Betty’s apartment building. I felt like a target; we didn’t fit in. What had I been thinking, going alone with my young daughter? There was what looked to be a gang at the end of the street, and again my intuition provided a quick reaction. I got out of my car and asked if the boys knew Miss Betty Smith. One of the boys responded affirmatively and I asked if he knew where she lived. He did. I told the boys I had a car full of presents for Miss Smith and said, “This a too much stuff for us to take alone. Will you please help us deliver these presents to Miss Betty?” So the Crips*, my daughter, and I headed to Miss Betty’s place and made her day. Again a wonderful solution.

My daughter once wrote a paper on incidents that formed her values. She included that day as a turning point. Her recollection was not about feeling afraid; she was touched first-hand by the kind of poverty she witnessed. That day she decided she would always help when she could, and she did. I watched her grow into a compassionate woman who spent years in a profession helping underprivileged populations.

There are times when we are faced with real and imagined danger. Rather than freak out or being frightened, looking for creative solutions can rectify an otherwise unpleasant situation or even help us avoid a potentially dangerous one. We won’t always be able to come out of every situation unscathed, but when we live with an expectancy that there is always a better, easier, and safer way to confront any situation, we are less apt to trip ourselves up when faced with a potentially bad one. It only takes a few seconds to check in with our intuition, and I’ve found that when I do, it always makes my life EZier and EZier. I hope you are never faced with these kinds of choices, but I’m sure if you are, you will find that holding back the fear and making friends of your supposed enemies will make your life EZier and EZier too.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Body Talk - Aging

I used to be prejudiced toward older people. Maybe I still am. I didn’t realize the prejudice existed. I thought I was cool and that I calculated people's value equally.

As I aged, the bias turned itself against me. I loved my flaming curly red hair, but at age 52, I felt the call of wild: “Go natural.” I cut my hair into a boy-like cut and waited for the salt and pepper. It wasn’t there. My daily mirror checks exposed a crop of white hair. I called myself Quetip. I was one white-topped woman. One day a child pointed at me and asked his mom, “What is that grand mama doing?” I hold nothing against being a grand mom—really, I love it—but something snapped. That day I stepped out of my youth and became an older adult. I entered the youth of my old age.

I remember climbing the steps of the pyramids outside of Mexico City. I was greeted by an elder who said, “Welcome to the end of your youth.” I was 40 and wasn’t ready to give it up! I thought, “What does he know?” 

Twelve years later, I gave in. I was maturing. I noticed subtle changes in the way people looked at me. Maybe it was a projection, but people looked through me or past me as they hurried through their lives. As a younger woman, one who was often center stage, I was used to being noticed, but now, I receded to the sidelines of life.

My sister had a heart attack and I raced to LA to assist her recovery. When she returned home, she carried an assisted living package – a walker.  All of the sudden walkers were cool. I checked out the older passersby as I strolled through the streets of LA. I stopped and talked with people about their walkers. Behind these walkers were interesting people, not old folks. Again, my prejudices made themselves known. I previously looked down on people using canes and walkers, but now my contemporaries were using walking aids, wheel chairs, and scooters. As I awakened from a silent fog, I wondered, “How many filters and preconceived notions lurk in the dark corners of my mind? What thoughts do I look through that determine how I view others?” There’s not an answer; it was a moment of recognition: the mind has its secrets.

I’ve settled into my older years and continue to uncover and heal my prejudices. People don’t look at me the way they used to, but I’ve discovered that the transition from younger to older is not only about who I think I am; it’s about letting go of an image that I believed gave me some kind of advantage in life. No longer do I hold the success images of youth. I have less money; my wrinkled face watches the jiggles as I walk. Things hang off my body that previously stood at attention, but there’s a softness replacing the vigor of youth. There’s a knowing that I never was those things. I was never a body. I was never young or old. I was never my thoughts or beliefs. They were just an operating system. I was more, always more, and knowing that certainly makes my life EZier and EZier.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Facing Genuine Pain and Suffering

 EZosophy is a philosophy that calls us away from ego driven suffering. EZosophy does not deny that we experience real physical and emotional tribulations. Individuals suffer, communities suffer, America suffers, and the world suffers. Suffering is not just individual; all suffering pulls at the fabric of humanity.

One of the most beloved saints of all times, St. Francis, overcame tremendous suffering. He was born into a wealthy family. He ran around  with his drinking buddies and eventually went to war – or at least participated in a skirmish. He fought for his city and was taken and held prisoner for more than a year. After his release he wanted to become a soldier, but illness kept him from military service.
Can you imagine? He was to be one of the greatest saints in history and he wanted to join the army! No wonder he kept getting sick. Deep down the seeds of spirituality were planted and his body said, “Hell no, you won’t go.” None-the-less, he planned to marry, but after seeking guidance, he was called back to a more solitary spiritual life. Eventually he became the original animal whisperer, a respected spiritual teacher and leader, and attained sainthood from the Catholic church.

Once I was in love and planned to marry. Many things got in the way of the marriage; it never occurred.  I didn’t understand. I wanted, longed for an explanation. I asked for help and guidance through this dark night. The St. Francis story led the way to understanding. When the young man’s path was blocked from his chosen career and his marriage, he might have felt sorry for himself or complained about the unfairness of life. Instead, Francis was led deeper into the spiritual life. This wasn’t the end of his life; it was his renaissance. But things didn’t go so smoothly for Francis; actually, his life was miserable. His community thought he was crazy. He was guided by a voice his friends and family did not understand. Yet, under pressure, Francis grew into a spiritual giant. The following thought is attributed to the great saint. “Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” The saying sounds too contemporary to be the words of a 13th century mystic, but it does describe how Francis lived his life.

While I was not happy that Francis suffered, I was happy to find that even saints, maybe especially saints, suffer. It was comforting to know that I was not the only one - even the most spiritually astute suffer.

Ego driven suffering can be cleared up in an instant, but an instant cure for genuine suffering rarely exists. The trying times anoint us and guide us. These wearisome times, at their best, evoke compassion and humility. When we are on top, it’s so easy to serve the egoic mind, but when tragedy strikes, it brings with it the ability to reach into our deepest spiritual strengths and reach out to our support systems. This is what makes our situations EZier. We might not be able to carry our 50 pound load, but when a friend joins with us or someone wipes our tears, it lightens our load. And when there is no one else to count on, something can rise from deep within to soothe us. We are never left alone.
We must navigate genuine suffering with care so as to not complicate suffering by suffering about our suffering. This is affectionately referred to as feeling sorry for ourselves or having a chip on our shoulder. We can’t use tough times as a bargaining chip to get others’ attention and resources. That’s like trying to go into the back door of life. When we rise up and face difficult situations, such as a loss, and don’t complicate the circumstances by involving the ego, we receive assistance from other realms and join a flow that eventually carries us past the pain.  It’s called integration. Our past pain becomes a part of us that informs us and sends us into higher levels of compassion, but the pain no longer dominates our lives.

The saints, the foremost champions, and the greatest losers go through times of genuine loss and suffering. While we can’t escape these times, we can be sure that we do not travel alone. The eight word miracle mantra, “Everything can be EZ (Ego driven suffering can improve right now!) or at least EZier,” speaks to the nature of suffering and recovery. We are the champions of our lives, and whether life is peachy or downright sucky, we exist in a matrix of love that guides and guards us, even when we are too weary to look. Love says, “You may not be able to see it from where you are standing, but I assure you that everything is okay. The Supreme Okayness is with you and you are safe.” Our lives have already been saved, so when tough times befall us, we can be assured that we will make it though. This is the promise of the spiritual life, that we will make it through and emerge and reemerge into the adventure called life, and that every pain, every burden, every mistake – all will be renewed, restored, and revitalized if we allow it to be. We must give up our ego driven suffering, face our genuine suffering, and surrender to the Source. Spirit brings us the present of life, but we must open it to receive its gift and trust that the good and the bad work together to provide exactly what we need to be free, joyful, and fulfilled. #EZosophy #Saintfrancis #spiritual

You may find the following links about St. Francis engaging: