Walking through the park I contemplate the love I’m giving to myself, my family and friends, nature. A flash back in time takes me to my broken young years where the love I received was so thwarted and sporadic, where rebellion and resentment became my basic gesture towards humans and even life herself, and where I birthed the delusion for revenge to set things straight again. Now I appreciate, how loving myself has soothed me enough to shine a different and probably permanent light on all of this. And I am thankful to myself.
As I walk the newlyÂ gravelledÂ paths my longing grows. A longing to be held,Â embraced wholly, to be loved, pure and simple. And after this longing rushed through my every veign, as it spread out beyond my body into the aura of the park, the flowers and birds, the many paths, a woman in a wheelchair beckons me. The new gravel makes it hard for her to push herself, and I am glad to grant her wish. We speak about how the gravel makes the paths in the park less muddy in the rainy times, the beauty of the park in spring and the rose petals coloring the grass. I feel her scariness; she may be sensing the love spirit that’s touching me inside-out and all over, or more likely, she may resent feeling in need for help by a stranger.
The minutes before her beckoning were filled with my longing alchemically merging into Love which now is overflowing into me from its seat ofÂ splendor, its omnicentric throne in the sky and heart of all matter. Â And as the woman beckons I’m getting a fill of understanding of Love’s way.Â PushingÂ the wheely chair and asking the woman to not aid me with her hands, for it is no help, we’reÂ constellated perfectlyÂ for a lesson for yours truly.
Returning through the park from shopping for groceries I see that in a way I’ve been debilitated, unable to receive the Love from all around and in its never ending shades. I’ve beenÂ strugglingÂ so hard for Love that when she comes I’m trying to help her, and thereby hindering her and protecting myself from her intense presence. She loves me so much that I can remain seated, debilitated by all my tragedies, Â and she simply carries me.
17 days ago I started the practice of Being my own Best Friend, and I’ve wanted to spill the beans of what has happened in life and my reflections on it since.
The picture on the left comes from Ecstatic Thursday, the day when being my own best friend was turning my soul into such sweetness that I had to run out of a work-related meeting, lie down amidst the flowers, and catch it on photo to share some of my felt delight with my friends.
But let me try to be a bit more chronological. One of the first obstacles I had to overcome in myÂ contemplationÂ on what it really means to be my own best friend was, “Do I really have a best friend?”
I mean, yes, sure, I do have a best friend, but is he going to cry when I die?
My own crying isn’t a good comparison in this matter: I already shed a tear or two when I see people hugging on TV. It took me a couple of days to figure out if my best friend, U., really is my best friend. When I visited him a week or so ago I found that,Â definitely, he is – and I told him so, which was an added pleasure. So yes, that obstacle has been overcome, but it illustrates what I feel to be a necessary part of these experiments. Seriously look at everything that comes up â€•Â ruthlessly facing the reality of what my body-soul-mind-spirit-system offers, exploring the whole range of what friendship means to me.
I was amazed at what I found out after a few days when investigating the origins of the word “friend:” The Germanic root of friend is “vriunt, friunt”, which means “the loving one; the one that loves [der Liebende]”. Moreover, “friunt” is closely connected to “vri, fri”, meaning, yes you guessed right, “free”. Vri, fri means, “to belong to the loved ones, the tribe, the clan, and thereby to be protected”, and/or “beloved, wanted, wished for”. Contemplating this heritage of friendship was and is a delight, “To be free is to belong to loved ones, and to be a friend is to be a loving one.”
Being my own best friend is all about love â€•Â which in Ancient Greece came in four different flavors: agape, eros, storge and philia, of which the last one is often used translated as friendship (philosophy, “friend of wisdom” from philia and sophia). Aristotle, which I read in the Wikipedia article about Philia says interesting things about friendship, somehow sums up why one actually should be one’s own best friend, “the good person must be a self-lover, since he will both help himself and benefit others by performing fine actions. But the vicious person must not love himself, since he will harm both himself and his neighbours by following his base feelings.”
The first 10 days of this self-bestfriending practice where very encouraging, easy, most of the time imbued with a deep sense of well-being enhanced with the contemplation that this is the foundation of being my own best friend, this sense of bringingÂ well-being to myself.
And then it got challenging, all the ‘good feelings’ left me. My ordinary sense of self returned, a sense of slightÂ skepticismÂ ’bout everything; this may sound harsh – at times it actually is – but it’s founded on what I learnt through my parents, cultural history, growing up in opposition to the given order of matters and things, “You can’t take anything for granted;” “You have to question everything and everyone;” “You’ve got to continually prove you’re worthy of all that is good;” etc.
I didn’t wake up in the morning anymore, like in the first ten days, automatically remembering that “I’m my own best friend,” which meant a whole-bodilyÂ remembranceÂ until that point. Rather, some mornings I entirely forgot and only remembered later on the day – to my dismay! “What’s happening,” I thought. “Why isn’t this happening all by itself now?” Maybe I’m mistaken about Neuroplasticity?
It took a couple of days before I realized that being my own best friend wasn’t about feelings. It’s about facts. The sweetÂ ecstasiesÂ of self-friendship, and the feelings of friendship with people I interacted with, the deep feeling of connection I share with a very few people, and so on, these emotions can be mistaken for friendship, for love even.
Let me give an example; I have a son. If anyone would ask me at any moment, “Do you love your son?” I’d answer unequivocally, “Yes!” I wouldn’t go check my feelings first and then answer according to what I find. Rather, my feelings would follow my response – right after giving my answer my feelings would acknowledge what I just said. Please don’t misunderstand; often my feeling will be faster than my answers or even thoughts, but in the case of relationships it seems these feelings are there toÂ anchor, acknowledge, affirm what I am already certain of. [An aside: You may not know that I know, in one glance, if a person is a real friend or not – it’s a soul2soul thing that I’ve learnt to recognize. That doesn’t mean that I know how it will develop, I just know the foundation.]
So, maybe losing the first rush of self-friending is a good thing; I’m deciding that it is so. Neuroplasticity is, once your brain has responded by building the proper neuro-infrastructure, all about automating the behavior and way of being that you install. So that it can run in the background with all the other functions and behaviors that we do not have the consciousness-bandwidth to run in clear awareness. (Here for a book I read ages ago on the bandwidth of consciousness.) [An aside, as the above terminology can sound harsh. A metaphor I use to make this view clear â€•Â consciousness is akin to water. Boundless consciousness is like the ocean; there isn’t a clear sense of self or anything else for that matter. Our character is like a huge delta of a river, all the little streams and rivulets are the way the water takes.Â Our personalÂ characterÂ and our brain are pretty much the same; you damage your brain, your character changes dramatically.Â So our character is the form, the riverbed of the originally totally free flow of water/consciousness. Also: We can only focus on a very small area of the delta at any given time. What I callÂ bandwidthÂ of consciousness above I’d better call bandwidth forÂ focusedÂ consciousness. Maybe more about this at some other time.]
So now, after 17 days of practicing Being my own Best Friend I’ve come to understand and trust that apparently my whole body-soul-mind-spirit-system has already automated self-friending. I’ll still, in the spirit of completion, go for the full 21 days of conscious practice, but not out of need, or to be sure. I know that there’ll be moments to come when my awareness notices, “Hey, this happens because I’m my own best friend,” but there is no need toÂ verify it any other way. Real friendship doesn’t need verification. You just know, you’re certain.
The minute I heard my first love story,
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.
They’re in each other all along.
â€•Â Rumi, translated by Colin Barks
Angels can fly because they take themselves so lightly. — G.K. Chesterton
I think I finally know what the basic vibration of jealousy is: It’s fear, the fear of separation of the one you love most. It’s an utterly irrational fear fed by the demon of distrust, a mind that can easily imagine bleak futures, and – if it’s not pure paranoia because there is no other lover – supporting circumstances. So maybe saying that it’s utterly irrational is not true, since there is a significant connection to reality. It is this fear, this jealousy, that has me confess that for an important part I must declare the experiment a failure. I do not want to allow this fear to “be my guest”. And maybe my resistance, my focus and awareness that went into “being with it” has made it as big as it is now. It’s now easy for me, almost autonomously, to imagine all kinds of disastrous futures in which everything failed and I’m all on my own again. It is somehow much harder, to find the trust to imagine a bright future.
You could say that imagining anything is the real disease, imagining a future even worse. But wouldn’t you then also say that hope is the real disease? Because hope imagines a future, or is the manifestation of the faith in a bright future. Is despair – hope reversed – that comes from images of a bleak, pain-filled future the consequence of a hope gone sour? Maybe so. What I do know is that I cannot stop my imagination from imagining, just as much as I cannot stop my heart from feeling hope or despair, fear or joy, love and beauty. So what can stop me from replacing the images of 2 hells – the fork of choices that I’m facing – with 2 possible bright futures, where both options let me become a more loving, beautiful, joyful, authentic, rich and deep human?
I now see, and it is late at night and I got up to write my blog for this day, I now see that on top of the practice of “unrestricted feeling” I have to practice also “imagining light and bright futures” with all the people that are also in my “despairing visions”.
I now also see how big a part my imagination played in co-creating the utterly challenging situation I find myself in. Never mind how real the base of my imaginations, more and more it served in an escalation of catastrophic feeling. So much so that opening up intimately became more and more difficult. The only possibility in such a situation being the forking of the way, the choice between 2 hells.
Should I respect my limits that have become apparent in a situation that I feel I have been forced into? Even if I have co-created it by imagining 2 hells where I could imagine 2 brighter futures, it feels right to do so. The basic question is, “What are the minimum needs, what are – right or wrong – the basic conditions that are needed so that a much deeper level of relationship is a realistic possibility? And what, if anything, can I do or not do to lift my bit of the weight that needs shifting?”
I’ve, feebly but truly, started to imagine a brighter future instead of 2 hells tonight. At first glance its clear that accompanying the fear of separation is the fear of imagining that as beautiful, for I might make it happen that way, and then (imagining that as bright) I might not have enough energy to not totally break down if it becomes real. And there is the fear of imagining a bright future for the relationship because it might hurt so much more if it doesn’t get a real chance.
Yesterday, for some time, quite some time, I was full of hope – today despair, which I’m responsible for myself by inviting it in around noon letting my fears move me to ask questions that reflected distrust and fear and fueled visions of a dark future. So it’s about time I invite trust, and beauty and brightness to come and visit this guesthouse more frequently!
Addendum: I find that if I set myself out to use my imagination in this way, I can. And the brightest future I can imagine is the one where I say, “I’m so thankful, happy and once more: thankful for you to have gone into the depth of intimate living with me and that we mastered all the challenges on our path together to have this rich, true and peacefully satisfying life.”
I will carry this image into my sleep now…
Even though this morning I sat with “a sense of insecurity” it was next to impossible to get to the core of it.
Insecurity’s cousin, Shyness, is well known to me and I’ve long ago come to know it’s presencing qualities and its connective character, so I meandered a bit around shyness, giving myself an easy time.
I also was wondering if after 7 days I shouldn’t go back over all the things I’ve written so far to see from the traces of the posts of this blog if a pattern that I haven’t been aware of is emerging. But somehow doing that didn’t appeal to me much. And I fear that my bright mind would spin a story that doesn’t come from the material itself but is much more made-up than I would want it to be. And also I fear that it would make me more prone again to go with the stories instead of with the feelings. And that is what is really required, because being unconditionally present with my feeling is at the core of this experiment, not the stories I come up with or even the blog posts I write. So instead of going over the last 7 days I took a look at what wants to emerge, and also kept an eye on my sense of insecurity as a kind of focus for my awareness that has the tendency to wander far and wide…
And there is also the consideration that now I have been sensitize to my feeling-sensing so very much that my 20 minutes in the morning dedicated for some day to bring up “the feeling of the day” can now be general to just be with raw feeling in itself and let me be taken by that.
Which is, of course the ideal, and it’s not really true. It seems to be true for all feelings except for jealousy: It is an immense challenge at times to just be with it; the stories connected with it, the imaginings which I now find are so deeply ingrained in the partner-relationship are now in doubt very much, in particular the feeling of having a real future together that is light and free and unencumbered by “hard feelings.” I guess I simply have to decide if I want to keep to what this experiment is about, even under the present circumstances that cause so much havoc in my throat-heart-solar plexus area so often.
Well, when I wasn’t caught up in the kinds of thoughts that accompany my greatest challenge at the moment, and when I felt calm and open and free I saw that overall the first 7 days were really very much dedicated to myself and my feelings, and that now maybe I can also focus a bit more on the feelings of those I live with. And strangely enough today more than ever I heard comments on the way I looked at them and what my expression told them about my feeling-state.
So far you’ve read – if you’ve read through all of these “reports” so far – quite a few times that some person triggered this or that feeling. And this is very true indeed. I think my experience this first week has taught me with quite some force and clarity that I can and do own all these ‘negative’ feelings. This also means that I can more easily “catch” a reaction before it jumps out into the “wilds” (out of everybody’s control, really, and self-determined by everybody involved and all they are and are connected with; I mean it’s really in nobody’s hands: wild) of ordinary life and becomes the trigger of more and more reactions. But it’s also quite clear that whatever I do, if I blindly react, if I respond with my eyes half open, or if in clarity I am with what goes on, it always also influences the people close to me. So going through all the feelings I’m going through, and going through them in the way I do – openly, owning them, feeling the connectedness, “yessing” them – doing this experiment with all that it means most likely is not only a blessing but also a stressor to those around me.
In general feeling the other is, for me, outside actually giving these feelings a name – it is most definitely different from being triggered by what they say or don’t say but implicate or do. The feeling-field has a different quality to it that seems to be beyond that. Looking closely I notice that it is as if people’s movement happen as if inside my body, I experience their moving as if the visual impression gets translated into… if my body would consist of entirely water it would be as if I would feel the water inside me move in synchrony with people’s movements outside. And these very movements are at the same time feelings in a language that has, right now, just a very few syllables.
I guess in this second week of my experiment I want to look more into this aspect of “presencing with feeling”. Now that I have somewhat honed my instrument of feeling a bit, this might be a next step in this education that happens upon me and that I co-create; trusting my senses, feelings and experiences to reveal what needs revelation, be with what needs good company, and learn what needs to be learnt – making the mistakes I need to make in this unknown process emerging as I enter into it.
One remark that touched me today was hearing, “There is so much love in your eyes.” From my perspective I was merely being with that person unconditionally, feeling the field, somewhat (but not invasively) curious about her feeling and being.
On my journeys through the ‘net I came across a very interesting article by Alexandra Samuel, CEO of Social Signal, that brings together some strands worth looking deeper into:
What kinds of choices can create a relationship to the Internet that supports positive personal and social change? Let me propose a starter list of principles:
Give your attention to sites, people and organizations that reflect your true values. When I talked about the Soul of Money with my husband, he summed up his own approach to values-based spending with the following: “every dollar you spend on something is a vote to have more of that thing in the world”. On the Internet, every page you load is a vote to have more of that kind of content, or more of that kind of interaction. That doesn’t mean a diet of digital granola: you can have your virtual froot loops, too. But try redirecting your video surfing to indie films instead of gossip clips, or sending a personal hello instead of a generic Facebook poke.
Find love online. Love online can’t be relegated to match.com. We need to bring the very highest qualities of empathy, respect and affection to our online interactions…in as many contexts as possible. The Buddhist practice of metta — meditation to foster loving kindness in ourselves and the world — counsels us to begin by meditating with love towards ourselves, our family, and our dearest friends, and gradually expand that attitude of love to encompass a larger and larger circle, and eventually the world.
We can use the Internet to entrench and amplify our confrontational and hostile social dynamics. Or we can make our online interactions a practice in loving kindness by approaching each online interaction, even writing each e-mail message, as if it were an affectionate encounter with a dear friend. Yes, we need to be sensibly discreet and protective in an environment that is currently rampant with abuse, fraud and predation — but caution can co-exist with connection, and even hostility can be met with empathy and kindness. Indeed, with the amount of time we now spend online, we can’t afford to spend it in a mindset of suspicion; we must find ways of experiencing our online hours as a practice in forging and deepening relationships.
Let down your guard. We live in a fairly guarded society. From locked doors and car alarms to invitation-only parties and call screening, our physical spaces and social practices often serve to keep people out rather than bring them in. The anonymity of the Internet, and many of the emergent pathologies that anonymity makes possible, have led many Internet users to be even more guarded online than they are in their offline lives. Guarded equals disconnected; every wall we put up makes it harder to discover new people, ideas or experiences.
But anonymity affords a certain kind of safety, too: a safety in which new levels of candor and connectedness can thrive. Indeed, if you talk to people who enjoy spending a lot of time online, they will often tell you how much they treasure anonymity (or degrees thereof) because it frees them to have honest conversations or forge deep friendships in the absence of superficial social judgements. Experiment to find out whether your truest self emerges from anonymity, or from disclosure. Embrace the Internet as a place where you can be more honest (but with kindness) or more transparent (but with some discretion) and thus experience a new kind of social intimacy. Put more of yourself out there, and let in more of other people by absorbing other people’s blog posts, videos, photos and ideas without the social filters that often shape our in-person perceptions of others. Personal transparency builds interpersonal trust, and interpersonal trust builds social capital.
Give as good as you get. There’s a reason a lot of people describe social media or Web 2.0 as “user-contributed media”. A lot of the sites you now enjoy — whether it’s Flickr, YouTube or Boing Boing — are driven by regular folks (or at least, one-time regular folks). That spirit of contribution is the cultural shift that we need social media to nurture; to transform us from a disconnected culture of passive TV consumers to an awake and alive community of creative expression. So don’t engage with the Internet as a passive consumer: embrace and nurture the spirit of expressive and contribution by participating actively yourself.
Fuse the power of money and technology. The soul of the Internet is not just analogous to the soul of money; they’re interconnected. The Internet is our bank, our shopping mall, our charity box. Taking our financial transactions, shopping and giving online is an opportunity to transform our dysfunctional experiences on those fronts into more meaningful and effective interventions. You can shop at Etsy instead of Overstock, or supplement habitual workplace charitable giving with personal investments on Kiva.