I had the opportunity to spend a week on the Amalfi Coast of Italy last year with the most important person in my life. While it did not hurt that we were in one of the most beautiful places on the planet, blessed with radiant sunshine, rapturous food and drink and luscious gelato stands in every direction…it was the company I was with that took the experience from “fun” and even “awesome” to meaningful. Over the years I have come to understand that my life is meant to be lived to the fullest, to truly drink up whatever is offered and even ask for more.
What has been the greatest game changer, however, has been finding a partner who not just travels well but who is in fact a great life traveler….My partner and I can exist in a paper bag and find the beauty in it together. Of course, there are moments when one of us gets stuck in choosing to view an experience as “less than” or through a judgmental lens and this is oftentimes when the other breathes deeper into a beautiful state of being! We remind the other what is true simply by reflecting an authentic, grateful emotional state. Seeing myself choose a state of suffering reflected in the beautiful state of my partner is oftentimes what it takes to quickly make a different choice.
While it is true that this awareness, the consciousness that I can always choose to be in a better emotional state, was inspired and perfected through longterm partnership, I believe it is just as possible when we are outside of a significant relationship. Why? Because in my opinion, WE ARE NEVER OUTSIDE OF RELATIONSHIP in one way or another…I am always connected to myself and therefore, if I trust that my SELF is amazing…then I always have the ability to be consciously connected to someone amazing!
It’s a story about Life
There’s a story I like to tell of a monk who leaves his monastery to live alone in a cave, believing it will lead to enlightenment. The other monks from the monastery deliver a wooden bowl of simple food for him at the mouth of the cave each morning so he doesn’t have to worry about anything except meditating (and becoming really skinny). After 20 years, the monk decides that he has, indeed, attained nirvana, the state of profound bliss and non-attachment. He emerges from his self-imposed exile, going forth into the world of bumbling idiots to teach the way of transcendence in hopes that the rest of us can stop bickering and sabotaging our lives.
In town, a rickshaw driver runs over his toe with a shoddy wooden wheel. The monk, losing his cool, begins swearing at him. (Imagine if they had cell phone cameras back then- he’d be trending on all the lists.) In that moment, he realizes he won’t ever attain enlightenment unless he creates it in the space of relationship with others. In other words, nothing matters in a cave and everything matters in the context of our relationships.
Perhaps this is why so many men like to hide in their man caves. Sure, it’s a relaxing retreat, and we all need to recharge. However, who among us has never used it, or something like it, as a way to hide from the work of intimacy, attachment, and relationship?
As a seasoned therapist, there are moments I feel as naïve and humbled as the monk who just wants to return to his safe bubble of omniscience and not be discouraged by the messy nature of coupling, yours or mine. So why would you listen to a guy who admits that his relationship sometimes feels like a quagmire, just like yours?
That’s a great question. The answer is that my relationships, and my clients’ relationships, have improved significantly over the years as a result of the processes and ideas I teach. My ability to manage the ups and downs of my own coupling has changed with the tools I’ve adopted and I find myself longing for my cave less and less. While it’s true I still occasionally find myself in the Soup, I can see myself in my own dance- I can see the spots more easily where I can, and do, jump off the wild ride.
I invite you to fiercely embrace the power of your relationship to relationships. The meaning you give to your relationships changes the very nature, the very ability to enjoy phenomenal relationships and in my humble opinion, elevates you from a life of contentedness to a life of extraordinary joy. This is my wish for you!!!