When others insist on trying to instilling their judgements and opinions and ideas of how things should or shouldn’t be done it takes a certain amount of courage and fire to hold your boundaries, to not abandon yourself but instead to hold and trust yourself while still staying open hearted and compassionate towards them. To stay true to your own direct experience and to trust that even while staying open to hearing what they’re saying or pointing to.
It’s all too easy to close the heart as a way of protection but for me this is where relative boundaries of the physical and psychological variety play a beautiful and powerful role. Learning to have good and healthy relative boundaries allows one to fall further into the open spiritual heart, the boundless and all encompassing heart of love beyond even ideas and concepts of love. Love as the subject or description/fragrance of the Self, not as an object or action undertaken fleetingly.
This kind of love holds room for even very strong boundaries to push against each other. This kind of love holds room for, but is not eclipsed by even strong conditioning and coercive projections that may be headed your way. This kind of love allows for you (and others) to have all manner of relative boundaries as it permeates all boundaries. So this kind of love has no fear of boundaries, in fact it honours and upholds them. This kind of love honours and upholds the human being and all the phenomenal relativity of life as this kind of love transcends yet includes all.
Healthy relative boundaries are a saving Grace that allow for the true expression and love of Self to flourish.
An interview with Simeon for the Seeker to Seeker Podcast where we speak at length about the shadow and the journey of embracing it. We talk about the nature of awakening and also about the role of relationships, intimate and otherwise, on the spiritual journey… among other things 😉
I was reflecting the other day on the fact that I had a massive shift in 2015, a shift that the consequences of which continue to unfold and deepen still today, so much so that I’m unrecognisable in so many ways.
That change required those closest to me, those that interacted and related with me intimately to change in those relationships too. It’s not something that could be avoided, and it wasn’t their choice if this change occurred or not. But it also wasn’t my choice too. Life changed the game and asked me to step up to something different, and that different was unfamiliar and out of any sense of comfort zone, for me and for them.
The game changed and with it we all had to learn what that meant.
In some ways I want to say sorry, sorry that it’s been unexpected and often difficult. I’ve required of them more than most. To radically shift with me, with life. It wasn’t something I asked for, but it’s something that happened. I know they didn’t ask for it, I know they didn’t maybe want it at times, and I bow with the acknowledgment of that. I bow to the courage and love that it took to stick around, to stick with it, to stick with me through these changes. I didn’t ask it of them and I understood if they chose not to or were unable to take this journey with me.
My life changed in ways I’m still coming to understand. And in my life there now are certain things that just aren’t available to me that once were… one of those things is inauthentic relating.
What this (nowadays somewhat overused and fashionable) term means to me…. I can’t not be me now, all of me. It’s all out there, no mask, no pretence, no conditioned shoulds or ways of being other than this. There is only so much space and time available to put myself into a straight jacket of someone else’s making. And so that requires of them the letting go of expectations and projections. It requires of them to relate with me in the now, in the present moment, in the rawness of life, in the truth of life. It requires of them to let go of any ideas of me and be with the reality of me. Anything else and it falls apart, anything else and it’s untruth burns brightly. Anything else and it gets shown for what it is… the conditioning of shoulds. I ask for authentic relating but I give it too, not as a virtue signal, a choice or a practice, but because life gives no other option, even when honestly I’d love an option to turn it off, turn it down!
The relationships become a radically clear mirror where there is nowhere to hide, for me or them, not in the fullness of time. We became linked in a way that leaves little room for posturing and falseness. All becomes laid out in the sunlight to be seen.
So I’m sorry, I’m sorry that we are unable to hide in our shadowy conditioned shoulds any longer, I’m sorry that by virtue of my change they found themselves under a spotlight too. It was never my intention, the light of life was just shining brightly for us all.
I’m sorry that I’m also not sorry. I’m not sorry because it also shows the potential of so much more to this life, so much more for these relationships, so much more than these limits that once kept us caged and bound in the conditioned mind and patterns of behaving and relating.
But I know it’s not been easy, it calls for a stepping up that’s sometimes uncomfortable and vulnerable. It calls for an openness and a radical honesty that can feel disarming. But the fruits of this ‘going there’ are that of freedom, acceptance and unconditional love, for all of us. And for this I am in full support of, even when it feels like it gets messy and complicated, it’s simple really… love wins out. So thank you, thank you to those souls in my life who have bore witness to these changes and who have gone through changes of your own… you know who you are.
Sometimes you just want someone to hear you, to see you, without needing to fix you or explain away your pain and confusion.
To hold the space, the pregnant silence, the love for all that you’re going through.
To not project into the void of uncomfortableness and fill it with solutions, comparisons and stories.
To be okay with just having the space be about you and only you.
To create a refuge and safety for you to go through what you’re going through.
To compassionately be there for you, to listen to you and not make it in any way about them.
To give you space without any needs or any conditions or any time limits.
Sometime you really WANT this. Sometimes you really NEED this. We all do. And that’s okay, that’s not bad or wrong.
Let it sink in… WE ALL NEED TO BE HEARD AND HELD SOMETIMES.
When you do receive this gift of space freely and wholly given, it lights up your heart, it lights up your world. The healing that comes from this act of being held, this act compassion and tender love is immense.
But it’s not always easy to find it in those moments that it’s needed most, by the people that it’s most needed from. And when you aren’t met in this way, then the shame of needing to ask for it comes in full force and the sorrow of your brokenness and aloneness is felt so deeply. The fear and guilt that maybe this is too much for you to ask of them, that you don’t deserve it, that you’re being ‘too needy’, ‘too much’.
And so your heart breaks a little more. You feel yourself withdrawing, resigning to the need for self sufficiency and the ability to self-sooth. You have no right to demand anything of anyone after all, and you know this, you feel this. But even so, all the while the depth of your broken heart wants and wishes them to say… “I’m sorry, I get it, I was uncomfortable with your pain so I tried to fix it. I made it about me. I made it about something I’d read, I’d done, I’d experienced. And all this took the attention from you when you needed so much to just be simply heard and held.”
They missed the mark, even if in their heart they wanted so badly to fully to be there for you. But it’s such a subtle and tender mark that it’s so easily missed. It takes such love, such intimacy, such trust, such openness to listen for those cues before it’s too late.
You want so badly for them to see that you don’t need anything, other than to be heard. That your silence was not a space that needed to be filled, but a space to be held. That you were having a hard enough time letting yourself go there, that even in your awkward attempts at changing the subject or even the mood of the moment were just in fact an invitation to yourself to go deeper, to let go more into the vulnerability of the moment.
Yes, they don’t owe you anything. Yes, you don’t have the right for them to show up in the way you need, or for them to know what you even need. But you so want them to go there with you, to create a safe space so that you can let it all hang out.
Your broken heart just wants to be seen and held with love, so let it be seen and held with love… YOUR LOVE.
Patience is not just a practice to be kept.
Patience is not just an effort to be continuously made.
True patience comes naturally and spontaneously
when you are impregnated fully with love.
That love which fills every corner of your heart.
That love that knows no bounds,
no time limits,
That love is where the vast and infinite patience for it all is found.
Patience for the journey as it slowly walks its path.
Patience for the moment it takes to find those right words.
Patience for the emotion that takes its time to pass.
Patience for the highs and lows of life to cycle through at their own pace.
Patience for the stories and dramas that get played out again and again.
Patience for the body as it takes its needed rest, its needed pause.
Patience for the constant learning and the seeming wrong turns.
Patience for the endless opening and heartbreak that life inevitably brings.
Patience for the childlike discovery and excitement of every new moment.
Patience for the depth of human messiness that is yet to unfold.
Patience for even the impatient need to move onto the next and the next.
Patience isn’t a practice,
patience is the fragrance of true love.
Because with love there is room for it all.
To meet others we first have to be willing to meet ourselves. To meet ourselves doesn’t just mean to meet the bits we like or are proud of and ignoring those aspects that we wish weren’t there. To meet ourselves means to meet it all, embrace it all, learn to love and accept it all. How can we expect to be met and to meet others if we’re not even willing to go there ourselves.
It not an easy journey, learning to meet all parts of ourselves but the process lightens the load and brings peace and freedom into the heart. We’re then no longer in a cage of avoidance and denial, we’re no longer afraid of what lurks in our shadows because we bring light to it all, we bring love to it all. We bring space so there’s room for it all.
For some the idea of bringing all of ourselves, even our shameful dirty hidden parts out into the light of awareness all at once will feel like too much of a task, too big, too soon. Maybe thoughts will come like “It’s too overwhelming. I don’t know where to start. I don’t even know where to look.” But it doesn’t have to be a big one shot deal, it can be softly, softly, slowly, slowly approach. It doesn’t even have to be a big digging expedition, just start to soften this very moment, lean a little bit more into something that’s arising for you, find the low hanging fruit. Sit with the discomfort as if it were a friend in need, sit with it for a little longer. Bring a tender arm of embrace to your anger or your loneliness, your self hatred or your unmet needs, your sadness, your shame. If it all feels like too much too soon, just find a crack, find a moment where your gentle loving awareness can shine some light and some love on a dark corner. Is there something in you that you previously rejected that you can meet with acceptance instead?
There is nothing in life that is unworthy of love, unworthy of acceptance despite what the mind might say. So the greatest gift we can each give this world right now is meeting ourselves fully so that we may meet others fully in turn. This is how we can heal both individually and collectively. When we allow space for it all, we can move from a place of love and understanding. Instead of feeling unheard, unseen and in turn not hearing and seeing others, can we move from a place of not trying to fix but from a place of real hearing and non-judgment? From here we’re able to offer comfort and even a helping hand that is needed, and not some misguided fix or judgement that we deem applicable before we’ve really taken the time to listen.
This holiday season, give yourself and others the gift of loving presence and the freedom the be exactly as you/they are: love without the binds of judgement – acceptance.
When you find a friend where there is no pretence, no mask, no holding back.
A friend that you can laugh and cry and shout and be with no matter what flavour of you is shining through.
A friend who can see you at your messiest but still see your beauty and your love.
A friend who is a safe haven of fierce loyalty and kindness when it feels like the whole world is against you.
A friend who inspires you to grow and stretch into the best version of yourself,
but doesn’t scold you for being at your worst too.
A friend that you have no fear of judgement or rejection with.
A friend that tells you straight when you’re drifting off course but never judges you for it.
A friend that holds space for you even when you can’t hold space for yourself.
When you find that friend
… cherish and nurture them, don’t take them for granted.
For true friends who love you for exactly who you are are hard to come by and a blessed gift of life.
To all those friends who have walked this earth with me for however long or short…
thank you, thank you, thank you.
In relationships we have to trust and we have to communicate. It’s a constant leap of faith to say the things that we think they won’t want to hear and we won’t want to hear the answer to, to constantly face the fear of rejection and hurt.
But if you do take that leap of faith and trust, then it’s my experience that life constantly surprises you. It’s such a beautiful thing, but it’s scary, terrifying in fact. I’ve been with Martyn for 15 years and it’s STILL scary. I still have to take a breath at first sometimes before I say something that is tender and edgy for me, something that I’m not sure of his response to.
This feeling of fear doesn’t disappear over time, you just get used to it. You learn to know it, you even learn to love it because it tells you where your edge of comfort is. It never fully feels safe to share those things that you don’t want to share, because it’s NOT safe. It never feels safe because when you reach an edge of yourself it’s ALWAYS scary. It’s not about the other person, it’s about you. It feels scary to you because you can’t guarantee the response and that’s terrifying, and that doesn’t stop.
If it does then you’re living out of truth and in a fantasy of your own making, because the truth is you can NEVER guarantee what’s going to happen, or what someone’s response is going to be.
So speak even though it’s scary, give them and yourself a chance to deepen and grow. Relationships aren’t easy. They never stop being a constant leap of faith. It’s very much a part of it, and that leap of faith is happening every single second if you’re lucky enough to be in a nurturing relationship. If you’re lucky you are relating new and fresh every moment, every second without reference to past or future and that is both wonderful and terrifying.
It’s opening your chest up, your heart, and trusting. Sometimes your heart gets hurt, but if it stays open life and love goes even deeper than the hurt and that is truly magical. Because with great risk comes great reward.
That risk is terrifying, love is terrifying, so it’s okay to honour that and feel that. But I encourage you to step forward even so, to open your heart wide. Only you can do that. Love is magical, love stretches you to capacity and then stretches you some more.
Love is all there is.
I was asked the other day how I deal with being around others, particularly when there’s a level of pretending or not speaking your truth that seems to be required of you.
I too know all too well this feeling of suffocation in the company of others. The subtle unsaid permissions of what you can say, which topics you can touch on and how deep that can go. The unsaid permissions that someone can’t give for fear of threatening their own sense of Self, views and place in the world that they hold so tightly so as to keep the facade of security and knowingness intact.
I think this is why the idea of Sanghas can be so enticing, a place to commune with others who were of like mind and place in their journey of unfoldment, of seeing. A place when you can find common ground and openness, common experience and views. Alas it’s not as easy as it sounds to find the ‘right’ sangha!
You are lucky if you can find this in a partner or in a close friend or two – this is what I have with Martyn and this is what I am eternally grateful for. Alone together and full permission and delight of me to be me and him to be him. The freedom to be as we are, the freedom to plumb the depths and go anywhere – no ‘sacred cows’ that are off-limits.
You asked how I deal with the difficulty of pretending with others. Firstly I take plenty of time to go into my aloneness, isolation and unknowingness and revel in the freedom to be. This place of ‘only don’t know’ is such a beautiful place to be. Beautiful and vulnerable. Delicate, embracing and loving but powerful and full of strength. It’s in this space that we can truly see ourselves and breath in the fullness of existence. Taking this time of solitude is incredibly important, especially for me being the hermit and introvert that I am.
But these days when I am with others I find myself laying it all out to bare, trusting in this process and letting the chips fall where they may. Standing in my truth, being open and honest and trusting. Trusting that even if I get push-back or hurt that I can handle it, that they can handle it too and the freedom to be me, the freedom for them to be them is much more important than any particular outcomes. It has meant the loosing and changing of many relationships, but it has also meant the discovery of those relationships that can withstand this vulnerable nakedness of openness and truth that I find myself standing in.
Then of course there are those relationships where masking and pretending is absolutely necessary. Practically speaking I try to minimise the amount of time spent in these types of interactions, that certainly helps. Making sure that I do have plenty of alone time and nourishing relationships where masking and pretending isn’t needed so that there is capacity for those relationships where it’s not possible. Also in those interactions to find as much openness and compassion as is available in any given moment. To not shame or blame the need to protect, defend or set unsaid boundaries, but honoring and accepting those boundaries where we find them. Understand that they are often there for a reason, even if it’s a reason I (or they) can’t see or understand.
From a broader view of this topic generally for me it was the attachments to outcomes and desires in terms of interactions and relationships that had to go. The attachment to the desire of people liking me, people seeing me, the desire to looking a certain way, to be loved or even liked. Even the attachment to the desire to connect deeply or in a certain way, to be understood and acknowledged.
The power in the lack of attachment has been enormous for me, scary but completely freeing. I have nothing to lose, I have no rights to certain outcomes of how I think things should go. I just am who I am in any moment, it’s raw and risky feeling but it’s real and honest. And so in this I’m eternally grateful for what I do have, for all that comes across my path, forget about ‘good’ and ‘bad’.
There is only so much that one can repress and suffocate themselves, the cracks begin to show. The holes start forming and things start to escape in more violent and unpredictable ways.
I encourage you to breath into the fullness of your experience, let the chips fall where they may and find those moments, those people, those spaces, those pages even, where you can freely be YOU.
Again and again life has recently been showing up with this question of what is compassion? What is love? Compassion can look like a lot of different things, but for the moment I wanted to talk about compassion for those around you that act in ways that you don’t understand, don’t like and don’t find their behaviour to be acceptable at all – maybe they’re behaving like a complete asshole.
The most compassionate thing you can do is not write them off. Bring them into your heart. Their asshole-ness is covering up a non-acceptance of Self in themselves. When you accept your whole Self, when you accept all that you are and all that you experience, all the ‘world’, then you aren’t rejecting anything. You aren’t creating a sense of separation – all is you. So pull into your heart that someone, see that
“There’s nothing more beautiful, intimate and vulnerable than another person saying “I see you, all of you.” Be see-through, be transparent, embrace that vulnerability, dare to look in the mirror that they hold up to you and share yourself with open abandon; with great risk comes greater rewards – freedom.”
The image of relationships and enlightenment don’t normally go hand in hand. The stereotyped image of the ‘enlightened monk’, shunning the material householder life is something that’s been around in spiritual traditions for a long time. So out of this there comes the common misconception that you can’t be in a relationship and be successful on the ‘spiritual path’. But being in a relationship doesn’t necessarily mean that awakening can’t be there too. The relationship doesn’t have to go, only the attachment to the relationship has to go. Don’t get me wrong, the result of that dropped attachment may actually be that the relationship ends. Ultimately that’s what was meant to happen, and all attachments do eventually fall away – what’s left is what’s left, maybe the relationship will be there, maybe not.
My own relationship has taught me that relationships in themselves aren’t some obstructive thing that stops you from realizing your own nature. Having said that, I lived through the often painful dropping of the attachment to my relationship with my husband Martyn. We found ourselves at an impasse after he had a spiritual awakening that in the wake of he felt he could no longer be at the ashram where we were living, and I felt I couldn’t be anywhere else. He couldn’t be there, and I couldn’t NOT be there; this resulted in us parting ways with no end to our separation in sight. When we said our goodbyes they were potentially permanent goodbyes, we didn’t have any idea if we would ever see each other again. There was immense love for one another, but our situation in life was physically parting us and it was torture.
I cried myself to sleep for the days and weeks that followed. I spent my days on the verge of crying, feeling like my insides had been ripped out. And yet there was nothing I could do other than endure it. Connection to the internet for both of us was incredibly patchy so we would maybe speak once a week, and because of the turmoil that both of us were feeling it would invariable end up in an argument – often over how to resolve the situation, or ending with an angry and frustrated, “well it’s over then!?!”.
I felt torn, I wanted to be with him, but I felt I needed to be where I was. My life appeared to be crumbling before my eyes, such strong seemingly overwhelming feelings were right at the forefront of my experience. I was suffering and I felt so alone.
The suffering that I was experiencing all came from the expectation of how I imagined or conceived the relationship ‘should be’ rather than how it actually is/was. This ‘should’ was now not being met, and the attachment to this ‘should’ was a strong one. In relationships we may not even notice that there’s attachment there, (especially if for the most part it’s been a smooth sailing healthy relationship like mine was) but there’s always a subtle fear of loss, and from this, suffering can arise. In this attachment we are either always holding on to something we have with a feeling of fear or loss, or trying to get something that we feel we lack.
It’s funny because in the wake of this or rather the flip side, I also felt a sense of strength in my new found independence. We had been together since I was 18 so it was a completely new experience to not have to worry or think about anyone else, to make decisions without referring to anyone else was a liberating feeling. So even with this turmoil there I also experienced the growth and discovery of strength that I didn’t know I had. I experienced who I was away from who I took myself to be within our relationship; who I was living prior to any labels and ideas of being a ‘someone’ to ‘somebody else’.
At the pinnacle of that torturous two months I began having ‘panic attacks’. I couldn’t deal with these strong emotions, they got the the point where it wasn’t even strong emotions, it was just intense energy coursing through my veins. I spoke to both Martyn and the spiritual teacher at the ashram about this and both gave me pretty much the same pointing:
“Don’t give so much importance to this energy, trying to understand and work it out, just feel it. Let it pass through you. See that you are aware of all of this happening.”
I felt like I was talked down from the ledge a few times by them. But eventually the innocent observation of these strong energies led me to be able to let go of the attachment I had about being physically together. An ease came about in accepting what was (is). This was among one of the most difficult times of my life thus far, but with it came an openness and an acceptance of what was showing up in my life. I let go of any ideas of how the relationship ‘should’ be – good or bad, it didn’t matter – everything had to go.
Throughout all this upheaval I intuitively knew that what was happening was somehow inevitable; to have the attachment of the relationship torn from me. I had to accept the separation and along with it the attachment to Martyn and our wonderful relationship, for it was the non-acceptance that was causing immeasurable suffering.
It’s funny, once this attachment had given way to acceptance everything immediately shifted, and a few weeks later an opportunity for Martyn and I live in a house in the nearby village came up. And so to our complete surprise, we found ourselves once again in physical proximity when only weeks before that possibility looked lost forever. The attachment to the relationship and the shoulds and should-nots have never returned. I know that both individually and in our relationship we continue to evolve, and whatever happens – whether we stay together or not – it doesn’t hold the same neediness of attachment.
I see now what a gift it was to have this strong and intensely embedded attachment brought so clearly (and painfully) to the surface. For it was in this hard lesson of letting go that I was able to clearly recognise my essential nature, prior to all attachments, all concepts of ‘shoulds’, and all suffering.
I was talking to a dear friend the other day about how to be present for others. Everyone’s had the experience of sitting with someone but not really being present to what they are saying. You are physically there but there’s a sort of ‘half listening’ that’s going on. There’s also the commentary or stream of thoughts going on in your mind.
What’s at the heart of it is to deal with your own stuff. Through the acceptance of what is arising in you there is space created that allows you to be completely present to them. It’s like when your cup is full, there is no space; but if your cup is empty there is space for them. Your emptiness comes from your ability to abide in the present moment and allow what is arising in you to arise. To not be met with any resistance, or to indulging and encouraging whatever is arising.