Thanks to my dear friends, Bowman and Sherre, I’ve been able to attend some Dharma talks lately. They’ve both become extremely important mentors to me, the kind of people who know you need help before you even ask for it. It’s difficult to express the gratitude I feel for their unfailing kindness.
I’ve sat with three Sangha’s for the past few years. One was instrumental in teaching me basic meditation. The second, taught by the same teacher, lead me down the path of sobriety I have walked for nearly two years now. Sadly that Sangha has dissolved. The third has become my real home, and we meet at the beautiful Heron House in Roswell every Monday.
My daily meditation habit has been anything but daily for nearly a year now. It’s amazing how fast that happened! About a year ago, I allowed another person to enter my practice. I allowed them to sit with me at 5am on the dot, as I had for many many months previous. It wasn’t a problem until I fell in love with her. At that point waking her for meditation evolved a new temptation; crawling in and cuddling with her instead 🙂
I have no regrets for those happy moments, but I realize now that in taking them, I began to forfeit the relationship as a whole. It was the first of my boundaries to be set aside, the first of several more to come.
I’ve been sitting much more lately. I even had the opportunity to do a one day silent retreat with Lucinda Green last weekend. She’s a wonderful teacher, and restored the integrity of my metta practice by having us do metta exercises with a partner. We took turns sending loving kindness intentions towards each other, and I felt that energy palpably in my heart-space. I haven’t felt that sensation in a very long time.
As an experiment, Lucinda asked us to then throw up a wall, and refuse to receive the energy from our partner. As my partner put up that wall I felt sick to my stomach. It was instant! I had the same sensation when I put up my own wall. Nearly everyone reported this. We didn’t end like that thankfully. Instead we re-balanced our energy equally between us, and parted slowly back into ourselves.
I felt that my metta was restored, because I could feel the intentions flowing outward from my heart-space again. Lately I would repeat the words of intention in my mind during metta practice, but I wasn’t feeling them flow out from my heart anymore. They were empty. It reminded me of Christ’s words:
“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.”
The last time I had heart-felt metta like that, I was sending it to Molly. We were meditating in a candle-lit room together, and I was trying with everything I had to heal an emotional wound that festered between us.
During the retreat I realized that I’ve done all of the work I’ve needed to around that relationship. I’ve seen it clearly, and I can reflect on her with love now. I’ve let it go.
Five months isn’t bad. The last break up took 1700 miles and nearly three years of celibacy to processes. I had a lot of growing to do though, and I needed that space.
This last one taught me about boundaries. I’ll never let anyone treat me the way she did again. Hopefully I’ll never be that needy again either.
Mark Manson wrote a wonderful book on relationships called Models. This title has become far lessor known after the success of his other book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. Both are great, but Models is particularly helpful. I’ve had this pattern of “getting the girl” and then becoming impossibly needy until I drive her away. Passive always becomes aggressive in time. Assertive is the magic middle ground of healthy relationships.
I’m the kind of person who feels bad for taking up space in a grocery line. Assertiveness doesn’t come naturally to me. This is probably why I feel most comfortable in the middle of nowhere by myself.
At least three times Molly and I went out to dinner, only for me to stare off into space the whole time. This was a function of me agreeing to go out, when what I really wanted and needed was time alone to think. I’ve also become aware that if another person requires your effort to hold their boundaries, they’re not in a place to be assertive either. It’s unwise to date such a person, or date if you are that person.
Of course these ideas extend outside of romantic relationships as well. All of my friendships have improved, the more assertive I’ve become. There are some people who’s phone calls I ignore a lot. Sometimes for days. I do this so that I can call them back when I am in the best space to speak with them; when I’ll give them my best self. It seems counter-intuitive, but I’ve never once had to explain myself. As Elbert Hubbard pointed out, good friends don’t generally require much explanation anyway.
What does this have to do with the AT you might ask? Who knows? Relationships are pretty critical out there, why not seek to be better at them?