Yes, ultimately we want to recognize that our attachments are what cause our suffering so that we can alleviate the attachments (stop believing our stories, our personal narratives about what is true or best). But before we release those attachments, we can have an incredibly rich personal experience of their depth.
I remember once, my husband, son, daughter-in-law and I were living in the same house. Sometimes my daughter-in-law and I would have issues. She and I would sit down and talk about the issues and work them out. And sometimes tears would be shed. When this would happen, my husband would get very upset. He and my son actually almost got into a fist fight one day because my husband was being protective of me and thought my daughter-in-law was being disrespectful or was hurting me. I had to stand in between them and say, please don't try to fight my battles for me. I am handling this exactly the way I want to, and everything is all right.
My husband would say, how can you say it's all right, you're crying! And I would tell him, I am just fully experiencing the richness of my feelings. And that's a good thing.
Because you see, many people are uncomfortable or afraid to feel their strong feelings. They don't want to feel sadness, frustration or anger. But those emotions are just as "good" as satisfaction and happiness. Because I have chosen to say "Yes" to life, in all its forms.
In saying yes to whatever comes our way, we are choosing to feel the full gamut of our emotions. We don't fear that these emotions are going to carry us away. We aren't afraid of how they make us feel. We've been programmed or conditioned by society to think that we should get rid of those emotions as fast as we can. But that's not necessary.
People develop all kinds of mental illnesses because they are afraid to confront their painful emotions. But you needn't feel afraid that you're going to get stuck in those emotions. The principle of impermanence says that nothing is going to last forever. Everything eventually changes.
While you are experiencing these emotions, tenderly and gently accept them as parts of yourself that are rejected. These are the unwelcome guests at your table. They weren't invited, but you are accepting them anyway. You are saying yes to life.
In saying yes to life, you are recognizing that there are no mistakes in life. Everything is for your greater good and even the unpleasant emotions can be appreciated and handled appropriately. They are not your enemy.
Even when things don't turn out the way you want, you can say yes to life. You can acknowledge and appreciate the richness of those emotions before you recognize your attachments and eliminate them. You can love your life exactly the way it is.
If there's something going on in your life right now that you don't like, remember that to fight against it is to argue with reality. And when we argue with reality, we experience suffering.
You can't argue with reality. You can't make people and events in your life be something other than they are. Your love for someone in your life is measured by how much you are willing to allow them to be just who they are. Trying to change someone to be the way you want them to be is saying they're not good enough the way they are. And that's not true.
Don't you want to be accepted just the way you are? Then why wouldn't you extend that same courtesy to everyone in your life?
I can hear the rejection of this teaching as you try to defend your story. "But what if they are doing x, y or z?" you ask. Does it really matter what they're doing? If you say yes, then in my opinion, you don't really love that person. Because if you did, how they behave wouldn't matter. You are putting conditions on your love. And that's not love to begin with.
True love is accepting the person just the way they are. Because you know what? You don't have to have that person behave a certain way for you to be happy. If you do, then you are depending on someone other than yourself for happiness and that never works. Only YOU can make you happy.
No one else has the responsibility to make you happy. Yes, we need interpersonal human relationships to be whole. But we don't need the people in those relationships to agree with us for them to be fulfilling, satisfying relationships. If you need someone you are with to see things your way in order for you to be satisfied, you are focusing on the wrong thing, and you will always be disappointed.
I have heard it said, "People can change if they mean enough to each other." Once again, this puts the emphasis in the wrong place in the relationship. If you are waiting for the other person to change, you are living in the future and not in the present. Don't you understand, the future NEVER comes. Because when that future moment finally gets here, it's still only the present. The future is an illusion. Your need for the other person to change for you is also an illusion. As long as you are waiting for them to change, you aren't really living. You are just waiting.
Feeling that someone else must change for you means you aren't taking their needs into consideration. You feel that you won't be happy until they change, but what about what they need? Does that matter to you at all? What if it's impossible for them to give you what you "think" you need and still meet their own needs. Do you then want them to give up what they want for you? Even though it might make them incredibly unhappy? Why would you want that?
Why wouldn't you be willing to meet your own need instead of expecting them to do it? You might say, I have a need that can only be met by another person." Sorry, but that's just another untrue thought. That's the story you are believing. The truth is, you have a need that can be met by almost ANY person. It doesn't have to be THAT person. You just WANT it to be that person. Can't you see that this expectation is the cause of your suffering?
This is where I have to say, I think the way we look at relationships and marriage in this day and age is completely contradictory to common sense. We expect ONE person to provide for every one of our needs. And that's just not realistic. And it's not the way things have always been for most of our evolutionary history. You might recall a previous blog post where I discussed the fact that we are all connected. We are all one. Why do you think that is? Because it's impossible for ONE person to meet all our needs, and we shouldn't expect that. That's why we are connected to a whole universe of people. To use a previous metaphor, you are living in a little pool of water when you could have the whole ocean.
Why not make a list of all the people in your life, and then write down the one thing you like best about being with each person. What part of them really brings you joy? Focus on that, and let someone else meet the other needs. So you might have a dozen people in your life that together make up what you used to expect of just one person.
In thinking about the people in my life right now (without mentioning their names) I can say that:
A always makes me feel accepted.
B always makes me laugh.
C always challenges me to think in new ways.
D is always there to help me when my car needs fixing.
E always brings me delicious treats or meets me for coffee.
F is my movie buddy.
G is always ready to have sex when I want it.
H is always ready for a deep discussion.
I always makes me feel like a mom that puts her arms around me.
J always makes me feel competent at what I do.
K makes me feel safe.
L cries with me.
M is who I go to for discussing problems with my kids.
N lets me babysit her kids when I miss my grandkids.
O is who I do crafts with.
P is who I bounce ideas off of.
So you see, it really takes a village to meet all our needs.
Saying yes to life feels good. Embracing everything that happens as perfectly okay and not striving to change it frees you from the tyranny of your own expectations. It releases you from your attachments.
Think about this analogy. Life is like a flowing river. You push your boat into the river and it easily floats downstream. It's when you try to paddle upstream that you experience suffering. Paddling upstream is when you argue with reality. When you try to force things to be different than they are. You are only making life harder for yourself. And ultimately, nothing you really want is upstream.
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Copyright Judie C. McMath and The Center for Unhindered Living
Copyright Judie C. McMath and The Center for Unhindered Living