Shared Purpose – a Relationship Meditation

“What is your purpose?” I asked.

“As a couple?” They replied. I shrugged, “Or as individuals?”

They aren’t alone in their response. After fifteen years of marriage they still weren’t quite sure how to respond. It was as if they stopped being individuals once they were married and this is one of the greatest tragedies we attach to being married. Many people think that once the ceremony is over you are no longer able to function as an individual. That thinking or having desires as an individual is somehow not acceptable, and that is a shame.

The beauty of marriage is that you have someone you can grow with in love and respect, in trust and in understanding. That you now have someone to continue on your journey with as a part of something greater. It does not mean confining yourself to a life of stagnation.

Instead of sinking into the comfort of your situation, make a pact with yourself and your partner that you will always explore new things, that you will travel, try new sexual positions and refuse to limit your growth by falling into the malaise of doing time on Maple Drive.

What are you afraid of? Do you think your partner may balk at your idea of spending your vacation somewhere new? Are you afraid that your partner for life may say no just like that boy or girl did in high school? Or do you think that living in the rat race, doing the same thing every day, is the most scintillating, exciting and fulfilling thing you can imagine doing until you retire at which point you can sit on your porch sharing remembrances of a life half-lived with your partner?

After a few moments of meditation to clear our minds my students and I delved a little deeper into the subjects of openness and honesty. It was no surprise that the husband felt trapped in his job and his wife felt trapped in the house, taking care of their home and children. Both felt chained to maintaining their lifestyle, which they admitted was a little beyond their means, “But everyone lives a little beyond their means, that’s part of the game.”

We took a short meditation break to release a layer of anxiety that was visibly building. When we returned I gently probed a little more; the husband confessed to being caught on his treadmill, his wife did as well. They were in the same room, but on two different treadmills. They faced the same direction, each set to a speed just a little faster than either was comfortable with, looking at the same wall they would never reach, yet both were unwilling to step off their treadmills and onto solid ground. Neither wanted to try new things for fear of losing that now sacred treadmill that was going nowhere.

If you truly love the person you have committed to, then set them free. Trust them to go off on their own and return to tell you about it. That ring on your finger is not your love for them. It is just a symbol that represents the vows you made to each other. Those vows are based on trust, and if you don’t trust your partner to hold your bond sacred, then no ring in the world will make a difference. If they hold it sacred, then removing that ring will not make them any less caring, trusting or respectfu, than they already are. Who knows they may even bring back some wonderful stories about the travels they went on and the adventures they had that may just revitalize the love and the vows you both took so long ago.

Trust in each other. Try something new. Gently ask your partner if whatever it is you want is okay. You may be surprised by their answer. Best case, you put your marriage on a better track that will truly last a lifetime. Worst case, you are right back where you are right now, running on your treadmill to nowhere.

Don’t let discomfort get in the way of getting what you want to get out of life. Let your partner be the strength you saw them to be when you first made your vows. Do not allow yourself to place them in some trophy case as some kind of an “I made it to fifty years” award. Smile at them, love them, and trust them as you ask them, and yourself, “what is your purpose?”

Understand that whatever you want is possible, but you have to express what you want to them if you want to experience it with them. Do not let your relationship become an excuse to stop taking the smart risks you so badly want to take.

The world has changed greatly in the past decade. Shouldn’t your relationship do the same?

Be well, and I hope this helps.

 

 

Jeff

5 Comments To Never Say

No Judgment

At one point in time this was authentic. It had meaning and credence. But now I hear it so many times every day, it rings of insincerity. It’s on television commercials, online ads pushing laundry detergent. What it really means is “boy, did I just judge you, and it was not good. In fact, it was so awful it made me feel guilty just thinking of it, so I need to say something to lower my own guilt over having thought it.” Let’s be honest, we all judge others. That is human nature. There is no getting away from it. The key is not to not judge, but to use our judgements as an invitation to ask yourself, “what is it about them that made me so judgmental? Why was I so quick to judge?” The answer actually has nothing to do with them, but with yourself. Don’t apologize to them, apologize to yourself, for within you is the key to your judgments, not with them.

learn to be happy

No Shame

As with the No Judgment rationale, when you shame someone, you are really just expressing the shame you carry within you. Some past memory, guilt, or apology you never said. As with the “no judgment” comment, we all shame others for self-gain, we do it to pull them into line. As one highly regarded Zen master once told me, “shame is the fastest way to teach.”

That does not make it right by any stretch of the imagination. By telling someone “no shame” you are giving the a Get Out Of Jail Free card. Your comment is just piling on more shame to whatever it was you just witnessed. Why, because they did not do it your way?

The shame is not theirs to carry, it is yours. Simply stop judging and stop shaming. It is not your place to call others out on some trumped-up idea of how they should act, and idea that you created out of the shame you carry around. Let the live their life in their way, and you can live your life in yours.

Learn to be authentic 

With All Due Respect

This is a classic setup. All it means is that you are about to pull the rug out from underneath them and slam them with some very disrespectful words. Why say it? Once again, you’re just giving yourself permission to be nasty. Don’t say “with all due respect,” just say what you’re going to say and then enjoy the regret you’re going to have to carry around with you for saying it.

If you are a true friend, then there is no need to give yourself an out. If not, then you shouldn’t make the comment. It’s not going to soften the blow of whatever you feel you have to say to them, because it really is for you. Instead of saying with all due respect just hold your tongue. The world will be a better place for it.

Learn to be you

I was Just Thinking

Does that mean you usually don’t think? This comment does not make you look or sound smart. It usually prefaces what you think is a brilliant idea, but you’re just not convinced it is. You’re trying to hedge your bets in case your brilliant idea falls flat. Perhaps you think adding a casual tone to whatever comes next will give you and out, or perhaps the idea of downplaying your brilliance will make your idea all the more palpable.

Next time just say what your idea is and let your audience judge its merits on their own?

Learn to be mindful

I’m Being Honest With You

This is on par with I was just thinking. It implies that you have not been honest with your audience up until now. As with most of these comments, it does just the opposite of what was intended, it raises their attention level to assess what you have just said, and are about to say, with a new level of wariness.

If you have something to say, then just say it. Good thoughts and comments need no introduction. They will find their way to the intended listener’s ears all on their own.

If you are ever in doubt, good conversation, like good meditation or a well-made martini, comes from the school of less is more. You don’t have to embellish. All that ever does is put a garish tone to what could have been a wonderful diversion.

Learn to meditate.

 

Be well and I hope this helps.

 

Perception of Me is a Reflection of You

Your perception of me is a reflection of you

It takes 13 milliseconds for your brain to process the input it receives. That means everything you see, hear, taste, touch, smell has a brief pause from the time your eyes, ears, nose, mouth and fingers sense it to the time it becomes recognized for what it is.

In that brief moment your brain connects the input you are experiencing with all of the memories you have ever had or could ever imagine having in order to classify what is all around you as good or bad, safe or unsafe, friend or foe. It also uses whatever is going on within your life, your emotions be it anger or love, as a filter for what is going on in the world around you.

Your emotions and your experiences, the breakup you just went through or the new love you just met will help your brain classify how you perceive the events in your life at any given moment in time. All those memories, emotions, hopes and direct you to choose one path over another. They are the why behind the what that you decide to eat, drink, work on or escape to. Your need to eat something richly satisfying to get over a slump of depression or to eat something high in fiber to take on the day are chosen, not by you, but by your 40,000 year old brain as it struggles to guide you through the contemporary world you live in.

The world as you see it is a reflection of everything you are going through at any given moment. If it is why when you are in Love the world can be a brilliant place where hope is found in every object you touch, every scent you smell, every taste you bite into. It is also why that same moment can be a dark and scary place to someone who is seeing it from a very different perspective.

For those who are upset everything can seem just a little darker and a little less inviting. That same cerulean sky is suddenly a darker shade of blue. It is still blue, just not quite as bright as it may seem to you. It is no different for the people you interact with. Your suspicion of, or anger with, someone is not just based on their actions but your own as well.

This distortion is why you mirror yourself onto the lives of those around you. You assume what you are experiencing must be the same as those around. Whatever fear is pulsing through your veins must surely pulse through their veins as well. If you are suspicious of someone’s actions it may not be just them, it may be your own feelings of self doubt that you are struggling with that are mirrored onto them.

Your own emotions can create a circus mirror that will cause you to see a skinny person or a fat person in front of you rather than the person as they really are. Your distorted view of the world and those around you is more often off base than it is on because of how you perceive reality rather than how it really is.

It is not until you awaken to the fact that your brain creates your world that you can truly be free of your distorted version of reality and begin to live life in the real world and in a whole new light.

The next time you think someone is undermining your efforts, take a moment to breathe and to bring yourself back down to earth. Think about what is going on in your own life and how that could distort your view of your friends and your community.

Did you recently lose someone who is dear to you? Did your boss choose someone else for “the big project?” Think about how all of these things might affect the way you view the one you Love and have always trusted. Do  you really want to throw that Love and trust away because of what your 40,000 year old brain suspects someone else did?

Take a moment to cool down before you rush into something you might regret. Even though you are convinced you are in the right, just know that the world around you is not always what it seems.

 

Be well and I hope this helps.

 

 

j.

Learn To Communicate Again

When I was recovering from one of my many surgeries, I remember waking up in a hospital room all alone. The next day the nurse pulled the privacy curtain closed before she wheeled in another patient.

I could not see him, but I could hear him. In the first few hours I lay there staring at the ceiling, unsure of what to do.

It got to be too much for me. I waited to hear the sound of him stirring and took a deep breath. “My name’s Jeff,” I said. I waited, I waited, I waited, until a voice came through the curtain.

“Hello Jeff,” it said, “I am Haru.” The man on the next bed, just a few feet from me, was Japanese. He spoke broken English. I then said the only word I knew in Japanese “arigato,” or thank you.

I could hear a cough and a laugh. “For what?” He asked.

“For not closing down.”

I could hear the kind of sound that would accompany a nod, and in turn I sounded my nod back. We could not see each other, but we were communicating.

Over the next few weeks the two of us truly learned that 93 percent of communication is non-verbal. Body language and facial expressions make up about 55 percent of communication. Tone makes up just under 40 percent. Even though we could not see each other, we both made an effort to attach a sound to whatever body motion we could.

It is crazy to think that today’s media junkies cannot do the same. Those who rely on emails, texts and social media to communicate believe they are communicating, but even the best emoji is not match for the sight of a human smiling or frowning.

It is no wonder that someone can completely misread your intention, literally and figuratively, from an email you sent.

On the day Haru was discharged he came around the curtain with his wife. They both bowed deeply to me. His wife paused as he left. She took my hand and smiled. She said one word – “Arigato”.

As a human, we are deeply tribal and in constant search for a community to be a part of. Our need for kinship and connection has always been one of the evolutionary advantages we have had over other species.

It set us apart from other creatures far better equipped for survival than us. We did not have sharp claws or powerful jaws, what we did have was the ability to work with others so that we could overcome our natural weaknesses by creating the weapons we needed to compete.

The main problem is that we never stopped.

Over the millennia that we have roamed the earth it has always been our ability to communicate with others that has brought us to where we are today – for better and for worse.

If we are to stay alive, it will be our ability to communicate that will us to do so.

Even the Buddha returned to civilization after finding that a solitary life in the wild was not the path to enlightenment. Yes, you may start meditating alone, but only until you grow comfortable with your abilities. Then you seek out the company of others. You seek out a master to guide you. You join a sangha, or community, of like minded people. You talk and connect and find your path – the right path for you.

There is such a wonderful evolution from solitary to community, within your journey. It is always personal, which is the beauty of the human experience.

It is why I am so surprised that at a time of such technical advances, we are turning our backs on the very ability that bought us here – that is our ability to communicate with each other on a deeper level than we once thought imaginable.

Yes, we can reach around the world to meet new people and connect with different cultures, but how much of the personal nuances do we lose in doing so?

Information-overload has grown to disastrous proportions. The fact that most people have a better connection with the screen in front of them is scary. Scarier still is that most of these connections live on their mobile devices than with a person just inches away. A recent study found that one of the greatest fears of the coming generation is not climate change or world war, but the idea of having to say hello to a stranger.

You must, we all must, make a conscious decision to address the growing disconnect between humans. We must learn to commit to an authentic and intimate relationship with those around us and around the world. And no, intimacy is not the same thing as sex. It is simply the ability to communicate on a more personal level.

If we cannot do that, then the human experiment is doomed to fail. Not from some cataclysmic disaster, but from within, from ourselves.

 

When you communicate through electronic devices you push the nuances and innuendos  aside. You open the door for misunderstanding, miscommunication and manipulation. According to a recent CNN story, Americans check into their social media accounts at least 17 times a day. That is once every hour if not more. On average you probably also spend a staggering 4.7 hours a day on our mobile devices.

When was the last time you made eye contact with someone else?

What can you do? 

 

Turn your devices off.

It is no wonder that you have such a problem developing a committed relationship with someone, let alone yourself. It is really not that hard. All you have to do is unplug from time to time. Try it for an hour every day. Dedicate just one day on the weekend to disconnect. Be aware of your responses to the boredom and the need for distraction that comes.

If you automatically say, “But what if someone from my office needs me,” or “what if my partner or children are in trouble,” that is okay. It is expected. Simply make some rules around your disconnection. You may even try to talk to your family, friends and workmates to discuss the difference between call times and no-call times. You may even be surprised at how they will respect them.

Make it a rule to turn off electronic devices at meal time, or to not eat in front of the television. You may be surprised at the change it will make within your family.

 

See. 

Yes I know, you amaze yourself with your ability to multi-task. You can walk down the street while talking and texting while dodging other pedestrians. Have you ever looked up and seen the glare in their eyes because of the way you weave while walking, taking up the entire sidewalk as others leap out of your way?

Aside from the fact that it is impossible to multi-task, and yes you can Google that, but is that text so important that you cannot simply be present in your walk? Can it not wait until you arrive at your destination? Do you not see that your lack of attention and presence is exactly what your body and mind are calling for to reset yourself?

And no, I am not even going to begin to discuss texting and driving…

Instead of trying to fit one more task into your already busy day, try and observe the people you pass by. You do not need to invite anyone into your personal space, just feel the desperation in their faces and their energy at the thought of someone reaching out to them. Feel the air and the sun as you connect with others through the world you are in. It is palpable.

 

Truly Listen. 

Hearing is the first sense babies are aware of. It is how they connect with their parents. Hearing is also the last sense to leave you when you pass away.

In between those two moments allow your ears to grow aware of the world around you. Listen for the subtle tones in the way people speak. Be aware to the tones within the phrases and words people use when they want to connect or disconnect. Listen to your own voice and your own tones. You may be surprised how the tones supersede the language, and the language barriers, that may or may not exist.

Be truly awake and present when with another person and take the time to explore how you communicate with them and those around you. Do not steal the conversation and kill the chance for a relationship to develop. Those are the first steps in building a real relationship with another human being.

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