“What should I have said when he asked me out?”
“What should I do on my day off?”
The word “should” is incredibly pervasive in our inner dialogues. At the heart of “should” is the belief that there’s a RIGHT way and a WRONG way. When we believe that, we are set up to struggle because our focus is outside ourselves–attempting to figure out the answer externally. Whether we learned that from critical parents, school, challenging siblings, or peers, it is our practice to UNLEARN it. We need to reconnect with the internal wisdom that is our birthright.
When I was in college and searching for answers about how to deal with my own anxiety, I began reading a lot of books on meditation and mindfulness. The words of Jack Kornfield and Pema Chodron were a soothing balm to my struggles, but in practice I found little comfort in meditation and mindfulness. Later on in graduate school I remember one of my first meditation groups where I sat in a circle with the other students–sullen and disconnected. At some point my teacher asked me what was going on and I burst into tears, “I can’t stand the word present! Be present! Be present! That’s all these books say and I just can’t do it!” I cried. It was then that I really learned how self-aggression can take on spiritual and loving-seeming disguises. My ego-self was trying so hard to do being present right, that I was locked into my own pain and judgment. I thought, “I should be peaceful. I should be relaxed. I should be wise. I should be spiritual.” …and then I was able to be anything but.
It is only by letting go of the shoulds that we can get in touch with the coulds; with the opportunities we have to let go, to open, to melt, to warm, to flow, to listen, to hear.
Next time you hear yourself “shoulding,” try this instead:
Take 3 deep breaths.
Change “should” to “could.”
…and see what answers you find in your body when you present yourself with the chance to “could.” Do you feel drawn to the idea? Does it feel kind? Does it feel loving? Do you get a NO? Be responsive to yourself as you are in this moment.
It’s always bugged me when people say, “When you stop looking for love, love will find you.” It seems cruel to ask someone to put aside the search for what their hearts long. And what about being proactive? Aren’t we more likely to meet someone if we’re “putting ourselves out there?”
But despite my discomfort with this idea, I have to admit that it worked that way for me. I’d just finished graduate school and was preparing to move away from Colorado when I met a sweet man while walking our dogs on the Sanitas Valley Trail and the rest is history.
Why does this seem to happen so often?
I don’t actually think this happens because people stop looking, but because they often stop looking for coincides with a less grasping, more present state of mind. When I wasn’t obsessed with looking at every man as a potential partner, I was more able to clearly see each person in front of me. This state of mind is one that we can choose to tap into while in the dating world. Buddhism gives us a wonderful tool for this, and it’s called Beginner’s Mind.
With Beginner’s Mind, you practice dropping your “story line” before you enter a situation. You come with fresh eyes to fully experience and absorb the moment. In dating, this is enormously helpful because it gives you a chance to take it all in—to ask questions instead of assuming, to notice projection, to see the positive that you might not usually see or the negative that you might normally ignore.
Here are five basic tips for bringing Beginner’s Mind to a first date…(Read more)
I’m in the living room at 9:30 p.m. The white noise machines are whirring in the kids’ rooms and I hear a rustling sound coming from the hallway. Crinkling and crackling. I identify it—it’s the sound of another chocolate-chip granola bar being opened. The habitual thoughts begin: “Why is he eating another granola bar at 9:30 at night? He should have some fruit. He doesn’t eat healthily enough.”
What do we do as we move toward healthy choices in our lives when our partners don’t make the same choices? It’s a common issue that causes stress in relationships and it’s a way for judgment and disconnection to thrive.
As a therapist, and in my own marriage and friendships, I’ve listened to lots of folks bothered by the choices their partners make or don’t make:
- Not exercising despite back pain, weight gain or depression
- Not reaching out to friends despite depression and isolation
- The extra beer or cookie or candy bar
- Not calling a therapist even though he/she struggles with anxiety
When we are making strides on our own path of growth and self-development it can be triggering to witness stuck behaviors in our loves that we don’t like. A common first reaction to this is to encourage him or her to do what we think they should be doing… (Click here to read more)
Wild Geese (Poem by Mary Oliver)
“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”
How often do you act from a place of trying to be good? …Trying to be good enough to get the love you want? What would it be like to let go of that? And let go of that again?
What would it be like to remind yourself of your place in “the family of things?” Of your inherent birthright of being part of the whole–never separate except through our own adopted illusions?
Maybe today, try to remember what you know in your heart to be true–under the fear–that actually we’re just fine right here–right now.
When we’re dating, we tend to be looking for people to whom we feel drawn. We all know the phrase, “He’s just not my type,” but what does that actually mean? Most often it tends to relate to generalized style and interests:
I’m out of town on a long ago planned trip. My husband is home with a hurt knee taking care of our two kids. Last night I didn’t call him to say goodnight because I lost track of time.
When I called the next morning he was feeling bummed out, was wrapped up in taking care of our kids and said he was upset that I hadn’t asked him more about how his knee was doing.
When my sister was in kindergarten she was asked a trick question: Which is better—giving gifts or receiving gifts?
Now, of course the teacher wanted all the five-year olds to unselfishly choose giving. My sister’s written answer was not what the teacher wanted: For me to give is better for others. For others to give is better for me.
This is a guest post by Celia Grand of the Riverview Foundation. Many thanks to Celia for sharing this information!
compassion fatigue (dictionary.com)
fatigue, emotional distress, or apathy resulting from the constant demands of caring for others or from constant appeals from charities: compassion fatigue experienced by doctors and nurses.