Let’s look at how one might be loved, be more loving and express love more deeply. Isn’t that what we all want?
I’ll start by looking at one of the more challenging aspect of love, which I call the “stupid” argument. You know the ones where after it’s all over you say, “We had an argument about nothing.” These arguments are often not about what is happening in the moment. They are a reaction to what happened last time or what we expect to happen this time. I can think of countless times when I found myself frustrated because there was a part of me that knew communication wasn’t happening. I didn’t know exactly why or how we had gotten off track. And I no way to stop what I could see happening. Can you relate?
Over time I’ve found that the only way to minimize those stupid arguments is to be present with what is really happening. In waking up to the present moment, we are waking up to love and compassion and happiness and sometimes-even sadness.
It is not easy or passive or Zen this being mindful. But therein lies the beauty because it’s not about being anything other that who and how we are right now in this moment. We are enough as we are.
Me and Sébastien got into a big argument. Towards the end of the argument, Sébastien pressed on. “You always ask me to do things, then expect me to drop everything and just do it!” I stopped, paused and really heard the words —for a split second, it was as if I were in the eye of a storm where everything was clear and calm— and from that place I responded. “That may be true, but that’s not what happened this time!” In an instant the storm subsided.
Both of us were shocked, silenced and surprised by the clarity of a simple palatable truth found in present moment awareness. That was the argument that changed the way me and Sébastien talk to each other.
I credit my ability to be present with whatever is going on with my meditation practice. With it, I have honed the ability to be present regardless of my mood, emotions or thoughts. This capacity often surprises me, just as it did that day. I don’t try to invoke it, but it emerges just when I need it. Since that argument noticing when we react to something that happened in the past or project what we think is about to unfold is easier to spot.
Bearing witness to our lives
Witnessing my own life, I’m amazed by how many times I have had an argument that had nothing to do with the actual situation. How many times have I shouted, “That’s not what I said!” Now I finally understand that we weren’t arguing with each other. Neither of us was present. We were fighting phantoms and blaming each other. Even as I write these words instance after instance passes in from of my mind’s eye like a movie. I feel for us all because I know I’m not the only one. This is the human condition. This is what happens to us everyday. Someone you know is having this kind of argument right now.
Instead of blaming someone or myself, more and more frequently, I recognize that we are each reacting to something that hurt us…in the past. Deborah Ward wrote in Psychology Today “more often than not, our emotional reaction is based on our own needs, our own fears, and our own unresolved issues. It seems as though the other person is causing us to feel annoyed or hurt, but they are usually triggering a memory or a feeling from our own past and that’s why it hurts.” Knowing that and because of my own experience, I have more compassion for not only me and Sébastien, but everybody. We all suffer.
Waking up to love
Admittedly the first few times I figured this out, I couldn’t help myself and fell right back into the same trap. I noticed a little too late and I would shake my head wondering why I hadn’t respond differently. It was a little like Bill Murray in Groundhogs Day. But in short order, more and more often, I recognized what was happening. Now I noticed quicker and while I’m not perfect, I catch myself more often. Arguments now rise like lucid dreams in which I see the slow motion train wreck unfolding, but instead of falling into the same trap —being triggered and hurt— I feel for us. I feel for me. And I navigate myself safely back to shore.
Then I give us both space to feel what we are feeling. This is the hard part. In the midst, I shut my mouth. I don’t try to fix “it.” I give us each the time we need to be with whatever demon we are sparing. And do you know what? Just by noticing what is going on, our arguments are less like arguments and more like passionate conversations because my relationship to arguing has changed. Do you know what I mean? I’m not accusing or demanding or blaming. So yes we butt heads, but we manage to find solutions faster just because one of us notices what’s really going.
Present moment awareness changes us. It changes our relationship to what’s going on around us and in the process changes our relationships with others. It enables us to see things different, from another vantage point. With mindfulness maybe we’ll find that nothing is as we once thought.
Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
My we all feel more loved, be more loving and express love deeper.