Monthly Archives: March 2017

A Spiritual Partnership

I’ve been telling clients for years about my perception of a marriage or significant relationship, which I’ve called a spiritual partnership. This concept may or may not include a higher power, depending on the couple’s belief system. But primarily it’s about each partner being there for the other – to help him/her grow into the best person (s)he can be. As long as each does this with the pure intent to help the other grow, the relationship should flourish.

My concept is also about staying in the moment and not being in love with the person we think the other can or should be, or trying to make them become something else, because we just know they have more potential. This involves expectations we put on the other person. Expectations throw us into the future. Once we develop expectations of someone, the relationship begins to go downhill.

Henry Grayson, in the book MINDFUL LOVING,  describes it this way:

Grayson talks about the concept of specialness. The problem comes when we *need* the other person’s love for our own purposes.

“When we appoint someone as ‘special,’ which we tend to think of as a good or positive notion or action, we set into motion a chain of potential outcomes that create unrealistic expectations and inevitable disappointments. . . . Ironically, as soon as we think of someone as special and try to convince that person of their specialness, we begin to think we have a right to demand things from them.”

“In the moment that we appoint someone as special we instantly connect to a childhood yearning or an unfulfilled desire. Or we expect that person to complete us . . . The special person, therefore, becomes for us the person who will finally love us enough, care for us enough, listen to us enough, and be our soul mate.”

“Not only do we idealize the other person, but we also become disappointed and angry when the person doesn’t live up to our expectations.”

The problem most of us have is that the needs we have developed in relationships are often unconscious because they have been learned from the covert behaviors and attitudes of our parents/family. In order to enter into a relationship without expectations of the other, we need to be able to see ourselves as whole.

That doesn’t mean we all need years of therapy. We can start by just reminding ourselves to stay in the moment in our relationships and leave our expectations at the door. As humans we each grow and evolve constantly.  The relationship is only as healthy as each person within at the moment.

Love the people you love for what they are – not for what you think they can become.

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An individual remains an individual throughout life and beyond life on earth. Spiritual partnership is not bondage, but freedom.

(In a spiritual partnership, the individuals) share with each other without demanding. Neither has any rights – but they have the privilege of giving.

Love is an opportunity to give – to provide – to be there.

-Anthony Demelo

To Make Ourselves Complete

The phrase “human being” often gets lost on us.  Most of us are “human doings” – so wrapped up in accomplishing tasks or our To Do List.   Or we are obsessed with what situation or people might be in our future that will finally bring us happiness.  In this case, we are “human becomings”.  We believe we need to strive to become or that something or someone outside of us will make us more worth-while and lovable.  We’re caught in our heads – always trying to figure out what will make “it” happen for us.   We are SO obsessed with what we are meant to be that we totally miss out on what we are – beautiful, vibrant spiritual beings.

Below, Eckhart Tolle explains his perception of what I just described:

It’s almost a joke, how humans live – how they look for something where it can never be found. How they look for themselves – the completion of their sense of self. . .in the future – in some next moment.  And how compulsively they are driven to seek the next moment . . . how compulsively they ignore and even actively resist this moment.  (This moment is) the door that is always open.  Not realizing that future has no reality except as a thought in our heads.

One of the most wonderful discoveries I’ve made in my spiritual studies is that we are complete – we are perfect just the way we are.  We aren’t worth any more if we accomplished something we deem as extremely important today than we would be if we sat around and did nothing all day!  We are loved and adored just the same regardless!  (For a listmaker like me, that took some digesting, but now that I get it, I revel in it!)

The lesson in this for me is that it’s more important to stop obsessing about my list of To Do’s and to spend this moment with those I care about.  I’ll never get these moments back, but I can get the other stuff done eventually – or maybe it doesn’t HAVE to get done at all!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going out to blow bubbles with my granddaughter!  :)

Never let a problem to be solved, become more important than a person to be loved.

What I Said Never Changed Anybody; What They Understood Did

This past week our granddaughter has been with us during her Spring Break, and I’ve only been in and out of the office as needed in order to spend as much time with her as possible.  So instead of writing a new blog, I’m sharing one of my favorite meditation readings for you to contemplate.  I think it fits where a lot of us are these days concerning our communication with friends who see things differently, as well as with our loved ones.  I personally can identify with it as a family member of an alcoholic, someone who is mentally ill, and just someone I care a lot about that doesn’t understand the world in the same way that I do.  I hope it resonates with you, as well.

How often have we given our all to change somebody else? How frantically have we tried to force a loved one to see the light? How hopelessly have we watched a destructive pattern – perhaps a pattern we know well from personal experience – bring terrible pain to someone who is dear to us?

All of us have.

We would do anything to save the people we love. In our desperation, we imagine that if we say just the right words in just the right way, our loved ones will understand.

If change happens, we think our efforts have succeeded.

If change doesn’t happen, we think our efforts have failed. But neither is true. Even our best efforts don’t have the power to change someone else. Nor do we have that responsibility. People are only persuaded by what they understand. And they, as we, can understand a deeper truth only when it is their time to grow toward deeper understanding. Not before.

Today, I will focus on changing myself and entrust those I love to a Higher Power who loves them even more than I do.

-Earnie Larsen and Carol Larsen Hegarty

Don’t Forget to Live Your Life

In recent blogs I have confessed that I’ve become much more active politically.  I’ve always had the mindset of an activist.  Most of my life, when I saw injustice, I did what I could to stand up for those being victimized. But I see a lot more people doing that these days.  What does that have to do with mental health?  I believe it has everything to do with it!  We’re here on earth to connect with each other, and that process of relationship is when we learn the most about ourselves (which is what therapy is supposed to be – education of the Self). Politics is a nasty game, and it tends to pull us apart in many ways, but it’s the macrocosm that represents each of us as individuals.

My point here is that (no news to you), we are living in a very tumultuous time. It’s almost impossible not to offend someone, even if you say or do nothing.  We’ve actually had it too good for a long time.  There have always been rough spots and extreme views – regarding finances, social issues, religion, prejudice – you name it.  But, until now, we’ve also had the security of hoping our elected officials believed in and adhered to the constitution enough to keep things flowing (even though we always knew there were extremists on both sides that we didn’t trust so much). But many of us try to avoid conflict in our own lives, so we became complacent.  We were sure that those things we heard about in other parts of the world could never happen here, so we thought we were “safe.”

Unfortunately, most of us tend to live on auto-pilot, which means we have to have a crisis to make ourselves get out of our comfort zone and look at where our lives are going.  In these cases, we only truly appreciate what we’ve had in our lives after we’ve lost whatever that is.

In my office over this past several years, I’ve had more and more clients who were just totally stressed because money has been tight, they were being expected to work the jobs of 3 people and be on call 24/7.  There was already a lot of civil unrest and frustration socially, and then came the presidential election, protests, inauguration, the Executive Orders and the reality that a foreign country really has interfered with our election and government (and is possibly still doing so). All of this has continued to build in intensity to a point where it now feels like it’s all just going to explode – and soon!

When we feel such strong emotions, we can tend to develop tunnel vision to try to get our point across – just to be heard. We become hyper-focused on whatever we feel is causing our pain and sometimes we just focus on the powerlessness we feel when what we are doing doesn’t produce the outcome we were looking for.  We feel better if we think there is something we can do.  To stand up for something we believe in increases our sense of personal power. But we have to guard against getting overwhelmed.  We all need balance in order to keep the energy flowing.

If my study of the Afterlife has taught me anything, it’s how I want to live my life – here and now.  I want to look at the big picture, live from love in the moment as much as I can, not be too attached to any specific outcome for what I’m dealing with in the moment, and look for the miracles and the opportunities that might not have shown themselves if I hadn’t had my current crisis.

In today’s world, it sometimes feels hard to live from love because we have such radically different views on how things “should be.”  I believe that regardless of which side we’re on in surface issues, our opinions are born from wanting to do what is right.  But as humans, our beliefs are a product of our life experiences, what we’ve been taught by the adults in our lives, the doctrines of our faith – or the lack of belief, and the consequences of the choices we’ve made.  As each of these things impact our lives, we develop thoughts that we feed ourselves repeatedly.  Those we allow in most often become our beliefs.

Recently, there’s also been a lot of discussion around what is factual and what is not.  Here’s the Gospel According to Patti on facts and truths:  A fact is something that can be verified; an event that actually happened with evidence remaining to prove that.  Your truth is your reality – how the consequences actually effected you – your beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. Your truth and mine may not line up.  While we know there are some who purposely lie, I really believe the majority of us tell the truth as we see it. (And there is no such thing as “alternative facts”).

The more energy we put into all the what-if’s and worry about how to handle something that hasn’t even happened yet, the less energy we’ll have to deal with what comes up in the moment.  The more we worry about whether we’ll get something we really want or the more we get upset about what we don’t have, the less we’ll even notice what we DO have.  We really just need to live life today.  It’s all we really have anyway.

When we can do those things – stay in the moment to experience life and get outside our own heads in order to focus on others occasionally, that’s where we find peace.  It’s not “out there” somewhere. It’s right here inside each of us, and only when we find it there and share it, can it grow.

A quote from Cory Booker of New Jersey was posted on Facebook some time ago.  I’m sharing the parts of the quote that represent what I’m trying to say here:

Before you speak to me about your religion, first show it to me in how you treat other people . . . teach me about it through your compassion for your neighbors . . . I’m not as interested in what you have to tell or sell as in how you choose to live and give.

Bottom line here is, as we go about living our day-to-day existence, it’s important to stay connected to what’s going on around us in the world.  It’s our duty as citizens of this Universe to do what we can to fight for the environment, our beliefs, our healthcare and equity for all, especially those who can’t fight for themselves.  But in this process, don’t forget to just live, love and laugh.  That’s really why we’re here.

Empty Your Cup

There was a college professor who was researching different religions. Part of his research involved going to Japan to speak to a zen master. When he arrived, the zen master greeted him with a ceremonial tea, and began to pour tea into the professor’s cup. He poured and poured. The cup became full, then overflowed into the saucer and finally began to drip onto the floor. The professor said, “Please sir! Stop! My cup is already full!”

The zen master said, “This cup is like your mind. If you keep it so full of your ideas, plans and judgments, then how can I teach you anything? There’s no room for anything new.”

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Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own beliefs that we keep our hearts and minds full of what we think we already know. I have a client who insists on coming in weekly for therapy, but all she really wants to do, is be sure I understand how much SHE knows about her issues. Any attempt I make at suggesting there might be a different way to look at something, she already knows that; or that wouldn’t work for her. I understand that she is not ready to allow herself to be vulnerable enough yet to accept that she is only human like the rest of us. I’m sure it helps her to talk about things, but that’s really not what therapy is about. It’s about accepting ourselves as we are, and then looking at how we can improve the way we relate to the world around us.

I know many others (myself included at times), who spend hours filling up their lives with tasks that need to be done or obsessive thoughts about things and people around them. We do this to avoid feeling what’s going on inside. But if we could find a way to empty that cup a little, we might feel less anxious and more at peace.

These days, there are a lot of “rational” reasons to keep our cup full!  Like getting caught up in our beliefs about what is going on in our government and the world.  My belief is that, as citizens of this country, we not only have the right to be informed and to voice our opinions, it is now (more than ever) our duty. But many have a lot of fear about where it’s going, and we are so divided that it’s painful to have conversations with friends who see things differently.

It’s human nature to want to stay in the comfort zone of only being around and communicating with those who think like we do.  There’s so much news coming at us constantly, and it’s overwhelming to digest it all, sort it out and decide where we stand on any specific issue.  So most of us just listen to (fill up our cup with) the parts that fit our belief system until it is overflowing and tune everything else out.  When we do that, we are limiting ourselves to opportunities to acknowledge that there may be a different reality.  Not a better one, but a different one that at the very least deserves attention.

If we already know it all, or if we are so stuck in our own belief system that we can’t listen to anyone else’s perception, we’ll be like that cup – overflowing, but not really functional.  Sometimes we need to attend to another view to fine-tune or solidify our stance.  At other times, we might actually hear something that makes us stop and reconsider how we’ve been looking at the issue.

Another aspect is that, while together we can make a difference, there is only so much one can do in a single day.  We need balance in our lives in order to remain sane, energized and rational enough to continue on our path.

I know I need space in my life. In some areas, it’s easy for me to see – I need to breathe, and life doesn’t always give me that opportunity. I have to make the time to empty my cup. Other times, I become fearful that if things empty out too much (an example in my case is when my client schedule gets lighter than I’m comfortable with), I won’t have enough (in the case of my schedule – enough money to pay the bills).

But if I take the time to sit with the discomfort of the emptiness, I can look back and remember how every time I have allowed my cup to empty out a bit, it’s been because something even bigger and better was about to come into my life, or I come up with a creative idea about how to handle something I’ve been dealing with.  If I hadn’t made room, those things probably wouldn’t have happened.

So take the risk to empty your cup and see what happens.