This is a tribute to my aunt. Tante Ria. She died last Monday. Peacefully. Trusting that she would enter Heavenly Paradise, and be welcomed in the house of her Father.
I am flying out today to attend her funeral.
I feel a deep sense of sadness and loss.
And more deeply than that, of gratitude and appreciation.
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She offered a warm, welcome home every Summer holiday for my sister and me. She organized fun events, exuberant barbecues (and even now, being a vegan, I enjoy thinking of those gatherings), and special activities. I always had such a sense of love, acceptance, belonging, appreciation, and delight, whenever I visited her house, at a time when I didn’t experience much of that in many other places.
She never talked about my troubles. She never asked about my pain. She just offered love and acceptance.
Teyber and McClure call that a restorative emotional experience. Through tante Ria I knew that love, acceptance, belonging, understanding, and joy were possible. Also for me.
We cannot always prevent children from feeling pain, hurt, loneliness. We can’t always repair the damage done by neglect, criticism, and ignorance. But we can always offer our open heart, welcoming hands, and radiant smile to let a child know how delighted we are that they are in our world.
Tante Ria, thank you, for inspiring me to bring out those qualities in myself for all the children and grown-ups in my life.
I love you.
Let’s talk about sex.
“Sexual activity motivated by craving always harms myself as well as others”. “Sexual desire is not love”. “Running after wealth, fame, power and sensual pleasures can bring much suffering and despair.”
Thich Nhat Hanh’s 5 Mindfulness Trainings. I recite them every day.
Hum, maybe let’s not talk about sex. Sex is a lot about craving, desire, and pure pleasure, so how can it be in alignment with any Buddhist teaching on freeing oneself of craving and attachment?
For the longest time I thought that Buddhist sex is loving, tender, and compassionate, sure, but none of the hot, steaming, erotic stuff that I sometimes dream of.
We read this story this Yom Kippur: Maggid of Zlotchov was asked how Abraham could have kept the laws, if they had not been given yet? His answer was: “All that is needful,” he said, “is to love G*d. If you are about to do something and you think it might lessen your love, then you will know it is sin. If you are about to do something and think it will increase your love, you will know that your will is in keeping with the will of G*d. That is what Abraham did.” I think any Buddhist practitioner would agree that that is what the Buddhist teachings our all about: to relieve suffering, and contribute to freedom, love, and peace.
So how is having hot, erotic, wall-socket sex in alignment with these teachings?
I think one of the greatest acts of courage -the word is grounded in the French words for heart and love: “coeur”- is to be willing to be vulnerable and show up with all our thoughts, feelings, and needs, even those we judge as dark, non-mindful, and despicable. When we are willing to stand our fear and shame, tremble in our vulnerability, and have the courage to risk rejection and ridicule, we are willing to create a sense of intimacy that allows our love to be based in our true self. We share our desires and longings, because we want to be close to our loved one and be known for who we are. We are willing to give ourselves in the rawness of our craving, because we know there is no true love, without true understanding. When we offer our sexual desires and fantasies as precious expressions of who we are, with no demand energy, nor aversion, just openly, freely, and maybe even playfully, they bring more love in the world. They are a vote of confidence and trust in our partner, and they deepen our intimacy.
That is certainly in alignment with Abraham’s law. I guess with Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings too. So put on your sexy outfit and get it going!
You want help to express your sexual desires more freely? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary discovery session.
Thank you Doyle Banks, for inspiring me to write about sex!
Usually, I would say that ‘undermined’ is a quasi-feeling. A feeling mixed in with a thought: someone is doing something that I interpret as undermining. If my clients tell me they feel undermined, I ask them how they feel when they have that thought. Maybe sad? Scared? Angry? And what’s the need underneath that thought? Maybe respect, support, acceptance?
Today’s situation is an exception to the rule. I don’t think I am undermined, I don’t feel I am undermined, I KNOW I am undermined. It is a fact, an observation. If you were a fly on the wall registering everything that was said and done, your summary of what you observed would be ‘yep, hum, undermining’. Everyone else in the room would confirm that too, by the way. I don’t want to be undermined, certainly not by a colleague in the class I facilitate.
So, it’s time to address this with him. I am crystal clear about it. I am right, and he is wrong. Even better yet, I am the victim, and he is the perpetrator. Well, even better than that: I am innocent and pure, he is vile and mean.
I feel so good with my level of self-righteousness. It is a great start for an open conversation, where he will acknowledge how much he wronged me and where we will both agree that our problems are his fault.
I do hear a voice in my head reminding me of my commitment to loving-speech and deep listening, of my dedication to include all needs. Well. I always listen to that voice, and today is not the time.
Today is an exception. Today is an urgent matter of proofing myself right. Today I am ready to tell the TRUTH. I am ready to receive hundreds of apologies, regrets and amendments and all the other yummy stuff life is made of.
I start off well, in my usual accusatory way. But the reminder of my commitment gets too loud. It is as if Thich Nhat Hanh stands next to me. Firm and kind: “There is no pride in love”.
I can’t help it, but all these years of Nonviolent Communication training and mindfulness practice are finally catching up with me. I have to listen and include his needs. I have to be honest and accept my failures on the path of loving-kindness.
Instead of going on a rant, I realize I only want connection based on understanding. I want to open my heart to his feelings and needs. I want to lean into this uncomfortable place of vulnerability and ask what he wants.
We talk for more than three hours. We are able to hold all needs. And we find solutions that work for everyone.
The next class was a delightful experience of collaboration, respect and support. Thank you, dear friend, for walking the path of compassionate communication with me.
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The kids want someone else to babysit them tonight. Not forever, just this once. “She’s more fun, because she plays games with us.” Ouch. Well, honestly: ouch, ouch, ouch. I’ve been with them for so long. I try so hard to support everyone’s needs. I care about them. And I want acceptance and appreciation for all of that.
It hurts. It just hurts.
I think of my ex-husband. I told him five years ago that I wanted to leave him for someone else. We had been together for 14 years. He had supported me through some of the most difficult periods of my life. He was unconditional in his acceptance, always supportive, and deeply loving. I can only imagine how devastated he might have felt when I told him, “I’m leaving. I found someone more fun to be with.”
And yet, he has never stopped accepting me, supporting me and my choices, and, I think, loving me. I experience him as the epitome of unconditional, selfless love.
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And now, as I feel this hurt, I feel some of that too. I do feel the pain of what I perceive as rejection, ànd I also feel a love that is way bigger than me. It is a love that is personal and non-personal at the same time. It is love for for the kids, love for myself. It is a quality of love with no object, no subject. It has nothing to do with what’s done, what’s said. It’s not even about who is. It is love for love’s sake. It is not my love, it is a love that is universal and timeless. It flows through me, it touches me, the only ‘I’ in this love is that I’m the vessel for it.
I feel relieved. Apparently I can feel unconditional love, at the same time that I feel pain, loneliness, sadness.
This must be my true nature. Some call it basic goodness. Some call it the Christ-essence. I call it Love.
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Let me just cry a little. Being reminded of the loss and love of my cat Toulouse. Watching my nanny kids and their friend pour their soul out as they sing and dance to “Let It Go”, so sincerely, so seriously. Receiving a birthday card and present from my beloved friend, who moved to Ohio and offers to pay half the fare when I come to visit. All these small acts of great love.
Nothing substantial enough to be remembered hundred years from now. Nothing powerful enough to create world peace. And all essential to make life more wonderful.
To love and be loved.
That’s all there really is to life.
As a child, born from parents who lived through the horrors of World War II, I grappled how it was possible that people committed the most horrendous of crimes, and walked away with it. No amends, no retribution, no consequences.
The only thing I could think of that supported my need for restoration and responsibility, was that Hitler and his consorts had punished themselves by taking the actions they took.
To live in a world with that much fear, hatred and anger, is to not live at all. To never relax into this moment, is cutting yourself off the opportunity to love life. To not have support to meet your needs in ways that include those of others too, must be utterly lonely.
The only choice we can make in each moment is to open up to the raw beauty of being alive, to try to transform suffering, to bring joy, love, and harmony, or to shut down and close off.
To love and be loved. That’s all there is to human life.
You want help opening up to the beauty of being alive, of being you? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session. I would be delighted to talk with you to see if and how I can help.