Patience in relationships

We need patience in relationships  to really grow and know another person, to grow into our own stories and really listen to the stories of another.  This allows a new story to emerge as the interweaving of two lives.  Calm patience, letting go of any forcing in the now,  as we allow something deeper to come in the future.

To learn to live with the unavoidability of the other is to learn to be patient. Such patience comes not just from our inability to have the other do our will; more profoundly, it arises with the love that the presence of the other can and does create in us. Our loves, like our bodies, signal our death. And such love –  if it is not to be fearful of its loss, a very difficult thing – must be patient. Moreover, patience sustains and strengthens love, for it opens to us the time we need to tell our own story with another’s story intertwined and to tell it together with that other. So told, the story in fact constitutes our love.

Hauerwas and Pinches, Christians Among the Virtues

When we do not have to prove anything

Meditation practice is about dropping into a non-doing mode, where we do not have to be someone or achieve something. In this way it echoes the sense of rest found in close relationships – a place we can simply be ourselves, where we can be weak, without having to prove our worth or impress anyone:

Power and cleverness call forth admiration but also a certain separation, a sense of distance; we are reminded of who we are not, of what we cannot do. On the other hand, sharing weaknesses and needs calls us together into “oneness”. We welcome those who love us into our heart. In this communion, we discover the deepest part of our being: the need to be loved and to have someone who trusts and appreciates us and who cares least of all about our capacity to work or to be clever and interesting. When we discover we are loved in this way, the masks or barriers behind which we hide are dropped; new life flows. We no longer have to prove our worth; we are free to be ourselves. We find a new wholeness, a new inner unity.

Jean Vanier

Love and risk

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that  casket –  safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.

C.S. Lewis, The Fours Loves

Accepting, not problem-solving

This reflex to solve, rescue and fix, removes us from the tenderness at hand. For often, intimacy arises not from any attempt to take the pain away, but from living through together; not from a working out, but from a being with. Trust and closeness deepen from holding and being with, both emotionally and physically.

I’m learning, pain by pain and tension by tension, that after all my strategies, the strength of love lies in receiving and not negotiating; in accepting each other and not problem solving each other; in listening and affirming each other, not trying to change or fix those we love.

Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

Natural kindness

Had some lovely visitors to the garden this morning, as an adult wagtail fed its chicks, probably not long out of the nest. The young ones followed the adult, waiting for food and running across the grass when they saw some being offered. We do not normally get wagtails visiting the garden, even allowing for the fact that they keep a  low profile when nesting. However,  this year we are extremely lucky with the amount of birds we see, especially the blackbirds who are nesting in the trees at the end of the garden. After the thunderstorms of the past two days they love to fill the air with song.

The instinctive tenderness of the adult’s care for the chick was very moving. It seems to me that, when we are not afraid, we have a natural movement of kindness and compassion towards others. It is only when fear enters into the equation that we withdraw and hold back, and our natural desire for caring connection is blocked and gets confused.  At some level, even though we may not be aware of it, this causes a division within, some kind of cognitive dissonance and we deal with this by blaming the other or by justifying ourselves. These stories simply mean that we stay cut off from our deep self and from others, ensuring that we will never be fully happy as most of the energy from that part of our life or our history goes into splitting and withdrawal rather than into kindness.

Mindfulness practice is about cultivating a space in our minds and a harmony with our inner capacity for compassion. This means noticing when the mind is fearful or defensive. When we see this  it is a good practice is to focus on the warmth of our own kindness and direct it first and foremost towards ourselves. We need to have the same tenderness that the mother bird demonstrated this morning towards the hungry,  weak and frightened parts of our own heart. In this way we gradually find strength not to automatically run away from the fear when it arises. We can let go of what we carry within and relax in the more natural condition of love and trust.

The only reason we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes.

Pema Chodron