So. For me, this year ends with the bang (or the whimper) of a breakup. And breaking up literally feels like getting kicked hard in the chest with a combat boot. I’m 44 years old and I never really knew this before. I mean, I’ve gone through breakups (and divorces!) that hurt like hell, but AFTER. Later, like days or weeks or months and/or years later. And “later” pain feels different—it’s not this swift-boot-to-the-chest deal. Immediately during and after previous breakups, I was usually entirely too consumed with actively not feeling, with moving on, with playing ego games with my own mind, to actually experience my feelings as they were arising. I was too busy being tough, keeping my chin up, being chipper and what I thought was strong and street-smart and “realistic.” (I couldn’t have been further from reality if I’d tried). I was busy with being upbeat and positive and new-start-y, every-ending-is-a-new-beginning and silver-lining-ish. Busy writing about it (note taken), philosophizing and “getting the lesson” (again, note taken) instead of feeling. I was busy being right. The degree of being-rightness I’d engaged in, even very recently, is pretty astonishing actually. I’m probably not done with it, either. But I was and am doing my best, like we all are. This new business of sticking with myself, of not escaping, of being willing to just feel what’s there and to stay in a place of non-judgment (surprise!)… hurts. Judgment is just another mistaken attempt to protect ourselves, and without judgment, without escape of any kind, it’s just me and this pain of attachment. Now, not later. And that’s the whole point.

But now I get all the pillows.

When my boyfriend lived here, it seemed like we didn’t have enough bed pillows. I can’t for the life of me figure out now why we just didn’t go buy another couple of pillows, for goodness’ sake, but we didn’t (actually that’s not true—I do know why, I’ll get to that). Every night I’d ball up my one scrawny pillow to try to prop myself up enough to read. Now, I have all the pillows, and I could care less.

My story has been that it’s hard for me to trust my feelings. As a consequence, in romantic relationships, as in most of the entirety of my life, to be honest, I’ve lived in the throes of confusion. Waiting for signs, pawing at the air for clarity. Waiting for the other shoe to drop. Wanting to know. “Is this the right relationship? Is it healthy? Is this feeling because of me, or him?” And then questioning everything after it was over. You know what the truth is? From the first moment of meeting in each new relationship, I was afraid of the consequences of feeling the feelings that were there and knowing what was true for me because of my attachment to what I wanted to see, which = jumping into fantasy = more attachment = investment = even more fear about feeling what’s surfacing. It’s really very simple. I also certainly was attracting my mirrors, only I couldn’t allow myself to fully see that. So, on top of everything else, internal and external blame.

A relationship is spiritual practice, whether we see it that way or not. Like coming to the mat in yoga, we come to relationships the way we come to everything else in our lives, and if we’re not aware that our emotionally charged reactions to  the “other” are only reflections, we repeat and repeat until we allow ourselves to realize that it’s our own misperceptions we’re seeing when we’re angrily staring down our partners. Or, we just continue to delude ourselves until we die. But if and once this shift happens, we stay, we leave, we do what we feel to do. There’s no more fixing the reflection by wiping off the mirror, at least in that situation.

This time, several months into this relationship and after some wake-up calls I could no longer ignore, I was finally willing to stick with myself, to open and to stay with my feelings and not escape into my thoughts. Or, more accurately, not to stay stuck in my thoughts, because I certainly found my attention focused on them a lot. It pretty immediately became clear to me that this new willingness removed all ground from under my feet as far as getting me what I’d thought I’d wanted: the relationship working out. It’s hard for me to describe the level of fear I experienced when I understood that I was about to allow myself to see whatever was really there and to see my plans and my control as what they always were: unreal. The whole thing is an ego sham. But I’ll get to that in a minute too.

Here’s what’s real:

  1. There are never problems with the other person. The only “problem” that ever exists is my resistance to what is. Stay present.
  2. Flying off into thoughts about imagined fantasies of the future creates a false sense of solidity and investment that isn’t only unreal, but impairs my ability to acknowledge the only thing that IS real, which is right here, right now. Stay present.
  3. Old pain will eventually and persistently rise to the surface and cloud my vision. Acknowledge and feel the pain that’s there. Realize it’s of my own making and my own to feel. It’s my gift—the red X that shows me where to dig for the treasure of freedom. Stay present.
  4. If I’m willing to feel what’s there in the here and now and stick with myself, I may not always like it, but I will know what to do. Stay present.

Presently, you may become aware of a theme here.

It’s like Byron Katie says, “when you argue with reality, you lose. But only 100% of the time.” I’ve become an expert at arguing with the reality of my feelings and labeling it “confusion” when I’ve got an agenda.

 How willing are you to stick with yourself through the pain that is the mind and body suffering the illusion of attachment?

In no way was this breakup or relationship “easy.” But wow, did a bunch of my old crap dissolve in the presence of uh, presence. I’m so thankful for this man and this relationship (and thus myself); the first relationship in which I truly lived the reality of seeing myself in another and of allowing my perception of myself to be the misunderstanding, not making it (at least for long) about the other person, who, for heaven’s sake, was only waking me up. Here at the “end,” I know that it’s only my ego that ever had a problem. These are my ego issues, my ego misunderstandings and my ego work. I feel as if I’ve dropped ten ego stories, like a ride at Magic Mountain (get it, ten stories, ten stories? As in a storybook?). I’m stepping off this ride like I have all the other ones that scared me to death until I realized, oh, hey look, it’s just a ride, I can get off. I’m a little shell-shocked, but also a little freer and a lot more open; I’m a little more able to get onto the next ride intentionally, ready for the whee! of it. That said, I don’t expect not to believe I’m going to die on the next one as well. In fact, I expect nothing at all.

But where am I, now? I’m here, and all I feel is love. The chest is love, the boot is love, the kick is love, the pain is love. Welcome home.

Apparently this breakup inspired a dream I had last night about my dear second husband. We were sitting in a public area, and he was on his cell, talking with (I’d assumed) his mother. I glanced at him and, seeing his eyes well up with tears as he listened to her words, I touched his face, mouthing, “I love you.” I got up to change my clothes in the restroom to get ready for work, which took longer than I expected. Hurrying back to the booth where we’d been sitting, I hoped fervently he hadn’t had to leave to catch his flight. Seeing he was still there, I felt relief and happiness. He’d concluded his phone conversation. “What did your mom say?” I asked. He shook his head, “it was her,” indicating his current girlfriend. Jolt. He’s happy, I realized. She loves him and he loves her. He doesn’t need or want me in his life, and it’s okay. I suddenly understood that my old pain was only mine. He’s okay, it’s only me who’s been holding onto an old story, who’s been suffering over it for years. I’m okay. It was ME who needed me, ME who’d abandoned myself in the relationship. From the first moment. Aha. Not that that makes staying or leaving right or wrong, and whether or not he’s actually happy in his current relationship (and not just in my dream), is none of my beeswax. But he is loved; he IS love, and so am I. It is this journey we’re making here. It’s for each of us to remember that for ourselves. This current relationship has been a drop down into this remembering for me.

In any case, I get all the pillows now. Thanks to this brave person who was my boyfriend (he had to be brave to be with me… ayiyiyi), and our relationship, which, when it ended, knocked the breath out of me (is still knocking the breath out of me), I am so powerfully reminded that there is no lack of pillows or anything else, no “not enoughness,” no homelessness. I AM home. Lack, not enoughness and homelessness are purely my unwillingness to stick with myself. They are creations of the mind and manifestations of self-abandonment—something I’ve been mistaken about for years (I’m not saying that lack or homelessness doesn’t exist in form).

This pain in my chest is what is. And it’s ok. It’s my home right now. I’m not afraid to sit down and have tea with this pain, it’s welcome to stay; I’m not going anywhere and in reality, I don’t have a choice. As long as I’m here, I’ve got an ego, and it’s got some concerns. It thinks its game is enlightenment, but doesn’t yet understand that the ego and enlightenment will not only never intersect, but that neither actually exists. But for now, my apartment is full of the ghost of this man in my life. When he moved out, the pain of my attachment to him, to us, moved in. That’s just what is at the moment, and it’s welcome to share the pillows. This pain, like all pain, is only a misunderstanding by the ego, but it must be embraced for that to be consciously realized and lived. I’m very happy to hug it for as long as it’s here.

Love is something we can’t help but be; it’s all there is. But our resistance to what is, our unwillingness to stick with ourselves, to acknowledge, meet face-to-face and feel what’s there (which is also love, but born of misinterpretation and expressed in a twisted way), can really keep us out of conscious awareness of that fact. Which is, my friends, the only fact. You ready for this? There is so much to unlearn, but it’s all right here now, and we have the perfect teachers appear in every moment. Every now is a new day, a new year, a new life. Dissolve into love. LiveLove&BU, my darlings. Happy New Year. I’ll be here, feeling everything.

 

Here’s the way of it via flow-chart: The Rules of the Game

It’s very simple and there is one step:

1. Be the knowing and act 

But it’s not easy. Because we’ve created egos that don’t exist but who we believe that we are, and they’ve forgotten who we truly are and learned a lot of BS, emotions will arise, and we’ll attribute them to others and to circumstances.  When this happens, here’s how to play:

1. Acknowledge the emotions

2. See the reflection

4. Embrace the emotions

5. Open to the knowing insight

6. Be the knowing and act

 

Image credit nasa.gov