CONNECTION

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Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about communication, expression and connection.  I’ve been feeling like there are so many superficial and artificial conversations–so many people talking with their heads instead of their hearts;  speaking from fear rather than from love.   My biggest frustration is–how do I express myself?  How do I say what is really in my heart?  How do I have meaningful conversations.  How do I connect with other people?  How do I deepen my relationships?  How do I relate emotionally?

I think of how many times I find myself falling into surface conversations.  We seem to have so many automatic questions and responses–How are you? (Good.) / How was your day?  (It was pretty good.) / How’s the weather?  (Fine.) / What are you doing this weekend? /  How’s your job going? /  Do you have any vacation plans? / What have you been up to?–the list goes on; most of them focusing on what we are ‘doing’.

Of course these kinds of questions are fine with acquaintances and coworkers and they can be useful conversation starters with family, friends, spouses or partners but what about the rest of the conversations we are having in our day to day lives.  How many of them really leave us feeling fulfilled, connected?  How many of them leave us with a sense that we have a better understanding of that person and that we might be better understood? Why don’t we start asking better questions?  Why don’t we start giving honest, whole-hearted responses?

Another problem with most of our conversations is that we often end up talking about ourselves–our problems and our struggles; our views, our accomplishments and our future plans.  Sometimes what the other person said is hardly heard at all;  or the words are heard but we don’t read between the lines to try and understand what was actually being conveyed.  Me, me, me!!  Many of us just want to unload or vent to relieve our stress.  How often do we really make the effort to really LISTEN to people and to see things from their point of view?!

Finally, there’s the big, old ego always getting in the way.  It is constantly holding up that mask of protection.  We tread carefully in attempt to avoid our fears.  Underneath it all, I believe we all want to share our true thoughts and feelings–our true selves–but there are so many risks in conversations; especially those conversations with people with love.  And ironically, the closer we get to someone, the harder it can be to open up and be real.

One of my greatest fears is saying the wrong thing–What if I embarrass myself?  What if I look stupid or incompetent?  What if I offend the other person or hurt their feelings?  My other huge fear is rejection–What if the person disagrees or disapproves of what I say?  What if the person gets angry and doesn’t like me anymore?  What if the person doesn’t like the Donna I show?

I think a few keys to good conversation are: having a clear intention, sharing your feelings, being totally present and full acceptance of yourself and the other person/people.

When we are not being clear about our intention, the message we send can be misconstrued.  For example, you come home from a stressful day at work and you just want your partner to listen and be empathetic.  But because this wasn’t stated, your partner ends up thinking you are unhappy with your job and gives you advice—this leaves you feeling disappointed and more stressed out than before.

If you are in a bad mood and thinking negative thoughts and your coworker is telling you how tired she is, your response is likely to seem uncaring and aloof.  If you are attempting to express gratitude but you have some underlying resentments toward that person, you words will probably fall flat.  It’s important that your words match the thoughts in your head—mean what you say and say what you mean!

Sharing what you are feeling or what you need also helps to make sure your message is transmitted clearly. So many feelings are left unsaid, leaving the listener guessing at what you’re really trying to say.  People are not mind readers—we must be precise and specific about what we expect.  I think a lot of misunderstandings could be avoided if we were simply open and honest with our feelings and our needs.

Not being present leads to many problems; all of them based in fear:  Desperately trying to control the conversation so we can talk about things we are comfortable with or interested in.  Thinking about what to say next and miss out on what the other person is saying.  Judging and rejecting what the person is saying before they even have a chance to complete their sentence because we are scared of not being ‘right’.

Other common ego-centred pitfalls include:  Making an effort to tell what we know, voice our opinions or come up with witty stories in order to appear smart, interesting or funny.  Giving unsolicited advice so we feel helpful and wise.  Going on and on about our own routines, activities or accomplishments just so we seem busy and successful.  Sharing our life dramas to gain attention or trying to get sympathy by describing our hardships and heartaches in great detail.

We are so scared of feeling inferior, so terrified of being ‘wrong’, so horrified that we might appear dull or stupid or lazy. Basically, we fear that we won’t be able to connect; that we will be alone. Yet the irony is that all of these tactics we use to try to ‘connect’ keep us from the true connection we crave! If we only left our egos behind for a while, we would start to develop deeper and more meaningful connections with people.

Finally, what I have discovered as I have been writing this, is the essential role of acceptance. When we reject parts of ourselves, we can’t express ourselves as an integrated and whole person.  We end up holding back in fear of being completely seen.  This holding back is what has caused me to feel detached and unsatisfied.  The thing is, it’s almost impossible to connect when you are afraid or anxious.  What I am now realizing is the importance of having the courage to be yourself.  Feeling comfortable in your own skin allows you to relax and let others in.  It makes it easier to see others with accuracy as well.

When we reject others, verbally or mentally, we fail to let them be themselves.  Something miraculous happens when we let a person be the unique individual he/she is.  When we stop controlling, judging and rejecting and simply observe that person as he is and listen to what he saying, deep connection can occur.  Everyone has something to offer us, something to teach us and all we need to do is open our hearts, look him in the eyes and feel acceptance for this flawed and beautiful human being. He may have different fears, different ideas and a different perspective on the world but he is just like YOU!

My conclusion is this—it is only when you accept yourself that you can truly SPEAK and it is only when you accept others that you can truly LISTEN.

 

 

 

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LOVE

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What is love?  That is the big question I have been asking myself lately.  I see so much fear in myself and in other people around me.  How can the words ‘I love you’ have any meaning when there is so much fear?  Love and fear cannot coexist.  It is impossible.

When we hear the word LOVE, most of us think of love between two people.  We sometimes think of love between family members or love between friends but mostly we think of romantic love.  We imagine that love is a magical force that only exists out there, in the space between people.  We think that love is something that we need to get.  But the truth is that love is inside each one of us.  We ARE love.  We only need to look inside to find it.  We only need to be present to see that love is in us and in everyone and everything around us.

So why are so few people really experiencing LOVE?  Unfortunately, the majority of people have built up layers and layers of protection which actually blocks out love like sunscreen blocks out UVA/UVB rays!  Why in the world do we do this?!  It seems so absurd!  Love, just like the sun, is natural and wonderful and beautiful.  I love this quote from Rumi:

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

From the time we are born, we begin to erect these walls.  We fear rejection so perhaps we create a people-pleasing personality to feel safer.  We fear being betrayed so maybe we label ourselves as unlovable so we don’t have to risk being hurt.  We fear being abandoned so perhaps we make ourselves appear weak and needy so people won’t leave us.  We fear letting go so maybe we develop the persona of someone who is organized and always in control.

And as we grow up, other people give us labels.  We are told we are tough or sensitive, capable or incompetent, funny or serious, kind or mean.  We get messages and we interpret them according to what we already believe about ourselves.  By the time we get to be adults, we are nothing more than a bundle of labels, all stuck together.  And if you start pulling off one labels, the others start to come off, too.  This is what we are really afraid of–the unravelling of the self;  the destruction of the ego.  So we continue to put up the barriers which we mistakenly think will keep us safe and secure and free from pain.

We are all so afraid!  There’s all of this fear!  We think we are protecting ourselves but we are really putting up barriers–walls that keep love from flowing freely through us.

It seems to me that a lot of the love in this world has conditions and expectations attached to it; romantic love, in particular.  When I say– ‘I love you’– what does it really mean?

I love you when I’m in a good mood.  I love you when you’re in a good mood.  I love you when you are living up to my expectations.  I love you when you do what I want you to do and say what I want you to say.  I love you as long as you are kind and affectionate towards me.  I love you as long as you are being positive and not angry.  (because negativity and anger scare me)  I love you as long as you show love towards me.  I love you if you are strong.  (I’d rather not see your weakness)  I love you if you are calm and reasonable. (I don’t want to see your real emotions which may be totally irrational)  I love you when you don’t take more than you give. (it has to be fair)  I love you when you make me feel special and important. (this is your job)  I love you when you are independent.  I love you when you respect my time and space.  (I don’t want to need you too much and I don’t want you to need me too much either)  I love you if you have the same beliefs as me.  I love you if you agree with me. (I don’t want to face the reality that we are two separate and unique beings)

This is not love!!!  This is merely the ego trying to satisfy itself!  This is the ego grasping for pleasure at every turn and avoiding pain at all costs.  Our fearful ego is driving what we call ‘love’.  We don’t really want to see the our partner as they are–an imperfect, complete and free individual because that would actually be terrifying!!  That would mean seeing our partner’s flaws and having to admit our own.  That would mean we would have to give up on controlling our partner and start taking real responsibility for our own emotions and actions.  That would mean our partner could up and leave us (or die) at any moment.

And even more frightening is the thought that our lover could really see us!  We are so afraid of being exposed–of being SEEN!  Who would love me if they saw all the ugly bits?  So we hide and hide and hide.  And what’s worse is we end up projecting our own fears onto our partner.  Our lack of self-acceptance and self-responsibility is conveniently thrown onto other. We think, if he were just more …., he would be perfect.  If only he …..more, then our relationship would be so perfect!

Instead of focusing on ourselves we look outside, we look at the person closest to us to project all of our fears and ugliness onto.  This helps keep us ‘safe’.  We can stay in denial, believing that all the relationship issues are the other’s fault;  we are not to blame.  And we keep the other person at arms length, never showing our vulnerability, so they never get to see who we really are.  To keep ourselves distracted, we start looking at our partner’s personality and noticing all the flaws.  What once attracted us, is now a turn off.  We forget what we were drawn to in the first place–his strength, stability, intelligence; her energy, playfulness, and fun-loving nature.

But even these are just words.  Words that we use to describe someone’s personality.  Using these words makes our partner seem predictable, unchangeable…KNOWABLE.  We love attaching labels to people;  we love categorizing and organizing.

People cannot be sorted and put into boxes.  We are all unique individuals.  There has never been anyone like us before and there never will be another being like us in all of existence.  It is our essence that makes us special.   Our essence, or soul, is something that words cannot describe.  It is something mysterious, untouchable, unknowable.

Our ego, our false self, has built walls, thinking they will ensure our sense of safety, comfort, importance, superiority but these walls have only made a cage–a prison where love can neither come in nor go out.  Walls keep us separate, keep us fearful.  The paradox is that even though we are in separate bodies with completely different thoughts, emotions and experiences, we are all from the same energy source;  we are all ONE.

The truth is that we are not mere bodies or personalities.  We are not our thoughts and emotions.  This is an illusion.  Our true self is our essence.  Fear comes from the created ego-self, which is always concerned with the past or the future.  Love comes from the soul.  Love is NOW.

You can only experience love when you are living in the present, with your whole being and your whole heart and when you fully accept yourself and others and say ‘YES!!!’ to life.  Stop fearing, stop resisting, stop living in your self-made prison and be free!!  Open yourself to love and all of its possibilities.  Today, knock down a wall, wake up to the moment and say ‘YES!’