15 January 2009

Not A Question of Losing

A couple of weeks ago I was working really hard on a blog post about relationship. I was in a weird place with almost all of the people closest to me and in some annoying "fresh hell" with enough acquaintances to make relationship a priority topic in my private thoughts.

I worked on it for over a week. This is unusual for me. Usually I just sit down and "say" whatever comes to mind, in the exact words that it comes to mind and click "publish." Anything more than that feels self-conscious and persnickety to me. I'm not Arianna Huffington. This is just one colored girl making casual commentary on her life.

But with so many social collisions in such quick succession my emotions were swirling. It's hard to write extemporaneously when your head is spinning. The images I found to decorate the text were pretty good-- like this first one by artist Emma Hack.

But my words were inadequate to describe my emotional state or define the philosophical circles I was pacing mentally.

In the middle of the second week, I found an interview with Kittisaro and Thanissara in the January 2009 issue of The Sun.

(Follow the link to read an excerpt from the interview.)

These two left lives as a Buddhist monastics to marry each other. The interview is entitled "A Mindful Marriage: Kittisaro and Thanissara on Celibacy, Sex, and Lasting Love" but it is essentially a discussion of mindful relationship. This piece will join the Adrienne Rich essay on honorable relationships and my post on this blog entitled "Tribe Talk 2" on a list of "things to read to understand what Alex wants from relationship."

I'm not looking for easy. Neither am I looking for "hard." I'm looking for staying power
kindness honesty willingness. A capacity for critical self-reflection, or at least sufficient humility and intelligence to admit there is value in critical self-reflection even in those moments when we are incapable of doing it.

I still have no wisdom around the recent social conflicts in my life, but what surfaces as I re-read the interview with Kittisaro and Thanissara is this: The work of living with integrity, consciously evolving, surrendering to Love goes on and on. Every day -- or at least as often as we can muster effort. It's a full-time job. As long as there's a next breath to take, there's a next lesson to learn about living.

Sometimes we forget that relationship isn't a separate piece of work from our individual progress toward wholeness. Even for monks and nuns, people whose level of devotion to spiritual work far exceeds our lay commitment, spiritual growth in isolation is incomplete. It needs the push and pull, the tension and release of relating to other humans.

A central theme as I reflect on recent conflicts: what is possible in a relationship between people of "unequal" psychospiritual maturity? If A and B have a difference of opinion and B's objective is to "win" while A seeks to understand... If L believes love means "never leaving my side" and "never criticizing me" and M has a less restrictive understanding....

Once these discrepancies present, what is the wise or proper or loving course of action?

I still don't know. But I understand that for most of the conflicts I've experienced in the last month, resolution will not be possible because the conflicts result not from mere difference of opinion, but differences in what we believe it takes and what it means to be a "good person." And differences in how we talk and think about being and becoming. Differences in how we talk about thinking.....and how we think about talking.

And the best I can come up with so far, is to let them, as well as the conflict, go.

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