Jeff’s Unconsummated Love

The clouds were low and dark, heavy really, you might say, as if hiding something with evil intentions. Jeff was walking briskly a late fall afternoon, somewhat anxious, glancing at the sky furtively and often. From the outside, it might have appeared as though he felt stalked. He accelerated his pace, leaving traces of steam with each exhale, vaguely regular, which may have been SOS smoke signals if you knew Morse code.

Jeff had been in the military. He never liked talking about it. He lost too many friends and people under his command. Not that he felt guilty. He had done his best, more than his best. He was just tired of explaining. He was tired that he’d had to be responsible for men and women who would end up dying no matter what he did. He carried each and every one in his heart. He loved them all. He vowed to never ever forget anyone, not by talking about them, but by remembering them, as if in subtle forms of prayers, keeping them alive in his thoughts. He remembered their names, their nicknames, and what made them who they were, little quirks or a particular sense of humor, and sometimes their bouts of anger or fear that made them oh! so human.

A few more steps and Jeff entered the café he frequented almost daily, remaining self-absorbed, at least to an outsider. He did not need to look around to know who was new at the tables. Years of duty gives one that extra sense; the discernment between the familiar and the not so familiar. Hence, he noticed, without looking, a young woman between two men, fidgeting with a straw. The men were unfamiliar. The people at the other tables and the café staff were all familiar. The young woman fell somewhere in between. But why did she feel familiar? He knew he’d never met her. He felt in his chest a yearning pain, and a dull cramp in his stomach. He asked for his usual to Alex, the barista.

All the tables were busy and yet Jeff sat at his table. Skip was there. Gray haired man, with a mustache, steal eyes, yet a strange softness in them, or was it a resignation? He stood up and nodded briefly at Jeff before going to sit at a table next to the young woman.

“Do you mind?” Skip asked the women who was busy typing on her laptop at that table.

“Be my guest!” she said. Jazz had curly blond dyed hair with gray roots. She wore a dark jacket over a pale green blouse. Her makeup was precise, if only a tad overdone.

“Writing your memoir?” Skip asked.

“Some people like to draw,” she said out loud, then she waited a little longer than expected. Skip thought she was done, turned to the table next to his and looked at the young woman, who also looked at him. The two men around her remained engaged in conversation.

“I like to eavesdrop, and write what I hear,” continued Jazz, so everyone could hear. And she laughed indicating it was a joke, or perhaps it was her natural sarcasm. Skip stopped looking at the young woman to answer the older woman, but she was deep into her writing. So he looked back at the young woman and smiled, and she smiled too, as a response to what Jazz had just said.

“First time here?” he asked the young woman.

“You know damn well it is!” interrupted Jazz loudly, “Is that why you sat here, to flirt with her?”

Skip’s face flushed. He smiled at the young woman, “You were saying?” he said quietly, ignoring the older woman’s words and tone.

“My mother needs home care,” she said, “I came back to help her.”

“You’re… from here?”

“Yes, but my dad took me away when I was five and…”

“Drew?… Drew Johnston?”

“Yea… Yes! That’s me!” she said.

Everyone knew Drew’s story. Her mother Diana went through a terrible divorce some twenty years earlier and Robert Johnston kidnapped their daughter and disappeared. Diana was irate and desperate.

“Were you in touch with your mother all along?”

“Not right away. It wasn’t easy…”

Jeff knew the story very well because Diana had paid him to find Drew. Diana was Tracey’s daughter who died under his watch. He felt it was his duty to help one of his beloved soldiers’ family member. He’d found Drew almost immediately, about 1,200 miles away. He was ready to kidnap her to bring her back to her mom. But he overheard a conversation between father and daughter that changed his mind. Robert had offered Drew a chance to choose between him and her mother because he did not want to cause her any pain. He had tears in his eyes when he said, “If you choose your mom, I may not see you again until you’re 16 or 18. It’s up to you!” Drew wanted to stay with him.

That day, duty, which came from his mindset, and his heart were in conflict for the first time. His wish to respect a young person’s free will prevailed. It tore him up inside. He went back to Diana and told her the truth. She yelled at him and swore she’d never want to see him again. He knew the feeling of an angry woman. “Gertrude,” he thought.

Drew continued, “When I was 16, he told me he was grateful that he had me and he could not hold a grudge against mom because he would not have had me without her. So, he put the two of us in touch. I called her. She cried on the phone. But I could not forgive her as easily as dad could. I was scared of her. So I accepted to talk with her on the phone but I did not want to see her in person. Not yet. But then she became ill, so I came. I came with body guards. She pointed to the two men around her with her face.”

Drew did not look anything like Diana. Nor did she look anything like Tracey. “So why does she look familiar?” Jeff wondered. He instinctively did not look directly at her as if to protect himself. Not just that she might know who he was while he did not yet know who she was. But if she came with ill intentions, to look at her would open the door for an interaction that would put him at a disadvantage.

Suddenly, she was standing at his table, looking straight at him. Her eyes wide. A faint smile. “I hope you enjoyed your last cup of coffee,” she said.

“Gertrude!” he thought, “Of course! She reminds me of Gertrude who swore she’d have me killed when I visited her on her death bed.”

“You’re not Drew,” Jeff said, “If you only knew the truth… you may not have carried out the last wish of your great grandmother.”

She sat down. “Tell me!”

“It’s too late now… don’t you think? The way you drew out that story of yours…”

“We can call for an ambulance!”

“Your great grandmother, Gertrude, wanted to sleep with me and I said no. Not many refuse such offers in the military. You can imagine, she felt deeply insulted. She asked me if I was engaged. I said I was. She asked me who it was, if she could see a picture. I said I did not have one. So she thought I was lying. She thought I was rejecting her. In truth, I did have a picture, here it is…” And Jeff showed the young woman an old wrinkled black and white photo of a young female soldier and him, with the name Natalie and the year 1959 hand written on the back. Jeff continued, “But Natalie did not see me that way and I did not wish to bring more discomfort between us by drawing attention to my love for her publicly. I was deeply committed, heart and mind, and I could not get myself to be with any other woman.”

Jeff fell off his chair. The young woman came to her knees by him and called for someone to call 911.

“It’s okay,” Jeff whispered, “It’s a good way to go, by the side of the great granddaughter of a woman who once wanted me. No regrets.” Jeff took his last breath, a peaceful one.

The medics came in. The clouds had lifted outside. It was getting dark and the sky reflected orange and purple colors. Inside the café, everyone had gathered around Jeff. The medics took control. People made a circle around them to let the process happen. People had made a circle but remained quiet. There was not much to share. Many people knew Jeff, but few had talked with him.

Distance Between Perceived Self and Enlightened Self

Interesting self-discovery class I led Tuesday night. We first went on a journey to meet our enlightened self and bathe in its light and wisdom. I have taken that journey several times before with my students. This time, I felt such a deeper peace than before after that journey. There was a richness in the silence I came back with. I allowed that silence to permeate our experience for some time. But the journey was not complete yet.

We were led to the next step which was to ask what makes up the difference between who we think we are today and our enlightened self, what makes up that distance? It turns out it is not “because we still have lessons to learn.” It is not that “we are not whole yet.” Instead, the distance we perceive is only made up of resistance to truly being our enlightened self.

Together we allowed ourselves to feel the distance we felt and make peace with it and try and find a few words to describe it in the process of making peace with it.

We already are enlightened, we are just perceiving ourselves separate. “Healing” is simply learning to accept what we already are. “Attracting what we want” is simply learning to accept what we already are and already have. The Law of Attraction becomes simply releasing the resistance to already having and being.

This explains to me what Yogi Bhajan, my yoga teacher, said (I paraphrase): “You can work hard and go after what you want or you can just be you and let everything you need come to you.”

What I See isn’t as Real as I Think

To the Universe,

Ok I understand. Please wait while I reprogram my brain worldview as I did not realize that the previous programming which I thought was realistic, was perceived to be negative thinking by you.

I thought I was being realistic by looking at life as it happens: a war here and famine there, global warming and rainforest destruction, and also wonderful people working toward healing all that.

Although there is some truth to this realistic worldview…. I understand that what I see currently in the world around me is a combination of an old paradigm still running its course blended with a new paradigm which is only in bud form. It is like watching a movie playing the old worldview that has not finished running its course, while the current paradigm is not fully hitting the screen yet. So “being realistic” is being behind in time from what is really taking roots in the world today. “Being realistic” is believing what is already gone because what really is is not completely perceptible yet.

It is not that we should ignore what we see, but it is not as real as it appears. It may just be the last breath of something dying…. so we may be giving it more power than it really has and thereby keeping it alive instead of simply letting it go.

That is why dreaming what I really want is infinitely more real than what appears to be!

Spiritual Journey: Worldview, God and Healing

Excerpt from forthcoming book:
Psychotherapy and Healing
Aligning Mind, Body, and Soul with Self-Love, Mindfulness and Mindlessness

Our worldview is not how the Universe/Life really works, it is our best approximation to it. The conflict between our worldview and the way the Universe really works is what we have to heal in order to find the happiness we seek.

There is a parallel between this and how we view God. I would say that our concept of God is to our worldview what God is to how the Universe really works. The first one is subjective, the second objective. So learning/seeking to live according to how the Universe really works, instead of remaining in our own worldview, is healing our relationship with our concept of God.

THE REBEL AND BEAUTY: Thinking versus Appreciating

I was born a thinker, not a doer. I loved my mind. It was safe there. Looking at the outside world. Noticing what needed to be better. I found a deep rebel in me. I loved my rebel. It had critical thinking. It saw things differently. My rebel gave me a purpose in life. To share my discoveries, what I found healing, to infuse the mainstream with my rebellious ideas… I thought all was well…

Now I am discovering a new part of me that is asking my attention. A part that just wants to appreciate people and everything, a part that is in awe of every moment, of a little bug or a little flower, of a little child, of an older person, of the spark in someone’s eyes… That part is growing in me and, as it is growing, the rebel becomes less important. The rebel no longer gives me a purpose… I am less here to help change the world, and more here to appreciate what is… every person in his/her darkest moment, not just when everything is great, to see beauty where I could not see it before… to connect where I could not connect before because my rebel overrode my ability to see that I did not have to rush, that I could take the time to breathe, to smile, to forget I had a purpose… I am losing my seriousness…

SELF-LOVE AND ABUNDANCE

Excerpt from forthcoming book:
Psychotherapy and Healing
Aligning Body, Mind and Soul with Self-Love, Mindfulness and Mindlessness

What is self-love? The best way to know if I grasp something is if I can teach it to someone else. It took me a while to understand how to do that with self-love. The first time I became aware of the concept of self-love was when a friend asked me to look into a mirror and tell myself: “I love you!” At the time, it felt extremely uncomfortable and trite. I did not feel tears or sadness. I did not feel that I did not love myself and needed to learn something. I was blind to what I was missing. I had a disconnect with self-love. But I knew how to love others. So I taught by example; by showing how I love the person who wanted to learn self-love from me. But it wasn’t enough because then people relied on me to feel loved, but not on themselves. I needed to use words to pass it on.

The second time I was hit by the concept of self-love was at a time when very little money was coming into my life. That led to a divorce, foreclosure and bankruptcy and not being able to live close to my son. I felt unsupported and scared and terribly lonely. I did not trust anything or anyone. I kept trying to create businesses without success. Not knowing where to turn for help, I did a labyrinth walk trying to get some clarity about my financial affairs. Before the walk the facilitator had us draw a card at random. Each card had a different word on it. We were to think deeply about what we wished an answer to and draw a card. The card I drew had the word LOVE on it. I did not understand. I needed money. I needed to be able to afford a roof over my head and pay for food and child support. I was crying for help inside. I did not know where to turn. And this is all the universe could give me, a card with the word LOVE on it?

Self-love is about learning to be true to our self no matter what others might say, or what others’ reactions might be. Self-love is about risking to tell one’s truth in a relationship even if it means potentially feeling or being rejected. Learning about self-love requires time alone outside of social pressures to learn what is natural and spontaneous to us, and also to learn what it is like to live with our self – with our mind and thoughts, and with our body – to learn to love who we are because no one else is there to love us. Self-love is learning to turn loneliness (fear) into aloneness (contentment).

Self-love can only happen if we let go completely of the need to be loved by others. That need is neediness and puts people off. They may shy away from us as a result. And that need limits love, consciously or unconsciously, to receiving only love in the way that we think we want, not in all its abundance and exuberant fragrances. Without self-love we control and constrict the way Life flows in us. We create lack and misery. By letting go of that need, we free others to love us, in their own ways, without expectations on how that should look like. In turn, we allow the world to give us infinitely more than we knew was possible.

What is your identity?

In psychology courses you learn about identities such as Age, Disabilities (mental or physical), Religion or spiritual identity, Ethnicity, Socioeconomic status, Sexual orientation, Indigenous identity, National origin, and Gender.

The acronym is ADDRESSING. We have other identities such as which groups we identify with (vocation, hobby, and also vegetarian/vegan/omnivore for instance).

We were asked to fill out our own ADDRESSING identities and I realized that if I answered factually it did not feel like me. So I also answered from a feeling perspective. I realized I did not feel any association with being born in Belgium but I identified much more with the East Indian culture (food, spirituality and in particular yoga and the teachings of the masters of the far east).

When I tried to answer the gender identity I realized I did not feel 100% male or female. I felt something like 60% male vs 40% female. But being forced to specify the percentages still felt uncomfortable. I talked with a transgender professor and she said that a lot of trans feel that way and that they even go beyond this by not forcing the % male-female to add up to 100%, it could add up to anything we feel is right for us.

That was a new opening in my thinking. And then I could say I feel 70% male and 40% female for instance.

But then I realized I really have more than one perception of myself. I have the perception of the human being for instance and the perception of that part of me that is pure awareness. My awareness as I experience it has no gender and no sexual identity. It feels more real than my human body and my mind because it is indestructible; itcannot die and cannot get sick or hurt. As a human being I sometimes experience the no gender thing. It is not like being fluid, it is a form of transcending identities.

I asked myself what was the purpose of identities such as those psychologists like to play with because my awareness/soul does not experience any of them: no age, no disabilities, no religion, etc… Then I realized that the purpose of identities experienced in the human form has to do with learning to love oneself and therefore others. It has to do with learning every aspect of compassion. Then when we are as compassionate as is possible there is no longer a need for any identity. We become expressions of love in all its infinite forms.

Human beings are evolving toward the recognition of being spirits first. It is therefore not surprising that as a species we are going through an explosion of traditional identities.

We live in an exhilarating time of human evolution! I LOVE it!

CREATING THE VILLAGE WE WANT

There are probably an infinite number of options to create the village that we probably all seek…. as many as there are human beings and we probably each have to find our own which is related to our individual purpose in this life.

Here are some guidelines I came to: We need to shed our old self, embrace our higher self, and create from our higher self.

1) Letting go of victimization/neediness as victimization/neediness creates loneliness, not a village. We do this by realizing that it is our ego that is reacting to situations and then using the victimization/neediness feelings to control its environment. But there is another reality the ego does not see: We are free and abundant and loved no matter what… so we need to let go of (or challenge within us) the ego interpretations… it creates a difficult reality.

2) Embracing our own sense of self whatever comes: pain, hurts by acceptance and letting go, not holding onto them (which is what the ego does), and also by tuning in to (or remembering) joy, happiness, peace no matter the circumstances and remaining connected to the sensations in our body as we do this because that is how the past trauma/hurt is released.

3) Creating from our higher self means:
a) Understanding where others are coming from without thinking it is against us, because it is not, even if it feels like it. Remaining true to our self, honoring our self — meaning finding our love light and doing what we have to do and/or what we want to do from that place.
b) Let life be life and play with it.

Suggestion: Watch the movie Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1986 or 1987) or read the book. It is very inspiring to watch the lead character, a black man sold into slavery, and the grace and integrity with which he chooses to live his life. It may give you insights into how you want to approach your journey!

RELAXING INTO FEELING SATISFIED WITH SIMPLICITY

I took care of my neighbor’s cats while they are away. I shoveled their front porch and stairs to the front porch. Put some food and unfrozen water for the potential outdoors stray cats, in the back, by the rear door. They are caring that way. Simple things.

As I do these things, I look at my life caring for some people who are disabled, or older, or helping with yoga classes and psychotherapy, and getting a sense of satisfaction with what I do. I find I am letting go of the burden of fearing there is something more I need to do that I can’t put my finger on… the burden that I am supposed to be doing more. I did not know I was carrying that feeling around dutifully.

Before coming home to my neighbor’s cats, I had spent the night at a lady’s home because she needs 24/7 presence and care. As I was helping her get ready for the day, I helped her sit up on her bed, I noticed that, as usual, she couldn’t hold herself up. Her back is very stiff as though she is trying to push away from something. That stiffness prevents her from being able to sit up on her own and stay seated. She needs someone’s support.

This time instead of just working with her being that way, trying to help her dress up in all her stiffness… I thought of giving her a hug while rubbing her back like a gentle massage. She embraced me back. She started to relax. I felt her body melt in my arms. She breathed better. After 30 seconds or so, I started taking her pajama shirt off and started dressing her and I noticed she was holding herself sitting up as if it was normal for her. She was relaxed. What a glorious morning!

It is like the Zen teachings: carrying water, chopping wood. It is OK to live simply, smiling at the chance to breathe another breath and to smile at people and at life, smiling with people and with life.

THE PRESENT MOMENT – WHY IT MATTERS

Yesterday I was asked to help out a couple. The man was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease 6 years ago. But a year ago became more difficult for his wife because he stopped recognizing her. She had a bit of an accident in the morning and needed help caring for him.

When I met him he was watching TV not really knowing what he was watching except for what was on the screen and what he heard in the moment and for 1 minute or so. He did not foresee a murder was about to take place, but he was able to see that he was mistaken and it happened after all. I experienced him as a jolly easy going man. I helped him to the bathroom and then helped him to bed. He kept looking for her but she had terrible pain and needed to rest sitting up. She wasn’t used to letting anyone else care for her husband. At one point he told me he was looking for his wife as he tried to come out his bedroom one more time. He clearly meant the woman who cares for him every day. He looks for her guidance, for her presence eagerly. And when she tells him what to do, he says “Okay!” almost jokingly, like a man who has gotten used for his wife to be bossy. She was surprised he knew who she was. She also took his teasing her as a personal resistance to her… not as a teasing husband.

Her experience of him was that he was unhappy. She told me she gave up on her own happiness: “It is a choice you have to make!” I saw that she was unhappy but I did not see that he was. So I asked her what she meant. What she had experienced of him before the disease was a man who took charge where ever he was, at work or at home, constantly improving things or leading others to. He no longer did that. He was just being, but she saw it as being unhappy.

Because of her sense of loss she was bitter and angry with him, sighing when he did not remember what she had just told him. I could see her side. But I could also see she had not adjusted to his new life and his new experience. She was stuck in the past.

From where I stood, without knowing his past, he was just a jolly easy going man, joking around with his wife, needing her to keep telling him what to do… he’d done enough of telling others what to do for a lifetime.