“Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.”
I used this quotation from cool-dude Dalai Lama about two years ago in an essay about unrequited love. It’s in one my books I think. The quotation stuck with me because when I first saw it, I was in pain, from a relationship, not getting what I had wanted.
Relationships—as in all human interactions—are the nexus where heaven and earth meet. It is the playground of the ego. Human interactions, particularly romantic ones, usually start off blissfully, with a great deal of mutual validation and excitement and high expectations. But it isn’t long before the past comes up, patterns grip us, irrationality rules, all in a hotbed of pain and guilt and hurt.
And this is our best opportunity to awaken!
We spend most of the energies of life avoiding discovery of our patterns and naked experience. If we simply relaxed in Awareness and allowed, we discover our patterns and the true experience of reality and we see that there is Awareness and everything else is simply an impermanent point of view in Awareness, and the two are not two. It is this unity which is already all that we chase for in life. But we are deluded by our thoughts and beliefs and so we do not see this.
Human interactions are therefore a gift, a mirror, in which we can see the reflection of our conditioning and patterns if we choose to. Of course none of us wants to be dismantled, though that is exactly what awakening is—it is the falling away of the false—but none of us wants to be ripped apart, and this is the gift of human interactions. They automatically start the process for us.
So if you are in pain because of a relationship or the lack of one, take heart, because you will learn from it, and you will see it indeed as a wonderful stroke of luck. If you are in pain, right now, you want to be heard, you want your hurt to be acknowledged, you want someone to see how hard you’ve tried and to see your qualities and to acknowledge that all you’ve done is tried to love. Or you want someone to show love by behaving in certain ways. You want someone to show that he or she is thinking of you. Or you want someone to take responsibility for your hurt. Or perhaps you are blaming yourself or someone else. Or, you are feeling uncertain and lonely and tired and confused and despondent and insecure. Or you are feeling guilt. Or all of this.
Decide you want peace more than drama
Make the decision that you want peace more than you want drama. Your words may be different—fun more than hurt, happiness more than unhappiness, openness more than contraction, sanity more insanity…however, you choose to express it, it comes down to your decision to want awareness more than you want to be tied to reactive conditioning.
When we can decide this we stop pointing fingers outside of us. This letting go of the need to exercise our usual patterns is acceptance.
The Buddhists express this very well in the saying that whenever we are angry or offended or hurt by someone, it is always because of a pattern inside of us. We cannot possibly be offended or angry or hurt by someone unless we recognize the same pattern within us, and it is this self-recognition which makes us angry. Test it out. It has never failed me.
When I was in pain from a relationship, there was a period where my mind was very busy with stories. All sorts of mental-movies, mental-conversations, mental-judgments, mental-hope and mental-demands came up. Why oh why does it have to be this way instead of the way I want it to be?
This insanity can even get out of hand. I’m sure you have had the experience where you think, say, or do something, and in the middle of it, you have a moment of lucid awareness, and you ask yourself if you’ve gone crazy.
Indeed, you have. The ego is nuts.
When I was in this period of pain from a relationship, where my mind would not settle, I decided at one point that all my thoughts were irrational. I simply decided that each and every thought I had was suspect. At a much later time, I read “The Work” from Byron Katie. I realized that when I had decided that every thought I had was irrational, I had instinctively used Byron Katie’s technique of questioning beliefs. I don’t find it useful to analyze each belief—it worked better and easier for me to simply uncling from thoughts by deciding they are all suspect.
We can develop the skill to ride the high and low waves of human interactions. It is in the low waves, from misery and bleakness, that the stuck structures of the ego and conditioned patterns can be looked at, and that’s all it takes. Just a looking, from awareness, without intellectual analysis, is all it takes to release them. We can call this instinctive recognition or wisdom or intuition. I invite you to leave everything just as is, without labeling or judging, and simply notice effortlessly.
If the mind is racing, it can help however to use specific techniques to settle down painful emotions from relationships. The technique that helped me the most with relationship-pain is a letting-go technique. No surprise there, right?
It’s a useful technique to use for any interaction with anyone.
How to release interactions
Visualize the person you’re trying to let go of.
Ask yourself: What do I want from this person?
Let go of the wants.
Then ask: What do I feel the other person wants from me?
Let go of feeling of what the other person wants.
Remember that this is not a cognitive analysis. You don’t try to figure out why you want what you want. It’s not a psychological assessment.
Sometimes it’s difficult to know or articulate what it is that you wanted from the interaction. It can help to categorize wanting into four categories: approval, control, security, and completeness. If you look honestly at any desire you have, you will be able to categorize it according to one or more of these four categories, or their opposites.
What did you actually demand internally? Did you want approval? Approval can be love, reassurance, validation, confirmation, conformity and many other things.
Did you want to control that person? Control can be the need for the person to see you in specific ways. It can be the demand that person show his or her love to you by behaving in certain ways. Did you want the person to feel certain feelings? Do you want the person to agree with you in some way?
Did you want completeness? Do you feel validated when the person is in your life or behaves in certain ways? Do you want some sort of communion or association? Do you feel that a continued association with this person somehow makes you feel more complete or accomplished or accepted?
Did you want security? Do you want a future, a feeling of safety?
There is no judgment here. There is no question of rationality—whether what you want from the person is rational or irrational is irrelevant.
We can take these wants and put them in one or more categories of approval, control, security and completeness.
Then use the release technique to let go of the wanting. That is, let go of the wanting of control, security, approval and completeness, and their opposites.
If it helps you, jot down the wants and their categories.
Why this works
An effective release technique simply uses our own intuition. With this, we acknowledge and accept and fully allow the pain and patterns which have built up in us. And we look at the patterns of wanting with Awareness, with instinctive non-thinking wisdom.
Continue the exercise as often as you want. Use the exercise for any interaction. In any interaction, whether it’s romantic or friendly or familial or business or casual, the ego has demands and the ego makes assumptions on what it thinks the other is demanding.
As false emotions and patterns are released, intuition rises. Space is created within us. The clinging to particular patterns or particular emotions or particular wants begins to loosen. We become very open.
You will find that this technique, just like the letting go technique, very soon vanishes as a technique, and becomes easy experience.
With increasing intuition, you may also recognize the ego’s tendency to seek out interactions which give the ego the opportunity to exercise its stuck patterns. As you let go, you may become more alert to this tendency.
Does it really work
Yup, it does. I went through over a year of turmoil, and another year of “low-grade” longing. With this technique, the painful emotions went away in two weeks. What is left are just good feelings of wanting the best for the person in question. There is no longing or pain or demands.
I’m not trying to sell you on this. There is nothing for sale here (well, the books are, hehe). But there is nothing for sale as a practice. Even though I do talk about practices, I also say that if you can see that any practice is just a point of view in Awareness, and not Awareness, then you don’t need any practice. Practice of any sort is in the realm of the limited mind but practice does have the effect of settling down particular beliefs and pain, and this can allow us to see what it means to let go and rest in Awareness.
Give it a shot, and let me know how it goes.