|Newsletter 23 September 2020|
Hi and welcome,
What is the point of understanding theories if we can not put them into practice? This time I decided to write a much more personal newsletter about my relationship with a close family member. In the end, it took me weeks to hit the 'send' button yet it is as relevant as ever...
Why should it matter? Why should I care?Around the time that my husband died I somehow decided to get closer to my in-laws. You might assume this was a natural and easy move for a family where each member shared the same loss: “Everyone grieving together, oh how wonderful!” Only this was far from being the case.
The relationship I then had with my husband’s family members varied between stranded and tense to almost non-existent.
11 years later and the relationship I have with my in-laws has now changed for the better. It has become warm, meaningful and connected. It feels good. Except with one of them.
The best way to describe the relationship I have with one family member, is a ‘relational void’ (term courtesy of someone else).
It’s not that the relationship is toxic. There just isn’t one. Occasionally about 3 times a year, at family gatherings, the void gets filled by a few words and a few smiles. This person is effortlessly charming, warm and open so it’s not hard to fill the space yet the emptiness and discontinuity of the relationship makes these few encounters both meaningless and purposeless. Our moments together are like the ones I would share with any stranger, any day. Only we are not strangers to each other. We first met in 2002 and are probably going to continue meeting for the rest of our lives.
Furthermore, our lack of connection is in stark contrast to the relative intimacy I now share with the rest of the family.
How is that so?
The closer I can come to describing the objective truth of our relationship is to observe that we both carry ‘stuff’ and that at times, our stuff comes clashing. At the most fundamental level of life, the source of this ‘stuff’ can be found in the patterns of our consciousness and manifests through our Qi (pronounced ‘Chee’). Qi is not flowing well between us yet. If you are not familiar with Qi you can think of it as both ‘energy’ and ‘information’. Without a ‘good flow’ of ‘good vibes’ it is hard to experience harmony with each other. Both Qi and harmony are important criteria to determine how healthy our life and our relationships are.
So what should I do?
I could chose to shrug my shoulders over it. Yes, it would be so easy to put it in the ‘too hard’ or ‘not worth it’ basket, especially given how little we have to do with each other.
I have been advised so many times to not ‘sweat the small stuff’. Maybe this person ‘doesn’t sweat the small stuff’?
But what exactly is the ‘small stuff’ of life?
Is our ability – or inability to interact with each other in a truly and consistently open and loving way, small stuff? Is it really not that important?
Maybe when we lose our connection with our own heart and with each other, then, the way our house looks, our social status, our salary and success, the number of wrinkles that appear on our face as we age, are all more worthy of our attention. Because it’s all we have left.
Family relationships are a real gift. They provide us with countless opportunities to reconnect and grow our life when we might have otherwise withdrawn or run away.
If this person was not part of my family I would not spend time and energy on the relationship and how to improve it. But then, I would have missed an opportunity to learn and grow…
When looking at our ability to have profoundly trusting, open, loving relationships with each other we have to face the fact that we are still like babies learning to crawl.
Our ability to be free of ‘stuff’ is still limited. As a result, our need to cope with dysfunctional dynamics is great.
We do it all the time at work and at home. We have all learnt to ‘suck it up’. We might find this a perfectly normal way to be. Or we might have become blasé or cynical about it. We might be able to handle it to various degrees. Or maybe we can’t. So we avoid certain people or occasions. We only spend time with people who we like, people who we can really trust. Or we don’t. And we put a brave face on. Or we drink to the point of oblivion. We tell stories. We make ourselves ‘fun’ or ‘interesting’. Things are not working… it drives us mad but we feel powerless in our ability to change much.
Instead of facing what needs to be faced we have developed all sorts of coping mechanisms to - even when we are present – effectively, run away.
Only there’s nowhere to go.
Life is relational. Situations arise again and again. Our gatherings and encounters with each other still don’t quite flow but it seems quite normal and oh, so familiar, doesn’t it?
We all know how safe the familiar feels, no matter how unhealthy it is…
So let’s ask ourselves:
Is it time for change?
And if the time is now, then how can we truly thrive together? Is there a way to stop hiding, avoiding, rejecting or ignoring ourselves and others? Can we stop acting out of our most primitive instincts like wounded animals, seeking protection and safety from each other, retreating into our own dark corners without much openness and honesty and only feeling safe in the company of a few select people?
What’s the alternative?
Trust and openness.
We all want harmonious relationships with ourselves and each other. We don’t naturally crave conflict and rejection. Yes, closing our heart and shrugging our shoulders might often appear to be the path of least resistance but is it the healthiest? Is it really the way to achieve what we want? Don’t we all want true harmony with ourselves, others and the world?
Facing ourselves and each other requires so much trust… As I write these words, knowing that I will share them, I can’t help but feel the weight of them. Can I live up to trust? Can I move beyond self-consciousness, shame, guilt or denial? Can I open my heart when it so wants to close? Can I open my heart to you and the reasons you might be the way you are? Can I open my heart to the ways in which you and I are the same?
Opening when we feel like closing is hard work. It requires trust and courage. But if I can’t open my heart why should I expect you to?
Being tense might not seem to be such a big deal but objectively, our inability to resolve both personal and relational issues has far reaching consequences for everyone’s life. It’s hard to know where the damaging effects really end.
What are the real consequences of our inner tensions and close heartedness?
Being tense with one person, if only momentarily, deprives us from our connection to our true self. In other words our calm, relaxed and happy self. It also affects our ability to feel connected to this person, and it affects this person’s ability to feel connected to us. But it doesn’t stop there.
While these tensions weigh on our body, mind & heart, they stand in the way of harmonious interactions with the outer world: the way we treat everyone, our interactions with our loved ones, others and animals. And it goes on and on as we are part of a much bigger whole: our inner realm spills out to the natural world, including inanimate objects.
Chances are so much of this stuff lies under the surface of our awareness. Nevertheless the disconnect inside, which we might be so familiar with, affects our ability to truly care for everyone and everything. It affects our ability to be touched by life, be in a state of deep gratitude and respect for all that is.
It impacts our life and our health, it impacts others’ and it impacts that which gives and sustain our life; the earth and all its living organisms.
In a universe where we believe that so much of our thinking is of little consequence, many manifestations of our unhealthy patterns are viewed as normal.
If we spend so little time considering the far reaching consequences of our tensions… we spend even less time trying to sort them… and even less time sorting them in a truly healthy and effective way…
In our ignorance and lack of awareness, we continue to pass down attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that are harmful for life, from one generation to the next. We continue to model these ways of being to our children.
You see, we do not yet fully grasp the extent and the implication of a universe where everything is interconnected. Starting with our own life, there is still little understanding of the interconnection between the patterns of the consciousness, the heart and the physical body.
Although we are not familiar with it in the West, Qi is the medium through which everything is connected. The most important movements of life are the ones which happen at the most fundamental (and invisible) level: the movements of Qi.
Opening and closing, gathering and dispersing are the most basic movements of Qi. And with our consciousness and our heart, we have the ability to influence the movements and changes of Qi in certain ways. We have the ability to make Qi flow well.
What will I do?
Opening my heart is still a challenging mission. The mind immediately comes up with all sorts of reasons for it not being safe, worthy, meaningful or appropriate. But ultimately, it’s not about me, it’s about all of us. It’s about our ability to be truly ourselves rather than the sum of our dysfunctional patterns. It’s about our ability to be humble, see room for improvement with a compassionate heart. It’s about healing from the inside out and helping each other. It’s about living to our true potential.
Because every time we choose trust, every step we take to open our heart a little more, the hope of a better world becomes less a dream and more reality.
What will you do?
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