Tag Archives: Judgments

Gratitude

No matter who you are and what your struggles are, there will be 159 people who seem to have it worse than you and 159 more who seem to have it better. And whatever your situation, there will also be 159 things to blame it on—your family, your culture, your ex, or just plain old bad luck.

But, the judgment of better or worse is all fantasy to begin with, since it is based on speculation and on external yardsticks, such as material wealth and physical attributes. The reality is on the inside. This is why oftentimes, the rich seem miserable and the unfortunate seem happy.

All good treasures are always on the inside.

The greatest of these jewels is the joy that springs forth, like a holy well, from the heart. And the quickest route there, is by way of gratitude, for, like a logical contradiction, it is virtually impossible to be resentful and grateful at the same time. They just don’t go together.

Small steps are the most reasonable way to get there. Big steps into the past or the future can be dangerous. Better to start with this little, tiny, infinite moment…

At this moment, I have my health, or this breath, or this warm home, or this one meal in front of me.

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Three Tricks to Forgiveness (how to stay married)

A man asks his friend what he can do about his wife’s annoying habit of speaking rudely to people. Besides this fault of hers, one that causes him frustration, she’s a good person, he says, and he loves her. He also values his marriage of 25 years.

Should he try to change her? Can he help her fix this bad habit? What can he do?

I would offer him these three steps, the combined effect of which, leads only and inevitably to forgiveness.

1. Look Inward (acknowledge your own stuff). 

You have “stuff,” too, I’d remind him.  We all do. Acknowledging our own stuff takes courage and humility. These are the qualities that make this step an important part of living an enlightened life. Turning the pointer inward rather than outward, brings us in touch with a more profound and interconnected view of reality; we begin to see the world as a reflection of ourselves, shaped by our interpretations, which themselves, are shaped by our frame of mind and limitations. The effort to  “expand our consciousness,” boils down to the increasing ability to see reality this way—as a construct of our minds.

But, we are so busy judging what others are doing that we miss the opportunity to see what we, ourselves, are doing. And we spend a lot of energy doing it; we spend our time trying to fix others’ broken knobs and loose screws, rather than our own. It’s a bit funny, when you think about it, that imperfect people spend time and energy trying to make others perfect!

2. Acknowledge that Your Partner Puts Up with Your Stuff (all these years).

Now that the pointer has been courageously redirected inward, we can take the next step, which is to acknowledge that our wonderful other has been putting up with those loose screws of ours…all these years! This is certainly cause for gratitude—a delightful, grudge-dissolving feeling, that swells forth from the heart, like chocolate from a wedding fountain, which, in its simultaneous sweetness and ridiculousness, enables us to laugh at ourselves and celebrate our perfect imperfections.

(It is only a half-joke to say that successful long-term relationships are proportional to the combined ability of each partner to put up with each others’ stuff.)

3. See the Positive in Your Partner (it actually takes effort).

For every one annoying habit, there are surely 100 good ones. It takes practice to remind ourselves to see them. The positive mind needs flexing, like any muscle.

One of my own teachers once spoke of a beautiful teaching; to see and then unsee a fault. Taking the time to consciously recognize and remember what we have forgotten, through time and familiarity, is one way to unsee what may not be a fault at all, but rather…our own lesson in disguise, waiting to be discovered.

Judge Not Lest You Be Judged (Here’s Why)

This teaching is part of the common thread that runs through all wisdom teachings. Here, I explore the reasons why.

1. Because we don’t have access to the Akashic records. The universal perspective is not always revealed or in accordance with our clock, our limited perspective or our expectations. Life and its workings are too vast.

Case Study. Consider the old story of the Taoist farmer whose horse runs away. His neighbor is quick to come and appraise the situation: “What bad luck!” he declares. The farmer just shrugs his shoulders. When the horse comes back with another horse, the neighbor comes again: “What good luck!” The farmer just shrugs. When the farmer’s son tries to saddle the newly acquired, wild horse and breaks his leg in the process, the neighbor comes again: “what bad luck.” The farmer shrugs. Finally, when the army comes, ready to haul the kid off to a bloody war, they take one look at his broken leg and decide to leave him behind. “What good luck! Your son sure picked a good time to break his leg!” the neighbor proclaims.

A broken leg is generally not seen as a “good” thing, but in this case, it saved the kid’s life.

The farmer was too wise to get involved with these assessments. He knows he doesn’t know what’s good or bad in the big picture. He is able to let it unfold and is willing to honor the process. This takes wisdom, humility and courage. Wisdom to know we don’t know. Humility to yield to the unknown and courage to be fine with it, regardless of the outcome.

It’s a willingness to live in trust, rather than in fear.

2. Because everyone has lessons to extract from each and every event that appears in their lives. And as my teacher often puts it, the messenger will keep coming back until the message has been delivered. Everyone has their karma (which doesn’t mean punishment).

3. Because, by judging, you now take the karma. (Doubly: for interfering and because you have demonstrated need for the lesson and compassion for that perspective.)

4. Because the judging is more a statement about you, than the object of your criticism. Our reality is shaped and limited by our thoughts and experiences, meaning, our perceptions provide us with a very limited viewpoint. This means, further, that it’s guaranteed we don’t have the whole story. Only at the end of time can we make over-all assessments. Who will be here? This is why the wise know better than to speak.

Those who say don’t know and those who know don’t say ~Tao Te Ching

But in the guise of “being concerned,” we speculate, condemn and as Zen author Karen Maezen Miller is wont to say, we run commentary. The base assumption is that the other—even when (especially when) the other is a family member—needs our concern. That energy could be better directed inwardly, toward our own needed improvements, for we are all a work in progress.

If you have reached a state of human perfection and have no need for continued work and improvements…Congratulations! Your work here on earth is complete.

Here is an example that both highlights the absurdity of making judgements about others and at the same time, illustrates the workings of truly turning the pointer to the inside, rather than toward others:

Case Study. Your aunt tells you your wife needs to dress differently because her way of dressing, she feels, will influence her daughter to dress in a way that solicits male attention and fosters promiscuity.

But, in your reflections, you note that when it comes to alcoholic beverages, your aunt tends to serve herself generously, sometimes to the point of excess. If we look from a wider lens, and follow her own logic to the end, we see that this, too, might be setting an undesirable example—it may foster alcoholism, or at the very least, irresponsible drinking in her children. Of course, the whole thing is absurd and endless, for, everybody has “stuff.”

I have a dear friend who now avoids a member of her own family for habitually starting sentences with “You need to…” As we become more conscious, we also become more aware of how often our words express this kind of judgmental attitude toward others.

Here’s what it boils down to:

❖ Everybody is a mixed bag, with aspects that we might label as “good” and others as “bad.” And everybody has a history, complete with skeletons and dregs of many varieties. Acceptance of people as evolving entities, like ourselves, fosters better relations.

❖ We are shaped by countless influences, from our Zodiac sign, to our favorite TV show growing up, to our first kiss, our first best friend, our first broken heart, to more obvious, genetic and social factors. Meaning, we are a confluence of infinite influence.

❖ We don’t know how others will perceive us (The young girl in my example will probably only see the good in her aunt. As in The Little Prince, only adults discriminate. Children see through, to the heart of a person.)

ACCEPTANCE; Life in the balance – accept it all. Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so. It is the nature of the universe to establish balance; thus, trying to prevent perceived bad will also block desired good. Instead, welcome challenge and difficulty, enjoying the indicated activity, and growing in each situation.” ~Guru Rattana

Top Three Tools to a Better Parent-Child Relationship

I was considering some of the common patterns between parents and adult children recently, especially those that guide the relationship between mother-daughter and father-son. There is no shortage of books and articles about the difficulties and struggles that define these relationships and no fewer numbers of ideas and solutions. “Power struggle” was a term that came up the most. Fear was another. Resentment, control, manipulation, are others. Even jealousy, on the part of the parent. Fine, but my suspicion and eastern orientation pointed in one direction: ego. Behind it all is the unwitting and unconscious culprit of everything. Behind door number one, door number two, and all the other doors, is the same contestant in all its many, clever guises. Here, I distilled my own feelings, along with input from the best of my findings into three parts:

Parents: Let Go of Role.

As parents, we are so wholly identified by our children’s needs for so many years, that it becomes not only difficult, but odd, to relinquish that identification, when our children grow up. Although never signed, nor broken, we have an invisible contract with our children. But the conditions change. It is the last part—the part about it never being broken—that trips many parents up. This is where fear comes in. Parents are in the grip of a responsibility that can seem overwhelming, at times. I’ve heard this sort of thing: “but I can never give up on my child,” or, “the job of being a parent never stops.” And these ideas (seemingly reasonable) and sense of responsibility prevents a graceful transition to a newly defined relationship. (True, if the adult child was in danger, it may be appropriate to intervene, but when anyone is in danger, that’s when we break the rules by overriding common etiquette.)

As a parent, the general idea that you know what’s best, along with the criticism and displays of disappointment that go along with this idea, comes from what Eckhart Tolle calls an unconscious attachment to the role of parent. And this is, of course, the ego’s way of exerting control over the grown child’s life.

Tolle explains that awareness is the instrument for transforming this tendency. I would also emphasize the role of trust. Because fear is always lurking around underneath everything, like dust under the furniture, the willingness to plunge into the unknown with the spirit of trust—a most quiet and courageous companion!—immediately unknots that fear. And without the fear, which guides the habit of criticizing and controlling, you can forge a healthier relationship. It’s the gift of letting go. And by the way, humor doesn’t hurt, either. None of it is as serious as we think!

Adult children: Don’t Blame.

Not only will open blame cause your parents’ defense mechanisms to rise up, thus creating more friction and anger between you, but it won’t undo the momentum of long ingrained patterns and attachments on your parents’ part. And internal blame will only perpetuate resentment inside you.

When your heart is full of anger and bitterness, it can’t see beyond its own blackness nor can anything else find its way in. It’s as if the heart would have barricades around it, preventing it from seeing anything but what it already sees. The recognition that the apparent controlling, the unreasonable manipulation and the needless council, all have their roots in your parents’ love for you, nonplusses the anger—the ego’s greatest clutch. And at that moment, your heart empties so that it can then receive. You see differently and you feel differently. It is an act of letting go of what you heretofore thought was malicious.

Parents and Children: Forgive.

Parents need to forgive their children for not being who they expected them to be and forgive themselves for the unrealistic expectation. We all are a product of an infinite number of conditions—genetic information going back several generations (seven, according to Yogic science), our past life conditioning (again, according to Yogic science), our environment, including all the movies we’ve seen, the TV we’ve watched, the games we’ve played, the schools we went to, our friends and our enemies, even the food we ate. And even within one family, parents are often astounded when their two children are nothing alike. Our influence, as parents, isn’t what we think it is! Yet, ego would have us assert ourselves by way of those unrealistic expectations.

So, parents, it is an act of self-love and true forgiveness, to let go of the expectations. Find, instead, the beauty in who they are, authentically. It is a gift to them, as well as to yourself. And forgive yourself for your mistakes, for you did what you knew how to do, based on the resources you had at the time, as well as who you were and what you were capable of at the time.

Children, likewise will benefit from forgiving their parents for the same mistakes and for the same reasons. After all, to for-give is to give-forth, meaning that, in order to go forward, and allow for a new relationship—one founded on trust and authenticity, we have to embrace what was with true acceptance. This is also what it means to open the heart. All of the resentment empties out to make room for more positive and nourishing feelings.

*Again, guiding this article is my interest in adult children and their parental relationships.

Top Three Secrets to a Happy Marriage

My husband and I celebrated 18 years of marriage this week. In today’s climate of dissatisfaction, conflict and ultimately, divorce, it seems to be a minor accomplishment! Here I offer my own top three tips for a successful long-term relationship:

1. Don’t colonize another person. Any other person. 

This means, refrain from imposing your own agenda on them. As one of my own teachers so beautifully put it, “watch your prayerful stillness dissolve whenever you try to control another person.” We kid ourselves by pretending that we would never do this, but watch the little ways in which you press your will on others, even your partner. You’re watching more golf? Are you really still hungry? It means not interrogating. Even questions about whereabouts fit into this category. This means that you must be centered. So look after your own inner peace and spiritual fulfillment because even if you are the only one practicing, watch as it transforms your world. This may be as simple as being fine by yourself. The presumption, of course, is that you have trust in place and so with confidence as the foundation, you may coexist as two independent people who are compatible and who enjoy spending time together, by choice.

2. Be the “Deciders.”

Know that you are adults, and one of the perks of being an adult is that you get to make the decisions that are right for you. In a relationship, that means feeling free to forge arrangements that work to promote harmony in the home, regardless of traditional norms. We have all imbibed a lifetime of ideas from society, media, family and friends, often without considering whether or not we agree with them. And even though we think of ourselves as independent thinkers, notice the ways you unconsciously allow yourself to look upon those ideas as standards. It is especially revealing to notice when you allow yourself to measure your habits and domestic arrangements against these societal norms, allowing insecurity to sneak in when they don’t measure up. This includes everything from when you eat, if you eat together all the time, when and how often you have intimate relations and whether you even sleep in the same room, to whether you take Sunday off. It especially includes issues related to child-rearing, which can be the toughest area in a marriage.

3. Show Gratitude.

So simple, yet so difficult. Say I love you. Everyday. And say thank you for all the little things. This means seeing the positive and letting those myriad positive things serve as a counterbalance to the irksome things. Surely the former outweighs the latter! This also means “un-seeing” those little irksome things because you know that in the big picture, they don’t matter. Unseeing also happens when you use those irksome things as mirrors—what similar things do you do? This diffuses frustration and prevents anger from arising in the first place. It means valuing being happy over being right. It is so easy, but it is always the easiest things that we forget (like being present, or breathing consciously). The tension and stress of everyday living keep us unconscious. And so, we allow annoyance and disappointment to grow within. Be willing to be honest with yourself—how often do you really say I love you? Or, I appreciate you. This preserves the feeling of connection between you—the bedrock on which everything else depends. Remember, your shift in this direction will naturally and magically create a similar shift in your partner. And in this spirit of gratitude, the feeling of love and beauty will begin to permeate the domain, displacing all negativity, the way the evening breeze relieves the afternoon heat.