Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Never Underestimate the Power of Prayer

A year and a half ago I had gone to a talk at the meditation center. I was newly separated from my husband and feeling extremely lonely and anxious. I started to feel panicky during the meditation and went to the side room to lie down. I couldn't bear to leave altogether. I needed to be there. I needed to hear the teaching. I didn't want to be alone. Just being there was a comfort.

After the talk, the teacher came to me. I started weeping uncontrollably. I don't even remember his words of comfort and consolation. All I remember was a feeling of really being cared for and held and loved. Even by all the people in the room as they were leaving and passing by me in my misery.

Buddhists practice metta (lovingkindness) meditation. It is a focused meditation on the qualities of lovingkindness, compassion, empathetic joy and equanimity. In a sense, it is like a prayer - however, there is no higher power we are imploring help from and there is no sense of attachment to the results of the good wishes we send out for others and ourselves. The goal of this practice is to soften our own hearts so that we may be happy and loving toward ourselves and others.

I have always believed though, that the sort of energy generated from this practice DOES have a palpable result. This energy does have the power to touch those that we send it out to.

At the meditation center tonight, the teacher gave his monthly talk about generosity - about receiving freely and giving freely. I stared at the singing bowl and remembered all I have received in the gift of that place - the people that volunteer, the people that help pay for the retreats I have been on, the beautiful teachings, the support of the community. As I was reflecting on this, I remembered that night a year and a half ago. I thought about how far I have come and how I feel ready to give something back. Last week I proposed to the teacher at the center that I'd like to start a community group for single parents and he loved the idea. I thought about announcing it to the community after the talk tonight and maybe collect some email addresses of those interested, but I'm still reflecting on how that might evolve so I decided to hold off.

After the talk, a woman who I'd seen many times before but had never talked to approached me. She knew my name. She told me she recalled a night when she'd seen me weeping. She told me she had been meaning to talk to me for a long time but didn't know why she hadn't. She has been sending me metta for some time. My jaw just dropped. I had just been thinking about that night and she just came up to me and talked to me about it out of the blue. It was a true and awesome connection. Utterly amazing!

I told her that I had actually just been thinking about that night. I told her that I had been going through a divorce at the time. She mentioned that she has been thinking how nice it would be to have a group at the center to support those going through divorce. Well, it just so happens, I told her, that I am starting one! And I got her email address. She is divorced with a grown son and was just the person I needed to run into to help me form some clear ideas about what kind of group this should be. I want to make sure that all types of single parents are included, even those with grown children. Those are the people I want to talk to and learn something from!

What a wonderful evening!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Gamble

It really is OK to feel unsure whether someone may or may not be the one you want to have a relationship with. You don’t have to say “It’s not you, it’s me.” You don’t have to say “I am in no shape to ask someone else to become part of my life as an intimate partner.” Instead, you could simply say, “I’m not sure if you are the right one. I need to date others so I can find out what is right for me.” That is a much more honest statement. A statement I myself have made to men in the past!

Why do guys do this in such a typical fashion? They say they are not ready for a relationship then immediately start dating other women. It is maddening and disappointing. I thought this one was different and special. I was wrong.

I took a gamble with this guy and lost. Que sera sera. Of course, it is all for the best. I really learned a lot from this. No regrets.

I AM ready for a relationship, so I will date other men. Time to get back to having more fun in my life. I have faith that eventually I will find the one I’ve really been looking for. I got it wrong this time, but that’s just how it goes.

“Love’s a gamble, sometimes lost but you never give in.
This time may be your time to win” – MJ Cole

Ultimately, it seems he is right about something and here is my thought on this. He knows that he is a mess and has no business involving me in it. Perhaps he thinks that he can find someone else to have a relationship with who won’t get so close to him and so involved in his mess. I think he is looking for the kind of relationship in which he can be alone. I do value space and solitude within a relationship, but not so much that I feel alone. Having a lot of aloneness while in a relationship is not, for me, a real relationship. I need more closeness, warmth, connection and intimacy than he does apparently. We are not on the same page in terms of how much closeness we need in a relationship. I thought for sure we would be, but I realized that I actually need more closeness than I thought.

I just want balance. My marriage was too close (not enough personal boundaries). This last relationship was too distant (too many walls and obstacles). Where is the middle ground?

Thursday, March 18, 2010


I haven't quite figured out yet how to wake up every weekday morning not in a panic. It is not serious panic, just a startle more or less. Just a moment of "Oh my god, what is going to go wrong today?" It doesn't last very long, but it can't be good for my heart to have it pounding fiercely for several minutes every morning.

I let go all night long in sleep and dreams and when I wake, I feel like I have to hurry up and get back to the stress of daily life. I wake up with a fear that I am going to forget something or mess something up. Being a single mom and working full time in a fast-paced career are real stressors. I'm not imagining this stress. Overall I am able to work through it well during the day. I'm just not sure how to re-program my brain in the morning.

Sometimes I wonder if I should be doing something else with my career. But here I am now in this career that I have and must make the best of it. I'm not sure what else I could be doing without taking a serious pay cut. I absolutely have to provide for my family. I can't just run off and do something else right now. Besides, I actually do enjoy my work. It just gets a little too serious sometimes!

There have been a lot of organizational changes at work lately that have turned up the heat for me. Work stress is pretty much an ongoing thing, but lately it has been a little above normal. Either it is a huge workload or a new boss or a new project I know nothing about - there is always something to be stressed about. I continue to work on my frame of mind in relationship to this stress. When I start feeling scared, I try to remember that the people I work with all feel the same way sometimes. We are all just doing the best we can. I try to remember that I don't need to defend my ego, I just need to put in a good day's work.

I guess it all comes down to my issues with perfectionism. What better place to work on overcoming perfectionism than in a high pressure job? If I can learn to let go here, I can learn to let go anywhere.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


The kind of relationship I want is with someone who can give me plenty of space. My kids are my priority. I will continue to have my own life and plenty of time alone. I will take whatever time I need to go back to school when the time is right. I will spend plenty of time at the meditation center or with friends or with family. I will go on long meditation retreats. There are many people and many activities that satisfy the different needs of my whole being. My dear one must be able to let me go whenever I need to be let go.

And I must be able to do this too. Oh yeah! That’s the tricky thing isn’t it? I’m not used to having to do this. None of the men in my past really wanted me to let them go. They have usually clung to me in a needy way. I suppose that had its benefits at times. It is nice to be worshiped and idolized. It is nice to be needed and feel like the center of someone's universe. It makes me feel powerful and worthwhile. Perhaps even saintly - a pillar of pious strength, dedication and service without asking for anything in return. Tis better to give and wicked to ever receive. But that is the way of co-dependency. Co-dependency certainly has its satisfactions and advantages. Everything out there about co-dependency is so derogatory, but really, it has its place. Some people really need to give and some people really need to take.

However, I want something different this time. How about interdependence instead of co-dependence? I do want to be needed to a certain degree, just not smothered and burdened down by someone’s needs. I want to be needed as a very important part of someone’s life, just not the only part. I want to be a VIP, not a servant! I don’t think I have to sacrifice feeling powerful and worthwhile either. I believe I don’t need someone to be dependent upon me in order to feel powerful and worthwhile. And what about letting myself be ok with needing another, be ok with receiving?

Yes, I can let go. There is no benefit for me or anyone else in being forceful, demanding, or controlling. Yet, I do have high standards and expectations for I how deserve to be treated by a man. My expectations are actually quite simple. Not low, but simple. As long as there is honesty, openness, responsibility, compatibility, and attraction to begin with, it shouldn’t be any work at all. My simple expectations are these: quality time set aside for me, along with attention, affection and admiration. I don’t require a lot of reassurance that I am lovable. I know already that I am. But it is important to me that if someone loves me, he is able to express it, in small but meaningful ways.

All this talk of space. I need space, I need space! Yet, when I have it, I get afraid. What if I change my mind? What if he changes his mind? So what? What have I lost, then? Something that was never mine to begin with. Not me, not mine, not certain. Is that really a loss then?

I can just relax now. If there is love and if it is true, it is not going to disappear. I don’t have to grasp and cling. And I don’t have to push it away either in some effort to avoid having to lose it. If it is going to come, it is going to come. If it is going to go, it is going to go. There is nothing I can do about it, so why be concerned?

"I don't feel threatened. You can live your life being scared of losing someone, and, at the end of the day, if he is going to leave you, he'll leave you, and that's it." – Ali Hewson (married to Bono from U2 since 1982)

Monday, March 15, 2010


My first husband had a Honda Gold Wing. As our marriage declined, my last remaining joy with him was riding on the back of that motorcycle. Feeling the wind and sun on my face, smelling the country fields, moving through open space was immensely pleasurable. I loved it so much that most of the time I was begging him to take me for a ride when he didn't even want to go.

When we divorced, I really lamented not being able to ride. The only logical solution then was to get my own motorcyle and ride by myself. So I did. My first was a 1979 Kawasaki 454 LTD street bike. VERY old and VERY heavy and clunky. I felt so overwhelmed by its massiveness. I was terrified of the clutch and the shifter. I was terrified at the thought of putting my feet up on it because I didn't know how I'd get my feet back down and keep the thing upright. I was terrified of starting, terrified of stopping, terrified of turning. Hmmm... Why was I doing this??

The first time I got on it, rolled on the throttle, slowly let the clutch out - but apparently not slowly enough. The bike jumped forward and it and I toppled over to the side. My boyfriend (who would be my second husband eventually) helped get it upright again. I took a deep breath and tried again. By some miracle I got it moving, out of the driveway and up a steep hill. I had nothing in me but pure adrenaline. I managed to make some turns and even stop at some stop signs. One corner came up that I did not estimate correctly and I was moving too fast. I couldn't take my eyes off the curb and of course I went straight for it. I crashed into the curb and my leg got really badly bruised. But my bodily pain was not as bad as the frustration, disappointment, and embarrassment I felt.

The bike was scratched up a bit, but nothing major. My boyfriend rode it back home for me. I stayed off of it for at least a month or two. But I signed up for the motorcycle safety class. I took the class and gained some confidence with a smaller, more manageable motorcycle and got my motorcycle endorsement on my license. I was now an official, card carrying motorcyclist. I was ready to try again.

Of course I dropped that thing a few more times, but each time was a little less embarrassing and just plain irritating. I am only 5'2" after all. I don't have long legs to put down and give me stability. I have to be extra alert to even the slightest bit of uneven road when stopping. Once I was practicing in an empty parking lot by myself and dropped it. Fortunately, there was a woman nearby who came over to help me put it back up. I brushed myself off and carried on. I have learned to stop being embarrassed about it and just accept help.

I did finally get to the point where I wasn't dropping it anymore. When I got on it, it didn't seem so massive and overwhelming anymore. I would put a braid in my hair, go for a ride and finally find the joy I had been looking for. It was even greater joy this time! It was all mine! Riding on my own and being in control of such an intimidating machine really was a thrill. I had conquered it and my fear. I was in the front. I became one with the machine and it was like flying.

That was 10 years ago. I've had a few other bikes come and go, all sport bikes now. They handle MUCH easier than that first cruiser I had. I gave birth to 2 kids since, and finding time to ride isn't always easy. I get a little rusty when I get back on and end up dropping whatever new bike that I have at the time. I have had some scary moments while riding over the course of 10 years - close calls in traffic, gravel roads, dark country roads, rain. It seems like every time I get on the thing, my heart pounds with terror all over again. But I just keep doing it!!! I love the thrill of the challenge, I love the wind, the sun, the feeling of flying, of being one with a massive, powerful machine. Perhaps it is like a girl and her horse. To have mastery over a beast that could throw you or trample you at any time is such a cool victory. To say it is exciting is an understatement.

Now I have a Yamaha FZR. Just got it last summer and we are still getting to know each other. Like a good girl, she started right up this past weekend! The snow is gone now so as soon as I have a free moment without my kids, I will be flying...

Ray of Light (Madonna)

Zephyr in the sky at night I wonder
Do my tears of mourning sink beneath the sun
She's got herself a universe gone quickly
For the call of thunder threatens everyone

And I feel like I just got home
And I feel

Faster than the speeding light she's flying
Trying to remember where it all began
She's got herself a little piece of heaven
Waiting for the time when Earth shall be as one

Quicker than a ray of light

She's got herself a universe

Quicker than a ray of light she's flying
Quicker than a ray of light I'm flying

Monday, March 1, 2010


The Buddha taught about suffering and the end of suffering. The Buddha said that attachment is the source of all suffering. Freedom from attachment is freedom from suffering.

I think the Buddha was actually referring to a certain type of attachment. Attachment in the Buddhist sense is more along the lines of clinging to things that change, expecting to find permanency and stability in things that are not permanent or stable. Expecting to find lasting happiness and peace in things that are fleeting.

Attachment, in the psychological sense, is a natural and positive force in nature. It is a survival mechanism in humans. As helpless babies, our lives literally depended upon our caregivers. We needed to be sure that there was consistent care for us. We needed to become attached to our caregivers. A baby who experiences secure attachment becomes a HAPPY child, a safe child. A baby who experiences insecure attachment results in an unhappy and fearful child.

Whatever kind of attachment we may have experienced as babies, we can't seem to escape that deep conditioning. We try to recreate this experience when we grow up. After attachment theory in babies started to become popular, psychologists discovered that much of the same can be applied to love relationships. There are three basic attachment styles - avoidant, secure and anxious-resistant.

Avoidant - I am somewhat uncomfortable being close to others; I find it difficult to trust them completely, difficult to allow myself to depend on them. I am nervous when anyone gets too close, and often, others want me to be more intimate than I feel comfortable being.

Secure - I find it relatively easy to get close to others and am comfortable depending on them and having them depend on me. I don't worry about being abandoned or about someone getting too close to me.

Anxious-resistant - I find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like. I often worry that my partner doesn't really love me or won't want to stay with me. I want to get very close to my partner, and this sometimes scares people away.

Though most people fall into the secure category, we can still find ourselves acting more avoidant or anxious at times. I think that is a natural part of the ebb and flow of intimacy. That is, the ebb and flow of being close to someone while also maintaining personal identity. At times that we are feeling confident and have a strong sense of self, we are able to move very close to others without feeling threatened or afraid. At times we are feeling a little lost, we may need to move away from others a bit to make sure to remember who we are. I think this is natural and healthy. Overall, there is balance. Overall, there is interdependence. We have needs and we are needed. We can be close but maintain our own identities. We can be close and not be afraid of abandonment because we have faith that there are others who will care for us. We have faith that we are still lovable even if rejected by our object of attachment. We can be open. We can be vulnerable.

Relationships in which the couple have a secure attachment to each other are more successful. They have greater interdependence, commitment, trust and satisfaction.

A mutual, secure attachment to a lover you admire, respect and are compatible with is a beautiful thing! It can be a source of great pleasure and comfort. It is well worth the risk of a broken heart. Enlightened beings can and do love like this. When two of the Buddha's disciples died, he is quoted as saying, “It's as if the sun and the moon have left the sky.” In CS Lewis' book, The Four Loves, he mentions how distraught Jesus was over the death of Lazarus. He goes on to say:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket-safe, dark, motionless, airless-it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”

5/18/11 Update: I found this nice little web survey to help you identify your attachment style. Enjoy!

12/5/11 Update: Additional reflection on attachment