Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fear is as changeable as the change that I fear

I am feeling insecure at the moment for some reason and I’m trying to look at this feeling objectively. Of course the first impulse is to think that there is somehow something wrong with me. Why am I feeling this way? I shouldn’t be feeling this way. Then there is the urge to get rid of it or cover it up in some way. The way my mind does this is by obsessing. I want to either solve the problem in a hurry or just be distracted from it. This obsession is driven by aversion. Sometimes obsession is driven by greed but today it is aversion. Fear. Fear of losing something pleasurable. Fear of impermanence. Fear of instability. Fear of the unknown. Fear of rejection. Fear of not being likeable. Fear of making mistakes.

But this fear is not me. It is just something happening in the moment. It is not solid. It is instable. As FDR said, “The only thing to fear is fear itself.” It is the extra anxiety that comes from fear that can potentially get out of hand. Fear is workable. To the degree we can be comfortable with fear, it does not overtake us. It does not spin out of control.

Being comfortable with fear is not about stopping that fear. It is about examining it head on, without any avoidance. It is felt fully, but it is not to be taken as solid. Fear is as changeable as the change that I fear.

Mindfulness around fear pokes holes in it. When fear is taken personally, it is made to seem solid. If we avoid taking fear personally, it is like mist. We can walk right through it.

Usually upon closer examination, asking the question, “Where is this fear coming from? Is it truly valid?” the answer is that the fear is coming from mistaken ideas and it is truly not valid. Seeing clearly helps to relieve fear.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Problems Are Not a Problem

I got into work today to emails about several things that just are not going the way they are supposed to. I just thought to myself, well I guess I have some work to do today.

I used to think that when things were planned out well, they actually should go according to plan. I had great expectations for outcomes. But of course I have discovered again and again that so many times it doesn't matter how much or well I plan. Things turn out as they will. I can prepare and prepare and still all hell could break lose unexpectedly. It is so much easier to deal with results when there are no specific expectations for how things might turn out. When I have great expectations for how things should be, it is SO painful when they don't turn out how I wanted.

Non-attachment to results, letting go of hope and fear, is such a peaceful way to be. I don't think I could go back to the tight, perfectionistic clinging of my younger days. How painful that was! I suppose the way I got to this place was by simply acknowledging the pain and suffering caused from being attached to particular results. We have to see we are hurting in order to fix it. Once it is seen and understood (this is painful because I am clinging), the next time we have expectations about something and it doesn't turn out how we like, it will still hurt, but we'll have a more big picture view of it. We all must become our own psychologists, analyzing our minds and emotions and becoming interested in what we find there. We must seek to understand what we find. Understanding leads to wisdom which leads to freedom.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My roof is just a little leaky

Even as rain penetrates an ill-thatched house, so does lust penetrate an undeveloped mind.

Even as the rain does not penetrate a well-thatched house, so does lust not penetrate a well-developed mind.

Dhammapada 1:9

Monday, November 1, 2010


I’ve been thinking lately about commitment in relationships. A day-to-day commitment makes the most sense to me as a Buddhist. I am glad that I have had some training in the appreciation of impermanence. This training is necessary for a person that like things decided. Fortunately, with this training and from the aversion I have to marriage after having been through two divorces, I am more comfortable with ambiguity than ever before. Nothing is not subject to change. Nothing. I fully recognize and appreciate this. However, to some degree there must be some ground to stand on. It is understood that it may not be ground that stays under our feet, but ground that is there now.

How does a Buddhist divorcee with kids reconcile this paradox of commitment/stability and impermanence/instability? I want to be sensitive to my kids’ need for security and consistency, yet at the same time, they are just as susceptible to impermanence as everyone else. Impermanence is a truth that cannot be hidden or denied. But what can I do to minimize the impacts to their security while at the same time live our lives together fully? Lives that change? People that change?

I have never introduced anyone I’ve dated to my children. It results in a somewhat secretive, double life of sorts. I certainly feel this is necessary. It is important to me that there is a certain level of commitment in an intimate relationship before I would feel comfortable introducing a man to my kids. But I need to better define “certain level of commitment.” The word “commitment” is a very scary word to me, and frankly I am not interested in the “lock down” that the term implies to me. Yet at the same time, it just seems silly to keep my kids completely out of that part of my life indefinitely.

The kind of relationship that I want for myself is one with sexual exclusivity but otherwise total freedom. I want my lover to have the choice to be with me. A choice that he is free to make or not make every day. When he is free to make that choice and he chooses me, that feels much better than someone being with me out of obligation, because he said “I do” in a solemn vow, signed on the dotted line, or is simply dependent upon me in some way.

This is difficult to translate into terms that society understands. Our culture is all about marriage. In spite of the reality of high divorce rates, the underlying collective belief is that one must be married in order to be a true member of society. There are a few rebels out there fortunately. Gene Simmons and Shannon Tweed, who have been together for 26 years say they are “Happily Unmarried.” Goldie Hawn says about her 27 year relationship with Kurt Russell: “I wake up every day knowing I can walk out at any moment.”,,20401691,00.html More people than ever before are cohabitating and not getting married. I think the tides are turning, though slowly. Commitment and choice need not be at odds. I believe in commitment to one another’s freedom of choice. How beautiful lovers are who choose each other again and again as the years roll by.

It is difficult to have this commitment to freedom of choice when I have kids. The kind of freedom I want in a relationship means that there could come a point of not choosing each other anymore and then my kids are left wondering. I feel compelled to protect them, but how can this be entirely prevented? Since I can’t predict the future, all I can do is examine my intentions in the present moment. And the intentions of the man I might introduce my kids to. My intention is for a long-term relationship. Long-term meaning something that has a good chance of continuing for more than a year. When I have gotten to know someone well enough to have determined that there is long-term potential, I might be ready for my kids to meet him. It only need have potential. And of course these intentions must be mutual. How long it takes to get to know someone to that degree is up for debate, I suppose. I probably would have to allow more time than I’d like. Once I had decided this, it probably would be wise to wait another month or two, just to rule out my tendency to rush into having things decided.

Introducing my kids to a lover would be a pretty big deal and it would indicate a commitment for me. But not a binding sort of commitment. I don’t want to be tied down. I don’t need a vow and I don’t need or want my partner to say “forever.” There only needs to be mutual agreement that what we have is worth putting some amount of effort into keeping it going. That is all.