Tag Archives: Relationships

Reflections on a wedding and pain

Here’s a little something from a wedding I attended in August of ’06. The mystery is indeed mystery and such joyful experiences contain much paradox when we pay attention.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Brian told me at the reception that “weddings are emotional times.” I think he said this in passing without really understanding the depth of the emotion that was existent in the lives of those involved. There was more to it than a situational display of feeling.

As I looked across at that the faces of his family while Chris proposed a toast to his missing brother of two years, I saw it well up and overflow. Pain. Pain that is always there, not simply there because of the wedding. I saw a wince, a cringing. I saw a bowed head, a covered face. A quivering lip accompanying eyes filled with tears. I, myself, recoiled with a painful gasp for air as I knew, and felt, what feelings emerge from such memories.

Weddings are to be joyful times, I thought. Indeed, to celebrate the end of years of struggling through singleness of my brother, Chris, was more joyful and exciting than anything we had celebrated as yet. Everyone was happy for him, especially his family and those of us closest to him. But I am realizing that to truly experience the joy, one must also understand and feel the pain. The tension caused by the mutual existence of the two gives life to the real and true intensity of the feelings. In the midst of this joy, there was such great pain. And I felt it deeply… raw and burning. Never, never will I make light of it or deny its existence.

For every new life and new growth comes a dying and death of the old. The transition of a close friend into the world of marriage leaves me knowing that things cannot be the same. Chris’ role in my life is significantly altered. The very real distance and pain of Scott processing the change alone, not knowing the pain I feel in his withdrawal. The wounds uncovered as my need for his friendship is denied.. The knowledge of change and transition of my life into a future that is beyond what I can possibly envision. Where am I going to live? What kind of job am I going to have? How is this man, being himself a steady and self-aware man, going to bring his being to a completely new and different environment? How long do I wait?

The questions go on as the days pass… every new morning is a gift, taken with joy, as I experience it new. The joy with the pain, and the death with the life. It is the way of things and I feel these tensions. I feel them so deep… they are in my breathing, in my getting up and lying down, in my working and in my rest.


Supported by the universe… Immensely!

It’s funny. I had this post in mind, that was entirely focused on little Brendan’s peaceful slumber in my arms. Of course, at my intended time of writing, what did the little guy decide to express to me but quite the opposite. After some holding and talking, he once again set the example for me as to what peace looks like.

Yesterday, the two of us got to sit in on Kat’s lunch time yoga class. It being her first regular class back, she wanted to have a little experiment to see how he would do in an hour long yoga class. So Brendan and I sat in the back and we danced. He spent some time on his belly, on his back, on his feet, flying in the air, swinging, and being held. He didn’t cry once. He did, however, smile and laugh and giggle and groove. After a while, he began rubbing his eyes so I held him till he fell asleep. Deeply. There he was, resting in my arms in as deep a sleep as a baby can be. Arms hanging. Legs limp. Head and neck relaxed.

It was then I was reminded what it means to be supported by the universe. Our natural state of being. At peace. At-one-ness. Not a care in the world because we are being held by the great being of infinite love. There is nothing more beautiful.

Our lives get so complicated with apparent dilemma after dilemma. We get rushed and hurried and hustled and harried. Our breath, our most basic body instincts, is completely forgotten and ignored. Our bodies hold on to every up and down we feel. We get sick, tired, and worried. This is not the human condition. This is not what God wants for us. I take my reminders from my child and the spirit speaks through him.

As he slept, I kissed his feet. My guru.


Shame and the liberated self

I just read an article by James Bowler, S.J., entitled Shame: A Primary Root of Resistance to Movement in Direction. There were a few things that I really appreciated, one being his description of laying on layers of internal messages to cover up the heart of the shame. So often, this is the case that we have multiple tapes that get played in our heads, most often negative ones, that keep us in bondage from our liberated, free, and fresh self. As I looked at our little baby this morning, I see his eyes, which though only 6 weeks old, look timeless and eternal. He is so free from all these layers. Just watching. And I think about my eyes, and my ears, and what I have witnessed. Not to mention what gets played in my head about all of those experiences as well. This is where shame starts playing out.

The other thing that was very helpful was his mention of the Enneagram. This has been such a major tool in my own movement into moving past, or at least being aware of, my own coping strategies. As a 9, my tendency is to numb out in avoidance of all stress or anxiety. And there really are endless ways that I do this… mostly leading me to a place of nearly always being unable to focus on the moment at hand. In this, I find my own shame. So many of us have these coping strategies, that get us away from the stress or the dis-harmony that comes from our shame.
Bowler also makes a distinction between guilt, unhealthy shame, and healthy shame, which he calls “discretionary” shame. In my own reflection and in my listening with others, I don’t know that I would spend much time on guilt, as it is an indicator and nothing more. Guilt is like the feeling I get from burning myself or stubbing my toe. I might do this over and over again, which is bound to happen, but it is what I tell myself as a result that leads to unhealthy shame. Pain does not have to be a constant feeling, just as guilt does not have to be a constant feeling. Accept it and move on, learning from the situation.
Negative shame is when I beat myself up for, or continue to dwell on and recall, the moments of guilt. Discretionary shame, as Bowler writes about it, is an existential awareness and recognition of our place before God and our commonality with other humans. It is like a state of humility, a remembrance that we are “not yet.” But it is far from beating ourselves up and it is far from guilt. I would probably not call it shame, however the idea is the same. We do need a deep awareness and humility that we are not yet… we are still becoming. This give us compassion for each other and a deep longing for union with the God that invites us into himself.

Suffering… when you are not in control and you know it!

How difficult it is to be a man and know that I am not in control. I want to fix so badly. In these days when Kat and I are really trying to learn about self-care and staying healthy for the baby, and struggling in our attempts, this lesson of control is so real. To be with my wife while she is in the throes of coughing or the agony of a clenched up back, and feeling as though there is nothing I can do, is emotionally and even physically disorienting.

It is such an effort for me to call on that place of love and acceptance, of calm, patience, and breath. Presence remains… personal, loving, healing. And my prayers go there, and go there, and go there, and go there. Breathe, breathe, breathe… remember. And then of course, I call the “village” mothers and my own mother… HELP!

These words I recently read from Richard Rohr (The Naked Now) have been so encouraging… It is what it is. I have said it myself many times.

When you are inside great love and great suffering, you have a much stronger possibility of surrendering your ego controls and opening up to the whole field of life.

[In suffering], things happen against your will… you are not in control – which is what makes it suffering. And over time, you can learn to give up your defended state, again because you have no choice. The situation is what it is… The suffering might feel wrong, terminal, absurd, unjust, impossible, physically painful, or just outside of your comfort zone. So you see why we must have a proper attitude towards suffering, because many things every day leave us out of control – even if just a long stoplight. Remember, always, however, that if you do not transform your pain, you will surely transmit it to those around you and even to the next generation.

Suffering can lead you in either of two directions: It can make you very bitter and close you down, or it can make you wise, compassionate, and utterly open, either because your heart has been softened, or perhaps because suffering makes you feel like you have nothing more to lose.

Time… what is it good for? Absolutely everything!

How much of your time is dedicated to the life of sustainable community? How much of your time is given to caring for the earth or cultivating relationships that will make a difference for generations to come?

This is a big question as I have heard so many times that there is just too much to do or too many taps on the limited time that we have. I really think it comes down to what we value. Some would put a dollar amount on their time as their income is based on how much money they can make per-hour. They would rather just write a check then commit a couple hours to volunteer. While this helps in a financial sense, it doesn’t help too much in a relational sense.

I could never be where I am today if I had worked full time for the last four years. I’m not sure if I could even do it at this point. Then again, all that I do is work, life, play… its all time committed to one vision – building the Village. I had a conversation with a friend yesterday as she is wrestling with starting full-time work. What if we could build a value structure into our country, maybe just our city, where people didn’t feel the need to work full time jobs?

We could do it… it would mean a major shift in lifestyle, but we would have so much more time to share with each other, so much more time to cultivate and grow our own food sources. Gone would be the frantic rush from home to work to home to work. Gone would be the meaningless stockpiling of money to use on the self-centric pursuit of happiness. Maybe our lives would slow down a bit and we could eliminate “business” from our vocabulary.