As you age, your friendships play a greater role in keeping you happy and healthy.
Read the full story here: In Old Age, Friends Might Matter Even More Than Family
As you age, your friendships play a greater role in keeping you happy and healthy.
Read the full story here: In Old Age, Friends Might Matter Even More Than Family
Dr. Twenge started doing research 25 years ago on generational differences, but when 2011 -2012 hit, she saw something that would scared her to the core.
Read the full story here: The scary truth about what's hurting our kids | Your Modern Family
Diarmaid Fitzpatrick, 70, semi-retired, Life Coach and training to be Shadow Work facilitator How did you get introduced to MKP?
I was giving a talk at a conference, I ended up sitting next to someone who talked about the personal development work he had done which was very powerful.
Read the full interview here: Look Deeper, Diarmaid Fitzpatrick | ManKind Project UK
Are you always attracted to unavailable men or women, to commitment-phobes, people living on different continents or to those already attached to someone else? Do you struggle to find emotionally healthy people attractive and run in the opposite direction as soon as a decent prospect wants to get serious?
In short, are you tired of repeating the same mistakes in your romantic relationships and getting the same results? If so, there’s no time like the present to change.
Dating for me used to be like banging my head against a brick wall. Why did I keep falling for commitment-phobes or unavailable types? Why couldn’t I fancy the good guys who were into me? And where have all the eligible men gone anyway?
I spent many a Valentine’s Day single, staying home to avoid all the red hearts or arranging a night out with my female friends. I had a good life and was content in many ways but I wanted to be in love. I thought things would never change.
But they have. I’ll be spending this Valentine’s Day with my partner, to whom I’m engaged. More importantly, I feel settled, confident I’m with the man I want to spend the rest of my days with and certain that there’s enough love between us to cope with whatever comes our way.
For an indecisive, restless soul who always thought there was someone better out there and who couldn’t stop looking over her boyfriend’s shoulder for the next guy, my newfound peace is nothing short of a miracle.
So how did I change my unhealthy relationship patterns and find love?
I first had to understand where I was going wrong. For years, I blamed the men I met for being emotionally distant or scared of commitment. What was wrong with them? Eventually, I discovered there was something wrong with me.
I was drawn to unavailable types because I was emotionally unavailable myself. I fancied commitment-phobes because I was terrified of commitment. Dating someone who wasn’t willing or able to give me love made it easy for me. It meant I could avoid getting into a true, intimate relationship with a man, and therefore avoid getting hurt, which was what I was scared of the most.
After years of personal development work and lots of therapy, I understood that my first relationship with a man, my dad, had set me up for a lifetime of self-sabotage. When my father sat my eight-year-old self on his knee and told me he was moving out of our family home, my heart cracked. The experience hurt so much that I resolved never to repeat it. I would never open my heart again. I would never get that close to a man.
I took something else away from that painful experience – the idea that I wasn’t lovable, valuable or good enough. This is what we do as children. We assume everything is our fault. We assume there’s something wrong with us.
My decision to avoid pain at all costs and that core belief that I wasn’t enough formed the basis for my future relationships. Unavailable types were safe to date. Available men who were up for commitment were dangerous so I ran away from them. And I didn’t believe I deserved love so I accepted crumbs and allowed others to treat me badly.
To change those patterns, I had to change how I related to myself.
I had to connect with the painful feelings from my childhood that I’d run away from for years or numbed with excess food (I had an eating disorder for several decades). That meant learning to slow down, sit still and allow the hurt to surface. I thought the feelings would kill me if I let myself feel them. But they didn’t. I’m still here. By feeling the pain, I could begin to heal it.
I had to learn to love, accept and respect myself wholeheartedly, to believe that I was enough and that I deserved a healthy and loving relationship with a man who could love me back.
I had to learn to trust that I could cope if I loved deeply but then lost someone again, to realise that I was a resilient adult now, not a vulnerable child.
I had to truly understand the root of my unhealthy patterns and talk about them with others who had similar experiences.
And I had to dig deep and find the courage to change those patterns.
I helped myself by building up a support network around me and by setting healthy and loving boundaries for myself whenever I went on a date. So I would try to avoid alcohol, which clouded my faculties and got me into scrapes with unavailable types. I would try to keep first dates short so I wouldn’t be tempted to end up in a man’s arms before I even knew anything about him. And I would try to move forwards at a steady pace, always alert to my history of self-sabotage, always questioning whether this relationship was good for me or whether I was repeating the same mistakes.
I say try because I messed up so many times. I am a human being after all. But every time I did, my awareness grew. Gradually, I began to date more mindfully. I began to choose who I spent time with rather than letting myself be chosen. And I began to give myself love and care so that I didn’t crave another’s love so badly. Cravings had always got me into trouble.
Awareness was the key to my transformation and I believe it’s the key for all of us. Awareness opens the door to change. By identifying and owning our patterns and by understanding why we cause ourselves pain, accept less than we deserve and run away from happiness, we can recover and heal.
That is my wish for you this Valentine’s.
Read the full story here: Loving, 50 Years Later
In hospital in 1972, Paula Keogh fell in love with the poet Michael Dransfield. In her new memoir she captures the voice of her illness and the man she loved
There's a story Marie de Hennezel likes to tell about a 99-year-old woman, a resident of a small French retirement village, who would regularly harm herself by masturbating with whatever she could get…
Read the full story here: Sex after 60: What's age got to do with it?
“To exercise power costs effort and demands courage. That is why so many fail to assert rights to which they are perfectly entitled - because a right is a kind of power but they are too lazy or too cowardly to exercise it. The virtues which cloak these faults are called
patience and forbearance.” (Nietzsche: Human, All too Human)
There are names flung at women like me. When I was younger, men could hardly make up their minds as to whether I was a cock tease or an easy lay. It didn’t bother me at all. I grew up in a very liberal town in South Africa, where the boys were sweet. They were happy to kiss for days and days, spent hours pleasuring their girlfriends with their hands and, I think, took pride in just taking their time about things. No-one ever came near to forcing me into doing anything I wasn’t ready for.
As a teenager, I got dumped by a boy I really liked because he wanted to have sex and I didn’t. He was gorgeous. Older than me by a few years and I adored him. We weren’t ever really ‘in’ a relationship. I used to go around to his house and lie on his bed with him and chat. He was madly handsome and very gentle and sensitive. I realised that it was getting impossible for him when his mum took me aside and told me that I should stop leading him on. He contacted me recently on fb. We had the best memories of each other. I sent him a private message. “Thank you for never forcing me to do anything I wasn’t ready for.”
Shortly before my sixteenth birthday, I discovered that I was falling crazily in love with another ex’s best friend. I couldn’t bear all the fuss around, ‘giving away’ my virginity. So, I slept with someone else. Someone I wasn’t crazy about, but liked a lot. I mean, we ‘got on’. Then I left him. To pursue the young man, I was deeply enamoured with. The first night we were ever together, he refused to do anything but lie next to me. It was utterly marvellous and romantic. If, when we did have sex, he felt disappointed that I was no longer a virgin, he didn’t say. He certainly never asked me who or when or why. Nor did I venture the tell.
Unfortunately, for all concerned, I found that I enjoyed sex rather a lot. I also discovered I had a bit of a wandering eye. A lot of a wandering eye. And hands. Sixteen was tumultuous for me at any rate. I left home, went to a cram college and had three or four intense relationships. I behaved appallingly and carelessly with people’s hearts, following my own without remorse. Yet, I am still one of the few women I know of any age who is able to say: “I have never had sex with anyone that I didn’t want to.”
Given the appalling number of people I know who have been sexually abused - date rape, childhood abuse and sexual abuse even within relationships: this appears to be somewhat of a feat. I feel fortunate that at an early age, I fell in with a crowd of artists and intellectuals. Socialists, feminists, queers, rule-breakers, who made it clear that ‘No is No!’ The worst sex I ever had, was with someone out of this circle was a drummer in the pub band where I was bartending. His ego was as big as his 80s hair, and he seemed to think it was my duty to give him a blow-job without him taking part in any reciprocal pleasuring. It is as close as I have ever come to feeling abused in bed. I made sure to keep as wide a berth from both him and his hair afterwards, despite his superb drumming.
As someone who has recently started ‘dating’ again, ie thinking about having sex with people other than people I have either already known for years, or who are generally within my circles, the question of consent is really important to me. I would hate for there ever to be a situation in which my ‘No’ was construed as anything other than clear refusal.
I am aware of my own sensitivities around sex. When I was younger, I loved hook-up sex. In my late 20s, I prided myself on running a small ‘harem’ - I had a few men who I had regular casual sex with. We were happy to hook up at the bars/clubs we used to frequent and I found it perfectly acceptable for them to ring up or pop over. I have no idea if any of them knew about each other, and we never discussed what it was. It was clear. Hot sex. No relationship, little chat, just sex. Still, I would never have referred to any of these men as ‘fuck buddies’. They were, in the main, artists and performers like myself.
People with whom I had that elusive ‘chemistry’ that can tip an acquaintance into an object/subject of desire. We had chemistry and mostly were not interested in forming long term relationships. They were people who were part of the small, alternative art/political circuit in South Africa. Left-wing, socialist and in the main, influenced by feminist ideas. They were friends in the wider sense of being ‘comrades’ or ‘fellow travellers’. There was a marked absence of hostility or misogyny. I was never called out for my promiscuity, which was, at the time, probably quite refreshing. “No is No!” was never questioned and non-consensual sex was certainly viewed as uncool. It was perfectly acceptable to request non-penetrative sex if one desired. It was sex with all the openness and willingness of youth, innocence and gaining experience. As we all came from a small circle where we were bound to bump into each other, it was unlikely that anyone you had sex with would follow up an encounter with shameful freezing-out or non-acknowledgement, whether or not hook-ups turned into longer term arrangements. The artificiality of shame had not entered our lexicon. I liked to have sex as a fast way of getting to know someone. As Julie Burchill has claimed of her youth, it made sense to have sex with someone to see if I wanted to get to know them better.
Whenever I strayed too far from that circle, for example when I was doing a lot of meditation/self-development work in the 90s and meeting people from a much wider circle - hook-ups often became fraught. Men distanced themselves after the act. I became aware of the phenomena of ‘vagina dentata’, the toothed vagina. Apparently, some men are terrified that they can be addicted to someone via an attachment to their vagina. I found it curious. How could some men be so cool and others so fucked up? I mean, what was it about some men that they assumed as you had slept with them that you would automatically cease to be a person? “What? You used to look me in the eye and now all you can see is my needy vagina?” I had to ask myself, did feminists make better lovers? There were the men who hung out and if you had sex managed to keep their shit together; others didn’t, one lover went into meltdown the morning after and I had to pull him up short by saying, ‘Please behave yourself or I shall have forgotten you entirely by mid-morning.' But there was still a sense of negotiation and I was never, thankfully, sent an unsolicited dick pic or experienced the assumption that I would welcome having someone’s cum all over my face.
Now, of course, I am talking about the pre-digital, pre-app age. Hook-ups were negotiated in meat space. There’s an awful lot you can tell about chemistry when your potential shag is four inches away from you and making eye contact. There is a lot of accountability when you know you will frequently run into that same person again and again and, within the confines of small circles of friends, you would most certainly know some of their ex or future lovers.
Love in the megacities throws up a whole host of possibilities for both instant gratification and anonymity. I am not particularly into hook-up culture now. As far as I am concerned, it is just another great thing that cis-gendered people have appropriated from queer culture and fucked up. Hook-up culture within queer culture may have been driven by utility and instant gratification, but was circumscribed by the nod and wink of counter-culture. Cis-gendered hook-ups can feel like the utility without the camaraderie and cordiality of acting against the status quo. It’s unsexy. There’s an odour of entering into sexual liaisons in bad faith, ie with the same mindset formerly employed for paid for services in prurient societies. I can’t be the only person to find it galling to be treated as if one had been bought on the marketplace rather than having entered into a free and fraternal exchange.
Perhaps I have been ruined by marriage and an unhealthy interest in creating intimacy. What does it mean? What happens if someone touches me and I find myself repulsed by the quality of their skin? How close can I let people in?
London, is a smorgasbord of opportunity. One must assume that it all works only because people have figured out consent. My friends who are into BDSM tell me that the most consensual sex they have had is within these relationships. There is an agreement around what will or won’t be done. Sexual chemistry and attraction is down to having a relationship of trust and where boundaries are respected.
Vanilla relationships, like the ones I have blundered into all my life, have far more blurred lines. Even as I write, I can’t help thinking of that fucking awful song. The misogyny that accompanies some internet posts - ‘Well you shouldn’t have been dressed like that’, ‘Shouldn’t have drunk like that’, ‘Shouldn’t have gone home with a strange man’. Fuck that. They should have heard their ‘No’ as ‘No’.
My friend who performs at the Poetry Brothel as ‘Wild Iris’ has a poem about it. She asks, ‘How many times did I have to say no?’ Well, the answer should be ‘once’. Just once.
I’m horrified by reports that young women are being sexually groped and assaulted at school, that often they are having anal before kissing, that they are being slut-shamed if they choose to be as open about sex as their male counterparts. That the rise and accessibility of porn means that young men think it is ok to come on someone’s face without permission, or to have penetration without preparation. In this arena, it is not just young people who have to be educated about what it means to have a live person in front of you. Almost everyone I know who has ventured into online dating or apps has, at some point, received ‘the unsolicited dick pic’ or been faced with inappropriate sexual content. The lines between instant access internet porn and instant access sex are not always clear. One person’s ‘date’ is another person’s ‘prelude to sex’. Ewwww is our most common expression.
There is, as antidote, a lot of discussion about consent. A re-invigorated interest in asserting that, ‘No is No!’ and beyond that, to moving the discussions to a more communicative, co-relational, 'Yes is Yes'. I’m uncertain about the dynamics of that. I’d like to try it, though my soul shrinks at the thought of asking someone. ‘May I touch you?’ ‘May I kiss you?’ I’m embarrassed when I think of how I may have accosted men in my past. The assumption that ‘All men are up for it.’ I wonder what it would be like to take the lead, and ask, ‘May I……?’ It strikes me that maybe men also struggle to find the words to ask for what they want.
I was shagging an old friend. It was great and then out of the blue, he suggested anal. I said, ‘No’. ‘What?’ he replied. ‘You’ve never done anal?. It was early in the morning. I didn’t feel like explaining. The only anal I had ever had, had been consensual and spontaneous, but it had hurt for days after and I was sure I had been torn. It was not something I wanted to try again without lots of lube, analingus and condoms. And time. Lots of time. So I just said, ‘No. Not without lube and condoms’. So, bless him, he stumbled to the kitchen. I saw the light of the fridge reflected in the window. He came stumbling back, pleased with himself, with a great big blob of butter on his hand.
Immediately, I said, ‘Fuck you and your Bertolucci fantasies!’ To his credit, he sat down and flicked the blob of butter out of sight. I think that is the first time I felt anything near love for him. We continued to have hot, consensual sex, but if that had that happened with a complete stranger, I am not sure if I would have felt confident enough to make my ‘No’ clear and would more than likely have cleared out immediately in embarrassment.
How do you negotiate consent with a complete stranger who assumes that as you are over 50, you have either done everything there is to do already, and therefore, why wouldn’t you do them now? How do you explain to a complete stranger, that yes, you liked snogging them 5mins ago, but they have just dived for your clitoris and it all feels a bit ‘smash and grab’? I honestly can understand that it must be very frustrating for men to think that they have a chance of having full penetrative sex only to be fobbed off at the last moment. In the vast pool of unreserved sexual conquests, it must be tempting to see every date as a bona-fida sex partner. I wish I felt the same. I certainly know women who are so in charge of their own sexuality that they feel they can have sex with anyone. That it does not matter. I am way more repressed that I thoughtI was. I have a zillion gate-keepers measuring everything from the temperature and humidity of your skin to the woolfishness in your eyes, to the colour of the buttons on your shirt. I am capricious, not because I am holding out, but because I already know that I want something deeper, stronger and more interesting than straight utility. I have been ruined by age, self-awareness and deep feeling for things that bubble under the surface of the skin.
Sex is a lot like dancing. Some people are good at it. Intuitive. Some people are good together. Personally, I prefer dancing by myself to dancing with anyone really clumsy or anyone terribly formulaic. But each to their own. Some people like being led. Some people like to follow. There is an exercise we do in drama groups called ‘The Mirror’, it’s an exercise in leading and following. First one leads and then one follows. Then you swop around. The facilitator calls when to make the changes. As the exercise advances, the facilitator says, ‘Ok, now change by yourself who leads and who follows, without my instruction.’ In some partnerships, the change is seamless. It’s beautiful and tells us (the audience) a lot about the way energy can move between two people. It becomes a beautiful dance of shared power, shared leadership. It can also expose the power dynamics in relationships. Who holds on? Who must dominate? Who is afraid to lead? Who hates to follow? At the end of the session, you ask the participants to reflect on their own feelings. ‘What did you enjoy? Why? What made you feel uncomfortable? Why? For some people, following is wonderful, they can relax, not make decisions: for others, the power of control is the thing. The mirror exercise, dancing, life - it’s all about power. Who has it. Who wants it. Who surrenders theirs? How they share it? What they will do to keep it?
Speaking to some of my female friends, of all ages, who are having regular hook-up sex, it has become apparent that the sexual freedom that was so liberating and celebrated for adventurous women in the 80s, has now turned into something where women are once again being subjected to double standards. Slut-shamed by their more conservative friends and treated badly by men who move through them with the same respect they would give to a late-night kebab take-out. Tasty but forgettable. Or just disrespectful in a myriad of ways that reveal a lot about the disjuncture that many men have between the needs of their penis and their ability to connect at a meaningful, human level once their penis has entered the conversation. I am hearing, from multiple conversations, ‘Just show some respect’. What does that mean?
Here’s the thing - I honestly think that I can’t have sex with fascists, neo-liberals or conservatives, but the surprise is people who I vaguely consider to be ‘on the same side’ coming at you as if your body is another commodity that they can ‘have’. That they can move through in the same ‘rapey’ way that you can travel through the city. In fast lanes and elbowing people as you go. The city can be an alienating space. Your body is the last point of defence. The final space where you can circumscribe a boundary. ‘This far and no further’. In this context, the replacement of ‘No is No’ , a reactive, protective measure, with ‘Yes is Yes’, a proactive, relational discussion becomes really sexy. Resistance to the status quo is sexy. Creating intimacy as a counter-weight to fast-food, fast-sex, immediacy. What would it be like to create a slow sexual intimacy with someone who I don’t know, but who is unafraid and unguarded? Can we deepen our human accords through the act of sex? Can we leave the intimacy of the sexual encounter and still keep the integrity of relationship, whilst still not placing currency on their ability to create intimacy? Can we create intimacy and cordiality even within the potential anonymity of the city? Can sex be a gateway to intimacy between friends, or are we just moving parts of pleasure? As capitalism kills the city, and the environment and equality are fucked, can we help create intimacy as an antidote?
So maybe, ‘No is No!’, is not enough. Beyond the politics of refusal, perhaps the only way to maintain a defence against utilitarianism is to create spaces for intimacy. For consent. For slowing down. For moving less expediently, less hastily. For treating everyone as lovers and friends, not temporary objects. Maybe in that context, consent is powerful. Consent is sexy. Is there something beyond ‘fuck-buddy’ that isn’t a commitment to monogamy or sexual currency? ‘Yes is Yes’, in a time where there is so little one can say a fulsome and hearty, ‘Yes!’ to?
Moral meaning and the creation of morality starts with ‘No!’ but surely we must find ways to evolve this negative into a meaningful ‘Yes!’. Let’s consider how we could do that…
Debra Watson is a participative theatre, media and arts facilitator, performer and poet. Her blog page is www.debrawatsoncreative.com.
She performs as Bibi Snythe at The Poetry Brothel London. You can purchase her book of poems ‘Be Loved’ for £10 by contacting her here: https://debrawatsoncreative.com/poetry-performance/
'The man, who, being really on the Way, falls upon hard times in the world will not, as a consequence, turn to that friend who offers him refuge and comfort and encourages his old self to survive. Rather, he will seek out someone who will faithfully and inexorably help him to risk himself, so that he may endure the suffering and pass courageously through it. Only to the extent that man exposes himself over and over again to annihilation, can that which is indestructible arise within him. In this lies the dignity of daring.'
Karlfried Graf von Durkheim
It is interesting how when we start our journey we have completely the wrong idea - that somehow by magic we will wind up in some blissful nirvana. Instead we find the path narrows, gets more painful as well as more joyful, and there are fewer and fewer true companions.
Opening the heart is devastating as we feel everything more acutely. It seems there is no anaesthetic if you want to become one with life, only a singular commitment to being all of it, to incorporating more and more until the conscious life reflects the wholeness of the Self.
In moving into a loving relationship recently, I am being tested to the core of my being and everything that is not love is crawling (and sometimes shooting) to the surface of my consciousness. Loving is hard, painstaking work. No wonder many of us renege on it before we get more than a few steps down its dusty road.
The Sufi mystic Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee recites a meeting with an aspirant who when asked if she was prepared to spend the next few years peering into her own shadowy darkness said a flat ‘no!’
Bully for her for at least she possessed the honesty of foresight and a degree of self awareness that seems to completely bypass many New Agers bent on their next manifestation, which will presumably acquit them of the sludge of self discovery.
This mistaken awareness that suddenly we should be feeling good all the time once we are ‘awake’ can lead to a very rude awakening of an entirely different sort. After all, true peace is freedom from the need to feel good all the time. That is simply the tyranny of the ego which, as ever, wants life its own way.
Certainty is a curious thing. How often do we give our power to those who appear sure of themselves and seem to offer the safety of certainty and with it direction? Yet power almost always lies in the hands of the 'wrong' people because those who are power driven are most often at the beginning of an evolutionary cycle where the developmental task is to build a strong ego.
At that early stage there is only a tiny amount of light in the soul and it is this inability to see the full spectrum of life in all its varying shades which lends the power of certainty. Tyrants and despots everywhere do their worst under such limited insight.
In 'spiritual' circles we can observe the same phenomenon: the need for egoic power masquerading as 'love and light'. Give me teachers of human frailty, compassion and self doubt any day; someone who is willing to be vulnerable and say 'I don't know' when necessary and someone who has seen enough of life to know their own failings. That involves moving around the wheel of life, experiencing many different facets of one's humanity, making mistakes, and being authentic rather than perfect.
In reality, whoever we are, sometimes the floor keeps opening and we just keep on falling through it to yet another rock bottom. Along the way, we pass through those feelings we spent a lifetime or more avoiding, until we reach the core of the conditioned mind - worthlessness and self hatred - only to finally discover that within us lies an invincible summer.
Courage is required not to circumvent this process, and faith. If you just want 'love and light' in your life don't even begin, keep holding on to what makes the ego feel safe. But it seems to me, that for all of us, there comes a point when the only thing we can do is to let go and live our own peculiar passage through time until we land in eternity.
And it is precisely that journey that has called me in recent months and some days I have zero confidence in my ability to make it and withstand its searing test. Yet in truth I know the hero’s journey is the only game in town and, however I may complain, it is a burning of the heart that I want.
We so often think love is soft and warm, but it takes time and maturity to learn that love has a hard, cold edge too that is ruthless about Truth or Reality and exists only in Freedom. Love is a laser beam that cuts through to the heart of things, discarding all that fails to serve its interests.
The Sufis say that love's apparent absence experienced as emptiness and longing is just as important as the heat of its sun. If we really love another, it seems we also have to be prepared to let them go if being with us is not in their own best interests.
Love's agenda is different to the self-serving needs we impose upon it and sloughs us off like some bucking bronco when we try to bend it to our will. The conditioning of our co-dependent culture can make it hard to be clear in the mind yet that is what we owe one another. We must never compromise our complexity for a false peace.
Give me someone who can talk about their in between places, not their successes, achievements and ambitions. Someone who has done the work of traversing the wild current of their own innards, their dark history; someone who has travelled and understood what appears to be the most insignificant cul-de-sac of their deepest being.
I am not interested in those who can bang a drum, perform a ritual and look good. I am interested in the person who will tell it how it is, talk straight, disappoint me to support themselves, understand the simple value of kindness over spiritual trickery, clear with me by making an amend when wrong while looking me in the eye and speaking from the heart.
Those people are few and far between in my experience yet I would take one of those, the person whose heart is true, over any number of do-gooders, shamanic pretenders or weekend warriors. It is interesting how deep psychotherapy has gone out of vogue, the slow pain-staking work of true self enquiry in favour of quick fixes and sudden shifts.
I want you slow cooked or not at all, I wrote a while back. For it seems to me that unlike the day world or ego, the soul likes to meander and take its time and seeks to root out even our smallest transgression or quirk, all that we had long forgotten and never wanted to see again. How many are truly up for the underworld journey?
Some people like to think they will be immune from pain the more they mature in consciousness. But that is simply a ploy by a mind still burdened by the fantasy of its own power. The more conscious we become, it seems the more sensitive we are, not less. Shams, the poet Rumi's master, moved away, in pain, from those whose unconsciousness assaulted his depth of awareness and Love. Isolation is, ultimately, preferable to a long bath in idiocy.
It is a great unwisdom to always be trying to escape our vulnerability, be positive at every moment, always to be on the up and on the make. For as the poet David Whyte points out, there is no escape from it, we are our vulnerability. So the question is more about how we become one with it without letting it consume us, rather than trying to outrun it, control it, and allow pride to throw a veil over our humanness.
The current idea that we must heal or fix everything is based, I believe, on a flawed concept of what it is to be a human being. Rather than always thinking of being better, we could simply keep opening to those pockets of unconsciousness we all carry, allowing their gifts to come forth. We are not static entities, but life unfolding, awareness awakening slowly, over time so we can integrate at all levels. There is no rush. We will all end on a breath.
As for relationships, I know that infatuation is a potent impostor, an ersatz love, a sugar-hit for the soul, that simulates the real thing, a near miss that is a million light years away. It is the mind's version of what love looks like when it has had a failed, often devastating, experience of the real thing. It is so beset by desire, fear and projection it has little hope of peering out of the fog of its imaginings to see clearly.
And yet somewhere, hidden in its dark and desperate recesses is the grain of something finer. There is no wanting in love and to arrive at this place, where the only desire is for the beloved's happiness, will excoriate the ego.
To transform infatuation into love is one of life's true rarities, yet holds the seeds of greatest potential for true love and freedom. Yet it means a complete transformation in outlook and attitude with the ego no longer dominated by consciousness but sinking roots deep into the unconscious where all its repressed memory of failed love lives.
And so my love, I am still here, stretching toward you as you stretch toward me and I am reminded of the words on love from the first spiritual book I read, Scott Peck’s The Road Less Travelled: ‘Love is the willingness to extend oneself for your own or another’s spiritual growth.’
Amen to that.