The only type of love is unconditional love. But that's much easier said than done! Join Ron for this episode of Speaking True, on How to Love Without Conditions
The process of Forgiveness begins with Engaging the challenge in a way that leads to Release, and thus promotes Transcendence.
It began with a strange but lucid dream. I was in the middle of a relationship that was unraveling, that slow, grinding and uncomfortable time when you really should be able to see the proverbial handwriting on the wall, but are too much in denial or delusion to understand. The dream seemed to be a very long one where I wandered through a library making comparisons between novels and short story collections, with the latter always falling short.
For once, I understood a dream. It was clearly a reference to relationships. I have a really marvelous collection of relationships that are akin to short stories with the occasional novella. And they really are lovely, except when compared to the cultural gold standard, the long-enduring marriage.
It was an epiphany to see I was making this invalid and unhelpful comparison, but the real traction came when I asked, “How can I not see such things about myself? I wonder who I really am? And I wonder what kinds of women or relationships actually suit me?”
So let me tell you the first truth I learned. Most of us never actually try to answer such questions as these. We accept the first or most available love relationship, get locked down in it, then proceed to find challenges and faults of all kinds. So we exit the unsatisfying relationship, and promptly find another, still without any exploration of who we are and what we desire. That’s not a criticism, simply an acknowledgment of how it seems to work for the vast majority. I guess many of us are simply lonely in some way or another.
Regardless, my epiphany launched me on a course of exploration. It sounds rather foolish as I type these words, but it was quite revealing. There are any number of things I simply did not know about myself and relationships. It turns out the most important thing for me is rich conversation, which matters more than most everything else. Then a love of the arts and beauty, and a sense of adventure. Plus, I discovered that I only do well if someone is reasonably self-sufficient. I don't want to be anyone’s solution to their own life or life problems.
It seemed so selfish at first until someone pointed out that it’s kind of like how we like our foods. If you like your steak cooked rare, why should you try to like it well done? If a vegetarian lifestyle works for you, trying to be a carnivore is just foolish. We are who we are. And it’s useful to know that. And far more effective when in the process of trying to find someone with whom to spend time, or invest your life.
That brings me to the greatest revelation. Somehow I came across a book, True Loves: Finding the Soul in Love Relationships, by a husband and wife team who are both Jungian psychologists, Alex and Naomi Quenk. They proposed that each of us has a love archetype, a kind of master imprint for how we experience and express love, that we are the way we are and the great mischief comes in trying to be something other than that.
It turns out that my archetype is “mercurial.” While I care deeply and am fiercely loyal, I become easily bored. I’m just not steady the way many people think one ought to be in relationship. I can commit, but wilt when overly confined. I need a steady stream of experiences that constantly renew my attention and my passions. Paraphrasing the Quenks, I am not fulfilled by relationship, but use relating and love as a way to express my fulfillment. It turns out I simply do not fit the standard, expected model for relationship.
Seeing who we are at our core in relationship relieves countless stresses. We only need be true to these most fundamental identities. The mistake is in trying to be or do otherwise.
“I yam what I yam, and that’s all what I yam.” -Popeye
Seeing True™ in Action
Are you unfulfilled in love? It is extremely likely that discontent belies some kind of misfit between who you are, your understanding of who you are, and how you play it out in love. Until you understand the nature of what fits, it is nothing but a guessing game.
Are you willing enough to try something new? To explore the truth of you?
Have you ever wondered how Velcro works? Sometimes our interactions with others work the same way. Many of us get “hooked” together in dynamics and with people in such a way that isn’t beneficial to our well-being.
A Long and Winding Road to Understanding
“Where do you get the time for all your creative endeavors ? Or the energy? Do you ever sleep?”
People have been asking me such questions for some time now, and I must admit to some reluctance about answering them, because it's not a simple answer. For that matter, I'm just suspicious enough about myself to wonder if I'm not just talking nonsense.
I want to first note I’ve been trying to explain this for a number of years. In fact a lot of this foundation was laid in 2004 when I first released an audio set, Seeing True – The Way of Spirit, through my private publishing company. That material has now been released commercially in 2016 by Ozark Mountain Publishing.
That said, let me try to explain.
There is only energy, or spiritual energy if you prefer. All matter and all action are nothing but expressions of energy. Furthermore, there is an infinite quantity of energy in the creation, and movement seems to be its nature.
Quantum mechanics has determined that all energy is subtly affected by all the rest of the energy. It’s all connected through some pretty strange physics, which I’ve come to think of as responsiveness. So infinite variations of energy are constantly in motion and partly influenced by all the rest of the energy and movement.
The question then is, how is that energy being used by, and through us?
The first use of that energy is by our unconscious selves, for example bodily functioning and innate survival. The second use is based on our sensory perception, which is observable though not necessarily controllable. I’m referring to the energy needed to step out of the way of an oncoming vehicle, or to attend to a crying baby, or for the many things that seem to require our attention and effort.
But what happens when through spiritual or psychological development, some of these actions and behaviors become more conscious to us? Or when we deliberately devote energies to meditation or mindfulness? What happens when awareness increases?
Interestingly enough, the Big Book from Alcoholics Anonymous presents a conclusion. “We are then in much less danger of excitement, fear, anger, worry, self-pity, or foolish decisions. We become much more efficient. We do not tire so easily, for we are not burning up energy foolishly...”
As our underlying motivations are brought into our awareness, as we become more enlightened, more energy is freed up. Abraham Maslow saw this to be true when he showed that as our most basic needs for safety and security are met, more attention can be devoted to self-actualization. It may seem like we have more energy, and perhaps we do, but some part of that new energy is the result of decreasing the ways that it is diverted or used ineffectively.
I’d go so far as to say that Buddha himself told us this would be the outcome he called the Eightfold Path. That as we dealt with our attachments (the distracting or inefficient use of energy) we would find our way to right understanding, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.
It turns out that like so many things, gaining greater energy is also an inside job.
While the reality is not simple, perhaps it can be summarized simply: The secret to finding greater energy is through discovering and addressing the ways that drain away energy.
Interestingly enough, today I think of this as forgiveness work. A practice of continuously releasing the things that bind us, over and over again. With practice and some success, more energy is available for higher purpose.
Seeing True in Action
Every path to greater effectiveness begins with awareness. And while these writings may have been a good beginning, each of us can look to where our energy is going by taking stock of any given day, or any given week. Then as we begin to see ourselves more clearly, the shift of energy begins, away from distractions and more toward our heart’s desire…and the realm of Spirit.
Is Happiness the Point?
What if you could find a way to eliminate discomfort from your life?
I’ve been contemplating this question as a result of a conversation with a long-time friend whose mother has Alzheimer’s disease. He has long described his mom as a chronic complainer, a woman with a long history of reasons for her unhappiness that largely involve finding fault with others. At one point, I even remember him saying, “If it weren’t for bitterness, she wouldn’t know what to do with herself.”
Yet his recent report on the progression of his mother’s disease is that she is the happiest she has ever been, apparently because she has simply forgotten all the grievances she has long held. He’s quite happy for her, and frankly he’s pleased he no longer has to endure her complaining. My friend may be dutiful in attending to his mother, but he has held quite a few resentments about her as a result of her incessantly bitter and unpleasant remarks.
Regardless, she’s happy, and he’s happy, so where’s the problem?
Well, isn’t discomfort, or discontentedness the source of our drive to learn, grow and overcome? If we really could find a way to eliminate discomfort, would that undermine our own development? And of even greater relevance, is the point of our lives to be happy and comfortable, or is it to learn and grow? Would we seek improvement in our lives and world if it weren’t for unhappiness of one kind or another?
Rather than discuss this as a philosophical matter, I find myself looking to my own experience. As a result of recovery from alcoholism I have found tools for living that have greatly increased my feeling of contentment. And meditation in many forms brings great solace. So too does the ability to focus on meaningful work, often with the growth and development of others.
At the same time, the suffering of alcoholism was no doubt the greatest opportunity of my life. It made me willing and open to possibilities that led to recovery. Two painful divorces drove me into deep explorations of myself, which have proven to bear great fruit. Failings in my career brought all new possibilities, and a livelihood that is far better than any I may have imagined.
Everywhere I look it is clear to me that pain and discomfort are great gifts. And that comfort can actually become a source for complacency and stagnation. Still, there is a great desire to be comfortable, isn’t there?
I must admit I find this matter to be a bit exasperating. Must I retreat from the human desire for comfort at the expense of progress with human development? Or does a drive to make progress guarantee discontent?
What if the ultimate outcome is to embrace both by understanding that our inherent nature is to grow, and that comfort creates complacency, and yet were it not for increasing comfort with ourselves and our lives, we would have no apparent benefit for striving? What if in so doing we normalize that every station of life is temporary, and that at our best we must necessarily alternate between pressing forward and ceasing our efforts to enjoy the fruits of our labors?
Perhaps we were designed by life for dynamism, and to always be seeking our next stage of development.
Seeing True in Action
When is the last time you engaged in a significant effort to overcome some challenge, something that produced frustration, disappointment, discomfort or unhappiness?
When is the last period of comfort you enjoyed, and for how long?
If you are in relative comfort currently, can you look ahead to see your next developmental undertaking? On the other hand, if you are currently engaged in striving, is there an apparent future point you can anticipate where respite will be possible?
If the idea of effort or the idea of relaxing is disturbing to you, what might be a source of your fears?
When I lived in Greenville, South Carolina a few years ago, serendipity brought me to the gallery of a pair of artists; August and Susanne Vernon worked from their studio along the Reedy River. We struck up a continuing relationship through a mutual love of art.
One day I was talking to August. He was curious about my coaching and mentoring practices, which we discussed at length. At some point I found myself telling him some of the nicknames I had acquired from clients: the bulldog, Ronbo, Guru Ron and Ronald the Wise. All of which provided for laughter since they are all interesting characterizations of me. Frankly, they are like funhouse mirrors that offer up distorted, incomplete reflections.
Then I told August something I had rarely shared: one client who had experienced profound transformation called me the Ronnie Lama.
August’s laugh was huge, but the spew of his ideas about what a cool painting that could make was remarkable. I was so enthused by his enthusiasm that I jumped right in with him in brainstorming ideas. The result is the image included with this blog.
As is so often the case, in retrospect I had much inner work to do about this painting of me. It was beautiful, and I do love it, but I also felt a sense of embarrassment, the source of which I could not identify. The best I can say is that it is a reflection of two things of great importance to me. The first is my sustaining desire to be an exceptional spiritual student, and thus to become an excellent teacher. The second is a deep mix of humility and humor that I can feel deep in my core. Just to keep it simple, I’ll call it honest holy ground, a genuine mix of right-sized-ness paired with an ability to not take myself too seriously.
I had prints made for both my daughters, but this image did not find its way into the world for quite some time.
There are a number of ways to explain the delay. There was a lucid dream about opening myself outward that was clearly the Soul speaking to me. And a conversation with a therapist that helped me to better see how deeply runs my fear of being seen. And a dialogue with my long-time mentor that was so disturbing it threw me off balance for several months. And reflections from clients of all kinds hammering at me, not with critique, but with a great deal of praise and acknowledgment.
Then, it became clear I would be launching two novels, an audio set, and a whole web platform taking me fully into the delivery of forgiveness and innocence practices. That culminated in feedback from a marketer who said, “Ron, it’s wonderful you care more about the success of your work rather than your reputation. But people want you to be real. They need to know that you aspire, and that you fail, and that you can be wonderful and awful.” Finally, a dear friend reminded me of the scriptures that urge us to not hide our light under a bushel.
To be honest, the degree of this disclosure makes me feel uncomfortable. There is always fear that in being seen, there will be rejection or attack. And there is a built in tension with a desire to not allow ego inflation. There is a great deal of evidence that one can fall quite deeply into a spiritual abyss in becoming too enamored with oneself.
Or perhaps the greater fear is exactly as Marianne Williamson described it. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.”
What a curious space: desiring to be seen, and simultaneously fearing it. Wanting to welcome whatever magnificent attributes are part of me, while not indulging in either delusion or grandiosity. Claiming that which is legitimately a contribution, and owning where I have erred. Anxiety because it is so easy to overlook our weaknesses, and even easier to reject our strengths. Wanting to be fully revealed, to be authentic in my relationships with the world, and to myself, and shirking from what surely feels like great exposure. Wishing more than anything for the way of the Soul to be expressed in and through me. Yet all the while, feeling my way in a darkness of unfathomable forces, strangely blind to much within me that cannot be seen or understood.
Life, and our role in it is just plain messy.
The design of Life ensures each of us must face a crux, inner challenge that is essential to the Soul’s development. Masters tell us we must engage it in order to learn from it. Nothing great can emerge through us without some significant disruption within us. Somehow we must get over our selves.
The path is made with every step.
One breath, one moment, one step at a time.
While being brutally honest about our struggles can be deeply uncomfortable, much good can come of it. What if sharing your struggles helps someone else with theirs?