Tuesday, January 25, 2005

13 New Ideas

In Joan Huguenard’s January 13 column, we were invited to come up with some new ideas. This is the type of invitation I like. Here goes:

1) In city elections, when a PAC (Political Action Committee) donates money to support one or more candidates, they be required to match that amount in contributions to local non-profits.

2) In city elections, if a candidate spends more than $3000 on their campaign, they be required to match dollar for dollar the amount above that $3000 with equal contributions to local non-profits.

3) Notice which leg you put into pants first. See what it’s like to start the other way around.

4) Imagine what it would be like to have this non-habitual response: someone is rude to us, and we reaction with curiosity, amusement or delight.

5) Declare partial independence from the entrapments of the industrial/technological world. Spend one day a week car free and television free and computer free. While we're at it, go sugar free and cell-phone free. What's left, just a hell of an opportunity to be present, to love and to live.

6) Think of something you want to write down and then print it out upside down.

7) Think of something else you want to write and write it out with the non-habitual hand.

8) Pay all the teachers in the district twice their existing salaries and fire all the teachers who aren’t fluent in Spanish within two years ( since kids are expected to become fluent in English in about that time).

9) Subscribe to ( and/or bug Reader’s Books to carry again) Ode Magazine. In the recent issue are idea such as balancing the present 3rd world economic debt with a 1st world ecological debt for the resources we extract and the pollution we create; an article on the rekindling of faith in someone who abandoned organized religion; an article on the connection between soccer fervor and women’s liberation in Iran.

10) And this idea, which could save the world: end the legal status of corporations as bodies of limited liability. Put them in the same boat as anyone else who ruins something: they have to pay to fix it.

11) Learn to stand from sitting by shifting weight from pelvis to feet without any use of the arms and without using the back until the weight is fully shifted.

12) Ponder this possibility: both a “problem” with another person and a sore back have the same source: the organization of thoughts and understandings between the two ears.

13) Think of thirteen as a lucky number, the number native European shamanesses (a.k.a. “witches”) considered sacred because it was the number of moons in a year.

Chris Elms

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Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Relationship trouble = a disturbance in attention

Here’s a sweet and useful clue in relationships: any problem can be seen and solved as a disturbance in attention. Let’s run thru touch, truth and fun and give examples. A couple is quarrelling. They are yelling at each other and doing the usual accusative stuff. Tim in yelling at Tania that she’s a bitch and that she never listens to him. Tania is yelling at Tim that he is an asshole and all he ever thinks about is himself. Clearly this can go on and on. It’s never happened to us, but we have heard of it happening to others.

Tim can and does bring up his lists of indictments: times that Tania has been a bitch, times she hasn’t listened, and Tania has her laundry list of all the proofs that Tim is an grade A asshole and jerk and doesn’t care about her. Furthermore, they can both cite friends who agree with their accusatory assessment of the other. Each has “his side” and “her side” and buddies who aggress that their side is Right. Full battle plus reinforcements.

So what? They are Right and keep fighting. They are Right and stay miserable. They are so busy trying to win ( which is to say, get the other to agree to taking on the role of Being Wrong), that they have completely forgotten that love was why they came together. Here it is in a nutshell: their attention is on being right rather than being happy.

So, let’s have touch, truth and fun to the rescue. As shifts in attention. Starting with touch, they shift out of words and battering rams, and go to silence. They agree to shut up for ten minutes. Shift attention to touch. They sit facing each other. They hold hands for four minutes with their eyes closed. Then Tim strokes Tania’s hand and arm with his fingertips for two minutes. Then Tania strokes Tim’s arm and hand for two minutes. Then they open their eyes and touch and caress each others hands and arms at the same time. That’s just ten minutes, but you can imagine what a shift that would make.

But wait, wait Tania and Tim, no rushing off to bed, yet, the way couples love to do once the fury begins to abate. Let’s get the verbal stuff partially cleared. So, this is the next shift. They take turns saying the truth that is bothering them, rather than the accusation that they hide behind. This takes some practice, but let’s assume they know this practice of coming back to truth from within. So, Tim says, “When you spend most of the evening talking to your friends on the phone, I feel as if you don’t care about me.” Tania listens. Doesn’t defend herself. Just repeats back: “When I spend a lot of time on the phone, you feel bad.” Then she asks if she’s heard it. Tim says, almost, but the feeling is as if she doesn’t care about him. Tania repeats that back and gets it right this time. This feels good for Tim. This could be good for Tania, she listened without going into defense and attack mode.

Then Tania says one thing bothering her, from her point of view rather than accusation. “When you go out drinking, I’m afraid you’ll become an alcoholic like my father.” Tim repeats back, “You think I drink too much is that right?” Tania: I do think that, but what I said was, ‘When you drink too much, I’m afraid you’ll become an alcoholic like my father.’” This time, Tim gets it when he repeats back, and he can kind of see her point of view. Since he’s not busy defending himself right away, he can start to listen. And then it’s her turn to say one true thing, from the inner rather than accusing point of view.

Now, for fun. They could jump in bed, and that’s fun, but this is another kind of fun. It’s not even the basketball or ping pong kind of fun. It’s the humor we get and the relief when we realize that we’ve got warts on our own face, and that we are just like the one we are accusing. It comes from the old saying, “When one fingers points in blame, three fingers point back,” and it comes from the four section of the Byron Katie work, Judge your neighbor, write it down, ask four questions, turn it around. This turn around is where life can get really fun. This is when relationships are the workshop giving you everything you need. The rest of the Byron Katie work, we’ll cover later, but for now: it works like this: My Dad should be nicer to me, turns around to I should be nicer to my Dad, and I should be nicer to me.

So with Tania and Tim, it goes like this. When Tim says, “You should listen to me better,” he turns it around and realizes that both “I should listen to Tania better,” and “I should listen to myself better” are as true or truer than his accusation. Tania looks at how she’s a jerk when she’s screaming at Tim that he’s a jerk. Both of them come to relief and humor when they see that they are the one they have been so opposed to. Tim finds ways he abandons Tania and himself. Tania finds ways she gets drunk on her words and ideas and accusations when she starts laying into Tim about his drinking. And so on.

Now, they can laugh at themselves. And go play some more in the bed, if that’s what they want next.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Wonderful Relationship: Touch, truth and fun

Relationship. A ship that can take you just about as far as you want to go. Especially if you want to go inside and discover who you are. Sometimes even, the worse the relationship, the more quickly you can discover what you really need to learn about yourself.

And if things are wonderful, there’s still plenty to learn. What to do when the partner has a bad day. What to do when we have a bad day. How to be pleasantly content without falling into a rut. How to keep learning about each other, instead of assuming everything is known, which is to say, how to keep learning about ourselves. How to laugh at ourselves instead of quarrelling. How to learn what we need to learn next. Lots to learn. Love is about two vital beings, enjoying and learning from and exciting and pleasing each other in the moment. And then we get into our ruts, and how to get back out, and reconnect again?

Here’s my take on the essentials of good relationship. Three things to look for if you are building a relationship; three things to keep coming back to, if you are nourishing a relationship. Simple things, wonderful things, one, two, three: touch, truth, and fun.

Since I like to talk about movies and I like to talk about relationships (and ecology, and philosophy, but enough is enough), let’s talk about a fun recent movie as illustrative of these three pillars: touch, truth and fun.

The movie is Aviator. Did you see it? It’s still around and a great bargain as far as how much movie you get for your money. It’s long and it doesn’t feel that way. I could have gone another hour. The acting is brilliant, and the scope is epic, the dude was epic, dating Hollywood stars, flying the fastest plane on earth, taking over TWA, making movies. And tragic. Howard Hughes was a genius at what he was great at, and a tortured soul about germs on a water glass. What a combination. And it’s a great batch of history from the twenties to the forties.

In what is to m the sexiest scene in the film, the young Howard Hughes meets a beautiful cigarette woman at a hot shot night club. He tells her he’s like to know how to give her a lot of pleasure. This is a nice glob of truth: not bragging about what a big stud he is, how hot he is. He tell her, he wants to give her pleasure and he wants to learn.

He wants to give her pleasure. Sometimes when a relationship ends, you have this amazing realization, that what you miss it not the getting, but not having anyone to pour out your lovingness on. Now this desire of Howard Hughes is more in the lust than the love realm, but he is focusing on giving something to her, and a certain humility: he’d like to learn how to be good to her.
He continues go at a rate that respects his prospective partner: can I touch your leg, just gently, he asks. Slightly stunned, she nods yes. He touches her, apparently with a nice touch. Do you like that, he asks? Yes, she nods. Would you let me learn more ways to please you? Yes, she says.

Touch and truth here. Maybe this isn’t the relationship we’d be looking for, but he’s honest about what he wants, to learn, to have a relationship of pleasure. And he uses a small touch as his beginning. I don’t know. It doesn’t sound that great on paper, but I thought it was cool.

Touch is one way to get back in sorts when you and your partner are out of sorts, movie or no movie. Holding hands. Gentle stroking. Just reconnecting when we are so busy, getting back to the basic mammal in us. Warm blooded we like to give touch, like to get it.

People are good. All of us. Touch is one way to tell our partner we know that. Touch can be a turn on, sure, but touch can be so much more simple: this is me, this is you, now we are connecting. Nice.

Touch is a kind of food in a relationship, and along those lines Marlie and I have a nice habit in our relationship. Each time we are about to eat together, we sit facing each other, close our eyes, and hold both hands and let our attention come down to the simple, our breathing, our touch. This is a good way to start a meal.

Then we take turns saying something, hopefully meaningful to us. Sometimes, if hungry, we rush through this. But it’s always a chance to say something that won’t be interrupted and won’t be commented on. In another essay, I’ll go more into the importance of having time when you can say your piece without feedback, but this now is just to share this as a possible pre-meal habit: first the touch.

Touch is one way of telling each other that you care. Words, especially words of truth, tell the other that you trust them to learn about who you really are. In the movie I’m bouncing off of, Aviator, there’s a nice scene when Howard Hughes in admitting something to his then sweetheart, Kathreen Hepburn. He tells her that sometimes he sees thing that aren’t there, that he is afraid of things that aren’t real, that he’s afraid he’s going to lose it. She comforts him. You taught me to fly, she says. If I have to, I’ll take the wheel for you.

And flying, in that relationship, is the fun, where she really falls for him. Not at the fancy party, they duck out of to get up into the air. But alone in the night, learning for her, sharing what he loves for him, the thrill of doing something new, of doing something together. This is fun. Fun is fun. Fun is good. A relationship without fun: why bother. Kids, of course, they usually provide their own fun. Lots of work, too, but if the family can’t kid around, and do things that everyone likes: bah, that family needs to get some more fun into their lives. Even the old days, when everyone did chores and worked sunup to sundown, there were barn dances, and music in the evenings, storytelling, sitting around the fire. Watching the animals and the stars. There were real entertainments.

So my friends, get in touch with touch, get in truth with truth, get in the fun of having fun. If you wish.

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