I’ve recently been noticing a lot of anxiety in my response to having met a man at a Summer festival I was at a few weeks ago. One of the reasons I don’t date is that it always takes me into this place of stress, worry and self-doubt – telling myself I’ve got it wrong and failed. The practice of coming back to the breath and touching in to a feeling of being enough as I meditate helps re-center me, but it is as if a storm is blowing though and as soon as I get things settled another gust disrupts it all.
We all have different patterns, and for me coming into a deeper relationship opens up a lot of fear – one reason I chose to to be celibate from the age of 22 – 34! Facing this fear also offers an opportunity to learn and release old dysfunctional pattens as they can start to be seen more clearly. As one therapist said: “we are wounded in relationship and we heel in relationship” – because it is only by going into the fire of relationship, with friends or a lover, that these old wounds get exposed, seen and heeled. But that still doesn’t make it easy. Nor does it take away the feeling of loneliness I feel at times that adds this sense of urgency for something to work when I do meet someone…..creating an urge for certainty and to text in the hope of a reply and clarity……which only creates more tension as I wait for the reply and worry I have sent to many texts!
All of this requires a lot of self-compassion. We may see that certain things do not serve us: watching porn, eating too much, gambling, spending money on things we don’t need, sex or substance addiction etc – but then we find ourselves doing it again. Then the sense of the ‘me’ who thinks he is in control starts telling himself off – which in itself is a contradiction for if he were truly in control he would just say stop doing it and we would choose different actions. This sense that there is a ‘me’ who is the master controller masks the complexity of our drives, some of which are subconscious and not even known to the conscious mind. Instead it is as if there is an unruly kingdom, where different interests fight against each other, seeking prominence, like some medieval court where the courtiers conspire against each other to advance their own agenda, with the king thinking he rules but finding himself thwarted in his endeavours to bring harmony or assert his will.
This is why we all need teachers or guides. The people who can help us shine a light into the shadows, to see our blind spots and be reminded that we are not our stories. People who can inspire us, reconnect us to our sense of vision or simply tell us to stop believing the story and retrain our attention so that we can respond and choose from place of abundance and feeling we are complete, rather than going into habitual patterns coming from a place of lack and low self-regard. .
As I sat with this sense of overwhelm and upset yesterday I turned to one teacher I have enjoyed on You Tube to see what he had to say. In his video below Prince Ea gives a simple encouragement to those who are single and lonely to recognise that what we are looking for in another is a good friend and that love can grow out of that, and that the first stage is to be a good friend to oneself. He says to stay single until we meet someone who brings real value to one’s life by supporting and nourishing one, rather than seeking a partner out of the fear of being alone or social pressure to be in a couple.
I found this really encouraging, but then had the question I often come back to: how do I really be a good friend to myself? Helping myself to become more whole and to live in connection with my values and life of meditation and enquiry would be a way to be a good friend, and I remembered a teacher I came across a year ago, Brett Moran, author of ‘Wake The F#ck Up’. In his book he emphasises reminding oneself again and again “it’s just a story” as any drama plays itself out in one’s head. He is an inspiring man – from a London drug dealer who discovered meditation in prison to a guide and teacher. After stealing the meditation book from the prison library when it literally fell at his feet as he waited to do a drug deal in the quietness of the abandoned library, he went on to experience a radical shift in his sense of identity and self-worth as he opened to a deep experience of not being his personality. Instead he started to experience himself as consciousness, free from any of the limitations of his personality.
He now works as a coach and meditation teacher, so I looked for him on You Tube, thinking he might have something to say that would help with this exploration of self-care and the video I found was ideal. He leads a short meditation combining visualisation and meditating on the breath to reduce anxiety and depression and to connect instead to a sense of ease and it made all the difference. At first, it helped me to connect in to the fear and to cry, but then to let that pass and instead settle into a sense of being grounded and whole.
After listening to this I went to his online coaching site and signed up to start following his course, as a way of committing to this process. In the introductory video he quotes from Rumi: “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find the barriers within yourself that you have built against it”. This was so useful in my current state. For it’s a reminder that my work is to explore within and see what unconscious barriers there are in me that lead to this all too familiar experience of seeing a man back off and withdraw as my anxiety creates a barrier to the natural flow of getting to know each other….and to remember the he has his unconscious barriers that may well be sabotaging him when love is offered, causing him to back away. The fact is I don’t know and am not in control – all I can do is learn to stay present and conscious to what is happening right now and as I do that learn how to be the fully conscious being I am rather than go into old dysfunctional patterns and catastrophising stories.
As hard as it is as we go into our familiar places of struggle, the gentle reminder from the heart: “it’s just a story” helps to give some space around the drama, allows us to see it for what it is – a story in the mind and not a truth. And then we bring compassion to ourselves instead of self-condemnation. As I stayed with this over the few days it shifted the way I felt and when I did then meet with the man it was from a place of feeling grounded and settled and our time together turned into a very relaxing and enjoyable renewal of our connection at the festival. Had I stayed int he pace of anxiety and needing reassurance form outside it may have gone different, so I am glad I found these tools to help me centre and ground myself.