Monday, June 28, 2010

Future Articles

Since I don't have a question today, I thought I'd devote this post to articles I could write when I don't have a question at hand. I'd like to make the articles useful, maybe some kind of guide to something. Something I would actually enjoy reading and something I could learn from. Here're a few ideas.

1. What makes a good life? Self-intimacy and its relationship to thinking.
2. Formal and informal meditation: shifting from thinking to intimacy
2.5. Nutrition and morality that support shifting.
3. Common reactive patterns that cause conflict (abandonment anxiety, depression, worrying, checking, victimization) and how to resolve them.
4. What are good relationships made up?
5. Trying too hard to have a good relationship is a form of mimicry
6. Career choice and intuition
7. Break up guide
8. Loop Theory
9. Silly Therapy
10. How greed, exploitation, and dishonesty have corrupted economies, education, and science.
11. Living a good life and saving the world

Gotta figure out how long the articles should be. I guess long enough to make sense but not so long where they get boring.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Are we compatible?

Yeah, I went there. Gotta problem? Wanna fight about it?
 Hi Edahn!

For the last 2 years I have been in a monogamous relationship. In the beginning it was pure bliss. We would spend a lot of time together and than a few months down the line we moved in together. After awhile of living together, I began to notice things that would bother me about him. I am a social butterfly, he is not. I value organization, he does not. He's obsessed with his video games, I dislike them. It hard for him to give compliments and be romantic. As a woman its important to hear that you are beautiful and loved. Its bothersome because I don't understand why its so hard for him. I am a huge advocate of being open and honest. Communication is key. It just seems like every time I bring the things up that bother me, he tells me he'll work on it. Yet not much changes...what do I do? I worry because we've discussed marriage and I just can't see myself marrying someone who I don't feel completely compatible with. He has a lot of pro's about him but there are some con's that I just can't seem to look past. If you love someone do you look past their flaws and just accept them for who they are?

I think it kinda works the other way around. If you accept them for who they are, you begin to love them. I'm not really sure you can force yourself to accept someone, even under the guise of love. It seems to me like you're resisting these parts of him--his lack of communication, his slothfulness, and his messiness--for good reason: you sense that they're not compatible with your lifestyle.

Compatible, of course, doesn't mean that everything he does meets your approval and that you live completely identical lives. Compatible means you bring out a happy person in one another and when you look down the road, you see that happiness continuing and growing. What I'm hearing is that you've come to understand that to your chagrin, you're not as compatible as you once thought--or even once were.

I get that you're confused, and this is ultimately a decision you have to make yourself. The test I tend to use is this: when I imagine myself with this person, day-in, day-out, what feelings come up in me? What would the typical day look like with this person after 10 years? 25 years? If I get the feeling that it would be fun, warm, calming, and infused with lots of spirit and joy, I keep going. But if I sense distance, emptiness, resentment, and loneliness, I end it. It take a lot of honesty, objectivity, and imagination, but if you sit with that question long enough, the right answer will pop up and it'll be very clear. And you won't be afraid. Maybe sad, but not afraid. Good luck and let me know how it goes.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Doing something nice for yourself

Someone left a comment on my article on Rest, asking me to elaborate on Kindness. Since I think it's an important topic, I thought I would dedicate a whole post to it.

let's hear more about this Kindness thing
When I was younger, I used to think about kindness all the time and wonder if I was doing it right. All of my philosophical musings have brought me to this startling understanding:

Kindness is just putting aside your own needs to try and help someone else.


Is Altruism ever genuine?
Some people have become champions of kindness because it's become hip to be kind. It becomes a source of identity for them. They start criticizing others who don't show the same level of kindness that their group (activists, hippies, Buddhists) do. That's the other meaning of "doing something nice for yourself": the kindness is really for your own benefit.

Not everyone does this and there are of course genuine activists and hippies and Buddhists. But there are lots of people who still act kindly for an ulterior motive. That really negates the spirit of kindness. If you identify with a group that distinguishes itself by its liberal politics and philanthropy, then check to ensure that you're not using kindness to feed your group identity or for self-promotion. Just use kindness to help whomever you run into: the sick, the needy, and especially the jerks. They need it the most.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Friends without benefits

Edahn....
so I need to ask for guy advise: I met this 25 yr old a month ago, we've hung out 3 times...he's really sweet, a totally gentleman, and I've made out and slept over his place everytime but no sex (my choice)...the last time I hung out with him I had a 'talk.' I confessed that I didn't want to sleep with him and have things be awkward/lose a friendship...I'm lookin for a serious relationship but know it won't happen with him (cause he's brought up our age difference before) but I was cool having a friend with benefit but on the innocent level...he agreed, knowing I want a serious relationship and he doesn't, and said he himself can't really have sex without feelings (he never brought this up before)...he was cool afterwards, but I feel he drifted away...
last Monday when I texted him to hang out he wrote "i'd love to but have a meeting that'll run late." I wrote back "that too bad, let me know when you're free and want to hang"...no response...I believe he had a meeting but don't believe it went that late (cause he was on facebook chat around 10:30 that night)...in the past he left his friends early just to meet me...so I feel if he really wanted to, he would have met me after his meeting....also, Last night I sent a group text to some friends (including him) about a party and I got no response from him...
I still want to hang with him and be 'friends' with him (if that's really possible) but I feel I may have crushed his ego or pulled the breaks too soon... I feel I want to explain myself again, but i don't know if that'll be overkill...I contacted once last week and he was busy...can I still contact him again in a 'hey lets hang out' way?


I don't think you crushed his ego. I think he saw you as a person he could exploit for sex and when you took that away, he decided he wasn't interested anymore. It's not that he could never see value in being your friend, it's that he set himself up not to, and it's not easy for a guy to transition from seeing someone as a sex-object to actually getting to know them and being intimate. It involves a transition in roles that's hard for some, maybe most, people.

Can you still try? Sure. Why the fuck not. But don't be too desperate. Just invite him out once or twice and then wait for him to initiate contact after that. If he senses too many expectations attached to your invitation, he'll see it as a sign that the lover-to-friend transition will be too complicated to bother with. Just play it cool, something like: "I'm going with some friends to a bar in Santa Monica. Wanted to see if you wanted to swing by with some of your friends (preferably hot ones). We're gonna be at _________. They make strong drinks." That gives him room to say "no" which gives him the freedom to say "yes." If he says he can't, just write back "Okay, night" and don't contact him anymore. Really, don't worry. You'll find other friends to screw around with. Cough cough hint hint nudge nudge. 

Monday, June 21, 2010

Why can't he say "I love you"?

Edahn,

What does it mean when a man can't say "I love you"? All the right factors are there. His actions say I love you. It has been 9 months and still nothing. I have a feeling this is an intimacy problem that goes far beyond the bounds of our relationship. I'm trying to be patient yet I feel like something is missing and it bothers me. 

Sometimes I feel insecure about it and wonder, why doesn't he love me? especially after he has told me that he has had the capacity and has loved someone else. He's expressed that he doesn't feel in love yet. How long should I wait feeling unfufilled? I always thought you know or you don't...

Freaky picture, right? I've noticed that guys say "I love you" in three situations. Situation 1: they feel really attached and passionate. They're completely swept up by their feelings and desire and label it love. I call that passionate love. Situation 2: they feel lots of intimacy (closeness and safety) with the person and want to spend their lives with that person indefinitely -- in other words, they've identified their Imago match. I call that sacred love. Situation 3: they need to say it in order to have sex with you. That's called attorney love because of the similar way a lawyer is prepared to say anything to fuck you. Your boyfriend doesn't feel any of those. 

Why? I can't tell you. Maybe he's not really available for the kind of relationship he wants. Maybe he knows intuitively that you're not a good match for each other. Maybe you're not available for the kind of relationship he wants. Maybe all of the above. I'm not in your relationship so I don't know. But you can figure it out yourself by having a tough but necessary conversation, and I'd urge you do to it tonight. Work together to figure out what's really going on in your relationship in an objective, non-defensive, painfully honest way. Where is your relationship headed? What are his reservations? What do his feelings mean? Does he know on some level that you aren't a good match? Is he just afraid to hurt you? Are you both really available to connect to one another? Has this whole relationship become much too complicated? Do you feel comfortable and satisfied with one another without having to resort to cycles of conflict and makeup?

Take the information you get and ask yourself where this relationship is headed. Is he your match? Are you his match? Will you really make each other happy? Will you end up being truly happy and joyful in each other's company? There are no certainties, just probabilities, so you'll need to take your best guess and act on it confidently. The alternative is to spend years in a dissatisfying, disorienting relationship. Don't subject yourself to that.

I know there's a lot here, so if you need to write in again, you can leave a comment under this post.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Should you be friends with your ex?

Edahn,

Can you ever be friends with an ex? Should you?

Only if you can see a friendship working out for both of you. How do you determine that?

You need to know why you're getting into this relationship. Are you doing it because you really just want to be friends with the person, or are you doing it because you still have some lingering feelings of attraction or resentment? If you fall into the latter category, then your relationship is headed for drama. The physical and emotional boundaries inherent in a friendship will be compromised and you-or both of you-will slip back into your comfortable relationship roles. As roles are fundamentally inauthentic and lonely, you'll begin to take your unhappiness out on each other, taking things personally that shouldn't be, and using drama as a tool to reconcile your feelings. I've seen this happen time and time again. I've been both the victim of that drama as well as the perpetrator and it's exhausting. It interferes with the closure process and will be a major source of instability in your life. Don't do it, even if you want to. Just stay civil without having a friendship.

If, on the other hand, you've put those feelings aside and can both really honor the boundaries set up to protect the friendship, then I leave it up to you. If you think it's worth it and really believe you have the necessary power, then good luck. I know I personally don't have that ability, but I can see how some people might.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Personal Coaching

In an effort to build a more complete practice, I'm offering services as a personal coach. If you read through the blog, you'll get an idea of the kind of stuff I deal with and my approach. I'm available by email if you need, but would prefer to meet in person. Entirely confidential, and you shouldn't feel embarrassed at all. I have my own coaches who I look to for guidance and insight. Note: I am not a psychotherapist, but I think most psychotherapists are nuttier than I am.

Fee: 25/hour


Send me an email by clicking here and let me know what's up and how I can get in touch with you.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I can't let go


Hey, 

Here's my question. I've had trouble letting go of the past. I've kind of been fucked over by people in my family. I want to move on from it, because I know its really affecting (is it effect?) my life. I just don't know how to move on effectively. 

Getting fucked over by people you care for is painful. You need to figure out what you have to say to them to move on and forgive them for not living up to your expectations. What you say is up to you. Even if I knew your situation, I couldn't really tell you what to say. But I can give you a few suggestions on what it might look like. 

It needs to be something you say from your heart. It needs to come from a place of calmness, understanding, and Rest, rather than desperation, drama, and hostility. If you've been used to fighting with these people, then coming from a calm place might seem very foreign. You may not even know what it looks like. (I'll help you with that.) And you may think "why should I be mature when they can't?" The reason is that their maturity no longer matters. This is your life, and even if they can't get their shit together, you will. Someone needs to step up to the plate, and right now, that's you.

You can get in the right mindset--calm, understanding, and open-hearted--by contemplating the life and upbringing of these people who disappointed you. We're used to automatically blaming people who disappoint us by focusing on their mistakes and replaying them over and over in isolation. But that's actually an inaccurate way of seeing the situation. When you think about it, the people that have let you down have problems of their own. I'm not talking about problems in their other relationships or marriages; I'm talking about problems with relating to you. They never received the guidance and support required to build healthy relationships with people like you. They're missing something. Maybe their parents never taught them, maybe their friends made them feel alone and defensive, maybe their teachers never made them feel adequate. Maybe they got the education but didn't really internalize it. Whatever it is, they didn't choose that. They didn't choose to have shitty teachers or shitty guides or shitty friends. Even if there was a time where they had a choice, they may have lacked the strength (again, not their fault) to make the right decision. So as much as we'd like to blame them, blame doesn't make sense. Just as it doesn't make sense to blame someone who grew up in a destitute village for not being rich, it doesn't make sense to blame someone who grew up in an emotionally deprived environment for lacking social skills and empathy.

Now's your chance to think about this stuff. These aren't bad people. No one is. The real enemy isn't people; it's ignorance. These are people who, like you, suffer. They have things in their past that have blocked them up and prevented them from being open and available. Think about it. Reflect on it. Go sit alone somewhere drinking green tea and ponder it until your anger at them for failing you turns into understanding. When you reach that point, ask yourself gently if there's something you really need to say to them to move on. Something like "I don't want to fight with you anymore, I just want to tell you that when you said _____ 4 years ago, you really made me feel unwanted. I'm not demanding an apology, I just want you to know, and I hope that someday we can have fun together." If they try to argue, just remember that that's part of their own pain, and respond accordingly ("I get that you're angry, and I'm fine with talking about this, but maybe when things aren't so heated."). 

The effect (n) of this exercise will be huge: peace with your past and closure. You'll also see how closure with the past can affect (v) your entire outlook on life and your relationships. I <3 grammar.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

How to Bring Yourself to Rest OR How to Make Decisions OR How to Let Go of Control OR How to Be Happy

The topic of this post will be how to move into a state of mind I call Rest.

What is Rest?

Rest is a state of mind. You have probably experienced it before, after a good cry, after a sudden release, after seeing something profound or beautiful, or through a technique like yoga or meditation. It goes by other names in other systems: the still point, calm abiding (Tibetan Buddhism), samatha, don't-know mind (Zen) Rest is the goal of every mystical system I've surveyed, though some such as Buddhism go a step farther. There isn't just one way to develop this state of mind, and you could say that every moment has a slightly different "key" for entering this state. But there are some general methods we can use to develop it.


In all people and even in some animals, Rest has the same characteristics. On the outside, the body and nervous system are relaxed. The breath is smooth and steady. The shoulders are relaxed. The back is upright but not rigid or tense. The eyes are relaxed and soft, as if the person was reflecting, but on no particular thing.

Psychologically, the mind is quiet and still. The familiar sense of desperation and immediacy--the psychological force that makes you think at a million miles an hour -- is muted. There is a greater gap between stimulus (something in the environment, a thought) and response (action, decision, or more thoughts). In other words, instead of reacting automatically, you have time to consider your response. Your attention is collected.  Honesty and strength begin to grow inside you and you develop the courage to acknowledge what's going on inside you--your secret thoughts, your suppressed feelings, and any residual pain you might be feeling. Your courage continues to grow as you separate yourself from the stream of thoughts that normally commands your attention. Peace and wisdom begin to develop.

Who cares?

Rest is happiness, and you'll notice that it's independent of whatever situation you're in. It's independent of money, sex, fame, and the other things we typically associate with happiness. Rest is a solution to existential loneliness; it doesn't provide meaning...it is meaning. It's a source of intuition--information you can trust that can't be negated by your mind. Decisions that are made while at Rest are always correct because they promote more Rest. You can't tell someone how to proceed with their life, but if they practice Resting, they'll know exactly what they need to do: how to diffuse complicated situations and make them harmonious. It's an incredible tool for closure. When your mind is calm, you can get in touch with your real needs and make wise decisions in your life.

How do I get there?


The key is that Rest isn't somewhere that you're getting. You're not actually going anywhere. Rather than traveling forward, you're actually stopping where you are and turning around to face yourself just as you are in this moment. There is no correct way to "be". If you try to stop and look at yourself and think you're doing something wrong or not seeing yourself the right way, forget that.

You can design your own techniques for achieving Rest, but if you're like me and 1) you think too much, and 2) you have habitual thoughts about accessing some state, then I'd suggest focusing on the body. Forget about the mind for a minute and make a connection to your body. It doesn't matter where (the breathe, the chest, the throat, the back) and it doesn't even matter how. You're just listening and experiencing.

Simulated Rest: An Alternative Strategy

Another thing you can do is practice simulating Rest. Simulated Rest means you're creating an environment for Rest to develop but not messing with mind at all. This is a good strategy for the control-freaks (like me).

There are really 2 levels to Simulated Rest: your body and your environment.

1. Environment: Keep your environment clean, tidy, and simple. Organize your bedroom, your living room, and your office so that you have minimal clutter. Make your bed. That's it. Simple and clean.

2a. Outer-Body: Like your environment, keep it clean and tidy. Shave, get hair cuts, and keep your nails trimmed and clean.

2b. Inner-Body: What you're going to do is systematically slow down the body's reactions. We'll do that in two ways, first, by relaxing, and second, by slowing down our pace.

(1) Relaxation: Relax your shoulders. Relax your back. If you're sitting, scoot up a little in your chair. You don't have to sit like a deer in headlights. It's okay to relax and smile. Just try and sit up. If you're focusing on it too much and your back feels tense and you're starting to obsess about it, then just forget it for now. If you're walking, try and walk with decent posture. Next, we're going to relax your eyes. To do this, blink slowly. Not so slowly that you can drink a whole can of soda, but slow enough so that it's gentle and done with care. It takes me about one second to complete a slow blink. Next, relax the tone of your voice. Talk softly and gently but clearly and loud enough so people can hear you.

(2) Pace: Next, slow your breath down. Again, you don't have to try too hard. There's no "correct" way to do this and there's no real goal. Just slow it down a bit to a comfortable, chill pace. When you move your body (to brush your teeth, grab your cell phone, close a door) do it gracefully, rather than hurriedly. Again, you don't have to do it super-slow. (I'm picturing a whole line of people behind you, waiting 2 minutes for you to open the door to Starbucks.) Just do it a bit slower than usual, without rushing. No rushing! Finally, try to slow down the pace of your verbal responses. If someone asks you a question, wait just a little bit more than normal, even a split-second, before responding.

Questions

My mind is going fucking nuts. What should I do?
Don't worry about it. It's okay to have thoughts. Rest doesn't require that your mind is blank. Just keep contact with your body.

Am I doing it right?
No.

Just kidding. Yes.

Is this what meditation is?
Pretty much, except meditation is done in private where you can focus more. This technique is great for daily life (talking to people, eating, walking) but you can easily adapt it to suit your meditation practice.

How am I supposed to feel?
You're not "supposed" to feel any specific way. Your experience is where ever it's currently at. Trying to measure it against some ideal state will only push you further away from it. In fact, if you wonder about this, I would encourage you to NOT smile while they're doing this. Keep your face as plain as vegan food.

Are there other techniques?
Yes, tons. Kindness (preferably, but not necessarily genuine) is a great tool, but I don't want to overload y'all.


If you have more questions, leave them under this post and I'll do my best to answer them by editing this article.

Monday, June 14, 2010

I think she's taking him for a ride

Hi Edahn,

I have 2 friends in a long distance relationship. One is in the military and is currently living out of his car to pay his girlfriends rent. We were all visiting each other recently and they were fighting over money. She can be very persuasive and controlling and I'm worried about him getting taken advantage of. How can I talk to them without making them feel like he is being subservient and she is being selfish? I don't want to lose either one of them as friends. Thank you! 
I'm not sure talking is the way to go. My approach would be more to bring them to a place of honesty, calmness, and responsibility. That "place" is a state of mind I've been referring to as Rest. Other people might call it a "still point." When you're not rushing to do something and face the person you are right now without panicking, your body calms down, your mind calms down, your eyes become "soft" and your heart opens up. If you've been taken advantage of, or been taking advantage of someone else, you'll know it and make a change.

As a friend, the best way to help another person achieve that state is to achieve it yourself because one of the great things about Rest is that it's contagious. When you meet someone who is honest, calm, and open, you naturally absorb those qualities. 

There are lots of ways to move into the Restful state of mind. If you've meditated for a while, you may have gotten a good taste of it, but even if you haven't, you've probably experienced it and seen it a bunch of times. In my next post, I'll give you some of my personal techniques and tips, but for now, I would just focus on ridding yourself of anger and judgment. Contemplate peace and be a source of peace for everyone around you. You can picture yourself sitting with your friends, staying calm and peaceful, but still listening and being engaged. You can even imagine people around you starting to calm down. If you can explore that image and commit yourself to it, even for a trial period, you'll be in great shape. Eventually, your calmness and integrity will start to spill over and your friends will start to transform, slowly entering a place where they can address this issue correctly.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

What does it mean if he can't be serious?

Hi Edahn,

I'm a 27 year old woman that has been seeing a 44 year old man for 4 months. We have a great time together. He calls or texts me almost everyday and seems to care about me and my feelings. If I'm unhappy with something he tries to change it to make things better. I don't think he's seeing anyone else and I've told him I wasn't either. He treats me like a girlfriend and respects me. He actually treats me better than any "boyfriend" I've ever had. The only problem for me is that he doesn't want us to be in an official relationship. The only thing I'm unhappy about is his reluctance to call me his girlfriend. He was in a 9 year relationship with a woman who was addicted to drugs and basically dragged him through the mud. Their relationship ended in Dec. '09. Could this be the reason he doesnt want me as his girlfriend? What does it mean when a man treats you like a girlfriend but doesn't want it to be official? I'm so confused and I need some advice...

It means he doesn't see himself ever ending up with you. This is how it works. We all have a certain "image" of the kind of person we're suited for. I put image in quotation marks because it's really more than a visual picture. It's a composite of the vibe you get from them, their voice, their background, their beliefs, their age, and other characteristics. The qualities that comprise that image have a lot to do with our upbringing, our personality, and our challenges. To take it one step further, the premise of Imago Therapy is that we specifically seek out this person because they're instrumental in our mental, emotional, and spiritual development. We'll call this composite image the "Imago match."

When a guy knows that a girl isn't his Imago match, he can either break it off or try and negotiate some type of relationship that allows him to keep the benefits of a relationship-sex, intimacy, excitement, something to do-without having to commit. This is where "friends with benefits," "non-serious boyfriends," "dating without commitment," and the myriad variations of the same fundamental arrangement come into play. In all of these relationships, the guys knows the girl isn't his right match, but he keeps the relationship alive for enjoyment while preserving his right to keep looking for his Imago match.

This is what I believe is happening with you in your relationship. I'm not sure what the reason is, but I would guess that the age disparity is a huge factor. Seventeen years is a large age gap and deep down, he is probably looking for someone closer to his age. It's nothing personal, and it would be a mistake to take it that way. You have your own Imago match out there who's waiting to find you, connect with you, and grow with you.

UPDATE: I've tried to break it off before, but he'll keep calling or texting telling me he misses me etc. Why would a guy do that but not want a relationship? I dont think he's embarrassed to be seen with me because he's invited me to dinner with his family and has taken me out to dinner at a restaurant where he knows everyone...We hold hands and he kisses me or holds me in public...everything he does screams relationship except the title...why do men do this if they're not serious about a woman...
They do it because it has other payoffs: sex, romance, excitement/addiction, a way to spend your time, a distraction, company, etc. If it's not the age gap, then it's something else that's telling him you're not his match. Try to separate your feelings from the situation and see this as plainly and honestly as you can. The facts are 1) he's sleeping with you, 2) he doesn't want to get into a serious relationship, and 3) he's an older guy who came out of a long-term relationship. If you had to take your best guess at what's going on, what would you say? That he's just trying to have fun for as long as he can, or that he really wants to be with you but can't because of some mysterious complex? What seems more likely? You're a smart girl. Just think about it objectively and go have a talk with him.