Tag Archives: Thich Nhat Hanh

Love Shouldn’t be a Prison, and True Love Isn’t

love-prison

 

Since this is the month we celebrate Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d dust off one of my favorites from several years ago that seemed to resonate with many people. Even if you’ve been following me from the beginning, this one’s worth a second look:

One thing that assures a long-lasting relationship is kindness—each partner treating the other with the same respect, courtesy and gentleness that characterized their mode of relating in the beginning.

Unfortunately, our human tendency after settling in is to relax those standards. We drop those nicer habits. Not good. A relationship should be a place where flowers grow . . . not a place where we’re constantly encountering prickly nettles.

Another crucial element is freedom. Love shouldn’t be a prison, and true love isn’t.

Go to my column titled “The Grander Version of Love” where you can read about Carl and Lynn. I go into more depth about kindness, freedom and two other components that comprise a healthy relationship.

I welcome your views! 

“Making marriage work is like operating a farm. You have to start all over again each morning.”

— Anonymous

(c) Salee Reese 2017

2 Comments

Filed under Couples, General Interest

Ooooo … when love blooms!

dancing couple

Is your brain marinating in a cocktail of hormones and giddiness? If so, it’s probably love . . . new love!

New love is the budding stage of something potentially profound between two people. And just as a flower bud is fragile, the same is true of love. Both must be treated with tender loving care.  When a couple masters this fine art, it becomes a thing of beauty that is a pleasure to behold.

A few years back, I observed such a wonder:

My spirit smiled as I watched them glide across the dance floor. Arm in arm, they exuded a tenderness so real, it almost seemed possible to reach out and touch it.

Oh, there were plenty of other dancers to appreciate, couples with more finesse and physical appeal, but this couple had me transfixed.

Have you ever become captivated watching elderly couples dance to the music of some bygone era? Obviously I have, particularly with those whose lives appear interwoven by the threads of some shared past.

Those couples are easy to spot. Love flows between them palpably, richly different from the newly-in-love brand. It is a love that has matured to perfection.

Never mind that the external luster is gone. It’s apparent that something more enviable has replaced it—a mysterious something that shines in their eyes for each other. Such love surpasses physical attractiveness.

When I watch such couples, it makes me wonder about love. Just what is it? Is it more about allure and attraction, magnetic in its mysterious intensity? The kind that permeates popular culture in movies and TV? Or is it more like a garden you tend and cultivate? It is, of course, both.

With a gravitational grip like none other, the power of new love pulls people together. The action doesn’t stop there. It proceeds to swoop them up and swirl them around and around until they become dizzy with brainlessness. The whole event rivals anything that can be found at the amusement parks!

No question, falling in love is supremely exciting. But then, lovers eventually reach the ground; some grow restless and bored, while others till a garden. And, oh, how it blooms! That’s what I saw in that couple gliding across the dance floor. I was viewing a couple in their bloomed state.

Now then, how to tend a garden? Borrowing from the wisdom and experience of others, I came up with a few powerful tips:

  •  Mary Durso, married for 58 years, says: “If you have respect and consideration for one another, you’ll make it.”
  • Allyson Jones, author, says: “Love teaches without lecturing, resolves mistakes without  scolding, and gives without expecting things in return.”
  • Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk and author of “Teachings on Love,” asserts that love is about feeling connected to someone in their suffering, not just in their joy.  When we love someone, we’re moved by their pain and desire to remove that pain.
  • Wayne Dyer, author of “Your Erroneous Zones,” offers his definition of love: “[Love is] the ability and willingness to allow those that you care for to be what they choose for themselves, without any insistence that they satisfy you.”
  • John Gottman, Ph.D, a leading marital researcher, tells us that a strong union is one in which two people deal with problems head on.

When couples avoid discussing hot topics because it might lead to conflict, intimacy is forfeited and huge gaps form—creating distance between them. According to Gottman, couples thrive when the two “turn towards” each other when problems crop up, rather than “turning away.”

The couple on the dance floor might say: “Get out there and dance!” In other words, factor in fun. Without happy times and positive experiences, the weeds of a relationship tend to take over.

So how does a relationship mature to a ripened state? It requires “the garden.” An individual can make any ordinary garden thrive, but love requires two gardeners who busy themselves with the planting, the watering, the fertilizing and the weeding.

And we mustn’t underestimate the valuable role that age plays. Dazzled by the couple on the dance floor, I felt privileged to bear witness to such enchantment.

Is it not true that aged wine is grander?

 

© Salee Reese 2007

8 Comments

Filed under Couples, General Interest

The Latest Wow: The Great Divide

grand canyon

 

Not long ago, I was counseling a couple when one partner, Tracie, wowed me with this:

“There will be days in which I will get mad at you and you will get mad at me but we will resolve it. I don’t want to live a life of avoidance.”

Tracie is on to something. Avoidance is no way to inhabit a relationship . . . it isn’t living. It’s compromise; it’s existing in a space of bitterness and resentment; it’s detachment. And detachment grows like an untreated fungus. Pretty soon, a canyon-sized gap defines the nature of the relationship. Not good. Problems don’t get resolved, discussion is thwarted so misunderstandings are allowed to flourish, and wounds don’t get healed—only compounded.

Problems don’t magically go away. They grow fatter if ignored. And we can’t rely on time to do the healing. It doesn’t always work that way.

Dr. John Gottman, an acclaimed marital researcher, doesn’t mince words. He maintains that such relationships are doomed, and further states that unaddressed issues and avoidance are more detrimental to relationship health than conflict. At least in the midst of conflict, he continues, passion and engagement are occurring.

All of that makes sense. Can we really feel close to someone who isn’t receptive to talking things out, who’s unwilling to listen to our point of view, who’s unwilling to work on arriving at a common understanding, who’s unwilling to get vulnerable and naked with their truth? Of course not. It takes mutual understanding—more so than agreement, actually—to spawn an intimate connection.

Thich Nhat Hanh put it perfectly:

“Love is made of understanding and understanding is made of love. “

And, let’s face it, understanding can’t happen unless we have the courage to share honestly, gently, and with an open heart.

 

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality

 

 

11 Comments

Filed under Couples, General Interest, The Latest Wow!

Love Can’t Thrive in a Cage

imprisoned-heart-19209730

 

“If you really love me, you’ll be true to yourself!”

Say that to your partner and watch their jaw drop to the floor. Why? Because we usually get the opposite message: “If you really love me, you’ll do what I want. You’ll do back flips—on the ceiling!—to please me.”

Has anyone ever tried to guilt you with a statement like that one? What did it evoke in you? A warm fuzzy feeling? Doubtful.

Have you ever said that to anybody else? Did it feel like an act of love to you? Probably not. That’s because it hails from feeling deserving and entitled.

Click here to read about Dane and Paula … two people who were unhappy in their relationships for this very reason.

Shoulds and love do not belong in the same universe.

Thich Nhat Hanh sums it up perfectly: “You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free.”

 

 

14 Comments

Filed under Couples, General Interest, Get Free

Life’s the Teacher

train tracks two kids

“Truth cannot be borrowed. It can only be experienced.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

One of the hardest things to endure is watching a loved one suffer and being unable to teach them the life lessons we’ve learned.

We’ve all been there, and we all end up pulling our hair out in utter frustration when our best efforts fall flat. If only that exasperating spouse, friend, child or whomever would just cooperate. In Brandt’s case, the loved one is his sister.

“Her list of bad choices keeps growing,” he said. “She’s adrift—led by her whims and desires. She dropped out of college but assured us all that she’ll try again later. I wish I could believe her.”  Click here to read Brandt’s full story.

Situations like Brandt’s—that are beyond our control—humble us. Not only are we faced with the truth of our powerlessness, but with the understanding that life itself is the teacher. Knowing that fact, however, doesn’t make it any easier to endure. We’re left with a form of grief that we resist absorbing.

It takes courage to let go, and it takes courage to feel the grief that follows. It’s far easier to fight, push or get angry.

It also takes courage to keep our heart intact and resist pulling away in judgment. Though, in some cases we have to pull away because remaining connected would prove detrimental psychologically or physically.

But that’s not true of Brandt and his sister. He can and should continue to be closely connected as a caring and supportive presence in her life. And it’s from that space, ironically, that he can influence the most. I remember asking him: “Just where do you think Kylie would be without you as her foundation and anchor?”

Yes, we can advise, and even shout warnings when it seems appropriate, but the other person is ultimately the one in charge of the path they choose.

Only through our own mistakes and heartache do we develop the muscle and the insight to direct our lives wisely. Another person cannot give that to us.

However, they can stand beside us with understanding acceptance. That’s powerful!

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.

6 Comments

Filed under Contemplations, General Interest, Get Free, Parenting

Finding the Right Someone

valentines day

A relationship that’s right for us is one that sets our spirit free.

Hey … Valentine’s Day is right around the bend, so it’s a good time to take a look at love—up close—and contemplate its meaning … just what the heck is it?

Finding a solid definition of love is fuzzy. There are probably as many ideas and definitions of it as there are people … lots.

I have a couple of favorite quotes and I notice they have freedom as a common theme. Here they are:

“There is something akin to freedom in having a lover who has no control over you, except that which he gains by kindness and attachment.”

Harriet Jacobs wrote that in her book, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.

Here’s one by Wayne Dyer:

“Love is the ability and willingness to allow those that you care for to be what they choose for themselves, without any insistence that they satisfy you.”

I included that little gem in a column I wrote, Finding the Right Someone.

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, says in his book, Teachings on Love, that love is a compilation of four components: loving kindness, joy, compassion and freedom. If either one of these is absent, he notes, love cannot flourish. I devoted an entire column to that idea. You can find it here.

And … what are your views on love? I’d LOVE to know. 😉

10 Comments

Filed under Contemplations, Couples, General Interest, Get Free

Love Shouldn’t be a Prison, and True Love Isn’t

I like this quote:         

“Making marriage work is like operating a farm. You have to start all over again each morning.”

— Anonymous

One thing that assures a long-lasting relationship is kindness—each partner treating the other with the same respect, courtesy and gentleness that characterized their mode of relating in the beginning.

Unfortunately, our human tendency after settling in is to relax those standards. We drop those nicer habits. Not good. A relationship should be a place where flowers grow … not a place where we’re constantly encountering prickly nettles.

Another crucial element is freedom. Love shouldn’t be a prison, and true love isn’t.

Go to my column titled “The Grander Version of Love” where you can read about Carl and Lynn. I go into more depth about kindness, freedom and two other components that comprise a healthy relationship.

I welcome your views!

1 Comment

Filed under Couples, General Interest