Deeply. Truly. Sincerely.

flames

May we LEARN from these people.

May we LOVE these people.

May we BE these people

Deeply, truly and sincerely,  Karen

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Love … Unconditionally.

Unconditional Love - Mark Nepo - web size

My first thought … whenever I hear the concept of ‘unconditional love’ being bantered about, is that we must somehow ‘turn the other cheek’ and tolerate/endure people’s chronic ways of being with us  … even if it hurts … because we love them.  It disturbs me, however, that a wholehearted commitment to this interpretation of ‘unconditional’ might encourage the most caring and compassionate souls to step over neglectful/abusive energy … instead of stepping up to address it … or … stepping out of it entirely.

No … from where I am looking, that does not serve the greater good.  In The Book of Awakening, Mark Nepo sagely suggests:

In truth, unconditional love does not require a passive acceptance of whatever happens in the name of love.  Rather, in the real spaces of our daily relationships, it means maintaining a commitment that no condition will keep us from bringing all of who we are to each other honestly.

For example, on any given day, I might be preoccupied with my own needs, and might overlook or bruise what you need and hurt you. But then you tell me and show me your hurt, and I feel bad, and you accept that sometimes I go blind to those around me.  But we look deeply on each other, and you accept my flaws, but not my behavior, and I am grateful for the chance to work on myself.  Somehow, it all brings us closer.

Unconditional love is not the hole in us that receives the dirt, but the sun within that never stops shining” (p. 309).

I much prefer to embrace the notion that the unconditional’ nature of love is really best reflected in our willingness to keep working through the accidental harms that are an inevitable part of our humanity … consciously fostering opportunities to afford restitution for the collateral heartaches that result due to the colliding of our competing needs, wants and desires.

Perhaps, we might love each other most unconditionally by graciously making space for such an honest, sincere and transparent exchange  … rather than dismissing, excusing  and/or failing to tenderly express/address the wounding within our relationships.

In fact, when we take a really honest look at our lives, we will see that many of our deepest resentments have arisen out of our undelivered communications. Yes, it is often the unspoken violations  … the unexpressed injuries that covertly forsake the love and security in our relationships.  And maybe it doesn’t have to be that way. Maybe we can create a safe space within our relationships to honor each others wounds instead of righteously defending ourselves.

hurt

Thank you again, Mark Nepo, for obviating the ‘unconditional’ love that is inherent in “bringing forth from within, rather than the enduring of what comes from without” (p. 310).

May we feel such love and be such love … unconditionally, Karen

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The Moments Between …

Mornings are my favorite part of the day. It’s just after 6:30am on a dark, chilly Sunday morning … November 22, 2015 … to be precise. I don’t have to be up yet. I just want to be. I think it’s the stillness. Or maybe it’s the coffee. I do love them both … with unequivocally crazed adoration.

My second favorite part of the day is punctuating the end of all the ‘doings’ over those 8 – 12 hours with a lovely glass of red wine … before the grilled cheese or roasted chicken that is dinner (depending upon the day). Sipping, savoring and reflecting upon how I invested those precious minutes of my life … scanning the moments for the brightest points of light … and, of course … the dimmest and dismal of them are doggedly determined to color the space (no matter how much I try to ignore them). Letting both blessings and lessons land in my awareness … holding them both with curious introspection.

And yes, on this particular day, the Malbec is in the rack, patiently awaiting my arrival. And although I eagerly anticipate that delicious and delectable moment, there is something so profoundly nourishing about just sitting here … in this solitude, before the buzzing of the world begins … sipping my java out of this gigantic 20 ounce mug.

My mug speaks the truth. I’d like to think that the mornings do too … but …  I am acutely aware that my morning knows nothing for certain about my afternoon nor my evening. Except for the nudging from ‘the list’ that I have put in my smart phone … itemizing and prioritizing the particulars this day might hold in store for me.

But who really knows. I think I am in control of my life … I feel like I am in charge of what I decide to cross off my list. But … as my thoughts wander through this blessed stillness of this morning, I realize that that sense of agency is just an illusion. Albeit an illusion a delusion that I really quite enjoy …

DonBut, I am reminded that we woke up 36 years ago today … November 22, 1979. It seemed like an ordinary Thursday. I’m sure I had a list. My hubby remembers that he slept in. I just remember the phone call. My husband’s younger brother, Don, was on his way to work. And, he didn’t make it. No, he didn’t make it. There was an accident. I still feel the agonizing ache in that reprehensible reality. He was just 20 years old. Even coffee couldn’t make that morning better mourning less bitter.

And, isn’t that the way it is with life … if we get quiet and clear enough to really examine it. We can’t possibly know what life will bring us … in those moments between the coffee and the wine. We can never know for sure … even with the most intelligently crafted list. It’s all uncharted ground … ripe with possibilities (divinely guided moments) and probabilities (stick to my list moments) … all with unequivocally uncertain propensity.

And, really, the best I can do is to remain open to all of it … and … simply choose the energetic frequency by which I will greet it. Because, while savoring my wine this evening, I will be reflecting upon the blessings and challenges that were tucked into today – the moments defining this particular November 22nd. Likely, I will be more grateful for some than others … but … the one thing I know for sure is that I’ll be weighing the energy I brought to those moments between my two favorite beverages:

Was I KIND?

Was I AUTHENTIC?

Was I an energetic expression of LOVE as I moved through the day?

I hope I will like my answers … Karen

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Facing our Dragons …

Dear Steph and Bryan

I recently attended a wedding.  It touched me in a very meaningful way.  It was the kind of wedding that penetrates your soul because the energy of love was palpable and pervasive throughout the entire event.  I popped the bride and groom a little note to share my reflections about it. I received permission from them to publicly share my meanderings with you here.  Aside from a taking a few editorial liberties to ensure their anonymity and to polish things up a bit for publication, here is what I shared:

Dear Bride and Groom,

We enjoyed your wedding so much! Right from the ceremony itself … to the East Coast influence of fun and frolic on the dance floor … to the delightful taste sensations … to the warm and vulnerable speeches that touched and tickled my heart in so many ways.  I scribbled something in the guestbook in the small margin of space at the bottom of the page that I selected … something about hoping that the love and light and laughter you enjoyed on your wedding day would multiply over the years to come. I didn’t have space to say what I wanted to say. I’m not sure why I didn’t turn the page … maybe it was the late hour, or maybe the Malbec. It really doesn’t matter but …

I woke up in the early morning hours after your wedding (I think it was still in the sixes) and my hubby was still asleep. I made my way quietly to the desk and with the little lamp lighting up the darkness I picked up the complimentary pen and note pad provided by the Wingate by Wyndham Hotel and while I was waiting for the one cup coffee maker to drip me a little disposable cup of decaf coffee, I jotted down what I wish I had said in your book.

Here is what I penned on those three double-sided sheets of that little wee pad …

“It was so refreshing to marinate in the pure love expressed throughout your wedding day. The words in the ceremony were so moving and brought tears to my eyes … and I noticed that the groom never took his eyes off his gorgeous bride. I said to my friend seated beside me, who was equally touched, “That boy is in love!

I repeated it again to my husband … who knowingly nodded (with a tear leaking out of his eye too) because we both know all too well what that actually means. At the risk of projecting our experience onto you … may I share what was going through our minds at that moment.

It means that the groom is completely vulnerable. It means that he is ‘all in’. It means that the bride must be very cautious lest she unwittingly injure his fragile and unprotected heart. It means that he has never been more likely to get wounded in his whole life.

Paradoxically, it means that he could say or do things that are seemingly inconsiderate or thoughtless (to her) but perceived as ‘completely insignificant’ to him (knowing how much he adores his bride). These things, however, might spark some anxiety, frustration or pain in the heart of the bride because, unfortunately, she is not looking at the situation through his eyes.

Of course, he’ll have a hard time understanding her sensitivity because all he can see and feel is how much he cherishes her and, therefore, her fears may seem unfounded to him. As such, her concerns may fall on deaf ears at times. So, if I had a suggestion it would be this:

If the bride is hurting, please be willing to look for what she is seeing on her side of the coin. Even though you are seeing ‘tails’ (the maple leafs on your side of that shiny penny), she may be seeing ‘heads’ as she stares straight into the face of the stately Queen and the date stamp on the other side of that exact same coin. It’s so important to remember that the same coin (or event, situation, circumstance) looks different to everyone depending upon their perspective.

Couples have been defending what they see on their side of the coin for hundreds of years … strongly defending the accuracy of their viewpoint … arguing mercilessly with each other hoping to somehow prove how right they are and how wrong their partner is … all the while forgetting about the fragile and vulnerable hearts that are getting trampled in their self-righteous exchange.

From where I am looking, it’s far better to see if you can identify with what part of their perspective might be even a wee bit true. We must remember to be gentle with such valuable but vulnerable hearts especially when we are wounded. It’s tricky, though, because when we are most wounded … we APPEAR angry rather than hurt. It’s very tricky to remember that.

And, of course, if the bride is anything like me … that timid, scared little girl (who needed her mom to follow the bus to school) stills lives within the heart of that strong, independent and competent bride. She’s just harder to identify now … because this woman is clearly so bright and beautiful and smart and strong. She’s managing her anxious mind much better than when she was little … but … she has just vowed to let the groom into her heart space. Oh my, she is now wide open to wounding. The groom must not let her capable, competent demeanor fool him in those delicate moments. She needs to know she can lean in on the groom and he will be there … really be there … not just with one eye on her and the other eye still on the hockey game.

She is going to need her groom to help her quiet the anxious thoughts that might sometimes blindside her at the worst possible moment. She doesn’t need him to fix it … no … she’ll figure it out. She just needs somewhere safe to put her tears. She needs to know she can trust him to honor her most tender scaredy-cat moments of insecurity. She needs to know that he will not dismiss how big her emotions feel to her in that moment. Yes, she’ll work through it herself … of course she will … but when you love someone, you don’t want to leave them alone to fight their dragons … however real or imagined.

In almost 38 years of marriage and 10 years of counselling/coaching people, I have learned that it serves us best when we unite in love and face our dragons together … in solidarity … because we all have them. Even the best of us have insecurities and fears and wounds and scars from our prior lived experience. We need to be able to count on our partner to have our backs when the world seems too fierce and formidable to handle on our own.

That said, I am not sure if any of this will make sense to you … until it does. In the meantime, I am wishing you both an incredibly beautiful journey … one in which your hearts remain safe enough to stay as open and vulnerable as they were on your wedding day!

I can still feel the love that was in that room.

What an amazing young man!

What an extraordinary young woman!

And … as two remarkable families unite, the joys are simply multiplied …

Yes. This is what I wanted to write in your guest book.

With deepest respect,
Karen

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