Friday, January 18, 2008

The Art of Peace in Relationship

I'm so excited! It happened again with my husband, just last night. I got defensive and started a mini-war. Too cool! As I've heard Byron Katie mention, defensiveness is the first act of war. And that's what I did last night--I got defensive and started a war.

But why would that excite me? Because I got to see where I am still learning how to wage peace instead of war. And learning the art of peace in relationship is really exciting to me.

I got into a space where I just HAD to prove my point, and I wasn't going to back down, no matter what. Do you know what I'm talking about? Have you experienced this yourself? You start out with the seemingly best of intentions. You make a suggestion to your partner or tell them what to do, because you think you're making their life easier, and they don't agree with you or they poo-poo your suggestion? Have you ever been in a discussion with your partner and suddenly Whamo! you're in an argument, you're stuck in "I'm right and you're wrong!" and you're not going down without a fight?

How does it feel when you're in that space? For me, sometimes, it feels good. I feel fired up, energized, righteous! I mean, after all, I KNOW I'm right. I KNOW he's wrong. I was only trying to help, jeez! And feeling right can feel so good, for awhile.

Most of the time, though, being in that space feels oh so lonely. Here I am trying to connect to my husband, and I'm feeling anything but. In fact, I want to hurt him, if the truth be told. I don't want to have anything to do with him. After all, he's the one being arrogant, opinionated, and pigheaded! Isn't he? HE won't listen to ME! Isn't that how the story goes?

Whoa, Natalie! not so fast. That might be how my STORY goes, but that is not how REALITY is going. Reality--what is--is showing me that in fact I am the one being arrogant, opinionated and pigheaded! A little inquiry shows me that I am not listening to HIM.

What's that you say? He started it. Again, some simple questioning of that belief shows me that in fact I started it. The minute I went on the defensive, I became the attacker. The minute I defended MY position and insisted that HE listen to ME, I started the war. Until then, no war. Even if my husband says no to my (what I consider) amazingly practical and logical suggestion. Even if he says, "What! are you nuts! You don't know what you're talking about. Boy are you stupid!" That's right, even if he scoffs at me, laughs in my face and turns away with an expression of contempt. If I respond defensively, like I did last night, then I have started the war.

And that's what I did last night. I got myself involved in a war and it felt terrible. You know, I've been doing a lot of The Work lately, questioning beliefs and creating amazing joy and peace in my life, so I was kind of surprised to find myself engaged in a full-pitch battle royale. It's been a long time since I've experienced one of those. And because I'm learning that everything is FOR me, this battle becomes a great opportunity for me to go within and see where I can become more skillful at creating peace instead of war.

If you're reading this, I assume you're interested in the art of peace, too. Here are some practices I use to foster peace in my relationships.

Love Yourself:
Okay, so you've heard it before. And that doesn't make it any less true. You must love yourself, ALL of yourself, the good, the bad and the ugly. I love the part of me that gets defensive. I love the part of me that wants control. I'm fascinated by my behavior sometimes. "Oh, look at her, she thinks her husband HAS to listen to her. She thinks that he should want to do what she tells him too. Isn't that funny?" By accepting what is--including what is about my behavior and beliefs--I stay aware and awake. I see what believing those thoughts does to me, how it makes me react. I see the stress it causes me. And I see that I am the cause of the war inside of me--the war that gets reflected in my relationship with my husband. And I love him for showing me where I am not at peace. And I love myself for being willing to look at it and accept it. Begin today to start loving and accepting yourself just as you are.

Do Your Work on Yourself:
Until we free ourselves of our stressful beliefs, we are at the mercy of those beliefs. If I believe the thought, "My hubby should listen to me," and he doesn't, I have no choice but to act on my belief that he should. I have no choice, because until I question my belief, I don't see it as a belief, I see it as the truth. And if the belief is a truth inside of me, then I have no choice but to react with anger, hurt, upset, yelling, defensiveness, withdrawal, moodiness, violence to anything that opposes that truth. If I think the truth is that he should listen to me and he isn't, I'm compelled to make him listen. I'm compelled to act from what I believe to be true.

When I take the time to question what I believe to be true, however, what I see is that the belief I thought was true is really a lie. What's really happening is I'm resisting the truth. I'm resisting Reality, and Reality is what is true. My belief is that my husband should listen, but Reality (the truth) tells me that's not so. How do I know--because he isn't listening to me. I can either embrace and love Reality through questioning my stressful beliefs, or I can oppose reality and suffer, suffer, suffer.

This doesn't mean I'll never have the thought, "He should listen to me," again. Through inquiry, though, I start to realize that's not the truth and that realization makes the thought let go of me. If I do not believe a thought, it has no power to affect me. Even if I still have the thought, "He should listen to me," but I DON'T believe it, my mind is clearer. I am free to accept Reality--he doesn't listen to me--because I have no belief that it should be otherwise. Had that been the case last night, I wouldn't have fired that first volley of defensive anger. I wouldn't have felt at war with Reality. No war inside me, no war in my relationships (or the world for that matter).

Make Amends:
This is one of the most beautiful ways to create peace I've ever experienced. It's truly the place where I leave my ego and righteousness behind and step into utter humility and gratitude. It's a vulnerable, open, amazingly deep place to be. And you do it entirely for yourself. You don't do it for forgiveness or from wanting anything from your partner. You do it, because you want peace inside of you. There are many amazing ways to make amends; it's a crucial component of many 12-step and self-awareness programs. Making amends is simply admitting that you know you were the problem. For me, last night, it looked like, "Honey, I'm so sorry I acted the way I did. I tried to control and manipulate you. I yelled at you and treated you unfairly. Is there anything I can do to make it up to you?" At other times, it has looked like writing a letter and then either mailing it or reading it to the person. The best book on an amends letter that I've read is Byron Katie's "I Need Your Love--Is That True?"

Express Gratitude Through Service and Giving Back:
Expressing gratitude is such a sweet way to create peace within ourselves. It is impossible to be grateful and be at war at the same time. Can't be done. Gratitude can be expressed in so many ways. One of the most profound ways to express gratitude is to do something nice for someone without anyone knowing you've done it, including the person you did it for. And that includes not telling others what you're doing. It's amazing how much our egos want to be acknowledged for the good things we do. The practice of giving without expectation (of anything, including recognition or thanks) is a powerful way to experience humility. As you begin to give anonymously, you might notice how abundant you really are, how amazingly rich your life is, how the whole of existence supports you (all of us) at every moment. There is so much abundance all around us--air, water, the earth to sit, stand and lie on, sunshine, rain, traffic, people, pollution, noise, opinions, stories, buildings--the list is endless. Get in touch with how much there is of everything. It's an abundant, supportive and infinitely loving universe.

Open yourself to peace; champion it; become it's friend; study it; practice it. Bring peace to yourself and you bring peace to the world.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! I thought I wrote the first half of that blog - you have captured this so beautiful. I am so glad Brooke posted the link to your blog. I'll be a regular reader now. You've definitely got some clarity here and the steps make it seem really doable and meaningful for moving past an incident like this.