Coloured portrait

Coloured portrait

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Identity, Spirituality and The Law of Attraction

Identity is only problematic as long as it's based on the philosophy of separation. As long as there is a self and an other, you'll run into problems. Transcendence is going beyond the sole identification with a separate self, and relinquishing identity into the spirit, or the Ground of Being. 

This is where the fun begins.

Or more precisely, this is where suffering ends. 

If you see yourself as being at one with the all, with no separation, all the anguish or better or lesser, judgment and criticism, blaming, shaming and complaining fly out the window. Even the "Law of Attraction" becomes irrelevant: you can only attract something or someone that is separate from you; but if you are at one with all that is, nothing is outside or separate from who you truly are. So - no attraction, no repulsion. 

The separate self doesn't disappear, but remains as one perspective of the gazillion perspectives of the real Self. The separate self will still do its thing: seeking survival and reproduction, fulfillment of its needs and all the antics that come with it. The selfless part of transcendence is service: living life out of love, seeking the betterment of all beings (well, beginning with one's sphere of influence). The selfish part is, the separate self still eats, sleeps, has sex, plays with the dog, dances and drinks tea. 

The separate self will jump on the occasion of hijacking the infinite self for its own fulfillment - that's not to transcend the ego, but to strengthen it. I personally am not so enlightened to have escaped this self-serving predicament. However, you can be selfish and selfless if you seek win-win fulfillment, if your own meeting of needs is also benefiting others and the all.

For example, to 'manifest' something you (the separate self) want (the Infinite Self doesn't have wants or needs), think of the essence of your need or desire. Make a mental exercise where you see yourself as pure consciousness or the all-that-is, and as such, in order to experience anything, all you have to do is to express it.

Express that which you want to experience.

This is the mother of all secrets, hidden in plain daylight. And this post is public.

So, want to experience generosity? Great: express it. Give it. Want to experience consideration? Grant it. Want to experience loving presence? Offer it. Want to experience appreciation? Appreciate everything beautiful, good and true in yourself, in others, and in the world. You want people to grant you support, cheer your successes and wish you well? Great: grant support, cheer others' successes, and wish people (and all beings) well. 

This is the wisdom behind the Metta practice "May all beings be happy, be peaceful, and be free". This is the wisdom behind the Blessings I share with you now and then. 

No entitlement, no victimization, no struggle, no wars, no blaming, no shaming, no accusations, no unfairness. 

You want it? You give it.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Insults to Feedback: Exploring Types of Criticism

As promised at the Embodied Connection Games Circle themed “Criticism”, here’s an exploration of giving and receiving criticism. Throughout this exploration we will make some distinctions to help us communicate kindly and effectively, whether we are the provider or the recipient of criticism.

Let’s say a baker has baked an apple pie. And while you and I would gladly volunteer to taste a slice (it’s sweetened with honey and spiced with cinnamon), the baker’s boss has something to say about it that is not a praise. And how he says it will make a difference.

Distinction 1: Subject vs Object or Identity vs Behaviour

“You are a terrible baker!” This statement is addressed at the person, the subject, an “I” nobody wants to be in the shoes of, because when criticism gets personal, it hurts. If the criticism is addressed at an object, an “it”, we might learn something useful about it. “Your pie is bad” is much different than “You are bad”. You can be a wonderful person and bake bad pies. I know I have. And you still like me, do you not?

An object is either a tangible object, like a pie, or a behaviour, such as baking. “Your baking is bad” is an objective criticism and thus, it is not personal.

Distinction 2: Preference vs Value Judgment 

“I don’t like apple pie” is a subjective preference statement that speaks about the taste of the speaker. “This apple pie is bad” is a value judgment, and it speaks about the “it”, the object, the pie. It is still a subjective assessment - “Beauty (or taste) is in the eye (or taste buds) of the beholder” but if inquiring we might uncover some criteria worth looking at (undercooked dough, or stale flour).

Preference is purely subjective: you can look at the most exquisite, five-stars, price winning pies, and not care, because you don’t like pie. If you do like apple pie, first - we can be friends; and second - you may still find this particular pie to be bad if it’s salted instead of sweetened, or mouldy, or undercooked. In which case you may offer a value judgment about the pie and say “It (the object), the pie, is bad”.

Distinction 3: Feeling vs Thought

Feelings are body-felt experiences. Thoughts are ideas, concepts, values and such, and they’re nowhere to be found in your body, although thoughts may be coupled with feelings, and they often are. At least this is true in my case: I am a woman, and very sensitive and emotional if you need to know.

There are two kinds of feelings: sensory feelings, and emotional feelings. Examples are: Sleepy, itchy, calm, sad, joyful, hungry, satiated, antsy, annoyed, pleased, delighted.

Examples of thoughts: “Apple pies are sweet”; “Tomorrow is Tuesday”; “Monkeys eat bananas” and “I’m curious what is behind that door”. 

When someone says: “I feel that your baking is bad” that’s a thought. If they said: “I have a bad feeling about eating your pie” that would be a feeling. Just because one inserts the word “feel” in a statement, doesn’t automatically turn a thought into a feeling.

This distinction helps you distinguish between a personal preference and a value judgment. “I feel nauseated looking at this pie” describes a subjective feeling; “This pie looks nauseating” is a value judgment. 

Poor baker. Let’s move on.

Distinction 4: Insult vs Feedback or Destructive vs Constructive Criticism

Behind any behaviour, there is a motive, a why. Behind any declared statement, there is a motive, a why, whether intentional and conscious or otherwise. 

“Look, Riley, about your pie…” could be marking the beginning of a statement intended to cause pain, or a statement intended to lead to improvement. 

Personal criticism is destructive, with or without name calling. Constructive criticism addresses an object, an “it”, that could be improved. 

“You’re awful” is an insult. “The pie is awful” is still harsh, but with some heart and skill (as we’ll see below) it could lead to making better pies.

Distinction 5: Generalization vs Specifics, or Vague vs Precise

“You always ruin pies” is a generalization, and speaks nothing of today’s apple pie. Not one word. 

“This pie is bad” speaks indeed about our pie du jour, but “bad” is too vague a word, and we don’t know how specifically it is bad, and what it needs to be good.

“The dough is raw, undercooked” - is indeed specific and precise. 

“This apple pie is undercooked, and needs to go back to the oven for another ten minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit” is specific, precise, and leads to improvement.

“Riley, your apple pie has the right ratio between dough and filling, it is flavourful and perfectly sweetened, and it’s also undercooked, and needs to go back in the oven for another ten minutes” This is positive feedback: it is objective, specific, precise, and it has heart, as it first mentions all that is well and good about the pie.

Useful responses to criticism

What do you do if you are Riley the baker, and your apple pie is the object of criticism?

Be curious about the motive of the critic: “What makes you say that?” Is an inquiry which should help you reveal whether you’re dealing with an insult or a feedback. If dealing with an insult, I leave your response up to your own good judgment; I just want to remind you that you are the one with a pie in your hand, so you have options…

Be curious about the specifics of the feedback: “What about this pie do you specifically find bad?” And be curious about the possibility for improvement: “What do you think that this pie needs, or what could I do differently next time?” 

This should take care of any kind of criticism coming your way. 

And as soon as you’ve gotten that apple pie figured out, and it’s properly baked, come on over with the pie. Message me for the address. I’ll set the table.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

How to Receive Criticism and Still Enjoy Your Day

How to Receive Criticism and Still Enjoy Your Day

Fear of rejection is a social animal’s worst fear: when your species survival depends on cooperation, you become hypersensitive for all the clues towards or away from belonging: validation, affirmation, appreciation and reward. 

So when there is criticism coming at you and you haven’t done your homework on how to respond, you’re most likely to be unhappy about the words you hear or read, and likely to respond in ways that will further make you - and the others concerned - unhappy.

Before we look at happy-making strategies of response, let’s take a look at criticism, as not all criticism is equal. As we human behaviour in general, what a person does doesn’t always weigh as much as why a person does it. “Why” has two components to it: cause, and purpose. 

So when you are at the receiving end of criticism, and have time to ponder (before replying to a comment, for example), become curious about the “why”: What causes the person to say what they do, and with what purpose. 

Purpose-wise, criticism comes to either lead to improvement, in which case we call that “constructive criticism”, or it’s meant to cause pain, in which case we call it many other things, including “destructive criticism”, “trolling”, “put-down” and so forth. Criticism is aimed at one’s behaviour, at an object: someone’s athletic performance; someone’s acting; someone’s cooking. When directed at a person, when it’s personal, it is not criticism but an insult, and an act of violence. 

For example, it is one thing to say to a baker: “Your cake dough is uncooked and gooey” (criticism is directed at an object) or “Your baking skills suck” (criticism addressing a behaviour); and it is another thing to say: “You are a lousy baker” (criticism directed at the person).

Constructive criticism:

When someone offers you a value judgement or some specific criticism regarding something you did or do, with a clear purpose of improvement, accept it as a gift, and start by thanking the person for it. Then inquire into what could be improved and how. 

Unclear criticism:

When someone’s criticism is not clear to you whether it’s a gift or an attack:

1- Do not make the assumption that it’s an attack. Easier said than done when you have trauma or such past conditioning about criticism. And even if you have a rather intense emotional response to the criticism, just because you feel a certain way does not reflect the intention of the sender. So do not make any assumptions, make yourself not know, and stay curious.

2 - Ask for clarification: “What makes you say that?” The answer usually makes it clear if the person tried to help you improve or to cause you pain.

Destructive criticism:

When it is clear to you that the criticism directed at you is an attack, consider this: in most cases the attack is unconscious, and emerges from the attacker’s own pain. So someone whose parents were harshly critical when they were young, might repeat the parents’ pattern and say something to you in order to shame you, and they aren’t aware that this is what they’re doing. People hurt each other every day with words without a conscious intention to inflict pain, but out of unconscious reaction. When that happens, your response can help the attacker bring the motive of their behaviour from the shadow of their mind into the light of their awareness. Simply ask:

“Are you saying this in order to shame me?”

If you’re dealing with someone who values personal growth, they may - after an initial discomfort - actually thank you for your inquiry, as it will bring out an insight from within themselves.

When the criticism emerges out of the attacker’s hate, you need to play the game by other rules.  Hate is different than anger: anger fuels action towards some justice or repairs, whereas hate arises with the desire to inflict pain (physical or emotional).

A hate attack will seek to belittle you, undermine you, doubt yourself, will attack your sense of self and identity, will gaslight you (cause you to doubt your own reasoning and instincts). Here are a few options to consider with hate attacks:

1 - Do not engage with the attacker. Step aside. Unfriend, unfollow, divorce, leave, go away. If someone’s engagement has as its purpose inflicting pain, unless you have strong reasons to want to engage with them, and have brilliant negotiation skills, keep out of the way of this person’s attacks. I wish I knew this years ago…

2- If circumstances prevent you from disengaging, two things will help you deal with the attack and still enjoy your day: the words “Yes and” and humour. 

Comedy improvisation is entirely based on the “Yes, and…” principle: you agree with whatever is coming at you, any line, any statement, and you run with it. If you practice Aikido, you will find a similarity there, in the agreeing to the attack. Both practices build mindful spontaneity which is rooted in compassion and joy. Humour diffuses the tension, and when applied skilfully, it turns hate into laughter. “Yes, and…” means you first agree to the attack, and then take it somewhere else more constructive. 

This part was explored, as a game, in the last Embodied Connection Games circle of 2020 (an Embodiment Circle Online): participants practiced a “wrong round” first, getting defensive, disagreeing to the criticism, returning the insult and all the usual self-defeating strategies we all do unconsciously, but done intentionally and with humour, playfully. Then there was a “Yes, and…” round, with even more fun and laughter. 

Let’s try some examples. Let’s name the two categories of response “Unhappy” (as they are bound to make defender and attacker unhappy) and “Happy” as they are your chance for still enjoying your day even after being nastily criticized or insulted. 

Attack: “Bitch!”

Unhappy response: “How dare you speak to me like that!” Or, “Jerk!”

Happy response: “Woof!”’


Attack: “Your food tastes horrible”

Unhappy response: “That’s what you have to say after I’ve cooked for you the whole day?” Or; “I’ll never cook for you again” Or: “Your food isn’t much better” - you get the idea.

Happy response: “Yes! Thank you! My food is tastes so horrible I’ve been approached by hit men to sell it to them as poison for their targets, and the pay is fantastic!”

One strategy I learned from Paul Linden, Aikidoist, philosopher and linguist,  founder of “Being in Movement” is to ask for help in response to criticism. 

Attack: “You have bad posture”

Happy response: “Yes, thank you! And I admire your posture. I wish I had a good posture like yours. How do you do it? Would you help me with some movement exercise that will help me improve the way I stand, sit and walk?”

This should give you some good tools to practice and get you better prepared to deal with criticism, as well as, covertly encouraging you to only offer constructive criticism when it’s appropriate, requested and useful.

If you have more strategies for happily dealing with attacks, write them in comments, as well as any criticism directed at mine. 


Monday, December 14, 2020

I Reintroduced Sugar to My Diet, and it’s Good For Me


I reintroduced sugar to my diet, and it’s good for me. Here’s why:

For many years I have eaten a restricted diet to cope with health problems like weight and food sensitivities. I lived with the craving for foods that I like, comfort foods that I grew up with, and that now I couldn’t have. “I want it, I wish I could have it, but I can’t” That’s deprivation, and living in scarcity - “I can’t have what I want”. 

I reintroduced sugar to my diet, and it’s good for me. Here’s why:

For many years I have eaten a restricted diet to cope with health problems like weight and food sensitivities. I lived with the craving for foods that I like, comfort foods that I grew up with, and that now I couldn’t have. “I want it, I wish I could have it, but I can’t” That’s deprivation, and living in scarcity - “I can’t have what I want”.

To make things worse, people who didn’t know anything about me other than my body size, assumed that I was overindulging and volunteered advice: “Reduce your sugar intake”; they sent me unsolicited nutrition information to educate me, and even referred to me as “Cheeseburger lover”. That only fed my Victim viewpoint: how unfair to read all these books about nutrition, eat a sugar-free, low-carb, low-processed food diet, and yet be suspected of gorging myself with junk. Deprived and misjudged. The worst of all worlds.

A few weeks ago I came home with a bag of keto chocolates: dark, and low sugar. Later on I added to that a few dark chocolates with regular sugar, and then a box of Godiva chocolates of mixed colour, from dark to milk to white. And a box of liqueur filled chocolates. I started eating a small, bite-size chocolate after each meal. I made a conscious ritual out of it, to imprint my body with pleasure and fulfillment: eyes closed, chocolate melting on the palate, savouring the aroma. Dessert has followed every meal - one, and sometimes two or three chocolates savoured and enjoyed with full awareness to the point of satiation. And when I got some almond cookies and fortune cookies with my Chinese restaurant order, instead of passing them on to friends as usual, I kept them, and enjoyed them one or two at a time. 

What this has been doing to my mood and sense of self is priceless: deprivation and ‘poor me’ attitudes have been replaced by fulfillment and gratitude. “I can have what I want and enjoy it” is the message my body has been receiving. 

Interestingly enough, something shifted again in my cravings, and I found myself choosing fruit over sweets as dessert after most meals. The chocolates are still there, in an aesthetically pleasing display of luxurious opulence, and I know that I can have one or as many as I want, when I want them. And this, my friends, is total freedom: I am free to eat and free to not eat; free to follow the signals of my body, and free to do what it takes to fulfill a desire moment by moment, with pleasure instead of guilt. 

Freedom from addiction is not the same as cessation of a behaviour; it is freedom from compulsion, any compulsion: the compulsion to eat, or to not eat; to consume, or to not consume. 

Nutrition-wise: watching Zac Efron’s “Down to Earth” documentary on Netflix about Blue Zones - the areas on Earth with the greatest longevity, I see healthy people eating carbs, including dessert - a nice slice of cake. An Italian doctor comments: 10 grams of sugar a day is fine; 100 grams of sugar a day is not. If Italians can have ravioli with a bit of tomato sauce and a sprinkle of parmesan, followed by a slice of sweet cake, and live well within their 100’s, then maybe what I have learned about nutrition must be revisited. And thus, my loves, the head is informed and in line with the heart and the body when opting for sugary chocolates for dessert. 

The head thinks of Italy’s diet. The heart rejoices in the intentional living choices towards fulfillment. The body requires its pleasures - and I listen, from the first craving to the sweet moment of satisfaction.

And thus, my friends, savouring sugar is so, so good. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Why Seeing the World as a Victim is Hard to Change, and What You Can Do About It

Here’s why seeing the world through a Victim’s eye is hard to change, and what you can do about it:

  • A Victim is always superior to Villains. Status is a perk hard to renounce
  • Victim gets pity, which is a form of attention, and attention nourishes. When one is depleted and disconnected from love, any attention will do, including pity. 
  • Many social organizations are built upon the Victim-Villain-Rescuer triangle model, with support systems that offers a venue to the Victim to complain about the Villain, organized by Rescuers.
  • The Victim has the right to complain, which confers entitlement - another perk which is difficult to renounce. 
  • Victims have stories to tell, about injustice done to them or to others. The emotions aroused by stories of injustice are intense and compelling - from resentment to anger to rage and even hatred - which makes the stories highly likely to be heard. Emotionally charged stories draw attention, and attention nourishes the speaker. 

I had enough adversity and known enough oppression as a descendent of Holocaust survivors and a child of an oppressive dictatorial regime behind the Iron Curtain, to be fused in my personal identity with the Victim aspect of my mind. I have complained, felt helpless, felt entitled and when my personal development fans friends told me that I saw myself as Victim and I should take my power back, I had no idea how to do that. Here’s what I figured, so far:

  • The Victim is one voice of many inside one’s mind. To free oneself from its grasp requires the counter-intuitive act of giving it a voice. The fused identity with any sub-personality (aspect of the psyche) means that one is locked into that particular perspective. The Victim is the subject, “I”. By giving the Victim a voice, listening to it and looking at it, the Self differentiates itself from that voice, and the Victim becomes an object, an “it”, while the Self, as the subject “I” has access to other options for the Self’s ‘driver seat’. 
  • There are embodied practices that give the Victim a voice. My favourite is the Voice Dialogue (I’m a lover of language so no wonder I prefer this one), then the Shadow Integration process, which I like doing combining language and embodied states (walk, talk, move, gesture as the Victim). You can also dance, draw, and journal as Victim.
  • Fulfillment is the ultimate anti-Victim medicine. Paul Linden says, you can’t stop something; you can only start something else. The Victim is injusticed, oppressed, deprived, helpless. You can’t stop that, but you can do the opposite: meet your own needs, take good care of yourself, practice appreciation, cultivate personal power through embodied practices. Being well-rested, well-fed, well-loved, well-cared for and in the habit of expressing gratitude for all things beautiful, good and true makes it impossible to remain Victim, as the two states are incompatible. The Victim is right, the Victor is happy.
  • Walk away from Victim narratives. Not easy to do, as they are ubiquitous. I bet you have enough friends, family members or co-workers who make complaining a central part of their conversations. I encourage you to not engage even if you may, like I am, tempted to join in the gossip and complaining because it is satisfying as shown at the top of this article. Or, if you like to raise to the occasion of sharpening your leadership skills, elegantly steer the conversation away from the complaining and towards possibility and resources. I personally boast a degree of success with this (easier with clients than with peers because of the power balance) by stopping the complainer from venting and asking: “What do you need?” Or “What would you like to see happen?”
  • Be willing to feel guilty rather than injusticed - it’s a wise priority. I was a single dog mom to my old Akita, Kinook, staying by her side towards the end of her life, never leaving her alone for more than a couple of hours. Occasionally though I made a conscious decision to stay away for an extra hour pleasure shopping, in order to not resent her for being deprived of life’s little joys. This way I was able to give her love with all my heart, to her last breath. 
  • Deciding that nobody owes you anything is the ticket to freedom, fulfillment and in my own experience, sanity. Entitlement always leads to disappointment because nobody can ever live up to the high expectations of an entitled Victim. On the other hand, thinking that nobody owes you anything - attention, time, friendship or favours - will prompt you to act in such ways as to make yourself attractive, pleasant and useful so that people enjoy giving you their attention, time, friendship and favours. The Victim demands, the Victor earns.

Adversity is tempting us to switch to Victim mode - “After all that’s done to me / that life has hurt me “ I should be getting this, having that. I’ve done that more than I’m willing to tell you about it. I’ve been a regular member of my own “Poor Me” club and paid my dues with misery and depression, diligently pushing people away by effectively being as insufferable as I was able to - and did a good job at it. 

However, I am pleased to share with you that it is possible to leave the Poor Me club and join the Lucky Me club, or as I heard some say, “The more I practice, the luckier I get”. Cultivate pleasure; prioritize meeting needs, yours and your loved ones; practice daily gratitude - a central practice to reformed Victims; be aware of limitations and focus on abilities and possibilities. And if you want to rebel against your oppressors, give them the finger by being happy, joyful, grateful and fulfilled. And every time the Victim shows up in yourself or others, give it some love and compassion, and give it a voice, for it is part of you, but certainly not all of you. You are the boss of your mind, and you alone can decide which of the many aspects of “me” is driving your car.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Freedom to Fulfillment Strategy

I have a strategy in place to move me from victim consciousness to being happy and fulfilled.
First, I start the day with a practice of prayer / Metta / declaration of intent. Central to it is the intention to live a life of harmonious balance, walk the 'middle path' or in Hebrew 'Derech Hamelech' , the Regal Path: neither deficit, nor excess; neither depriving myself, nor excessive self-indulging; neither grasping, nor wasteful.
Then, as an example on how I apply my intention to real life, I consciously and intentionally eat chocolate every day. I have not eaten chocolate or any sweets (or sugar, wheat, dairy, wine, yeast, etc) for years because I was too sick to handle a lot of foods (and I did indulge many years prior to that). So now I eat a square or two of chocolate every day. Not eating as much as to make myself sick, and not eating as little as to perpetuate self-pity 'poor me, look, I can't even enjoy chocolate' victim mindset. So I eat just right, slowly, and savour every bite. I also apply this strategy to everything else, including shopping (I am recovering from addictions to food and to shopping); and I also use it to declutter, let go of the unnecessary, keep the useful.
Total freedom is to eat or not eat, drink or not drink, shop or not shop as and when it's right, healthy and fulfilling; neither too much, nor too little, but just right.
It takes freedom in order to enjoy fulfillment; and self-love takes a great deal of wisdom and daily cultivation.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

In Memory of My Husband

When we met twenty two years ago, Jeff told me stories of his life and work in the Canadian Arctic.

He was a great storyteller, with a sense of the ridicule and a wildly sharp sense of humour. His stories and funny sayings and remarks sent me laughing until I folded and my cheeks were sore. Jeff and I shared more hurts than values and strengths; humour, together with our love for dogs, was probably our most precious shared gem. Jeff would say things like: “I’m busier than a one-legged man at an ass-kicking contest” or “Busier than a one-armed poster-hanging man” and the mental visuals ensued would render me laughing hysterically.

I listened mesmerized to Jeff’s stories from the North - of spotting a polar bear on one of his travels, or stories of a grumpy hotel owner who’d ask his guests: “Sir, how do you like your eggs?” And when the guest would reply “Scrambled”, the owner would reply between his clenched teeth: “Well, we only make them fried”. And he’d add: “You have two choices: take it, or leave it”. 

“My work is my TIKKUN OLAM” (Hebrew for “Healing the World”) Jeff once told me. The Canadian Government has been making ongoing efforts to make repairs for the wrongs done to the indigenous people and Jeff’s work with the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada was profoundly meaningful to him. He was passionate and proud to be part of the amends and development for the Dene and Inuit people. His clients had appreciation and affection for him, and Jeff treasured the Aboriginal Art pieces he was gifted by them. Each piece of art had a story and Jeff’s eyes often got wet when he’d relate it to me.

Jeff’s humour, passion, work and eventually health and life succumbed to tremendous suffering. Together with his remains, a lifetime of dreams, hopes, memories, stories told and stories untold, are being buried. As a healer, I look back at this life of the man I shared a long, rocky journey with, and I grief the lost opportunities for healing the wounds of the soul and the ills of the body. Trauma, the philosophical views of separation, and disease can rob a person of his ability to do his life’s work, and of his ability to love and relate. If it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger; and if you don’t address it, sooner or later, it does kill you. 

The man I once loved, had dreams about, hopes with, and later feared and resented has left an imprint on my psyche that is shaping who I am today. Walking this leg of a journey with him I have learned about myself more than I had ever imagined possible; I learned about the importance of healing one’s wounds, what it means to grow up emotionally, what are the skills and the strengths necessary to relate with a mate, the importance of saying the truth, the meaning of kindness, the necessary dance between autonomy and communion, and the power balance in relationships. I learned that opposites attract if it’s Yin and Yang, and while some things should be different for a couple relationship to work, others, such as world views, meaning and values, should be shared. I learned that navigating relationships without a good map can crash you, and fortunately I eventually came across and learned a good map. 

I learned that projecting one’s unrealistic expectations and assumptions upon another makes relating impossible, and that a marriage is never to a prince, nor to a monster, but to another human being with strengths and flaws, like all of us. I learned that kindness is a choice, and how I think and speak to and of another depends entirely on who I am and who I choose to be, and does not depend on the other’s behaviour. This marriage has left me shaken, but it also left me wiser, kinder, better equipped, skilled and able to contribute to others’ well-being and growth; more mature psychologically, and more awakened spiritually. For all this, I am deeply grateful. 

I pray with all my heart that Jeff is remembered for his good deeds, his strengths, and his contributions. And I pray that his soul journeys in peace, renewed and cleansed from this life’s burdens and contaminations. May goodness and beauty emerge from the dark mud of suffering like the delicate, fragrant lotus flower, and may all the pain and suffering endured be worthwhile, and eventually lead to greater compassion to our souls and to our world. 

Good bye Jeff. May you be at peace.