Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what constitutes strength.
Through listening to my own experiences and exploring ways to integrate my history of traumas and my weaknesses these past few months.
Through sharing my experiences with my husband Sean and dear friends.
Through negotiating a new friendship.
Through mindfulness practices and reading wise words from people like Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chodron, Moshe Feldenkrais and others…
I’ve been musing…
And I’ve come to make connections between the nature of strength, courage, love and understanding.
It is said that true love is only possible with understanding. And that understanding only comes with listening, true listening.
It has also been said that one can only love another to the degree to which one loves oneself.
So it would follow that true love is only possible when one comes to understand oneself.
But I think where we get hung up is in TRYING to understand, oneself or another or life itself.
I believe that once we start TRYING to understand, to figure it or someone out, we are no longer listening. And without listening we will never come to understand.
To listen requires I give up all striving for some thing; that I release expectation; that I open to the moment in all it’s richness just as it is; that I’m not trying to fix or figure out or resolve or advise… And that I’m not worried about the implications for myself: what I should or shouldn’t do or say or what it all means for me.
To listen requires being with what is, not what I’d like or what I imagine should be.
Learning to listen has been one of the greatest and most valuable skills I’m learning.
Listening, surrendering and being present to the moment as it is requires courage because you don’t know that what you’ll experience is what you’d like or expect to experience. It may not be pleasant. There may be pain and discomfort. There will be uncertainty and ambiguity.
Because life, oneself, an other is not something that can be understood, as in, figured out once and for all. Life, oneself, an other is a process ― a constant, evolving, unfolding, unceasing process.
I am not I as an extant thing to be grasped and understood as a fixed and complete something all figured out. Not to myself, and not for anyone else.
Neither is life.
This can make people very uncomfortable. Nothing is stable. Everything is shifting. Nothing can be “figured out” in this sense.
Life, myself, an other ― all are mystery. Not a puzzle to be solved. But a mystery to be lived and experienced.
Living with this level of understanding and being willing to just be…
No “trying” to “get’ something, someone, life all figured out. Can’t be done anyway. Can only happen when listening. Can only happen by just being. Just. Be. Open. And. Present.
Let’s face it, this takes courage. Acting with courage builds strength.
Listening. Being. Acting with courage. Develops “resilience to discomfort” as Pema Chodron says. Develops more strength.
And beautifully, wonderfully, mysteriously, understanding then grows. And with understanding ― love. Love for oneself, life, an other. How beautiful is that!
And ― it’s extraordinarily simple! Yes, simple! This doesn’t, of course, mean it’s easy. But it is truly simple. And the more it’s practised, the simpler it gets, and often, the easier it gets too!
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, as my capacity to love and experience joy and wonder and awe grow, I’ve noticed at times that these too require strength. Sometimes the experiences of profound love, joy, wonder and awe can be so massive that without strength the experience might overwhelm.
My dear husband and my closest friends live this. They don’t TRY to figure me all out. They are just themselves, as they are able to be, allowing me to just be. There is no need to TRY to FIGURE anything out. And I, as much as I am able, I allow them to just be as they are.
When we do this together, allow this, it seems to me that what we are allowing is each other to grow more fully into our potential, egoless potential. In this way, we help each other come to bring our gifts to the world without getting our shit in a knot! At least, not as often or as knotty 😉 .
It’s wonderful to be understood. But in all honesty, I can’t say I fully understand myself, let alone my husband (whom I love dearly). Nor can I say my husband understands me fully. But, we come back again and again to listening and allowing each other to just be. And so, we grow in understanding of each other and love grows.
It’s the same with my friends. I realise I don’t need them to TRY to “understand” me…
What I want is for them to be with me while they are just being themselves. We simply listen to each other. This is not just about the words we say. We simply “just be” in the presence of each other. Just be. Present. Simple!
I’ve come to trust that this sort of listening with loving kindness will lead to deeper understanding. I don’t need to “try” or “dig deep”. And they don’t either. Just be. Present. Listen deeply. Live wholeheartedly. Simple.
And I’m not saying it can’t be pretty horrible to be misunderstood. But I’m coming to realise that misunderstanding comes from a lack of listening and being.
Of course, none of us lives this unceasingly and without fail. But in general, I’m very lucky to have Sean and good friends who seem to understand and live this, more or less, consciously or not. And it is a gift! To have people in my life who have the courage to just be, and to allow me to just be, and not try to fix or figure out or make anything more complicated than it is. Instead to simply hold space together ― yup ― a gift!
What does this have to do with the Feldenkrais MethodⓇ?
I think this is what Moshe Feldenkrais was conveying in teaching practitioners in training ― to learn how to listen in a way that had nothing to do with fixing anyone ― but rather, to help another discover themselves by allowing them to feel what it is they themselves do, not what s/he the practitioner is doing. As with everything else in my life, this is a constant learning. I’ve not got it all figured out as a practitioner ;-). But I do what I can to live it…
When I do Awareness Through MovementⓇ for myself, this is what I believe I’m invited to learn to do more of, and better ― to listen, open and aware and accepting of what I find myself doing ― even if it is not what I’d like to find myself doing. It’s the listening that is key. Only then can I gain understanding.
“Trying” to understand undermines the listening. “Trying” to get a movement “right” is not listening. “Trying” is not being open to the moment as it is. “Trying” to “fix” myself is not listening to what I am actually doing.
Allowing myself to be and being open, very open and unassuming to whatever arises ― this is deep listening. This leads to understanding. This leads to better, more simple, harmonious organization. I act in the world with greater clarity and simplicity.
Again, this is not something I live unceasingly and unfailingly! I am learning, living, experiencing, listening, and so, understanding more all the time.
Understanding allows love to flourish. Understanding and loving myself, I grow in my capacity to love others and life as it is. All this because I am learning to listen. Just be. Present.
Crazy but true. This connection between the Feldenkrais Method, learning to listen and be and becoming more loving and understanding of myself, life and the world is what keeps this work alive and precious and engaging to me. And I hope, to my students.