If you’re a regular reader of these tips, you’ll know that the fundamental understanding of life that I write, teach, and coach from is what I call “the inside-out paradigm”. The inside-out paradigm says that our experience of life comes one hundred percent from thought in the moment. In other words, we don’t experience life, circumstances, or other people; we experience our thinking about life, our thinking about circumstances, and our thinking about other people.
Now, that turns out to be a ridiculously significant fact, because when you look deeper into the nature of thought and how it works, you start to see that a lot of the things that we do in the world to try to cheer ourselves up and make ourselves feel more loved and whole are based on a fundamentally flawed understanding.
The problem isn’t that we’re not sincere in what we want; the problem is we don’t understand where to look to get it. Trying to get better feelings by changing your circumstances or your partner is like going to a vending machine that sells candy and wondering why you’re not getting a steak dinner. It just doesn’t work that way.
In order to better understand how it actually does work, particularly in the arena of loving relationships, I’d like to propose a radical possibility:
At any moment, you’re either in your thoughts or you’re in love.
When we’re in love, we’re feeling the deeper feeling of love and aliveness and connection that’s always there when we’re not caught up in our thinking. In these moments, we don’t care what our partner does with the toothpaste cap – we barely even care whether or not they use toothpaste.
But when we’re not in that feeling, everything starts to matter. After all, is it really OK to feel a deep sense of love and connection for someone if they don’t put the toilet seat up or down? What if they’re not neat enough or messy enough? What if they said something mean to my mother?
When we’re up in our heads and out of touch with the feeling, we start to question everything. “Are we still in love?” we think to ourselves. “Were we ever?” So we resign ourselves to another goddamn learning experience and resolve to move forward, sadder but wiser. “I still love you”, we tell our future ex-partner, “but I’m not in love with you anymore.”
Yet the moment we recognize that we’re living in the feeling of our thinking, not the world, those same thoughts about the life or death importance of an errant sock or misspent twenty dollar bill don’t tell us we have irreconcilable differences – they alert us to the fact that we’re disconnected from love and we’ve lost our way.
To illustrate that point more clearly, here’s my version of an analogy which I originally heard from my mentor George Pransky:
[themify_box style=”light-gray rounded” ]Imagine that you live in a drafty house with a beautiful fireplace. And it’s kind of cold in the house but by the fire it’s amazing. So you build a fire and you’re sitting by the fire and it’s beautiful. You’re about to settle in for a lovely evening by the fire with a glass of wine and your beloved at your side, when you feel just a little bit of a draft from the window over to the side of the house. You know you could leave it, but you decide that you really want to enjoy the evening by the fire with your beloved and it would be so much easier to do that if there wasn’t that darned draft.
So you tell your sweetheart “Hang on, honey – I’m just going to go over and shut that window.” And you go over to the window but it won’t quite shut, because it’s a bit warped from the rain. So you go to get a file from the part of the house where you keep your tools, so you can file it down and it will fit nice and tight and snug.
But on your way to get the file you notice there’s another window in the hall that’s had a hole in it that you’ve been meaning to fix for ages, and you decide you’d better tape it up because that’s letting in cold air as well.
Of course, no sooner do you get the tape than you remember there’s a few other things that you’ve been planning to work on,and as long as you’re in “fix it” mode, you may as well take care of them all so that once everything’s resolved, you can really relax and just enjoy being with your beloved.
And by the time you’ve got everything fixed, you come back into the living room and the fire’s gone out and your beloved is gone. [/themify_box]
At some point, you recognize that what’s important in a relationship is not all the stuff, the issues, or the “compatibility”, but rather that warm glow of loving connection that gets amplified when we’re hanging out with another human being with relatively little on our mind. Once you see that for yourself, you’re just not that inclined to leave the warm embrace of love to chase the illusory mantle of perfection. Given the choice, you’re more likely to opt for a beautiful evening by the fireplace, even while being fully aware that there are little drafts and noises and even broken windows in the house.
It’s not that you won’t ever get around to mending them; it’s just when you see the inside-out nature of our experience, it makes no sense to take yourself out of connection with your partner in order to fix an issue that only seems important when the connection is absent.
Have fun, learn heaps, and happy relating!
with all my love,