This is an ancient sentiment and lives on to this day, for good reason.
Numerous studies suggest that avoiding anger at bedtime is the most common advice given by couples married for life.
Buddhists and other spiritual teachers advocate the sentiment behind “flower fresh” (Thich Nhat Hanh) (YouTube video) not only for relationships with others, but for our own happiness. Approach each day, each moment, with the freshness of a flower. You do not harbor anger, sadness or worry, which is suffering that you bring upon yourself.
It takes 90 seconds for your body to process the anger both mentally and physically. And then it can be released completely. If your anger lasts longer than that, it’s because you’re holding on to it.
I’ve mentioned a tense relationship between my daughter and me on this blog. It has gotten pretty distressing at times and when I decided to push my ego aside, I realized I had to surrender. Pestering was not working. I had reflected on my intention. Was my primary motive to help her be “successful” in life? Was hounding her to do homework and practice her violin most important? No. But that was what I was practicing.
I set my priorities clearly. First of all, she must know I love her unconditionally. Secondly, this is her life. I trust her with it. She knows what to do and if she doesn’t do it, she will have to face the consequences. That’s how she will grow. Throughout it all, I will love her, absolutely.
What I DO owe her is a happy mother. Every time I start to resort to my habit of nagging, I redirect my energies to what I want to do: plant lantana in the backyard (even in 100 degree heat), exercise, write, cook and so on.
Since I’ve put this practice in place, a magnificent event has occurred. We’ve become closer than ever. She wanted to get into shape. I took her to a fitness club. We signed her up for a four week membership (realizing there will be NO time for the gym once school starts). The club gave me a 2 week free pass. Organically…naturally…completely unplanned…I’ve become her trainer. We work out together and laugh and (sometimes) partake in junk food afterwards. There is ease and love where angst and friction once were. And if I ask her to do something, she does it. Most of the time. And that’s OK.
The intention came first. Space (a lot of it) came next. And then complete awareness and unconditional love. I’d say this works for all relationships.
“Your partner is your mirror…to think your partner is anything but a mirror of you is painful. When you see him flawed in any way, you can be sure that that’s where your own flaw is. The flaw has to be in your thinking, because you’re the one projecting it.”
Katie tells a story in A Thousand Names for Joy about the time she came home, excited to eat her snack which she carefully placed “on the top shelf, to the right” in her fridge. But it was gone! Her reaction: she chuckled. “If I had believed stressful thoughts such as he’s so inconsiderate! He knew it was mine…he ruined it all, then I would have been annoyed, resentful and even angry with him.” Instead, Katie laughed at her plan gone awry. She chose to not believe those destructive thoughts. “…It turns out, I bought it for him.”
My marriage is a very good one. My husband and I share plenty of laughs, but I can get into ruts where I am bothered by something he is doing (or not doing). We have four cars right now with only two drivers in the house (him and me). He can’t let go of his Alfa Romeo, which is beyond repair. I tried to think of what I could say to get him to get rid of it. I started to feel a bit resentful as I imagined an argument and then I stopped.
Just let it go. Do not fall for these thoughts! He’ll release it when he’s ready.
The thought continues to intrude…we have a car outside in the 114⁰F heat, because we have a three car garage and FOURcars!
I decide to chuckle.
My husband is sentimental. He appreciates that car. He loves that car.
And I love him. I love this life.
Katie’s assertion that marriage is really your relationship with yourself is spot on.
Until I started studying spiritual philosophy, I had a narrow definition of suffering which encompassed mostly physical pain: headaches, cancer, childbirth, broken bones, etc.
But I have realized that suffering is really what we do to ourselves with our (negative) thinking. Anxiety is suffering. Depression is suffering. Guilt and regret are suffering. Worrying is suffering!
In the path to non-suffering, one essential practice (according to the Tao, Buddhists and other spiritual practitioners, such as Eckhart Tolle) is to refrain from resisting reality. For example, if you are planning an outdoor party and it rains as your guests arrive, you do not resist reality (the rain). Instead, you simply move the party indoors and continue your celebration. If you complain and cry out against the rain, will it stop? No. But you pollute the environment for those around you (family and friends) with your resistance.
I propose a concerted effort to watch one’s language in this pursuit: eliminate the words “I wish.”
“I wish it wasn’t so hot in Phoenix!” [forecast: 110°F today]
“I wish my children were better at (fill in the blank)”
“I wish my spouse/co-workers would…”
Wishing for something that is counter to reality is inviting misery, disappointment and anguish.
“Perfection is the death of all good things, perfection is the death of pleasure, it’s the death of productivity, it’s the death of efficiency, it’s the death of joy. Perfection is just a bludgeon that goes around murdering everything good. Somebody once said I was disingenuous for saying this, because surely I try to make my work as good as it can be. And that’s absolutely true — but there’s a really big difference between ‘as good as it can be’ and perfection.” – TED, September 2015