The Tremendous Joy of Friendship

So many years ago, I read Be Here Now by Ram Das, a one-time college professor who turned “seeker” after meeting, Nim Karoli Baba, an Indian spiritual man who responded to Ram Das’s recent loss of a dying mother without hearing Ram Das speak of it. Ram Das’s heart opened then. He had a friend.

About that time, I took my first and only acid trip and saw the aura surrounding trees. Well, that did it. I had to go to India myself and find people who also see what is. Once there after looking at this and that, I had a life-changing experience in a 3rd class bus station. You never know when miracles will happen. I saw an elderly man sleeping on a mat surrounded by a handful of people sitting cross-legged around him. I went over out of curiosity and saw an unimaginably beautiful man. My befuddled brain said he looks like a movie star. Then I saw his golden aura and felt his love. It blew through me like a hurricane. I sat down with them. That experience has been my guiding star, to feel what I felt then. Love is inter-me and you as Thich Nhat Hanh says. I and you are the same.

Then recently, I was terribly upset by a boyfriend who set me up to lend him money for his project which turned out to be a lie and left me broke. I even sold my most beloved possession to help him out. Then I was visited by my long time Indian friend. He saw my suffering and got very hurt and angry I could not stop myself when the tears flowed because he shared my grief. Before my friend arrived, I told him what I had been too ashamed to tell anyone, I had huddled alone in helpless sadness.

He has a funny way of insisting on the full truth. How can you not tell? He held my shoulder and said we are friends for life. Can I believe him or is it another scam? He said when he visits me he will pay my office rent when, he uses it. He wants to evaporate my loss. He calls it “fixing your kitty.”  Not a you pay me first and then I will repay you “double” scam. I have started to breathe again.

Can someone pretend to love you? Yes. and often people do especially those with bad intentions. Some say “I love you” but do not know what love is. Love is not a shallow and passing state like drinking a Coke when you’re thirsty and needing another one soon after. True love does not go away. It is its own reward.

Do you feel manipulated by one who claims to love you? Don’t ignore it. Your heart is a compass whose needle aims at love. It is our own true north. Heart knows when love is absent, knows when there is no inter-I and you in it. Heart knows when you are being taken even if mind is confused. Do not let the frightened inner child surrender because it fears the punishing parent.

There is nothing more wonderful than love. The world opens-up and you are not alone.



Unrequited Love

While meditating, I had a moment of understanding a concept I had long ago read about. It involves the experience of the inner energy as the place of love. Love is not what we commonly call an “ego” experience, among other things, feeling frightened, aggressive and demanding. Ego is all about separation which is related to being on defense. It is about ownership rather than sharing.

Ego orientation keeps us away from our inner state. The feeling of “we are one” can only happen if ego is exiled. Some call this feeling of being so united insane, but, once you have dipped your toe in these waters of union, the aggressive, needy, protective ego state is clearly the one that is insane.

I was thinking about a man who presented himself as potential friend and lover. But I deduced from our conversation that this brilliant man lacks a connection with his inner state of mind, the energy we call spirit. He spoke of death as removing his body and since that is all there is who cares. To him, life is merely a series of experiences, a kind of living movie once seen and soon forgotten.

He wanders aimlessly from experience to experience, takes interest for a while, then gets bored and moves on. Many of us live this way.

For me, to seek the love of such a person is repeating my childhood experience with two on–the-move parents, mentally and affectionately unavailable. You find yourself always seeking what you don’t have with such a person, or clinging to the little you do have. Your mind is swept away by grief and longing. Rather than find yourself in union, you lose yourself in emptiness.

What are you to do if your mind raises its arms in helplessness, over your compulsion to find and hold onto such people? The Buddhists call the mind the sixth sense, a great distraction. Rather than an ego product to get/hold/impress/conquer…, love needs to be the center of your life. Another’s love not given to you need not be your problem. Do not plead for love. Do not twist yourself into a hopefully pleasing pretzel to seduce for it.

Be your loving self and if another responds with love, you will know/feel it, something to be shared as the loving energy of spirit rather than two competing egos. If love is not reciprocated, move on.

How To Stop Loving Those Who Can Not Love

You Have to Molt

In arthropods, such as arachnids and crustaceans, molting is the shedding of the exoskeleton (which is often called a shell), to let the organism grow. The butterfly, for example, emerges from its  chrysalis, its wings kept close to its body until it recovers from the effort of its a transformation.  It then spreads its wings and begins to fly not very well at first. Flying is a learning process not unlike the metamorphosis of a human being into a new way of feeling and relating. I use a caterpillar changing into a butterfly as an example because of its  ultimate beauty. Also the caterpillar molts from the head down the same way we need to change our minds.

Those raised in an  emotional/psychological hell, develop a psychological shell which is felt to be protective. It incorporates all that the child learns to get along with or to seek forgiveness from  the powerful figures in his life. It incorporates a lot of guilt and whitewashing if not worship of the abuser. Molting exemplifies the necessity  of total change. Changing a little of this or that in your appearance or demeanor to get an unloving person to love you is no change at all. To change yourself from being attracted to those who can’t love or for you to be unloving, your childhood thinking has to be surrendered by it’s “not me.”

Children  whose parents are welcoming and loving develop a psychological persona, not a shell. Their way of relating is roomy and ready to be traded for some new kind of love interaction even on an experimental basis. They have no fear of falling into an emotional abyss. They know from relating to parents who do not claim perfection, that a wrong choice can be easily given up. No problem. There is a sense of freedom.

It is fear of giving up the childhood shell of imagined protection which keeps the adult who had a damaging childhood, seeking love from the same type of person as the parent. That adult feels frozen like a deer caught in the headlights because it exists in the terrified child brain which sees no other possibility. The child’s brain says if you try to change the one who attacks you, it can only get worse. The adult may scream and weep about his miserable love life but his childhood mind says stay here.

People suffering from the repetition compulsion endlessly fall in love with those who cannot love them. They replay a childhood wish that finally the parent will love them. The child also clings to repetition as a superstitious act which believes that doing the same thing wards off greater danger.

I got to the place where I molted out of my containing child’s view of love, by suffering.  I failed and failed again to get love from the same kind of unloving person. I suffered  to the point where I knew that I did not know who or how to  love.  I threw in the towel of repetition, was desperately lonely and unhappy. Being in that empty space was a huge step forward. I had  no shell. The childhood shell which rationalized life with attacking and rejecting parents kept me as an adult from feeling love when it was offered. A shell misshapes your view of reality. It turns present into the past you have always known.

So it was when I was in an exceedingly lonely state  I met the man who was to be my husband. Lacking my  screen to distort receptivity, I immediately felt him a kind, intelligent and caring man who did not lie. Coming from a rejecting childhood, he did not think I meant it when I gave him my phone number. Heartbroken, I waited for his call. We ran into each other on Main street a year later when he was driven to put aside his shy demeanor and try to pick me up. I slowly recognized him, had a brief careful talk, said goodbye and went into the supermarket. He called me up that night. Had my phone number written on his wall by the phone. We met for a date at a macrobiotic restaurant. Liked the food. Happily and instantly we became a couple He put no barrier between us. I felt so much love from and for him,  was constantly close to tears. I had molted out of the miserable “known” into wonderful emptiness. This made room for him to get close to me, which he did. And I did to him.

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To Love Does Not Mean To Surrender

There is a lot of confusion these days about what constitutes a “good marriage.” The forces of servility  are asserting pressure on” woman” to fall back in time. She is to stand behind her man who makes the  important decisions. It is reminiscent of the Nazi rule for Aryan woman:  “kinder, kuche, kirche” (children, cooking, church.)  She is to follow her husband’s orders and reproduce. There are women today who accept this proposition as good and appropriate.  Humans are an amazingly and sometimes inappropriately adaptive species.

But even those not attempting to reinstate this power disequilibrium do not know how to keep their own opinion and still co-habit. They live in a one wins and one loses “world,” an above and below position in relating. But of course, that cannot be. Partnering like true friendship is between equals. Those who have not surrendered the competitive struggle, cannot imagine happily living together where they do not have to agree yet both are right.  The epitome of happiness is found in a place of anarchy and difference, a mighty coexistence. It is the most long-lived, healthiest kind of bonding, just like the strongest dog is a mixed species mutt.

I once read of an experiment in which people were given a container to sniff the odors of similar and distinctly different people. The odor of those most physically distant from their selves was most attractive. A feeling of pleasure is energized by what creates the strongest offspring. Survival of the species, a condition in our genes knows the difference.

Historically, those who chose to mate with almost identical types as in royalty attempting to retain ownership of their land, often suffer from  hemophilia, a state of uncontrollable bleeding. There are other signs of weakness due to inbreeding, not a good choice at all.

How then is it that despite this we are drawn to similarity? Is it the greed of the land-holding royalty which was passed down to us by identification even though we were their serfs?  Our current US snobbery tells us that white is better than black,  tall better than short,  Straight better than curly, that size breast and nose and mouth….and so on.  In so many ways, the ever-changing but currently favored appearance is dictated by fashion- makers who want to sell you something or by those who use it to establish their superiority, has all kinds of negative consequences. Blind to the consequences of our snobbery, of our greedy consumption, pollution, extraction, we seem to be moving towards non-existence.



Friendship is Supported by Staying Open and Above All Being Honest

Her friend is in a cautious state of mind which keeps the walls up. She doesn’t speak to her friend about it because she is nervous about making it worse. However, not speaking about it makes the matter worse. The tone  between them was unfriendly, careful speech, the spaces of silence where before there never had been any.

It started when her friend felt jealous because she had described to her a moment of enlightenment during yoga, something her meditating friend had not yet experienced. She did not know her friend saw her as a rival. Before they had always shared each other’s achievements with great pleasure. Instead, her  friend argued that she used the wrong technique which invalidated the experience. She spoke to her friend about this. Her friend argued until she saw part of the truth, but not her jealousy, so friendship was almost restored. Full intimacy takes full acknowledgment, as much as you have to that point.

The second break occurred when her friend spoke about vaccinating her grandchildren against measles, mumps, whooping cough and on and on. She responded that doing that was dangerous. She  said that inoculation weakens your immune system, that you can get the  inoculated disease later and much worse, that you are a carrier after inoculation  with live viruses who passes the disease to those not inoculated, that you can get autism.

She thought her friend would be interested in hearing this helpful information. But no, her friend withdrew in horror saying,  “You’re anti vax?” She answered yes and explained that the pharmaceutical industry is treating measles, mumps and chicken pox like a plague. When she was a child, mothers brought their children to the sick one to pass it on. Her friend raved on about the  danger of measles until they fell into silence. End of discussion.

Since then, things have not been the same. There is a lack of trust. Her friend wants to be secure with the values she has acquired.  Don’t we all?  No new ones, please. But what if these values have been proven false and do us harm?  She wants the friend back with whom she could discuss anything? How do you from here?

You Need to Reveal Hurt Feelings

My friend of many years has done it again. Acted enraged when I said something which differed from her opinion. In this case it was about a film made by Robert Redford. She said the film was about human death. I said without having seen the film but knowing Redford as a great environmentalist, it probably was about the death of all of us, nature, animals, plants and humans.

She reacted to what I said as a gigantic error and perhaps it was. What disturbed me was her angry tone, her voice loud and sharp. No, she said, it was about human death. I didn’t know how to respond to her tone of angry dismissal. Do I sometimes do the same to her? Bad move on either side. I can’t go through life waiting for the next time that she dismisses my opinion with disdain. It is OK to disagree but not to hate your friend for what they say. The friendship will lose its “we’re together, relax and be yourself, I love you” tone…

This is the third time she spoke to me with great disgust. Why is she so furious? Does she feel that I by holding a different opinion have personally put her down? Friends need to differ and even to enjoy the rough spots which cause both to grow.

I don’t mind if she differs with me and hope to learn her point of view. It was her tone which  was like a sharp knife cutting through a piece of mellow cheese. It was cutting my tie to her. It was severing our friendship. Some, might say, forget it, all of us make mistakes. But there are different kinds of mistakes. A mistake which puts one above and the other below is not something to forget.

If she values what she calls her closest friendship, she must not forget that she is my friend. Some say that in a good relationship there are no fights. That is no longer so commonly believed. It takes courage to speak but only because you are afraid you will lose it all. But if mistreatment is part of the relationship, by letting it continue you have nothing to lose. Sure both can be wrong and both need to change. That usually is the case. You need to reveal when you feel mistreated, overlooked, dismissed and talk about it so that each of you can grow out of the revealed rough spot.

Love is All About Listening

I so greatly miss my friend Connie, as do so many others and yet she is with me still. She was a great and marvelous friend because she listened. Even when dying in the hospice, she had to know what had happened to you, how you felt, express how wondrous you were and how in your own way and time you would succeed.  She changed your view of success to something less material and more full of joy.

I remember how even when growing ill, she spent hours rehearsing George for his singing part in an opera. He wasn’t very good, possibly even a bit terrible but there he was and there she was marching on. And he performed. She had always been that way, bringing out the good, the joy, the possibility in others. I remember she told me she was an English teacher in a New Jersey public high school – Fairlawn, just the right name for her post. She was friendly with the principal, a closeted gay woman and thanks to their friendship and deep understanding, when Connie asked for a room for all the disaffected students to meet, a tea urn and small stove,  pillows for the floor to sit on, these were given and everyone came. Incidentally those students are following her still.

It was a place of invitation. The only requirement was that you be a human which of course, for Connie meant a restraint imposed by the school since she loved and catered to animals, all of them. I remember the pictures of a family of raccoons gathered on her fire escape to eat the bread crumbs she set out, Mommy, Daddy and little ones. I remember the skunk residing in her abandoned dog kennel set out on her garden area before they built another set of houses.

They came, the star students who were unsure of their futures or merely wanted to share their present, the gays, the straights, the blacks whose place in school like almost everywhere in white America was unsure, the students who struggled, the students unclear about their place in the world. She was there for all of them. She helped Linda choose to go to a school where she learned to teach the deaf to speak, something for which Linda’s parent’s never forgave Connie. They had an Ivy League school in mind. Linda later developed a new, fearless and delightful way for the deaf to acquire speech.

Connie listened. She listened to me. She always greeted me with a hug and likewise said goodbye with her increasingly thin body. We all held onto her as the greatest gift  to us which of course she was. She taught us all the meaning of love which is to listen. She heard our inner song, applauded and harmonized with what we sang. She listened.

Written by Elan Golomb, Author of Trapped in the Mirror: Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents in Their Struggle for Self and Unloved Again: Breaking Your Serial Addiction (to be released February 2016)