What can we learn from each other? Some people teach us that we need help with boundaries. Some remind us that we are easy to love. We can observe the way some lovers make us want to escape, simmering a queasy feeling in our stomach that we practice patience and non-attachment with so that we are not harmed too much whilst in their presence and other lovers are always ready with a supportive word, assuring us that what we desire is valid, that we do not need to justify our path.
The people who we react to the most intensely, most of the time negatively, are these people our lessons? That sounds rather crass when thought to apply to anyone in an extremely oppressive and/or abusive situation. I would not suggest we apply this to anyone but ourselves, if indeed, it works for us. This is not the fatalistic idea of people belonging in a certain state or being punished for something. This is more a strategic curiosity of looking at our own agency from a back door. For example, my body might contort in frustration and sadness with someone, which could indicate I need to not be in relationship with their energies, but until I can create another path (maybe due to work commitments, relational obligations, financial situations, etc.), I feel more empowered reflecting so that I can learn about myself and others so as to perhaps not invite the same energies in during the future or to not have them affect me so harshly so that it doesn’t matter.
Also, because it is not an extremely oppressive or abusive situation (again, I will not speak for others), I can gain something positive from a person because they may have strengths I do not have, even if they are not someone I can handle having around constantly. Perhaps I am diplomatic and compassionate, empathetic and gentle, while my friend is belligerent, bumptious, and a bit of a bully. He might still be a better person than I, being truly loyal, unselfish, generous. He might be very fair and also smarter with traditional life choices, more responsible. While I have the opportunity, why not try to learn from him? I wonder if anyone else finds themselves in patterns of relationships they would rather not? Perhaps if we can work through being less affected or susceptible to these strong auras, we will generate our own energies that attract more nourishing and positive energies to match (hopefully?). Perhaps we will create better boundaries regardless.
There is the positive side to this as well in the sense of genuinely wonderful, kind people who surprise us and feed our souls. I think the task here is to notice them and awaken our gratitude; they help us practice loving and striving to rise up so that we might reciprocate. Instead of just receiving and being bathed in their goodness, I want to honor them with a return. To awaken from entitlement is sometimes as difficult a task as realizing why we feel entrenched in a situation with a less pleasing teacher.
I often find myself perplexed at the various ways we make each other suffer and the equally various ways we redeem and save each other. Can we be the type of people who strive to be observant enough to see what is going on, to not judge others for the lessons they have not yet learned, to always be improving our souls in healthy, balanced ways? What is a healthy, balanced soul diet? I think it is just being open and present and learning how to compost what looks like offal so that it doesn’t poison or choke us, but so that we continue healing ourselves and the world.
I read somewhere that the physical is simply a manifestation of our collective, spiritual world. When I think of this, I feel the oppression, abuse, violence, poverty, and the rather ugly, drab concrete cities that stifle nature, the effects of pollution, as evidence our souls are themselves bleeding inside. The outside makes the inside even more wounded. But the wounds also create the world. A lot of people make fun of certain political candidates for wanting to discuss the deeper roots of what is seen as unlove, but such points to a mindset. Unless mindsets change, policies won’t. The structure of our emotional landscapes influence the institutional ones. Ultimately, what matters is that we just need to feed our fires with the embers that can keep our love sticks from dying, staying damp. Many of us are just starting to allow ourselves to love and to trust. We are learning how to give ourselves a chance.
Now it is your turn. What have you learned from others, horrible and/or wonderful? What teachers are currently in your life? My perspective is half-limbed and only mine. Let this be a conversation we create together.
Lache S., Ph.D., graduated in 2014 from the Women and Religion program at Claremont Graduate University. She has an MA in creative writing and teaches college composition from a contemplative pedagogical approach at Oklahoma State University. She also writes poetry about food, self-exile, the balance between love + freedom, and navigating the world while female. She has a micro-chapbook on food coming out 7/9/19 from Ghost City Press.