Tag Archives: Judith Simmer-Brown

love and originality

shally-beach-waSo, where were we? Ah yes, our culture’s addiction to romantic love. Our religious commitment to the fantasy, and where it gets us. Read the last post if you’ve no idea what I’m talking about. To summarize and continue, I’ll go back to Judith Simmer-Brown: “There is such a theological commitment to romance that we will dump someone in a second if they challenge our fantasy.”

So, what’s the alternative? It’s infinitely harder than the next bauble in your match.com lineup, but infinitely more creative. You step out of the fantasy of romantic love and have a real relationship with your beloved—through your brokenheartedness. That’s right. You reach out through your vulnerability and meet your beloved on real terms. This is Simmer-Brown paraphrased, but it’s exactly my attitude toward love. For better or worse, though I adore romance, I have little trust in it. Maybe it’s because of loss early on my life, but I need my beloved to see the whole me and love her. With romantic love, especially the sort that grows too fast, I don’t feel seen at all. It feels inflated and unreal. Unsurprisingly, I’m not sure how my mean, ugly and needy parts will be tolerated. But there’s also an uneasy feeling that my sweet, beautiful, strong, and nurturing parts aren’t seen either. Instead, as the object of romantic infatuation, I just feel like a giant screen for another’s projection. It’s not a great feeling at all, though sure, the attention and roses sure are nice.

Simmer-Brown’s words were a relief to me because I ache for romantic love to crack open, for the real work and love to begin. Yes, it’s true I’ve tried to force it in the past. Not to hurt or to end the relationship, but to get into the creative work and real love of getting to know the beloved. It’s not for the faint of heart.

As Chögyam Trungpa, Simmer-Brown’s teacher, said (my paraphrase), “There’s not a lot of originality or creativity in the romantic story. Romantic love is a fantasy. Real relationships are infinitely more interesting.”

My word. Yes. I’m not saying I’m good at it. Not at all. In one relationship, my boyfriend complained I wasn’t going deep enough with him, sharing enough with him, and he needed that. “What does all your meditation and yoga give you, if not this?” he demanded. I didn’t tell him, because I couldn’t, that I was avoiding this depth, that I couldn’t share it, because if I was true to it (myself) I would end the relationship immediately. I needed a few more months to honor it, as the unhealthy attachment was strong. There were things I liked about the relationship even though it wasn’t meeting me on the deep level I wanted and needed. So, I get it. It’s hard. And I’m far from perfect myself.

“We have a fear of facing ourselves. That is the obstacle. Experiencing the innermost core of our existence is very embarrassing to a lot of people. A lot of people turn to something that they hope will liberate them without their having to face themselves. That is impossible. We can’t do that. We have to be honest with ourselves. We have to see our gut, our excrement, our most undesirable parts. We have to see them. That is the foundation of warriorship, basically speaking. Whatever is there, we have to face it, we have to look at it, study it, work with it and practice meditation with it.”  —Chögyam Trungpa

 

theological commitment to romance

dating-coachSo, the love stories. I’ve been stalling. Yeah, I’ve been busy. So what. Who isn’t? You don’t care. But I was also stuck in an awful rut. It finally shifted last week, around the 5th, when the sun came out. I hit pretty low ground in the days before, and happily it slammed me awake.

Then I read a good book. This helped, too. I’ve been wavering in my yoga practice since I came back from the UK. I’ve been sitting (seated mediation) and my 6am ashtanga practice has been ignored for a more gentle home practice. I feel guilty about that, but it also feels like what I need. Maybe. (Ashtangis will chalk it up to resistance.)

When I am uncertain about where I am, I try to do a meditation retreat. A week or two is best, but a weekend is better than nothing. It connects me to the part of myself that isn’t so much fear or ego and clarifies my situation. This is, at its core, what meditation is for me. It’s not about blissing out or enlightenment, it’s about knowing the difference between the bullshit stories that whirl around my head, the patterns I like to trap myself in, and my truth. I looked for something this weekend, but nothing really seemed appropriate and hell, I have a lot of work to do.

Then, out of the blue, Z asked me if I wanted to do some meditation this weekend. In our eight years, we’ve never meditated together, so I took it as a must-do (you know, a sign). I suggested a talk I’d come across by Judith Simmer-Brown at the Shambhala Center.

We went. The talk was excellent, funny, and validated everything I believe about modern love, and what can pass for it. It validated my take on my love affairs of the last few years (love being a loosely used term, as we know) and grounded me in where I am, and what I need now. Simmer-Brown also gave words and a framework to the point of all this, these love stories I want to tell. It was inchoate before, but now they’re screaming, ready to be told. Love Notes, the post title, was inspired by the few notes I scribbled down when I wanted to remember JSBs words.

It’s about going past the fantasy of romantic love. Blind addiction to imagined love is nothing less than the true religion of America (or pseudo-religion, as Simmer-Brown says. Semantics depend on how much you believe religion has to offer). Americans seek romantic love the way humans have traditionally sought God. It’s not just a distraction, it’s a deluded myth that romantic love with “the one” will solve all one’s problems. “There is such a theological commitment to romance that we will dump someone in a second if they challenge our fantasy,” says Simmer-Brown.

Indeed we will. With internet sirens beckoning, as soon as the facade cracks and the person you projected perfection upon turns out to be human, why face your own pain and that of your ersatz beloved when some guy or gal advertising (a) huge ____________ (insert your fancy) comes poking? My gawd, s/he knows the word for your genitals in your mother tongue, and will impress you with it before you even meet. Mmm, titillating. Now this? This will be easy.

Not refined, not subtle, no. Not even attractive, really. But that isn’t part of this game. We can ignore the obvious for now and focus on ease and fantasy. Why face pain and humanity when cranked-up delusion comes calorie-free?

Why? (If you’re really asking, you aren’t going to hear me anyway.) Because as per usual, you get what you pay for.

And so it goes. Another one bites the dust. Next time, some thoughts on real love, and some gorgeous stories for illustration.