Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category
With Christmas just 21 days away, the topic of love is on my mind.
We are constantly bombarded with ways to show our love, but not much will be said about what love is, so I am happy to give you my two cents on the topic.
From my perspective and life experience, most of what we call love is really just selfishness. It is mostly about us feeling good about ourselves. We say we love another person when they are behaving in a way that satisfies us. They make us happy when they fulfill our needs, but when that stops we fall out of love, or worse, we become angry and look for another person or thing to satisfy us. This kind of love is all about me, but love, real love, is never about what’s coming to me. It flows from me.
I didn’t come to this conclusion as an intellectual exercise but from a lifetime of trial and error. What I have discovered is when I looked to another to satisfy my needs I have ended up sad, disappointed and a couple times, divorced.
You see, looking for love in a feeling has led me to judge my relationships based on that feeling and that is not love.
So what is love? Love comes from within and flows out, asking nothing in return. Think of a flower in your garden. It gives off its beauty and fragrance to all who pass by without concern and without the need to be repaid.
Love is always in the present. It never asks “what have you done for me lately?”
If this is love, you could love anyone and everyone. Love is always in the present, never in the past. This is why I can love all three of my wives. I don’t need or want to be married to my first two, but I love them just because I choose to. They don’t even have to love me back, even though I think they do, because I am not looking for anything from them. I love them because I choose to love them. I love Sandy in the same way. I choose to love her. I choose to call her my wife and I choose her every day as the one I want to be with.
This is a love that flows from a knowledge that I am loved, not by some other person, but by myself, by God and by the universe I am connected to. This is a deep well to draw from and one that is freely available to all. So this day and every day, draw deep, open up the flow and you will look on everything with delight, just because you choose to.
Last month I started you on the journey of my life with a look at my family and my first possible encounter with God. Today I want to move ahead a few years to my high school days.
As I was finishing up the eighth grade at Calendonia High School in Caledonia, Minnesota my dad came to me one day and asked me if I might be interested in going away to a private boarding school called Wayland Academy in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin? I am not sure where this idea came from or why they had chosen this particular place but I thought it would be a great adventure and had no reservations what-so-ever, so I said yes. Now some people might think that this would be a form of punishment or wonder why their parents would want to get rid of them, but I knew I was loved. They wanted me to get a good education and we were at a stage in my father’s business life where there was enough extra money to make this happen. I would be the first child out of eight to have this opportunity and I was eager to make it happen.
As I discovered, Wayland was a co-educational prep school so I was even more excited as I had recently discovered the wonder of kissing and reveled in the prospect of having a girl friend who was from some place other than my home town. I had been quite popular in the schools I had attended so far in my life and I was confident that this would be no different.
Life at Wayland was a lot different than living at home. We lived on campus in dormitories, we had to wear a coat and tie to classes and meals, could only leave campus for a couple hours on Saturday and if we were “cordially” invited to attend an event, your attendance was mandatory.
My confidence was high as I started that first week. My parents dropped me off with my trunk full of clothes, all permanently marked with my name so they could be sorted in the laundry where we dropped them off each week. I met my roommate and got comfortable in our room in the basement of Wayland Hall, a building constructed in 1855 with just a few updates in the years since. Each of the four floors of Wayland Hall had a bathroom with showers that we all used. Needless to say, in 1964 Wayland Hall was the boy’s dorm. The girls lived in Warren Cottage, just on the other side of the athletic building and gym.
That first week was exciting and I began to scope out the girls in the freshman class to see who I might ask out to the first mixer on Friday. There were some very pretty girls to choose from but I wanted Kay Wagenknecht. Kay was petite, blonde and I was sure she was the going to be my girlfriend for four years.
I was full of confidence and I bravely approached her on Wednesday of that first week and asked her if she would go to the mixer with me. To my surprise no one had asked her yet and she said YES! I was sure that I was on my way.
Now, as you know, I came from a small town and the school I attended for fifth and sixth grades was in a building with just four classrooms with four teachers. Each teacher taught two grades at once; first and second, third and fourth, fifth and sixth and seventh and eighth. I lived a pretty sheltered life and grew up with just a couple neighbor kids and spent most of my time on the river or in the woods.
The kids at Wayland had grown up in much larger cities like Chicago, LA, Denver and Minneapolis. They came from huge schools with populations of 4, 5 and 6 hundred kids in one class. I had no idea how sheltered I was and how deep the water was that I was about to jump into, but I was about to learn.
Friday came and I was still excited about the prospects for the evening. I went to Warren Hall and there was Kay waiting for me. This was going to be great. I remember entering the gymnasium where the mixer was held but from there the rest of the night is still a bit of a blur in my head. I was this shy kid from Minnesota surrounded by a couple hundred outgoing athletes, artists and just plain scary people. I felt like a minnow in a tank of barracudas, helpless and about to be someone’s lunch. I don’t remember how soon it was before my “date” had disappeared but soon I was alone and left to find some other minnows to swim with, just to stay alive.
This was pre Breakfast Club, and Heathers but some of what they capture was my next four years; confined to one of the lower casts at Wayland. Not that we weren’t just as smart as most of them, but we lacked that “something special” that would allow us to hang with the cool kids. You know these people; they are the athletes, cheerleaders, artistic people and politicians. Those of us who were not outgoing or talented in some way still found our niche though. We were the game players, the experimenters.. the non-athletes. We worked the sets at plays or maybe became a tree to get on stage, we got drunk or experimented with other mind altering chemicals on prom night, we knew how to pick locks and acquire pass keys so we could explore all of the hidden spaces on campus including hiking through the duct work in the gymnasium.
I don’t write this to make you think I was not happy at Wayland, to the contrary, I loved those years and the ability to explore a still bigger picture of the world I was about to enter. I was in the right place at the right time and this was my path and the whole world was about to encounter me.
More about that in the next addition….
I just got a note today that another high school classmate is approaching the end of this incarnation. Her husband and partner, Stan, requested some memories and I have some. My memories of Christine are few, but they will stick with me. I saw the gregarious side of Christine so I am sure I missed the serious or the contemplative woman that I am sure she was. I share only this short tribute to the Christine that I know. I know that the spirit she is will find joy and abundance once she is free. I am grateful for the moment I fell into her orbit.
Marc Cram, Wayland Academy, Class of 69
Do you ever look at the world and wonder why we are always pushing against things. People do it when they demand their opinion be more valuable or true than yours. Groups do it when they pick a cause to fight against and then protest. Nations do it when they march their armies into someone else’s territory. All of that pushing against only makes what you are pushing against stronger or more prominent. It does nothing to lessen the conflict or move the other person, group or nation to step down. Force always increases the tension until it finally quashes it all together.
The Chinese have it right in their practice of Tai Chi.
The concept of the Taiji (“supreme ultimate”) appears in both Taoist and Confucian
Chinese philosophy, where it represents the fusion or mother of Yin and Yang into a single Ultimate, represented by the Taijitu symbol. Thus, tai chi theory and practice evolved in agreement with many Chinese philosophical principles, including those of Taoism and Confucianism. (source: Wikipedia).
There are many exercises in the martial arts. One exercise, known as “pushing hands”, is particularly useful.
Pushing hands is said to be the gateway for students to understand experientially the martial aspects of the Internal martial arts (?? nèi ji?); leverage, reflex, sensitivity, timing, coordination and positioning. Pushing hands works to undo a person’s natural instinct to resist force with force, teaching the body to yield to force and redirect it. Health oriented tai chi schools may teach push hands to complement the physical conditioning available from performing solo form routines. Push hands allows students to learn how to respond to external stimuli using techniques from their forms practice. Among other things, training with a partner allows a student to develop ting jing (listening power), the sensitivity to feel the direction and strength of a partner’s intention. In that sense pushing hands is a contract between students to train in the defensive and offensive movement principles of their martial art; learning to generate, coordinate and deliver power to another and also how to effectively neutralize incoming forces in a safe environment. (source: Wikipedia)
This past weekend I had the opportunity to try this with a group of men who get together twice a year to support one another in life and reinforce what it means to be a man. We performed this exercise round robin with 12 men. What happens is one man tries to force the other to lift a foot first and thereby be disqualified. Most of the time what has a man lose is his opponent stops resisting and the attacker loses his balance. Most of the rounds went pretty quickly, except for me.
For some reason I just did not resist and to my surprise I was able to outlast a man almost twice my weight and several inches taller. He was even getting frustrated as I would just let his hands push mine without resisting at all. At one point I almost got him to lose his balance and the only reason I finally lost was that someone suggested setting a time limit on the competition and I got more aggressive. I am not sure what got into me that day. For some reason I was perfectly at peace with complete release. In the process I was surprised to feel the sense of power I felt in totally being with the other person. There was also energy as a result of the frustration on my opponent’s face in not being able to move me. I dare say that I was much more comfortable with the whole exercise than my opponents were.
I am aware that by not losing, I also could not win but for me that was less important than just being with the other person and trying to feel the force approach me without any resistance. What would our homes, offices, churches, legislatures, nations and peoples look like if the force of Yin Yang was observed? If every force were met with an equal and opposite force all conflict would melt into peace. (I had to have a little utopia in here)
Unfortunately, I am not sure I could honor the true calling of Tai Chi as I have not had much experience with generating, coordinating and delivering power. My symbol is not complete; my life is not yet balanced.
I saw in this exercise how I have always lived my life. I have always found it useful to give no resistance. I have even used it as a young man to avoid a fight with a young hoodlum in a pizza parlor in the small town of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. It is a strategy that has served me well in those kinds of situations throughout my life. At this weekend though, I discovered that I need to find the other half of the Taijitu symbol, the Yin to my Yang. This was something that I had not seen before or at least had not recognized as another source of power. A source I have not fully developed.
What could I achieve if I were able to seize this power? What do I need to do to fully absorb the energy on this side of the Tai Chi? In seeing this lack I am now aware that it is something I want.. no.. need, something that will allow me to complete my journey.
So here the journey begins, here it commences. I am not sure how the first step is taken to generate this attitude within myself. I know that it will be a process, a course of action. Not one that I need to take alone though. I am not worried because I have these men around me. I know who they are and they know who I am. I know I can trust the men because this is a skill that is native to men and yet, somehow it skipped me. I look forward to what lies ahead.
Thanks to the men and thanks for the exercise.