A rare glimpse into the private world of young sumos in training.
We are not perfect, but we are enough.Sharon Salzburg
Romantically, we have an image of what we think will make us happy. We live in a cultured time where we are looking for that intoxication, the fairytale, that happily ever after. The powerful thing to realise is that they are just stories -stories we tell ourselves, stories that others tell about us that we tend to believe. We can feel so distant from our own lives, almost as if we are observing them rather than inhabiting it.
Life really is about connection that’s not romanticised or sentimental- it’s how things actually are. It’s having a sense of belonging and a profound sense of connection to yourself and the world around you. I heard this one line in a movie, “love is not a feeling, it’s an ability”. When I think of love as a commodity, it’s in the hands of somebody else. They can give it to me or take it away and leave me with nothing. But, if I think of it as an ability, as a capacity inside myself, then everything changes. My love is my own. Other people might enliven it or threaten it, but it’s mine to tend, to grow and no one can take it away.
Sometimes we speed up the search for love out of incredible loneliness or to alienate ourselves from our own lives. Feeling that we need someone else to complete us or make us whole is a very common story of personal unworthiness. We end up telling ourselves things like, love has to be romantic, or that if we hold on tight to somebody, it will keep them from leaving. Somebody just told me they arranged to meet a man they corresponded with online, he was at least twenty years older than he had described. That’s sad to me. Love, real love is being seen and accepted, and if we cannot disclose who we are, the further we get from that.
We live in a shame-based culture. If you’re very sad, you have a physical illness, disability, or if you’re getting older, it’s all seen as a sign of you having lost control. So much of it is a product of what we are taught by culture and past experience. Yet we can become free. If you have a persistent negative voice within, this sort of nagging, nasty voice that says you’re unlovable, that says you can’t do anything, maybe give it a name, give it a wardrobe, give it a persona, because everything depends on how you relate to it. You’re not trying to destroy it, (you can’t), but you don’t want to let it run your life. If you have a personification of the voice, you learn when it’s speaking or when your hearing something more useful. You learn the difference.
I named my inner critic Lucy after a character in the Peanut comic strip. She speaks to Kevin Brown and says, “You know Kevin Brown, the problem with you is that you are you”. I knew that was her name. When she spoke, I just greeted her with, “Hi Lucy” or, “chill out, Lucy’’. You don’t have to be so afraid or upset that Lucy has arrived. You’re stronger than that voice really. And whilst you have to treat her nicely, sometimes you just have to sit her down. In 1974, I went to see one of my own teachers, Dipa Ma, or ‘The Mother of Light’ as she’s known, and she told me “you can do anything, it’s you thinking you can’t, that is stopping you.”
Sharon Salzberg is a world-renowned teacher, author and central figure in the field of meditation. She is the co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society and is the author of nine books including the New York Times bestseller Real Happiness. Her new work Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection is a creative tool kit of mindfulness exercises and meditation techniques that help you to truly engage with your present experience. It is available for purchase here.
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