The Heart Affirms Naively Kind Scenarios
The No word is thought daunting. It’s usually the wrong answer — not what we want to hear — the response that stops us in our tracks. Or equally, the word we would rather not have to say to someone else because it’s not what we think they want either. It may mean bother. It indicates refusals, rejection, absence and denial, also resistance, disagreement and opposition — and a string of other things that are often directly contrary to our sense of what we want. And yet how could we learn without it? Without constraint, what is freedom? Without scarcity, what is abundance? Without selfhood, there would be no relationship. These aspects of human experience actually derive from the fact of limitation — as do compassion, patience, rationality and discipline — because they wouldn’t be needed in a world without it.
There’s something very compelling about the need we feel to separate ourselves out by having an outer rim or ‘edge’, which determines that we are ‘not anything else’. If we are to express ourselves as unique individuals, then we do need to create and maintain boundaries.
Of course others — who feel the same way — may well disagree with us about where one outer rim begins and where another ends because in a world of scarce resources, we compete. Humanity is not exempt from the need to look to its survival instincts and these include challenge and competition. There are bullies and others who would take from us what is not offered, so we need to find ways to hold our space, to defend it when necessary and to develop strengths and strategies in order to do so. Otherwise we would become slaves to poverty or someone else’s will. It is a primal reflex to protect ourselves and to guard our families and friends from potential harm, so that we are secure to continue the life of self and clan.
On a national level the force that guards our boundaries against intruders is the military. Their function is to march the frontier looking strong and resolute. For this reason, border guards and immigration officials can often look rather fearsome and intimidating. The tricks of their trade are uniforms, badges, military procedures and guns. Atomic bomb tests and other forms of sabre rattling are used to proclaim ‘it would be folly to attack!’ and intimidate; this strengthens boundaries and thus actually reduces the risk of war. On a domestic level, the home has a front door, often locked to guard against intrusion; we feel cautious in case a stranger decides to relocate our valuables and cash.
On a personal level, the No atmosphere is conveyed by physical bearing, type of eye-contact, choice of clothes, manner of speech, postures and facial signals — all designed to have an effect that requires others to approach with greater sensitivity and respect. When these ‘etheric’ boundaries are clear and strong, they reduce the need for more robust displays of force. We see that a strong No defends the peace by protecting us from the kind of intrusion that would necessitate a forceful response.
If we build our houses on shifting sands we won’t be respected. It’s the same if we build our personalities on wavering boundaries and insubstantial beliefs. ‘Who am I?’ is a series of creative choices and individual identity is a living statement of a package of values that have repeatedly asserted themselves, constantly evolving and refining over a lifetime in order to give substance to some inner sense of ‘am-ness’. ‘Am true, am useful, am kind, am honourable’ are expressions of the fundamental building blocks of humanity that are seeking to be owned by an ‘I’…we name am-ness ‘I’ — and allow it to become the centre of our world.
What follows is ‘Who am I?’ Isn’t that the big question we ask ourselves — perhaps even as we ask ‘what is life’s meaning?’ It may be that to answer these questions separately is not really feasible because they are so intimately connected — that we choose both. So the ‘I’ is identified by a series of choices, it is a self-determined concept not given but won, chosen, created, and is identified by the behaviours, thoughts, beliefs and feelings that distinguish me from another. These arise out of the unique conscious and unconscious strategies of the ‘self’ as it struggles to become more aware. Every day in every life, each of us is tested by circumstances requiring a response, and in this way life demands of us the statements by which we create the exact contours of our unique identity.
It is rather obvious that we are unable to accept all limitations and follow all opportunities – we can’t turn both right and left at the crossroads; we have to reject options all the time. When we choose, we say No to all other options — they no longer exist, consigned to history. Thus honed into single-minded focus, the mind concentrates upon satisfaction, undisturbed by doubts and ideas of tempting options. The power of concentration can then burst open closed doors — and a new sense is awakened through which we perceive deeper meaning.
This changing perception unlocks the mystery: that it is meaning that gives freedom to involvement. Without meaning, what is life? Without freedom, life is slavery. Without involvement, life is wasted. These three qualities are so interconnected that they can be seen as aspects of each other. Freedom is an aspect of meaning, an ingredient of involvement. Meaning is the purpose of involvement, the value of freedom. Involvement is the spending of freedom’s gift and the meaning of life. In this is found the mystery of No.
Keywords for THANKS
In showing appreciation we are demonstrating first and foremost that we do not take for granted, that we are aware of what we ourselves gain and enjoy from a particular involvement. By its very nature, appreciation must make a distinction between this and that—the whole point being that the one appreciates the other specifically—and so it requires clear identification of the person being appreciated, and why. It is not only involvement itself that we are appreciating; it is the particularities of the involvement, and the qualities that we experience through it, which makes us feel good and true to ourselves.
We can see that we offer our thanks differently according to the value we feel to express. Appreciation is generally acknowledging worth, whereas Valuing implies specific measurement of worth in relation to something else. It’s rather wonderful to notice that in the act of saying Thank You, both giver and receiver are raised in value. Each feels that something of importance has occurred in the connection made by the gesture.
What we choose to develop is a direct statement of what we value—in life and in ourselves, so we can choose to train ourselves to serve those ideals and goals that we find worthwhile. The cost for this course of training could not be higher—it is one’s life, whose purpose has much to do with the determination and expression of our value system.
Giving is entirely a natural healthy response to receiving—much more an expression of health than holding. A person who holds is said to be ‘tight’, so it is seen that there may be a link between tightness or rigidity of the body and a reluctance to give: a pliant material is said to ‘give’, that is to give way or bend rather than resist and compete. A person who does not give is called a miser and is expected to suffer misery and be miserable. There can be so much said in silence by the exact appropriateness of the gift, and the giver demonstrates an intimate knowledge by choosing exactly the right thing to give form to the gesture being made. The gift itself has magic because it can focus feelings to a point of a breakthrough to a new realization, an admission of mutuality, sharing, specialness, importance...love. We can reach a state where no cost is too high as long as the expression of the love felt has been truly communicated.
No amount of persuasive rhetoric, materiality or coercion can achieve as much influence as the power of heart. Love is not any the less strong because it is soft, nor is it impotent against gross forces; it has its own way and its own time, working on subtle planes unconsciously and gently. Open-hearted people are quite innocent and even childlike, often with a spontaneous readiness to play. In essence, both love and truth have qualities dependent for their exaltation upon the other; love is incomplete unless married to truth. When strong in our truth — in other words not fanciful about who we really are and what love really is — we are tolerant, kind and caring, accepting what comes with an open heart. Otherwise we can be lost in a false world, deluded about life’s realities and somewhat insecure as a result, unable to reach the depth of heart or indeed real love.
The wisdom of thanks
Somewhere in our secret recesses we have kept alive an innocence that was most becoming when we were children. It is joyous and kind, it knows only of sharing, it accepts what is—for what it is, and is excited by each new day’s dawning in expectant anticipation for the pleasure of responding to the unknown.
As adults we may look back upon certain days with profound nostalgia. Perhaps a simple memory of a quiet family day out when a child made a daisy-chain, the rain that fell so suddenly upon the picnic that we needed to dash for cover to avoid a drenching. The simple things are often remembered because they can touch the heart. Thank You is innocent and warm-hearted; it can be so vulnerable and bring joyful tears because of that. It shows in what we value most, and in the atmosphere conveyed in the sincere act of giving. In any situation there can be found an aspect that is worth appreciating: if the positive qualities are not apparent then we can redefine seemingly negative things and learn to turn them around so they work for us—or better—for the greater good. Perhaps then we will come to appreciate all life for its own sake, including the challenges, because they make us stronger, including the suffering, because it promotes compassion and including the disappointments, because we trust they will always be eventually overtaken by a better opportunity.
Keys to Relationship
The keywords are very useful tools that can help us to find out what we may need to do to rebalance the way we are in our partnerships. Certainly most of us can do better than we are doing in relationship by giving the whole matter more careful thought. First of all, we need to move out of ‘cloud cuckoo land’ and bring ourselves back to reality. In the real world there are problems, there are emotional upsets, there are misunderstandings, and there is hurt, deceit, mistrust — and so much else that gets in the way of our happiness. Often the most painful of these problems get triggered through interaction with our ‘special other’. The sooner we acknowledge this, the sooner we can get stuck into the challenge of dealing with the difficulties that come up for us.
It is very much more productive and enjoyable to approach these issues with curiosity than with anger and blame — or even hurt and guilt. If either or both parties can maintain this healthy attitude of loving curiosity, then most of the friction becomes minimal. It’s also worth noticing whether the words you give to your lover are more often supportive and appreciative.
Words of appreciation are a healing balm in relationship. Most of us received less acceptance in childhood than we needed, and want to get it now from a lover. That does not have to render the relationship dysfunctional when done truthfully and with care. Certainly it is appropriate to avoid the opposite! Relationships really don’t flourish at all well when there is taking-for-granted, or constant criticism.
Taking people and life for granted, having no system of values, poverty consciousness and meanness, churlishness, serious cold-heartedness, heartless lack of grace.
This person has nothing much to offer a child because they lack a sense of wonder. For them, rain is inconvenient, the sun is troublesome, unexpected visitors are seen as impolite to turn up unannounced, spontaneity is very suspect. They can dampen any day with their grumpy mood and never seem to appreciate the joys of life at all!
There are parents who really dote too much on their child. The child is appreciated too much, is valued as more important than anything else and this gets interpreted as better than other children. Typically there is a superabundance of material gestures of affection. A rather interesting word is typically used to describe this condition — the child is ‘spoilt’.
Later, as an adult such childhood programming will usually show as a person who wants to continue the illusion that they are special — more special than others — and they don't need to provide what they want for themselves because it is given freely by a doting loved one. The parent-substitute is most likely to be the spouse of course, and yet the attitude of expecting to be spoiled is seen in a wider context too. Such a person shows signs of conceit, even narcissism and has other aspects of behaviour, which are childish — perhaps always needing to get their own way or there will be a tantrum.
Sadly our race has not yet found a sufficient degree of appreciation for human life in all its variety, and so we have too little compassion towards those who need help. This gives rise to the shameful pervasiveness of hunger, disease, poverty, slums and shanty towns. We can see signs of improvement however if we look at the march of history. In times before instant media coverage, we would hear indirectly and late of others’ suffering, so the news would be of interest to the mind but not touch the heart. Now with television we are invited to see the poignant facts with more immediacy, no longer through a glass darkly — and it touches us more deeply.