A Special Application
Are you in an intimate relationship with someone? If so, you know the joys, passion, disappointments and frustrations of love. Here is a practical question:
In the past week how much time have you devoted to:
- checking your email?
- watching television?
- reading/listening to the news?
- personal grooming (showers, shaving, etc...)?
- your partner?
Most relationships suffer from neglect. In our busy lives we squeeze in time for email, paying bills, phone calls, the kids, lots of work, car inspections and food. But attention to our partner - personal, exclusive, caring, loving attention - gets squeezed out. The divorce rate (nearly 60%) doesn’t tell the whole story. What percentage of those who stay together claim to have a loving, fulfilling relationship? Here are some tools and ideas for pointing your relationship in the right direction. The most powerful of these tools is a method of self-reflection called Naikan. Self-reflection challenges us to cultivate love through gratitude and and an honest self-examination of our own conduct towards others. As the Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck says, relationships are a gift, not because they make us happy - they often don’t - “but because any intimate relationship, if we view it as practice, is the clearest mirror we can find.”
In the presentation below, author Gregg Krech discusses how to cultivate gratitude in our relationship with our partner. This is a synopsis of Gregg's presentation for the One World Library Project in Vermont.
“For one human being to love another is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the work for which all other work is merely preparation.” --Rainer Maria Rilke
“Relationships break down not because people are bad but because they are illiterate in love. To become literate in love, we must learn how to reduce our lifelong preoccupation with our own needs and feelings.” --Eknath Easwaran
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Articles From the ToDo Institute’s Resource Library
Japanese Psychology and Purposeful Living
Being in Love
by C.S. Lewis
Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also many things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole...
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Marriage On My Mind
So I am doing my own small-scale and totally biased study. What does it take to have a long standing (not long suffering) marriage? One where the couple genuinely like and respect each other after many years. One where they treat each other with admiration, civility, and loving actions. My research involves pestering friends, relatives and acquaintances who have been together for more than twenty five years, and who appear to have made a better go of it than most. I ask them for their advice, their stories, their words of wisdom. Three themes that keep re-appearing are as follows: (1) an attitude of acceptance (or as one friend put it, “no blame”); (2) ensuring adequate time together; and (3) creating and cultivating small but important rituals in daily life.
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How Shall We Argue?
The nature of human relationships will always involve some level of conflict or disagreement. To eliminate it completely is not realistic. But it is possible to use our relationships with others as a vehicle for growth and character development. The arguments, and emotions that accompany them, become part of the course work. Stay alert! Classes can begin at anytime.
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Tips for Fulfilling Relationships
- Don’t whine, don’t nag.
- Don’t criticize.
- When criticized, don’t be defensive.
- Stop focusing on how your partner needs to change and channel your energy into what you can do differently.
- Write and agree to a set of rules for arguing (do this when your not in an argument).
- Shift your attention away from “how much you’re giving” and towards what you receive and the ways in which you cause trouble for your partner.
- Try to put yourself in your partner’s shoes. What is it like for him/her to be in this relationship with you?
“Being married and having children has impressed on my mind certain lessons, and most of what I am forced to learn about myself is not pleasant. The quantity of sheer impenetrable selfishness in the human breast (in my breast) is a never failing source of wonderment. I do not want to be disturbed, challenged, troubled. Huge regions of myself belong only to me. Seeing myself through the unblinking eyes of an intelligent, honest spouse is humiliating. Trying to act fairly to children, each of whom is tempermentally different from myself and from each other, is baffling. My family bonds hold me back frommany opportunities. And yet these bonds are, I know, my liberation. They force me to be a different sort of human being in a way I want and need.” --Michael Novak (from an article on marriage in Harper’s Magazine)
“Relationships--of all kinds--are like sand held in your hand. Held loosely, with an open hand, the sand remains where it is. The minute you close your hand and squeeze tightly to hold on, the sand trickles through your fingers. You may hold onto some of it, but most will be spilled. A relationship is like that. Held loosely, with respect and freedom for the other person, it is likely to remain intact. But hold too tightly, too possessively, and the relationship slips away and is lost.” --Kaleel Jamison
Thirty Thousand Days
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