Monthly Archives: November 2016

The end of suffering – part 2: parting with the story

“Relationships are a hospital for the soul” is a quote I love from A Course in Miracles.

We all carry wounds and weaknesses within us, but relationships are where two souls are given maximum opportunity to grow and heal. This is why your loved ones always manage to trigger you the most, drive you nuts and make you show the worst of yourselves. Within a relationship your unresolved issues come up from the darkest recesses to meet the Light, be healed. It is meant to be that way.

I don’t have a religious faith, but I’ve always sought in spirituality an explanation for all things I could not understand with the rational mind. Since my divorce, followed by a long period of depression, I’ve dived even deeper into the wisdom of some of world’s greatest spiritual teachers trying to find peace within and unlock the secret to the end of suffering.

Eckhart Tolle‘s The Power of Now, which I read years ago, opened my eyes to the importance of living in the present moment and recognising the Ego Mind as separate from the consciousness that “knows” when you’re thinking. Since then I’ve read a vast number of books by other authors, listened to their talks, signed up for online courses: Dr Wayne Dyer, Anita Moorjani, Lao Tsu’s Tao Te Ching, Marianne Williamson, Neale Donald Walsh.

Stripped to the basics, the lessons from all these spiritual teachers boil down to the same principles: that love is all there is, the only thing that’s real. That love is God, and God is love. That there are only two emotions, love and fear. That what is not love is an expression of fear, or “a call for love”. That we have a choice, at every moment, to act from a place of love or from a place of fear. That what we want to manifest in our lives we need to give freely away as if it was already here.

I applied the lessons in my own life; they brought comfort when I was in pain, clarity when I needed clarity, hope when I was in despair.

I also read every self-help book on relationships under the sun and became acutely aware of mistakes I’d been making in the dating game. Now I know making the first move, or pursuing, is a masculine role which, if taken over by a woman, makes the man lose interest. Sex, many say, should only happen after a man has agreed to commitment and exclusivity (well, we may all have to go celibate then, as very rarely does a man want to commit early in a relationship). The books also said, if it won’t happen unless I didn’t make it happen, then let it not happen because this means the man doesn’t have the personality structure to maintain a relationship…which of course was my case. Ouch.

But with the awareness of where I’d gone wrong, came even more pain, not less. Was love so complicated that I needed to read this many books just to get it right? And how do I stop hurting for having fallen for the wrong man yet again…?

That’s when I came across The Work conceived by Byron Katie.

There were no how-to rules, no God talk, no courses to be taken, just a ludicrously simple and practical exercise consisting of four questions you ask yourself starting with “Is it true?”and their turnarounds. I was astounded by its simplicity and power in deconstructing the beliefs that form the basis of our suffering.

Byron Katie, author of Loving What Is and I Need Your Love – is that true?, discovered one day that the way to stop suffering was simply to stop believing her thoughts. She realised her thoughts were not reality but mere illusions, like watching a movie your mind runs continuously in your head. When you choose to believe the movie is true, you suffer. When you remember it is just a movie, not the truth, you set yourself free. Enlightenment suddenly descends in a huge a-ha moment that radically changes your perception of life.

Videos of Katie doing the Work with different men and women are available on her website and on YouTube, but it is designed so you can do it yourself. You can download her “Judge-Your-Neighbor worksheet” free of charge for doing the Work on any issue you feel stuck on.

I loathe corny self-help BS, so I approached the Work with total scepticism. But when I was watching the video below, something opened up for me, and once the understanding came, more and more started falling into place in a domino effect… I realised that, like the woman in the video, there were truths I’d been concealing from myself about my relationship, truths that completely changed my story so far, where he was always the baddy and I the flawless, suffering on-and-off girlfriend, as you’ll have read in my previous post.

It suddenly dawned on me this man, let’s call him Mark, had told me already on our third date that he was going through a phase, in which he felt unable to make any deep emotional connections. He’d broken up with his previous girlfriend because she had wanted him to marry her. He had further warned me he was “a cad” (his words) but he did not wish to hurt me, as I was then newly divorced.

I chose to believe otherwise, as women do…because I was smitten with him. I chose to believe he was exaggerating, that he’d change when he got to know me. We were a match made in heaven, of course he’d adore me, he’d want to commit to me, he’d never even think about another woman.

He’d become quite reticent after our first date, despite having told me I was a special woman on many levels. Knowing what I know now, I realise he was choosing to stay away from me, as he knew he was incapable of giving me what I wanted. But I kept nudging him into asking me out again. Every time we broke up since, it was me who’d tried to bring us back together. He had written saying I deserved much better than what he could give me and he was sorry. Once more I decided to ignore the truth he’d made known to me.

This moment of revelation liberated me and allowed me to finally let go of my suffering. The volcano-like anger that had been spewing from inside me suddenly went quiet. Mark never intended to hurt me. I had hurt myself by believing the stressful thought that he was withholding from me what was my right to have.

Why Mark chooses to behave awkwardly towards women is a story that probably has deep ramifications in his past, and it’s not up to me to judge nor try to change. But I can never accuse him of having been untruthful towards me because he wasn’t. It was me who insisted on believing in the fairy tale. And don’t we all? We always know when something is amiss in a relationship, but we turn a blind eye because we don’t want the illusion to end. We hold onto the impossible dream and by doing so we chain ourselves to suffering.

I also realised that on the soul level Mark’s soul loved mine, and my soul loved his. That is why we find it so hard to extricate ourselves from each other. If we were stripped of our human Egos and became pure souls, we’d be One and our love would run deep, for eternity.

But we’d come together in our earthy bodies to present each other with a gift, a lesson, a chance to heal and become better versions of ourselves…

The thought “he doesn’t care about me” wasn’t true. I was hurting because I was believing it. Doing the Work, I came to the conclusion Mark does care. He cares enough to warn me off him. There were also plenty of instances in the past when he was truly kind.

The statement “he shouldn’t treat me disrespectfully” also wasn’t true. He should and he will. The concept “disrespectful” was coming from my head because, to keep my illusion alive, I needed to believe he owed me love and respect when he owed me nothing. I owed myself that.

Our Egos love to be self-righteous victims, so we can blame others instead of examining our own behaviour. Wasn’t I disrespecting myself when I pretended not to see the red flags he had waved in my face so many times? I was demanding respect of him when not even I could respect myself.

Truth can be hard-hitting. But if embracing the Truth could stop the suffering, would you not be willing to do it?

Bryon Katie says:

“Until you can see the enemy as a friend, your Work is not done.

“This doesn’t mean that you have to invite your enemy to dinner. You may never see the person again, you may even divorce him or her, but as you think about the person, are you feeling stress or peace?

“In my experience, it takes only one person to have a successful relationship, and that is me.”

If that doesn’t stop you dead in your tracks and make you re-think everything you ever believed about relationships, I don’t what will.

Enlightenment rocks.



The end of suffering – part 1: the story so far

A couple of weeks ago, while at a concert hall, I bumped into a man I used to date. It was bound to happen one day: we always loved the same composers and frequented the same venues.

It is hard enough to meet a man in my age group who enjoys classical music as much as I do, let alone one who’s also tall and handsome, highly educated, erudite and speaks several languages fluently… He had read all the classics, his bookcases were brimming with beautiful leather-bound editions. He could talk eloquently about operas, composers, literature, poetry, theatre. His idea of hot sex was doing it to the sound of Maria Callas blasting out a passionate aria in the background.

Even the many synchronicities seemed to indicate we were meant for each other. A poster of a Paul Klee painting hung on the wall of his lounge, and Klee is my favourite painter. He had a published book, in which the main character had the same name as my ex-husband. His ex-wife’s name was the female equivalent of that of a man I had deeply loved in the past. We had studied the same subjects at university. We had both survived cancer, and of the same kind. We liked the same foods, even the same types of pudding. We had the same thoughts at the same time. How could I not fall in love with him. Suddenly I was the happiest woman in the world; I couldn’t stop smiling. In the autumn of my life, I had finally met Prince Charming.

Or so I thought.

I had sat the first half of the concert having solo use of a box seat overlooking the stage, which I’d been offered at a discounted price by a nice ticket office lady. I was in a good mood and had joined the ice-cream queue during the interval when I first caught a glimpse of him coming towards the direction of the ice-cream stand.

It’s funny how the mind works when you go into a state of shock. In a split second three distinct thoughts raced through my head in no specific order, “Damn, do I have time to duck away?”, “His hair has grown!” and “Please don’t tell me he’s with that woman.”

It was a fight-or-flight moment, but I was as pathetically equipped for escape as a rabbit caught in the headlights. By the time I had registered he had a date with him, he had registered I was standing there, looking as if I’d seen a ghost.

We’d had a falling-out a couple of months before…one of many in the time we’ve known each other, during which we broke up and got together again, broke up and got together again, as if we had a vicious addiction to each other neither of us could permanently break. I had told him I wouldn’t contact him again, as his unexplained periods of total silence, the inconsistency in his behaviour, his hot-and-cold games were driving me insane.  I had told him, if he ever wanted to do a programme with me again, he knew where to find me, but I did not want to continue making a fool of myself.

Yet, here I was, on the brink of losing my dignity again. Was this woman the reason for his silence or did the woman happen as a result of our latest rift?

In the same split second in which I had the three thoughts above, I also gave his his brunette a once-over, checked whether they were holding hands (they weren’t), whether either of them looked enamoured (they didn’t), the pace at which they walked (too fast to indicate romance; couples in love walk slowly and enjoy each step they take together), the distance between their bodies (more colleague-like than lovers).

I checked her fashion sense…as you do: girly dress, black high heels, glossy black clutch. Trying waaay too hard! Maybe a first date? I was in skinny blue jeans from Uniqlo and a Cos navy-and-white stripey tunic. Ankle boots, medium heels. Smart casual. Understated elegance. One-oh.

As he passed and said hi, looking embarrassed but resigned like a little boy who’s just been caught by his mother masturbating in his room, I was drawing the conclusions of my audit, “Friends only, no sex… Yet.

“Hi.” I spoke fast, without smiling.

He took two steps forward as if he’d carry on walking, probably going through the same thought process as myself, do I ignore do I not ignore. Then he re-traced his steps to stand squarely in front of my terrified self, first looking behind to check his date’s reaction, or maybe that was his sign to let her know he needed to talk to me privately.

“Hi. How are you?” he said.

“Good.” I sounded like a mosquito had spoken, if mosquitos could speak.

“It’s good to see you.”

I said nothing but he was smiling widely to stress how happy he was to see me, suddenly turning from naughty boy into Casanova.

“I hate you so much,” I thought. 

I noticed my mind noticing how lean his body was, and how hard and strong his chest looked underneath his yellowy sweater. Regular gym training was obviously paying off. He looked youthful, healthy. Virile. Trying to impress women, you fucking philanderer! I want you to die. And you need a haircut too!

“I’ll be in touch soon. You know…about…about various. I’d been thinking of contacting you anyway, so I’ll be in touch.”

Liar! Liar liar liar. Die die die!

“Fine.” I blurted out almost too abruptly, putting a full stop to an increasingly awkward conversation.

I wolfed down my ice-cream without tasting it. I read the programme three times and didn’t take a single word in. After the interval, I melted into Brahms’ Second Symphony, as if Johannes (that’s Brahms for you) had written it for me. I clapped so enthusiastically my hands hurt.

I was delirious. I prayed I had ruined their date. That the brunette had asked him who I was, that she got jealous and had gone home in a huff. Or..that..if she’d been stupid enough to end up in bed with him regardless, he’d have accidentally called her by my name.

That evening I dreamt I was puking. I was puking and puking non-stop.

(continued in the next post…)