This woman was one of my best friends in High School. We were very close. I was always attracted to the kind of person she was. I always saw her as a very clear and bright soul. She was just a very good person, deeply. She had some crazy home life going on back then. Her Dad appeared to be a very angry person, who turned out to have medical issues behind his behavior. Many, many years later, they finally figured out what was up with him and got him on medicine that has changed his entire families lives. But, anyhow, she went through some rough times back then and I was with her through that. I was one of the only guys she was allowed to have around, and I was her friend, brother and confidante.
We lost touch, making contact only once in over 20 years. That contact was over 15 years ago! Then we lost touch, seemingly, for good. A couple of years ago, she found me through a social media site and we reconnected. She has an amazing family of her own now, with a talented son and loving husband, and she's grown in to the woman I always saw in her. She's as awesome as ever.
Well, recently she had a birthday, and I sent her a private message telling her Happy Birthday and let her know how lucky I felt to have her as a friend after all these many years. It was my way of letting her know how much I still appreciate that old friendship.
She responded by sending me a message telling me much the same. She complimented me tremendously. I won't share all that here, but basically she said I was always respectful and good to her and that she's happy to find I'm still that way. Her response was heartfelt and really moved me, and for a few reasons. With this fresh on my mind, I meditated on the good feelings about it.
I first called up the feeling from when I read the message, and just enjoyed the emotion of it for a few minutes. Then I started examining the emotion from a little distance. I looked at how I responded when I read it, and what feelings arose. I found, to my surprise, that I was not only pleased by the compliment on a simply straight forward level, but also that I had some previously unnoticed feelings of pride and shame that came up as well, very very faintly.
I examined the pride, and why I felt it. The reason I saw for the pride was fairly obvious. I felt a little vindicated that I was perceived in such a great way, as though I deserved it and was glad to have it recognized. Simply put, I saw it as validation.
Next I examined the faint feelings of shame. These were actually a little more pronounced than the pride and also felt very connected to the pride. I had to really sit, patiently and observe the whole thing over a few times in order to identify it, but the shame was coming from the fact that I wasn't so much a gentleman in high school as timid. It came from the fact that I haven't always lived up to the standard that she sees in me. I wasn't the bold and assertive type back then, though I certainly am now. Or, at least I wasn't where girls were concerned. So every time my mind put forth the idea that I was a gentleman to her in high school, and still today, it also puts forth the notion that I was, and am, to her now but that in High School I certainly wasn't always a gentleman. It tries to bring up other feelings and situations where I didn't live up to that standard. It's very faint, but it's there. Here's the immediate description of the feelings straight from my meditation journal following my sit:
"Heart-space is warm and full with a link to a feeling in my brain. Another link from the heart-space goes to my throat which tightens. Happy. Negative thoughts that I'm not as good or have not always been as good as she sees me. Overwhelming gratitude."It was very interesting to experience this. Even more, it was quite interesting to let this rise and go without attempting to tackle it. We tend to sort of argue with ourselves all the time. To correct ourselves and defend ourselves from ourselves. For example, let's say you go out for a healthy lunch with some co-workers and afterward you're comfortably full and content, but the waiter asks "Anybody save room for dessert?" And then this conversation might unfold in your mind:
"Ooh, that sounds good!"
"Yeah, but you shouldn't."
"Well, I did eat healthy for lunch…"
"Yeah but that's how you got to be fat in the first place."
"No it's not, I'm just big boned!"
"No you eat too much crap food!"
"No, I come from a big family, I can't help it!"
and so on….
This kind of mental exchange is all the mind, or ego, doing it's thing. And the mind does it's thing, all day, every day unless you intervene. This kind of meditation practice allows you to examine that process, without judging any of it, and just start to realize how each side of that conversation makes you feel, and where it all comes from. Which, ultimately, allows you to let go of this type of thinking entirely.
Thich Nhat Hanh talks about "Watering the seeds". He talks of how we have good seeds and bad seeds, and the ones you water will grow and bear fruit. If you let this thinking go unchecked - as most of us do all day every day - then at best, both are watered. In many cases the bad will grow like weeds and strangle out the good. So he teaches us to water the good and let the bad seeds lie dormant.
This meditation, which Sharon provides very succinctly in Real Happiness, allows you to identify the good and bad seeds, and start to learn to water the good ones.
Even though I was a little vague on the specifics, this is a very personal post for me. I hope that it helps you deal with your own mind, and take some of that out in to the world in your daily dealings. As Sharon says, I hope it helps you:
"Bring this skill of gentle interest, curiosity, and attention to your encounters throughout the day. Notice pleasurable or positive moments, even those that may be seemingly small." ~ Sharon Salzberg Real Happiness