Love Lessons From Erich Fromm

January 12, 2011 by  
Filed under Blog

“Love is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise. If love were only a feeling, there would be no basis for the promise to love each other forever. A feeling comes and it may go. How can I judge that it will stay forever, when my act does not involve judgment and decision.”

We are first attracted to someone because of a chemical compatibility.  We want to be with them and can’t get enough of their touch.  It is passion and it is an all burning sensation.

As time goes, passion starts to fizzle and either turns into love or the relationship ends.  When we decide to be with someone we are also making the decision that as we get into life’s routines we will remember and honor the decision made.  That is why a healthy long lasting relationship, requires respect, friendship and commitment.  Because without a doubt there will be many occasions we will feel like throwing everything out for the chance to experience the cycle all over again. Deciding to be with someone and loving them should be based on friendship and admiration for the other person’s values, growth and struggles.

“Love is not primarily a relationship to a specific person; it is an attitude, an ordination of character which determines the relatedness of the person to the whole world as a whole, not toward one object of love”

We all have love within us.  It is up to us to connect and embrace this life energy source that is at our disposal.  It isn’t true that we can’t feel love unless we are in love with someone else.  Feeling love is a state of mind and heart that each one of us can apply to our lives and the world.

“Immature love says: ‘I love you because I need you.’ Mature love says ‘I need you because I love you.”

If we really want to have a healthy and intimate relationship with another person, we must first acknowledge the love already exists and permeates our lives.   We must know we don’t need to be in an intimate relationship to be in a state of love. We must know no one outside of our selves can turn us whole.  We are whole to begin with.

“Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.”

To be creative, to tap into our most original thinking and dreaming; we must let go of the notion of certainty.  Creativity means exploration.  It means enjoying the process without demand for a specific outcome.

“It is naively assumed that the fact that the majority of people share certain ideas and feelings proves the validity of these ideas and feelings. Nothing could be further from the truth. Consensual validation as such has no bearing on reason or mental health.”

On our search for well-being we are always confronting ideas that are accepted as “normal” by a majority but go against a truth we are in the process of unveiling.  The result can be 1 – feeling outside the norms of society and therefore alone 2 – feeling less than as we are not fighting for the same goals but somehow allow our lives to be measured by those values which we no longer adhere to 3 – feeling like we give more than receive as we become more aware of other people’s needs and rights.

It is important that we continue to remind ourselves that our well-being and mental health is our own journey and the reward is a life well lived. Conforming to a consensual validation goes against finding our own truth.

Erich Seligmann[1] Fromm (March 23, 1900 – March 18, 1980) was a German-American Jewish social psychologist, psychoanalyst, humanistic philosopher, and democratic socialist.

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Kindfully + Mindfully

May 8, 2010 by  
Filed under Featured

A very simple and effective post by Leo Babauta



How you treat others is how you treat yourself.

“Do every act of your life as if it were your last.” ~Marcus Aurelius

Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on twitter or identica.

There’s something so powerfully simple, profoundly beautiful, about the Dalai Lama’s quote: “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”

It’s a philosophy I’ve been exploring for awhile, and though I don’t claim to have even come close to mastering it, it turns out this is a single word that can become the central tenet of your life, if you let it: “kindness”.

Kindness can guide every interaction you have with others, can guide your life’s work, can give meaning to your life, can even guide your eating, parenting, marriage, and more.

All else will melt away, if you let go of it, and leave only kindness.

Doing to others IS doing to yourself

The Golden Rule goes something along the lines of, “Treat others as you’d want to be treated (in their place)”, but in another conception, how you treat others is how your treat yourself.

Consider: when you react to others with anger or meanness, you are putting yourself in an angry mindset, a bad mood. You’ll likely feel pretty crappy for at least an hour, if not all day.

When you are uncaring or indifferent to others, you also create an empty, blank feeling in yourself, a void that cannot be filled with gadgets, social networking, shopping, food, or possessions.

When instead you are kind, you build a good feeling within yourself, you make yourself happy. In effect, you are being kind to yourself.

Other outward-facing actions have a similar inward effect: if you want to learn, teach. If you need inspiration, inspire others. If you’re sad, cheer someone up.

mindfulness + kindfulness

It is near impossible, in my experience, to transition towards kindness without being mindful. Thoughtlessness leads to unkindnesses.

You must be mindful of every interaction with another human being. Approach each person mindfully, with your full attention, smiling, seeking to understand them, trying to interact with gentleness, warmth, compassion.

When someone comes to talk to you, when your kid tugs on your pant leg for attention, when your spouse or best friend starts speaking, turn to them without distraction, putting everything else away, and give your full attention. Listen.

Here’s something beautiful: by treating others with kindness, you will create a happy feeling within yourself, effectively creating a positive feedback loop for your mindfulness. This will encourage you to be more mindful throughout your day, which will help you to treat others with yet more kindness, and so on.

Mindfulness and kindfulness feed on each other in a wonderful cycle.

Practicing the religion of kindness

This all, of course, takes careful practice, and the more you practice, the better you’ll get at it.

There’s an evolution in kindness, a process in which I’m still only near the middle (more likely in the beginning and just don’t know it), where kindness can slowly infuse your life, transform everything you do.

Relationships: Your interactions and eventually your relationships with others, including friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, will slowly grow more positive, stronger.

Parenting: If you are a disciplinarian parent, learning to make every interaction with your child one centered on kindness will create a new type of relationship, and will teach your child how to be kind to others, by your example. Your actions are a much better teacher than your words.

Work: It might seem unrealistic, but it is possible to center your work around kindness. Gradually and purposefully make your work a living expression of your kindness, your love, in your interaction with your customers, co-workers, colleagues, the world … in what you produce and put out there.

Eating: A vegan diet is perhaps the kindest diet, all things being equal. This is from the belief that animals suffer when we put them in miserable living conditions, maim and shock them, kill them, for our pleasure. I’m not saying this to be self-righteous, or to make anyone feel guilty, but only for your kind consideration — to consider the animals as you eat. Consider also, as you are contemplating kindness, your eating’s effects on farmers and workers, on your health and the health of your family, and on the environment.

Conclusions

It isn’t easy to be kind on every possible human transaction, on every interaction we have throughout the day. It’s far easier to be thoughtless. It can feel better to get back at someone when they are unkind to you (at least, it feels better at first). It takes less effort to not care.

But when we touch another person’s life, our lives are being touched as well. What shape do you want your life to take? That will be completely determined by the effort you take to be mindful, and to be kindful.

“Wherever there is a human being there is an opportunity for kindness.” ~Seneca

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Working Hard At Being My Own Best Friend

January 16, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog

Why and what are the most thought of words in my brain these days.  Why do we struggle?  Why all the effort? What is it all for?  And just plainly why and what.

To try to come up with any kind of possible answer I have been spending more time than usual hanging with myself.  Checking in and finding out more about this person I live with.  It’s a bit of an odd concept, get to know oneself, as if we are two separate individuals; one that just is and the other who works at getting to know the first one.

But how many of us really know ourselves?  And how many of us spend enough time with ourselves?  I’m not talking about time in front of our computers or TV.  I’m talking about time to listen to our thoughts, frustrations, hurts and pleasures.

We drive, we work, we eat, we are on our iPods, cell phones, chat-rooms but do we ever sit quietly and ask ourselves: how are we?  What’s bugging us?  What’s making us happy?

As philosophy is the cousin of existentialism and self reflection, I went digging through the Greek philosophers and found an interesting answer Antisthenes gave when asked what philosophy meant to him; he said the ability to hold converse with myself.

Now philosophy’s cousin – meditation – aims at giving ourselves time to be quiet and reflect.  It also works at making us present.  We are so often thinking of the past and of the future, that the present is almost never truly experienced.

Living requires us being in touch with ours senses and not just locked up in our heads.  Try washing your hands in water but truly being present in the moment.  Try making love and really feeling all the sensations.  Try eating an apple and getting lost in its crunches. Being present makes life be a completely different experience.

Being my own best friend also requires that I do something fulfilling for myself on a daily basis.  For me it means; a nice meal, a glass of outstanding wine, playing with my dogs or just sitting outside in the yard.

The bottom line is: in this world where we are bombarded with information and are asked to run and make decisions every minute of our lives, so it becomes easy to lose our sense of self.  And the only way of having any balance is by checking in.  So I for one want to be my friend.  No, I actually want to be my best friend.  Because I am the only one that knows every place and every person I ever met.  And I am the only one who no matter what will always be with me.  So I better be my own best friend.

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The Cosmology of Taoism

June 23, 2009 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Every being in the universe is an expression of the Tao.

It springs into existence, unconscious, perfect, free,

takes on a physical body, lets circumstances complete it.

That is why every being spontaneously honors the Tao.

The Tao gives birth to all beings, nourishes them, maintains them,

cares for them, comforts them, protects them, takes them back to itself,

creating without possessing, acting without expecting, guiding without interfering.

That is why love of the Tao. Is in the very nature of things.

This philosophical reflection of Lao Tzu’s considers the process of Creation as it is depicted and understood in Taoist cosmology. At the same time, it is a plainspoken love poem that accounts for the presence of love throughout the universe.

The creative nature of the Tao, as portrayed in this poem, offers a rationale for a core belief embraced by the world’s great wisdom traditions – that love is embedded in the character of creation. The fascinating thing about Lao Tzu’s characterization of the universe is that it accounts for the presence of love without any attribution to a creator. The love depicted here does not flow in the expected direction – it is not showering down upon us from a heavenly source. Rather, it arises within creation itself, as a reflexive expression of gratitude, flowing back toward origins it has never quite forgotten and has never ceased to intuit. In the same way that there is an indelible sense of fondness for the land of ones birth, every being has been endowed with this metaphysical affinity, this beacon for the spirit. It is like an innate navigational sense pointing toward our existential birthing grounds; it is the wellspring of the religious impulse that has been given so many voices.

“The Tao gives birth to all beings / nourishes them, maintains them”, likens the activity of the Tao to the role of a doting mother. It is in this unfolding maternal activity that a perfect expression of love is manifested. The love that the cosmic order elicits and inspires in its inhabitants is simply reciprocal, a response in kind. Nothing additional is required to embellish or elevate the universe beyond its natural, perfect state.

In Taoist cosmology even death is an expression of a universal order that is deeply engaged with the beings under its heavenly mantle. The tide of death is not seen as a terminus of existence but as a return to its springs. The Tao is the ever-present custodian presiding over the arc of being, from first arrival to final departure. “That is why love of the Tao / Is in the very nature of things.” Love is woven into the fabric of life, as intrinsic and indispensable as the breath which sustains it.

While the cosmology of Taoism transcends personification, the Tao is not regarded as a mechanistic system. It is described as being “unconscious, perfect, free”, letting “… circumstances complete it.” Taoism does not imply a rigidly predestined template any more than it requires an architect whose blueprints lurk behind the façade of reality. The life-forms into which the Tao pours itself are organic and evolving; a dimension of uncertainty or contingency is characteristic of this system. No traits need be ascribed to the Tao that are not readily observable in the world that surrounds us.

The idea that love is an inherent quality residing in all things, implies that an authentic understanding of the world is only available to a mind that is informed by the heart. It is fitting then, that this account of creation reads like a love poem. It reflects a sensibility that regards creation and love as inseparable processes that animate the world. They are entwined in the fabric of the atoms; they are manifest in one reality.

That is why love of the Tao.

Is in the very nature of things.

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