Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Coping with Loved Ones in a Toxic Coma

There are people in all of our lives. Each is important but some we consider to be family. These bonds aren’t always by blood, as in our close friends or spouses. We love and care for each of them. If those loved ones are blessed enough, that love and care is returned. The return of that good will should never be the reason we are patient, generate understanding or compassion for anyone. These must be given freely, without the strings of attachment or expectation. It’s the difference between being selfish and selfless. We may not even be in direct contact with a loved one in order to wish them peace, joy and happiness. Imagine someone in a coma. We can’t have any realistic expectation of a return for our love and care for someone in such a condition. That doesn’t mean we don’t care or that we don’t love and wish them to get better.

There are other conditions and circumstances that our loved ones can be experiencing that are similar to a coma. Someone may have experienced a great loss, have been traumatized or sick from disease or injury. Mostly, we think we can see these diseases, injuries, losses and traumas very clearly in those closest to us. Sometimes, it’s not so obvious. Other times, the person with the condition isn’t even aware that they are sick. In even extreme cases, people can be so unaware of how sick they are that they are capable of destructive acts, wreaking damage and potential devastation to those they love and that love them. These people are still worthy and in great need of patience, understanding and compassion. We sometimes lack experience in how to interact with them without causing even greater pain and more intense suffering as well as causing harm to ourselves in the process.

Some people are just so sick that they turn everyone into the enemy or a villain. There can be symbiotic relationships that feed on one another’s sickness. As these relationships develop, instead of gaining insight into why they are both suffering so much, they back up their dysfunctional views of themselves as well as their mutual distaste for others. This has a very isolating affect, intensifying their conditions and increasing the potential damage. They see good will as condescending, misconstrue compassion for pity. There are infinite ways sick people push away their loved ones. When someone is in a coma, we can’t be pushed away.

When we find ourselves at the end of all of that understanding, having been so patient, having really generated true compassion for a loved one in such an isolating situation, we need to begin treating them like a loved one that’s in a coma. This person is not capable of hearing us, nor capable of truly seeing us as fellow human beings sharing a common humanity. Further interaction only intensifies the hold of their conditions and isolating symbiotic relationships. Unless there is obvious evidence of injury or trauma, we even lack a mechanism where someone with authority can intervene.

Most abuse is internalized, unable to be verified by simple observation. Abuse is obvious when an arm or a leg is cut off in an angry rage. However, most abuse is emotional, as words leave no physical scars. Even bruises go away and external wounds heal. What compounds this terrible situation is the growing isolation that the relationship sustains in order to hide the dysfunction so as to not have to contend with those loved ones striving to alleviate some of the pain and comfort the suffering that they both experience.

These are such difficult situations for everyone. What do we do? We begin to treat them as if they are a loved one in a coma. We think about them, we generate compassion for what they are going through. If they were to wake up, we will be there for them, but we don’t have to remain in the room. When someone is filling their immediate environment with toxic fumes, we don’t just stay inside to reason with them. That’s idiot compassion. Instead, we open the windows, open the door and try and get out of this deadly place. We can’t force someone to leave unless they are truly incapacitated or we are strong enough to lift them up and take them out of their toxic environment. In these extreme moments, it may become necessary to discontinue an active, engaged relationship with someone in such a terrible situation. In these most difficult of interpersonal relations, we must tread and consider carefully.

There are few singular reasons to make this break with someone. It has to be a preponderance of the evidence coupled with the history of not only our interaction with this individual but also our overall understanding of the personal histories, relevant capacities and skills balanced with a personal willingness and openness to gain insight or accept guidance. We may even discover our own current situation is incompatible with this person’s toxic existence, which raises the potential damage for us. We cannot stay forever in the room with a coma patient, nor can we withstand relentless abuse and trauma from our loved ones. At some point, we really have exhausted all of our reasonable options. We can’t heal the world if we’re being actively injured by our loved ones.

If the patient doesn’t want the remedy, doesn’t even admit to the sickness, we simply cannot force them to do so. In fact, in some cases this could be highly counterproductive. We don’t have to have an active, engaged interaction to genuinely love and care for a person. We don’t have to sink our own vessel. If there’s someone on board a cruise ship hell bent on killing others or sinking the ship, you throw that person overboard to save yourself but more importantly to save others. We can throw that person a life preserver or give them a life raft, but if there is no willingness to grab hold or get into the boat, we cannot let our ship go down because of one angry and out of control person.

We must be careful to not simply think the worst of others. There are no external relationships that can be salvaged by one person alone. We can love and care for loved ones without having direct contact. We don’t have to let someone back on our ship until we become satisfied they are no longer a danger to us or others. We don’t have to let someone back in the house when that person is actively spewing toxic venom.  We can love and care for someone, even if that person is in a toxic coma.

This maybe a bit of a heavy topic. I suggest reading The True Partners on the Path

That is my blueprint/roadmap for being our best in all of our relationships.

It's an aspirational piece, but it's also within reach every day.

Have issues in your family or in your relationships?

Let me be a fresh set of eyes. Email me:

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Owning Our Decisions

"Drive all blames into one."
-The Root Text of the Seven Points of Training the Mind, Chekawa Yeshe Dorje

Whenever we make decisions, we must strive to make each solely on our own. In this way the consequences for the decisions we make are our own, allowing less distraction from the inevitable blame game. This doesn’t mean to not listen to others or seek experienced guidance or counsel from others. However, when we do make a decision, we make it wholly on our own. For many, this may seem like a departure from awareness. However, it actually opens us up to exploring the outcomes of our intentions and actions without looking for a villain. The villain is our ignorance, not some external sentient being that makes us a victim.

By owning our decisions, we simply strive to make the best choices we can, given our understanding of ourselves, of others and of our surroundings. We then can balance that understanding with our intentions and our previous relevant experiences. When we really listen and try to understand someone, that interaction aids us in seeing ourselves more clearly. Maybe, someone is adamant at being right and urges us to follow their advice. If we follow this person’s advice, we must do so with the realization that we’re making the ultimate decision. We believe this person isn’t misleading us or we wouldn’t act on the advice. This person may not be actively misleading us, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to bring us negative consequences. This person might be mistaken or making an error in judgment. We simply don’t know until we find out for ourselves. If we believe someone, we must understand that we might be wrong to do so. It’s our decision to believe.

Maybe, we’ve already made that particular choice and seen the unfortunate outcomes firsthand. We can choose to not believe. However when we disagree with someone, we must also consider that the surrounding conditions have changed significantly since we developed our previous understanding. This is why finding the best path to actualize our intentions is so difficult. The path itself is changing as we grow and change and as the world changes and evolves. This is the groundless nature of reality.

There are countless examples of this in the history of humanity. Before planes, the fastest way to travel was by train and before that by car and before that by running. If we don’t allow for the conditions and our understanding to evolve, we are stuck in a fixed point in space and time. Where once we had managed to rid ourselves of ignorance, we have invited it back in by holding onto our old understandings. Attachment to being right is as much ignorance as being attached to someone else being wrong.  

It is not helpful to our understanding to feel bad about making mistakes. That is how we learn. If we’re so busy pointing fingers, we’re busy distracting ourselves from making better decisions right here and right now. We don’t need to punish ourselves for our missteps and miscalculations. We need only to learn. It is also not helpful to think poorly of others that have made mistakes. It may give us satisfaction, but how does that satisfaction help either of us gain understanding or expand our awareness?

We can apply this to others as well. As long as our intention is not to harm others, making every effort to not do so, we know that we are not to blame for the mistakes of others. Considering our own tendency to look for someone else to blame for our consequences, we must consider this when others blame us for their own. Taking these accusations personally certainly isn’t very productive. And, we can absolutely relate to the predicament of those that are caught in the throes of their own ignorance, as we are and have been similarly impaired.  

As much as we might find relief in blaming someone else, it does nothing to affect or rid ourselves of the real culprit . . . our own ignorance. We can do something about it, and we will be more effective at doing that by eliminating the distraction of blaming someone else and taking on blame from others. There’s nothing to feel bad about in recognizing our ignorant nature. Our ignorance is an opportunity. By understanding it, we can relate better to everyone. By understanding it, we can learn and let it go.  

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Light of Awareness

"a buoy in dark times keeps you afloat for the eventual sunrise"
There are simple activities we can do anywhere we are, in any situation we find ourselves facing and in any circumstances and conditions in which we reside. Why is it, then, that when faced with adversity, especially from fellow sentient beings, that all of our mental discipline, emotional awareness and spiritual presence become obscured so quickly and easily?

Dusk turns to darkness incrementally, and before we know it, we’re caught in the woods having forgotten our light. Sometimes we wander in the darkness, waiting for someone to guide us or for first light and the sun’s eventual rise.

We can shine the light of our innate awareness always, and when it’s most useful to do so, we forget how to guide ourselves. The light of awareness is with us always. We need only remind ourselves of this to have that light shine not just for us but for all others.

This is why training in strengthening our awareness and presence must become a priority in every day. Ultimately, we can strengthen these in every moment. We can become more available to resolving our problems and helping others to learn how to resolve their own.

We must use our mental discipline both joyfully and joyously. What a blessed pleasure to light our own way! Train in exposing your light of awareness and it will always be a thought and an intention away from shining bright even on the darkest night.

One of my most cherished writing experiences
I wrote in the dark on a bus in the middle of the night

Uncover the Peace Within

The peace that we all seek is with us right here and right now.
We have all experienced it.
Sometimes, it’s in nature, sometimes in our homes.
We might be all alone in solitude or surrounded by the masses. 
We could be listening to soothing music or as someone speaks about belief.

All of those sets of conditions simply trigger that peace or uncover it.

If we can understand how that process takes place in those moments, we can touch on that peace with our minds alone. We need only keep our minds grounded in the awareness of our presence in this present moment.

Try these other articles on peace from the Ridding of Ignorance

We all struggle against reality.
Let your present reality work for you instead of working against it.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Thinking, Speaking and Listening

Instead of thinking when someone is speaking,

try only listening instead.

Try these other Ridding of Ignorance posts on Listening.

I want to listen to you . . . write me at . . . I would love to hear what you have to say. Have a question . . . a problem . . . a concern . . . I would love to listen to you. 

Have an amazing day!