My husband and I are sharing 30 years of marriage this year. This union has many parts to the longevity, but the biggest puzzle piece was marriage counseling. Over the span of 3 decades we have had 5 counselors, but the last one lasted 10 years and we even got to fire her. She was an Imago trained counselor, and we found the style of dealing with conflict incredibly skillful.
The first step in “dialoguing” (after asking if this is a good time), is to begin the conversation with the phrase, “The story that I tell myself is….”. The reason this is so skillful, it takes into account that we embrace only one perspective. While our viewpoint might hold a lot of emotional charge, it may not actually be the truth. This admission of the “story” can help to diffuse this charge for both parties, recognizing that sometimes we tell ourselves things, which are based on past experiences, or even traumas, and may not even relate to the present circumstance.
As yogi’s we know that our perceptions (mind) have the potential to become clouded, or conditioned by our culture, life experiences, family, religion, agendas, media and even our beloved life partner. Judith Lasater writes that enlightenment is not some high falutin thing, but rather “a radical shift in perspective.” So many times, we get it wrong.
I love the line from one of my favorites movies, Before Midnight, where Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are a married couple, and in the middle of an argument, he says “You are the mayor of crazytown right now.” How often do we spin stories, which we think might be true, but actually we have jumped on the crazy train!
Patanjali, the author of The Yoga Sutras, calls this avidya, which translates as ignorance or perceiving something incorrectly. Misperception can be the result of lack of information, false assumptions or our own distorted process of perceiving (vrtti or mind noise). This is the nature of mind, as perhaps the stories we tell ourselves may be more interesting, fun or dramatic then what is actually happening in the real world.
Social media, while having good intentions and connections, can also be a dangerous breeding ground for misperception. One time, a friend of mine misconstrued something that I posted on Facebook. Luckily, she reached out for clarification and we both admitted that it could be a problem if we read into something that may not be there.
Checking for clarification is a good tool for dismantling the tangle of confusion. (Imago dialogue has been around for 20 years, and once you get past the cheesy title, it is a good reference for conflict*). Also conceding that some of our inner talk may not reflect reality is a good step towards lucidity. One of our biggest fabrications has to do with the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves. Ancient yogi’s tell us that we are already peaceful, happy and free. So if our self-talk is anything different than this, it is likely we may need to work with our minds.
Sometimes we project what we want to see, or as the scientists refer to as confirmation bias (Google it). We want things to be a certain way, or even see something in order to prove our expectations or hypothesis. As Marcel Proust points out, it is important to keep our minds open; “the real voyage of discovery consists not of seeing new landscapes, but seeing with new eyes.”
Yoga, and even more specifically our meditation practice, can train our minds to cut through negativity, habitual thinking and in this case delusional thinking. The sharper mind will allow us to see more clearly by loosening the filter over our eyes. The image of a lake, is a common metaphor that artists, poets and yogi’s use for the mind. When the water is stirred (busy mind), it becomes muddy and it is difficult to see reality. This quote by William Butler Yeats inspires us to cultivate a mind, which can settle into stillness. “We can make our minds so like still water, that beings gather about us that they may see, it may be their own images and so live for a moment with clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life because of the quiet.”
More common is the mud. When we can begin to see our thoughts as colored by our past, our desires, or the multitude of influences, we can begin our journey towards clarity and truth. In other words, as we acknowledge our craziness, we can begin to become sane.
*Getting the Love you want, by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D.