“Without hindrances the mind that seeks enlightenment may be burnt out.
So an ancient once said, ‘Attain deliverance in disturbances.'”
~ Kyong Ho
So early on this year, motivated by a friend’s successful 2011 New Year’s resolution of alcohol abstinence, I decided to un-mythify the urban legend that is the New Year’s resolution in my own life story.
For the year 2012, I resolved not to become – under any circumstances – romantically involved with anyone.
For the heart-crippled lifetime hopeless romantic champion, it had become necessary – if not must-ecessary – and well, about time really.
By past mid year I have managed to keep myself romance-free without even (seriously) falling for interested parties I was crossing paths with. In addition to charting my career, I was channeling my energy into recovering from my last heartbreak properly (rebound-free), developing my emotional management ability, deepening my spirituality, and strengthening every aspect of my inner life that had long needed re-screwing, re-oiling and big-time upgrading.
And into the third-quarter of the year, I hit the jackpot; a claw-craned soft little fluffy plush of Peace.
Not the kind that stays for only the 10-15 minute of my meditation practice. Or the moments of comfort from finding my long-held beliefs affirmed while reading books about the Zen philosophy. Or the quiet deep appreciation of watching my self-created anxieties being washed off by cooling mountain waterfalls or sunset-lit seas.
The kind that was made hungry but not restless by staying in quietly the evenings after work with only a book and a cup of tea. The kind that was made lazy but not impatient by the tedious step-by-steps of dish-washing, floor-sweeping and clothes-ironing. The kind that was made hopeful but not insecure by waiting for a plate of spinach quiche and a glass of water alone at a restaurant while surrounded by couples courting.
It was nice.
But then you know, there’s always our good friend Life, with its priceless sense of humor.
Just four weeks away from the completion of my New Year’s resolution, it decided that it would probably be fun to throw a chemistry-sparking, smile-inducing and thought-stimulating (sight-pleasing) man down my committed-to-not-committing way.
I have no idea what I’m supposed to do with this.
And most unappreciatedly, poke my newly-found Peace with accelerated heart beats and unanticipated countdown in the preceding minutes to our meetings, with the involuntary replays of our conversation and eye contact automatic recordings, and (most unwelcomedly) the uninvited thoughts of his imaginary presence in my quiet book-accompanied evenings, my tedious dish-washing routines and my lone dining while being entertained by live salsa dancing.
It bothered me not that I was developing these feelings again particularly, or that it may be threatening the ‘purity’ of my 2012 resolution victory. It bothered me that the state of being in the present I had just recently gained and was working hard to maintain has been so quickly hijacked by these daydreamings that leave me instead in the illusions of the past and delusions of the future.
Also, it frankly bothered me that I have now basically been unwillingly entered into a contract that indeterminably bounds me to getting disappointed – if not hurt – by nonreciprocity.
In the words of Fran Kubilik in The Apartment, “Why do people have to love people anyway?” In the words of mine, “Ugh.”
Or, what he says.
So I started wondering, and in the next few days trying, if I could stop myself from (seriously) falling for this guy.
With the assistance of a couple of friends and a (quarter of a) book I’ve been reading, I came away with three realizations that have led me to where I currently stand on this matter of the heart:
1. In the beginning of his book The Power of Now, the first realization that author Eckhart Tolle had, which became the starting point of his journey to enlightenment, is described in this thought:
“Am I one or two? If I cannot live with myself, there must be two of me: the ‘I’ and the ‘self’ that ‘I’ cannot live with.” “Maybe,” I thought, “only one of them is real.”
In my case, if I am uncomfortable with the development of these romantic feelings, there must be two of me: the ‘I’, and the ‘self’ that ‘I’ do not approve of engaging in this one-sided teenage love affair.
So instead of positioning myself as a person who is helplessly crushing on this helplessly attractive man, I position myself as a person who is aware of the cupid festivity that is currently going on inside of me and well, knows better.
And here’s the difference. In this beautiful reality, I am not the process; I am merely the overseer of the process.
And what happens is that now that this commotion has become separate from my Being, the romantic thoughts and illusions no longer become an ongoing obsession/compulsion that takes over the present moment. They just, kinda mind themselves running around in the background.
Plus, watching yourself going all gooey girly on a handsome brown-eyed guy just takes away all the poetic seriousness of it and just makes it all look kinda cute and silly. Which also helps, immeasurably.
Until, of course, the time arrives to come face to face again with the person. Which becomes a slightly different story and leads to point number 2.
2. You’ve probably by now come across all sorts of pop psych articles discussing researches that have shown how the act of smiling can help improve the smiling person’s mood and influence their positivity.
That is because of course the relationship between our outright behavior and our internal feelings is not a one-way street. Our emotions can be affected by our actions as much as our actions can be affected by our emotions.
And thank goodness for that; because if there is anything I owe my being saved from making a fool out of myself to, is keeping an all-pro poker face.
Acting neutral in the presence of a person who is already directing all the blood from my head to my heart actually helps in tricking my system into believing that all these ‘sparks’ and ‘butterflies’ are not as big of a deal as my mind has made them out to be. It moderates the intensity of the emotions experienced, and (for me personally) allows for the ability to keep a straight head and maintain a conversation in which the things that come out of my mouth actually make sense.
3. Now to address the ultimate question of whether or not it is indeed possible for us to intentionally (and completely) stop ourselves from falling in love. Well, personally, up until now I have yet to stumble upon the off button for having feelings for someone I’ve become attracted to, if that is in fact achievable in all its literal sense.
But what I have found is the adjusting knob that functions to moderate the effect falling for someone has on my state of being and daily functioning, which is attainable by
a) the awareness (and acceptance) that ‘falling in love’ is not the uncontrollable phenomenon that pop love songs and sitcoms have us believe it to be (yes, even for the worst ‘hopeless romantic’s), and
b) the ability to separate my observing self from my experiencing self, and therefore to have control over my thoughts and emotions so as to keep myself from committing ill-calculated actions which consequences I may not be ready for.
So then what about the inevitable disappointment fall of event? The ‘liability to get hurt’?
Well, in all unsurprising honesty, such is life. And its knack for signing up you up for things you don’t even ask to be signed up for. Even when they come in the shape of bad lemons you can’t make a decent jugful of lemonade out of.
Some say it makes you stronger, smarter, whatever-er. For me, though, sometimes, it happens just to teach you how to laugh it off. And share its sense of humor.
Easier said than done, surely. But done-able, notwithstanding. And since I’m finding it pretty funny already,
Ultimately, it is quite the happy ending for the former shameless lifetime hopeless romantic champion. A New Year’s resolution is kept dignified, and a claw-craned soft little fluffy plush of Peace is restored. And everybody wins.
Except maybe a guy out there who may, somewhere along the line, inexplicably fall for me. In which case, God help whoever that might be.
“One day you may catch yourself smiling at the voice inside your head, as you would smile at the antics of a child.”
~ Eckhart Tolle