The Truth About True Love… Insight From Martha

When I was 20, I got a fellowship to travel mainland China gathering folktales for my undergraduate thesis at Harvard. I was expecting the kind of stories I’d seen animated in Disney films: handsome prince and beautiful maiden overcome evil and unite in a happy-ending marriage. To my astonishment I found that this archetype is incredibly rare in Chinese folktales–they always ended with the protagonist getting rich.This was the first time I realized that my experience of romantic love was just one more set of socialized beliefs. Some of them made me very happy, and still do. The presence of a beloved companion is certainly one of the most precious things human life has to offer. But other cultural assumptions about romantic love create untold pain for my American clients. I see them in my friends, in the movies, in every TV drama from Grey’s Anatomy to The Bachelor.

Here is a list of cultural assumptions that in my view bring pain instead of joy:

Myth: The right partner will make me happy.

Reality: Your happiness is no one’s business but your own. As Terry DeMeo points out in our currently featured teleclass, How to Love the One You’re Always With-Yourself, being loved is all about loving yourself. You have the power to embrace or reject the magic we associate with “being in love” no matter who is around or how they feel about you. Successful love relationships come from happiness not vice versa.

Myth: You need your partner.

Reality: Believing you need your partner turns love into craving and leaves little room for genuine love in which there is no wanting or needing whatsoever. If you think it is romantic to tell your love “I need you” try this: “I choose you and I need nothing at all from you.” This may feel odd but watch your partner relax as the shackles come off.

Myth: You need to find the right mate to be complete.

Reality: You need to be complete to find your mate. If I told you to go find the mate to my favorite shoe but I never show you the shoe, how on earth could you find the mate? The biggest error I see my clients make is looking for completion in another person when what they actually need is a clear picture of the complete self that is already present at their cores. Find the essential self and identifying the mate suddenly becomes possible, even easy. No one is incomplete and if you see yourself as incomplete you will never find your mate.

Our cultural view of love, our fairy tales are based on the convention of “courtly love’ that originated in medieval Europe. It is a wonderful archetype but it is a poor and misguiding excuse for reality. Your real source of love-your true self-will breathe much easier when you open your mind to all possibilities. You will find that contrary to your painful beliefs you have been in Love all along.

The Gift of Joyful Detachment… Insight from Martha

There is an old story about a Zen monk who was waiting to greet the emperor of Japan.  Just before the emperor arrived, he turned to a fellow monk and said, “I’ll be back later.”  “Later” turned about to be 12 years.  When his peers asked where he’d been, why he’d left, he explained, “As I waited for the emperor, I felt my palms begin to sweat.  I knew that I was attached to social roles because my body was tense.  I’ve been meditating to lose that attachment.  I came back as soon as I could.”
 
In our culture, we often think that detaching from something means that we are less devoted to it, that we love it less.  The monk’s story comes from the opposite perspective; when we are attached to people’s roles we cannot see them from a place of simple compassion.  

I had an interesting experience recently when I flew to NY to tape a segment for a national TV show.  In the past, I’ve always been slightly nervous about events like these, but this time, I was strangely detached from the entire process.  I reached my hotel late at night to find that my reservation was in a hotel across town.  To me it felt like a special treat to sit in one hotel lobby enjoying free wireless internet while a car came to ferry me across town.  The limo driver spoke no English and had the wrong address.  To me it was an exciting opportunity to use my Mandarin.  The next morning, I found that most of the production staff had swine flu or a reasonable facsimile thereof.  I lathered up with hand sanitizer, but also felt very relaxed about the possibility that I might become ill.  I thoroughly enjoyed coaching the guest, a woman who was burning herself out to take care of her relatives.  After the show when people asked me how it had gone, I realized I honestly hadn’t thought about it.  History will be the judge but I think it probably went well simply because I was so detached.  
 
I don’t know what gift of grace put me in the detachment zone for this experience.  Maybe it’s a combination of meditating, cleaning out my mind with Byron Katie’s Work, associating with my wonderful coaching colleagues, or a slight stroke, but I do know that this was a detachment filled with joy and effectiveness.  There is a zone in the mind as narrow and wobbly as a tightrope, but once you learn to walk it, life paradoxically becomes steadier, more grounded.  I think that the stability of our lizard brains-which is always a fear-based illusion– makes us reluctant to step on the rope.  But that narrow line where love and detachment combine is a solid foundation for the soul.  
 
Today, try stepping back from a situation where you are deeply attached, where your palms are sweating up a storm.  Think about how trivial this incident is from the broad perspective of your true self.  It really doesn’t matter all that much.  If necessary, retire to a cave.  But please leave us a forwarding address.

What Matters Now — and Tomorrow

This is Martha’s long lost blog editor Pamela Slim stepping in for a moment to let you know about a cool project that Martha just participated in with Seth Godin. What Matters Now is an e-book filled with delicious one-page essays like Elizabeth Gilbert on ease and Daniel Pink on autonomy and Tom Peters on read more…

Stone Age Wisdom for Modern Life Coaching

Back in the days when humans still lived in a pristine relationship with nature, a woman my age wouldn’t have spent more than four decades eating genetically altered food, unknowingly consuming insecticide with her vegetables, and noshing on processed snacks packed with preservatives.  She wouldn’t have spent all those years parked on her voluminous rump, read more…

The Language of Letting Go

(Of All Hope of Sounding Comprehensible) Well, I’m back in the States again after another amazing trip to South Africa.  I had a wonderful time connecting with many of our fabulous SA coaches, helping run the wilderness STAR (Self-Transformation Adventure Retreat) and beta-testing a plan to help some brilliant educators transform a small African village. read more…

Summer Slowdown

Maybe I like this joke because tortoises are my totem animals (they remind me to take life in turtle steps, keep a tough outside but stay soft inside, stick my neck out to move forward, etc., etc.).  Here’s the joke:  A turtle gets mugged by a large, hostile snail.  When the police ask him what read more…