Transforming Your Difficulties
Recently I’ve been reading Jack Kornfield’s "The Wise Heart; A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology". Kornfield discusses four basic principles for mindful transformation, which I felt would be useful to married women attracted to women and the people in their lives. I’ve condensed and applied his ideas to my reading public and anyone at a crossroad in life.
When you feel stuck, Kornfield’s four basic principles for mindful transformation suggest a way to confront your difficulties. Signs of being stuck include: confusion, continually going in circles, making decisions and then retracting them, feeling as if you’ve lost your center, no longer trusting your self or what is real.
When I first fell in love with a woman while I was married, my behavior felt foreign to me. I loved my new experiences, knew I was betraying my husband, and didn’t like myself for it. This person didn’t seem to be “me” and I had no idea how to get out of the mess I had created. I wondered who I had become or where I would end up. Kornfield’s description of mindful transformation captures the essence of my journey to self-acceptance.
The first step is to take stock of the situation. Recognition is the first principle of transformation. No more denial. Begin to question what is happening. Push through your fear to directly look at how you are living, what you are feeling. Pay attention to your changing feelings- now you feel joy, next you feel fear, then shame, excitement, dissatisfaction, then conflict. Approach your life with inquiry, curiosity…watch and listen to yourself. This is no time for judgment, which will only stand in the way of an open mind. At this stage let go of the need to know, just SEE what is.
After 12 years of marriage, I began to look more honestly and carefully at my life with my husband. He was a nice man, but I was often lonely. I felt less powerful than I knew I was in other parts of my life. I was unhappy with my current home life, which became more apparent when I became involved with woman. A woman? I had to look at how that felt, what that meant.
What you boldly observe isn’t always easy to accept. We often feel resistance to what we discover. If you love sex with a woman, and discover a new passionate side to yourself, you may wish it weren’t so. Because of our homophobic culture and beliefs about family values, for many people same-sex attraction is a cause for suffering. It takes courage to embrace your reality. While you may not yet have answers, a critical step toward transformation is accepting and respecting what you are seeing.
According to Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, when we are stuck, it often means we haven’t “looked deeply enough into the nature of the experience.” There are four areas to investigate when you are facing something difficult: the body, feelings, your mind, and your Truth.
Our bodies hold important information. Even before we look at our emotions, we can often identify places in the body that hold tension or ease. Our bodies can give us information about where we hold anger or fear, perhaps with constricted breathing or tightness in our neck. Begin to learn where you hold emotions in your body—confusion, fear, depression, loss, longing. The body is especially important when you feel confused about your sexuality. Allow yourself to feel your bodily responses to women or men as your sexual interest, how you feel your attractions and sexual responses.
Take time to investigate the constellation of feelings that are connected to your experience. We need to recognize that we can feel a series of emotions that are even contradictory. Yet, we must learn about all of them and accept them as part of our reality.
Looking into the mind, it’s important to examine what beliefs and judgments you attach to your situation. What habitual stories do you tell yourself about your experience? Many of these stories are old, having more to do with your history and less with what is true for you today. When I looked at the stories I was telling myself many were driven more by fear than my current reality. I thought I wouldn’t be able to support and take care of myself if I left my husband. Yet, I was a competent person, starting a career in counseling. I thought I couldn’t be a lesbian because of my views of what a lesbian was, based on stereotypes and myths, etc, etc.
4. Your Truth
The most complex of the principles of transformation, I believe, is finding your Truth. Ultimately, we must realize that life is not static, relationships are not static, and we are not identified by one experience or one aspect of ourselves. This is the concept of non-identification. There is impermanence to our feelings, our circumstances, as well as our beliefs. We stay stuck when we continue to search for one identity, or see ourselves in just one never-changing way. Today, you may love your husband, but feel more at home and in love with a woman. Or, the feeling of home and family may be more important and impact your life more than the experience of intimacy and passion. We can never guarantee that any decision we make is permanent, but it must be the best we can do based on our thorough exploration at the time of questioning.
Wishing you courage of heart and mind,
Joanne is pleased to be a contributing blogger to The Huffington Post. Click to read her articles.