There’s so much of life in which you’re both active participant and where you’re not looking. So perhaps it’s not surprising that sometimes you’re acting in a way that makes your intentions difficult to realise – and you just didn’t get to see your part in it yet.
It’s the act of starting to look closely, with sufficient rigour and discipline, that can show you what was right in front of you all along. And once you see what’s there, with eyes wide open, you’ll have the possibility to invent new practices – new ways of acting again and again that can more fully support your intentions.
Relationships are a wonderful place to begin this, because we often take them to be fixed, like objects. ‘I have a good relationship with Carol’, you might say, ‘but my relationship with Jim is quite difficult’. Speaking about them in this way draws attention away from all the ways in which you, Jim, and Carol are participants in a phenomenon that’s always changing, always unfolding as each of you acts and speaks.
So here are some daily questions you can use to observe yourself, and your participation in relationships, over the next week.
1. What did you do today that brought you closer to people? Please include in your answer what you said or did, what you omitted to say or do, and what was the inner state or mood from which you did this.
2. What did you do today to create greater distance between yourself and other people? As above, please include in your answer what you said or did, what you omitted to say or do, and what was the inner state or mood from which you did this.
3. How intentionally did you do those things? And to what extent were they accomplished through unconscious habit?
4. What actions will you take with what you’ve learned through doing this today?
If you stay at this for long enough, and make some notes as you go, you might start to see some interesting patterns emerge, and find ways to take profoundly helpful action too.