- “Why does it always have to be me that reaches out?”
- “Shouldn’t they also put in the effort?”
- “I called them last time so it’s their turn now.”
- “The phone works both ways you know.”
- “Texting is just easier.”
- “If they wanted to talk with me they would reach out.”
- “If they loved me they would know I’m mad at them.”
One of my best friends has often told me I am the most difficult friend he has. Because I listen to what he says and I respond, and I tell him what I feel as a result of what he says. So he has to change how he behaves when he’s with me. He has to think and say what he actually means. He also says it is completely worth it. I’m ok with this.
The same friend told me some time ago that his life is better with me in it, and I said the same. It is beautiful and simple, and we have made it a practice to make this the ground that we always come back to. When one of us feels separated or miffed or misunderstood, we can come back together through the practice of conversation, of sharing with each vulnerably how we feel, because we always have that ground to stand on.
Isolation, friendships and relationships during this intensely polarized, online and post-covid world can be challenging experiences. Like many other things, the fast-food version – comments and texts – are being much more consumed instead of the more involved practice of creating the whole-food version: conversation. Especially the difficult ones where you share how you’re really doing, or the impact of your friend’s words and actions.
The bandwidth required to have vulnerable conversations is much higher than what’s available in texts & messages. And it needs both a speaking and a listening. To share what’s really going on in your internal life, not just your external one, requires a powerful listening be present. A listening into which you can speak your truth, your secret internal experience. And it requires that the speaker choose into honesty and say what’s true for them even when that is difficult.
But messaging usually does not have a listening. When we send just a text it will get read or listened to at some point. Perhaps. There is no real listening into which we are speaking. The recipient generally doesn’t say to all those around them – “oh wonderful, I just received a message from my friend. Please let me go away for a while so I can focus on reading this message to understand what they are saying and respond.” Hardly! It is skimmed at a glance while we are engaged in doing several other things. And this makes all the difference.
The vulnerability of sharing what is really going on in your life is the crux of how perhaps all spiritual paths work to create growth and transformation in people’s lives. Whether it’s the fifth step of AA, the confessional of the Catholic tradition, the spiritual friend or guru in Buddhist and other Eastern traditions, or the honesty and depth of conversations taking place in the listening and reflective container created by a good coach – all wisdom traditions teach that the path to connection and clear-seeing of the sacred world all around us is vulnerability, openness, acknowledging and sharing what is really going on and asking for help.
Last night I lay on the rug in the living room, face to face with my boyfriend, and we talked for two hours, about what we were going through, about life, about our intentions, our practices, listening to each other and how we impact each other. Engaged in the deep co-operative conversation that is the lifeblood of a relationship. Vulnerable truthful speaking into powerful undefended listenings.
Vulnerability requires diving below our automatic reactions, using the skill of noticing. Noticing our reaction, and then bringing awareness and examination to our experience.
To see through our resentments and defenses against getting hurt, to go past “Why should I call, it’s up to them to call me?”, we must remember the key question – “what do I want?”
Do you want a friendship, and the powerful experiences of being seen, understood, fulfilled, joy and fun that it brings? Then what does it matter, at all, who calls? What if it is you that calls every single time – does that actually matter? What if you enjoy your conversations, your time together however that is whether it’s in-person or on the phone, then why does it matter whether they ever call you or initiate coming to see you, if you are doing that? Someone has to of course, but who and the exact count of who does what, does this matter?
If them not calling you is actually them too afraid to tell you that they don’t want to spend time with you, then of course that is a different thing. But if it is a difference in your communication frequency or mobility of actions – if you are simply more likely to reach out and call, then why not honor that gift you have? Why not bring your ability to initiate conversation to your friendship and give it freely to your friend? If you are the one feeling disconnection, then isn’t it your responsibility and commitment to yourself and to what you want to create connection?
Whatever path we are on, when we are feeling lost, we can always come back to the common ground, to the trailhead. The ground of my relationships is wanting to help my friends grow into being fully themselves, it is myself wanting to be seen, it is wanting to co-operate in creating shared experiences, it is wanting to listen to what this beautiful human is going through, and wanting to share my inner and secret experiences so that I feel the heart connection and clearly see this other beautiful human. So, whenever we have wandered off this path, have got totally side-tracked, or gone backwards, whatever resentments we are feeling, we can choose at any point to come back to this starting point, this ground. Remember what we want, and then speak from there.
Of course it’s not about bypassing whatever has happened, what I or they have done or said – quite the opposite. We get to talk through everything that needs to be talked through to get to the clear space. It is however about doing that speaking from the common ground of relationship, of co-operation, of wanting, rather than from the fog of fear, mistrust and resentment. And creating a listening of openness, non-defensiveness, trust, and confidence in relationship.
I’ll end with one key instruction that I received recently: “Continue The Conversation.” This is one of my main practices today, and I am working with it in various ways to unpack it and practice it.
Continue the conversation.
Deepening Into Conversations Guided Meditation
Everything is a conversation
Allow it to happen.
Boundaries are a conversation
Trust is the fundamental field in which we can operate
Can feel the trust of the breath – don’t *know* the next breath will happen. But in the moment we trust it
Same thing with a conversation with a friend, or an enemy.
You don’t have to pre-plan it all. Manipulate the outcome.
Like the breath, simply trust, and let the conversation unfold.
Listen, then respond – take the step when a step is needed.
What if I’m always the one to reach out – so what? You are simply continuing the conversation.
When you breathe – you are being a conduit for electricity – conversation and connection. When you stop, when you block, pressure builds up.
Eventually this comes out in some way – anger, hatred of self or the other person.
It must flow to be healthy.
Like the breath – Each conversation is new, it’s a lightening rod for electricity to flow in ways it hasn’t before.
You may make discoveries, insights into the human condition, into your friend’s condition, into levels of connection you haven’t experienced before.
It’s the cutting edge of reality where you get to co-create together.
Brainstorm on a play, riff on a joke together, share stories and actually listen.
There is such beauty in the unscripted conversation that happens when you simply trust and open and continue to take steps
When you breathe you are being like a newborn baby, everything is full of wonder and curiosity – bring this to conversations.
Ask your friends – what are you going through, what did you do today, what experiences did you have, what were your struggles, where did you grow, what did you learn, who did you meet, how are you feeling right now, is there anything you are holding back from asking me about how I feel about you.
Tell someone you love them deeply, that your life is better with them in it, and allow that to be true by taking actions in alignment with that truth.
Be the best friend you can be simply by always continuing the conversation, like the breath, no matter what the previous breath was like, we take another.
No matter if the previous one was stunted and short, simply release it and breathe again.
Trust is the field that will hold you as you connect, as you speak.
The opposite of speaking is isolation, desolation, aloneness. Heart-hardening, breath-hardening. And addiction to substitutes – alcohol, TV, fake news.
The antidote is trust.
Take a new breath and speak.
Feeling the ongoing conversation with life
The basic trust of Life
Without it nothing could happen.