This post is related to the following post: Getting, owning and letting my disappointment be sets me free!
Usually my wife drives my daughter to school (along with two young girls from next door) and my eldest son takes the bus to college. Something came up, my wife asked for my help and yesterday I committed to taking the three girls to school.
This morning I was completely at peace after finishing my morning meditation. Being in that space the thought came to me: “I can be of service to my eldest son – drive him to college”. So I called in my son and told him that I would be leaving at 8:30 to drop the girls off at school and if he came with me then I’d drop him off college (after we dropped the girls at school). He was pleased: he had overslept, would not have been able to do what he needed to do, get the bus and get to college by 9:00am.
After we dropped the girls off school and there was just the two of us my son apologised. He said he was sorry for the way that he had behaved the previous day during our time playing table-tennis together at the sports centre. How did this occur to me? A genuine sharing of what was so for my son: he simply said what there was to say. He did not occur as ‘making amends’ because that was something expected of him nor of ‘sweet talking me’ to get something out of me. He went on to share that he did not know why he had behaved the way that he had behaved. I listened – just listened.
How was I left feeling? I was touched – nothing more, nothing less. I felt no sense of satisfaction like I would have done previously. Nor did I feel proud of my son (as he had done the right thing) as I would have done previously. I did not feel or think any thoughts of forgiveness because it did not occur that I had anything to forgive: I had seen into the nature of my disappointment and accepted it totally on Sunday and through that processes I had set myself free.
I was more than simply touched, I was touched deeply. I got that my son had been living with the disappointment of Sunday’s table-tennis session. His disappointment was worse: he had no-one else to blame and was left with only himself to blame. He also felt guilty at letting me, his dad, down and he had been carrying around this pain for the better part of a day.
How did I respond? I thanked him for getting my disappointment and sharing his disappointment. I also told him I loved him – that was simply what was so and I felt it deeply. I was experiencing compassion and love for my son. And I told him that I was looking forward to playing table-tennis with him. I noticed that some of the heaviness that he was carrying about his being lifted.
What is the insight?
I am not the only one who experiences disappointment. So do others. I am not the only one that experiences suffering. So do others. I am not the only one that is puzzled and asks himself “Why did I do that?”. So do others.
If I can own and be with my experience without getting wrapped up in my ‘story’ then I can be free – at peace – to be compassionate towards my fellow human beings. And I can put that compassion into the game of life and so take some of the burden off the hearts of my fellow human beings.
Doing more of that which brings joy and human connection into my life is part of the game I have created for myself called ‘Playing BIG’. Coming from that context I booked a table-tennis table at the sports centre for 9:30 am today. I was so excited at the thought, picture, of my sons and I playing table-tennis together on a proper table and in a room with lots of space to move around freely – as opposed to playing table-tennis in our lounge.
This morning I rang my son at 8:30 to let him know that I’d pick him up from his friends at 9:15. And that is exactly what I did. My son appeared to be in good spirits and I took that to mean that all was fine and I could expect a great experience: playing table-tennis with my son who enjoys playing table-tennis! We got there, I paid £5 and headed to the table-tennis table. When we got there delight was present for me: single table set-out in a large room (lots of space) just for us. This is great and this is going to be great – that is the conversation that I was having with myself.
We got playing. First my son said that he had to hit the ball harder (than home) – he occurred as being surprised and put out by this. After practicing for five minutes or so he told me he wanted to play a game. “Fine, let’s play a game” was my response. When we got playing he kept asking me if I was playing my best and I kept telling him “Yes”. He was not happy with this – he seemed to be convinced that I was taking it easy on him. What was happening in my world: “How the heck do you expect me to play better given that you cannot cope with the level that I am playing at right now? And yes, I am playing the best that I can play given the circumstances. Quit asking the same stupid question and just focus on playing!” On the outside I was calm because whilst i was getting activated by what occurred as a ‘poor attitude’ on my son’s part, I was in control and able to transcend i.
I won the first game – no surprise, no significance to it. We started playing the second game. Now the room was too hot for my son – he kept saying how hot it was. I offered to open the double doors – he refused. Then he kept telling me he was thirsty and so I offered him money so that he could go and get a drink – he declined. All the time I kept calm and simply played table-tennis when there was table-tennis to play. It soon became obvious to me that the table-tennis that we were playing did not match the ‘table-tennis schema’ that my son had in his head and so he did not want to play table-tennis. Actually, there was no genius on my part – he kept repeating that he was bored. At 10am – half an hour in reality yet an eternity in my experience I put a stop to it. I simply said that I could see that the situation was not working for my son and so we should go home.d
What was there for me? What was happening underneath the surface? I noticed that I was disappointed and i (my automatic machinery) was disappointed and angry: i kept wanting to blame and criticise my son; i felt betrayed; i felt that it’s time had been wasted; i did not approve of people who quit especially when that person is my son – i was brought up to finish whatever it started or it got punished big time.
Yet, I stayed calm and did not let i run me like it usually does. How did that come about? I was present to the fact that reality was perfectly OK (just great the way it is and the way it is not) and i noticed that the disappointment was a natural result of how i works. i had jumped into the future and mapped out how it would be (a great game of table-tennis and a great bonding exercise with my son). And when reality was reality and it did not match up with what i had expected then i had got upset. I could see that i had created and was continuing to create my disappointment. When I got this I owned that i was creating this disappointment and not my son. I noticed that I soon as I got that and owned my disappointment and let it be without resisting it, it vanished. And I was left with everything is OK – just the way it is and the way it is not – and that set me free to get on with what I needed to do this morning in complete peace!
How about you? Are you owning your disappointment and thus setting yourself free?
Yesterday the family (five us) spent some time just being together and sharing what we were happy to share about our lives. I found myself laughing when my younger son was sharing his encounters and experiences at school: it was not the content that ticked me, it was the way he was being and how he was expressing himself. At one point all of us were laughing and I could see that my younger son was enjoying the relationship – our laughing had him laughing. Then the laughter died – at least inside of me. How? Why?
My son mentioned that he was going to the taking the foundation course in English. There is nothing to that statement – it is just words. Yet, that is not what the mind (I hesitate to call it my mind as I do not own it and I do not control it, it controls me and in that respect i belong to it) made it mean. Straight away my experience was that of disappointment and anger. Given that was the case, what do you think I said? I found myself listening to the following: “I don’t care, do whatever you want, it’s your life!”
Reflecting on that experience I am present to the fact that I lied. I made that statement to persuade / convince myself that “I do not care, do whatever you want, its your life!”. Why did I need to convince myself? Some part of me cared deeply about what my son studies and how well he does. And that part was disappointed that my son had not stayed with the original course: it listened to the foundation course as a lesser course and listened to my son as someone who does not have high standard. Once I got what had occurred and that I was the source of my experience all of my disappointment and anger just flew away (instantly) and I was left with “What a jerk I am when I am playing small!”
If I was ‘Playing BIG’ I would have owned my experience and been truthful. I’d have said: when you said “I am doing the foundation course in English” I noticed that disappointment and anger were present in my world and I noticed that my stomach tightened up as if I was going to be sick. That tells me that I have a point of view on what course you should be taking in English. It also tells me that I have a stake in what you are doing and how well you are doing.
If I had been ‘Playing BIG’ I would have owned by story and been truthful. I’d have said: “I know that you have extremely high standards. In fact sometimes I think your standards are too high – unreasonable. It just does not strike me that you have to play to get A* in all of your subjects. I know that you are on track to do well. I also know that you struggle to do well in English and realistically you expect to get a B. Will the foundation course allow you to get a B?” Most likely he would have said (which he later did say) “My teacher and I are aiming for a B and the foundation course will allow me to get that without all the stress I am putting myself under trying to get an A/A*”. And I would have said “I wonder what it is about me that I am or was disappointed and angry when you mentioned that you are going to switch to the foundation course?”
It strikes me that a core part of ‘Playing small’ (which is what I have been doing for the last 10 years) is lying to myself and others. It also strikes me that another core part of ‘Playing small’ is not taking responsibility for ‘my story’ (what I tell myself about how I should be, people should be, the world should be) – noticing it and owning it. Not using it to beat up others even if the beating up is indirect through statements like “I don’t care, it’s your life, do what you want!”
So if you are up for entering into the game of ‘Playing BIG’ full out then you also need to adopt these practices: own your story, own your experience and be ruthlessly honest with yourself and with people you are in relationship with.
This is an old picture of eldest son Rohan, his arrival into this world completely changed my life.
For the first ten years or so of his life Rohan and I were close, almost inseparable. Yet for the last five plus years we have drifted apart partly because I have labelled him as “inconsiderate and mean”. Yesterday, my son tore this story into shreds before my eyes.
I had just parked the car at the local fish and chip shop and Rohan went to buy fish and chips for the family. Whilst he was in the shop an old woman walked slowly with a stroller into the shop. In the car I could not understand what was taking Rohan so long as he had already been served.
Some minutes later he came out of the shop and walked with the old woman. When they got to the road, he checked for traffic, held her hand and then walked her across the road and toward her home.
I also found out that he had given the old woman some money as she did not have enough money to pay for her order.
When I asked him why he had done what he had done. He simply said that he felt sorry for the old woman. She was alone, she found it difficult to walk, she was partially blind, she did not have enough money….And that had upset him and so he set out to help her as best as he could.
I am so proud of you son. And I apologise for losing sight of the wonder that is you. I hope that you will forgive me.