At first, I began to revisit my former curiosity of Zen, Taoism, and Buddhism sparked by cultures of my professional postings in Japan, Cambodia, and Thailand. I dusted off books by Charlotte Joko Beck, attended workshops offered by Pema Chödrön, and listened to my favorite meditation by ISHTA Yoga co-founder Alan Finger. Mostly, it was an intellectual pursuit aimed at convincing myself that I was practicing a form of spirituality that would ultimately save my relationship with the man I loved.
But the practice of being present in the moment, regardless of the motivation that spurs it, has a strange effect. It wedges open a door into who we are.
Gradually my efforts translated into greater self-awareness. A subtle shift toward mindfulness occurred, not in words but in consciousness. My need to “fix” everything eased, and I began to experience my days with greater openness and acceptance of myself.
I became more compassionate toward the emotions that were, as I initially thought of them, “caused” by my partner. I began to reflect on more internally focused questions: What caused my anger? When was my anger the most palpable? What would happen if I labeled my emotions without trying to control them?
These reflections helped me experience the tension in my body when I felt uncomfortable feelings without needing to act upon them. I replaced my compulsion to justify my emotions with the practice of acknowledging their presence.
In the interactions with my partner, I observed how the mere sound of a text message on his cellphone could spark my insecurities and how I automatically reacted with anger. I also noticed that his inability to magically know my feelings of hurt even when I did not even attempt to express them gave rise to a sense of being unseen.
This pattern of reactivity showed up in so many places in our relationship. If he voiced doubt about our ability to communicate, I immediately felt a deep-seated sense of failure. There was no curiosity or even a momentary pause.
The cause and effect of our interaction were well rehearsed. My discomfort with emotional suffering converted instantly into anger. Faced with my hostility, my partner responded in kind with guilt.
Within minutes of the chime on his phone or a forgotten “how are you?” we were enmeshed. We both slipped into well-worn behaviors and endlessly replayed old roles from the days of his active addiction.