My relationship with my partner has been the greatest spiritual teaching I’ve ever encountered. So many moments of being triggered by him, pointing my finger outward, judging what he has done or not done or said or not said, only to find a crystal clear seeing the moment I stop pointing outward and start looking with the Boomerang Inquiry to see what sense of deficiency has been triggered within me, and then seeing the transparency of self.
Through the years, the deficiency story triggered in that relationship has usually been “I’m unlovable.” But it has remained hidden at first, during the points in which the trigger is activated and the pointing outward takes over. The hidden nature of the deficiency story is cleverly diabolical in its persistence. The story “I’m unlovable” never announces itself that way. It shows up as judgment and reaction towards him. It’s deceptive in that way. All that pointing outward is like the proverbial wool pulled over my eyes and heart. The story cannot be seen precisely because the pointing outward hides it from view. As long as my focus has been towards the judgment of my partner and what is “wrong” with him, the identity has literally remained unconscious.
I used to try to forgive him. But that was just the wool talking again, trying to find a way to keep the idea of separation alive, as if I can actually forgive him. How can I forgive him when I am speaking from a story of unlovability? Stories don’t forgive. They just rationalize pain away. They try to place some kind of mind-created false forgiveness over the wound. Even if forgiveness seemed to come about in the story of “I forgive him,” the full thrust of the pain was usually not fully felt, the identity of unlovability had not been seen through. So it lied there, waiting for the next wrong thing done or said by my partner, to show its face again and pretend there is someone out there to blame for the pain. Trying to forgive is resentment’s great cover up job. It’s just another lie, but its the best I could do within the story of separation.
I stopped trying to forgive my partner years ago and just started looking to see if I could find myself, the one who is unlovable, whenever the trigger began again. This has been the most humbling, most awakening clarity, to actually let the pain, sadness, fear and judgment of my partner be the door that opens up the seeing of no self, repeatedly in the face of every single trigger, until the last remnants of the self who is unlovable get pulled up to the surface and released like a cloud of dust being carried away by a brisk desert wind.
In the moment of not being able to find the unlovable self when the trigger has been activated, the heart just opens widely, so widely that it seems “too much” at first. The depth of forgiveness that arises from seeing no self in those moments is more than a mind can handle. And perhaps that is why the mind is not in the business of forgiveness in the first place. It’s in the business of identity—I’m unlovable. But as the story of unlovability is seen to be unfindable, the mind no longer has to try to handle anything. The wind is taken out of its sails completely, leaving a quietness that cannot be understood. There is nothing to understand in true forgiveness because it is not of the mind. And to call that a heart opening really doesn’t do it justice because it’s not always just about some wonderful feeling of love that arises. Sure, that happens sometimes but, like all feelings, it comes and goes. The opening is much bigger than the heart and more precious than a feeling. There are no boundaries for it. It takes away every place I would like to hide. It makes the story “I’m unlovable” look toyish and ridiculous. It is complete forgiveness, through and through, as if nothing ever happened. No trigger ever occurred. No unlovable person ever existed. And so the brunt of pointing outward has nowhere to go, no thorns to which to attach, no hurt or wound at all. Just wordless openness, as if the relationship is starting anew in that moment without any history at all. And of course it is fresh in each moment when this clarity dawns. This is what forgiveness is really about. It harmonizes a relationship so fully that no one can take credit for it. It is no one’s story.
So why do we hurt each other in relationship? Why have I hurt my partner? Why has he hurt me? Perhaps we do it because it’s the only way to actually wake up from the illusion of separation of self and other. How can we wake up from these stories if the stories don’t get activated? And of course they do. There is a deliciously painful opportunity at every turn, every reflection of the mirror. It happens every day for all of us, not just in our romantic relationships, but in every relationship with every person, place or thing we meet. Everything is a mirror, reflecting back to us a lie we started telling when we were very young. “I am separate and I am deficient.” We can try to avoid seeing the mirror. We can pretend that other people are the source of our pain. We can point outward, pretending our resentment has something to do with someone else. We can do this, over and over again, and suffer each time we do it. And the insane paradox is that the mirror is unfindable too. The “mirror” is just a way of talking about how self and other exist only in relationship to each other. They don’t exist as separate, findable things. Seeing ourselves reflected back to one another is both a blessing and a curse. It fills us with joy and happiness to be seen, heard and loved by another. And it brings up deep pain when we are not seen, heard and loved by another. We’d like to just experience the joy and happiness that the mirror provides. But life doesn’t work that way. Thank God for the pain, for it presents another opportunity altogether, which is to be done with the lie of separation completely, in all its forms and reflections.
Eventually, when we are ready, when we are done with our futile dream of hoping the mirror will give us only good reflections, we stop pointing outward, stop waiting for someone else to make us happy and start asking the question, “What is this person mirroring back to me about who I think I am?” And once we put a name to it (and it’s almost always some version of “there’s something wrong with ME”) we can actually look for that self. Is this thought me? Is that feeling me? Is this mental picture me? Where is it—where is this thing I think I am, this self that got triggered? In not finding it, we finally have a chance to wake up out of the lie.
What a blessing to have so many opportunities to tell the lie of deficiency and separation in relationship, and then to see through the lie, to feel the pain, fear, and hurt so deeply and fully that it cannot survive anymore. It loses its grip every time we feel that deeply without a story on the pain. We see that, just as a story cannot forgive, neither can it feel anything. It cannot truly love either. Stories don’t feel or love. They are just words. And words only describe feelings and love.
Thank you, my partner, for teaching me that it was never about you. You never caused my pain. And I didn’t cause it either. It’s an illusion, seen through. There is no need to say that I have seen through it or that there is no one there to see through it. That’s just spiritual mind chatter. It’s just seen through. That’s enough. That’s forgiveness. Love starts there.