One City

One City

Fine. Fuck you. Hit the Cushion.

Stillman Brown is not impressed with your fireworks.
I recently entered a state of amorous crush (crushiness?) and this passage from Pema Chodron’s book The Places That Scare You made me squirm with uncomfortable self-recognition. She is talking about the three lords of materialism, which “represent how we look to externals to give us solid ground” and thus distract us from being present in the world:

The third lord, the lord of the mind, uses the most subtle and seductive strategy of all. The lord of the mind comes into play when we attempt to avoid uneasiness by seeking special states of mind. We can use drugs this way. We can use sports. We can use falling in love. We can use spiritual practices. There are many ways to obtain altered states of mind. These special states are addictive. If feels so good to break free from out mundane experience.


Er, uh (looks for nearest exit).

I still know men and women who are addicted to falling in love. Like Don Juan, they can’t bear it when that initial glow begins to wear off; they’re always seeking out someone new.


Even though peak experiences might show us the truth and inform us about why we are training, they are essentially no big deal. … As the twelfth-century Tibetan yogi Milarepa said when he heard of his student Gampopa’s peak experiences, “They are neither good nor bad. Keep meditating.”

Reading this, I had a moment of strong deja vu involving my friend Alex. I thought, I feel like he’s said this to me before, but he would have said it differently -“Fine, Congratulations, you’re in love. Fuck you. Hit the Cushion.”
Alex knows I have a tendency to fall hard and fast for someone, and then become disillusioned just as quickly. His level pragmatism has become a necessary corrective for me, and if he were a metitator, he’d say exactly that.
We all (or we should) have a friend who speaks unfiltered truth to us. Sometimes they’re an annoying know-it-all, but sometimes they touch the core of our vanity, self-deception, and foolishness. Alex is that person in my life. He slaps me back to earth simply by being unimpressed when I get caught up in unconsidered enthusiasm or hyperbole.
This attitude applies to spiritual practice as well. The fireworks, the transcendent experiences, can feel spectacularly illuminating, but ultimately they are thoughts, just like everything else. My physical therapist is a meditation and yoga practitioner who is having trouble with her teacher of several years. “Lately I’ve been so bored,” she told me this afternoon while thrashing my back with what appeared to be a sack full of scorching rocks. “I don’t leave anymore feeling pumped up or like I’ve gone someplace new.” Perhaps that’s ok, I suggested. “I might try this new place in Union Square,” she said absently.
So, if spiritual practices can become escape without proper oversight, what is my crush? Emotional entertainment? My own summer romantic comedy, showing in general release inside my head? I don’t think so, but I’m in the middle of it so how can i tell? The word “crush” itself means an intense, unthinking infatuation. Whatever the case, I think Pema would advise me to wait and watch – genuine affection outlasts butterflies.
Who is your I Don’t Give A Crap person? If you don’t have one, I’d be happy to offer my services.

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posted July 30, 2008 at 5:13 pm

As fun as the feeling of being in love is (and boy, is it ever fun!), in recent years I’ve become convinced that the really meaty and interesting stuff happens six months, or a year, or even two years later when that feeling wears off and you find out who you are really dealing with; when you’ve seen their bad habits and they’ve seen yours, and suddenly you are both very flawed and human, and you have to decide whether or not to go forward, and why, and how.
One of the best things for me about being in love is that feeling of loving everyone and everything. But one of the best things about having a spiritual practice is trying to develop the ability to feel that way all the time, whether in a relationship or single.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the nature of love. We hear this word thrown around a lot. But what is it? Is it a feeling? Is it a state of mind? Is it a kind of energy that always exists, if we only tap into it? Does it necessitate action or certain behaviors? If you sit alone in a room thinking about a person, are you ‘loving’ them? Do the states of being in love and loving have anything in common?
And in particular: why do people who claim to love each other so often treat each other poorly?

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Greg Zwahlen

posted July 31, 2008 at 10:38 am

Proust is all about what your talking about. Sorry, I still have Proust on the brain.

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posted July 31, 2008 at 11:16 am

I think crushes are way better than TV. I’m all about crushes.
I had an enlightening experience a while back when I realized I’d dedicated the song “even though we ain’t got money, I’m so in love with you honey” to at least 8 different men in my mind. That snapped the tightness around “is it going to work out”, or “oh my god I’m so crazy in crazy love” for me forever. Now I just enjoy the fact that I can really get into someone, regardless of outcome, and try not to listen to too much emotional country.

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Stillman Brown

posted July 31, 2008 at 4:38 pm

Menagerist, as usual, excellent thoughts. I agree that the meaty stuff happens after the magic bubble pops and you are forced to work with The Real, but there’s plenty of interesting stuff in the beginning – the First Crisis, the First Kiss, the First Weekend Away. Like growing a plant, there is so much mulching and weeding and patience that goes into getting to the 1 year mark.
As to that feeling of loving everyone and everything – if we could bottle that shit we’d be richer than mean old Rupurt Murdoch (I really hate that guy…)(which, I guess, means i’m not in love).
I tend to think that two people can make it if they have a shared value system. If you can agree on how to treat one another and other people, about what’s really important (interpersonal relationships over buttloads of money, for instance), than you’ve got a fighting chance.
As my friend Dan says, “You gotta win it in the trenches.”

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posted August 1, 2008 at 1:20 pm

Yes, just like any relationship, it’s work. After the honeymoon, it’s back to work. Every. fucking. day. On my best days, I am my own don’t give a crap person. On my worst days, the world serves that function. “If you don’t take a hint, life will hit you.” – Carl Jung

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posted August 2, 2008 at 11:22 pm

gotta agree Proust is all bout this. He’s all over the many varieties of crush. I love Proust. and it’s lasted too long for a crush – LOL – I’ve been reading him since I was 19. It’s a relationship.
I don’t know, after a while, I think I just realized crushes come and crushes go. It’s not actually that big a deal. They are fun for a bit, and they are absolute hell for a bit. It’s interesting to be in a long-term committed relationship and see them stillhappen, and do nothing bout them but watch them.
A crush is not a relationship. If I want one, I don’t pick up the other. If I want a smaller waist, I let the cake stay on the table. Someone else will take that cake – and good luck to them! Cuz those cakes and those crushes are mighty tasty, after all– I will not deny that.
And I love that question: “If you sit alone in a room thinking about a person, are you ‘loving’ them?” I have decided the answer is “no”. I heard a great quote once, attributed to Victor Frankl: “There is no love but proof of love.”
To me that means there is no love but love in action. Everything else is just concept.
Love in mundane, everyday, ordinary action. Doing the dishes. Picking up the towels. Watching the damn teams I don’t like. Over and over again. Doing the kindest thing I DON’T want to do, after a mean-ass drag-out-the-dirty-laundry fight. Chewy stuff, indeed.

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posted August 3, 2008 at 3:35 am

Stillman Brown, I love the firsts! Cheers to those! Very fun indeed. The seconds and thirds and fourths are excellent too!
I also love what Ellen said, about how much love is contained in those mundane, ordinary actions that happen long after the nervous giddiness of the firsts wears off. It sounds like she knows much more about those than I do. I hope to know about them someday. Letting the cake sit on the table sounds okay by me. We should all be so lucky, imo.
I’m also inclined to agree with Ellen that action is required in love. I don’t think it’s feeling that you can keep to yourself. But I don’t know how to describe what I do think it is yet.
The Victor Frank quote reminds me of that very cheesy song from the ’80s called (I think) “More Than Words.” I don’t recommend the song, but the sentiment is similar. It’s a lot easier to tell someone you love them than it is to show them.

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yolanda spearman

posted August 3, 2008 at 1:06 pm

Lately I’ve been so bored,” she told me this afternoon while thrashing my back with what appeared to be a sack full of scorching rocks. “I don’t leave anymore feeling pumped up or like I’ve gone someplace new.” Perhaps that’s ok, I suggested. “I might try this new place in Union Square,” she said absently.

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posted August 23, 2008 at 12:04 pm

Amusingly enough, I’m the “I Don’t Give a Crap” person for a friend.

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