The other night I was laying in bed and it occurred to me “maybe he just likes going to bed later”. With that thought I relaxed and dozed off.
That was it. No great discussions. No big argument. No laying in bed running long held hurt and anger through my head at breakneck speed. Covering more and more ground. Running up and down blind alleyways until I lay too exhausted to sleep. Creeping out to lie on the sofa before he woke up. Not hearing my husband get up and sit on the edge of the bed, unbearably distressed at my tossing and turning, sighing and crying. His frustration turning into desperation and anger.
This, I realised, is what is meant in mindfulness terms as ‘non-striving’.
In this particular case, the problem as I saw it was the power struggle of me wanting us to go to bed together at a ‘decent’ hour and him wanting to enjoy a bit of solitude by staying up and indulging his LoveFilm addiction. I was trying to solve this problem by lots of thinking; and this was actually exacerbating the situation.
Not only did we have the original problem, which when viewed rationally wasn’t really a big problem, but we also had layer apon layer of stress, resistance and tension created by our emotional struggle with ourselves, each other and finally the issue itself.
Paradoxically, by letting go of the struggle and seeing the issue as it really was in the present, the problem was far less complicated. With less obscuring the reality underneath, it is easier to see the subtlety and interconnecting complexity of the thoughts, emotions and sensations arising in relation to it. With this awareness we can respond (rather than react) to the issue and, with a more kindly frame of mind, we can responsively manage the issue in a way that is less likely to do harm to ourselves and others. Being more fully aware of where we are at this moment allows us the space to skillfully respond.
And from this – change emerges naturally, without striving.
For me, the change was simply the realisation that, for my husband, staying up later was because he enjoyed the solitude and sense of play that as a husband, father and senior executive he found difficult when others were around. LoveFilm was a place where he could enjoy watching what he wanted without feeling judged. It was certainly nothing to do with loving me enough.
Concepts of mindfulness taken from ‘Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy’ (2009) Rebecca Crane