#WW: 🤭And…I wish I didn’t say that

#WW: 🤭And…I wish I didn’t say that

Wholesome Wednesdays (WW): Bringing you curated positive content on Wednesdays to uplift your hump day.

We often talk about finding love. However, it is rare to talk about how we can maintain love. With Valentine’s Day just flying pass us, how do we maintain relationships? (Clue: It has nothing to do with creating catchy couple hashtags). Here are two stories we have got for you today!

1. How to not screw up your relationship with poor communication

2. Overthinking? This horse’s advice might help you

How to not screw up your relationship with poor communication

purple and yellow abstract painting
Unsplash: Poor Communication

What’s going on here

Nawal, an Instagrammer who talks about neurology, shares four ways we can screw up our relationships by communicating wrongly. Avoid the four horsemen: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling. Use the antidotes she recommends!

Why we like it

Nawal places the 4 things to avoid in a relationship in a very accessible manner with the solutions to them. We all have tendencies to fall into one of these traps especially when talking about difficult topics in a relationship/friendship. Don’t kick the can down the road and engage mindfully and holistically!

“When the conflict becomes too much to handle, people might fade out of the conversation by turning away, staying quiet, replying with one word, or completely ignoring the partner. This is ineffective because it’s an evasive response where no problems are solved.”

Wise Steps

Be very mindful of any of these horsemen in your relationships. Capture them before they capture you

Read it here or below

2. Overthinking? This horse’s advice might help you

woman covering eyes with hand
Unsplash

What’s going on here

A Grenfell Firefighter shares how he overcomes overthinking by borrowing a quote from The Boy, the mole, the fox, and the horse. He shares how that quote helps us to shift from a huge far-away goal towards our next step.

Why we like it

“Think long term!” can sometimes be jarring advice as we navigate an uncertain world. This Tiktok video helps us to prioritise what matters now and reduce the overthinkers in us.

“We look at how long a journey it is and feel overwhelmed. Instead of thinking of that. Just go right, I am not going to worry about that because that will come”

Wise Steps

Sometimes we tend to tie our self worth to huge outcomes, crippling us from taking the first step. Maybe just start by taking the steps ahead of us!

Enjoy the video here or below!


My 3 Lessons Learnt From LDR

My 3 Lessons Learnt From LDR

TLDR: Surviving a long-distance relationship is not easy and some say it’s a work of art. It requires firm conviction with a goal in mind, effective and mindful communication as well as the willingness to compromise.

“Hey, since you are enlisting soon, aren’t you afraid of long-distance relationships (LDR)?”, “You are going to Tekong, how is your relationship going to survive?” 

These were the exact words directed to me when I enlisted back in 2016. I am certain I am not the first to receive such comments. As a terribly unromantic person, I had concerns about keeping the relationship going. 

Thankfully, despite the distance, my partner and I recently celebrated our 5th anniversary. We have emerged stronger and closer than ever before.

Before sharing my observations, it’s crucial to note that LDR has the disadvantage of being subjective. Hence, no single manual works for everyone.

Nevertheless, I hope my 3 observations provide a brief guide to survive the “apocalyptic nature” of LDR.

1. Sharing Commonalities

It’s a common misconception that sharing commonalities means sharing common interests and hobbies. Of course, when both parties share the same goals, values, interests and hobbies,  this alignment ideally benefits any relationship.

What happens when interests diverge? Do relationships naturally break apart due to the lack of shared passions? 

The sustenance of a relationship need not be based on shared hobbies. My partner and I are on the opposite ends of many spectra. I am more liberal while she is conservative; she is idealistic while I am pragmatic. Touch is her love language while I prefer to take a step back. 

We do not share many common interests. I find her interest in Korean drama stodgy while she sees my interest in books boring. However, we share the common goal of tying the knot. To me, having an end goal in mind is crucial as it sets the relationship’s foundation in place.

The author & his partner celebrating their 5th-anniversary over dinner

With a firm foundation, both parties can erect pillars to grow their relationship.

Just like the black pepper tree that requires a stake to lean on to grow, every relationship would require a pillar with a firm base. This helps in both managing conflict and strengthening communication.

Many conflicts in relationships arise from selfish thinking and rash decisions made without consultation. Working towards the goal of marriage, my partner and I discussed issues ranging from career pathways, education prospects, investment and housing plans, and even which side of the family will look after our future kids. 

We thought that if we aligned from the start, there is less chance of being in a rude shock when communication falters. If one individual was prepared for marriage but the partner refused to be tied down, it would end in eventual separation. 

In the inevitable ups and downs of a relationship, having a pillar of shared commonalities mitigate squabbles. A firm foundation realigns us back on course if we deviate.  

Living in a separate time zone, I often take Singapore’s safety for granted and forget to check if she is back home safely from work. A conflict might arise if there is an assumption of me lacking the effort to show concern.

Now and then, we clash over ‘trivial’ pickings. I would much rather have these ‘trivial’ arguments than have her suspect my intentions when I am abroad. This is because she knows that we have marriage as the end goal.

By doing so, trust is built. We may argue over the ‘processes’ but never the outcome. In turn, she understands that I live by the Buddhist’s 5 precepts and thus has the faith in me to do the right thing. 

2. Mindful Communication

Communicating effectively is a crucial aspect of any relationship. The willingness to communicate effectively. At the start, it was difficult. We were both used to the physical presence of one another. 

From meeting up and chatting all day to not even chatting at all on some days was tough.

As a result, we fought a lot more. However, we realized what we fought over was not due to the absence of physical presence. What we fought over was the lack of effective communication.

Effective communication entails presenting your views, feelings and values in the way best understood by the receiver. I was not doing that. When we spoke, my replies were often monologue, indirect and anti-climactic. I was merely regurgitating what happened throughout the day and mainly talking about “myself”.

I assumed that sharing my daily overseas routine would keep the conversation going and promote understanding. These assumptions proved to be wrong. While it is instinctively in our nature to talk about ourselves to feel a sense of validation and sympathy, boredom eventually sets in and attention wanders.

Such boredom or agitation is a result of your neural receptors being starved of the attention needed to feel a sense of self-validation.

In simple terms, people don’t always want to listen to everything about you. 

My self-esteem was boosted at the expense of my partner and it soon became one-way traffic where our communication was living off the other. There wasn’t an outlet for her to express her daily discontent or the opportunity to talk about “herself”.

Being aware of this, we made the effort to rectify it and that has helped us tremendously in our LDR since. Be mindful of the tendency to unconsciously fall into the “Self-Appreciating trap”. We unintentionally fall for such traps because we are not mindful of our speech. The lack of tack in our speech tends to cause offence, which may gravely affect our relationship. 

The Buddhist teachings of the noble eightfold paths include right speech as one of its core tenets. I view right speech as not just abstention from telling lies, slander or abusive language but also mindful speaking. 

Being aware of how we speak and what we talk about, clear boundaries are set.

As I hone my mindfulness, I started talking less about myself and presented my partner with opportunities to speak up. Our communication soon improved and became a two-way street.

Moreover, incorporating mindfulness in our everyday speech and actions allowed us to be considerate of one another’s needs.  

By practising mindfulness, we have transformed the way my partner and I communicate and have mitigated many potential flashpoints. Until today, even when I am studying abroad, our communication has improved and that boils down to being aware of how we communicate.

3. Put in the Effort & be Willing to Compromise

Humans can be selfish. However, we humans can cooperate too. Each partner can coexist in a relationship but opt to pursue his/her interest. Be it to flaunt the relationship as social status or to be satisfying sexual needs. If one is not putting in the effort into the relationship and is bent on pursuing his/her own “selfish” endeavours, the relationship is unlikely to last.

It takes two hands to clap. For the couple to succeed in a relationship, they must put away their differences, identify potential weaknesses and cooperate to work towards the goal.

If both parties share the same commonalities, then the relationship has a set goal.

However, the outcomes only become real if the process is set in place and acted upon through effort. 

This involves compromising on some of your interests for the relationship. For example, living in different time zones, I had to stay up past midnight and she would wake up early to skype. Although this does not seem like much, it reflects two points in maintaining a healthy LDR: 

Firstly, we both share the same commonality and are willing to put in the effort to achieve it. Secondly, that process meant that both parties had to compromise, forgo sleep, etc to keep the relationship growing. 

My mentor once mentioned, “Sharing similar hobbies doesn’t necessarily make the relationship work, it’s about you putting in the effort to settle your differences and make sure it works. It’s important to note that every relationship is a collective effort. Both parties must be prepared to put in the effort and willing to sacrifice some short-term interest for longer ones.”  

Closing Thoughts

Undergoing an LDR or any relationship for that matter is no easy feat. Our relationship had to overcome numerous obstacles and social stigmas. However, our relative success can be attributed to these 3 takeaways. 

These 3 lessons must be seen as complementary to one another and not mutually exclusive. Like me and many others who have gone through LDR, it’s not going to be easy but it is possible if one bears these 3 lessons in mind. In any relationship, it always takes two hands to clap.


Wise Steps:

  • Develop commonality in your relationship on how you envision it to be and the dreams you hold together
  • Practice mindful communication with your partner by avoiding the ‘self-appreciating trap’
  • Be willing to compromise, even if it means putting your ego & interest aside.
What We See In The World Is A Mirror Of Ourselves

What We See In The World Is A Mirror Of Ourselves

TLDR: Although we view others and ourselves as acting and speaking independently from one another, all of our speech and action are our own projections. Others are a mirror of our state of consciousness. 

This is a reflection piece as contemplated by the author based on the Buddha’s teachings. As such, it may not contain the truths as taught by the Buddha. The author hopes the reader takes away useful bits that may resonate and discard whatever parts that make no sense without any aversion.

In Buddhist psychology, the Buddha gave an insight into how we ordinarily experience the world. We are sense based beings and we experience our world through the six senses. They are – the senses of the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, touch and mind. The mind is a sense base object because it comes into contact with the world of ideas dependent on the other senses. Mind in western psychology is the physical brain. It makes sense because the brain receives signals from the other sense bases to create an idea. However, the mind in Buddhism has been translated as awareness and consciousness. The translators of Theravada Buddhist suttas used the word, ‘citta’ in Pali. The word citta includes the mind and the heart. The Buddha did not point to the brain specifically as the mind. He was pointing for us to look at our consciousness. The function of consciousness is a state of knowing and in the teaching of the five aggregates, it seems that consciousness has been intertwined with the sense bases. 

How We View Our World

In our ordinary perception of the world, we come into contact with people and the environment. When it comes to our interaction with others, we sometimes think that other people make assumptions about us. We also think we are accurate accessors of other people’s needs and thoughts, and therefore they may need our opinions. In this way, we often come away in frustrations communicating with the vast majority of people who do not listen to us, just as we do not listen to them.

Although we think that whatever action or words we perceive is made independently by each individual, if we look close enough, what we see, hear, touch, smell or think in the world is but a mirror of ourselves.

We Cannot Perceive What We Don’t Know

Ayya Khema, a well-known German Buddhist nun who taught in the late 20th century, said we cannot see in another person what we don’t know or do not have within us. For example, when we see another person angry, we can see it is anger and something we dislike. That is because we know anger and we have it in us, and so we react to the person who is angry. 

We understand mundane affection, and so we see it as love and something permanent. She said we would not understand what we do not have. The unconditional love of an arahant is hard to understand and we wouldn’t know even if we stand next to him or her. That is because it is something we do not understand as we do not have unconditional love in us. We may only be able to perceive an arahant as quiet and reserved instead of lovable because we don’t know what unconditional love is. An arahant is someone who attained enlightenment in Buddhism. You can also call an arahant a saint.

Our Daily Interaction With Others

Thinking about what Ayya Khema taught, it occurred to me that this happens all the time. Our interaction with others is always about ourselves because we can only talk about and react to what is within us. 

For example, I was at a dinner with friends at one of their homes. This friend is a vegetarian, she does yoga and enjoys studying Buddhism. In my mind, she seemed to enjoy clean living. But she revealed that she still smokes, though only socially. I gave a look of surprise. She remarked that smoking isn’t a bad thing and does not make one a bad person. I was surprised she said that. That is because I never thought smoking makes anyone a bad person.

Earlier on, I had also encouraged the group of friends to practice what they learnt as opposed to mainly studying. However, instead of seeing it as a form of encouragement, they thought I was disparaging their form of practice. So you see, they said I was disparaging because they could not see or understand my sharing of the experience of spiritual practice. I, on the other hand, could not see or understand the pleasant experience they gained from intellectualising spiritual texts instead of probing it in real life. We simply were projecting onto each other what we know rather than speaking each other’s language.

In another example, my helper had been unwell with allergic rhinitis for sometime. Despite medicine from the general practitioner, she did not recover. She also did not want to consistently take the supplements I offered or accept my offer to bring her to a Chinese doctor. Again, I could not see or know her world and so out of frustration I made a comment that she is always sick. Right after making that comment, I realised I was seeing in her what I dislike – being sick. I was also saying only what I know in my world to her – being sick is not a good thing. I regretted my comment immediately upon realising what I had done as I seemed to be blaming her for being sick when it is normal to be ill.

Listening Is Better Than Speaking

These daily episodes made me realise that most of our interaction seems to be a futile business. We are always talking about what we know and consistently projecting ourselves onto another person. There seems not to be any useful speech except for sharing the dhamma and interaction for the purpose of completing tasks at work.

Listening is indeed better than talking. When we think, we think from our vantage point. When we speak, we push onto others only what we know within us and not what the other person needs.

Another thing that struck me is, we can really only be mindful when we pay attention even when speaking. I have not been totally successful in using speech as an object of mindfulness. When I managed to do it for a while, I saw that whatever that came out of my mouth is about myself. Other than that, I found that ordinary speech is a form of entertainment so that we can let the mind loose and rattle on. Ayya Khema also pointed out that only when we have let go of ill will or greed, then we will not react to others. That is because we do not have these tendencies in us anymore to recognise them in others.

Being with others can help us realise many things about the nature of our consciousness taught by the Buddha and his Sangha. When we can see the state of our consciousness, can we purify it by letting go of what makes us discontented and unhappy?


Wise Steps:

  • Experiment with the inanimate objects around you without labeling to find out how it changes your reaction.
  • Observe what you say and how you act in communication with others. Are the words you say truly what the other person wants to hear or is it just about you?
  • Instead of chiming in with your opinions, try to listen more and see if the interaction with others changes from your usual communication with them.

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