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Happy Tuesday everyone,

Some of you have written to me since last week about meeting our ego's needs. The word egos have a bad rap, so let's just say that as social creatures, we need affirmation from other human beings. 

It's wonderful to see how many of you are doing the work because you love it more than because of external validation. But don't forget to feel good about yourself, please. I've written an extended version of the Meet the Ego's Needs story below, with a short fable that my mentor once told me.

I'm in particular so grateful to have the chance to share about my own exploration of an integrated living where spirituality meets materiality, extraordinary intertwines ordinary and self-knowledge enhances other-understanding. It's the dream of any explorer to have people who care about his pursuit, so thank you, thank you. 

This week, I'm sharing a short reflection about relationship. As an introvert myself (surprise!), I focus a lot on the connection with myself. It has helped me tremendously in connecting with other people. 
Nevertheless, hearing stories of relationship of other people is always enlightening. This week's post stemmed from a conversation with my new wise friend Sabine. 65-year-old, being through several marriages and multiple rock-bottom moments, she is now kindly passing on her wisdom. I find it particularly needed in our changing times, especially among young people like me who don't have much good guidance on this topic. I hope you find it helpful. 

Cheers,
Khuyen

 

"Darling, it's not the Real You."


“Hey darling, you seem to be quite stressed and negative lately. Are you doing ok? I know it’s not you. It’s not the real you”.

My 65-year-old wise friend Sabine recalled to me how her long time husband talked to her whenever she wasn’t doing well. Her voice was so sweet, so charming (especially for a German, hah)

As much as I am skeptical of the woo-woo language of the Real You, or Your One True Authentic Core, being in the presence of this couple was just so nice. There was so much genuine sweetness and affection that I knew I wanted to be around to absorb some of it. 
 

Unpacking the Simplicity

Let me unpack for you what Sabine said, first by explaining what is it not.

It’s not focusing the positive and ignoring the negative like a naive optimist in a clear black & white world. 
Notice what she said, “You seem to be stressed and negative”. That is acknowledging the not so desirable present and accepting the whole person, including their ugly sides. That is reaching through those fears, tension and insecurities to invite and affirm the beautiful core of a person. No simple task.

It is also not being nostalgic about the good old time. 
Notice she didn’t say “You are no longer the the wonderful and charming one that I used to know”. Passion wanes, romance fades and projected ideal dispels. Holding onto those past illusions is a surefire recipe for eternal frustration. Instead, she said “I know that it’s not you. It’s not the Real You.” It’s remembering of the essential qualities each of us had since we were born. 

One is a moldable character trait, the other is a fundamental, unconditional goodness. See the big difference?

Simplicity may not work, at first.

Let’s now revisit the statement “Hey darling, you seem to be quite stressed and negative lately. Are you doing ok? I know it’s not you. It’s not the Real You”.

This is asking a lot of our false self, especially in heated moments. When you are stressed, the least thing you want to hear is someone labeling you as such.

You can imagine the ego’s default response of denial “I am not stressed!”, self-blame “Oh no, I’m so bad, why am I stressed and negative again?”. 
Or even retaliates “Hah, now you are accusing me of being negative huh?”
Worse, it could be “YES I’M FREAKING STRESSED BECAUSE OF YOU!” 

You may identify with those responses. You may even have been on the other end, receiving the backlash. I have too, on both fronts. It is not easy, I know… Nobody taught me about the reality of love and relationship either, but I’m learning. 

The way forward is down.

How do you move forward in those dead-end conflict? 

Here is a bad news: there is no quick fix solution, especially if the tension has built up for long. It takes a great deal of patience and dedication to work through those tensions.

The good news though is that you can do it, starting from right now. When you can’t go forward, go down. Dig deeper within. 

Start with the inner work yourself. You must know intimately how you too will get angry, afraid or harsh for no good reason. 

The journey at first may feel like falling down and losing control. Ask for forgiveness often, for there will be more and more terrible revelation of how you too has contributed to the problem. 

Once you are able to step back just enough to witness anger, hurt and fear — all those faces of the false self — you start to see that behind those cute little imps there is a deeper love.

Then, at rock bottom, you find yourself being held in the arms of the true self. In perhaps the most beautiful irony of life, your moment of utmost worthlessness is embraced with warm affirmation. You didn’t ask for it. You just received it. Whether you call it grace, or luck, or the fruits of practice, what matters is that the true self has experienced unconditional love. 

------------------------------------------------
Read the full post here on Medium.
 

Meet your ego's need, pleaaze


(updated version, with a fable of the merchant & the genie)

The merchant and his pole-climbing genie

Once upon a time, there was a merchant in desperate need of some money.
 He found a lamp on the side of the street and scratched it. To his bewilderment, a huge genie appeared.

“I can give you everything you want, but after that, I’ll eat you. Deal?” Said the genie in a gruff voice.
 
 The merchant thought to himself “Woah. My desires are endless. This is an incredible bargain”. He replied: “Sure thing. "
[...]

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Read the full post here on Medium.
 
Sharing is sprouting.
If you have been forwarded this newsletter, feel free to subscribe to it here 

Btw, I'm also offering a free conversation to chat with me if you feel like you are going through a trying times and need someone to accompany, clarify and keep you encouraged :-) Do reach out, please. 

 

Quotes I'm contemplating this week


Good question.
"What is something that if you don't do will feel like self-betrayal?" - Stephen Cope in The Great Work of Your Life. Also a very good Sounds True interview here 
A question I've been reflecting on. Really helpful when we feel like there are too many demands and opportunities from the outside. 

Start Close In
"Start right now.
Take a small step you can call your own.
Don't follow someone else's heroics.
Be humble
and focused."
[...]
Start close in,
don't take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step you don't want to take."

I found this poem, Start Close In, by David Whyte, to be immensely encouraging whenever I'm stuck. It reminds me to cut through all the illusion and pretended confusion, and just take a small step. Here is a good audio recital. Please give it a listen, for it's an entirely different experience listening to him reading his poems :-) 

With joy, from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Khuyen
 
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