A thick carpet of white clouds is covering the Atlantic Ocean today. It will be 11 hours before I arrive back home in the United States. This time, going home feels past due. This is the longest I have been away from my son since he was born. I feel an ache in my arms and heart to hold him again. I feel the pull to be back in the ease of connection and warm affection of Graciela. I am longing for Candace’s infectious smile and Mark’s stable presence and Gabija’s humorous practicality. I want to crawl inside the consistency of Lauren’s loyalty. This is part of what frustrates me so much. I have people that I love so much who live in different parts of the globe. And so being with one means being away from the other. Separation is inevitable. But separation feels both unwanted and unnatural to me. I want everyone in one place with me.
This European tour was the most intense emotional roller coaster I’ve experienced over the course of my travels. On the one hand, the events we put on in and of themselves were amazing. They were epic and powerful and transformative. And the amount of deep wounds that were mirrored for us to become conscious of made for accelerated integration (spiritual growth). On the other hand, I could not catch a break for one single day during this trip. The experiences we kept lining up with felt like being in an emotional meat grinder. Some of my relationships got much deeper and sweeter, while others completely disintegrated. The level of drama that graced this trip was out of this world, even for my life.
I have a very close friend in Europe who was put in the position of managing some of my time in Europe. Like Blake, he is the kind of person who everyone loves because he doesn’t have a mean bone in his body and hates conflict. And he is in a relationship with a woman who in a round about way met him because of his relationship with me. Because they are in a relationship, she and I have been trying to establish rapport and get closer. But one year ago, this attempt was impeded because it was her perception that I posed a threat to their relationship because I was flirting with her man (my friend) and had bad intentions for giving him advice about how to improve their relationship. My perception was that I was not flirting and that I was trying to help their relationship, like I do with couples every day. We spent an hour trying to resolve the conflict. But from my perspective the conflict seemed unfair and seemed to come from out of nowhere and it made me feel like I was walking on eggshells around her. So I felt hesitant to put energy into getting close to her after that. I felt that my presence created so much insecurity in her that I should just back off. But I ended up in tears in a vegan restaurant with my friend (her partner) re-living my wounds relative to women. I expressed to him how terrified I am that it would be just like every other situation like this in my life where a woman feels so threatened by me that they eventually make their partner choose between me and them. I expressed my fear that I will end up having to learn that the friendship meant much more to me that it ever did to him. He reassured me at the time that it wouldn’t come to this. But I left the meeting with a sick feeling in my stomach.
When fame is a part of your life, you have people pulling at you every second of the day. It starts to feel like people try to take every single cell from you. There comes a point where you end up having to create boundaries for yourself just to keep yourself intact. And one of those boundaries is people. Like most people who are public figures, the people in my life that I am the closest to form a kind of supportive container for me. Besides loving them and reveling in the connection we have, this is the main function that the ‘entourage’ serves. This is wonderful because I can choose when to come out of that container and when to seek the solace of that container. But people who disregard boundaries have one main strategy for trying to get to me. They use the people I am closest with to gain access to me. Often times they establish relationships with the people who are the closest to me for the soul purpose of trying to gain access to me. And then, I have a problem. Especially if the people who are the closest to me can’t see it before it happens.
On this trip, we encountered this very problem. There was a fan of mine who had spent time around me on a previous European trip who considered herself to be a friend of mine but that I considered to be an acquaintance. This was just a basic misunderstanding. But unbeknownst to me, she had developed connections and relationships to several of my ‘container friends’ in Europe. Over the course of the last year, to my dismay, I had been hearing from various people that she had been subtly disparaging me to people and fueling negative gossip. There was a split in her energy between someone who both hates me and loves me, which is the most common pattern I see when someone flips from avid fan to ardent hater. It is a highly unstable energy that can turn on you at any time. I found out she was planning on attending my workshop and seeing this ‘container friend’ of mine whose job it was to manage my time in Europe while I was there. Understanding the psychology behind this behavior, and knowing that she habitually violates boundaries, I had told Blake upon my arrival in London that I didn’t want that energy close to me outside of my public events. But everything went South when I found out that she was not planning on just visiting my friend, instead she was staying with him and intended to be included in all of our time outside public events as well. It felt emotionally unsafe to me. I told both Blake and my friend to fix the situation so that situation did not occur. I said there has to be clear boundaries and a beginning and an end to my time around her. But my mistake is that in asking them, I had asked the 2 most conflict avoidant people I know to go against their own nature to do so. Needless to say, it didn’t happen. The disaster was not averted.
She came out to a private dinner with the group and did not perceive any of the boundaries that we tried to diplomatically enforce. She managed to ruin the dinner of the people eating next to us who ultimately left the restaurant because of her. I was drained and feeling violated. I gently confronted her on the issue I was having with her being close to me. I confronted her on her split energy of hating and loving and also explained why she needs to work on that. But over and over again, because the people around me refused to make her feel rejected, I could not prevent the intrusions. I realized that because I am who I am (as a spiritual teacher) most people expect me to be lovingly inclusive towards everyone all the time, no matter what they do to me. Wanting to only see the best in people and not understanding why it was such a problem for her to be present, no one took me seriously and so I was forced to escalate the situation to reinforce how serious I was. That night, I wrote a letter to my friend whose job it was to manage my time there to explain point by point why I could not include her in my space outside public events. My intention was to get him to understand the delicacy and the gravity of the situation. Being authentic in that way (explaining point by point what is not ok about someone) directly to them is hurtful instead of constructive. In my opinion it doesn’t serve their highest good or your own. Authentically expressing your opinion is harmful if there is no good intention or good reason behind doing it. It was the exact opposite of a flattering e-mail. However, I felt aligned about writing that e-mail having had already confronted her directly about my problem with her. So I sent the e-mail hoping that it would motivate my friend to do a better job of maintaining the container for me so I could perform.
Despite this attempt, the situation escalated instead of diminished. Some people started acting like I had no right to decide who I spend time around and who I don’t spend time around. They started feeling like I was the bad guy and like she was the one being unfairly ostracized. And one of the people who adopted this perspective was my friend’s partner (the one I mentioned who already harbored insecurity and unresolved resistance from our conflict the previous year). A rift formed between people in my inner circle who sided with me and people who sided with the woman I was asking to keep my distance from. Which is the exact dynamic that happens with people who ‘flip’ from avid fan to hater.
In my last blog, instead of establishing camaraderie between myself and my fellow spiritual teachers, I wrote about my sadness and frustration that so many spiritual teachers I encounter still subscribe to the idea that it is best to maintain a façade of spiritual exaltedness whilst struggling in their private life behind closed doors. I explained my perspective that spiritual bypassing (using spiritual truths and ideals to avoid anything negative) is harmful and explained that the Czech people in general are prone to spiritual bypassing because it is an extension of the ‘iron curse’ vibration in the country. I wrote that blog as a result of having co-hosted a spiritual workshop there. But that blog going public was the tipping point for my friend’s partner (the one harboring insecurity and unresolved resistance from our conflict the previous year). My honesty triggered her. She felt that the blog was self righteous and disrespectful. She decided that I had no integrity. She decided that because I had written that e-mail to her partner (my friend/manager) outlining why I couldn’t be around the woman who was being ostracized, I was not authentic. She decided to tell her partner (my friend) that she ‘thanks me for the role I had played in her life but that she was done with me and had to protect her energy from me’. Essentially, she flipped on me too, which put my friend in an impossible situation between us. This would have been bad enough. But unbeknownst to me, she had been forming a protective closeness with the woman who was being dis included by me. And somehow decided that it was a good idea to find the email I sent my friend/manager about her and send it directly TO her. It was like being in middle school all over again. I felt completely unfairly and inaccurately appraised. I felt completely betrayed. And I also felt like she had no awareness of the collateral damage she had done by taking such actions. I don’t need to explain how badly shit hit the fan at that point.
I called a meeting between 8 of us. I wanted to meet directly with every person involved in the conflict (including the woman in question) my friend and his partner who had flipped on me. But my friend’s partner refused to show up to resolve the conflict. As a result, my friend decided to go home to be with her instead of attending the meeting. The only person who did show up was the woman who was being excluded, who had been directly sent the email I wrote about her. Ale had left on an urgent business trip to Paris, which left me with less support and after pulling off an 8-hour workshop plus a meet and greet/book signing afterward, having had no dinner, those of us who did decide to attend the meeting sat down until 2 in the morning to create collective resolution.
It was a painful meeting for everyone. We went through the letter point by point. I had to explain the entire situation all the way from the beginning with complete transparency. There was no diplomatic way to handle the situation. The most painful thing for me was to realize that this woman saw herself as a friend of mine when I thought of her as an acquaintance. I detest causing people pain. I’m the person who will spend an hour trying to take a spider outside the house to prevent suffering. If I cause people pain, I have to have a damn good reason to do it. And even though there was resolution by the end of the night and we all hugged, I left with a sick feeling in my stomach.
The conflict raised even more questions in my mind relative to authenticity. It raised even more questions relative to boundaries. It made me aware of the qualities I want in my friends. I have been meditating on a lot of this over the past few days. I’ve been thinking about what to do differently in the future so this doesn’t ever occur again. And again I am left with the fear not only of the potential of this situation creating another avid hater but also of the potential of losing my friend. I am afraid that I value my friendship with my friend more than he values the friendship and that as a result, I will lose him in my life. When we hugged goodbye he said to me “I’m going to take some time off and restore my energy too and I’ll probably see you next year”. And I know from first hand experience that when you have a partner who doesn’t want someone in their life, it becomes nearly impossible to maintain a friendship with them and with your partner at the same time. It usually ends up being a situation where you have to choose between your friend and your partner. For most people, that is an easy decision. You choose your partner. And I’m not even convinced that when you are put in that position that making the decision to side with your partner is wrong because solidarity is so important in a relationship. But this time, I find myself on the loosing end of that equation.
I am sad because I do feel a bit like a victim today. It is natural in an unresolved conflict that multiple parties come away feeling this way. I feel loss. I am also sad that I spent days in the streets of Prague (where I am normally the happiest because it is the place that feels the most like home to me) and aside from the loving and deep connection I was getting from my close friends there, I did not enjoy my time there. My heart was heavy at all moments. It was heavy even underneath my smiles. I woke up in a cold sweat each morning. I spent the vast majority of my time there integrating the aspects of me that were a point of attraction for this event. I spent the vast majority of my time there with my face flat up against my own ardent attachment to knowing and doing what is ‘right’. And I have been left with two important directives.
- It is essential to deeply question your reason/motive for being authentic.
- It is essential to deeply question your reason/motive for not being authentic.
This deep questioning will reveal what is ‘right’ for you personally to do. The best kind of authenticity is authenticity that is in the service of something. For example, authenticity that is in the service of being able to completely be yourself in the world or authenticity that is in the service of increasing awareness or authenticity that is in the service of healing or authenticity that is in the service of helping a friend in some way. It is very easy to convince yourself that your motive for being authentic or not authentic is pure, when in fact it is infused with shadows. Shadows like jealousy or manipulation or self-righteousness or fear or vanity or social acceptance for example. Both authenticity and inauthenticity are dangerous when you are not conscious and clear and honest with yourself about the motives that drive either.
Looking down, I can now see land thousands upon thousands of feet below. Roads wind like snakes between shimmering cities and lakes and towns. Ale is sitting next to me. He is laughing at a French movie that is flickering between scenes in front of him. And to his right, Blake is sleeping under a red airplane blanket. His journal is open on the tray table in front of him with a half written entry scribbled on its pages. No one on this nearly empty plane is talking. They are neatly dispersed throughout the cabin, immersed in their own sources of entertainment. I am missing my friends that I left behind in Europe to board this flight. I went the majority of my life without friends, lost in a hell of isolation. It is only since I started actually forming intimate friendships that I realized something. When you have a secure friendship with someone that you love, you keep a piece of that person’s heart in your heart. You can feel it beating there. And they keep a piece of your heart in their heart. It beats inside them. And being away from them, you can feel the pull from your heart to be integrated, to be whole again. And the way it accomplishes that, now that part of it resides with the person you love, is to reunite with that person. To be one with them again. This is what makes reunion so utterly sweet.