Meditation + Talk: Lived by Love

Meditation + Talk: Lived by Love

This Wednesday Night Meditation included a 34-minute meditation and 47-minute talk and discussion about Lived by Love.

I hope you find it helpful, and you are welcome to join my free Wednesday Meditations – open to everyone!

Meditation: Lived by Love

Talk: Lived by Love

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These teachings are offered freely, at no charge.

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Generosity itself is a beautiful practice that opens and gladdens the heart, relaxes the contraction of “self,” and ripples out into the world to touch many people – and perhaps, eventually, even oneself.

Additionally, many expressions of generosity are not about money. People offer attention, encouragement, and patience many times a day. Sometimes we withhold when it would be so easy, actually, to listen quietly for another minute or to offer a word of appreciation or simply a look that says, “I’m with you.” Try being a little more generous for a day and see what happens.

Lived By Love Talk (download transcript here)

Rick Hanson [00:00:00] I want to talk about being lived by love in this ongoing exploration I’m doing of relating the four noble truths of the Buddha to the messy, wonderful, juicy, maddening territory of our relationships, both near at hand and extending out to our country and the whole wide world. How can we practice the wisdom of relaxing craving and the clinging that goes with it and strong sense of self? How can we do that while also standing up for ourselves, speaking truth to power, recognizing injustice, getting our own needs met in our relationships, being brave enough to ask for what we really need, and to watch carefully what people do? How can we do all that together? So that’s what I’m exploring here.

[00:00:57] Tonight I want to talk about what I call feeling lived by love. And I mean that in two ways. There’s the explicit sense in which we come from love. There’s compassion, there’s good intentions, there’s kindness, there’s, you know, a caring, you know, there’s finding what’s to like in another person. We’re coming from love in that way, so love is flowing through us. Implicitly, and I’m going to be sharing with you some things I’ve been writing about this recently a little bit here, coming from love can mean a relaxed opening into the love in a very, very broad sense that is the actual nature, the nature of everything. In other words, moment by moment, actually the world and the mind reliably carry you along. And this isn’t airy fairy. It’s actually real. For example, our physical selves are woven into or woven of the tapestry of the physical universe, whose particles and energies never fail. The supplies, the light and air, the furniture and flowers that are present in this instant are here, actually here, available, whatever the future may hold. Wow.

[00:02:21] Also present is the caring and goodwill that others have for you, the momentum of your own accomplishments, the healthy workings of your body. Those all can carry you along. They all do carry you along. We can kind of fall back into that stream and be lived by, in a sense, its love. Meanwhile, your mind goes on being while dependably weaving this thought, this sound, this moment of consciousness. The mind keeps on going. It carries you along. It, too, is supportive and generative, and thus, in a deep sense, loving. Wow.

[00:03:09] We don’t have to stretch and scratch and claw our way. We can actually relax and be carried along, lived by so many good things that are actually true without any kind of positive thinking, no rose-colored glasses. It’s all true. It’s hard to sustain a felt knowing of this loving, broadly nature of everything. In a sense, the brain evolved to keep our ancestors scared to keep them alive. And it evolved to make them think about things in terms of a very dualistic way of regarding themselves as being beset by everything. And that kind of makes sense if you’re being hunted by predators. But if you look and you look again, you can see directly that right now and in every now that you’re alive, you can see that you are cradled by the world and by the mind, like a child carried to bed by her mother. See if you can even feel that. Right now and in every moment we’re alive, you are cradled by the world and the mind like a child carried to bed by her mother. This cradling is a kind of love. And when you trust it enough to soften and fall back into it, there’s an untangling of the knots of fear and separation.

[00:04:54] Then comes both an undoing of the craving that drives suffering and harm, and very importantly, what comes when you trust in love is a freeing and a fueling love living through you and as you out into the world. Imagine a single day, today, tomorrow in which you are often, not continuously, OK, not perfectly, but often lived by love. What would that be like for you? When I’ve tried this myself, the events of the day don’t change much, but my experience of them and their effects improves dramatically. Consider this as a practice for a day or a week or even a minute. What would it be like for even a minute to just do a practice of feeling lived by love? And of course, more widely, imagine a world in which many people, enough people we’re lived by love. As our world right now teeters on the edge of a sword—and it could go either way—it could tip into realistic prosperity, justice and peace even as we solve real problems. Or it could tip our world into growing resource wars, despotism a,nd fundamentalism. It seems to me that it’s not just possible for a critical mass of human hearts to be lived by love. It’s actually going to be necessary.

[00:06:38] So how do we do it? Lofty words, Rick. Thanks so much. How do we actually do it? The essence of this practice is a yielding. It’s a yielding. We must surrender. We must let go. Garrett asked a question early on about how can we observe the breath without starting to control it? And I said that it’s a great question, it’s understandable, and that if we deliberately relax control and take a chance on giving up breathing, the body will take over. We can trust the body to take over. But what helps us realize that is an actual yielding, an actual surrendering. And this yielding is a shift, and I know that shift well from the typical top down subtly contracted moving out from this kind of executive center, this command control center out into the world. It’s a shift from that. It’s a shift from that which is a fairly fear-based way of operating. It’s a shift from that into a relaxed, receptive, abiding, feeling supported by the ocean of causes creating each momentary wave of awareness.

[00:07:58] Now to be clear, as we do this, we are not engaging a spiritual bypass that doesn’t recognize fires, forest fires in my native California. It doesn’t recognize, you know, the consequences of a long civil war in Afghanistan. It does not turn away from the immediate issue in your own life that you really do need to schedule that doctor’s appointment to get that long overdue checkup. Or whatever it might be, it doesn’t turn away from that. But in our relationship to those challenges, we can recognize the ways in which we are actually buoyed. We are actually carried along. We are actually supported by all that is. And as we open to that kind of heartfelt yielding, it actually empowers us. We feel more powerful. We feel less alone. We feel a lot more supported as we deal with those challenges.

[00:09:01] So if I could kind of suggest a little bit of a practice here for the next few minutes, you can try to follow along with these suggestions. Soften and open your heart. Just that. Softening, edges softening, physically, maybe in your imagination, perhaps spiritually softening and opening the heart. Recognize the fullness of any moment of consciousness. All the thoughts, all the things pop pop popping on their own without your doing anything. You’re not making thoughts happen. It’s just happening. We can relax. We can go, OK, the streaming of consciousness is going to keep on going. I can relax about that. I can trust it. I can let it carry me along.

[00:09:58] You can also get a sense, even as you inhale, the exhalations of green growing things. You can get a sense of the buoying currents of nature and life. You know, if you think about it, the waves and waves of gifts from over three billion years of evolution on our blue and green pebble, this little precious marble 8000 thousand miles in diameter, not really very big, you know, in the midst of a vast emptiness. Here on our precious earth, these currents of life and evolution and all those creatures have gone before us, human and not human, their legacy is also what is living us and carrying us along. Thank you. You know, we can look backward in time and all those who come before us and who’ve handed off various gifts to us here and now and go, thank you, really. Thank you. And feel carried along by them. Right?

[00:11:00] You can look around. You can see objects wherever you are. See your hands. Lots of atoms in those hands. Right? And you can consider the unfailing generosity of the material realm blossoming for over 13 billion years from a seed of light. Pretty great. You can feel carried by consciousness, the effortless knowing of perception and thought. When stress, worry, pressure, or pain appear in the mind, you can see that the fabric of those experiences, the underlying operating of the mind is itself fine, always already fine, even if what you’re experiencing is really painful. That’s an experience that’s, you know, painful, that’s occurring in a larger fabric, the open field of awareness that itself is always just fine. And you can increasingly rest in a sense of that ongoing field of awareness that’s always simply being aware itself, not afflicted or contracted by pain and sorrow. You can do that. It’s a very direct and immediately available practice. We can do that.

[00:12:27] You can also be aware of the warmth and goodwill from others toward you, even if they annoy you sometimes. Right? You can sense your connection to others. You can sense how you are supported by a web of relationships. Some people do care about you. Some people do. In this life, you have almost certainly been loved. You may currently be loved, even by people that are not perfect. And still the love is real.

[00:13:01] Now, here’s where I’d like to kind of tell a personal story that involved the Dalai Lama indirectly. And it has to do with the recognition that we can be kind both to others and to ourself. Some years ago, I was invited to give a talk at a big, big conference. This was my first big moment on the stage, about 10 plus years ago, maybe 12. And I was scared because all the big dogs and all that top teachers in my area of psychology were on that stage and I was this little, little, little guppy in the pond with a whole bunch of giant frogs. And there I was, sitting in my chair, getting ready to go on stage, reviewing my notes, reviewing my talk, and thinking, frankly about how I could be impressive, how I could impress others, how I could make them think that, oh, Rick Hanson is pretty smart, too. There I was, getting more and more self-preoccupied, more and more stressed, more and more anxious, more and more worried, more and more contracted. And then, coincidentally, I saw on a chair next to me this kind of random local newsletter. So to distract myself, I picked it up and I started flicking through it. And as I flicked through it, I came upon an interview with the Dalai Lama. And in this interview, he focused on the happiness of wishing others well. Something inside me just broke when I read that part about simply wishing others well. This kind of wave of calming and relief swept through me. I didn’t have to focus on wishing myself well. I could focus on wishing them well. I could focus on what would be most useful to them rather than what would make me look the best. And paradoxically, as I focused on what would be of the greatest value to the people in the audience, when I finally did get up on the stage and I tried to sustain that focus with a feeling of compassion and respect for the people, hundreds and hundreds of people that were there in that audience. As I stop being so preoccupied with me and focused on being kind to them, actually, that was the kindest possible thing I could do for me. Because as I relaxed my self-preoccupation, I was much more able to do the best possible job I could do, at least. And when it was all over, I got a rare standing ovation. So it was a deep teaching to me about the power of, and the ways in which, kindness to others can be kindness to yourself.

[00:15:48] This principle holds true in daily life, not just in, you know, fancy conferences. Very often when we just kind of get ourselves out of the picture, not out of becoming a doormat or letting ourselves be abused by other people, but just less preoccupation over here and more interest over there. Well, when we do that, it’s good for them. And frankly, it’s often the best odds way to give yourself the best possible chance of getting good treatment from other people. And if you do operate in this way that I’m describing in which there’s less preoccupation over here and more generosity, more empathy, more compassion over there, it gives you a real test. Because if you operate in that way and they mistreat you still, they’re kind of a jerk about it, wow, you’ve really seen something there, haven’t you, about, you know, the real qualities of that other person.

[00:16:56] So I just want to finish here by saying we have this opportunity many little times a day, large and small, including right now, to make this shift from a kind of contracted, beleaguered, separated struggle with life into a softening and a yielding and an accurate, gobsmacked gratitude at all the many things that are living through us, living as us, carrying us along. It’s a shift. It’s kind of a trust there. You know? Try it and then see what happens when you let yourself in the two senses I’m using here be lived by love, lived both by the caring and compassion, friendliness and kindness, you know, in your heart, and also lived most broadly by the endless generosity, the extraordinary bounty of the arising moment, you know, as a kind of love—Henry Shukman talks about, actually—as a kind of love, an original love, you know, flowing through you as you moment by moment, all the days of your life. We have this opportunity, this giving over to the carrying, cradling of mind and matter. And if we give ourselves over to that cradling of mind and matter that’s inherent in the nature of everything we can then let and we can trust in our own love flowing more freely.

[00:18:36] You know, if you think about living from love in your first encounter with another person, your next encounter with another person, how would that be? All right? What would you do if you were lived by love in appropriate ways? How would you speak? You know? And then if you extend that from that person to the next person, that moment to the next moment, what would that be like? What would it feel like in your body, making it real? What kind of attitudes would you have? What would be the expression in your face? What kind of words would you use? And if that other person was whatever, they didn’t understand you, they were obnoxious, they were dismissive, they dropped the ball, you know, whatever problem might be, OK, if you were loved by love in the ways I’m describing here, what then could be an appropriate response to what meets you in that other person? It’s good to imagine this and to feel, wow, it could actually work. It could actually work to live this way. And who knows, if enough people share in this practice, the world could become a much better place. And I can finish here by just saying, you know, let love’s currents glide you home. Let love’s currents glide you home. May it be so. OK.

[00:20:25] Well, I’m seeing comments and questions here in the chat. I appreciate your kind attention. I feel your caring, your love in a broad sense carrying me along. And I want to really express my gratitude to you for being part of this, your attention, your care, your support. Just showing up, giving me something to do on a Wednesday evening and at least a few people to talk with. Wow. Thank you. That definitely is buoying and carrying for me. All right. So let’s see here. Questions, comments? Many good comments and really sweet. By the way, just to say, I read everything in the chat. I sometimes have to do that after we come to a formal end at 30 minutes past the hour. But I do definitely read everything, so you can always count on the fact that I will have received what you’ve written and I appreciate it. OK. Let’s see here. Questions, comments? Anything? Let’s see, I’m—don’t know what happened here. OK. Well, somebody wrote me. They got bounced. Tom, can you see if you can recover Sarah—and you’ll probably know what I’m talking about—and let her back into the meeting? Something happened that bounced her out. I don’t know what. OK, coming back to you all. Well, thank you for your comments. Very good. All right. Oh, thank you, thank you, kind comments. All right, let’s see. OK, good. OK, good, I think things are working with Sarah. Great. Thank you. Any problems? If you’re lived by love, you know, of course, as Jack Kornfield puts it in the title of his book, After the Ecstasy, The Laundry. Very, very good. OK, that’s great. Wow. Well, so, Cathy. Oh, two things.

[00:22:53] So first, question came in. Can I say a few words about friendship compared to loved, especially in Western culture? It’s a great distinction. I’m using the word love, and I appreciate you letting me do this in a fairly broad, poetic sense, really broadly. But in a way that’s real, you know, in a way that’s real, like, it matters when I’m talking about. And in that broad context, I think there are many aspects of things there is, for example, what Kristin Neff talks about his fierce compassion where part of the ways we express our tender care for the world is we’ve had it up to here about some things and we communicate that. You know, that too can be an expression of love. I personally, you may know this already, the person who asked the question, in the root of the word for loving kindness in Pali, the language of early Buddhism, the root of the word for lovingkindness, Metta, is friendliness. Friendliness. And I’ve really appreciated that because I can get that. I can have a sense of a kind of basic friendliness toward people I don’t know well. I can appreciate those who befriend me. I can appreciate the impact it can really have on someone to be just a little friendly. Right? It doesn’t mean that we’re not aware of our own boundaries, doesn’t mean that we’re getting into a situation that we don’t really want to get into. But a simplicity. I think of these teachings from the Buddha that I’ve quoted before, you may have heard me, that one is truly wise who is peaceable, friendly, and fearless. And that combination, peaceable, friendly, and fearless, friendly right at the heart of it, I think really speaks to a way to be. So I wanted to say that first.

[00:24:46] And then, as Kathy wrote at 7:08 p.m., what do we do when we do share our lovingkindness with another person but they are a jerk in response, over and over again? Very real. Very real. So let’s say a couple of things here. In all this talk about being lived by love and the tenderness in it, the sweetness in it, there’s nothing in that about not seeing clearly. It’s actually through seeing clearly in the ways I was speaking tonight, that we realized the ways in which we are truly lived by love in the sense of the generosity, the arising beneficence of the whole universe rippling through us, as us, now. That’s clear seeing and if we offer friendliness, the hand of friendship, the open hand to another person and they slap it away, recognize it the first time. And you might think to yourself, maybe that’s a one off, or maybe I misunderstood something, or maybe this is just really a bad day to them, bad day for them. But then a second time you do it. Hmm. Two strikes. And maybe two strikes, you’re out, especially if it’s a big deal. Third time they do it, that’s a lesson. That’s what’s going on here. Then you could potentially get into a conversation about trying to repair that with them if you think it’s worth it. And that’s a whole body of material. I’ve written a lot about it. You can go see my program on the strong heart, which really talks about that a lot, that online program. What to do then, if you actually choose to do it. But minimally, for sure, we want to engage clear seeing. And then you decide what to do accordingly, which sometimes means really disengaging. And that’s where we can rest in a kind of universal goodwill. We wish others well. We don’t come from hatred. We don’t come from corrosive, vengeful, you know, grinding acid toward other people, while, you know, keeping our distance if we need to from those beings who would mistreat us.

[00:27:09] The last thing I just want to say about this, which is kind of a weird metaphor that might work for you, is to approach your own good heartedness, your own open and good heart, to approach that as not conditioned on what other people are like. Now, the details of how you express yourself or the kind of relationships you get into with others, the kind of business you do with them, the kind of romance you do or do not have with them, yeah, that does depend on what they do. But the fundamental radiating, the expressing of open heartedness and good heartedness is not contingent on what other people do. It’s not in reference to others. So it’s a little bit like one of these Wi-Fi base stations that’s radiating in all directions. Or you might think about a hot stove, a warm stove, cast iron old time stove that’s radiating heat in all directions. That’s your loving kindness. That’s your friendliness. That’s your goodwill. That’s your recognition of suffering in other people. It’s going in all directions and other people just simply move through that field. Now, based on the details of who those people are, that kind of shapes your interactions with them. But the field is nonspecific and other people can move through it. Of course, you may have very special feelings for people who are special for you. That’s not at odds with what I just said there, but it’s really interesting to kind of shift and to kind of bring the focus back into yourself with regard to the nature of your open heartedness and good heartedness that it’s about what’s within you, not what’s happening with other people. And what’s within you is wishing well in all directions. Hopefully that’s useful. OK.

[00:29:02] Scrolling down, more comments—oh, yeah. Thanks for pointing that out, Tom. All right, Zoom User. I’m going to ask you to unmute and—I’ll take a real person. And by the way, sometimes it’s helpful for me just to stay with the chat, you know, sidebar, but it’s also good to talk with people. All right, Zoom User.

Ana [00:29:24] I didn’t know I was Zoom User. My name is Ana. Thank you very much.

Rick Hanson [00:29:27] Hi Ana.

Ana [00:29:28] Hi. So I love—this is so helpful and soothing tonight. So I’ve been dealing with a very difficult situation, a narrative, family, toxic stuff. And recently it was my brother’s birthday and I had this feeling of instead of feeling sorry for myself about how I’ve been treated, I spontaneously had chocolates delivered to him in another state. You know, DoorDash is amazing for this sort of thing. And I wished him in the birthday card, it was like nothing about the past, it was just, you know, I hope for the deepest desires of your heart to be fulfilled. And it felt so genuine and it put a smile on my face. So it was like, both/and can be true.

Rick Hanson [00:30:12] Yeah.

Ana [00:30:13] He treated me horribly. And I have compassion. And it created—and he responded. He could either flush them down the toilet, but he didn’t. He’s not the type that would flush chocolate down the toilet. Anyway, he did respond, thank you very much. Which is amazing because we’ve really been working on the words just please and thank you in our relationship. My question comes to the other parts of the family. I may be dealing with, like a kind of a narcissistic family system. I just found out indirectly that my aunt’s partner died and my heart wants to send her some flowers. You know? And yet I have fear, you know, of doing it. But I also—I’m trying to find what the question is here, but it’s kind of like I have—at some point, if I just followed my heart, I guess that’s what I would do. And my condolences. And I have to let go of the results of how that is received, I guess, the thing.

Rick Hanson [00:31:13] I think you’re speaking, yeah, you’re nailing it. Yeah.

Ana [00:31:18] It takes, I think, maybe it is just having the courage to let go of my own ego to want anything in return and just do it from a pure sense of condolences. You lost a lifelong partner, here are some beautiful flowers for you, so—

Rick Hanson [00:31:34] Thank you. I think you really spoke to it. So—

Ana [00:31:38] Maybe it is not a question.

Rick Hanson [00:31:39] No, it’s a share. Thank you very much. You walked yourself through it. And I think what you’re saying is really true. I mean, we—often, you know, we make our offering. There are people who’ve treated me really badly, and the ultimate freedom for me about that is to still wish them well while also seeing clearly. And I think we can do both. And a little detail, sometimes we realize that even if it’s a natural and innocent movement of our heart to send a communication or offer a little gift actually for that other person, it’s so unwanted that it would stir up more trouble. So occasionally we still don’t do it. And that’s the judgment call in the practicalities of the real world. But that fundamental principle you articulated for me wonderfully well that, you know, that in other words, are lovingness is not contingent. It’s not constrained by who those other people are. The expression of it might be, you know, skillfully guided one way or another, depending on the details and the history and all the rest of that. But isn’t it great to find that freedom?

Ana [00:32:56] Well, my brother—there was a real—like it put a smile on my face that was lasting. I was great to have with him. But the thing what you said about if they take it and just they’re going to misconstrue it, I can’t control. I guess that’s the judgment call I have to work out. And maybe that’s for the therapy room, then.

Rick Hanson [00:33:14] Oh, no worries. Well, thank you. Thank you, Ana. Great. OK. So I’m happy to respond still to the comments coming in. Let’s see, I’m just going to keep scrolling. Beautiful. So Vica, at 7:09, can you talk about addressing the vulnerability that living by love might bring up? Right? It’s really good. And so first, we can have a fear, understandably, that if we live by love, others will beat us up or we will be less guarded and they’ll take advantage of that. These are all very reasonable things to wonder about. Then what helps to practice with them is to treat it a little bit as I’ve taught, as a dreaded experience. In other words, there’s the fear that if I, let’s say, I’m open, I’m lived by love, I’m kind of heartfelt, warm, touchy feely more than I used to be, let’s say, that somehow it’ll go badly. And then we ask ourselves, will it actually go badly? And if it did go badly, if they took advantage of it, how bad would it feel? Maybe it wouldn’t feel so bad. And maybe actually there would be a blessing in disguise that it would reveal who they are a little bit in ways that would be actually really helpful. And even if it did go badly, which is probably unlikely, and even if it hurt a lot, which also may be unlikely, could I cope with it well? Yeah, I could cope with it well. I could handle it. And I could realize that the risks of not being lived by love are actually greater than the risks of being lived by love, in a sense. The risks of going to our grave, having lived a kind of pinched, contracted, tossed about sort of life, that’s not a, you know, that’s a pretty big risk actually, and a real risk if you can see the lives of many, many people. So that helps me to think about.

[00:35:35] And also it helps to just realize in a funny kind of way, and you have to experience this to for it to be really real for you, but you can do it, when you give over to love, you feel like this amazing power is moving through your heart, like this current, this flow, this wisdom, this energy, this openness. It gives you a kind of protective shield in a sense of—factually, a lot of other people, most people, and if others don’t react this way, that’s a real telling clue about them, but most people, just think about it, when we’re around someone who just sort of radiates good wishes, we tend to relax and calm down and open our own hearts around them, don’t we? Well, when you’re doing that, you can kind of think there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll be able to, you know, get that kind of response from other people, too.

[00:36:36] For me, one of the breakthroughs in my own personal growth journey was to realize that being open and unguarded, undefended, thus vulnerable in some sense, was not actually a weak move in the interpersonal dance. It was actually a strong move to be unguarded. Paradoxically, the person who’s unarmored in the interaction is often in the strongest possible position. And if the other person takes advantage of that, mistreats you? Shields up, Scottie. You know? You can put that armor back on right quick, right quick. And it tells you a lot about that other person. So kind of trusting and the empowerment, the energy, the protection, the strength that flows through you when you’re lived by love can help you be more willing to be loved by it. All right, thank you. OK.

[00:37:40] Let’s see. Scrolling down. Anybody else? Hey, anybody want to—if you push the raise your hand button in the reactions button at the bottom of your Zoom window, maybe one person? Question comment? OK. I see two people. So, Lynn. Lynn, you were in line previously. Monica, I may be not able to get you. I’ll see. So Lynn, I’m going to ask you to unmute and turn on your camera, if you don’t mind.

Lynn [00:38:20] Hi, Rick. Thanks so much for being here. I really appreciate your presence and teaching. My question is pretty much the same as Stephan’s question, which is like how do we establish healthy boundaries, you know, when we are of love and of warmth and vibrating and that higher thing, but the person that you trust or, you know, a loved one, a family member is actually the one that is manipulating you in that sense? And that has happened before, so, you know. And being empathetic is always the answer, but sometimes it can hurt you.

Rick Hanson [00:39:06] Yeah. Well, thank you for that. And Stephan as well. I’ll say first that I’ve—this is a big, big topic and I’ve tried to write about it succinctly and clearly in the two chapters in Resilient, my book on intimacy and courage and I’ve also taught about it in The Strong Heart Program, which is available on scholarship for people who have, you know, limited financial means. So, you know, there’s more there. The short version of this is we have to start with ourselves to help ourselves realize that we have the right to establish healthy boundaries. Just that is half the journey, to really believe that you have the right just to hang up the phone, you have the right to step back, you have the right to end the conversation, you have the right to end a relationship, you have the right to separate your property from their property, your money from their money. You have the right to do these things, and that’s hard for many people to claim. So that’s where we start, a sense that you actually have the right to do this. That’s very important.

[00:40:22] And then in terms of implementing it, it gets kind of interesting. It can help to get ready to implement it if you’re dealing with a difficult person or there’s a lot of enmeshment or entanglement and there’s some work to do to separate boundaries. It can help to prepare for that by talking with some other people, a friend, a coach, a therapist, a teacher. You know, so you kind of get ready. When I needed to get a little more boundaries from my parents when I was a young man, I wrote out things I wanted to say, right, literally. So I kind of knew my lines before I went to talk with them on the telephone. Then when you’re actually there to do it, it helps to, I think, start with some basic things just to know for yourself before you say a word that their thoughts are not necessarily your thoughts. Also, that you—I’ll say it this way—that they are responsible for their experience, just like you are responsible for your experience. As a friend of mine put it to me recently, he was talking to somebody else, I’ll say it this way, in other words, we can say to someone, Oh, I’m sorry, I pushed your buttons, but I did not install them. In other words, I get it, I triggered a reaction in you, but I’m not responsible for that reaction being there. You know? I’m just not. And so that’s a really deep idea to know inside yourself. So inside your own mind, you start getting some separation. That’s often the best place to start. That gets you ready to eventually talk with the other person or take some particular kind of action with them.

[00:42:13] And then in terms of talking with the person, I find it’s really quite helpful after you’ve done this preparation that I’ve described, and maybe you’ve already done it and you’re ready to go, to start with whatever is kind of fundamental for you when you’re talking about a boundary. Like, for example, the language of requests and making agreements is very useful. So I request that you not interrupt me. I won’t interrupt you. I request that you don’t interrupt me. Can we make that agreement with each other? Just the idea that there are two people—that first of all, you have the right to make requests is mind blowing for many people out there in the world. And that’s why it’s important to claim your power to, hey, you’re making a request. You’re not ordering anybody. You’re making a request. And that itself creates some separation, some differentiation between you and them that you can make a request about them. And on your own, you will judge accordingly based on whether they fulfill your request or not. So that.

[00:43:23] Another one is to just have the structure of agreement in which they’re accountable. You’re both accountable, which means they’re accountable, too, right? That often is unwanted by some people, but too bad. You can’t have any relationship of any depth or importance if there is not a mutual willingness to be accountable to each other around reasonable agreements. That’s really fundamental. Anyway, so this line of talking and thinking itself is very useful in terms of establishing boundary.

[00:44:01] And then the last thing I’ll just say as we wrap up here—and I’m so sorry I’m not able to get to the other person—is to know what your bottom line is. What’s your walk away? What’s non-negotiable for you and just, nope? You’re going to—now, maybe you don’t break off all contact with them, but you shrink the relationship. You step back from it, maybe you break up a romantic relationship, maybe you just start seeing them less, maybe you lead a day or two, go by before you reply to their email or their text or their message of some kind. You know? Know what you’re prepared to do if around something important the other person is just not willing to respect your boundary. It would be like, what would you do if a neighbor just kept running into your yard all the time and parking their car, you know, on you? Or just think of another example of people barging into your bedroom. You know? Wait a minute here. My door was closed. Knock before entering. Oh, they didn’t respect that. How would you feel about that? It’s not good. No respect for boundaries is fundamental in healthy, significant relationships. And so it’s helpful to really know for yourself what ultimately you’re prepared to do if they’re just not prepared fundamentally to respect this most basic principle of relationships, which is healthy boundary. You know, what’s mine is mine, what’s yours is yours. It’s not that what’s yours is yours, and what’s mine is also yours. No. It doesn’t work like that. And if you’re with people who just are not willing to keep agreements with you and not willing to cop to admit to their side of things, and there are people who are like that, that tells you a lot about them. And it just means ultimately, especially if you bring it up to them and they start trying to attack you or punish you for very reasonable things or put it all back on you, that’s a real teaching about who they are. And then sometimes you’ve got to raise the stakes to a therapist or a lawyer or something like that, or just see what you’re dealing with and disengage and start focusing on where else you can express what is lived by love flowing through you. Just because you’re being lived by love doesn’t mean you should try to plant roses in a parking lot or corn in the Sahara Desert. You know? If we’re lived by love, we want to plant those seeds on fertile ground that can really appreciate and receive what we’re offering, which is our own, you know, heart and soul and lifeblood. OK.

[00:46:46] So I hope that was useful. We should finish up here. Taking a breath or two or three or more to let things land. I encourage you to think about bringing into practice what I’ve talked about in the week to come.



Dr. Ramani Durvasula is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, and expert on the impact of toxic narcissism. She is a Professor of Psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, and also a Visiting Professor at the University of Johannesburg.

The focus of Dr. Ramani’s clinical, academic, and consultative work is the etiology and impact of narcissism and high-conflict, entitled, antagonistic personality styles on human relationships, mental health, and societal expectations. She has spoken on these issues to clinicians, educators, and researchers around the world.

She is the author of Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist, and Don't You Know Who I Am? How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility. Her work has been featured at SxSW, TEDx, and on a wide range of media platforms including Red Table Talk, the Today Show, Oxygen, Investigation Discovery, and Bravo, and she is a featured expert on the digital media mental health platform MedCircle. Dr. Durvasula’s research on personality disorders has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and she is a Consulting Editor of the scientific journal Behavioral Medicine.

Dr. Stephen Porges is a Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, and Professor Emeritus at both the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland. He is a former president of the Society for Psychophysiological Research and has been president of the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences, which represents approximately twenty-thousand biobehavioral scientists. He’s led a number of other organizations and received a wide variety of professional awards.

In 1994 he proposed the Polyvagal Theory, a theory that links the evolution of the mammalian autonomic nervous system to social behavior and emphasizes the importance of physiological states in the expression of behavioral problems and psychiatric disorders. The theory is leading to innovative treatments based on insights into the mechanisms mediating symptoms observed in several behavioral, psychiatric, and physical disorders, and has had a major impact on the field of psychology.

Dr. Porges has published more than 300 peer-reviewed papers across a wide array of disciplines. He’s also the author of several books including The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation.

Dr. Bruce Perry is the Principal of the Neurosequential Network, Senior Fellow of The ChildTrauma Academy, and a Professor (Adjunct) in the Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago and the School of Allied Health at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. From 1993 to 2001 he was the Thomas S. Trammell Research Professor of Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine and chief of psychiatry at Texas Children's Hospital.

He’s one of the world’s leading experts on the impact of trauma in childhood, and his work on the impact of abuse, neglect, and trauma on the developing brain has impacted clinical practice, programs, and policy across the world. His work has been instrumental in describing how traumatic events in childhood change the biology of the brain.

Dr. Perry's most recent book, What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing, co-authored with Oprah Winfrey, was released earlier this year. Dr. Perry is also the author, with Maia Szalavitz, of The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog, a bestselling book based on his work with maltreated children, and Born For Love: Why Empathy is Essential and Endangered. Additionally, he’s authored more than 300 journal articles and book chapters and has been the recipient of a variety of professional awards.

Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith is a child clinical psychologist who specializes in trauma and issues of race. She earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard and then received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. She performed postdoctoral work at the University of California San Francisco/San Francisco General Hospital. She has combined her love of teaching and advocacy by serving as a professor and by directing mental health programs for children experiencing trauma, homelessness, or foster care.

Dr. Briscoe-Smith is also a senior fellow of Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and is both a professor and the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Wright Institute. She provides consultation and training to nonprofits and schools on how to support trauma-informed practices and cultural accountability.

Sharon Salzberg is a world-renowned teacher and New York Times bestselling author. She is widely considered one of the most influential individuals in bringing mindfulness practices to the West, and co-founded the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts alongside Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein. Sharon has been a student of Dipa Ma, Anagarika Munindra, and Sayadaw U Pandita alongside other masters.

Sharon has authored 10 books, and is the host of the fantastic Metta Hour podcast. She was a contributing editor of Oprah’s O Magazine, had her work featured in Time and on NPR, and contributed to panels alongside the Dalai Lama.

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