return to principle
ONE DAY I WAS TALKING to a friend of mine,
Martin, and when the conversation started, I had my intention
clearly in mind I wanted to cultivate closeness with him.
But somehow we got on the subject of evolution and Martin said,
"Evolution is just a theory. There are a lot of holes in
it." Martin is a devout Catholic.
Evolution happens to be one of my favorite
topics of study. I know about the Creationists arguments against
Darwinism and why their arguments are wrong. I know about the
eye evolving seventeen separate times with many fundamentally
different designs. I know about the 200 species observed to evolve
in laboratory experiments and in the wild. And so on. So I made
a passionate and detailed argument that would prove to the most
ignorant buffoon that evolution is one of the most well-established
facts in the whole field of science!
In other words, my intention to be closer
went out the window and trying to be right became my dominant
Later I was thinking about it and recognized
the obvious: our conversation hadn't brought us any closer. I'd
gotten off track. My strong feelings about evolution derailed
my intention to cultivate closeness. I lost my focus.
I came back to him and said, "One
of the things I most dislike about religious people is when they
become self-righteous, as if they know the only truth and everyone
else is wrong, but in our conversation, I was the one being self-righteous
and you weren't. I'm sorry."
This is not to say that some subjects are
off limits in fact, talking about something you feel strongly
about can bring you closer. It depends on your intention.
Relationships can evoke emotions. If a
relationship didn't evoke much emotion, it wouldn't be much of
a relationship, would it? The problem is, when a negative emotion
is evoked, other purposes sneak in besides closeness. Wanting
to be right, for example.
There are other things besides strong emotion
that can get you sidetracked from your intention to cultivate
closeness. You have a natural desire to be liked by others, for
example. We all do. But that's not the same as the intention
to be close. The desire to be liked encourages you to hide things
about yourself, creating distance rather than closeness.
Wanting to be liked by others generates
anxiety when interacting with people. The intention to be closer
usually makes you feel calmer. Feeling connected is relaxing.
Other intentions that interfere with cultivating
closeness are trying to manipulate someone's emotions, trying
to convince them of something, or trying to persuade them to
When you notice one of these other intentions
coming up, you only need to notice it and get back on track.
Let's recap. There are four intentions
that will naturally arise that will displace your intention to
cultivate closeness. You need to watch out for them and keep
bringing yourself back to cultivating closeness. The four intentions
are the desire to:
Manipulate others' emotions
Convince or persuade
These intentions will take you away from
closeness. And they will generate tension. Closeness is relaxing.
Pay attention to how relaxed you are. When you notice
tension, find out if your intention has changed and if it has,
renew your intention to cultivate closeness. This is The Way.
You'll make mistakes. You'll drift into
other intentions. Just notice when it happens and bring yourself
back to your intention to be closer. Consider this process a
sort of "spiritual discipline." Like the process of
meditation. Make up your mind you will try to keep this intention
uppermost in your mind. Notice when it has been replaced by a
lesser intention, and bring your heart back to cultivating closeness.
Over and over again. Without being frustrated by your lack of
consistency simply recognizing this as the human condition
and without ever expecting yourself to master it and move
on to something else. Think of this as a lifelong discipline.
Always and forever overcome the natural impulses that pull you
away from connecting with others and reestablish your intention
to be closer.
You don't have to be perfect at this. Anything
you do is better than it would have been. Just keep trying and
you'll get better at it. Over time, your intention to get closer
to people will become more natural and less easily taken off
Principle Number Two:
Stay focused on your intention to cultivate closeness.