Soong and Alice are both in their late thirties, and have been married for 10 years. They have two young boys aged 6 and 4. They live a fairly comfortable life in one of Brisbane’s leafy inner-city suburbs, with a nice new home on a decent sized block of land. Alice is a stay-at-home mum, while Soong is a Physiotherapist and one of three partners in a nearby physiotherapy clinic. He is well regarded by the patients, staff and the other partners. The practice keeps growing, so three months ago they had hired another physiotherapist, Rebecca. She is a vivacious and attractive single woman in her late twenties. She and Soong get along remarkably well, and Soong is in effect her supervisor. However, even Soong can feel that there is some chemistry bubbling between him and Rebecca. The flirting is still harmless and good fun, but if he is honest, he does feel attracted to her, and he is fairly sure that she is also interested in taking it further. In fact when he thinks about it, she is exactly the sort of person with whom he could see himself having a passionate, fulfilling relationship.
If you were Soong, what happens next?
The untrained mind’s response
Well, if you are the timid type, then nothing. You amuse yourself with these feelings for a while, quite happy to continue the status quo, but certainly have no courage to take it any further. Besides, you know full well what’s at stake here. Apart from the horrible and real spectre of a sexual harassment lawsuit if you are entirely mistaken about Rebecca’s feelings, you do still very much also care for Alice and the children. And you know that it would crush Alice if you went ahead with this and she found out. In fact you are fairly sure that were she to find out, your marriage will end. You can’t even begin to imagine the guilt you would feel if that happens, and the trauma it would cause the children. At the same time, you just feel so much more alive and yourself when you are around Rebecca. You know that some of your married friends have had affairs and pretty much got away with it. And they keep telling you how much fun the experience was.
So unable to resist, unable to desist, you resign yourself to being miserable and grumpy. You feel like a sore, tied down loser. And if you are the daredevil type, then Oh boy, aren’t you in the soup. It’s the itch that won’t go away – you just have to scratch, don’t you?
A trained mind’s response
You contemplate. You remember the technique from Week 8 of the Mindbody Mastery program, and out of nowhere, it hits you like a bolt of lightning, that you can actively use the Contemplation technique in this situation. So you quieten your breath, and then your mind. You then bring to your mind all the things in your present life for which you are truly, deeply grateful. You see Alice, the children, the good times you have had with them, the good times you will have with them, the house, the practice, in fact your entire identity in a sweeping glance, and you silently say “thank you very much”. You then bring to mind Rebecca and all that she represents. You realize that deep down, you are grateful for her presence in your life. After all, she has re-introduced a feeling of freedom that you may have lost in your responsibilities. And it’s also nice to feel that someone else might be attracted to you. But you also then realize that perhaps part of the problem is that your wife doesn’t express these feelings to you as much as she used to. You also realize that in honesty it’s true that you also don’t express these feelings to her much more.
With this realization, you then ask your mind the question, “what can I gain out of pursuing a relationship with Rebecca, and how do I feel about losing what I have in order to gain it”? The answers come as feelings, which you can identify – perhaps a feeling of discomfort and unease that overshadows the feeling of thrill when you think of Rebecca (or perhaps it is the other way round). But then you realize full well like a light just went on, that the heart of this matter is that you are missing the feeling of being free from responsibilities and commitments. It’s not that you don’t want to be with Alice, or necessarily to be with Rebecca, you just want to feel “free” and attractive.
You then contemplate further, “what can I do in my life to find that feeling of freedom?” Nothing further comes to mind in that session so you let it go. But three days later you are reading a magazine and you see an advertisement of a luxury retreat that invites people to come by themselves just to have a week’s holiday, with a good measure of health and wellness treatments, nice food, and time to be yourself thrown in.. you think to yourself, “I could do with a bit of that, and so could Alice”. And what the heck, the kids are old enough that your parents can look after them for a few days so that you and Alice can both go somewhere nice, just enjoying each other’s company. Either way, you find an easy determination gradually taking shape within you to stick with what you have. And the next day at work, you notice that when you see Rebecca again, THAT edgy feeling is not there. It’s gone. You now look at her as a colleague. You do still feel that she IS an attractive woman, but you don’t feel the need to DO anything about it.
A master mind’s response
You straightaway notice that heady feeling when you are around Rebecca, and you smile. You welcome this vivacious fellow human into your life, and say silent thanks for her presence. You intuitively already know that this is the person that is to be your true life partner, and years of meditation practice and experience have convinced you that your intuition is pretty well on the mark. But yet you have a keen sense of your “dharma” –the complex web of responsibilities you have to the people around you. And you are determined to uphold them – primarily your responsibility to Alice and your children. There is no question of cheating on Alice – that violates the path of truth and integrity, and you will have no bar of that. You are also aware of your responsibilities as a partner in the physiotherapy practice, to Rebecca, to your other partners, and the practice staff. Clearly, the situation is complex.
So you contemplate – “what is the course of action that will lead to the best outcome for all parties and cause the least distress to all?” But no immediate answers arise. So you persist with the contemplation after your daily meditation practices. You know and trust the universe’s way of doing things – all things in their own good time. The uncertainty doesn’t bother you very much, and you have infinite patience. Weeks and indeed months go by with no discernible change in the situation. You still feel the attraction towards Rebecca, but you don’t feel compelled to do anything about it. Interestingly, this attraction to her is not at the expense of your feelings for Alice or the children. That part of your life is still as great as can be. Even though it’s an unresolved situation that would pull apart many others, and still no clear answers emerge from your contemplation, you are comfortable with that. You understand that this is the universe’s way of saying “do nothing yet”, and you don’t feel the need to push matters.
As it happens, years go by. One day you find yourself milling about at the national physiotherapists’ conference. The children are grown up and on their own paths now. Alice and you have also gone your separate ways. It was a rather amicable separation. It was a very happy family and household as the kids grew up. You didn’t do anything about the Rebecca situation and she eventually moved on from your practice, and out of your life. The kids left home some years ago and Alice and you gradually, gently, also drifted apart. You had both known for some time, that your time together was up. And after awkwardly stumbling around the elephant in the room for some months, one day you both just burst out laughing. Tears followed, and you expressed your deep gratitude to Alice for all the wonderful memories she had given you. She said much the same, and added that amongst other things, she admired your courage and honour for sticking with the marriage and the kids despite your obvious attraction to Rebecca all those years ago … so she knew all along!
You are walking along to the plenary session of the conference (you haven’t been to one of these for ages now), and you hear a familiar laugh. Your heart skips a beat. You look and yes, there she is. It’s Rebecca! Time has been kind to her. She looks radiant. Your eyes meet and a smile lights up her face. You hear distant strains of your favourite Eagles song, “hopeless romantics, here we go again..”