I'm not sure if everyone would think it's "ok" to just cut and paste from someone else's blog comments, but I really think in this situation I would be forgiven for it. It's a really beautiful passage, and even the person who posted it was quoting someone else. So I guess that makes it ok.
It reminds me of something I read in Science a couple of years ago: The old adage about "sticks and stones" isn't really true. When they put people in PET machines, and the people were inflicted with either verbal injury (e.g., insults) or physical pain, the same areas of the brain lit up for pain. (there were minor differences, but those were due to sensory modalities) Ever since I read that, I've been trying to be more mindful of things that I could say to hurt people, like cussing in public. I never really cared before because I figured whoever couldn't handle the f-bomb was a prude, it's just a word after all. but if it's going to strike a cord with someone, and it really doesn't hurt me not to say it, then maybe I just shouldn't.
In a relationship between two people, there will obviously be difficulties. We cannot avoid it. When the other makes an internal formation in us, we suffer, and we blame the other. But when we make the other suffer, we may not know that we have made the other suffer, or that we are making the other suffer. All we can see is the actions and the words of the other, which make us suffer, and we cannot see our own actions and words that make the other suffer.
That is the truth, we are all like that.
When the other makes us suffer, we know it. We know that that action, those words made us suffer. Because we are clumsy, lacking mindfulness, we will have made the other suffer without knowing it. Therefore, the best way to act is to sit down together frequently, to have tea together, or just sit together, and ask the other, "These past days, have I, out of forgetfulness or clumsiness, done something to make you suffer?" This is important. This is what we call "Beginning Anew" in Plum Village. If possible, we should practice this every week. Even if nothing has happened, even if there is no friction in our family, we should still, at least once, sit down together, and when we are sitting together we can practice watering flowers, help each other to see clearly, and shine light on each other as behavior.
First of all, we practice watering the flower.
Watering the flower means that we sit with the other, we recognize the positive things about the other person, and we mention them. If the other person is fresh, is patient, is tolerant, has talents and skills, we have to say, "IÂm so happy when I see these qualities in you." That is called watering the flowers. Watering the flowers is like giving a present, bringing happiness to the person you love very quickly. The person you love is a flower. That flower can give us freshness, and happiness, and when we have a flower, we have to look after it, water it. Whatever positive qualities this person has, we should recognize them and mention them.
--Thich Nhat Hanh
I don't know if I would actually literally say to someone, "Have I made you suffer" just like that, but I like the concept of trying to be so mindful of how we effect others, and how little we know about what is going on in other people's minds and hearts.
I don't really think I'm very good at "watering flowers," but it doesn't really seem too difficult, so maybe I'll start trying.
But just a little bit. I hate it when people do over-kill on stuff like that and it ends up not being genuine. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. I guess that would be like over-watering your plants.
That's not the way I'm not good at flower-watering. I more like put them in the direct sun or something. I complain a lot instead of looking at the half-fullness sometimes. E.g., bitching at Wes because he doesn't live here. Did you do that Katie? Maybe you're more civilized than me. but long distance sucks. How did y'all manage? I guess it's always something to work with... When we live in the same place, having a relationship will still be work. I always try to remind myself of that. I should count me blessings and water some flowers.