The rainbow within
(almost a recension)
Sometimes it happens that the universe gives birth to extraordinary impulses, which are of such a nature that in them, in a wonderful and amazing way, ideas and inspiration come together to form a meaningful whole, which until a short time before – although clever in themselves and nevertheless fascinating – existed rather separately from each other in different places.
One such gem I found when I was reading the book “Spiritually Sassy” (Sounds True, USA, 2020) by the queer PoC/Buddhist author Sah D’Simone, who through his multi-faceted life – similar to the personalities Rudyard Kipling, Robert A. Heinlein, and Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart that I exemplify in my “History of Polyamory” [Parts 1 | 2 | 3 | 4] – has also become a “human bridge” between different realms of experience.
Especially regarding my Oligoamory, I have therefore rediscovered some exciting “old acquaintances” in Sah D’Simone’s thoughts and suggestions, which for me were put into a comprehensible context from the author’s spiritual perspective in a way that was as refreshing as it was once again thought-provoking.
Especially the keyword “spiritual” I myself just emphasized once again in Entry 79, but also Buddhism (e.g. Entry 74), wholeness (Entry 57), our queerness (Entry 65), time and again the balancing between commitment and freedom (Entries 7+8 among others), the obstacles within ourselves (e.g. Entries 21, 26 or 35), therefore also failure and retrying (Entries 22 / 77 / 78), as well as the importance of our striving for self-awareness (Entry 46).
I like the approach and the “thematic fusion” by Sah D’Simone so much because he succeeds in a good way to invite us to understand and accept our human weaknesses, he thereby celebrates in an extraordinarily comforting manner the journey of our many small (not always goal-oriented) steps as nevertheless meaningful – and at the same time he spreads initiative and “get-out-of-the-broom-closet”-mentality with incredible joy of life.
Regarding polyamorous (clearly: and oligoamorous) multiple relationship management, I noticed this most strongly when I held the age-old recurring question, “Why am I not succeeding?” in the rainbow glow of his book. [Once again for clarification: “Spiritually Sassy” is NOT a Polyamory book at all but rather spiritual self-help literature; however, anyone who is concerned with ethical multiple relationships and has no reservations about wisdom from a queer-spiritual perspective in this regard will nevertheless discover a treasure trove].
In the narrowest sense, I would summarize Sah D’Simones’ statement as follows:
You can lead a successful life if you manage to live at peace with yourself.
If I raise this to the relationship level, the statement might be:
You can experience yourself in successful relationships if you manage to live at peace with yourself.
So simple, huh?
Or so complicated.
In his book Sah D’Simone explains in a very touching way that we are mostly rather seldom at peace with ourselves – and consequently we re-experience this discontent in everything we do out of it and thus of course also in our environment.
Fortunately, he clears up in almost the same breath with many of the well-known “healing recipes” – such as the well-known call to work on one’s own “oneness”. About himself he describes in addition:
»As beautiful as this truth is, it doesn’t translate very well to the modern world. In fact, there are a lot of differences among us. I believe that everyone is “one”. Despite all the lip service paid to ‘oneness’, society does not treat many of its members as if we are all one. To many it says every day: you are different, you are bad, you are wrong, you are unworthy. Living in such an unjust world and blindly believing in oneness is at best a lie, and at worst denying the everyday reality of our world. Yeah okay, one love. But I was depressed as hell, bitch! Will your oneness get me out of bed? Oneness is not on my side when I walk into a room as the only non-white, queer body, when, before I even open my mouth, non-verbal ideas and prejudices about me – which have a genuine effect on my reality – come my way.«
In Entry 65, I, Oligotropos, characterize our lifestyle of ethical non-monogamy as queer. So when we “multiple relationship handlers” interact in any context, the experience described above is not so far fetched. Especially not when we are trying to establish or maintain our relationships.
Because what are we trying to do there? We are trying to join others in community – but easily forget that our counterparts are similarly manifold 20-, 30-, 40- or 50-year-olds as we are ourselves – already filled with their own life experiences, a specific complex history (which we also claim for ourselves), full and independent living beings, that is, who hope for the same degree of respectful or at least attentive approach to themselves as we also wish for ourselves.
According to Sah D’Simone, however, we meet each other rather rarely in a completely attentive and peaceful way (within ourselves, mind you!). Therefore, providing attention and respect, as well as receiving it ourselves, is far more a matter of luck than something we naturally care about. This is where the author wants to start and encourage readers to find freedom of thought, feeling and action. Not to a freedom proclaimed on the outside: “Look how free I am, I do (only) what is good for me…”, but to a real liberation within ourselves:
»The key to freedom? Awareness. Especially today, when we hardly switch off, we live without any awareness of our actual self. This leads us to react to life in a completely disproportionate manner, to get out of balance in many different ways. Caught in a non-stop cycle of feeling-thinking-reacting, we have no room at all to deal with life (our feelings, relationships, ourselves) in any appropriate way.«
When I read these sentences and think about my relationships, but especially about past failed attempts to initiate a relationship, I get the impression that someone there comprehends me quite well…
Looking at his own fate, Sah’ D’Simone has come to the conclusion that when we are in such a state, we are in most cases no longer really “ourselves”.
“Self-awareness” therefore must be obtained, as I also regularly promote on this bLog. In Sah D’Simone’s words:
»If your life doesn’t exactly match with what you know as your self and what you know deep down is your potential, you are not alone in this. Life is hard! Being human is hard! Being with other humans is hard! Sometimes it’s one long obstacle course. And an emotional disaster – all this heartache and desperate attempts to come to terms with our inner world while we expose ourselves to the outside world. No wonder we lose ourselves or go astray. No wonder we teach ourselves to hide. No wonder we avoid real contact. The world out there can be pretty scary!«
Sah D’Simone then describes what we perceive as scary in terms of an image of our “inner garden,” where seeds of insecurity, doubt, shame, and guilt – constantly introduced from the outside – try to germinate and grow up. While our heart recognizes our garden as it is meant to be, our mind only looks at what grows in it and this is – as long as we have not yet become good “inner gardeners” – predominantly worrying and leads to more and more “weeds”, which we thus even multiply ourselves.
To clarify what our “heart” recognizes but the mind merely “sees”, the author explains that there is a difference between “desire” and “need” that we usually blur completely unconsciously in everyday life:
»The mind is controlled by desire. It constantly wants to have something, constantly wants to consume in order to feel better. It cannot accept the changeability of things. It is insecure and longs for confirmation, attention and distraction. […] The heart, on the other hand, has needs that oppose desire. While desire gives us short-term pleasures or satisfactions, needs are things we cannot live without, especially because with each need that is met, the way is paved to a happier inner garden.«
From his own queerness, the author has thus derived an active approach to this:
»’Spiritual Sassyness’ is all about honoring your uniqueness, your authentic self. Spiritual teachers will tell you that we are all one. But if you enter a room and you visibly differ from everyone else there, and the world outside feels unsafe and dismissive of your otherness, then Oneness can feel truly very wrong. Anyway, that was absolutely my experience. Usually by ‘to differ we mean ‘being different’, even if we express it positively. You can only ‘be different’ if you are viewed from the mainstream point of view (white, cis, heteronormative). So even if Oneness may be a nice idea, the world we live in today is not ready for it. If you feel like you have to break down walls before you can feel a minimal sense of security or belonging, then the idea of ONE-ness feels just wrong. […] Instead, I call for a celebration of otherness: celebrate your unique magic, because you came into the world to share it with us. Your magic will set you free.«
For this literal “coming out“, Sah D’Simone encourages us to once again explicitly deal with our own self-history, to look closely at what belongs “to our own garden” in terms of its essence – and what has gradually found its way into it from the outside, what has meanwhile perhaps overgrown what we are actually meant to be.
Similar to the neuroscientist Gerald Hüther, whom I occasionally quote on this bLog, he points to the persisting plasticity of our minds as a starting point for always being able to bring about change in beliefs and habits.
However, since he also knows the power of our inner critic (who often comes in the disguise of our “weaker self”), he recommends entering into a kind of regular internal dialogue with this part of our personality.
Of course, as a Buddhist, Sah D’Simone also has no qualms regarding the principle of forgiveness – but I know that for me, Oligotropos, this is regularly a hurdle when I turn to my past and former self-history. In my opinion, D’Simone succeeds very well in elaborating at this point that he is not concerned here with a gesture towards former perpetrators, but rather with an attitude that is entirely in the spirit of our own authentic self and serves to restore our original “garden”:
»We all know the effects of trauma and forgiveness is the antidote. I know that sounds simple. In fact, we can realize a deep connection to our heart and essence when we learn to forgive those who have hurt us and those we have hurt, and forgive ourselves for how we have handled ourselves in moments of confusion. We are biologically designed to seek close continuing relationships. So how can we pursue this basic need if we are stuck in our traumatic memories that replay as an infinite loop in our minds?«
Spoiler: “Trigger” D’Simone considers quite similar, by the way – which I think is a pretty thought, because what triggers me has actually a root in me somewhere, too…
In my opinion, the book has its greatest hour when it comes to creating and uncovering the respective “true” self-story that really belongs to us – in fact, in combination with the discovery of our respective spiritual “superpower”.
As already indicated above, when the author speaks of “one’s own magic,” he enters an area that the nonviolent communicator Marshall Rosenberg had already addressed a quarter of a century ago. D’Simone’s point, however, is that we are not just “heroes in our own movie“, but in fact – because of our uniqueness – we all possess inherent talents or “superpowers” with which we can contribute to a better world. Here he indirectly emphasizes that in this way a preoccupation with one’s own self is by no means a mere “end in itself,” but is in fact in harmony with a beneficial influence on a larger whole [quite similar to the reflections of the British philosopher Anthony Ashley Cooper, whom I quote in “Meaningful Relationships – Part 3” – Entry 64].
Leaving one’s own comfort zone, leaving one’s own broom closet, and going in search of one’s own multicoloured magnificence are thus not mere queer premises for the author Sah D’Simone, but rather the key to successful (relationship) life in general.
By making an effort to gradually expose our fears and deficiencies, to understand how much we have made them our own in our thinking (thus, as it were, cultivating and nurturing them in our personal heart garden with our mind), there is a good chance to gradually withdraw the dominance of these “weeds”. In this way, peace can also spread again in our heart’s garden.
At the end of his book, D’Simone therefore addresses his readers:
»No matter where you are, my dear: you belong. If the place you are in is not where you would like to be, ask yourself what is to learn there and make a plan for the future without getting lost in the self-doubt of your mind. Turn to your heart and listen to the voice that believes in you. […]
When you realize that your heart is the place where you have always belonged, and that you find a true home there, everything changes. When you understand that there are no dangers lurking here and you begin to feel at home in your body, you also realize that you belong here on earth; we belong and are deeply connected in this human experience.«
“Belonging” is also what Oligoamory has been about since Entry 5. At the end of Entry 55, I wrote in addition:
»Personally, one of the great challenges of ethical multiple relationships in my opinion is to maintain different relationships without compartmentalizing the other parties involved (splitting them into separate features). To achieve this, all those involved need precisely the curiosity and the courage to become acquainted with their “inner diversity”, i.e. their contrasts, their heterogeneity, their irregularities, their bewilderment and their spheres of tension, and to accept that it is also from this diversity that the ingredients emerge which transform a multiple relationship into “more than the sum of its parts”.
Thus, a multiple relationship could, at some point, become a living image of this “choir of our multiple inner voices”, which eventually defines each and every one of us as “us”…«
Sah D’Simone: Thank you for showing me once again why this is so important.
Thanks to Jason Leung on Unsplash for the photo!