I was listening to an interview with the Composer, Phillip Glass, last night and was struck by an answer he gave regarding his own father. After Glass told him that he was marrying a woman outside his faith, his father responded by telling his son that he would no longer be welcome in the family home.
“Time passed,” Glass told the interviewer. “And my father slowly began to speak to me again.” There was no bitterness in Glass’ voice, no recrimination, just an acceptance of the situation. He went on to say that as he grew older, he began to understand his father’s thoughts and reactions.
Phillip Glass has spent his life immersed in music and the arts. He seemingly took the path that he wanted and at the same time, there is a sense that he was still able to pay attention to others. His interest and study of meditation and yoga has informed this understanding and it appears to have allowed him to cultivate understanding and compassion for those he loves.
I started to think about how many couples often struggle to let go of past hurt and hard feelings. As wounds grow deeper and weaken our capacity to see things clearly, it ends up hardening us towards those we love. The relationship therefore becomes a constant battle rather than a place of care and solace.
Cultivating understanding is no easy task. It isn’t a matter of trying harder to feel more compassion and empathy towards our partner; we are bound to fail at some point, irrespective of how much we try. Learning to connect with our feelings allows us to understand what those feelings are; no matter how difficult these feelings are. Accepting our feelings and allowing them to be known gives us the platform to communicate better with those we love and with the added bonus of not overreacting!
Phillip Glass is 78 years old. This tells me just how protracted a process this can be. How long it takes to try, get it wrong, try again, fail again and then start to get it right bit by bit. The beginning point seems, to me, to lie within our own acceptance and compassion for ourselves and allows these feelings to transcend out to those around us.