Tuesday, March 10, 2020

FOEE: Fear of Enjoyment Ending

I don’t listen well sometimes. Not to others and not to my self.

Lessons from different teachers, seekers…and YouTube videos…that I’ve been exposed to have led me to believe that there are three voices: the internal voice – the voice of Self; the external voice -  other people, the World beyond the Self; and, the voice of Now - something rather ultimate and all-pervasive. When the internal and external voices are in conflict, we are in conflict. When we listen more in balance to all three voices, we are more balanced...more in alignment. And alignment is enjoyable.

As we experience alignment, it becomes difficult to be out of alignment. As we experience enjoyment, we can notice when things are in contrast to enjoyment, and the lack of enjoyment becomes uncomfortable.

Enjoyment can be any type of happiness (perhaps the act of creating, or experiencing beauty, or exercise, or being in nature...) and despite the discomfort we experience from its lack, we often have a strange resistance to it...to allowing ourselves to think thoughts, and say words, and do things that bring enjoyment. We are resistant to enjoyment. I would suppose out of fear of its stopping. Fear of enjoyment ending, or FOEE (pronounced foo-ee).

Yet one of the only collective certainties is change. So how can one fully enjoy the experience of…experiencing…if we know that everything is temporary? How does one enjoy change?

Attachment to permanence is a major source of my resistance. I have felt it much of my life. I have been a longtime sufferer, not yet fully recovered, of FOEE.

My wanting to 'hold on' to good-feelingness - or good-feeling moments - is likely the root of my anxiety. A result of not yet having the tools to allow the enjoyment of things even with the awareness that 'this too shall pass'. I have always hated that phrase.

Is this what the Buddhists and Hindus and others mean when they say to avoid attachments?

This past Wednesday, I interviewed Diane Rehm, who I have listened to on the radio since I was a kid on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show. It was an honor. The evening was with diverse guests at the Arts Club of Washington, and centered around her newest book: When My Time Comes.

While preparing for the interview, I remembered that she had spoken at American University while I was a student there. It was the 2007 Commencement Address for the College of Arts and Sciences. I wasn’t graduating that year. But even though I did not see the speech live, I was able to look it up in the university’s online archives, and watch it. It is a beautiful speech.

One of the things Diane talks about in the speech is how she became a listener, which had to do with her upbringing as the daughter of Arab immigrant parents who did not support her receiving an education. She was told she was not supposed to ask questions. So she listened to others…teachers, friends, her husband…she learned from listening. And synchronistically she became able to ask lots questions…and allow millions of people every day to listen along with her.

We can listen too much to external voices (news, other people), to the point that it becomes our only focus, and we can forget to care about how we feel. We can forget to nourish the self, and forget the importance of enjoying, mystery and wonder.

A thought came to me this evening while lying in bed. I felt concerned about my own questioning of whether there was still magic left in the world (and whether I should change my Facebook ‘religion status’, which since 2007 has said: “I believe in magic”). I have been tired lately, but a voice that seemed different from my questioning thoughts said, "There is plenty of magic in the world. The world is magic. None if it, however, is permanent."

So my focus lately has been on enjoying things even while aware of impermanence, even while knowing there is contrast in the world. Knowing that we – and our experience of the world – are always in motion.

We affect others with how we feel, because how we feel affects how we think and what we say and do… Our reality is a result of where our attentions are focused. 

We often focus on how others make us feel. Boundaries are a consistent challenge.

But boundaries can be a tool for allowing ourselves to enjoy moments more. We need them not only to protect our physical bodies at times, but also our emotional states – to listen to our inner voice. The better we feel the better those we engage with feel. Healthy boundaries for ourselves allows for self nourishment, and for others to have their own healthy boundaries.

After a wonderful conversation last Wednesday, including with the audience, the evening needed to wrap up. I ended the program with Diane Rehm by quoting her words from the 2007 AU Commencement speech:
“I believe each one of us can achieve progress, one relationship at a time, by quieting our inner voices of disagreement, of competitiveness, and attempts at one-upsmanship. We honor then, the voice of the speaker. The act of listening itself becomes an expression of generosity and compassion, which can lead to the creation of a new and more harmonious society. True listening is a form of spiritual hospitality by which we open ourselves to the ideas of others…we invite strangers to become friends, and friends to become even better friends.”
Even if we do not listen as much, or to as many and varied others, as Diane, we can still be more aware that listening is respect.

I wish more and more often, that more and more of us, will be more and more respectful of one another; that we can receive respect, and know that our sense of sovereignty does not require us to always assert - to dominate or seek power over another. Our sovereignty is what allows us to listen to others, and to respect others.

We are allowed to experience enjoyment. (There is relief from FOEE.) And we can enjoy any and all good-feelingness without needing permanence.

Knowing that we are always creating with our thoughts and our words and our questions… Listening  creates more respect for own experiences, and for those of others.

I’ve been trying to listen better to my internal and external voices. My body seems to want a better balance of the two. Perhaps more enjoyment and less anxiety. It’s been telling me to take care of it, to rest more, observe more. Listening to my Self actually allows me to better listen to others. My mother often says “listen to your body…your body is wise, and it always wins if you ignore it”.

I have been listening to my mother more and more.