Tag Archives: What It Looks Like



I actually wrote yesterday’s post before I read What It Looks Like by Marta Maranda. In that book, I read a few lines Maranda wrote about acceptance which much better express what I was getting at when I wrote

I get accepting oneself as one is. I get forgiving oneself for what one has done in the past. But releasing ALL concepts that one should be ANYTHING but what one is? That seems like a little much.

This is what Maranda says about acceptance:

…acceptance is not an opportunity to be dismissive. It does not mean you escape responsibility for your actions. And it is not a justification for future inaction, or a way to disregard the lesson that must be learned. (p. 334)

So, yes, we should accept ourselves and each other as we are, but that doesn’t mean we should quit trying to be better people.

I accept that I’ve made mistakes in the past and realize I can’t change what I’ve already done. However, I can change what I do in the future. It’s not enough simply to hope I don’t make the same mistakes again. I’m gonna have to work at it.

Coming Back


[amazon template=image&asin=0985781408]Of everything I read in Marta Maranda’s book What It Looks Like (of which I’ve written before), the concept that gave me the most hope was that of “coming back.”

Maranda introduces the concept first in terms of her meditation practice. She writes of times during meditation when she “simply cannot quiet [her] mind.” She recounts asking the facilitator at a group meditation session “how many minutes out of his daily sitting was he where he wanted to be.” His answer was not one of minutes.

He said there are times–after work, the kids, bills to pay, and chores to do–when just making it to his cushion at the end of the night was the strongest part of his practice. He explained that it is the “coming back” that defines any process. It is coming back to your cushion to meditate when you would rather sit on the sofa and watch television. It is coming back to breath number one after a thought or feeling, once again, interrupted you before you had reached breath number ten. It is coming back to being an observer after you attached too long to a thought or feeling you should have let pass. (p. 338)

The next words written by Maranda are the ones that really hit me.

And it is coming back to your commitment to living an honorable, compassionate, and forgiving life after you reacted to something or someone in a dishonorable, angry, or vengeful way. Every errant step gives us another chance to come back to love, healing, and truth. (p.338)

Maranda writes more about the idea of “coming back” and how that idea relates to enlightenment.

Ironically, the concept of “coming back” is essential to enlightenment. Most imagine enlightenment to be the ultimate goal. One that, once achieved, transforms a human being into a perfected one free of all anger, fear, pain, ego, judgment, and difficulties, who lives his life in complete surrender, and radiates pure love and truth…However in his book After the Ecstasy, the Laundry, Jack Kornfield explains, “There is no such thing as enlightened retirement.” (p. 338-339)

Maranda goes on to quote Jack Kornfield:

Enlightenment does exist. It is possible to awaken. Unbounded freedom and joy, oneness with the Divine, awakening into a state of timeless grace–these experiences are more common than you know, and not far away. There is one further truth, however: They don’t last. Our realizations and awakenings show us the reality of the world, and bring transformation, but they pass… (p. 339)

Maranda wraps up her thoughts on “coming back” by writing

With awareness comes the realization that there are times of deep compassion, great wisdom, boundless joy, and ultimate freedom that coexist with times of fear, pain, struggle, and brokenness. By refusing to acknowledge and address the shadow that accompanies life, we never receive the gift it yearns to give us. The physical world, with all its pain and problems, is not here to thwart our enlightenment, but to strengthen it. With every satori, or enlightenment experience, we come back and hone what we’ve learned against the challenges in our lives and in the world: we come back to show others what love, healing, and truth look like in a world of anger, pain, and dysfunction. (p. 340)

This idea of “coming back” has really encouraged me, given me hope. I’ve often thought that if I’m not always a 100% perfect person, then I’m not a good person. When I get to a place of serenity, I can maintain it for a while, but I tend to slide back into gossip; petty, snarky thoughts and comments; irritation with friends and strangers,; general grumpiness; lack of gratitude; and jumping to ugly little conclusions about people. I thought all these negative ways of reacting to people meant I was a bad person with a negative attitude, but maybe these negative reactions mean I’m just a human person trying to live in this really fucked-up society that we call home.

I think the answer is NOT to think, Oh well, I’m human. We live in a fucked up world. I am what I am. Can’t change now. I think the answer is in this idea of coming back. Maybe the better thought process is I didn’t handle that situation the way I wanted to. What can I do better next time I find myself in a similar situation? How do I make amends for what I did?

The idea of coming back means my life is not an all or nothing proposition. It means I don’t have to see myself as a bad person just because I didn’t act or react the way I wanted too. I can still see myself as a good person, even after a failure, as long as I come back to the thoughts and behaviors that define the person I want to be. [amazon template=image&asin=0553378295]

Unconditional Love


[amazon template=image&asin=0985781408]I finished reading What It Looks Like by Marta Maranda in April, and have shared some of her ideas that I found helpful. Today, I am sharing some of her thoughts on unconditional love.

But the chance is far greater that you’ll find someone who will insist that you “take me as I am,” rather than “take me as I am right now…”

More often than not, when one speaks of unconditional love it has nothing to do with how he feels about you, but how he wants you to feel about him and the dysfunctions he has no desire to heal. However, unconditional love does not mean unconditional acceptance. While you can feel compassion for one’s trauma and pain, you cannot accept dysfunctional ways of suppressing or managing them. If you do, you are not loving unconditionally. You are enabling.

Unconditional love also includes unconditionally loving oneself. It means I will no longer consciously expose myself to or remain in the presence of dysfunctional speech and behavior…

Love is unconditional, but a relationship is reciprocal.

I especially appreciate Maranda’s distinction between unconditional love and unconditional acceptance. Has no one ever pointed that out to me before? Was I just not paying attention? (I think this distinction was probably what my mother was trying to get at when she would say, “I always love your father, but I don’t always like your father.”)

So what I need to learn how to say (or at least think, as I remove myself from a situation) is, “I love you no matter what, but I’m not going to accept your no-good behavior.”

I also appreciate the distinction between “take me as I am,” and “take me as I am right now.” I see it as a difference between thinking “I’m fucked up and there’s nothing I can do about it” and “I’m fucked up, but I’m working on getting better.” Seems like many people I meet have just accepted that they are emotionally and mentally a hot mess. I honestly want to be a better person than I currently am. That’s going to take work.



[amazon template=image&asin=0985781408]I’d never really understood the idea of non-attachment. Of course, I’d not done any research on non-attachment or asked questions of someone who would know. I just assumed I knew what it meant and assumed I would never be capable.

While I was reading What It Looks Like by Marta Maranda, I came upon a few paragraphs about non-attachment that cleared my confusion.

Here’s what the author said,

…non-attachment doesn’t mean we should never have people or things in our lives. It is the “exaggerated seeking and clinging” that creates suffering. Most of our mental and physical energy is obsessively devoted to the object we desire. If we don’t have it, we will either do anything to get it or endlessly mourn its absence. If we have it, we live in constant fear of losing it.

Expectations play a large part in attachment. What we cling to is less about having possessions, relationships, and identities than about what we expect them to provide for us. And we expect all that we acquire to make us feel loved, appreciated, or important. It is the dysfunctional perception that is at the root of all attachment. “Whether it is an object or a person, we give it meanings and values that do not exist.

Non-attachment is not detachment. Detachment is a dysfunctional defense mechanism and pain management system that results in mental, emotional, or physical isolation. However, detachment doesn’t just block pain from one’s life, it blocks the flow of all energy, and eliminates any chance of healthy interaction with the people and circumstances that are essential to heal dysfunction. Rather, non-attachment is an act of compassion and healing. There is no conscious manipulation of choices and consequences out of fear. When we relinquish control and release our grasp, energy flows, allowing our lives to grow, change, and heal through all that comes and goes. (p. 333)

You Only Have Control Over You


[amazon template=image&asin=0985781408]I recently read What It Looks Like, a hulking book (350 pages of text and another 50+ pages of notes) by Marta Maranda. The book is something of a memoir about Maranda’s time in rehab and her healing process (which did not end upon leaving the rehab facility at the end of five weeks). The book is also something of a self-help book because Maranda writes extensively about what helped her and seems confident that what helped her will help me and you and that guy over there.

The most interesting part of the book to me was the “Part III: The Beginning.” In this section, Maranda uses the skills she learned in rehab to critique U.S. foreign policy and and the U.S. two-party political system in ways I haven’t experienced since anarchist discussions at the infoshop. She also explains how politicians (particularly George W. Bush) would actually act if they truly embraced the Christian beliefs they profess.

A lot of what I read in this book really did help me, which I did not see coming when I first started reading. In the beginning of the book,  I recoiled from much of the rhetoric Maranda repeated from her five weeks in rehab. However, many of the lessons she learned about healing and included at the end of the book, I found very helpful. I’ll be sharing some of those helpful bits over the next few months.

The following is an idea I found useful:

You only have control over you. You truly know this if you no longer concentrate on what you expect from anyone or anything else as a result of your actions, but only on your actions, ensuring that each one comes from the hightest and healthiest intentions. (p. 331)