The Zen of May Gray/June Gloom

June Gloom at the Beach
The Zen of May Gray/June Gloom

Here in San Diego we have a saying, ‘May Gray, June Gloom’ which describes the weather during this time of year when our infamous sunny, blue skies turn into cold, damp, overcast gray.

We owe the cooler, overcast climate during these months to the cold water current flowing from British Columbia, Canada and Alaska to California. When the water vaporizes in the cold air it forms fog or clouds.

It’s not an anomaly. We all know it’s coming, but each year we are disappointed and even a bit resentful about it. The offense is made worse because the two or three preceding months are typically warmer so we are seduced into believing summer has arrived.

The sandals, shorts and swimsuits come out and we begin to migrate to the beaches and parks for picnics and sun worshiping. Then, one morning the chill is in the air and the cold, gray fog envelops us.

How could Mother Nature betray us in such a grievous manner!?!

I’m a little embarrassed to admit it but, in some self-centered corner of my brain, I believe it is my right to experience eternal sunshine. I’ve  been known to bemoan the need for layers of clothing because I’m not sure what the temperature will be throughout the day. Woe is me! (Imagine the back of my hand across my forehead in despair)

Fortunately my Zen Meditation practice saves me from myself. It keeps me from taking myself too seriously and puts the rest of life in perspective. When I or other students present with some variation of discontent, one of my teachers often asks, “How is it supposed to be?” It’s a simple yet show-stopping question.

I personally have a love/hate relationship with that query. It shines light on my unconscious expectations in every aspect of my life… weather, people, places, things … even about me. How am I supposed to be? How is the traffic, the mechanic, the grocery store clerk supposed to be? How is my partner supposed to be?

When I’ve been cranky, irritable or verklempt because things were not going my way I could justify my attitude with blame and projections of malicious intent. That is a seductive habit. There can be a sadistic satisfaction in holding everyone and everything else responsible for my unhappiness.

Even though I really and truly don’t want to behave like a tantruming child, self-auditing and self-responsibility are not as much fun. Sometimes in the moment I’d rather find blame outside of myself and not have to do the hard work.

Yet, as I become more mindful, I can turn the bright light back on myself and ask, How is ‘it/she/he’ supposed to be?

When I can uncover and let go of the unconscious expectations, I am free to make other choices to take care of myself, respectfully ask for what I need or accept things the way they are.

Just as I’m learning to enjoy the San Diego gray days by spending time in the garden, hiking in nature, or staying home curled-up by the fire to read, I am also learning to accept ‘what is’ in my relationships.

Truthfully, I’m relieved to have techniques that help me find peace within myself and within my relationships. I may not have it my way all the time but I am expanding my satisfaction repertoire.

My Zen practice naturally blends with my other life and relational philosophies so it has made sense to integrate it into my work with clients. They also find it helpful when needing to negotiate their relationships.

Most of our relational conflicts are rooted in unresolved, unconscious expectations and can destroy our partnerships. There are degrees of unresolved wounding due to misattunements and unmet needs from childhood and those unmet longings and desires to be known, validated and supported in our childhoods are carried into our adult relationships. The question, ‘how is it supposed to be?’ helps uncover the source of the pain.

Until the early wounds are revealed and healed, our partners are sure to fail to meet our expectations. When they do fail, our suppressed disappointments, heartbreaks, and rage envelop us like the California June Gloom.

We reactively shut down or act out. Our childhood omnipotence overtakes us and we become moody or demanding. We want it our way and feel righteously offended and defended.

Our partners are often blind-sided by this reaction so naturally defend themselves and the only thing on the horizon are storm clouds.

If this sounds like you and you don’t like it any more then I do, I hope my experience helps. If you want more peace and joy in your life you need to make some changes. You have to take action to intervene on the destructive patterns. It’s an inside job. You have to become more mindful and self responsible to create more loving relationships.

To help my clients practice mindfulness I begin each therapy session by having couples center themselves before they begin talking to one another. I also recommend a home meditation practice. For those couples who make mindfulness practices a regular part of their lives, I witness less debilitating conflicts and more cooperation in their dialogs.

When couples practice mindfulness together there is a sense of spaciousness within and between them. They embody a sense of possibility and freedom to choose how to behave and how to respond to their partners. They seem less trapped in habitual patterns. Then, whatever issues they need to discuss seem to flow more easily and with more cooperation.

If you think your relationship could benefit from integrating a mindfulness practice, please contact me. Let me help you find the best path for you and your partner.

If you are ready to take action, join my partner and me for a ‘Living in a Mindful Relationship’ Meditation Workshop. Our next workshop will be held on June 20th in San Diego. See the workshop schedule for more information.

As a beginning practice, embrace whatever Mother Nature brings today. After all, How else should it be?