Last year, my wife and I both went on a number of trips on our own. As a result, I found myself often telling her that I missed her. In this frequency of expression, I noticed something about the feeling I had. It wasn’t the same feeling I typically have when engaged in an activity of loving – the feeling of an expansive and giving heart. Each time I said “I miss you”, I noticed I experienced a mixture of both love and longing. My heart was expansive, but it also ached. Whenever I said “I miss you”, there was a subtle hurt involved.
So I kept my attention on it. Not just with my wife, but with friends and family too. When I felt it, I moved into it. I gave life to it so I could contact it even more.
In this, I began to see that while my expression of love was true, my conceptualization of ‘missing’ was creating a possibility for pain.
There was a true love felt and expressed and yet it wasn’t pure. It was hurt too.
It reminded me of an insight I had some years ago about how saying the three words “I love you” can actually be an act of violence if they are said, not as a gift, but as a needy and pithy beg for love from another.
I did miss my wife because I love her, but the expression “I miss you” was actually, in part, an expression of my hurting too.
I was stumped so I reached out to my mentor Steve for advice. He guided me back to my own resourcefulness with a simple response:
“If ‘missing’ is not working for you, then create your own alternative.”
So I went back to work on it.
My aim was to create a new way of conceptualizing being away from people that didn’t turn my love into a longing.
My path to doing this was to investigate what ‘missing’ someone actually meant to me. In order to do this, I explored the many definitions of the word, it’s etymology and its synonyms and antonyms. I explored the entire network of language that creates the possibility for ‘missing’ and I kept attention on my body for which nodes activated experience in me, guiding me to the defined reality of ‘missing’ that lived in me.
As I studied the idea of ‘missing’, both outwardly and inwardly, it became clear to me that my hurting was the result, quite simply, of an imagined experienced of ‘not being with’ the person I loved.
It didn’t matter whether someone was there or not. In fact, I often felt the deepest hurt of missing my wife when I was still with her and saying goodbye! “I’m going to miss you” hurt even more than “I miss you!”
As I’d suspected, ‘missing’ wasn’t something that was happening. It was something I was creating with my mind.
And if this was the case, then I could create something different.
So I did. After looking at all sorts of different language and obscure words searching for something that expressed my love but didn’t invoke the imagined reality of the person I love being gone, which evoked hurt, I came back to the (imagined) context that makes missing possible: ‘to not be with’.
It was so simple. The alternative to missing someone was simply to NOT imagine not being with them.
To simply put the thought of ’not being with someone‘ out of my mind would be to repress the experience of missing, so this was not an option.
To observe the hurt with mindfulness and allow it to dissolve could surely create freedom, but here I was actually much more interested in habituating a new reality that didn’t give rise to the hurt in the first place.
What is it to NOT not be with someone then? It is to be with them!
What if instead of imagining myself as not with the people I loved, I imagined myself as with them?
Of course this feels much better. The love is active and alive in my focusing on them, and in the experience of being with them, I am full rather than empty. In the fullness, I am expansive in my loving instead of longing or hurting.
The word to replace ‘miss’ was obvious. It was simply ‘with’.
To begin experimenting with this, when I felt that I missed someone, I would speak or write “I am with you” instead of “I miss you”.
At first it took some getting used to. It was like I was saying one thing and feeling another. But I stayed with it. I slowed down. Before I opened my mouth or began typing, I let the words guide my mind into an imagining of the with-ness instead of the without ness. In that experience, a fullness took the place of the emptiness and I was able to speak in a way that was a coherent expression of my fulfilment rather than my lack.
At present this transmutation is already happening much faster. The words “I’m with you” are at the tip of my tongue the moment the sense of missing arises and I’m quickly able to move the longing into a full feeling of being with. As I continue to practice this, over time, the experience of being with people when they are leaving or not around will become my automatic primary experience. A person’s lack of physical presence will automatically evoke images of our times together instead of images of the vacancy of their presence. The former being the images that have me full in my love, the latter images that convert that love to ache and pain.
One of the great things about saying “I am with you” to someone instead of “I miss you” is how it doesn’t require any explanation (as lots of my other creations of language do!)
You say it and they get it. And it’s touching in exactly the way we want “I miss you” to be, but without the baggage of our hurting.
By ‘being with’ people in our hearts and minds and by sharing exactly that, we can share our love purely without any of the hurt.
Try this next time you miss someone. Watch what you are doing on the inside to create that experience. Slow down. Feel into it and actually contact the vacancy you’re creating.
Then invite yourself to see yourself WITH them instead. When you can see and feel them with you, then let them know by telling them:
“I am with you.”
It feels really great to say. And my sense from people so far is that it feels really great to receive too.
When I returned from a recent retreat with clients in Costa Rica, my 3-year-old son put his arms around me and said, “Daddy, I was missing you!”
It was so sweet in that little voice and I remembered his words exactly. I love taking on his cute phrases as a way experiencing his world. For example, “I love you aaaaaaallll the time”, “once upon a time ago…”, “let’s have some ‘chocolate mustard’ (custard)!”
But converting the phrase “I was missing you” to “I was withing you” didn’t make sense since ‘withing’ wasn’t a word – or so I thought!
After googling it to confirm my grammar, I discovered ‘withing’ IS actually a word, but it comes from a totally different root.
Withing is defined as the process of weaving, combining or bringing together twigs into a basket.
As a way of playing with language to create experience, I sometimes tell my wife and son that when I am withing them. I explained to them how this means I am imagining us being together in ways that weave our spirits together and makes us a single unit – like a basket.
If at some point you catch me saying “I’m withing you” to you too, now you’ll know what I mean!
Loving you, JP ❤️