Sometimes synergy beats similarity

Joey works up a sweat in Zumba class.

I love my boyfriend very much. My only problem is that I am an intellectual, and he doesn’t necessarily think the same way. I am more serious, and he is optimistic, courageous and fun to be around. I am in college, which I enjoy. My boyfriend doesn’t want to pursue an education. He is following other opportunities, but sometimes I worry that he can’t keep up with me.

If you have energy to worry, then you’re not as invested in your education (or your life) as you can be. Worrying postpones happiness. It erodes trust and faith while seducing us into believing we are searching for a solution. But worrying actually intensifies our problems and contributes to the development of anxiety. There’s a better way to live.

Be present. When your mind exercises its worry muscles, stop it. Imagine yourself mashing the brakes and stopping the lurch forward into drama. Or write the fear down on a sheet of paper and tell your mind that you will worry later. Then, don’t. You can also access the free resources at www.thework.com and discover why you are choosing to live with such difficulty. A meditation practice can help to inoculate you against worry. At first, when you close your eyes, every worry or dark thought will arise to greet you. A gifted teacher can show you how to persist past the disturbances and enter the realm of emptiness that is true mental freedom. You deserve that. So do I. That’s why I actively engage anti-worry techniques myself.

Let’s talk about your boyfriend. A couple’s happiness is not dependent on sharing a similar pattern of thinking. Unless, of course, being partnered with a man with matching mental constructs is on your list of non-negotiable requirements for a mate. You’ve described your man as optimistic, courageous and fun. Those qualities are not frequently found in people who call themselves intellectuals. Perhaps you share synergy, rather than similarity. That can be enough. But if you yearn for stimulating conversation about Roubini’s economic theories or the uncanny valley or why Jane Austen’s novels persevere, and your boyfriend’s got nothing, make a choice. Embrace him as is and be fully present in class to soak up the scholarly chats, or end your relationship and search for an academically oriented partner. There’s no right or wrong here. It’s just an opportunity to decide how to love yourself and others with depth and passion.

You are someone I have consistently admired as having a truly deep insight into the real causes of people’s interpersonal problems. I am traveling my own path of personal enlightenment and desire to truly understand myself. I want to know what causes my unique reaction to life’s situations. Can you recommend any books or information that have helped you on your own path to enlightenment?

I can’t say that there are particular books that have inspired me on my journey to become more and more awake, other than the classics: the New Testament, the Tao Te Ching, the Sutras and Jungian psychology. However, I do have a peculiar way of approaching information: I am a skeptic. The eternal truths endure, but nearly everything else is marketing hype designed to delude the masses (The Secret is one example).

I also believe strongly in solitude, time spent in nature, meditation, dreams, journaling and the essential value of a spiritual teacher. I have been, and continue to be, blessed to encounter teachers who are skillful, ruthlessly honest and extraordinarily evolved in their understanding of consciousness. You can, too. I should also confess that spiritual evolution is more important to me than anything else. I live accordingly. Some people may see that as a sacrifice. I consider it a privilege.

Meditation of the Week

“How difficult it is to discern truth from exaggeration and ambition,” says a character in Siobhan Fallon’s book of short stories, <i>You Know When the Men Are Gone</i>. What would happen if you dared yourself to tell the truth, all the time?