Don’t blame the lettuce

It happens this way …

In twelve days, we’ll celebrate our 26th anniversary. It’s been a fabulous journey of self-discovery and other-discovery, and of learning and re-learning lessons we were drawn together to teach each other.

One of the latest – and biggest – lessons we’ve tackled is how to stop our incessant blame- storming.*

You left your dirty plastic bags on the counter again.

They’re not mine. They’re yours.


Please clean up the mess you made on the stove top.

I didn’t cook anything tonight.


You left the heat on again.

You were the last one downstairs. Why didn’t you shut it off?

And so it goes.

What is it about blaming the other that seems both satisfying and self-protective? (If you’re up to it, note how many times politicians blame others for situations they create.)

We just discovered the best remedy to release the blaming habit. It comes from Thích  Nhất Hạnh. He explains:

When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun.. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change.

Now, when we start to blame, we use a code word to bring it to our consciousness. We simply say “lettuce.” This will make the next 26 years so much more productive!

* The process of assigning blame for an outcome or situation

Oprah Winfrey and Thích Nhất Hạnh: A Conversation

It happens this way …

While the Internet can be maddeningly time-consuming, it can also be surprisingly miraculous. Last Sunday evening as hummingbirds zipped around the yard and the hum of the neighbor’s air conditioner provided white noise, I was guided to an interview Oprah Winfrey conducted five years ago with Thích Nhất Hạnh. I can’t remember how I found it. I’d like to think it found me.

Among other topics, they spoke about the monk’s relationship to Martin Luther King, Jr., his practice of meditating every moment of every day, and the gift of compassionate listening. About three minutes before the end of their engaging conversation, Hạnh offered the best relationship advice I ever heard. He explained four mantras that can heal and deepen our connection to our loved ones immediately.

Here is a brief synopsis of what he suggested. Perhaps you’ll be motivated to go to the video to hear his enlightened words in his own sweet voice.


1. Darling, I’m here for you.

When you love someone, the best thing you can offer him or her is your presence. How can you love if you are not present? And this means your true presence, unencumbered with thoughts of the past or the future.

2. Darling, I know you are there and I am so happy because you are truly there.

You recognize the presence of your beloved one as something very precious. To be loved is to be recognized as existing.

These two mantras by themselves can bring happiness right away. You can even practice them over the phone!

3. Darling, I know you suffer. That is why I’m here for you.

Before you can do anything, your very presence can bring relief. This requires compassionate listening, not trying to fix the beloved.

The fourth mantra is the hardest because it’s about your suffering and your belief it has been caused by your beloved. You would prefer to go to your room, close the door, and suffer alone, and you want to punish him or her for having made you suffer. This mantra helps to overcome that.

4. Darling, I suffer. Please help me.

You go to him or her and, if you can bring yourself to say this mantra, you will suffer less right away.

What simple words. What healing possibilities!