After previously discussing a foundation for communication in relationships, it’s time to go deeper into understanding physically intimate relationships. I love the work of David Deida and how he describes the role of masculine and feminine energies in relationships.
Listening is the most important component in communication. “Seek first to understand before being understood.” After 15 years of experience as an educator, psychotherapist, and everyday human being, I can share with you that this is easier said than done. Listening is an art and requires us to get out of our own way and our need to be right. That being said, there are tools we can learn that significantly increase our listening presence. Last month I laid out the seven feedback suggestions for creating an unwavering foundation for authentic communication. This month I am going to go into more detail about how to mirror and listen more effectively.
Authentic respectful communication is the cornerstone in all relationships. This includes family, friends, partners, lovers, people at work, etc. The more open and vulnerable we are in relationships, the deeper the connection, and the safer it is for the other to open up and share on a real and authentic level.
Maddie was my childhood chum, best friends forever. From children to adults, we shared our funniest moments, our darkest secrets, the angst of aging mothers, and stories about men. Enter Jack.
The Barbara Brennan School of Healing, Class of 1999, spoke these words - out loud and to each other - during our final, sacred ceremony. It was the evening before graduation, and we came together in joy and remembrance and deep gratitude for the journey we had completed and the one we were just beginning. These lovely words penetrated and awakened my very soul that day, and whenever I read or recall them I feel their incredible sweetness. To me they speak of longing.
“This little light of mine,
"What is the Meaning of Life?"
I remember a day in high school. when my teacher asked the proverbial question.
The teacher was hoping to stimulate thought and debate. After 45 minutes of discussions and disagreements we were no closer to the truth.
In April we celebrated Earth Day, an occasion that generates renewed focus on the great need to be mindful and loving stewards of this planet that sustains all life. Much of the focus translates into myriad initiatives to clean up our polluted environment, and those initiatives are noble, worthy and essential. There are countless programs and activities that need our attention and support, and we are called to step up and provide them.
Shamanism, where does it come from? What does it mean, and is it effective? All questions roused by the appearance this ancient form of healing is making in western culture. Archaeological evidence estimates shamanism to be about 30,000 years old or more.
The initial stage is falling in love and idealized romance in which we project onto our beloved our own images of hoped for perfection; in order to feel whole and complete with our significant other. As this begins to wear thin and we recognize the other as human, neither the Goddess nor Prince Charming, we will often attempt to ‘seduce’ the other into living the fantasy. When they (and I) continue to fall short, remaining a flawed human, the anger stage of relationship will often arise
For most of us, judging ourselves and others is so ingrained in our constitution that we are not even aware that we do it. It’s just a way of life.
We gossip about other people. We assign value to individuals before we even speak to them, determining if they are worthy of our time. We make assumptions about people by virtue of their skin color or the work that they do. We complain about our coworkers, colleagues, relatives, lovers and even friends! We are critical of the way people do things, what they think, how they talk, who they hang out with and what decisions they make in their lives.
One of the truly great blessings of adulthood is that Valentine’s Day is no longer a thinly veiled popularity contest, a day when everyone drops cheap cards and candy hearts for their intended into a big box, and then waits with bated breath to see how many of those hopeful offerings have their name on them. I can remember glancing furtively around me every Valentine’s Day during my elementary school years as the cards were handed out, hoping upon hope that I didn’t have the smallest pile.
Darkness falls early now. With each passing day I find myself surprised anew at how quickly the sunlight fades this time of year. I never seem to get used to it, even after decades of repeated exposure to the changing seasons! I long for light even as my body instinctively welcomes the darkness, wanting nothing more than to slow down and rest. It seems, at first glance, to be an uncomfortable opposition of forces, this longing for light and darkness at the same time.
The curious and interesting stages of growth experienced in the evolution of a loving committed relationship
(Illusionment, Disillusionment, Loving Reality) is well documented in the plethora of ‘happy ever after’ fairy tales and romantic comedies. Certainly a wonderful experience, and one which helps create the glue and the initial bonding that encourage a couple stay together as they navigate the more difficult and stormy aspects of relationship. The second stage, ‘Honeymoon is Over’ involves the recognition that my beloved does not quite live up to the fantasy projection that he/she should meet my
We are all aware that the “Happy Ever After” endings to romantic comedies and fairy talestend to be filtered through rose colored glasses and are less than realistic approaches to long term loving, commitment and intimate relationship.
Neither, of course, are the tragedies of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ or ‘Tristan and Iseult’ what we hope for! The question remains; How do we navigate the ups and downs of the couple’s journey over the years? What are our expectations? Are they realistic, or skewed by either fairy tale or mud splattered lens?
So much of spiritual attunement is being available. Attunement implies a sensitive attention and readiness. A spiritually attuned life is not one that is planned in advance. It is not one that knows the answers or even the questions. Attunement is a process, a way of being. If the “doing” aspect becomes too important, the attunement is lost. Whether it is doing good works or doing evil deeds or just doing the list of chores the job demands, it is the attitude and the attunement that count.
Isn’t it time that we move beyond religion and rules and belief into honest spirituality which is based on personal experience? Religion offers community which feels comforting and guidelines for behavior which build character. But true spirituality requires an adult’s presence to her own experience. Thinking about what an authority tells us is at best a jumping off point for us to assume our own authority.
We hate what we fear. It’s more comfortable to feel hate than fear because somehow it seems less vulnerable and being vulnerable is to be avoided at all costs, we’ve learned.
We don’t always say we hate, though. We’d rather say, “That’s illogical” (and, thus, not to be considered seriously) or “That’s immature” (and, so, unworthy of attention) or “That’s what they asked for” (and I can’t do anything about their poor choices). We separate ourselves from “them,” having already separated ourselves from what we fear inside ourselves–vulnerability, pain, sorrow, hopelessness.
Working in a men’s prison, I reflect on the experience of being incarcerated. The men can’t walk too far in one direction, can’t stand in groups on the yard, can’t watch cable television or research the internet or choose their meals. What they can’t do outnumbers what they can do by about 1000 to 1.
So many of them say they are angry about being in prison but they admit they were angry before they entered prison. They say it frustrates them that they can’t work for pay but admit they didn’t show up for work when they lived “on the streets.” They say that when they are released they will be happy but confess they never have been happy.
When I walked into church on Sunday, the small congregation was singing, “Peace will fill the world when we finally understand that only from within can it spread throughout the land.” Peace isn’t an external matter that can be legislated and enforced. Peace is a way of being-–in harmony with ourselves, with others, and with the physical planet.
“This is the first time I’ve decided to leave a job without having something else lined up,” my friend Tonya* confessed to our small women’s support group. We applauded her daring, self-affirming choice and offered words of encouragement to bolster her confidence in stepping into the unknown. She knew she was doing the right thing, but wasn’t at all comfortable with the prospect of not knowing what was next.
As I reflected on it later it occurred to me that, in our culture, we have trained ourselves to tolerate the wrong kind of discomfort. We have become like martyrs, enduring the endless drudgery of tedious jobs or the relentless demands of 70-hour-per-week careers. We convince ourselves that our choices are somehow noble – or we convince ourselves that we have no other choice – and busy ourselves with developing “coping mechanisms” to mitigate the negative effects of the psychic pain that, by now, has become chronic. We don’t acknowledge that this kind of pain is our soul’s way of letting us know we’re off course, because we don’t know what other course to take.
And that, paradoxically, is the point. In order to get back on course, we must be willing to not know how - to be lost, at least for a little while. And we’re not terribly good at feeling lost. We’d rather rush to figure things out so that fear doesn’t have a chance to step into the gap between the world we know today and the world we will come to know. But the world we’re longing for is created in the gap; if we think and act only from our known world, we’ll keep getting more of the same. We need to remind ourselves that beyond our daily routines and habits of thought lies an endless source of ideas and inspiration to lead us step by step into our brilliant future, if we will but take that first tender step into the unknown. That is the kind of pain – the squirmy discomfort of not knowing – that we must learn to sit with. And as we do, it begins to soften little by little. The willingness to not know invites a new knowing, the kind that can transform our lives.
I’ve come to understand that the pain we associate with not knowing is caused by the belief that we’re supposed to know; we’ve been taught how to plan our lives from here to retirement, so doing something as radical as leaving a job without having a tidy five-year forecast to make sense of it all seems to offer proof of our stupidity. But what if we could drop the belief that we should know what we’re going to be doing for the next five years? We might find that setting it aside ushers in a sense of freedom and possibility we’ve not experienced before. Will we have to deal with fear? Yes, we will. Is that something worth learning to do? Absolutely.
Tonya knows this, in her heart of hearts. She knows that the pain of staying in a job that suffocates her is far worse than the heart-fluttering bouts of panic that chastise her for making the choice to leave. She knows she can negotiate a new relationship with panic, but her soul’s desires are not negotiable. They are just waiting for her to peel away the filter of the known so she can see them with new eyes.
And so it can be for each of us. As we give ourselves a little distance from our known world – as we step into the gap of the unknown and let the initial waves of discomfort wash over us – we gain a new perspective. And from this place our soul’s desires can be seen for what they are: the beacon that is forever lighting our way back to our true selves. It turns out that being in the unknown doesn’t mean we are lost - it means we are willing to be found.
* Not her real name
With the first quarter of 2009 nearly at completion, we find ourselves faced with the recognition that our lives are changing. Each of us has experienced some degree of personal chaos perhaps in the form of career or relationship issues. Or does of sense of peace get unsettled by the media reminders that our financial structures are changing, our Earth’s eco-systems are injured and our global safety is seeking stability.
As humanity sails into the power-enriched storm of shift are we ready to brace the mighty wind of awakening that is calling to every soul on the planet? This single question brings forward the familiar call from our heart that compels us to keep moving forward regardless of the many outward expressions that seek to keep us stuck. That is, do we allow fear to provoke us into reactive decisions or do we use the winds of change to lift us to new perspectives?
Unconditional love. Consistent and abundant support. Undying loyalty. Unwavering patience. These are all things that we as humans seek out on some level whether consciously or subconsciously. These are things that “feed” us and keep us strong and moving in a forward progression with our lives. When one of these is missing, we find that we become “lost,” feel very alone, depressed, and even stagnant- each to varying degrees. The good news is these are not a reality; we as human beings were meant to believe. The bad news is that we get so caught up with the everyday challenges we face that we forget that we are truly very abundant in all of the areas above.
It was 15 years ago and my life was different. Growing up I didn’t plan on being a drug addict. I came from a good family, parents who loved each other and their kids.
The Art of Positive Thinking
There was a time in my life when the notion that our beliefs, thoughts and language create our reality seemed utterly preposterous, and I dismissed it out of hand. I was, after all, a rational thinker (or so I thought!), a scientifically-minded person who believed in a fixed reality “out there” that I could navigate and possibly manipulate to meet my goals through the sheer force of willpower, planned action and hard work.
Once upon a time people worried about dying from a heart attack. That was replaced by the “Big C” when cancer became the fear du jour. Since then, medicine and nutrition science have done much to help us prevent, fight and live through these afflictions. But we now have a new scare taking center stage that as of yet has no known cure: Alzheimer's Disease. If you ask people how they would least like to leave this world, the A-word is today's front runner. It is the most dreaded of all forms of dementia.
A Vision Quest for Optimum Health!
What is the SECRET to OBTAINING YOUR DESIRES, you ask? If you are asking any self-help or "road to success" writer, motivational speaker or empowerment guru, the answer will always include one vital process. Read ancient philosophical texts or religious writings, and the wisdom of getting what you desire would include that same ingredient: Build a clear VISION of the desired outcome or object. The use of visioning has, and has long been, a powerful tool for attracting information and the objects or state of mind and body you desire.
We all have one, at least one, but usually there are a few.” A moment that stands out from the rest”. It becomes the starting point of what is to come or the levee that keeps us from reaching the other side. It is a moment in which everything changes or in which time stands still. Our lives our marked with moments that define who we are and where we are going. Although this sounds very grandiose, it is never the less true - our destiny is forged in these defining moments.
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