Monday, December 2, 2013

Love and Closeness Challenge #31: Being the Best You

One of the things that I have noticed often is the tendency for some people to feel entitled to a loving relationship. It's interesting to me that a person (woman or a man) will think that simply because they are alive and in a relationship that they should be loved the way that they see fit. They think that person owes them something, or that they "have a right" to demand to be treated in a certain way. This, to me, is a very backwards and inside out way of thinking.
Please hear me, I am not saying that you or anyone else is undeserving of love and being treated well. What I am saying is that I have noticed a fair amount of people who are in relationships and demand to be treated like a King or Queen and yet their own behavior is more like that of a whiny brat or demanding prince or princess. How can anyone expect to be treated kindly if they are not kind? If you enjoy being hugged, kissed, touched and cuddled affectionately, how can you expect this kind of treatment if you are behaving in ways that make your partner want to distance him/herself from you? If you want to be hugged, kissed, touched and cuddled affectionately, be someone who your partner loves to hug, kiss, touch and cuddle.
How can you expect to have a great partner that treats you with respect and love if you aren't willing to be a great partner who treats your partner with respect and love?
It took me a long time to get this. I used to demand love, then criticize and withhold love and affection when it wasn't delivered the way that I wanted. That was the kind of partner I was, and then I wondered why I had an awful relationship.
I can't tell you how I came to the conclusion that to have a wonderful partner one must be a wonderful partner, but when I finally did, everything changed. When my focus is on "what can I get from my partner" and "how can I change him" it is such an uncomfortable struggle. We feel like enemies trying to win and prove points to each other. When I am conscious enough to keep my focus instead on "what can I give to my partner" and "how can I be the best partner I can be", the entire relationship instantly shifts and is effortlessly happy and loving.
It is always my goal to be the very best partner that I can be and give to my man in all the ways that feel good for him. That is what I focus on and this has made all the difference in the world. However, I'm definitely not perfect, and I forget sometimes what's important and try to get love from him by demanding or punishing. Sometimes I really mess it up and hurt his feelings badly. This is always when I am trying to get, trying to change him or not paying attention to what is important to him. (If you aren't paying attention to what feels good and what's important to your mate, you could be an amazing partner but not an amazing partner for that unique person)
My goal is to become a better and better partner over time and to learn all the ways that I can give love that work for him. I'll make mistakes along the way undoubtedly, but I'll keep my focus on being the best partner for him that I can be and hopefully I'll have a lifetime to get it right.

The great news is that in becoming a great partner, you are evolving and becoming the best you that you can be. Your challenge is to figure out what you can do to become a great partner. I believe that you don't have to read a new book, ask your friends or change who you are. What you have to do to be the best partner for your partner is so highly individual that the only person who can help you to do this is your partner. Ask them what makes them feel good. Or, if you feel uncomfortable doing that, think of what your mate asks for or complains about. 
If you're single take some time to think about what kind of mate you want to be. You deserve love and the kind of partner you want to attract into your life also deserves love. You don't have to wait for someone to show up and be your partner for you to be a great partner. Start being that great partner now with everyone that you meet. 
The most important thing is that you are present and do what you can to create feel good moments to connect with your mate. Love doesn't hurt, and loving partners bring love and joy into their partner's life. People enter into and stay in relationships because they feel good. When relationships get too painful, people make the decision to end it. If you focus on being the best partner that you can be and stack one "feel good" moment with your mate on top of the other after a while this will become habitual. Then your relationship will just feel good effortlessly and this is the goal. However, it starts with you, is maintained by you and ends with you being the best partner, the best you, that you can be.  

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Absolutely Essential Ingredient To Have A Loving Relationship

If I've learned one thing that I feel completely sure about since I've been on the journey to intentional "love enlightenment", it's that at the core of all relationship "improvement suggestions" there is an absolutely essential ingredient that cannot be missing if you want to have close loving relationships. When you read about how to communicate more effectively, how to avoid conflict, how to have better sex or absolutely anything else that you are trying to "improve", if you don't have this essential ingredient, everything you read, everything you try will be in vain. You could try everything ever written in every "How to Improve Your Relationship" book out there and it wouldn't make a bit of difference; or you could have this absolutely essential ingredient and not have a single clue about what any expert thinks you should do and you would have a wonderful relationship. That one thing that it all boils down to is: warm, affectionate thoughts and feelings of love for and being close with your partner (or anyone else that you want to have a close, loving relationship with).
These warm loving thoughts and feelings are what you truly want. Everything else that you say that you want (more date nights, more sex, more help around the house etc.) are all things that you think will make you feel more love. It's all just the stuff that you think you need to happen in the outside world to "trigger" warm, affectionate, intimate feelings of love. The truth is, these feelings are always within you, it's not necessary to have certain conditions to feel them. I would argue that if you need conditions before you love, you don't really love. After all, is love really "I'll only love you if (fill in the blank with your condition you feel the other person should meet), or is it really, "I love you, the person, the soul, no matter what"? The I love you if, to me, says "I love these conditions being met because it triggers loving feelings in me". This is what people mean when they say they want someone who can meet their "needs".
It's so easy to love when things are going well, when your mate or your children or whomever is "behaving". Relationships would be so much simpler if people would just do what they were "supposed to do". Is that really love though? Is it really love to think and feel love when someone is being a "good boy/girl"? Are you really loving the person, or are you loving the conditions that they brought into your life?
What about when that person misbehaves? Why is it okay to say that suddenly they are not lovable because they are flawed (as you and all of us are)? Is it love to withhold love in any way when a person doesn't do what they "should"? Are you unlovable when you don't behave according to another person's idea of how you should behave?
What is bottom line important here is this: to have genuine feelings of love and closeness for a person, no matter what is going on, is to have a loving and close relationship with them. Period. You need nothing else but the loving feelings. The reasons are two fold: because the close, loving feeling is what you're really after and from loving feelings will spring loving words and action, naturally, without any conscious effort. Feel loving feelings all the time, and you will be loving all the time and this will create love. It's simple to do, but not easy. Ever notice how most simple things are not easy?
While it may be the warmly affectionate, close, loving feelings that make all the difference, the feelings are not where you should start. Start where the feelings are created: your thoughts. Yes, I am suggesting that the quality of your thoughts about yourself, your partner and the relationship = the quality of your relationship. Always. This equation never changes.
The trick is to keep your thoughts affectionate and loving, regardless of what is going on around you. Again, super simple, one sentence instruction, not so easy to put into practice. Life tends to get in the way. It becomes, "Well, he did (fill in the blank). He doesn't deserve for me to love him right now! I have a right to want this from him! I have a right to be angry!" Yes you do have a right to think, feel, be, say and do whatever you please. But, do you want to judge him? Do you truly want to measure who is more "right"? Do you want to be angry? Or do you want love? Love is nothing more than loving thought and feeling, but that is also the miracle, because you don't need anything from anyone else to have it. It's funny how threatened people become when they hear that, as if because they don't need it from anyone else that the people in their life will become unimportant, or worse, that they themselves will become unimportant.
That is not what I'm suggesting. I'm suggesting that love is not soft or weak. I'm suggesting that love does not waver when the going gets roughest. Love, in it's true form, remains steadfast even after the mortal coil of the other is shed. A true "lover" becomes even more loving when times are difficult. A lover loves like there is no lack and no reason to ever take or be afraid.
Spark the thoughts and feelings of love within you, no matter where you are in life; for yourself, for your mate, for all of life. You will notice a shift. The thoughts of love will become feelings of love that you will speak and act upon and your beloved will likely respond. It starts with you, and ends with you, but the effects of your thoughts and feelings have far reaching effects that until you become aware of, you will remain unaware of.
Perhaps then, that is the true goal, to become more aware, more often of what you are thinking and to intend to think warm, loving thoughts. No harm can come from this, you have nothing to lose and so much to gain. I challenge you today, if you do nothing else, ever, to "improve" your relationship, become more aware of your thoughts and when you find that you're thinking something unloving, replace that thought with a loving one. I would bet the farm that the difference in your relationship would be marked. Anything that you have to do, any tools that you have to use, get as close as you can to thinking warm, loving thoughts in every moment. FEEL deep love for your partner. What's the point in being in a relationship if you don't anyway?      

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Love and Closeness Challenge #30: Fulfillment

What is fulfillment? It's possible to achieve everything that you desire and feel empty and it's possible to feel full even if you have achieved nothing. It's possible to be the wealthiest man on earth and feel poor and it's possible to feel abundant in poverty.
To be fulfilled is to feel that all is well, that everything that you need is within you. Fulfillment can come from outside achievements, when you have reached a goal. When you have a vision and it comes to fruition, it is fulfilling for a time. Deep, lasting, fulfillment comes from learning, from growing and from being thankful. 
In relationships, fulfillment is what we long for and what we think we will have "when" and "if". When we move to another house, when we get married, when we have three children, when we retire, if we can go on vacation four times a year etc. It seems like fulfillment is something that will happen someday. But someday, like tomorrow, never comes. We wait and wait for something to happen that will make us happy, for our mate to meet some unspoken, sometimes even unknown desire. 
The interesting thing is that fulfillment can only be had now, not tomorrow, or next week, or someday. Fulfillment can only be had right now in this moment, when you are thankful and feel as if you are growing as a person. It comes from being challenged enough to grow, but not so challenging that you feel unsuccessful or incapable. Fulfillment comes when you contribute to others in a way that is meaningful and valuable.
How, then, do you achieve fulfillment in your relationship? You recognize the good that this relationship brings you and you enjoy the person't company in the moment. You breathe through challenging times and before reacting you choose how to respond, considering how what you say or do will effect the relationship. You take full responsibility for your own actions and think of the future of the relationship. It feels good to grow in this way. To have the most fulfilling relationship possible, focus on giving rather than getting. Let your questions to yourself be: what can I give to my partner today that will feel the best to him? or what can I do to help us grow closer through this challenge?

Your challenge for today is to see all the good in your relationship and your partner. To recognize and bless the good that this relationship brings into your life. Enjoy your partner's company whenever you are with them today. If a challenge comes up, take some time to breathe and calm down. Consider carefully how what you say and do will effect the other person and the relationship. Then choose to say and do only those things that will increase feelings of love and closeness. You have the resources to do this, and as you practice more and more you will grow and become more and more capable and successful. Taking full responsibility will feel totally different than just allowing things to happen and reacting based on flashes of anger or fear. The results will be completely different too. 
If you only do one thing today (or the rest of your life) to create more love and closeness in your relationship, focus on giving rather than getting. What can you give to your partner today that will feel amazing to him? If you are experiencing something difficult, what can you do to help the two of you grow closer and feel more love for each other through this challenge?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Spiritual Awakening

I woke up this morning and felt the need to evolve. Transforming, evolving, shifting my paradigm  is one of my favorite things to do and I do what I can do intentionally to move things along. 
On Oprah's Soul Sunday, she interviewed author of "The Untethered Soul" Michael Singer. He lays out 12 steps to a spiritual awakening. I love step by step things. I have written the 12 steps here just for convenience, but please go check out the interview here. You can watch the episode there also. 

1. Realize that you are in there. You must first come to realize that you are in there. From deep inside, you are experiencing this world. You are experiencing your physical body, your thoughts and your emotions. You are conscious and you are experiencing what it is like to be human.
2. Realize that you are not okay in there. Look to see what's going on inside. If you want to understand why you've done everything you have ever done, if you want to see what's really going on, just observe your mind and emotions, just experience your inner state. If you objectively look, you will see that you are never completely at peace. You will see that you are not okay in there.
3. Realize that you're always trying to be okay. At any point when you look at the state of your inner being, you will see that something is bothering you. You will then notice that this causes urges, drives and impulses to do something about it. You will find yourself constantly trying to either get something or avoid something. All of this is done in an attempt to be okay.
4. Realize that your mind has taken on the job of figuring out how everything needs to be for you to be okay. If you watch, you will see that your mind is always telling you what you should and should not do, what others should and should not do, and how things should and should not be. All of this is the mind's attempt to first create a conceptual model of what would make you okay, and then try to get the outside world to match it.

5. Realize that the process of defining how the outside needs to be is not going to make you okay. You must seriously look at this process of trying to be okay. You've been at it your entire life—you've just tried different things at different times. While it's true that sometimes you manage to make it better for short periods of time, you know that you've never even come close to reaching a state of permanent peace. Watch very closely how you react to the things your mind has preferences about. You will see that if your mind gets what it wants, you feel joy; if it doesn't get what it wants, you feel disturbance. Likewise, when your mind experiences what it doesn't want, you feel disturbance, and when it avoids what it doesn't want, you feel relief. You will never be okay playing this game because the world will never match the conceptual model your mind has made up. Eventually, you will come to see that struggling to be okay does not work. At some point, you will try to find a different way to be okay in there.
6. Learn to not participate in the mind's struggle to be okay. This step is about learning to sit in the witness, the part of you that notices the inner urges to be okay. You must become comfortable with sitting in there and not participating in the inner energies. You learn to relax in the midst of them. You come to see that there is a habitual process in which the moment you feel inner disturbance, you are drawn into doing something about it. You must learn to sit inside and not participate in this process. If you truly understand that going outside to try to be okay inside doesn't work, then you'll be willing to sit inside and simply allow the disturbance to pass through. It is not difficult. If you can do this, all disturbance will cease by itself.
7. Learn to go about your life just like everyone else, except that nothing you do is for the pur­pose of trying to be okay. If you aren't so preoccupied with trying to be okay, you will be free to sit inside and quietly love, serve and honor whatever naturally unfolds in front of you. When you reach this point, you are no longer living for yourself. You are interacting with life, but not for the purpose of being okay.
8. As you sincerely let go of the inner energies you are watching, you begin to feel a deeper energy come in from behind. Up to this point, everything you were watching inside was in front of you. But now that you are no longer being drawn into those personal energies, you'll realize that your inner universe is actually very expansive. You will begin to feel Spirit flow in from behind. It lifts you and brings you great love and joy.

9. Your inner experience becomes so beautiful that you fall in love with the energy itself, and you develop a very deep and personal relationship with it. It will become completely clear to you that there is an absolute trade-off between your personal ener­gies and the amount of Spirit that you feel. The more you get drawn into your personal energies, the less Spirit you feel. The more you don't participate in your personal energies, the more Spirit you feel. You now have a direct relationship with the spiritual energy, and you will find yourself constantly longing to experience it.
10. You begin to feel the energy pulling you up into it, and your entire path becomes letting go of yourself in order to merge. Will is no longer needed. Now your path is strictly about releasing yourself into the pull of the higher energy. You must surrender deeply enough to be able to overcome the fear of losing your connection to the personal self. You must to be willing to die to be reborn.
11. Once you get far enough back into the energy, you realize that your personal life can go on without you, leaving you free to become immersed in Spirit. This is the greatest miracle: You've surrendered and your entire life is about Spirit, yet people, places and things continue to interact with you. The difference is that these interactions require none of your energy. They happen naturally, by themselves, leaving you at peace and absorbed in Spirit.
12. Now you are truly okay, and nothing inside or outside of you can cause disturbance—you have come to peace with it all. Because you are now completely okay, you don't need anything. Things just are what they are. At this point, you know yourself as Self. The world, mind and heart cannot disturb you. You've transcended them all. What is more, instead of feeling drawn into Spirit, you now actually experience yourself as Spirit. You have no boundaries in time or space. You have always existed, and you will always exist. You have no form, shape, gender or body. You simply are, have always been and will always be—Infinite Spirit.
So, now I ask myself, how does this apply to my life?

1. Realize that you are in there. You must first come to realize that you are in there. From deep inside, you are experiencing this world. You are experiencing your physical body, your thoughts and your emotions. You are conscious and you are experiencing what it is like to be human.
The other day I was on the stair climber at the gym and I had the strangest feeling of being like an operator in a control tower controlling some sort of machine. I was moving, and I could feel my body, but I had the experience of a kind of inner self that I felt was the "thing" that sparked my body into motion. I know, intellectually that I am not my body. I have a body, and that is a good thing, but I am much more than my body. I've had other experiences that were similar, but for those few minutes climbing stairs in place, my body felt like something that the greater "I" controlled. I looked down at myself and thought, "What is this crazy thing that I am in?" 
It was a very cool feeling, one that I would like to have happen often, this kind of being-ness. How? How can I realize more often that I am in there?
The first answer that comes to mind is meditation to connect with the "witness" or the "observer". Something that I've been doing after I go for a run in the mornings, is to sit in the woods on the same rock and simply connect with myself. This is not something that is easily put into words, but I feel a center within me and I just breathe. Sometimes I even state my intention: "I connect with spirit". I know that I am spirit and I sit in nature and just allow myself to feel it. 

2. Realize that you are not okay in there. Look to see what's going on inside. If you want to understand why you've done everything you have ever done, if you want to see what's really going on, just observe your mind and emotions, just experience your inner state. If you objectively look, you will see that you are never completely at peace. You will see that you are not okay in there.
It's interesting that this is coming up because more than ever I am observing how often I am motivated by fear and discomfort. It's true, it does seem like most of the time, the vast majority of the time in fact, I'm not okay. I'm fearful and uncomfortable. I'm suffering because I wish things were different than they are and I'm trying to avoid all sorts of things out of fear of pain. I have my moments of peace for sure, but they are fleeting and usually immediately followed by thoughts like, "Yeah, but what if...?" or "I wonder when this peace will be disturbed". Of course, the second I ask that question or make that statement, the peace is gone. 
I don't necessarily think that I should avoid discomfort or fear. Just the opposite actually, I think that it's a good idea to let whatever is, be as it is.  
Here is a list on the best spiritual awakening books out there:

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Love and Closeness Challenge #29: Friendship

It's always been very interesting to me that when people get together as a couple, they say that they are "more than friends". Or when people say that they love that they and their mate are friends but they wish they had more. To be a friend is a blessing. To have a close friendship with your mate is a gift. Why do people get together with someone, say they are, "More than friends", and then treat that person as if they are not a friend at all? Why does "more than friends" usually translate eventually into "my mortal enemy" or "my horrible ex"?
The reason, I believe, is that they were never truly friends in the first place. Friendship in a marriage or other "romantic union" is absolutely essential in order to have a happy, loving, close relationship. When you say that you are more than friends, doesn't it make sense to treat each other like the best of friends?

Is to know, like, trust, be comrades, be allies during struggle friendship? If that is true, what is different when two people become lovers? My argument is that nothing is different, or nothing should be different. However, the reason that couples have difficulty being friends is because of the expectations and demands they put on each other. They don't extend the same acceptance of the other person. They try to change them to fit into how they think a lover, husband, boyfriend should be. They don't extend the same forgiveness. They feel that the other person should behave in certain ways if they love them. They don't extend the same affection and warm kindness. They believe that they have a right to demand and expect the other person to behave a certain way to meet their "needs". It's highly unlikely that you would do these things to a friend. If you would, then you probably have struggled throughout your life to keep your friends. 
A friend takes time to know you better. The two of you talk, listen, share and play together. You know each other's preferences and each other's quirks, beliefs, opinions, body language etc. Friends like each other as they are. They enjoy each other's company, they laugh and have fun. Friends trust one another, they know that they have each other's best interest at heart. Friends are on each other's teams. They are allies.

Are you and your partner friends? If not, it's vitally important that you become good friends. How can you become better friends with your partner right now? 
* You can get to know each other better. Ask questions, take time to listen and share.
* You can enjoy him more. Find something to do together that is enjoyable. Laughter is uplifting and bonding. Play.
* Trust that all is well. Relax and be present. 
* Be on his team. How can you be more of his ally?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Love and Closeness Challenge #28: Believed In

There are few more wonderful feelings in the world than the one of being truly believed in. There are few more awful feelings in the world than knowing someone believes that you can't do something, it's like they are saying that you are not good enough.
We all want high self esteem and to see ourselves in the best possible light. We want to feel that we can do or be whatever it is that we set out to do or be. We want to believe in ourselves. When someone else gives us the gift of believing in us, it makes it easier to believe in ourselves. It increases our self esteem and our confidence and creates within us a more positive self view.
Although we can argue that we shouldn't need this validation from others, we all do. We are, by our very natures as human beings, interdependent. It's wonderful when others do this for us, however we can't control others, we can only control ourselves. Giving this validation is a form of positive energy that you pour into the relationship cup. Of course the more positive you put in, the better.
If you would like to raise another person's view of themselves to a higher level and make them feel good, then give them your vote of confidence. Let them know that you believe in them, that you know that they can be whoever it is that they want to be and do whatever it is that they would like to do.
In truth, we are all empty vessels filled with a void of unrealized potentials. Each one of us is capable of doing anything that another human being has done. The only limits are the limits that we put on ourselves. So, your beloved truly is capable of doing and being whatever he/she chooses. Put your faith in them and let them know that you have faith in them.

Think of your loved one right now. What is it that they most want to do, be or have? Have you been supportive or have you been a dream squisher? Remember there is nothing that they can't do and your vote of confidence and your faith in them and in their dreams is a gift of love. No one ever became great by believing that they couldn't do something. Tell them sincerely that you know that they can do whatever it is that they set their mind to. Don't allow them to put themselves down. Be there to remind them of their limitless potential. This is not to push them to do anything, but to help them to recognize the truth: that they are as capable as any other human is or ever has been. Believe in them. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Love and Closeness Challenge #27: Mixing Things Up

Variety is one of the six human needs. Without movement and change there is no life, there is no spark, no spirit. Mixing things up creates excitement and novelty and everyone loves excitement and craves novelty.
This is human nature. What is new, different and exciting captures our attention. A major complaint people have in relationships is that they get bored. Then, they will usually blame their partner. They'll say something like: "He's so boring" or "He's so predictable". Very rarely do I meet someone who says that they're stuck in a rut and feeling bored who acknowledges that this is because they are boring. I'm not meaning to offend, but if you are bored it's because you're boring and if you're stuck in a rut it's because you're not changing things up.
This isn't to blame you or make you feel bad, it's to encourage you to take an honest look at yourself and take some responsibility in creating excitement in the relationship if this is what you want. If you've depended on your partner to create the excitement and change things up, I would be willing to bet the farm that you didn't like how that turned out. Most of the time when you wait for your partner to change or give to you, you end up disappointed or even resentful. This doesn't create love and closeness, obviously. The perfect antidote is to look at the situation and yourself honestly and ask yourself: "Where could I add some excitement? Where could I mix things up and make it fun and different?" Even if after your evaluation your answer is that there is no where that you could mix things up to make it fun and exciting, don't stop there. Ask yourself: "If I wanted this to be the funnest most exciting relationship I could possibly have, where would I mix things up to create this?" An answer will always come because no matter how good it is, it could always be better. It's your job to raise your standards and expectations for yourself and your behavior and do what you can do to make it the best it can possibly be.
There are more advantages to mixing things up than just not being bored. Keeping things interesting in this way sets a playful tone. Adults are just big kids and we love to play. Even the most serious among us has a playful spirit that if not allowed to be expressed, withers and we become bitter. Another great thing about novelty is that it is very bonding.The emotions that you experience from mixing things up when you share them with another in a positive, feel good way are magnified and intensified. When you have an adventure with someone it connects you in a deep way. The adventure doesn't need to be a big adventure that you have once or twice a year, little daily, playful adventures are better.

 So, examine your daily routine. Look at your day. Where can you inject something unexpected into it? There are a million ways to do this, but how can you do it that will make it fun for you and your mate? This is highly individual.
There's a certain amount of stability we all need as well. There is nothing wrong with having a routine. There's nothing wrong with breaking out of a routine and making things interesting and new either.
When you come home do you always turn the TV and sit on the couch with your mate to watch the news? What would happen if instead you set yourself and him up for a crazy surprise instead? If he's sitting down on the couch already, what would happen if you sat down next to him naked? Well, who knows what would happen, that's what makes it exciting. You have to come up with your own way of changing things up, but my challenge to you today is to examine your day and think of at least one thing that you can do that would be completely out of the norm. The only requirement is obviously that it be something that will be positive and will feel good. If you want to get really crazy, or if you're finding yourself in a real rut, look at your week and think of one thing that you can do for each one of the seven  days that would be surprising. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Love and Closeness Challenge #26: Helped

The above radio interview with Gregg Braden is wonderful and insightful. It's long, but I listened to it while I cleaned my house and it's well worth listening to and reflecting on.
I believe that we are hard wired to cooperate. It is a basic human need to cooperate with one another because it is absolutely necessary for our survival. We need to help and be helped in big ways and in small ways.
There is a lot to say about the wonderful feelings that cooperation can give you. When you seek to work with someone you naturally feel warm and kind, affectionate feelings toward that person. This is the way that energy works.
It seems like competition is the way that things are had. It seems like it's a dog eat dog world and if you don't get yours while you can there won't be enough for you. It seems like there isn't enough and everyone has to beat another person or take it from them in order to gain. This is not the way that nature works however. Nature does have some species that have to compete with one another or with other species to survive. However, on the whole, the rule of nature and survival is cooperative, not competitive.  
One of the wonderful side effects that cooperation has when talked about in the context of marriage or partners, is it's effect on our bodies. When we cooperate with one another our bodies release the extemely important "trust and bonding" hormone known as oxytocin.
Oxytocin  may be responsible at least in part for romantic attraction and subsequent monogamous pair bonding. It evokes feelings of contentment, reductions in anxiety, and feelings of calmness and security around the mate. Oxytocin may help promote fidelity within monogamous relationships.
Empathy in healthy males has been shown to be increased after intranasal oxytocin[42][43] This is most likely due to the effect of oxytocin in enhancing eye gaze. 
Bonding: In the prairie vole, oxytocin released into the brain of the female during sexual activity is important for forming a monogamous pair bond with her sexual partner. Vasopressin appears to have a similar effect in males.[55] Oxytocin has a role in social behaviors in many species, so it likely also does in humans.
Cooperation is a need and it's natural between human beings and in fact the majority of the animal kingdom. We know that when we cooperate with one another we release the chemical oxytocin into our bodies and this is very powerfully bonding. It helps people to form trust and intimacy. It also helps couples to remain faithful because it adds a feeling of desire to be loyal. These are all amazing reasons to seek to help the other. However, these are not the only reasons to seek to cooperate with others.
That's what loving relationships are based on people working together as a team to meet the same end. Even if that end is just to enjoy a date, have a great conversation or relax and watch a movie, there is still a spirit of synergy
Two things can't exist in the same place at the same time. I always think of this when thinking emotions, thoughts and states. In other words, you can't be competing with one another, quarreling or living in discord if you are seeking to cooperate. The two are diametrically opposed. Like oil and water, one displaces the other. If you are cooperating harmoniously, you can't possibly be a hindrance to one another. The two are opposites, where one exists the other disappears. 

Your challenge today is not an easy one. The idea comes from the book "If It Hurts, It Isn't Love: And 365 Other Principals To Heal And Transform Your Relationships"   
  • Chuck Spezzano Ph.D. It's a wonderful book, very insightful and I love the way that he breaks it down into easy to do exercises for each day of the year. The challenge that he poses and that I now challenge you to do is to think of the person who you feel most attacked by in your life. Think of that person right now and know that the only reason that they are attacking you is because they are fearful. Their attack is a request for your love. Remember what it's like to feel like you are afraid and like you want someone's love but feel like you don't have it. It's an awful feeling. 
  • Your part is to "move toward them". You do this by extending love in some way, calling them, hugging them, being there to listen etc. The point is of course, not to get anything in return, but to give love without expectations and this is so incredibly helpful to the person in fear. This is healing and by being an assistant in healing them you are cooperating with them on a soul level. 

    Monday, October 21, 2013

    Love and Closeness Challenge #25: Treat Yourself the Way You would Have Your Mate Treat You

    Some people naturally love themselves, respect themselves and treat themselves well. My mother is one of those people. She just really likes who she is and she treats herself very well. It makes it very easy to be with her because she's pleasant and doesn't expect anyone else to give to her or fulfill her needs. She's already happy with herself and her life and she enjoys people, but doesn't need anything from them. 
    I'm much different than my mother. Loving myself and treating myself well was something that I had to learn. It took time and energy. The wonderful thing about having to learn it as opposed to being born with it is that I can share what I learn. Ask my mom how she loves herself and what she does to treat herself well and you will get a blank stare. She won't even understand the question, or she might just say, "I don't know, I just do". I, on the other hand, can give you specific instructions on how to treat yourself well. I've had to study it. This isn't to say that one way of arriving at a place where you love yourself and treat yourself the way that you would like a great partner to treat you is better than another. However, I wouldn't give my knowledge up for anything. I'm so thankful that I went through all that I've gone through to get to a point where I naturally treat myself well and can honestly say that I love myself. It's amazing how much better everything about life is when you treat yourself with love, kindness and respect. No matter where you go, what you're doing or who you're doing it with, you are with you. It's not possible to not be with you. Life is infinitely better when you are your own friend. 
    How can you expect to be loved if you don't love yourself? How can you expect to be respected if you have no respect for yourself? How can you expect to be treated well if you don't treat yourself well? How can you expect to be given to if you don't feel worthy enough to receive?
    When you don't love yourself, no matter what you have or what you're doing with your life, it won't matter, you won't be fulfilled. There will always be an emptiness inside, a feeling of lack that you just can't seem to supply with enough stuff to fill. If you truly love yourself, no matter what is going on around you, life is something to be grateful for. Your circumstances could be no where near where you'd like them to be and yet you will feel a sense of fulfillment and joy in being alive that nothing that you could achieve or obtain could ever give you. 
    That's all great. Loving yourself is the most worthy of goals. However, you can treat yourself well starting right now. You don't have to wait until you feel inspired to treat yourself like you would like your partner to treat you. You don't even have to love yourself first. I am a big believer in faking it until you make it. I believe that when you just start acting as if whatever it is that you desire is already real, you call it into being. I'm not sure how this works, and if you like you can call it the law of attraction or whatever else you'd like to call it. I feel that it's your subconscious mind bringing you to whatever it is that you want. It doesn't matter what label anyone gives it, what matters is that it works. 
    So, starting right now, fake it until you make it by acting as if you love yourself. I'm going to ask you to do this by pretending that you are your own ideal mate. Ask yourself the following questions:
    1. What would you give yourself right now if you were your ideal mate? 
    Would you buy yourself a card with a handwritten note about how amazing you are? Would you give yourself a night off? Would you give yourself flowers?
    2. What would you do for yourself right now if you were your ideal mate?
    Would you clean up the house? (Although that seems like work that would take away from yourself, if it makes you feel better than it is a gift to you from you) Would you pour a bath and light some candles and allow yourself time to just soak?
    3. How would you talk to yourself right now if you were your ideal mate?
    Would to tell yourself that you look amazing in your new dress? Would you tell yourself what a great job you did in dealing with the most annoying coworker that ever live? Would you tell yourself that you're a great mom?
    4. How would you treat yourself right now if you were your ideal mate? Would you eat healthier foods? Would you sleep a full eight hours? Would you wear more comfortable clothes?
    5. What would you do with yourself right now if you were your ideal mate? Would you lay in bed and watch a movie? Would you take yourself out to breakfast? Would you sit and have a long heart to heart with yourself?

    Your challenge today is to figure out what you'd like your partner to do with/for you. Once you have this figured out, don't waste any more time trying to get these things from someone else. Instead, do these things for and with yourself. Be your own best partner. You can still have a partner, and actually this can go a long way in bringing you closer because instead of expecting to get from him, you will be sharing who you are with him and enjoying his company. 

    Thursday, October 17, 2013

    Love and Closeness Challenge #24: Challenged

    It's a change of pace for me to write about challenging another, I'm so used to writing about giving and loving and kindness. This Love and Closeness Challenge about challenge is a challenge for me.
    I do believe that we all must be challenged in life. It helps us to grow and evolve and without growth and evolution we are dead. Most people experience the most challenges with other people. Henry Grayson, author of "Mindful Loving," and "The New Physics of Love," says that "The path to God is through our brother". He goes on to say that the journey to divinity is through our relationships.
    We are most challenged in our relationships that we feel are special with the people that we are closest to. Not many people have troubled relationships with their mailman or the grocery clerk or their ex-coworker. Usually, the relationships that present us with challenges are the close ones. This is because we expect from them. We may not have big expectations, from our perspective our expectations could be very small and reasonable. The problem is not the specifics of the expectations or the size, but the fact that we have expectations at all sets us up for trouble.
    I can imagine that there are some people out there that may have just read that and thought, "You mean I shouldn't expect anything from the people I love?" Well, I'm not one for should and shouldn't, but yes actually that is exactly what I'm saying.
    When you have expectations of another what you are saying is either: "Here are the set of rules that I expect you to live by, if you love me you'll do them," or "I've done this for you and now you owe me,". The dictionary defines expectation as a strong belief that something will happen or be the care in the future and a belief that someone will or should do something.
    Every single conflict that you've ever had in any relationship, any frustration, irritation or annoyance has only been an issue because someone didn't live up to the expectations you created for them. They weren't living up to your idea of who they should be or what they should do. Relationships would be so easy if other people would just be who they are supposed to be and do what they're supposed to do. They would be effortless; and totally worthless and boring.
    Why would they be worthless and boring? Because then the people that you would be interacting with would be like robots, conforming to your every idea of what they should be and what they should do, without a will of their own.
    People stir up emotions in us when they behave in ways that don't comply with the rules, or expectations that we have for them. They trigger things inside of us and we get angry, or feel rejected, or offended. In truth, they aren't making us angry, they didn't reject us and they didn't offend us. They did whatever they did for whatever unknowable reason they did it and we chose to react the way that we did. We chose to react the way that we did because they upset a rule that says something like "when people do (fill in the blank) that makes me feel (fill in blank),". Maybe you didn't sit down and choose these rules, they have likely been formed throughout your life, but your rules are not the rules that other people should live by. How do I know this? Because we all have very different rules. I know people who get very upset when someone disagrees with something that they believe in. If they're talking to someone and the say what they feel is true and the other person disagrees, they feel offended and disrespected. I know for a fact that his is definitely not a rule for disrespect; I don't mind at all if someone disagrees with a belief that I have.
    What does this really have to do with challenges? Simple: we are challenged because we have expectations. The less expectations and rules that we have for other people to live up to, the more harmonious, loving and joyful our relationships will be.
    This is not to make anyone feel bad for having expectations, we are imperfect. Expectations are a part of human nature. They are there and we get triggered often because we have them. My challenge for you today is not to get rid of all of the expectations and rules that you have for others, that is too enormous a task and takes a lifetime. Instead, when you get "triggered" (have a negative emotional reaction) I challenge you to recognize what's really going on, and that is the other person hasn't lived up to your idea of who they should be or they haven't done something that you feel they should have done. Every upset is a violation of something you feel should or shouldn't be according to your personal rules.

    To get very specific, my challenge for you today is to examine when you feel upset in any way. Ask yourself: "What expectations or rules is this person violating or not living up to that I've assigned for them?" and "Why did I assign this rule for them to follow?" Did you really need to set up that expectation for them? Each time you feel upset in any way, it's an opportunity to examine this and possibly to eliminate a rule or expectation and bring you closer to harmony, good feelings, love and closeness. 
    In addition, any time that anyone else gets upset it's because their rules have been violated. You can choose to get upset in return, defend yourself and escalate the situation. Or, you can choose to feel some compassion. It's painful to be angry, to feel jealous or rejected and it's painful to judge others. Let your heart go out to the upset person. Also, it would benefit both of you if you examined what rule was being violated. \Listen carefully to what the person is complaining or upset about. There is a request to follow a rule or meet an expectation. This is direct instruction on how you can better demonstrate love for this person and make them feel good.

    Wednesday, October 16, 2013

    Love and Closeness Challenge #23: Vulnerability

    This is an article that I'm especially excited to write. Vulnerability is absolutely necessary if you would like to have a connection with others.  
    THE expert on vulnerability, Brené Brown says:"We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection. Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them -- we can only love others as much as we love ourselves. Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare."
    The part of that first sentence that says "we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known", really gets to the heart of the matter. Our vulnerability is our power, it is our greatest strength. 
    We simply can't have intimacy if we aren't willing to share the truth of who we are with another. This truth includes the whole picture, the good, the bad and the ugly. The truth is not exclusive.
    I believe that dreams contain deep wisdom that comes directly from the all knowing observer part of ourselves. I often write questions down on a piece of paper and put the paper under my pillow and quickly say before I put my head down: "Thank you for truth I can understand and integrate into my life," or something similar. Sometimes these questions are about problems I want to solve, but this question was simply about how I can improve. I feel very close to the people in my life, but I believe no matter where you are there is always an upward direction that you can move in. So, I asked the question: "How can I be closer to the people I love?" I laid down and fell asleep pretty quickly and had a very vivid, clear dream. I was being turned inside out. A force entered my mouth and worked it's way to my feet and pulled them up through my mouth and turned me completely inside out, like a sock. The process was a little uncomfortable, but not really painful. In the dream I stood up strongly in the middle of the room that I was in and a voice in me said, "I must show everyone". 
    What that meant to me was that I need to expose myself. I need to let what is on my inside be clearly seen and experienced by myself and those around me. I need to allow them to see me.
    This is about more than just honesty. There is a deeper truth and a truer sense of what is real about you then just being honest with others. You can be honest for the rest of your life and not share who you truly are with anyone at all. Honesty is a part of this authentic sharing, but it is not the whole of it. 
    I love when Brené says that vulnerable people are courageous. She says this is different from being brave: “Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor - the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant "To speak one's mind by telling all one's heart." Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences -good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as "ordinary courage.” 
    ― Brené Brown

    Do you speak your truth with all your heart? There is no shame or blame in truth. There is not weakness in your heart, there is only courage. 
    Vulnerable acts are acts that take courage. You put yourself out there, the true you without the masks or the pretenses. You don't try to hide your pain, your fear, your failures, your emotions or anything else about yourself. You expose yourself and this is terrifying. However, it is the key to intimacy. You simply cannot have intimacy if you are invulnerable. I would say that when you are truly completely vulnerable, you are centered and strong because you know that you are worthy of love no matter how imperfect you are. You rely on your strong core (root word of courageous) which is your faith in your inherent value. It takes more strength to share the true story of you than to hide it.

    Vulnerability is exposing your true self, your true story, your true feelings without an expectation of the way that the other person should respond. If they are open and accepting, great, but if not that is no reflection on you, it is a reflection of their own fear. Don't let another's reaction, or your fear of their reaction stop you from turning yourself inside out. Just as important, reserve your judgment and allow others to be completely vulnerable with you. This is scary, but I promise you that you won't die. You will start the process of deep connection. 
    Think of something that you are scared to share. It could be anything, what is it that you are afraid to tell anyone? Practice being inside out and go tell someone. Take a leap of faith. This isn't about trust, this is about knowing that who you are is no less valuable or worthy than anyone else. No matter what you have done or what you are thinking or feeling you are worthy of love. Speak your deepest truth, even if the story you tell is filled with mistakes or regrets. Share your authentic self, all the dark parts of you that feel shameful make up who you are. 
    True friends are true friends because you were willing to share with them your deepest secrets. They know about the time you lied to your boss and that you haven't shaved in over a month and that's the real reason you wear jeans in the summer. They know you - all of you, and they still love you. This didn't just happen for no reason, it happened because you were willing to turn yourself inside out.