Monday, July 29, 2013

Loving Difficult People in Difficult Times

When others are being kind, considerate and loving, it's natural to be loving in return. This is ideal, and the way that we believe that our relationships should be all the time. In our culture, we have high expectations. We expect others to love us through our difficult times, through our horrible moods, our mistakes, inconsiderate behaviors, oversights, illnesses etc. Everyone has these times, it is part of the experience of being human. You will have times like this and the people that you love will surely have times like this as well. At these times, when we deem another unlovable or when others deem us unlovable, what can we do to not only ease pain, but actually become closer through these challenges?
Are we able to be there when others are in these dark times as a loving force in their life? Not just as a physical body, but as a presence of kindness, acceptance, understanding and love? This is when and how it counts. This is when there is need for love to selflessly shine a warm, gentle light for another. When people are feeling light themselves, it's nice to add brightness to their light, but it is most needed when they are in complete darkness. Love in good times is easy, natural and ideal, but as the wonderful author of the insightful book "Mindful Loving", Henry Grayson says: "Is that really love?"
True love is not fluffy, soft, romantic or pretty. It is raw, strong, enduring, steadfast, patient, peaceful, unconditional and always giving. True love overcomes the greatest of obstacles with fearless determination. Love that is real sees past the mask and into the soul of another, even when others find them impossible to love. 
As I've previously written about in this blog post, giving love is not about making another person comfortable. It's not about making things easy for them and it isn't always about giving them what they want. If another is having a difficult time with addiction for instance, making it easy for them to get their drug of choice and making it comfortable for them to live while they get their fix, is not love. Just as it isn't love for you to give into your child when he or she throws a fit in a store. Love sees a person as they could be at their best, even when they are their worst and holds them to that standard while at the same time accepting them as they are. This challenges us as humans on every level of our being, no one said it would be easy. However, there is no greater reward than truly loving another, and true love loves at all times.

“Beneatha: Love him? There is nothing left to love.

Mama: There is always something left to love. And if you ain't learned that, you ain't learned nothing. (Looking at her) Have you cried for that boy today? I don't mean for yourself and for the family 'cause we lost the money. I mean for him: what he been through and what it done to him. Child, when do you think is the time to love somebody the most? When they done good and made things easy for everybody? Well then, you ain't through learning - because that ain't the time at all. It's when he's at his lowest and can't believe in hisself 'cause the world done whipped him so! when you starts measuring somebody, measure him right, child, measure him right. Make sure you done taken into account what hills and valleys he come through before he got to wherever he is.”
Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Classes, Workshops etc.

If you are in the Rhode Island area, come to one of my events!
I am hosting a spiritually based relationship discussion group on August 28th at 6:00 at Abbottswood Herbals in Wickford. Call Jeannie (401) 787-1170 to reserve your spot or for more information.
Every Tuesday night at 7:30 at Mother Mystic on Dean Street in Providence I teach: Creating a Spiritually Based Partnership. Call Susan (401) 353-3099

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Encouraging Spiritual Growth for Another as a Form of Giving Love

Unconditional love is the only kind of love that is truly love. There are many other modes of feeling and being that may disguise themselves as love, but the only true form of love is the love that remains no matter what. This kind of love always wants what's best for the other, and this isn't always what is comfortable for them, or even what they desire for themselves. Love helps others to grow into the best possible version of themselves and the act of loving assists in this. 
I understand this best when I think of a parent's love for his or her children. When children are young, it is the parent's job to assist in their development. This means that they lovingly guide the child, encourage him or her to explore, allow them to be as they are. If the actions the child took cause unwanted consequences, the wise parent knows that the child must experiences this in order to learn. 
It's easy to see why this kind of love that encourages learning and growth is important for a parent to do with a child. However, it may not be as easy to understand that this kind of loving is important in other relationships as well. Partners that encourage the growth of the other partner are looking out for their well being. They want what is best for the other and they understand that getting to a better place or developing as a person is not always going to be comfortable or easy. 
This is not to say that you assume the role of teacher or that you give advice. Although to do this with a child is appropriate, when interacting with your partner, it's not only inappropriate, it's demeaning. So, how do you go about encouraging the spiritual, mental and emotional development of your partner?
The first step in this process is to accept your partner the way that he/she is. Anything that you resist will persist. If you are resisting something about your partner that you aren't crazy about, you are actually drawing more of that behavior out in him or her. Acceptance is not the same as tolerance. When you accept something, you aren't saying that you're going to put up with it and not like it. What you are saying is that you understand that they are where they are in life, they do what they do and for whatever reason it is best for them in this stage of their life. Acceptance is understanding that the your partner's behaviors aren't within your control to change and that this is their place right now in their own development. 
Wanting what is best for them and knowing that they are perfectly capable of having it is step number two. This means that you want what they want for themselves as much as they want it (as long as it truly is good for them). You hold space for them, you see them as the person they want to be right now and treat them as such and allow them to do whatever it is that they need to do with your full support. You don't necessarily have to do anything or give them anything. Support can mean just being there as a positive force in their life. 
The tough part is allowing them to experience difficult consequences. It is so tempting to try to protect or save a loved one when you have that feeling of knowing that something will not turn out well, or will lead to something not so great. However, as much as you think this is helpful and giving love, bailing someone out or not allowing them to make their own mistakes is detrimental to them and to you. It may feel like it's what's vest in the short term, but nothing is learned. Everyone has their own path and must go through their own lessons. Not offering advice when you see someone about to do something you feel isn't good for them is so difficult when you care about them. Be there to listen, offer encouragement when you see them taking steps in a direction that will lead to well being and treat them as if they are the person they want to be. You are no lesser, or greater a person than they and you have no room to say what is wrong or right for them. You can only love and act from your own side. Struggle to change them or "improve" them and you will be met with resentment and more struggle. Allow them to grow on their own with your gentle, loving support and they will have the space to be the best that they can be and you will become closer in the process. 

“It amazes me that people think their soul mate is going to show up in their life at this predestined time and be this flawless person. A true soul mate is a mirror of yourself, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. Sure, they have a common upbringing, similar interests but they have the one thing you don’t have which is the introspection to help you become great. What use is a soul mate if they can’t help free you from yourself so you can live your life mission?”
Shannon L. Alder

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Love is Always Giving

In relationship, the natural thing to do is to wait for a warm, fuzzy feeling of love and affection before they extend love. However, this feeling is not prerequisite for you to give love. Love is always giving, no matter what you are feeling. It always speaks and acts in ways that bring good feelings and well being to the beloved.
This is easier said than done. Our natural tendency to desire another to give love to us and to make us feel good is such an engrained habit that it can be difficult to override. How can you put this into practice easily? Through awareness and intention. Nothing needs to be done really. If you try to make something happen, this won't last. Anything you do with conscious effort you will resist. You can't will yourself to continue to do anything. You may be able to get yourself to do it a few times, but it won't last and oftentimes this kind of effort leads to resentment. Instead, just having the intention to give love to the other always, no matter what and to speak in act in ways that increase their well being and makes them feel good will work miracles. Then, simply live moment to moment with a gentle awareness and notice the way that you behave without judging yourself or the other in any way. If you can be present and just allow yourself to be loving, even when you are not being loving, you give yourself room to change.
To ask yourself, "What is the most loving thing I can do for this particular person in this particular moment? Or "How can I help this person to be well and feel good?" without feeling like you need to act is enough to act in loving ways and help the other person feel good and be well. Any effort that you put into it against what you truly want to do will back fire. If you force yourself to give something to another, that isn't loving because the true loving feelings aren't there. This will cause resentment. Just saying to yourself "I intend in every moment to be loving and to give love to others in ways that make them feel great and increase their well being", you will naturally do these things. Intention is extremely powerful.
To add even more power to this, ask for help from a power greater than yourself. I surrender to my "great, all knowing, all powerful, loving subconscious mind" because it is what feels right for me. Surrender it to God, or the universe or whatever works for you. Say something to yourself like, "Please assist me in being loving and giving love in every moment so that I may help others to feel their best and be well." 
Love isn't really one size fits all; what might be a loving act toward one person could feel terrible to another person.  A lot of times we feel that the way that we like to be given love to is the way that others like love to be given to them, but this simply isn't true. What feels good to you might feel awful for another person. The kind of love to give to help another feel good and be well is a new decision to make in every moment. There is no rule you can apply to everyone all the time.
Don't let this deter you though, it's actually not difficult. You are an infinitely wise being and you know the answer to all questions. Trust yourself, you'll know what to do. All that you have to do is have the intention of being loving and giving love in a way that feels good for the other. Do this and then just be aware of how you are behaving with complete acceptance of yourself, the other and of what is.
Ways to put this into practice:
* State your intention to be loving and give love a few times a day.
* Affirm to yourself that you are loving and that you make others feel great.
* Ask for assistance from whatever higher power you believe in.
* Notice your behavior in the present moment without judgment of any kind. Just observe.
* When you notice that you are being loving and it feels good, let yourself feel good about it. Tell yourself you've done well.
* Trust yourself to give love and be loving in ways that make the other feel good. You'll know by what feels right.

“Generosity is not giving me that which I need more than you do, but it is giving me that which you need more than I do.” Khalil Gibran

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Transformation Through Awareness

Over the years I've tried to change my life and myself. I've struggled to make myself take action. I've tried hard to use will power to just do or not do things. This approach always worked, for about a day. I've read over 1,000 self help books, attended workshops and talked with counselors and coaches and still remained stuck in old patterns. Nothing worked until I read a book called: "Working On Your Relationship Doesn't Work" by Shya and Ariel Kane. It was such a radically different approach to transformation than anything I've ever read. When I read what Ariel and Shya suggested was the key to transformation, I got chills as it resonated so completely with me as being a deep truth.
There are many wonderful points in this book and I would highly recommend reading it for anyone, those in relationships and singles. However, the point they make in the book about transforming through simple awareness is so powerful. They say that in order to transform, no effort is needed. What is needed is non-judgmental awareness of the behaviors. This means that you just notice what you are doing without trying to change it and without calling it "good" or "bad". When you are engaging in a behavior and you are simply aware that you are doing it and you watch yourself, the way a scientist would observe his or her subject, the behavior will naturally change.
The alternatives are: trying to make something happen, judging yourself when you do engage in the behavior or denying that you are engaging in the behavior. Trying to make something happen is working against yourself and your natural behaviors, habits and patterns. This is unnatural and the effort may work for a short time, but it almost never lasts because it requires us to remember to do it and then to put out energy in the opposite direction than we are used to. In short, it requires too much work and humans want to take the path of least resistance. Resistance also occurs when you are judge yourself. When you are doing something and telling yourself how awful you are for doing it, you are affirming this to yourself over and over and strongly identifying with how awful you are for doing whatever it is that you are doing. You tell yourself over and over and you begin to believe that it defines who you are. Of course, denying that you do something won't work. Pretending that something does or doesn't happen allows it to fester and grow. That denial is a form of resistance, and what you resist persists.
On the other hand, what you embrace, you erase. If you can be completely honest with yourself and just notice when you are doing something that you wish you wouldn't do with objectivity then it just dissolves or transforms, fairly quickly all on it's own. You don't have to do anything or try in any way, it will just happen. There is nothing to lose in this approach and everything to gain.
This is just one part of the transformational process (albeit a crucial one). The rest of this wonderful formula can be found in the book ""Working On Your Relationship Doesn't Work" by Shya and Ariel Kane.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Nothing Needs To Be Added or Taken Away

It is my strong believe that you are enough as you are now, to be worthy of great love. There is nothing that needs to be added or taken away from your self; you are a complete human being. Nothing needs to be fixed; you aren’t broken or damaged regardless of anything that has happened in the past. You are not your past thoughts and actions, and these need not effect you in your present moment or in any subsequent moments that follow. You are whatever you choose to be in this moment and whatever you choose to be is always good enough. There is nothing to worry about; there is nothing that you can possibly “mess up” or get “wrong”. It’s difficult to remain present and enjoy your life or your relationship when you are concerned about how you should be behaving. There are no “should s” or “should not s”. You are perfectly desirable and lovable the way that you are right now and there is nothing that you can do to change this. There is no need to wait to enter a relationship until you “know what you are doing” or wait to put effort into improving your current relationship until you are certain of “the right thing to do”. You can choose right now to create change, no matter where you are at. You can choose to respond differently to others in this very moment.
You are good enough as you are and nothing needs to be changed about you; and the same is true of your partner. He or she is a complete human being and there is nothing that needs to be added or taken away from him/her. There is certainly nothing about him/her that needs to be fixed. Even if from your perspective he has many flaws, trying to change him only causes both of you to feel resentful. The way he is right now is exactly the way that he should be and whatever your relationship is like right now it’s a perfect place to start from.
This actually took me a very long time to learn. For many years I tried to fix myself and in relationships I tried to fix others. The truth of the matter is, nothing needs to be fixed in anyone. You may have habits that are unhealthy, but have you ever noticed how beating yourself up about it simply doesn't work?  Not only does it not work, but most of the time it makes you feel awful and actually intensifies the behavior.
I want you to love yourself, truly and deeply. I don't want you to beat yourself or anyone else up anymore. I don't want you to blame yourself or anyone else for your past "failures". I don't want you to feel that you need to read the next self help book to start living your life to the fullest. I don't want you to feel that you have to complete the next program about how to improve your relationship before you connect with your mate. What I do want, for myself and everyone, is to live in this moment with full awareness that nothing needs to be added or taken away from anything. Everything is just the way that it is and can either be praised or damned. This isn't to say that things can't be changed from this moment forward, just that wishing you or another or your circumstances were different than they are won't help. Being where you are when you are there with your non-judgmental awareness and engaging in the dance of your life will create change. This sort of presence helps one to notice things that are essential for transformation of all kinds to take place. A person who is caught up in struggling to change themselves or others or thinking of how they wish things were different is not even going to notice the subtle stuff that needs transforming. I would get into this more right now, but it deserves it's own post. Tomorrow I will delve into the wonderful world of transformation. For today, live like you are perfect the way that you are, like all others have some secret plan to bring you your greatest life ever (even when they are being impossibly difficult) and like every single thing that comes up in your life is important and deserves your full awareness. Stop "efforting" and start being where you are so when life shows up you are fully living it. Allow others to be the same. No one has to change to please you, not even you.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Love is an Action, Not a Feeling

Many times it is tempting to think of love as a feeling that inspires us to act in loving ways. However, the problem that comes with this is that we then feel that when we aren't feeling loving we can't, won't or don't have to, act in loving ways. Obviously, this is problematic because there will be times that you don't feel loving. There will be times in your life that you will feel that you have a right to be angry, that other people don't deserve your love and that you are doing everything and the other person isn't doing enough for you. When you feel that you have a right to be upset, you are saying that you are a victim. When you say that there are people who don't deserve your love, you are, in fact placing saying that you aren't deserving of love. We are all human, with failings and imperfections and there have been many times that if you could have observed yourself from the outside, you may have said that you were "undeserving" if you use this logic. When you say that the other person isn't doing enough for you and that you are doing most of the loving, what you are really saying is that your love comes with conditions and the other has to do things to specific things to earn it.
All of these ways of thinking are blocks to love. Instead, it would serve you well to think of love as an action, not a feeling. Believing that love is a feeling puts the power to give us a loving feeling in the actions of another. This is always changing and completely out of our control. We feel that we can get love from another person, that they can say or do something that can give love to us or take it away. This simply isn't true, you are the source of love. There are so many reasons this doesn't serve us, but one way this takes our power away is that when we believe that another person can give love or take it away, when they give it, they are "good" and we act in loving ways toward them. When they take it away they are "bad" and we don't act in loving ways toward them. In short, we change the way that we behave toward them based on our feelings. We react, rather than respond. When we feel good, this is great, but when we feel bad, this is really not good at all. The only kind of relationship that we can expect will be created out of this moody behavior, is a moody one that changes constantly based on the way that you feel, which is never stable. 
Feelings are transient, they shift and change constantly. You can't guarantee that you will feel the same way you feel now in thirty seconds from now, never mind in a year from now. When someone says that they will love someone forever, when they take that vow in marriage for example, they are talking about loving action. Taking loving action is actually taking action,actually doing something loving for another person. When we expect to have loving feelings for someone, we expect the other person to do something to make us feel loved. This is fine when they are doing the things that make us feel loved, but when they stop, we become unloving. This is conditional love and real love is unconditional.
 However, the same is true if you have to do something or be a certain way, in order to receive love. That love is also conditional. 
Instead, if love can be thought of as a behavior or kind acts that we do without expecting anything at all in returm, the reward will become the feeling that you get from giving. This is so wonderful for so many different reasons. The first thing that will happen is you will stop expecting anything from others. This by itself creates miracles in relationships. It frees you up to love the other person for who they truly are, not as you want them to be. You can be present with them. You will also feel free to be yourself because you will understand that you are good enough as you are. You don't need to do anything or be a certain way. Acting in loving ways with every person you meet all the time, regardless of how they behave is love and is the way to increase love in your life. From these loving acts you will feel love. You will feel more and more love with each loving act, as long as these acts truly are done in love (wanting the best for someone, acting in ways that are focused on making the other feel good). You'll know that you are acting in love because you won't be thinking of what you will get from it or how you will benefit. You won't be doing anything to make another feel a certain way about you or to try to convince them of something. You will only be doing what you do to make them feel good, or to bring them more well being. There won't be any thought of the self in there. Therein lies the challenge. If you can do this, your reward will be the love you have in your everyday life.
"Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put in that action."
Mother Theresa