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.  

    Tuesday, October 15, 2013

    Love and Closeness Challenge #22: Approval

    Approval is something that humans want from other humans. It's a big universal need. We all want to feel that what we are doing is okay to others. Maybe we don't care so much what strangers think of us, but it's likely that it matters a great deal what loved ones think. Approval is defined as the action of officially agreeing with something or accepting something as satisfactory. In other words, when you approve of someone you are saying that you agree with whatever it is that they are doing. You feel and express to them that who they are and what they do fulfills your expectations. They are good and acceptable and what they do is good and acceptable.
    This is really fundamental in building close and loving relationships because when people don't feel approved of they feel rejected. Rejection is a very difficult emotion for most of us to deal with and we will avoid the painful source of that rejection at all costs. Obviously, you don't want to be that source. Focusing on not rejecting another person will not get you where you want to be. Focusing on approving of them, their feelings, their actions, their ideas, their decisions etc. will create good feelings and as you know, good feelings is always the goal.

    The challenge today is to sincerely approve of your loved ones. Step outside yourself and your limited way of thinking and understand that there are as many ways of being and doing as there are people on earth. Your way is not the right way and the other person's way is not wrong because there is no right and there is no wrong. Try jumping in the other person's way of viewing the world and know that from where they are standing, what they are doing is the right thing. Know this first and then ask yourself the following questions:
    * What does my loved one do every day that I like and agree with?
    * What does he/she do that I feel that I can fully, sincerely support?
    * What do I feel my loved one does that could use more recognition from myself or others?
    * What do I admire about him/her? 
    * What's important to him/her and why?
    * What is one belief that he/she has that I agree with?
    * What is one value that we share? 
    * What is something that he/she does that I'm not crazy about that I could look at from his perspective and accept as right for him/her? How is it truly right for him/her at this stage of his/her evolution?
    Now, to put this into very simple action, pick the one answer that evokes the most sincere feelings of warmth or connection or appreciation etc. and verbalize it to your loved ones. You don't need to go into flowery detail, just tell them in a short, sincere sentence how you truly feel about something that you approve of about them or what they do. This makes any human feel great, we all like to feel like we are okay, that our loved ones feel good about who we are and what we do, but none of us just know this. We need to be told and shown. 

    Saturday, October 12, 2013

    Do NOT Settle

    What's important to you? What are your beliefs? The answer to these question will shape your life.
    Think about two people that I'm sure that you've heard of and what matters to them. The things that are important to Mother Theresa are surely not the same things that are important to Osama Bin Laden. They surely believe different things.
    It seems that Mother Theresa greatly valued love and compassion. She believed that to meet these values she had to give to others in a way that added value to their lives. Her values and belief was so strong that she made a real difference in the world and never asked for anything in return. She was a beacon of light and hope in even the most desperate and dismal places on the planet. She helped so many people in her life in such a huge way that when she died, great leaders from around the world attended her funeral.
    Osama Bin Laden also made a difference in the world, he left his print. He also has values and although I've never met him personally, it seems that one of his big values are significance. There are many people who contribute massively to the world in wonderful ways that really help others. That is based on their beliefs. Osama Bin Laden didn't believe that the way to achieve significance was through love and kindness. His ideas, as we all know, were quite different. He achieved his significance in the way that he believed significance should be achieved.
    Osama Bin Laden's and Mother Theresa's values and beliefs are radically different and produced radically different results.
    Even if one value that Mother Theresa and Osama Bin Laden shared that was important to both of them was contribution, because both of them had extremely different beliefs of how they should contribute to the world they left very different marks on the world.
    People have their ways that they think that the world should be and what they should do to meet the values they hold important. If they value adventure and fun above all other things their life will look completely different than someone who values stability and security above all other things.
    You have your ideas of the way that you think life should be. You have your values and your beliefs about what you need to do to meet those values. That will be reflected in your entire life. It will direct and guide you.
    Why figure out what you value? Why figure out what you believe about what you need to do to meet those values? If you aren't meeting your values, your life will not feel meaningful. You will feel as if you are not meeting your needs. If you're beliefs aren't serving you in successfully meeting your values, you'll feel frustrated, disappointed and unsatisfied.
    These are your ideas of how you're supposed to be, how life is supposed to be, how others are supposed to be and if these things are very different from what your life looks like right now, you will not be satisfied with your life. You'll be unhappy.
    It's likely that you've set these values and beliefs up mostly unconsciously throughout your life based on past experience. If you have your values that are very important to you and the beliefs about how you, or others, or life itself should be are set up so that they are very difficult or impossible to meet, then you'll experience what most people call failure over and over again. If your biggest value is significance and you believe that the only way for you to have significance is to win an Olympic gold medal but you're fifty years old, there's a problem.
    The good news is: you can intentionally, right now, set it up so that you can succeed. The mind gets into habitual ways of thinking and that creates the emotions that you feel. Those habits are just that, habits. All habits can be changed. Beliefs can be shifted to help you succeed in meeting your values. If you continuously feel like you are failing in meeting your important values you're not serving anyone. When you can feel successful, you'll continue to move forward because it rewards and fulfills you.
    Because this is a blog about love and relationships, let's stick to that subject and figure some things out.
    * What's an area of your relationship that you're very happy with?
    * Why are you happy in that area?
    * Do these areas meet your personal expectations of how things "should" be?
    * What's an area of your relationship that you're not happy with?
    * Why are you unhappy in that area?
    * Do these areas meet your personal expectations of how things "should" be?
    * How "should" things be in this area, according to you?
    * How much pain does this cause you? Be honest with yourself.
    * How many rules do you have in the area that you're unhappy with? Explore this. What are your rules?
    * What has to be done to meet these rules?
    Instead of focusing on this thing that is so unpleasant for you, let's focus on solution. There are three ways that you can do to change this dissatisfaction. You can change the conditions in the relationship. You can take action that will cause things to be different. The problem with this in relationships is that changing the conditions often looks like blame, control, manipulation or bartering to get more love. This doesn't work and creates distance and negative feelings.
    The second is to bury your own feelings, to deny that you're feeling disappointed or unsatisfied. This causes great hidden suffering and resentment. Over time, I would say this is a big reason for separation in relationships. People hide what they really want for so long, even from themselves, until they become cold, numb and distant. It will resurface over and over in the form of little problems that you argue about that never get solved. They never get solved because they aren't revealing the real, core issue. This is obviously not productive in our relationships.
    The third option and the one that we will give our focus to is changing your rules, or your beliefs about the way that things should be for you, your partner and your relationship to be in alignment with your most important values.
    * How "should" a great relationship be in your mind?
    * How should your partner behave in your relationship?
    * What are you expecting of him?
    * Is there an issue in your relationship that you are truly suffering in?
    * Is there a part of your relationship that no matter what you do it seems that it doesn't get better and it causes you a great deal of pain?
    The last question is caused by the fact that you think that the conditions in your relationship should be different than they are and you feel out of control. The truth is, because your relationship involves another person, there is much that you can't control. But you aren't helpless. You can change the way that you think, feel and react to this issue. You have this option and it can make all the difference in the world in your relationship.
    When you think of this problem or issue in the relationship is permanent and unsolvable you put yourself in a position of helplessness. Nothing is permanent and you can always control the way that you think, feel and the choices you make about what to do in response. There is no problem that is unsolvable, otherwise it wouldn't be a problem. A problem, by it's very definition is a matter that is unwelcome that needs to be dealt with and overcome. Look it up.
    Another issue that you may have experiences in your relationship, especially when you hide what you really want and bury it, is that the issue becomes something that pervades the rest of the relationship. It takes over, and the color and mood of the relationship becomes the color and mood of the issue. For example: "Because my husband and I fight over finances because we have very different views of money, that means that we aren't on the same team. We just can't get along." Or "Because my wife says she isn't ready to have a baby and I don't want one, that means we are headed in two different directions in life and that won't work." Problems seem big, and when you're experiencing them they take over. Something that is really not that big of a deal is focused on, blown out of proportion and a lot of attention is given to this problem. Talking about it, fighting about it and trying to get yourself to behave in a certain way to solve it simply won't work. This conscious effort is too forced. There are ways, but they don't involve behavioral changes.
    When you take this issue or problem is personal, that really effects the way that you feel about yourself, your partner and your relationship. You can't do anything about this problem because you take it on as part of your identity or part of your partner's identity or the identity of the relationship. When you say, "We have this issue with money because I'm smart and like to save it," or "We have this issue with money because my husband is not good with money," or "We have this issue with money because we can't agree on the way it should be saved" you are not speaking the truth of this situation. Those are the stories that you are telling yourself and the roles that you are assigning for yourself, your partner and your relationship that will be played out. It's just stories, it's just labels and you have the power to get rid of them. Is your name really "smart and like to save money"? Is your partner's name really "not good with money"? Is the nature of your relationship "can't agree on how money should be saved"? Don't make the problem part of your identity or part of your mate's identity or part of the identity of the relationship. Instead, think of what it is that you want. Don't you want to be a united team? Don't you want to be harmonious and happy and warmly loving and close? Then focus on that. Put it outside of yourself, outside of him and outside of the relationship. Ask yourself: What can I do to unite with my partner and ease this issue in a way that will bring us closer and create good feelings? Nothing is impossible. No matter what the situation is, it is't personal or permanent and any solution that you desire can be the outcome. It's up to you though, not your mate. Your story can change because you can change it.
    When your should matches the way that things are, you're happy. You don't want to ever settle, but if you continuously fail because you set it up that way, you'll stop trying. You have to develop a determined, committed mindset. Dedicate yourself to the cause of love and closeness and you will absolutely find a way to create this in your relationship no matter what the conditions are. The conditions do not matter.
    You can change the feeling tone of your relationship when you decide to. This happens instantly, in the present moment. You don't have to wait for things to change, because they won't until you change them. Create transformation by transforming. This is never, ever done in the past, it is impossible to do this in the future, it's only possible right now. But to do it you have to stop settling for less than you are capable of. You have to stop making excuses, stop blaming anyone, including yourself, for anything (no matter what they've done to you blame will never get you where you want to be) and hold yourself to a new standard right now in this moment. STOP SETTLING FOR LESS THAN WHAT YOU ARE CAPABLE OF.
    In relationships this means stop settling for lukewarm greetings. Take action. Stop coming home from work and going straight to the computer to post an update on facebook. It's funny how people will do things like this everyday, then complain that there's no passion in their relationship and blame their mate when he/she isn't "in the mood".
    The answer to the question "Is there an issue in your relationship that you are truly suffering in?" will give you a clue as to where you need to adjust your should, your story, your values and your decisions. The questions need to shift from "Why is this a problem?" or "What is the cause of this problem?" to "How can I look at this differently in a way that serves me?" "How can I use this circumstance to learn to become a better partner?" and "How can I create an outcome that will increase the love and closeness between myself and my mate?" or "What can I change within myself that will create the best outcome for both of us?"
    What can you do? You are empowered to shift your values and/or your beliefs about what expectations about what needs to happen for those values to be met. You can shift what you expect of your partner which will change the way that you feel about him dramatically. You can set it up so that your beliefs about how he should behave in order for you to feel loved, are simple and met just by him breathing and being himself. You can set it up so that your relationship is warm, loving and close no matter what is going on by changing your beliefs about the way it should be.
    Some may believe this is lowering your expectations and settling. I would argue that what it really is is not settling but getting rid of the should s that make you feel bad and create pain and failure and instead creating new expectations for yourself and raising your own standards. The interesting thing is: by shifting what you expect from yourself and not settling for old patters, beliefs and behaviors you give yourself the very best chances of succeeding in creating new circumstances. The self is everywhere, it a mirror of your conditions. Change the self and you change all things.
    What are some new beliefs that you can have about what your partner needs to do in order for you to feel loved? This is a major cause of upset in most relationships. If you could change this one thing you will change your entire relationship for the better. You will change the way that you feel about him and you will make it possible for you to feel loved. If your belief about what he needs to do for you to feel loved is that he must buy you flowers everyday, tell you how beautiful you are and spend all of his free time with you, you will be disappointed and you're creating great suffering in your relationship.
    We create our own suffering in our relationships through the contracts we enter with the other that they are not even aware of. The vast majority of the time, we are not aware of it either. The key to create successful relationships is to have a contract that has one simple line: "You love me when you're breathing" or "I know you love me when I decide to give love to you". Put yourself in control and make it very easy to succeed. You won't settle, you'll succeed more because you'll be rewarded.
    You can do this first and feel this sense of certainty that there is love in your relationship no matter where you are now, even if you don't "feel" it at all. You can't not want what you're wanting, and you shouldn't as this is what gives you drive and passion and a reason to be alive. Desire is a spark of life. However, you can create a situation where your values and what you desire is being met all the time so you feel fulfilled.
    Painful situations will happen, it's part of life. But it's your choice to suffer. Change is always possible, but you must decide that what you're willing to put up with is not good enough. You don't do this by changing others, you do this by changing yourself.
    This doesn't mean that you should put up with abuse. It's never okay to be mistreated. However, it is also not okay to blame another for your pain. You are not the victim, ever. If you are in a situation that is detrimental to your health and well being, your life conditions may need to change. Sometimes this is the way that things need to be and this is your choice.
    If you don't choose to change your circumstances, then you can change your beliefs about the ways that things should be. You can leave if you are being abused, or cheated on or you change your beliefs about what that means to you. If you are at a point in your life where you believe that it's okay for your body and mind to be wounded again and again then accept that's where you are. That is the truth. You are empowered to make a change in yourself first. Build your self esteem, learn to love yourself, find new friends and new people who support you, join a support group, but stop complaining and stop blaming. This does not serve you. If you are in a relationship that is unhealthy for you, one in which you are truly being mistreated, if you want to leave but don't feel ready, this requires a shift in yourself and in your mind first. Start there, and then you can feel ready to leave and change your circumstances. Until you do that, you'll never be ready to leave, or if you do, you'll end up in a relationship that looks exactly the same as your old one with a new partner.
    Update your should, your story, your belief, your standards and what you are willing to expect from yourself to be in alignment with your wants, needs and values. In order to change your circumstances, you must change on the level of thought first. Change is inner.
    * What's your relationship about? What do you believe the purpose of it is? What makes a relationship good?
    * What has to happen to meet the purpose and make it good?
    * Do these things serve you? Do your values and beliefs make it easy for you to succeed?
    If the answer to this question is no, then it's time to change this. Alright, so then the question is how? There are actually many ways to change your beliefs. Beliefs and the power of belief is really what we are talking about here. This is such powerful stuff. Tomorrow I write about the may ways that this can be done. There are a lot of different techniques that really work and make a huge difference in your life if you are willing to put them into practice.  


    Friday, October 11, 2013

    Love and Closeness Challenge # 21: Sex

    Sex in itself is neutral and the act of sex can be meaningless. You can go to any bar and have sex with someone without even knowing their name. Having empty and meaningless is becoming more and more okay in our society, but it is just that: empty and meaningless. People, especially women, do this because they need validation that they are lovable in some way, even if it's just for their body. This tears holes in your soul.
    Sex with someone whose name you won't remember or care about the next day may be gratifying while you are having an orgasm, but it's like filling up on unhealthy junk food. Sex with someone that you love deeply and are exclusively committed to, is like organic super food vegetables that nourish your heart and soul.
    After you've been with someone a while, sex is one of those things that takes a back seat to the rest of your life. There's simply too much to do and you're just so tired. The problem this creates in relationships extends far beyond the bedroom. I'm not sure where I heard it, I'd love to give credit here, but a couple years ago a phrase stuck with me: sex is the barometer that tells you how your relationship is doing. If you're having very little sex because you're just not into it, the energy of the relationship is: "just not into it". If you're having a lot of warm, loving, passionate sex, then the energy of your relationship is probably warm, loving and passionate.
    This is great for telling you the "weather" or the energy of the relationship so you can make adjustments, but sex is an unusual barometer. It also works in the reverse. Put warm, loving, passionate energy into sex, and your relationship will have warm, loving, passionate energy injected into it. Of course if it's been three months of sexlessness, one good romping might not do the trick. The key, like most things that you want to be successful in, is consistency.
    Sex is powerfully bonding for human beings. It can express love in deeper ways than words or any other action every could. It's a way that we communicate our affection and devotion to the other. For couples that truly love one another, sex is a Sacred Energy eXchange of warmth and love that brings them closer. This is why sex feels so much better with someone that you love compared to someone you don't care about.
    This is not to say that sex always needs to be slow, or passionate, or romantic. Sex doesn't need to be "making love" for it to be bonding. The very fact that sex is something that you share only with your mate connects the two of you intimately. If you are with someone in an exclusively committed relationship, this is an area of your life that you share with only one other person. That by itself makes it sacred time  to bond and express love and affection for each other that you should make no matter what is going on in your life. No one else is allowed to touch you in the same sexual ways that your mate does and no one else is allowed to touch him in that way. This powerfully connects you in a way that you are not connected with another. This is the reason that affairs are so upsetting. This is why it is such a betrayal when partners allow another into this sacred space and spend this sacred time bonding with a person outside of their marriage/committed relationship. Then sex isn't special between two people anymore, it becomes hurtful.
    This leads into other ways that sex becomes hurtful. Sometimes when one partner is upset, withholding sex seems like a suitable punishment for the other that hurt them. Sex is not a tool to get what you want from someone, it's not a bartering chip or something that you can use as negative punishment to manipulate someone's behavior. These kinds of uses of sex diminishes it's power to bond and it's sacred use as an expression of deep love. Instead it becomes like a cookie that you dangle in front of a toddler's face to get him to behave.

    To put it very simply, today your challenge (if you're in an exclusively committed relationship that has evolved to the point where sex has been had already) is to say yes to sex. I understand that there may be a million reasons that you are too tired, or that your mate doesn't deserve it or that it's just not important right now. But not a single one of those million reasons will bring you closer to your partner or will help you to get out of the rut that you are in. Say yes, not out of obligation, but out of your desire to express and give love. This may not seem like an important thing that you need to do right now, but do you really want to let it get to a point where it becomes the thing that's missing? 

    Thursday, October 10, 2013

    I AM Wholeness Itself!

    Love and Closeness Challenge #20: Forgiving

    Today's challenge is forgiving, challenge #14 was forgiven, which is the other side of the forgiveness coin. They are both about letting go of the past and healing, but they are distinctly different. When someone feels forgiven, they feel that you have let the past go and can be present with them. They feel like you accept them as they are now. When someone feels forgiving, they feel empowered, they feel that they have the power to start new and live in the present with you. 
    When someone forgives you, how do you feel? I don't mean when they tell you from a righteous stand point or in a judgmental way where you are bad, but they'll pardon you because they're just a better person than you. I'm talking about when someone really lets go of the past, forgets about what happened as if it never even occurred and treats you with kindness, respect and love in the now. For some people, it's a fresh start and they feel as if anything that has happened in the past has been healed and now they can move forward from this moment with this person. This is idea, and it helps the relationship to be close and loving and everyone is happy.
    For others, this doesn't feel good. When someone forgives them, even when it is completely sincere, they feel guilt. The other person has let the past go, but the forgiven person lives with a feeling of guilt. For the person that has been forgiven, it feels awful, but she is not the only person that this effects. Forgiveness requires a giver and a receiver. In short, if the other forgives you but you can't forgive yourself, then you are not truly forgiven. The other hasn't been successful in their forgiving and this creates pain and discord in the relationship. The heaviness of guilt and regret "energies" are added to the relationship, as well as the uncomfortable feeling of failure. 
    If this is you, if your mate or other loved one has forgiven you for past mistakes, but you are still carrying guilt and regret, it's time now to let it go. If you don't want to do it for yourself, do it for them so they can feel successful in forgiving you. 
    For me, the candle ritual that I do every morning works wonders. I feel that I have completely forgiven and I feel completely forgiven. However, this may not work for you. If I'm feeling really guilty, I'll go to the person that has already let it go and tell them that I still feel guilty. I explain to them that even though they've let the past go, that I still really regret my actions and I feel guilty. What happens from there is usually a very healing conversation and a new closeness with that person.
    If for whatever reason you can't talk to that person, action may be the best course of action. Think of what it is that you are feeling guilty about. Let's say that you forgot to do pack a lunch for your child and they had to go without lunch (I've actually done this before, more than once). They came home starving and ate everything they could get their hands on and then they were fine, but you weren't. You were thinking things like: "What kind of mother forgets to give her child food?" and you were filled with guilt and regret. To heal this with action, you could do something that will offset the energy, neutralize it if you will. You could make an extra special lunch for them the next day with a couple of their favorite snacks and include a little note that said something like: "I feel really awful for forgetting to pack your lunch yesterday, so I packed you some of your favorite foods. I hope you like it! I love you". That "neutralizes" the energy. You could argue that you are acting out of guilt, but if it neutralizes the guilt and it increases your well being and the other's well being, I'm all for it. 
    There is more to complete this however, guilt is a teacher to ensure that the action is not repeated. That is why we have emotions, to guide and teach us. Guilt and regret are teachers that tell us that we love this person and want them to feel good, so don't repeat this action that made them feel bad. They're painful to help us remember, if they weren't painful, they wouldn't be useful guides for us. Using the above example of forgetting the lunch, ask yourself two questions. The first is: what can I learn from this? The second is: what can I do to always remember to pack her lunch? For the second one the question really is: what can I do to make sure that I don't repeat this action? Try and state it in the positive instead by thinking how you consistently do more of the opposite of whatever the guilt inducing action was. Try and keep it very simple, very easy (effortless if possible) and something that works well with the way your life already works (your routines etc).With the lunch maybe you learned that you're routine isn't working or that you aren't present in the evenings while you're making the lunch and you need to slow down. Maybe you figured out that while you clean up in the evenings it's easy for you to put her lunch together and in the mornings you always make yourself coffee so if you could put her lunch right next to the creamer you won't forget. Whatever you need to do to learn the lesson is honoring the guilt and forgiving yourself. 

    Observe your life. Is there anything you feel guilty about? Is there anything you feel regret about? It's my firm belief that you wouldn't have the feelings of guilt and regret if there wasn't something to be learned and something to be healed. When you answer the above questions, now it's time to complete those things so that you can move on with your life. Try the candle ritual, but also ask yourself if there is a conversation that needs to be had. Is there a person that you need to connect with and share your feelings with? What is the lesson that the guilt and/or regret is trying to teach you, something that it is trying to guide you to do? What actions can you take to integrate the lesson into your life? What can you do to make sure that the guilt/regret inducing action doesn't get repeated?

    Wednesday, October 9, 2013

    Love and Closeness Challenge #19: Making Friends With Your Higher Self

    There may be those that ask what making friends with your higher self has to do with relationships. I would argue that it is your primary relationship and if your relationship with your higher self isn't right, the rest of your relationships can't be right. When you have a close relationship with your higher self that is loving and kind, all of your other relationships are able to be loving and kind. 
    Wikipedia defines the higher self as: an eternal, omnipotent, conscious, and intelligent being, who is one's real self. What the higher self is is beyond evaluation, but I can say that it is your direct connection to the divine and the truth of who you are. It/he/she knows all and loves you unconditionally.  
    You are connected with your higher self in every moment, you always have been and always will be. That connection can't be lost, so you aren't looking to connect with your higher self. The goal is to become aware of that connection and to develop a close relationship with the higher self. Having an intimate friendship with your higher self is to have an intimate friendship with an all knowing being that loves you deeply no matter what and whose purpose is to help you in any way that it can. 
    There are many ways of developing a friendship with your higher self, none of which are right or wrong. However, there may be some "techniques" that work really well for you.
    Here are some great sites to help you find techniques to do just this: 

    The above articles have great ideas.They are all useful and if you feel moved to do so, try all of them and figure out which ones help you to feel really connected. However, the most important thing is to invite your higher self to be with you always and ideally to develop a constant dialog with her/him until he/she becomes so much a part of you that you actually are your higher self. 

    Please do further research on what your higher self is and what you can do to connect with it/him/her if you feel inspired to do so. It's a very worthy cause, there is not a more important relationship that you will have. 
    Something that you can do today is start a conversation with your Higher Self. I talk to my Higher Self when I'm driving, just to chat, sometimes to ask for her help with something. I talk to her (silently) when I'm grocery shopping so she can help me pick out the healthiest food that my body needs the most, or sometimes that someone in my family needs the most. I talk to her when I experience a challenge in one of my relationships and ask for her to guide me to love and closeness with that person. I talk to her all the time, it's an ongoing conversation. She has become the voice in my head, rudely interrupted on occasion by my ego. You'll know the difference between your higher self and the voice of your ego because your higher self is loving and wants connection with others and your ego is fearful and wants to separate you from others. The ego wants you to be more important than others and lives in lack. The higher self knows all and wants you to contribute and share and lives with faith in absolute abundance. 
    Ask for her/him/it to come into your life, and she will. Like any relationship allow it time to grow and develop. The rewards are incredible.