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.