Is Love All You Need?

“Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.”
― Anaïs Nin

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I was sitting in the seat of the car, looking out the window, pouting. The day was not going as I had planned it in my head. He should have known! He must have known how I wanted it to be, after all we were married and he should know . . . he should be able to read my mind . . .

Lennon and McCartney tell us that Love is All You Need. But in the case of romantic love, is that true?

Alain de Botton describes why we created and still live by the inaccurate, and often disastrous image of romantic love in his NYT article: “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person.”

In the past, people married for practical reasons, but in the 1800s, we replaced practicality with the romantic version of love:

“For most of recorded history, people married for logical sorts of reasons: because her parcel of land adjoined yours, his family had a flourishing business, her father was the magistrate in town, there was a castle to keep up, or both sets of parents subscribed to the same interpretation of a holy text. And from such reasonable marriages, there flowed loneliness, infidelity, abuse, hardness of heart and screams heard through the nursery doors. The marriage of reason was not, in hindsight, reasonable at all; it was often expedient, narrow-minded, snobbish and exploitative. That is why what has replaced it — the marriage of feeling — has largely been spared the need to account for itself.”

Romantic Love tells us that we all have a soul mate out there and it is our task to find our one true soul mate, and we will know when we find him or her because we will have that very special feeling. Botton describes this search for romantic love in his very entertaining talk “On Love” from ‘The School of Life.’

We are led to believe that when we find our soul mate, we will never be lonely again, that person will understand us completely and practically be able to read our mind. (flashback to me in the car pouting) We will feel completely understood and loved. This love shall be one long romantic holiday . . .

 

The reality is though that what we are looking for when we fall in love is familiarity. We are not necessarily drawn to people who will make us happy, we are drawn to people who will feel familiar.

“What we really seek is familiarity — which may well complicate any plans we might have had for happiness. We are looking to recreate, within our adult relationships, the feelings we knew so well in childhood. The love most of us will have tasted early on was often confused with other, more destructive dynamics: feelings of wanting to help an adult who was out of control, of being deprived of a parent’s warmth or scared of his anger, of not feeling secure enough to communicate our wishes. How logical, then, that we should as grown-ups find ourselves rejecting certain candidates for marriage not because they are wrong but because they are too right — too balanced, mature, understanding and reliable — given that in our hearts, such rightness feels foreign. We marry the wrong people because we don’t associate being loved with feeling happy.”

Botton adds:

“The person who is best suited to us is not the person who shares our every taste (he or she doesn’t exist), but the person who can negotiate differences in taste intelligently — the person who is good at disagreement. Rather than some notional idea of perfect complementarity, it is the capacity to tolerate differences with generosity that is the true marker of the “not overly wrong” person. Compatibility is an achievement of love; it must not be its precondition.”

For a relationship to last, we need more than that out-dated version of romantic love. So what do we need to make a lasting relationship? Well for one thing, we definitely need good communication. The day out with my husband would have turned out a lot differently if I had communicated my vision for the day instead of assuming that my husband should just know.

But aside from good communication, science is showing us that lasting relationships come down to two things: kindness and generosity.

In Atlantic Magazine’s article ‘Masters of Love’, psychologists John and Julie Gottman describe their work. Together they have studied thousands of couples in a quest to figure out what makes relationships work. From the data they gathered, they were able to separate the couples into two major groups: the masters and the disasters. The masters were still happily together after six years. The disasters had either broken up or were chronically unhappy in their marriages.

The masters felt calm and connected together, which translated into warm and affectionate behavior, even when they fought. Whereas the disasters were in a state of ‘fight or flight’ even when they were not fighting. It’s not that the masters had a better physiological make-up than the disasters; it’s that masters had created a climate of trust and intimacy that made both of them more emotionally and thus physically comfortable.

“Throughout the day, partners would make requests for connection, what Gottman calls “bids.” For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife — a sign of interest or support — hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird. The wife now has a choice. She can respond by either “turning toward” or “turning away” from her husband, as Gottman puts it. Though the bird-bid might seem minor and silly, it can actually reveal a lot about the health of the relationship. The husband thought the bird was important enough to bring it up in conversation and the question is whether his wife recognizes and respects that. People who turned toward their partners in the study responded by engaging the bidder, showing interest and support in the bid. Those who didn’t — those who turned away — would not respond or respond minimally and continue doing whatever they were doing, like watching TV or reading the paper.”

Gottman explains that masters have a habit of mind in which they scan the social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. Disasters are scanning the social environment for partners’ mistakes. And it’s not just scanning the environment, it’s also scanning the partner for what the partner is doing right or wrong; criticizing versus respecting him and expressing appreciation.

The Gottmans have found that contempt is the number one factor that tears couples apart. People who treat their partners with contempt and criticize them will eventually kill the love in the relationship. On the other hand, kindness glues couples together. Kindness is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated. Kindness makes us feel loved.

So if we are looking to live happily ever after together, we need to ditch the antiquated version of romantic love and move forward in the spirit of kindness and generosity.

I’d like to close this post with the video by Alaine de Botton that I mentioned above.  It is well worth the watch, both amusing and insightful.

 

Let me know your thoughts on romantic love and what makes a relationship withstand the test of time.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

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Practicing Self-Care

Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.

―Eleanor Brown

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I recently published an article in Thrive:  You can’t pour from an empty cupMost of us know that is true, but how many of us actively practice replenishing ourselves? I just returned from a retreat for women, and in speaking to the women individually, what I discovered was that the biggest factor that they had to overcome to go on the retreat was the guilt! Guilt for taking the time for themselves and guilt using money exclusively on themselves.

We, especially women it seems, have difficulty taking time for ourselves and prioritizing self-care. It often takes an illness or an accident to persuade us to give ourselves the time and care we need.

In an article by Dr. Susan Biali in Psychology Today, Biali describes feeling incredibly unwell, but continuing to push herself. She had an epiphany, that although she had been teaching people about stress management and self-care for over a decade, she had not been practicing what she preached. She explained that when she finally took time out for herself, it felt like she had woken up after being asleep for a long time. But it’s only when you wake up that you notice you were sleeping

But when we are stressed out, self-care is often the first thing we let go of.

Why is that? Barbara Markway, Phd explains in a different article in Psychology Today a few reasons that that is the case.

  1. Our brains go into fight-or-flight mode and our perspective narrows.
  2. We’re so busy trying to solve problems that we’re stuck in “doing mode
  3. We may not have a “go to” list of self-care activities.

So once we wake up, so to speak, how do we practice self-care, what can we put on our list of self-care activities. For those of us that can, a retreat is a lovely way to have time and space for self. But if that is not an option at the moment, here are a few suggestions:

Focus on the sensations around you — sights, smells, sounds — this helps you be present in the moment.

· Go for a walk and breathe in fresh air.

· Listen to running water.

· Take a hot shower or a warm bath.

Do something pleasurable for yourself.

· Get creative! Do some art, journal or play some music

· Garden.

· Take yourself out for a nice meal

Give yourself some spiritual space

· Practice gratitude — journal about things your are grateful for

· Light a candle and meditate

· Walk in nature

Connecting with others is an important part of self-care.

· Go on a lunch date with a good friend.

· Call a friend on the phone.

· Join a support group.

Caroline Myss asks us: “How do you define taking care of yourself?” Think about that and then as Myss suggest: Create a new self-care practice, starting today.

Remember what Audre Lorde says — self-care is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation. Take care of yourself, start today, you are worth it!

To close I’d like to put an invitation out there to ignite a self-care revolution!

 

 I’d love to hear how you practice self-care.  I love learning from all of you.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Tell your inner critic to shut up!

“Tell the negative committee that meets inside your head to sit down and shut up!”

― Ann Bradford

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Do you ever feel like your inner voice is not your best friend? Do you find that voice telling you that whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it wrong? My inner chatter is often telling me that I’m not doing ‘it’ right. It doesn’t matter what ‘it’ is – doing a task, helping someone to do something, even just trying to meditate. I used to think that I was alone in this and that I was just flawed and hopeless. Then I started working with other women in workshops and discovered that almost all of us do this one way or another. It is painful to realize how many of us believe these negative voices in our heads. I wrote about this topic recently on Thrive Global.

Most of us received plenty of negative messages growing up, and usually those messages are blindly accepted and believed. These negative messages from our inner critic create new neural pathways which become embedded in our brains. This becomes negative inner chatter creating limiting beliefs which adversely impacts us in many ways.

A neural pathway is the way that information travels through the neurons, or nerve cells of the brain. We create new neural pathways every time we hear or experience something new. The more we experience something, the more embedded this pathway becomes, and unfortunately, a lot of us have some very negative messages firmly rooted in our brains.

Once those neural pathways are deeply embedded, changing them is not an easy task.

Is there a way to overcome the negative stories that we once heard and now continue to tell ourselves? Is there a way to shift those pathways so that they are less destructive? Yes! There is a practice which you can start using right now, which will bring about changes in the neural pathways that keep you stuck. Using Creative Positive Reframing, you can take limiting beliefs and creatively transform them so they become supportive rather than destructive. You can reframe and create a new perspective on how you think by using these seven tools:

Pay attention — Pay attention to your thought process.

Action: A good way to pay attention to your thought process is to pay attention to how your body feels. You can tell if the thoughts are self-defeating and destructive if they negatively impact your body; for example, a knot in your stomach or a lump in your throat, clenched jaw or tight shoulders.

Practice: Scan your body to check in, notice any tight spots or knots. Observe/pay attention to the thoughts that you are focusing on when you feel tight; think about why you want to change those thoughts; what is the negative impact on your life?

Get the negative out — Write out the negative.

Action: Nature abhors a vacuum. When you cannot get out of a negative thought spiral — write it out. Get rid of the negative to make room for the positive.

Practice: Get negative thoughts out of your head by emptying it out on paper. Think of it as an emotional enema! Write about all the negativity spiralling in your head. Allow a stream of consciousness to flow and let it all come out. And then tear the paper up.

Replace the negative with positive — Use positive statements and questions to replace the negative

Action: Negative self-talk can be replaced by positivity with the help of a series of deliberate affirmations and questions. This creates new neural pathways and frees you from the negative spiral. However, sometimes when we use affirmations that do not feel real, our brain does not believe it, and this can embed the negative even more deeply. For example, if you are struggling to pay the rent and you say to yourself: ‘I am wealthy and have plenty of money for all of my needs’, perhaps your thoughts will rebel with: ‘Well, that’s not true’ — and then will go on to prove how wrong you are, throwing you further down the negative spiral.

Practice: Creative positive statements wherever possible; and try creating questions as well. Research shows that the use of questions instead of statements works effectively. Questions work with the brain’s natural inquisitive nature; pose a question and your brain will work to find an answer, creating more positive neural pathways automatically. So if when you say “I am wealthy” and your brain rebels; try asking for its help by saying something like “Money is coming to me easily and effortlessly. What do I need to do to increase my cash flow?”

Think about the ideal and be clear why you want it — Create an ideal scenario and know why it is important to you.

Action: In order to create new neural pathways and escape the negative spiral, it’s important to have a replacement to start thinking about. For example, if you are stuck in fear about money, and in a negative loop, start thinking about the flip side and create a picture of the ideal.

Practice: Describe your ideal financial situation, be as specific as possible. Have fun with this: let your imagination be your guide. You don’t need to write this out, just tell yourself the story. Picture yourself living with plenty of money. See yourself living the life of your dreams; actually feel how good it feels. And then focus on the why; why is it important? For example, allow yourself really examine why having more money would make a difference in your life. What is the deepest reason you want this to manifest? Keep going deeper and deeper into why you want to achieve this until you feel like you have hit the heart of it. You will know it when you have hit it, there will be an emotional charge linked to it. Allow yourself to feel the depth of that emotion.

Creative visualization — Picture the ideal and embed it in your brain

Action: Creative Visualization is a technique which uses your own power of ‘seeing’ or visualizing something to attain that which you most want, or want to change. It involves using the mind to see that which you want to achieve; or using the mind to change the negative into positive. You already use this technique every day. Unfortunately, we often use it in the negative. The key to visualization is to create a mindset that you already have that which you are trying to attain, and to believe that you deserve the positive result.

Practice: Relax and take time to do this. Close your eyes and let the movie of you having your heart’s desire run in your mind. Enjoy the process. The more you do this, the more deeply embedded this vision becomes.

Stay positive in the process — Keep a positive attitude as you practice

Action: The field of Positive Psychology points out many benefits of staying positive and being happy. Happiness brings social rewards, helps people recover faster from illness, and have more resilience. Happy people feel like they are in control and are empowered and therefore usually feel more confidence, optimism, and a sense of well-being. These are all good reasons to try to remain in a positive mindset, but one of the main obstacles to positivity is that our brains are wired to look for and focus on threats. This mechanism was helpful back when we were hunters and gatherers, but now this mindset breeds pessimism and negativity because the mind tends to wander until it finds a threat. But there are many methods to overcome the brain’s negative bias.

Practice: The most straightforward method is to focus on love and compassion, forgiveness and gratitude. These positive mind-sets shift your focus from the negative to the positive. Even simply thinking about someone you love or something you are grateful for, can help you shift from a negative mindset to a positive one.

Be creative — Creativity helps us shift from the negative to the positive

Action: While you are focusing on shifting limiting beliefs into more positive and supportive beliefs, it is helpful to be creative in the process. An expression of creativity, in any form, can be helpful in shifting our mood and removing us from a negative spiral. Not only that, but repressed creativity can have the opposite effect, and can ultimately express itself in unhealthy ways, such as bad relationships, stress, neurotic or addictive behaviors. Perhaps the most common manifestation of repressed creativity in women is depression, which, of course, only increases the negative downward spiral.

Practice: There are so many ways we can get creative, and they all involve play: start journaling and play with words; get some oil pastels and play with color; go outside, garden, and play in the dirt; learn an instrument, dance, and play with music; cook and play with spices. There is no right or wrong way to be creative. The only important thing is to allow ourselves to connect with our own creativity.

The next time you find yourself falling into a negative spiral, use these seven tools to tackle those limiting beliefs, and transform them so that they are supportive rather than destructive.

I want to close with a wonderful video clip with Lisa Nichols and Marci Shimoff, appropriately entitled: ‘How to Stop Negative Self Talk.’

 

I’d love to hear about how you get your inner critic to shut up.  We all need as much help as possible with that negative committee! And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Happy 2017 – A Year for Cultivating Gratitude

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”
― Thornton Wilder

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Happy New Year! I think the general consensus is that 2016 was a rough year for most people, on so many levels.  But in this post I don’t want to focus on politics or difficulties, but instead on cultivating gratitude. A new year is the perfect time to be cultivating gratitude and a renewed focus on what you appreciate. And 2017 is in particular a great place to start because from a numerological perspective, 2017 is a “one” year. (In short: 2+0+1+7 = 10 = 1+0 = 1.) Numerology looks at time in nine-year cycles, in which a “one” year begins a new nine-year cycle of creativity, learning and growth. It is a time of intentions and planning for the next phase. The intentions and foundations you build in 2017 can help shape the upcoming years. A “one” year is the perfect time to set intentions and goals for yourself.  It’s an important year to take time for yourself and clarify the direction you want to travel. And a perfect time to focus on gratitude for what you have.  My new years message talks about this and about the importance of silence in your routine. You can read more about that here in my newsletter.  And if you want to read more about the science of silence, you can read about that in my article in Thrive.

Cultivating gratitude is so important as we enter 2017.  Psychology Today defines the benefits of gratitude as:

Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has—as opposed to, for example, a consumer-driven emphasis on what one wants. Gratitude is getting a great deal of attention as a facet of positive psychology: Studies show that we can deliberately cultivate gratitude, and can increase our well-being and happiness by doing so. In addition, gratefulness—and especially expression of it to others—is associated with increased energy, optimism, and empathy.

Another good reason to cultivate gratitude is:

“Your experience of life is not based on your life, but what you pay attention to.”

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And when you pay attention to what you are grateful for, that becomes your experience. It becomes your experience that life is good and full and wonderful.

I have often quoted Melody Beattie here but it is so appropriate, I have to do it again.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

 

In Japanese Psychology, on a wonderful site, The ToDo Institute,  seven principals for cultivating gratitude are given:

  1. Gratitude is independent of our objective life circumstances
  2. Gratitude is a function of attention
  3. Entitlement precludes gratitude
  4. We often take for granted that which we receive on a regular basis
  5. Gratitude can be cultivated through sincere self-reflection
  6. Expressing gratitude, through words and deeds, enhances our experience of gratitude
  7. Our deepest sense of gratitude comes through grace, with the awareness that we have not earned, nor do we deserve all that we’ve been given.

If you are looking for a way to focus on gratitude as 2017 unfolds, I suggest getting a ‘Gratitude Journal’ – and start by just writing down 3 things you are grateful for every morning before you even get out of bed. And if that feels too hard, then just think of 3 things you are grateful for before you get up. That’s a great start!

If you are feeling more ambitious, I can suggest a wonderful course on Daily Om! It’s a new course I have authored and it’s available here.  The course is offered with the option of selecting how much you want to pay. No matter how much you pay, you’ll be getting the same course as everybody else. Daily Om believes that people are honest and will support the course with whatever they can afford. And if you are not 100% satisfied, they will refund your money.  So what have you got to lose? It’s a great way to start the year.

I’ll close with a YouTube clip describing the course so you can get a better idea of what it is about.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about how you cultivate gratitude and it’s impact on you.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

 

 

 

 

Being Too Busy

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.”
― Socrates

Busy – So damned busy!  It seems like everyone I speak to  recently is saying the same thing. Too damned busy. Argggghhh! The way it manifests for me is that I feel chaos in my brain.  I feel like there isn’t enough room in my brain for everything that I need to keep track of. I keep telling people that I wish I had that little tool that Dumbledore used in Harry Potter, the pensieve. Well not the pensieve itself, which is the shallow stone or metal basin used to review memories; but instead the tool, the little crochet hook thing itself that Dumbledore uses to take the thoughts and memories out of his head. He explains:

I use the Pensieve. One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one’s mind, pours them into the basin, and examines them at one’s leisure. It becomes easier to spot patterns and links.

I’m not as concerned with the patterns and links, but mostly just to extract the excess chaos out of my head!

With this in mind, I was touched by the latest article in Daily Good: The Disease of Being Busy.

How did we get so busy that we no longer have time for each other? What happened to a world in which we can sit with the people we love so much and have slow conversations about the state of our heart and soul, conversations that slowly unfold, conversations with pregnant pauses and silences that we are in no rush to fill?

This disease of being “busy” (and let’s call it what it is, the dis-ease of being busy, when we are never at ease) is spiritually destructive to our health and wellbeing. It saps our ability to be fully present with those we love the most in our families, and keeps us from forming the kind of community that we all so desperately crave.

I love the way the writer, Omid Safi,  explains about haal

In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik? or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is your haal?

What is this haal that you inquire about? It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know.

I am not asking how many items are on your to-do list, nor asking how many items are in your inbox. I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment. Tell me. Tell me your heart is joyous, tell me your heart is aching, tell me your heart is sad, tell me your heart craves a human touch. Examine your own heart, explore your soul, and then tell me something about your heart and your soul.

I want to remember this the next time someone asks me how I am doing. I do not want to go into a litany about how insanely busy I am these days. I will try to remember to answer from a place of how my heart is doing at that very moment. And when I ask people about how they are, I will hope they can tell me something about their own heart and soul.

But is there anything that we can do to avoid this avalance of busyness?  In this short video –  I feel too busy! How can we get out of this busyness trap? Oliver Burkeman gives us some ideas.  The one that resonated with me is to make sure that we choose what’s important, and to schedule time for the stuff that fills us up instead of continuing to do what depletes us.

It will never all get done, so until I find that elusive pensieve tool, I shall endeavor to make time for the things I love and choose what’s important!

 

 

I’d love to hear how you avoid the busyness trap. And as always thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.

 

Be gallant, be great, be gracious and be grateful

“Be gallant, be great, be gracious and be grateful’

– Jake Bailey


The video attached at the end of this post is amazing – this young man, Jake Bailey, is beyond remarkable.  Perhaps it affected me as much as it did because I have two sons about Jake’s age. But I think this will impact everyone who watches it. How can it not?

Jake Baliey was due to graduate and give a speech at graduation. One week before his graduation, 18-year-old Jake Bailey was told he had cancer.  He was diagnosed with one of the world’s fastest growing tumours – Burkitt lymphoma.

He had written his speech before his diagnosis and managed to leave his hospital bed to deliver it from a wheelchair. Words made more poignant than he ever could have perceived when he wrote them:

“My challenge to each of you, and to myself, is to continue to grow and to develop for the better . . . Forget about long-term dreams, let’s be passionately dedicated to our short term goals, micro-ambitious. Work with passion and pride on what is in front of us.  We don’t know where we might end up . . .”

For those of you not from New Zealand, may not understand the end of this video – it ends in a spontaneous Haka – an incredible sign of respect.  Kia Kaha Jake. Thank you for your inspiration.

Thank you for taking the time to watch this and read this post. I appreciate it.