I see many couples in my practice, and in my personal life that get stuck in certain perceptions of what a relationship means and the needs it’s supposed to meet for him or her. I’ve come to realizations both in my personal and professional life around what a couple-ship means and the needs that it could meet.
A lot of the time people get into relationships to meet their needs, i.e., to feel loved, needed, find security and belonging. I am proposing a new concept to the world of intimate relationships. My challenge that I pose to you is instead of getting into relationship to meet needs, both stated and unstated, try to see it from a perspective of extension. The goal, I feel, of conscious, healthy realtionship, is to come from a place of wholeness and extend that to our partner. What does this mean? If I am a person that feels fulfilled, and is meeting all her needs, I get to turn and extend and share that with my partner. I can “share” the love I already have within me out to my significant other. My partner is free of having to meet my needs and becomes someone to celebrate my life with! I get to pour all the passion and contentment I reap into him. Our relationship is one of sharing and extending verus needing and expectations. This puts each individual in realtionship into a different role of responsibility. To be in this kind of conscious realtionship means that each participant is responsible for finding joy, contentment, passion, and fulfillment in their individual lives. This doesn’t mean our partners don’t also bring us this but it’s an enhancement versus a point of origin. I equate the individual to an island in my sessions. I will ask the client, “How is your island? Is it bountiful, enjoyable, and does it contain a passion for life?” Using an island as a metaphor for how the person is relating to him or herself. Once again to see two islands (conscious people) meeting that are full and pouring over with abundance and passions is different than barren islands that turn to each other to meet and create these feeling states and needs. This is how unhealthy bonds and attachments form. The only thing needed for these two healthy islands meeting is a bridge that allows access back and forth. Water is allowed to flow freely between these two worlds and there is an autonomy within the togetherness.
So I ask you, what beauty and self-created passions do you bring to your partner? Now that you’re responsible for bringing a whole and fulfilled Self to the table of relationship, where do you start? Beginning to ask these questions frees up our partners and places us in charge of meeting our needs and tending to our own island. The quest becomes one of how much beauty and passion can I cultivate and share with my partner? This doesn’t mean we don’t have down times where we lean and ask for support from our partner, but having that bountiful island comes with a support network meaning it’s not just our partner that we turn to. We have many to assist us with the challenges life throws our way.
An examples of a bountiful island (an individual that is self-sustained and full) would look like this: there is a support network; there are activities that he/she participate in that evoke passion and a zest for life; career is aligned with principles and ethics and there is a sense of purpose; there is a deep connection with a religion/spiritual tradition/etc., that connects the Self to something greater; the individual likes spending time alone and actually has a freindship with himself or herself and there is no uncomfortableness with alone time. These are just some examples of the kind of person that I am referencing in this article. At this point you may feel it’s impossible to create this Self. I’m here to say it’s not. If we want to be a good, conscious partner we need to love and create the Self we are going to bring to the table. This takes time, focus, commitment, and dedication.
Make a list of all the needs unmet in your life, and reasons you want a relationship. Then one by one start finding people, places, and things to fulfill that list on your own. This will begin to put you on a path of wholeness and shift your perspective to what dating can be about. I challenge you to find this sense of freedom in relationship and to put the effort and time into befriending and truly loving your self first!
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Living Mindfully—With a Side of New York
When I first moved to Northern California in December of 2000 I left the fast paced, obstreperous state of New York and found myself mystified by my dreamlike surroundings. It was almost as if I was Dorthy, landing on another bright and shiny planet called Oz. Until I got on the freeway of course. Having been born and raised just outside of New York City became glaringly apparent to me—I often found myself ranting and wanting to run cars off the road—which was obviously not ok.
Small town life and the California way of life, were foreign to me. Growing up in Rockland County, I didn’t speak to anyone I didn’t know, and if a stranger looked at me I’d ask if there was a problem. Smiling for no reason was not a part of my daily life. Before moving to California, I moved 90 miles an hour all the time and spoke without a filter regardless of how inappropriate. Yet here in the sunny state just about every one smiled, talked to each other regardless of social role, and the pace here was 10-20mph. A difficult statement coming from a Californian was soft, and would take a lunch hour. Choosing to stay in California and not break the law became my spiritual practice.
I began to wonder how I could acclimate to California without loosing my mind. Herein lies the practicality of merging reactivity with mindfulness—I needed to find a way to stay calm and centered in the midst of this new planet. It’s amazing how we think our “way of life” is normal until we move to a small town and then see aspects of ourselves mirrored in the world around us. Thus began the merging of a loud New Yorker, courting the relaxed lifestyle of a Californian. I began noticing the conversations going on in my head, and the intense behavioral responses happening as a result of them. Did I mention that just about everyone I met, and continue to meet want to hug me? I started making a long list of all the things driving me nuts about my new environment and began seeing themes and patterns running through them, followed by a close look at my intense behavioral responses. Admittedly, it wasn’t good. It’s reminiscent of the scene from Seinfeld of Elaine screaming insanely in the silence of her mind stuck on the subway! Learning how to stop this internal scream in my mind became my daily practice. Fourteen years later I’m not the same person I was—thanks to a degree in psychology and a lot of self-reflection and application. This took a lot of work, patience, and honesty. Days and months turned into years of trying to find that calm center within myself as well as slowing down my mind.
Anyone from NY will tell you that people move so fast, that finding heinsight is almost non-existent. This process of deconstructing myself was a tedious one. Molding a new Self became a quest not only for my health and state of mind, but for the work I found myself doing with clients in psychotherapy. Who wants a battle in their mind to be the dominating focus?
This transition taught me a lot. I’ve become a much healthier, conscious individual— aware of where my foods grown, and by whom, practicing yoga and martial arts, and moving at a much slower pace. I now have a filter when I speak. Even in light of all my new, shiny Selves my New Yorker is alive and well. I value her because she’s helped me balance my light and dark, good and evil, and my inpatient overdramatic asshole, with my deep breathing yogini. There are many people out here in California, and the world for that matter, that feel anger, darkness, etc., have no place in a spiritual life. I’m here to say that the two are married. In fact, walking with both energies gives one a genuine nature and propels one forward. I have a deep desire to yell out to all the spiritual happy people, “Embrace your darkness and find the gift of anger.”
Many experiences and situations have left my Californian self who’s so desperate to forgive combatting my New Yorker self who generally craves kicking some ass!
There have been many experiences in the last 14 years, both good and bad. And after them all I find myself transmuting all the experiences into awareness and understanding. During the darker, more painful experiences, I learned to use the anger and rage from these experiences to generate enough power and movement both within and without myself to force it out of my body. Regardless of the kind of dynamics of was dealing with in my life, I was able to find the gift of the experience and channel it into creativity and self- awareness. By ;inding ways to match my emotions and move them in a new and powerful way, I found the layers of emotion and intensity began to fall of my shoulders leaving a lighter, more aware Self.
I’ve come to the realization that in the midst of this wisdom and self-understanding, that there is an island of beauty within me with flaws splashed around, hidden under trees and rocks. And it was my New Yorker that had the courage to look for them. These flaws were created from my experiences and reactions to the outside world. By dropping into my inner world of experiences without judgment, I was able to find a deeper place of awareness. No, I’m not a Buddhist, a Christian, or even a Yogini. My spiritual practice is contending with, and keeping up with my inner world and processes. Therefore, I don’t need to travel anywhere to find God or spiritual knowledge. The journey is all within me if I can just be honest and embrace the parts of myself that many would find embarrassing. Now, I still don’t hug any bystander that opens his or her arms to me but I do extend a handshake and on rare occasions a hug versus a shocked expression! I’ve come to find that my dark parts are as beautiful as my lighter ones, and all inspire many a poems and long conversations always leading to a deepening within my heart. I believe that the field of perception is “neutral” meaning I prescribe what things mean based upon my experiences and what they mean to me. My reaction is a culmination of my own inner-world that I strive to better understand and investigate while moving the energy that comes along with that process in a non-destructive way. This keeps the body free of resentments, and allows you to travel light!
It is for this reason I raise a glass and toast my two homes that now dwell within me. Without my “soft” Californian and my “hard” New Yorker I wouldn’t have found my spiritual practice – which was right under my nose. Without both, I wouldn’t have found my true nature in such an honest and naked light. Let’s all drink to the opportunity to explore all of our true natures, regardless of what shows up. As Rumi stated, “This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all.”
I hear many people talking about the suffering they are currently experiencing, regardless of their spiritual or religious tradition. Life continues to throw curve balls at us when we least expect it. Here are 5 ways to stop and move through situations more smoothly, and gain self-awareness in the process. When we are struck with a situation that throws us into pain or discomfort:
1) Stop, and Write. Grab a pen and begin writing all the beliefs about yourself that are arising, i.e., I’m no good; There’s something wrong with me; I’m unloveable. As your start discovering the beliefs about yourself that are evoked, you’ll begin to see that the current situation is connected to similar past hurts and experiences.
2) Notice the body. Focus on what is happening in the body, i.e., stomach is in knots, throat is tight, heat moving through your arms, etc. If you’re so inclined, try and reflect on the first time you felt these similar situations in your body. Many people are able to locate an earlier experience(s) where they felt the same way.
3) Move the energy. Depending on what your lifestyle will permit, find a way to move the charge in the body while thinking about the situation, i.e., hit a punching bag, jogging, lift weights, punch a pillow, screaming, etc. This will disfuse the charge in the body, make it less intense, and more manageable.
4) Find the theme. Discover where you continue to act out the theme going on. For example, is the theme one of you playing the martyr? Is the theme feeling you’re not good enough to ask for what you want? You will begin to locate other experiences where you played a similar role though the context may have been different.
5) Figure out what you need. This is the part of the process where you ask yourself, what do I need here? What are my needs that I’m not communicating? Most of the time when we fall into ourselves, isolate, and start feeling bad it’s due to the fact that we weren’t able to extend out in a way to meet our needs. We weren’t able to ask or place ourselves in a way where we feel heard, loved, appreciated, etc.
6) Respond Differently. Now that you’ve identiLied the above 5 steps, you’re ready to create how you’d like to interact differently. For example, if you figured out that you isolate and feel bad about yourself when people act in certain ways, speak up. Tell the person that you’re feeling sad and hurt and ask for what you need instead. This is the way to break the cycle and theme that you were originally participating in.
Many of us fall into patterns and themes unconsciously. If we follow the steps above, they are no longer mistakes but situations that birth awareness. Experiences that we can learn and grow from. The choice is yours. Do you want to consciously respond to life, or continue to react? Take the time to reflect on all the internal processes that get kicked up within yourself. It is where wisdom is born. If we can step out of blame, and sitting in pain and use the experience then it become fuel to rise.
How many times have you gotten upset with your partner and addressed it while being in a highly emotional state? For most couples, this is a common occurrence. Something happens and you both proceed to resolve it in a time of heightened feelings. In order to avoid this, once the temperature heights up, follow these steps:
1) Take space. One of you, usually the calmer one, should ask that physical space be taken. This should be done in a way that both of you feel supported and there is an agreed upon time that you will both meet back up. If you can both stay in close proximity, then it is suggested to avoid any feelings of abandonment. If one of you needs to leave agree on approximate check in times until you can both come back together.
2) Match and Move emotions. If you’re feeling sad, then play some sad music or a movie to evoke the emotions. Once you get a good cry, find a way to express the emotions using your body, i.e., dancing, working out, hugging a pillow, etc. This allows the charge in the body, consisting of uncomfortable sensations, to dissipate so that you can figure out thunder lying issue.
3) Identifying Unmet Needs/Feelings. Now is the time to begin asking yourself about the feelings that arose during the interaction that set you off, i.e., not feeling heard, feeling unsupported, etc. Write down your thoughts, process away on paper or express verbally to a close and trusted friend. This allows you to tease through more of the charge so that when you return to your partner you can be as concise and clear as possible.
4) Ask for what you need. Once you identify your feelings, you’re able to discern what to ask for. For example, if you’re feeling unsupported by your mate then figure out what it would look like if your partner was being supportive. Identifying what you need is not enough. Would he or she be making time to listen, hugging you while you speak? The important piece here is to be objective and provide your partner with clear and concise ways that your needs could be met in the future.
5) Express gratitude. Thank your partner for listening and caring enough to take space. Ask each other how that process was and discuss amendments that could be made in the future to make it an even smoother process.
Following these steps prevents partners showing up when the water is boiling. It allows the triggered person to tease through the charge and return with a clear and calm presence so that a conversation can take place. This creates trust, and each is willing to move through conflict as a team in the future due to not feeling emotionally beat up by the process. Partners begin to learn about each other through learning what works and what doesn’t. This process becomes one of personal and interpersonal discovery. We begin to see the person(s) behind the mask and reach a depth of knowing that most people crave. This knowing that comes from moving through conflict together is called intimacy.
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Today, I found myself in an interesting conversation that deserves some attention. The topic of the conversation was how an individual interfaces with experience. When a person is confronted with something from the outside world, i.e., being robbed, cheated on, winning money, etc., how do they respond? My friend began talking about “particulars” of situations, such as what if someone robs you and has a starving wife at home? What if the person robbing you is doing it for selfish reasons? I proceeded to share that regardless of such particulars it is still up to the individual to respond based upon their internal process. The person that is being robbed can choose to become violent, can allow the person to take their possessions, etc., regardless of “why” it’s happening. Also, there is a process after that occurs where the individual makes sense of and digests the experience. This is where growth of consciousness, integration, and reflection become one. The individual is able to reflect how he or she handled what occurred, the beliefs they feel about Self, what’s going on in the body, and how this interacts with their current belief system that exists. This is the process of the individual that wants to grow. It’s all about how the person “chooses” to receive and understands what happened or what’s happening that matters. It allows the individual to gauge how they’re doing, and what they need to work on. This is what I call managing your “inner island”. This is my practice. I continue to stop and check in with how I feel about situations I find myself in. I then choose (if I haven’t reacted), how to interface with the experience and then reflect on what I could learn. Usually the current outside experience, i.e., a breakup, a loss, is kicking up older feelings that have been dormant. It is from this point, that I can choose to match and move what’s going on within me. For instance if I suddenly become aware of deep sadness, I can evoke it and allow it to moved by journalling, body work, hitting a punching bag, etc., or I can choose to ignore it. I can also choose to go into anger about why it happened, and how unconscionable the other person is and why. These are all distractions from the internal process of what’s going on “inside” of me. What are the emotional currents doing, and why are they being stirred. I think a lot of us miss the opportunity to look clearly within and cut through the outside distractions to get to what’s really going on. If a person is looking to grow, and to become more intimate with their Self, then choosing to wonder why he or she responds to life and it’s situations can be a direct pathway to that end – awareness. Awareness meaning the person extending out from a place where all beliefs, feelings, and states of mind are his or hers alone and stem from their own internal world. It is from this place of complete responsibility that a person begins to learn about their internal island and tend to it as they see fit. If they want more compassion on that island, reflecting on experiences that they can practice that and ones they were not able to are beneficial.
We can talk about whether something is good or bad for days. My questions to you are, how do you view it and why? What is it that the experience is causing you to feel? Are there characteristics that you could strengthen or cultivate from interfacing with this experience? Are the themes and body sensations familiar? The answers to all of these questions come from where I choose to place my focus. The experience is yours and mine alone. I, personally, choose to expand, grow, and learn from all the beauty and pain that crosses my path, even if I need to throw a tantrum for the first day. I always come back to this place of awareness. The choice is mine. The choice is yours. How will you choose?
Sitting with a precious friend today, it struck me how there are those of us that exist with a passion that is not commonplace. The desire to find truth within, while existing in this world is that passion. It becomes a conscious movement to the center of our core to heal and cut through our illusion in order to connect with something greater. It is a way of life that we don’t necessarily choose. May times, it is chosen for the individual. And from this center, from this place births what buddhist people call the Bodhisattva. The Bodhisattva is a person that chooses to work on their own enlightenment in order to empower people to be free of suffering. For this to take place, the commitment, which becomes blatantly apparent, has to be from within first. The individual on this path must accept that his or her healing is their main focus. There is a humility in accepting this and a grave responsibility that becomes foundational. Transparency and an unbridled motivation to heal oneself is the essential ingredient. This path is not an easy one, and requires an aloneness that is unspoken about in our culture. It requires a dropping into the Self, and a one-pointed awareness that is fierce. The individual has to master the language of the body, and be keen enough to see through his or her defenses and ego in order to cradle and embrace deeper meanings of events, situations, and reactions. Once this sword-like ability is harnessed and focused, then it becomes a daily practice. It is with this awareness and fortitude that the Bodhisattva reaches out to the world and holds space for their fellow man/woman. The gift of this cannot be captured in words, for it is the food of the soul. This level and cultivation of mindfulness is the gift itself. It becomes the person’s oxygen. Once you traverse the reality of it, there is no turning back. It is to my friend, whom brought tears to my eyes this morning, that I dedicate this post. He is a mirror of rememberence that though the path may be dark and challenging the benefits and purpose of it are far-reaching. It truly encapsulates how one person can change the world. This is mindfulness in motion. This is the path of the warrior. I honor you and the purpose your walk with every day.
While working with this new technique, I am learning how the mind and body form relationship with addictive and compulsive behaviors. An individual does a behavior, i.e., smoking, gambling, etc., and while he or she is doing the behavior attains a positive “feeling state.” A feeling state is an emotion that the person is seeking, i.e., belonging, safety, euphoria, etc. Once the person experiences his or her need being met in that moment, it gets associated with the behavior. In the FSAP, the behavior and feeling state are broken allowing the individual to understand that they’re positive attempt to feel better isn’t really being met by the negative behavior. Concurrently, the reason the person was seeking the positive feeling state was due to a hurt or trauma that he or she experienced. This is where the EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) is utilized. After the FASP process is done, the session immediately flows into clearing the past hurt or trauma. This allows the individual to receive a deep sense of healing and emotional clearing that was the origin of the addictive and or compulsive behavior. One session usually runs 1.5 hours.
I have had good success with people decreasing and even completely stopping unwanted behaviors due to the depth and power of the technique. The brain is truly magical and once a practitioner understands how it works, in relationship to the body, he or she can guide the client to changing and rewiring it.