It's easy to forget that we are all perfect in our own design. Sometimes we muck it up with habits and choices that do not serve us. 

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How To Stay Free In Love and In Life

People often say that love hurts so much. It’s not love that hurts, it’s the expectations of our love.

When you hold back what’s natural, loving those around you, it blocks the flow of your heart, the flow of your creativity, of your Aliveness and life force.

You are love. 

Love because it’s your nature.

To love is great freedom.

It’s the most natural impulse of your being.

Love because you are love your self.

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The Touch That Heals Trauma

We all have more power than we know to help each other heal.

Loving mothers know instinctively that when their children are hurting physically or emotionally, what they need is to be gently held with loving arms and soothed with loving words. Those of us who have raised young children know the magic of “kissing it and making it better.”

Discovering the Healing Power of Loving Holding

Years ago, Erika and I discovered the healing power of mothering, and we wrote about it in “Healing Your Aloneness.” What we discovered has now been verified over and over. In his excellent book, “In An Unspoken Voice,” author Peter Levine tells a heartwarming story. When National Guard soldiers were ordered to remove Elian Gonzales – the young boy who became a pawn in a political battle in Florida – from the hands of his Cuban exile cousins living in Miami, they trained a female federal agent to caringly take the boy from the cousins and angry onlookers. Knowing he would be extremely frightened, and not wanting to further traumatize him…

“The agent held him firmly enough to not be ripped away by the angry mob, yet gently enough for her embrace to match the words she calmly recited in Spanish,”Elian, this may seem scary right now, but it soon will be better. We’re taking you to your papa…You will not be taken back to Cuba [which was true for the time being]…You will not be put on a boat again [he had been brought to Miami on a treacherous boat ride]…You are with people who care for you and are going to take care of you.’” p.265

As she rocked him gently and spoke soothingly to him, he relaxed.

Levine goes on to describe another dramatic mothering scene that occurred during the East Timor conflict. As dazed and disoriented refugees wandered into a refugee camp, a group of Portuguese nuns greeted and gently held and rocked the children and the most shocked adults, whispering soothing words to them, thawing them out of shock with their love.

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I Need You And You Need Me

"Surrender yourself humbly; then you can be trusted to care for all things. Love the world as your own self; then you can truly care for all things." -Lao Tzu

I've Been Thinking...

I was catching up with a friend by phone the other day when she said to me: “I need you more than ever right now.”

“Same here!” I replied, without skipping a beat.
 
The truth is, we all need each other more than ever right now. We need each other in so many ways, both big and small. We need to rely on one another. Lean on one another. Trust one another. Be compassionate, understanding, and patient with one another. We need to basically focus on being there for one another the best we can.
 
I’ve been thinking a lot this week about just how tied we are to one another. This historic moment is showing us how interconnected we are. It is showing us how we all have similar needs. And yet, as we live through this big, collective moment together, we are also going through it in very individual ways.

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The First Step in Releasing Negativity

When things don’t go the way we want them to, our tendency is to turn negative on the spot. It’s as if something in us throws a switch and, the next moment -- like being caught in the surge of a tidal wave -- resistance carries us away. But this unconscious resistance to reality never shows itself for what it is; it can’t, or the show would be over! After all, who sides with something that is perpetually against life?
 

Resistance is the unseen father of all lingering negative states. It derives its power to trick us into embracing its painful presence by a kind of misdirection. It hides behind a host of associated images that always appear with it -- certain thoughts and feelings that promise either to protect us or to provide us with plans to escape our situation. But we must learn to see that the true nature of anything -- whether a newly opened leaf or a fearful thought or feeling -- is inseparable from what it serves. So, regardless of how it may appear, any disquieting state in us that “says” it wants to lead us away from a fear is leading us toward one instead.

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What Does “You Are Enough” Mean?

“You are enough.”

That short phrase is one of the most powerful I can think of. So powerful that I used it as the title of my new book. Yet, I wonder if you’ve ever really thought about what it means to simply…be enough. 

Society places a great deal of importance on outward success – success in the form of possessions, a big bank balance, perfect relationships, glowing, radiant health, and a secure, high-paying job. Yet, even those that have outwardly achieved immense levels of success still feel as if there is something missing from their lives. They feel as if they ARE their possessions. Their profession is their identity. They depend on their bank balance for validation. 

These feelings of emptiness, dissatisfaction, and sadness occur because those external things can never take the place of your authentic self. In fact, all of the external trappings of success are actually examples of what “you are enough” does NOT mean.

You are far more than your external accomplishments, my dear friends. But from the moment you were born, you have been conditioned to be a unit of production. You’ve been separated from your emotions, been told that you’re too sensitive, that you shouldn’t become angry, that you have no reason to be sad. Your humanity has been denied and you learned that your worth is based on what you can provide. “Work hard!” they said and all will be well. In following that advice, your emotions were disregarded, and you were, essentially, mechanized.

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How To Love Myself? Six Steps to Loving Yourself

Practicing these Six Steps are essential for learning how to love yourself and share your love with others.

Imagine that you have a baby and you want to be a loving parent. One of the things loving parents do is keep a baby monitor on when their baby is sleeping or in another room, so they can immediately attend to their child as soon as he or she cries.

Step One – Your Inner Baby Monitor

Step One is having your inner baby monitor on, which means that you practice being present in your body, which is where your feelings are, rather just focused in your mind – so that you know immediately as soon as you have a feeling that needs attention. This is especially important right now with all the challenges we are facing on our planet.

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Love In The Time of Coronavirus

Rebecca Winn is an artist with words and her new book, new book One Hundred Daffodils; Finding Beauty, Grace, and Meaning When Things Fall Apart, proves the underestimated power of beauty to heal our deepest wounds.

Using her garden, nature, and a delightful smattering of wild creatures, she weaves her midlife catastrophe into a beautifully written story of raw vulnerability, courage, and transformation.

I was totally captivated and entranced.

Today she is guest blogging to share her thoughts on love during this time of crisis:

“We are all connected.” A phrase so common, it has become a meaningless spiritual cliche. Or has it?

Four months ago we could watch the news unfolding in China with a detachment that distance and depersonalization afforded us. Today, we are sheltering in place, surrounded by fear so palpable even the skeptics are panic buying, and the most committed introverts confess that they only want to be alone when it’s their choice.

And yet, only a few days into self-quarantine, something magical has also happened. Musicians are sharing their music for free during social media Live events. Authors whose book tours have been cancelled (including my own) are reading from their books online. People are reaching out to help one another in ways heretofore unimagined. Some property owners are telling restaurants to pay their employees instead of their rent.

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Make Love, Not Fear: 8 Reasons to Have Sex During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Amidst the recent worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19), we are in uncertain times. 

Worry, fear, and panic have swept across the planet, as the virus has threatened our health, well-being, economy, societal norms, and sense of safety.

Many people are quarantined at home, and social distancing has become a temporary norm.

During this time of such intense stress, sex is likely the farthest thing from many people’s minds. How can we make love when the world seems to be falling apart? Shouldn’t we spend our time watching the news and figuring out how to navigate these challenging times? 

As a Sacred Sexuality Teacher with over 20 years of experience supporting clients, my #1 recommendation during this global pandemic is to make time for pleasure and sex.  

Sex is not a luxury for when things are good in the world. Sex is a necessity. It is vital to our health, well-being, and sanity. Sex is important at all times, especially in times of stress and difficulty, like this current pandemic.

If you have a partner, set any differences aside, and get into the sheets for some essential self-care and stress relief. If you are stuck at home without a partner, no worries. You can self-pleasure and bring yourself the same benefits.

 

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Managing This Challenging Time As A Loving Adult

Emotionally and Spiritually

Please be very kind and gentle with yourself. It’s very important to not allow your wounded self to scare you, because our main line of defense against the Coronavirus is our immune system, and stress erodes the immune system.

Start by acknowledging to yourself that this is a very challenging time. Imagine that your intention is to soothe a scared child, rather than further scaring the child. This is the time to stay open to your higher guidance and bring comfort and compassion to your inner child, especially if you feel anxious. It’s also a time to reach out to friends with whom you can connect – on the phone, or via Skype or Zoom. While it’s important to stay home and not be around people, it’s also important to stay connected with the people whom you can support and who can support you, especially if you are alone.

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Love or Fear

So here we are, a time like no other we have ever experienced. Humanity is living out the key choice point of our lifetimes: love or fear. Do we succumb to escalating apprehension about a global virus and slam the doors to our hearts? Or do we stand firm in the belief that love and trust are the defining energies of life on Earth and that keeping our hearts open is the most important choice we can make in our lives? Seems to me that is why we were born, why we all incarnated at this time in the history of our planet. To make that choice and live it completely. To come into full awareness of ourselves as love at our core.

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Don’t Beat Yourself Up

Are you hard on yourself?

The Practice:
Don’t beat yourself up.

Why?

A previous JOT – admit fault and move on – was about our relationship with other people. This JOT applies the same practice to ourselves.

Most people know their less than wonderful qualities, such as too much ambition (or too little), a weakness for wine or cookies, something of a temper, or an annoying tendency to rattle on about pet interests. We usually know when we make mistakes, get the facts wrong, could be more skillful, or deserve to feel remorseful.

Some people err on the side of denying or defending these faults (a word I use broadly here). But most people go to the other extreme, repeatedly criticizing themselves in the foreground of awareness, or having a background sense of guilt, unworthiness, and low confidence.

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5 Self-Love Tips to Improve Self-Esteem

The longest, deepest, most important love affair you’ll ever experience is the one you have with yourself and that’s why improving your self-esteem is so important.

However for most of us, the idea of “loving ourselves” seems kind of selfish or egotistical.

We think it’s better for us to direct our love outward rather than inward.

But when we are kind to ourselves through simple practices like positive self-talk, we can gradually make improvements to our self-image that add up to a monumental change.

So, today I want to share five simple, yet effective strategies you can implement to improve your self-esteem.

1. Practice Gratitude

I can’t overstate how powerful this is.

When you make the effort to recognize everything you have to be grateful for, you will find more and more things to be grateful for – including your own abilities and accomplishments.

And when you take stock of everything that is actually going RIGHT in your life, that negative voice in your head won’t be as loud. That’s why I encourage everyone to keep a gratitude journal.

At the end of the day, take the time to write down each thing, no matter how small it seems, that you were thankful for during your day. This makes good days even better and is also a beautiful way to remind yourself how good your life really is.

Also, be sure to pay your gratitude forward. When you feel grateful for the people in your life and the things they have done for you, let them know about it.

Tell them that you see and appreciate what they do for you and for others. This allows you to pass that positive energy on to them and boost their self-esteem as well.

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Follow Your Heart

"The universe is not outside of you. Look inside yourself; everything that you want, you already are." -Rumi

I've Been Thinking...

The other morning, I was sitting on my porch drinking a cup of coffee when all of a sudden, a feeling swept over me. It was one that took me by surprise. I closed my eyes so I could sit with it for a while and really feel it. Then I decided to describe the feeling out loud so I would always remember it.

“I’m doing great,” I said to myself looking around to no one in particular. “I’m actually happy. I’m content. Life is peaceful, life is good.”
 

“Holy moly!” I thought as I sat there smiling. “I’m happy, I’m good.” I could feel myself smile.



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Three False Beliefs That Poison Our Relationships

Here is a list of three false beliefs that betray our hearts and poison our relationships. The more aware we can become of these long-conditioned false beliefs and how they compromise our ability to have fulfilling relationships, the more freedom we will win from them:


False belief # 1: Our value as a person is determined by how others see us.

If we believe our individual worth depends on how others see us, we live with the fear of being judged by them, where trying to win their approval causes us to compromise ourselves again and again. People sense this kind of weakness in us, causing them to resist us, which in turn, makes us feel even “needier.” The cycle deepens, things get worse. Here’s the solution. Seeing its truth sets us free: we are not in this world to “win” what we believe we must to feel “good” about ourselves, but rather to realize that who we are – our True Self – is already whole, happy, and complete.

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A Theory of Love

A few years ago I came upon the letter below that was supposedly authored by Albert Einstein written to his daughter Liesel about love. I have since discovered that Einstein did not write this and the original author is still unknown. That said, when I re-read it again, I was still moved by the wisdom, poetry, and truth it contains and thought you might enjoy it as well.

“When I proposed the theory of relativity, very few understood me, and what I will reveal now to transmit to mankind will also collide with the misunderstanding and prejudice in the world.

I ask you to guard the letters as long as necessary, years, decades, until society is advanced enough to accept what I will explain below.

There is an extremely powerful force that, so far, science has not found a formal explanation to. It is a force that includes and governs all others and is even behind any phenomenon operating in the universe and has not yet been identified by us.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: After Many Years

After forty years, my oldest friend, Robert, took my hand and said, “I didn’t give you one thing you didn’t already have when we met. I just warmed it open with love and truth until you opened like a flower, blossoming into yourself.” This is what friendship does.

 

A Question to Walk With: Describe a friend who has loved you the way the sun loves flowers and trees. What is the greatest gift this friend has given you. Once you’ve reflected on this, tell them.

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Do You Suck at Loving Yourself? I Did Too, but This Simple Practice Helped Tremendously

The practice of loving-kindness began to teach me to balance the love in my life out a bit. Any time I was uncomfortable making the loving aspiration towards myself, I knew that I'd be shifting focus shortly onto others, and that helped me through it.

We all mentally beat ourselves up from time to time. You know how it goes: "I can't believe I was that stupid," or "I'm too fat or thin," or "I'll never be good enough for him or her" and so forth.

Some of us, however, have deeper levels of self-denigration that have taken us to even darker places in our lives, which may stem from any number of reasons. Maybe we were abused growing up, picked on in school, abused drugs or alcohol or were sexually assaulted. Whatever the reason, it is that much more difficult for us to find a semblance of love and acceptance for ourselves than that of the average person, to which I was reminded of a few days ago while talking with a friend.

As we sat on my floor brainstorming ideas for a project, she asked me out of left field to name five things I like about myself. Well, after beginning to squirm a bit and struggling to come up with anything I said, "I'm compassionate" and "I'll help others whenever I can."

She was not impressed with my response and replied, "Yeah, those are nice, but they're more about helping others than about what you like about you," and damn, she was totally right. I have always been of the giving personality type rather than receiving, and like any good giver, it's often very difficult to receive on any level, whether material, emotional or physical.

Now, what I would have done here in the past is mentally beat myself up for not being able to name five things because, well, that's what a lot of us with low self-esteem and who are givers do. This time however, I didn't.

While I may have not done a stellar job at accomplishing her requested task, it did help me to realize I have come a long way in my process. I was able to tell her, "Yeah, I'm struggling with this, and I'm really fucking uncomfortable with it, but I know the qualities are in here somewhere," and today, I can honestly say I do know that, which is a realization I attribute much of to the practice of loving-kindness.

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Just Because

"Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love." -Lao Tzu

I've Been Thinking...

I was sitting in my office the other day when my daughter Christina walked in and asked me what I was up to.


I told her I was thinking about everything that had happened this week and how I felt about it all. I sat there thinking about how I felt attending Kobe and Gianna Bryant’s memorial service with my son Christopher on Monday. I thought about how I felt on Tuesday as I watched another round of the Democratic debates. (I ended up watching alone because everyone else got up and left, saying “I’ve had it!”) I thought about how I felt about Ash Wednesday, the concept of Lent, and Pope Francis’ challenge for us all to give up “trolling,” or insulting others on social media. I thought about the Coronavirus and the fear, panic, and suffering it's wreaking around the world.

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Two Steps to a New Relationship With Your Partner and Yourself

In the largely autobiographical film “Peaceful Warrior,” loosely based on the book Way of the Peaceful Warrior by author Dan Millman, we meet a mysterious old man, a delightful character by the name of Socrates who operates a run-down gas station. The story line revolves around the relationship that Socrates develops with Dan. As the plot develops, and Dan learns to trust the old man, Socrates takes him through a series of powerful experiences and challenging life lessons all designed to achieve a single end: to help Dan realize and then release himself from a set of largely self-imposed limitations carried over from his past. At an inflection point in one of their dialoguesto help strengthen the point he wanted to make of a particular lessonSocrates tells Dan:

The secret to change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

This idea seems simple enough to understand and, at one level, it is. But hidden within it is also a secret instruction that, once revealed, will help us see the way out of any and all old patterns we may be reliving with our partner. Study the following insight closely; read and reread it as needed until some of its higher understanding reaches the part of yourself able to employ its power.

At the outset of feeling any disagreement about to beginwhether we’re about to go on the offensive, or find ourselves on our heels, feeling defensivewe must have enough awareness of ourselves to realize this very simple truth: in that same moment there is only one of two things that can be causing this conflict. Either an unseen part of us has acted to start this conflict, or some unconscious part of us has been stirred into opposing a similar characteristic in our partner. As long as we remain unaware of this “starting gun” that sets us racing to win the argument, we’ll continue to see everything about the moment from one side only: our side. But here’s the truth, as well as the explanation for why no one can ever win such a race:

Both of these actions—whether an unseen part of us steps up to initiate the pattern, or steps back to resist an equally unwitting action instigated by our partner—are a part of the overall pattern. In other words, the real reason this negative pattern keeps being resurrected is that, over and over again, we identify with one side or the other of these opposing forces. Take away either one of these two sides and well, you’ve heard the old expression: “what if they gave a war, and no one came?” This is why as soon as we catch the smallest hint of impatience, a mounting frustration, or any sense of resentment gathering steam we must actdecisivelyas outlined here in the following two steps.

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See Your Part

What’s your own role?

The Practice:
See your part.

Why?

In situations or relationships with any kind of difficulty – tension, feeling hurt, conflicts, mismatches of wants . . . the usual crud – it’s natural to focus on what others have done that’s problematic.

This could be useful for a while: it can energize you, highlight what you most care about, and help you see more clearly what you’d like others to change.

But there is also a cost: fixating on the harms (actual or imagined) done by others revves up your case about them (see Drop the Case), with all the stresses and hard feelings that this brings. Plus it makes it harder to see the good qualities in those you have issues with, the influence of additional factors – and whatever might be your own part in the matter.{jcomments off}

For example, let’s say you work with someone who is unfairly critical of you. Sure, there are the ways that this person is out of line, self-righteous, whatever. Additionally, there are the ways that this person is also doing good things, plus the ways that other factors – such as coworkers who like to gossip – are making things worse. And there might be your own role as well, perhaps inadvertently.

To be clear, sometimes we really do have no part in whatever happened. Many situations are like a person walking across a street with a green light when a drunk driver hits them. And in many other situations, our own role is small at most, and never justifies the harmful actions of others. I feel it is courageous and self-respecting to recognize and as appropriate call out the harms done by someone to us or others.

And still . . . we usually have little influence over other people. Yes, we do what we can about what’s “out there,” but “in here” there are many more opportunities for managing our reactions and for becoming more skillful in life.

Further, I’ve never been able to come to peace about anything that’s bothered me until I take responsibility for whatever is my own part in it. Which, upon reflection, is sometimes nothing at all! But the willingness to see for oneself whatever one’s part is enables a genuine sense of release when we can enjoy “the bliss of blamelessness.”

Paradoxically, when you step into acknowledging your part, then you can step out of tangles of conflicts with others and ruminations and resentments inside your own mind.

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30 Simple Ways to Create Balance and Connection

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