Category Archives: Relationship
Yippppeee, Valentine’s Day is almost upon us! A chance to express our love!
Granted, some of you might approach Valentines Day with considerable dread, either because you don’t know what to do, because you don’t have anyone to spend it with, or because you feel obligated to do or buy something even though you don’t really want to – you know, get the hearts out, send flowers, buy chocolates, purchase a Hallmark card, reserve dinner at a fancy restaurant, and generally be blinded by all the pink!
Conventionally, Valentine’s Day is a day to express love for a romantic partner.
But we need not limit ourselves. Remember when we used to make Valentine’s cards for our friends in school? That’s right. Love is not relegated to only lovers.
We love our friends, our children and grandchildren, our extended family, previous lovers, co-workers, clients, teachers – as well as our primary partner if we have one.
There is also our relationship with ourselves. How many times a year do we take the chance to celebrate and love ourselves? Give ourselves a luxurious bubble bath or take ourselves out to a nice dinner or indulge in a lovely massage? How often do we take time to say out loud what we appreciate about who we are?
And then there is our relationship with God or Spirit or the Great Mystery or the Universe or whatever words you choose to use for this miracle life of ours. How often do we give thanks for just being alive? For living a blessed life? For the sun and moon and rain and air and land and animals?
There’s a multitude of places to express our love and gratitude. By all means do it with your lover, spouse or primary partner, but that doesn’t have to be the extent of it.
Not only that, but love is free. We can express our love in a myriad of different ways that do not require buying anything at all.
When we express our love, and become a vehicle for love’s voice, not only do we help others to feel special, but we feel the positive effects of stepping into love too. When we reach out and do something that communicates the depth of our love and appreciation, we ourselves are uplifted!
Valentine’s Day provides a great excuse for us to express our love. It is a chance to do something we may never have done before to show our appreciation.
Aside from the conventional Valentine’s Day practices, we thought we would help you brainstorm a list of things you can do to make this Valentine’s Day special. Feel free to steal one or more of the ideas listed below or invent something else!
• Write a love song or a poem and deliver it in person.
• Make a Valentine from scratch out of paper, glue and craft supplies
• Call a loved one and leave a mystery love message
• Make a list of what you love about that person that corresponds with how many years you have known that person
• Have a picnic on the floor of your living room by candlelight
• Set up a table with table cloth and flowers outside and eat take-out in a park, or on your porch.
• Serve cake and ice cream or some other delectable desert before dinner
• Put on your favorite dance music and dance
• Take a walk in the moonlight and share your happiest memories
• Feed each other your entire meal without utensils
• Text someone something you will always treasure and never forget about them
• Write a letter to someone about how they have touched your heart or changed your life
• Offer your partner a foot or back rub to soft music while delivering appreciations
• Take a bath by candlelight
• Write a love letter to yourself about what you appreciate
• Forgive someone for something you have been hanging onto and tell them
• Make a bonfire outside and sing love songs under the stars
• Run up to someone as if you haven’t seen them for a long time, pick them up, twirl them and tell them how lucky you are to know them
• Make a list of 10 intimacy and love questions to ask and answer
• Invite your non-Valentine’s friends over and have a non-Valentine’s hangout.
• With family or friends, take turns saying what you love about each person
• Leave love notes in secret hiding places all around the house
• Make a video or book of what you love
Notice that all of these ideas are simple. They are more about creating a special memorable experience than about spending money on something fancy or doing something you always do by rote or that you think you should do.
We encourage you to take time this Valentine’s to come up with a creative, fun, and unique way to express your love – not only to your loved ones, but to people in your life that you care about and wish to appreciate, including yourself!
Don’t forget. Love is free, and the more we give, the more we get.
Make this Valentine’s Day one to remember! And once Valentine’s has come and gone, remember there are 364 other days in the year to express your love.
“There’s just no technological substitute for loving human magic!”
My daughter Shayna and I couldn’t decide. I wanted her to make the decision and she wanted me to. Should we stay home for New Year’s Eve or drive two hours to the Bay Area to be with family and friends?
I was tired from not having slept well the night before, so the thought of partying until midnight was not at all appealing. Even taking the time to pack for an overnight and drive two hours in traffic seemed like it would take more energy than I had. Besides, Christian still couldn’t travel with his back out, and I didn’t really want to be apart from him on New Year’s Eve.
Shayna still had homework for her first day back at school after the holiday, and wanted to go to the barn to ride her horse, so she was mixed about going too. It certainly would be cozier, and way the heck easier, to just stay home and maybe have a few of her friends over to celebrate the New Year.
After hours of debate and indecision, and even a Ro-Sham-Bo that told us to go, some small voice in me said, “Just do it!” So I asked my daughter, “Wanna just go for it?” and she said, “Sure!” Within an hour we were packed and saying goodbye to Christian, who was more than happy to support us to go enjoy ourselves.
We arrived at 5pm for the most nourishing New Year’s Eve party ever! My children and people that I have known for some 20 years were there. I felt such love and joy in their presence – my chosen family, truly. I had great conversations that opened up new thinking for me in several domains. We played games, piano and table tennis. One of the teens had written a comedic play that we read, acted out and laughed about together as a group.
We ate great food, danced and sang to Karaoke at the top of our lungs for hours. I had a sweet deep conversation with my son, and got to hold my daughter in my arms when the clock struck midnight. I finally fell asleep around 2 in the morning on a makeshift bed on the floor, feeling energized and grateful for having made the trip.
I was thinking about how my experience with New Year’s mirrors our human experience in this day and age. With phones, computers and TV’s bringing endless entertainment, news and distraction at our fingertips, it is harder and harder for people to feel motivated to get out of the house.
We watch movies without leaving our couch, have chats with friends without actually talking to them or seeing them; we have food delivered so we don’t need to dine out; and we take classes from home, without having to go sit next to someone, somewhere.
When I asked my house cleaner what she did with her free time, she said she goes home and watches TV. “If the phone rings during one of my shows, I don’t answer it. I don’t want to be interrupted.”
Another friend of mine, who is a spiritual coach, said that 75% of his clients, even if they live within half an hour of his office, prefer doing Zoom sessions to in-person meetings.
When Christian and I walk in our neighborhood, we are struck by how few people are ever out in their yards. My children and their friends are rarely seen without eyes glued to their phones. Even singles date people online that they never actually meet in person.
A lot of people who offer us business advice tell us to take our work online. “Online programs are the wave of the future. People don’t want to take workshops. They want to stay at home. Stay private. Comfortable.”
But we know real transformation is unlikely to happen from an online anything.
Some insights and new information, sure. But memorable transformations and breakthroughs are much more abundant and likely in a live interactive group environment.
For that reason, Christian and I will always offer live trainings.
It is in community, where people get to really be with each other, look into each other’s eyes, touch and talk and be held, that real and lasting healing and improvement happen.
There’s just no technological substitute for that kind of loving, relational human magic!
When we repeatedly take the easy way out and stay safe and comfortable at home, we don’t get to feel the soul nourishment that comes from genuine human interaction.
When we don’t take that new class or workshop or trip, we don’t get to grow and expand from exposure to newness. We stay comfortable – and bored!
When we text, we might think we’re connecting with our friends, but often, our hearts remain untouched.
I have three sentences that rattle around in my brain over and over again:
“Today is the youngest I will ever be!”
“Everything I really want is outside my comfort zone!”
“Trust, risk and keep a sense of humor!”
Those three sentences remind me to seize the moment of my life and go for it! They provide the fuel for me to break out of the limiting confines of my comfort zone.
I am reminded that the richness and expansiveness of my life has always come from taking risks, stepping out, and doing something new. My relationships and conversations with other people recurrently open up new possibilities for me that I never would have come to on my own.
As we enter the New Year, I personally have a desire to take more risks. Get out of the house more. Put down the phone and take a walk. Go visit a friend. Drive two hours to see people I haven’t seen for years. Put on music and dance like a wild woman. Go to, and host, more gatherings and workshops.
Watch less. Live more.
How about you? What will you decide?
When you find yourself going back and forth, when you just don’t have the energy to get up and go do something new, what will you choose?
I hope, at least some of the time that you will listen to that same small voice in you that says, “Just Do It!” I trust you will feel as expanded and enriched as I do when I jump into life full tilt boogie with both feet!
Happy New Out-of-the-Box Year to you!
🙂 Sonika & Christian
PS. If you would like to jump into one of our community love-and-relationship workshops, go to loveworksforyou.com/gytl
“Love isn’t always upbeat and wonderful and sexy. Sometimes love is shared in tears and pain and loss and grief and hurt.”
It is 2:30 in the afternoon. Christian has been sleeping for several hours now, a welcome relief from his nearly 24/7 excruciating sciatic pain. Ever since Thanksgiving, he has been up most nights, unable to sleep. During the day, he grimaces and moans as he moves from one lying position to the next, trying to find a pain-free position. He can’t sit or stand or walk without agonizing discomfort. I drive him to medical appointments on a mattress in the back of our van.
He has tried many things to eliminate the pain: three chiropractors, three doctors, several body workers, acupuncture, massage, hot tub flotation, a multitude of marijuana products, Reiki, prayer, visualizations, ice, heat, electrode stimulation, grounding, energy balancing, muscle stretches, muscle relaxants, steroids, narcotic drugs, on and on. He has yet to find relief.
He has been living with genetic arthritis for some twenty-five years now, so he is accustomed to daily joint pain. He has such a high tolerance for pain, that if I didn’t see him using ice packs at night, I wouldn’t know he’d been hurting most of the day.
But this pain has taken him to his knees. I’ve never seen him cry like this. He apologizes often to me for the inconvenience of his incapacitation. We had to cancel our holiday trip to Denmark because he can’t travel. He is reliant on others for everything.
What to do?
Several times a day, I ask that question. What can we do to help him? What new action can we take that might produce relief?
There are many so options. Hundreds of friends on Facebook have offered their services or made recommendations for help – many more than we can even respond to. Doctors, body workers, energy workers, including a physical therapist, spinal specialist, acupuncturist, Bowen therapist and rheumatologist all have offered a variety of treatment recommendations. A couple of women did long-distance healings. Some even did house calls.
What is clear to me in this experience is how much love is underneath everything, even the pain.
Christian’s desire to be free of pain so he can make dinner, work in the yard, and greet me at the car to carry in the groceries all have love in it. His wish to be well enough to lead our courses and make a difference for people who are struggling in relationship has love in it. His longing to travel to Denmark to see his ailing father has love in it. Even his pain that is communicating something that wants to be healed has love in it.
All of the people who are sharing their treatment solutions have love expressed in every word. Our daughter making him dinner and serving it to him on the floor has love in it. And me, when I put clean clothes out for him on the bed, or bring him tea or a heating pad, or rub his back – every action I take has love in it.
Love is everywhere.
Funny, how we so often miss love when it is in plain sight. We are sometimes so busy searching for love that we miss it altogether.
I remember once hearing a single person say that she broke up with an older man she loved who was not in the best of health. She exclaimed, “I don’t want to have to push him around in a wheel chair later!”
A man recently shared with me that he only wants to get together with the woman he is dating when they are both feeling upbeat and positive, because anything less than that never works for them.
And a couple just scheduled an appointment because they are going through some hard times right now and are thinking about getting divorced.
One thing I know…
Love isn’t always upbeat and wonderful and sexy. Sometimes love is shared in tears and pain and loss and grief and hurt.
No one knows that better than Eric. He is a good friend of ours who is dying of ALS. He and his wife just celebrated a tearful 25th anniversary knowing full well that it may be their last. Friends of ours brought flowers and dinner, another converted their wedding video to DVD, and together, they ate and watched and cried and loved in between the sounds made from his breathing machine.
Another friend of ours just shaved her head from chemo and radiation due to breast cancer. She shared through tears, “My husband looks at me and holds me and reassures me that I am beautiful. He tells me, ‘I have you. That is all that matters’.”
I can relate to their experience of love in pain. In between the immense pain that Christian is experiencing, there are those moments when we look into each other’s eyes. Sometimes we cry. And sometimes we laugh full out belly laughs at the absurdity of it all.
In those moments where our souls touch, there is just as sweet and deep a love between us as in our wildest lovemaking sessions. While I am just as eager as Christian for him to find relief from this excruciating pain, I am enjoying the deep love that we are sharing in this experience.
I remember telling the woman who was afraid of pushing her dating partner around in a wheelchair in their later years, “If you love him, it will give you great pleasure to wheel him around! Why cast love aside now and miss out on love later for a fear that may or may not ever manifest?”
This afternoon, before Christian fell asleep, I suggested he pay attention to the spaces in between his pain, the spaces where pain was absent and there was a second or two of relief. It made all the difference. He was able to find them, eventually relax and fall asleep.
I can see the gift of putting attention on the spaces, not just for pain relief but also for love.
In our workshops, we encourage people to look into each other’s eyes without words, and just connect. People are often surprised to find the very thing they have been searching their whole life for in that quiet still place.
Love is in the spaces. Love is in the pain.
Perhaps this holiday season, we would all benefit from slowing down and paying attention to the love that is spoken in the silent pauses, whether we are challenged in life or blessed. To find the deep love expressed in every gift, in every morsel of food prepared, in every hug and in every tear.
I am grateful for this grand love, and for all of its myriad expressions. There is nothing more miraculous.
Wishing you a love-filled holiday!
P.S. In honor of love, we are offering a two-for-one Give Yourself to Love holiday special. On the website you can register for one person, then bring a friend for free. Check it out here: www.loveworksforyou.com/gytl
Christian and I weren’t feeling well. Christian had just gotten over a 10-day flu, and I could tell by my run down body and cough that I was working hard to fight it. We had two talks scheduled that week and a workshop. We did them anyway.
While sick and recovering, neither of us felt like being intimate. We hadn’t been sexual for a week and we could tell we both really needed the physical connection, even though we still didn’t feel like it. We made love anyway.
When our daughter’s other mother insisted we do the necessary repairs on our house for mold remediation, we didn’t want to.
Tearing up our house, living in disrepair and spending money on said repairs were not on our list of priorities. We did them anyway.
Our daughter had a horse show in Davis last weekend and our son and his girlfriend wanted to meet up to walk through the Dixon corn maze. We didn’t really want to do either activity, but we went anyway.
When Christian and I first met, we were not what we each were looking for. He wasn’t looking for a mature 47 year-old professional from California with two children, and I wasn’t looking for an unemployed, broke 32 year-old with little relationship experience who lived in Denmark. But we got married anyway.
Why? Why would we do what we didn’t feel like doing? Why would we marry someone who didn’t match our picture of the ideal partner?
Because we were committed to something greater than ourselves.
Commitment is often the difference between being successful or not. One of my favorite passages reads, “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness….”
When you’re not committed, it’s easy to walk away when differences, obstacles or problems arise. There is no commitment to stay in there and work through them. Even minor differences show up as deal breakers, as reasons to give up.
But when you’ve already made a commitment, those same differences or problems are just the next thing to work through. When you don’t give yourself the option to walk away, you begin to explore and notice options and solutions that can only show up inside a committed conversation.
EVERY relationship has differences! Every relationship has problems! Nobody is exactly the same as you. Life is not always easy. Everyone encounters tough times.
When you are committed, you use differences and challenging times to expand yourself into new territory, to deepen your understanding of others, to creatively come up with win/win solutions, to bring you closer to yourself and another human being, to walk hand in hand through life’s varied experiences.
When you’re not committed, you use differences and challenging situations as justifications to back off, disappear, avoid, and distance which can keep you stuck and actually prevent you from getting what you REALLY want.
When you’re committed, your focus in relationship is all about give AND take. You remember that your partner’s needs are as important as yours, and you lean in towards solutions that deepen your connection in relationship.
When you’re not committed, your focus tends to be on yourself and what you are getting or not getting. “Are my needs getting met here? Will I get the kind of relationship I want if I choose you?” There is very little attention on the other person. We don’t think to ask, “What is your most important need? What can I do to help you get your needs met? How can I help you feel loved?”
We are generally afraid that we will lose something or get less of what we want if and when we commit. But truthfully, we get MORE of what we want when we commit.
There is infinite freedom inside of commitment. When we choose or decide a course of action, when we marry or buy a house or commit to a job, endless new openings and possibilities arise within that decision!
Imagine standing in an aisle at the grocery store, picking out peanut butter. There are many different kinds: crunchy or smooth, salted or unsalted, Valencia or Spanish or Virginia, with or without sugar, organic or not, and several different brands of various combinations.
Only after choosing ONE kind, do you have the freedom to do different things with it and create new experiences: bake cookies, eat it by the spoonful, slather it on celery slices, make a PB&J sandwich, etc.
The same is true in relationships. Until you choose ONE person, even with “differences”, you can’t discover all of the fun, loving ways you can interact with that person and all of the creative solutions you can come up with for how to work through the conflicts that arise between you!
We were speaking with a woman who has been single for five years, clear that she does not want to date a man who is into sports because she hates sports. So every time she finds out a man is into sports, she writes him off and moves on. But if she fell in love with and committed to a man who enjoyed sports, they would work it out!
Christian and I have our differences and conflicts, just like most couples. One way we are different, is he doesn’t like musicals and I don’t like rock and roll. But now that we are married, I sometimes listen to Queen and he sometimes goes with me to musicals and we actually enjoy ourselves! Or sometimes I go out with friends to musicals and he rocks out to loud music on his ear-buds. Point is we make the differences work because we are committed to making them work!
I realized a long time ago, that to commit to someone or something is really a hidden declaration to myself that I WILL make good on that commitment. I trust myself to come through no matter what, to stay in there and creatively figure out a way to keep my word and do what I committed to.
Yes, of course, as with all things, there are exceptions – times when it may be the right action to back out of a commitment or renegotiate a promise. If that is the case, when you do, it is important to make sure to take care of the other person or persons as best as possible, to take care of their concerns so as not to break trust or damage your relationship with them.
Commitment is powerful. It calls you to rise in ways you might not otherwise. It summons amazing resourcefulness and creativity. Synergy becomes possible. Miracles show up.
We believe that you can always commit to something. Commit to being completely transparent about whatever you are thinking and feeling. Commit to allowing other people to have their experiences and feelings. Commit to asking for and creating what you want. Commit to creating win/win solutions so your partner gets what they want too. Commit to showing up no matter how you feel. Commit to some project or goal and don’t stop until you achieve it!
When you find something big enough to commit to, obstacles are merely steps along the way to your dream. Without commitment, obstacles stop you on your path.
We encourage you to create a commitment “frame” through which to live life. What if you couldn’t walk away? What if the person you are with is the perfect person for you to be with right now? What solutions / opportunities would you see around the difficulties you are facing? How could you use this situation to help you grow?
I’ll leave you with our favorite quote on Commitment:
“…Until one is committed, there is hesitancy,
the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.
Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.
A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.
I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
‘Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!’”
W. H. Murray in The Scottish Himalaya Expedition, 1951
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
“There was no happy ending. I never called her. Using my cowardly cunning rationale, I eventually convinced myself she wasn’t that interesting anyways, that it probably wouldn’t have led to anything, and that it just wasn’t that important.”
When I was 14, I spent a week with my handball team at a tournament summer camp. There was this girl there, Britt, who caught my eye. At the final dance, we timidly chatted a bit, maybe even danced (as I recall, “dancing” meant standing across from each other looking down, trying not to move too much:)
A week after camp, I got a letter in the mail from Britt. Oh my, she thought I was cute and wanted to talk to me again, with her phone number included and an invitation to call her.
You can imagine how excited I was, my belly doing summersaults. I fantasized for days about the smooth conversations we’d be having, and how’s she’d be laughing at my quick wit.
So what happened?
Fear happened! I was terrified to call her, and even more terrified of the idea of being with her in person, just her and me. I read her letter over and over again, always feeling excited and flattered, but when it came to dialing her number … fear ruled me.
There was no happy ending. I never called her. Using my cowardly cunning rationale, I eventually convinced myself she wasn’t that interesting anyways, that it probably wouldn’t have led to anything, and that it just wasn’t that important.
BS! The simple truth was I desperately wanted to call her and I let fear be the strongest force in me. Hence, I totally missed out on … who knows what?
For years and years after that event, I repeated a similar sequence in my life in general and in my relationships in particular. Whenever I let my fear be the strongest force, it consequently led to unhappy endings. I walked away from countless relationships, and didn’t participate in countless opportunities, all because of fear.
There were so many things that seemed to cause that unpleasant pit in my belly. Getting really close to a partner. When a girl REALLY liked me and wanted us to be more serious. When she got mad about something and tried to talk me about it. So many times I let fear get the upper hand.
It wasn’t all bad, of course. There were many times where I followed my heart and did not let fear rule my choices.
After five years of university studies, I had all the required credits and exams to complete my master’s degree. I only needed to finish my final thesis. I chose to walk away from the whole thing because it was sucking the joy out of my life and because I never had my heart in it to begin with. In fact, the only reason I started my studies in the first place was because I was afraid I couldn’t make a decent life without a master’s degree.
Lots of people thought I was nuts to walk away, and I had serious fears they were right, but I still did it. In my heart and gut, it just felt like the right thing to do.
After years of physical and internal misery I finally admitted to myself that my life was not working and that my way of doing things was causing serious harm to my wellbeing and my relationships. It was scary, but I took the leap of faith to “quit” my old life. I sold my apartment, got rid of all my stuff, and moved to another country with no clue of where I was going.
A few years later I took another big risk that really paid off. I spent the last $8000 in my savings account to sign up for a course at The Option Institute in Massachusetts. I lived in Denmark at the time, had no steady livelihood and no clear path of where I was going. But I had a recurring voice in my mind that said to get myself to The Option Institute. So I did, knowing full well it was my last money, but choosing to trust that it would work out.
The first morning I was there, I met Sonika.
Now, I know there’s a lot of refrigerator-magnet wisdom that says, “Just follow your heart”, “FEAR is only False Evidence Appearing Real” (or more entertaining, Fuck Everything And Run), or, “Do it anyway”, which is great, but in my experience, it’s been a lot more complicated than that.
Much more than “overcoming” fear, it’s been about developing an empowering, judicious, and sometimes even fun-loving relationship with fear. Because it’s not just something to “get over” once so we can do the thing we were afraid to do. Fear arises each time we step outside of the box into new territory, and as a result, it’s not going away anytime soon, if ever.
So what to do?
There are a few things that have been absolutely key for me …
1. Understanding the good, innocent intention behind my fear. The Course in Miracles says there are only two states, love or fear. But I find the fear comes with a good deal of love in it.
2. Making friends with my fear. Since it’s not going to go away permanently (well, perhaps some day when I’m a more enlightened person), I might as well co-exist with it in a harmonious way.
3. Realizing how my fear points to my triggers, which points to what I’m making up in my head, which points to a decision I made long ago, which hardly ever serves me anymore. And which can be changed.
4. Gaining the discernment of when fear is to be listened to, and when it’s just paper tigers roaring in my head.
5. Having the courage to move ahead with clear action in the face of fear (should have done that with Britt 30 years ago!)
6. Learning how to decrease the intensity of my fear, and yet remain calm when fear is intense.
Sonika and I have this motto of sorts: Trust, risk, and keep a sense of humor. We try to live by that in all aspects of life. Whether it’s a trivial everyday relationship issue like working out a conflict between us or it’s big, intense, life-changing stuff like losing all our money or wondering which country to live in.
It’s from that place we developed our newest workshop offering, Fearless Love, Fearless Life.
If you would like to embody more of this spirit in your own life and relationships, come join us for our newest workshop, Fearless Love, Fearless Life. You’ll get to have fun with your fear, make friends with it, take it “for a walk”, and connect to the amazing love and power that’s waiting for you right on the other side.
And keep a sense of humor :/)
Rooting for you!
Christian & Sonika
“I led sexuality classes in college as a student teacher where I passed around sex toys to middle-aged women who didn’t know whether to giggle or throw up.”
Where do you stop yourself because of your fear? In what ways do you stay safe and comfortable instead of venturing out towards what you really want?
Almost always what keeps us from stepping out and taking risks is our fear of failure. We are scared of things not turning out well. We make up a story that the outcome will be bad in the end, and we feel so uncomfortable at the mere thought of doing something new that we stop before we start.
But everything we want is outside of our comfort zone!
That experience of aliveness, exhilaration, expansion and passion that we all long for, comes first from a willingness to be physically uncomfortable as you step into new territory, and to take action no matter how scary it might seem. Over and over, Christian and I watch people in our trainings navigate through discomfort only to discover massive transformation, deep love and bliss on the other side.
Certainly one of the side benefits of taking risks, is that we often discover that our fears are way worse than reality. Even if we do happen to fail, we find that we can learn from our mistakes and grow ourselves to be more competent and powerful than before.
I have developed a working relationship with fear over the years, by taking fear with me into new experiences – some of which were terrifying for me.
I have jumped out of an airplane, gone spelunking in underground caverns, parasailed at 200 feet, crossed rickety bridges and zip-lined over deep canyons, hurled myself through the air on ropes courses I don’t remember the names of, and rafted down white-water rapids in California and Wyoming. I worked in Yosemite as a national park laborer for three summers, bravely handling a chainsaw my first year. I walked on coals twice, led workshops in the nude, and was a guest speaker at numerous conferences.
I led sexuality classes in college as a student teacher where I passed around sex toys to middle-aged women who didn’t know whether to giggle or throw up. I have subbed for ministers on Sundays delivering inspirational sermons that made people cry. I have been married and divorced more than once. I traveled to Mexico by myself when I was 18. I have designed and facilitated relationship trainings for over 38 years – in Michigan, Canada and California, and even on cruise ships to Mexico.
This upcoming weekend, I am Dancing With Our Stars in Nevada City, where I will be performing two dances with a sore hip, two weeks before my 60th birthday, in front of some 700 people.
I have had my failures over the years. I have had my voice crack in the middle of singing a song to a crowd. I have bombed miserably in front of hundreds from a joke gone bad or one of those terrifying blank-outs when I couldn’t for the life of me remember what I was going to say. And I have had two people show up to what was supposed to be a large speaking gig. Imagine the hollow sound of their applause!
These “failures” have taught me a lot about fear and life, and about humility and humor.
I have learned that all failures and mess-ups diminish and heal over time. There is almost nothing that can’t be repaired, forgiven or learned from. When we use failures and mistakes as learning opportunities, we can never really “fail”.
I just heard of a man who literally passed out from anxiety and stage fright at the first workshop he was leading. It turned out that his fainting created immense vulnerability, connection and love between him, his wife and the workshop participants. As a result, it substantially changed his relationship with fear. Why? Because, when the worst thing happens – and you’re still ok – you don’t have to worry about the worst thing happening ever again.
More importantly, I have discovered through my many mess-ups, that no one cares! People are so afraid of failure themselves, that they actually aren’t judging you as much as you think they are. In fact, they love it when you mess up and laugh at yourself. It gives them permission to take risks and make mistakes too! I have learned to laugh out loud at myself if things don’t go as planned.
Oh, I still get scared. I have been afraid off and on about this dance competition. But it isn’t stopping me. On the actual evening of the event, I will simply take my fear with me for a twirl out on the dance floor! And if I fall or mess up, I will laugh and appreciate the heck out of myself for risking stepping out on the edge of life yet again. My favorite motto is “Trust, Risk and Keep a Sense of Humor!”
Taking action in spite of fear is a skill to develop. It takes practice!
If you would like to take a dynamic look at your relationship with fear, and step out beyond your comfort zone so that you can milk this life for all it has to offer, you are invited to attend Fearless Love, Fearless Life. Discover a new relationship to fear so that you are never stopped again from doing what your heart longs for!
Here’s to trusting, risking, and keeping a sense of humor!
🙂 Sonika Tinker
For many people in relationship, fights about how much quality time to spend together or apart is commonplace. Usually one partner is arguing for more time together, while the other is arguing for more time to him or herself.
Watch our video here, and/or read the full article below the video.
There are two sides to this intimacy-freedom spectrum: there is a preference for intimacy or freedom, and there is a resistance to the other side. In other words, if I prefer intimacy and connection, I generally resist space and freedom – for myself AND my partner.
This is complicated even further by the fact that our needs and desires are constantly in flux. Even if one partner has a preference for more connection or space than the other, personal space and connection needs can vary from day to day. For example, I may want more connection today, but more space tomorrow and the next day.
This dilemma has a positive side. I just feel SO GOOD when we are together (or apart), that I want more of it. I want that feeling to stay and never leave. I want to hang on to that particular experience!
But sometimes this dilemma is fueled by fear. I don’t want you to go away because I am afraid if you leave you will never come back.
The more couples fight about this, the more they solidify their own position and preference and the more they resist their partner’s need. This pattern, in the end, only keeps the arguments and dissatisfaction going.
Given that there is an intimacy-freedom spectrum, it is inevitable for couples to find themselves having differing needs for connection and space. Rarely do couples hit the balance point where they both want the same exact amount of time together and apart.
So, what to do when you find yourself at odds with your partner’s preference?
For starters, explore. Where are you on the spectrum?
Do you find yourself preferring connection and dreading separation? Do you resist or pout or make a scene when your partner needs space or pulls away emotionally? Do you forget to take care of yourself because you are so focused on being with your partner?
Or do you prefer being alone and dread too much time together? Do you make plans away from the relationship without consulting your partner? Do you stay up late to avoid going to bed at the same time? Do you resist intimacy or sexual overtures?
So, explore your general preference.
Both space and togetherness are essential for love’s continued expansion. It is essential for any expansion and growth.
Think about it.
Your heart muscle opens and closes.
Your lungs expand and contract.
Your muscles tense and relax.
The seasons come and go.
The moon waxes and wanes as the earth shifts.
The waves and tides come in and go out.
There is a natural ebb and flow to the ever-changing energies of life that keep things moving, evolving, growing …
The same is true in relationship.
Relationship needs to breathe. It needs to move. It needs the space to grow and change. It needs an out-breath and an in-breath. It needs togetherness and separateness. It needs freedom AND connection. That is why this issue is so present for most couples in relationship – because both aspects are so essential to mature, healthy love.
Think of it this way …
When you get attached to connection, and you resist taking space or allowing your partner to take space, is a bit like trying to not breathe out. It is impossible, for one, and if you do happen to be successful, you will die. The same is true of relationship. Your relationship will die without breath, without movement. It will die if you ONLY have togetherness or you ONLY have space.
Or here is another useful image.
When you get attached to space and freedom, and you resist coming together in complete union with your partner, it is a bit like trying to keep a wave from coming onto your shores. Sure, you can build a wall to keep the water at bay with a lot of effort, but that wave is going to keep banging up against your wall over and over again for as long as you’re with this partner.
Imagine how it would be if you allowed for and celebrated both aspects. You come together and experience delightful bliss in deep intimacy and sex AND you go out and experience the richness of your time alone with yourself or others. You enjoy the exhale, and you allow the inhale. Both aspects give, both are nourishing and both contribute to your expansion as individuals AND as a couple.
How that looks in relationship is not resisting or arguing for one or the other of these states.
If you are the “connecting one” in the relationship, instead of pulling for your partner to come back when he emotionally withdraws, remind yourself that the wave is going out to sea. The wave is going back out to its source and will return invigorated with new vibrancy to add into the relationship. He is going out to sea FOR the health of the relationship. Remind yourself that he will be back – stronger, clearer, and more available for connection when he returns.
And if you are the “space one” in the relationship, instead of snubbing your partner’s overtures for connection, freely step in with your appreciation for your partner’s open heart. Reward her love and desire for you by meeting her with your openness and availability.
When you do this, a wonderful alchemy emerges. Your togetherness builds and reinforces your freedom. Your closeness infuses your solitude with confidence, love and presence. And vice versa. Your time alone is this nourishing opportunity to refuel your connection with yourself and spirit, so that you are more available and open for love and intimacy when it comes to you.
So don’t try to hang onto that wave or breath – no matter how good it feels. It will kill you and the relationship. Let the wave have its way. Trust that whatever you prefer will come back around, and enjoy the ride along the way.
As a coach, over and over again I witness successful people with great lives and loving relationships lament their failure because they don’t measure up to some outside image of what they think they need to be happy.
Many couples divorce and many singles stay single in search of that perfect ideal relationship.
In the Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz talks about how having many options produce unhappiness. With more, better, different, faster choices in front of us, we continually compare what we have with what we could have, and this comparison has us feel unhappy with our lives and relationships as they are. We keep ourselves wanting what we don’t have.
Jon Jandai, on a Ted Talk I listened to recently, spoke about growing up in Thailand where he worked two months out of the year – one month planting, and the other harvesting, rice. The remaining ten months of the year he and his family had free time to be with themselves, take naps, visit with friends, garden, create art, read, and attend festivals. His community was poor, but they didn’t know it until television made its way into his town.
People went from being happy with their lives to feeling discontent, like they should have more and better. Jon’s parents sent him to Bangkok to get an education, so he could have access to this better life.
While he was working hard for eight hours a day at school, he wondered why? And for what? He already had a good life. He didn’t have to work more than two months out of the year and garden for fifteen minutes a day to have enough food to eat for him and his family of six. And he had enough rice and food left over every week to sell for extra income. It took him two months to build a house, that he could then live in for free for the rest of his life. He didn’t need clothes, because visitors coming through often left clothes behind that he could wear.
What was really better about what he saw on television? Where people work hard at jobs they don’t like for 40+ hours a week, take thirty years to pay off a mortgage on a house they own, make purchases on things they don’t really need, constantly buy new clothes to stay in fashion, and have but two weeks off a year for vacation.
We are continually bombarded in our lives with images of people who have more than we do. Millionaires who have luxury cars, vacation homes, boats, planes, nannies, personal chefs and have achieved a high level of success. The rest of us look on in envy, believing that we are poor in comparison, and that our happiness lies in some faraway distant future when we should attain some arbitrary level of material success and fame.
In this constant comparison, our otherwise good lives – perhaps average lives, which today are good lives – look like a failure.
Likewise, movies and television showing hot sexy thin tan young people falling in love and living happily ever after have our relationships look substandard by comparison. “Sleepless in Seattle” spoke to many who would love to replace their partners who snore and fart and belch and pick their noses with that handsome mystery rich prince who will sweep them off their feet and take care of them forever.
Alan Watts said that the act of wanting a more positive experience is in and of itself a negative experience, and the act of accepting a negative experience is paradoxically, a positive experience. We say it this way. “Wanting and having cannot exist in the same space at the same time.”
I recently worked with a couple that had been dating for two years. They loved each other deeply and had scheduled a session with me to help them with their breakup. The Relationship Completion process I gave them to assist with their separation process backfired, and only had them fall more in love with each other.
As we worked together, it was more and more apparent to me that they were stuck in some outside form that they believed they needed to be happy. Because their partner didn’t look like how he or she should, they thought they should move on to find their Prince/Princess Charming.
But when they slowed things down, they could see that they have what really matters most: undying love for each other, the ability to share and talk about anything, hot sex, the ability to take responsibility and work through challenges together, and the desire to really be there for each other.
They were able to see where they could join each other more completely to both appreciate their pretty miraculous life and relationship, while having fun creating new possibilities for the future. Witnessing their breakthrough, I imagine, was like Jon seeing that he already had the life he was presumably working hard to attain.
So what is the message to all of us?
Quit comparing. Quit thinking that what we have isn’t it. Quit looking for where our partner isn’t perfect. Or as Barry Schwartz says, have fewer expectations. Appreciate what we have now. Be in the moment. Choose to feel good. See “average” and “what is” as success, as having already arrived.
Christian and I endeavor to do just that. As we sit on our deck in the sunshine – we have a choice. Do we look at the large pile of bark that needs to be scattered about, the large yard of lumber that needs to be cut and stacked, a roof that needs to be repaired, a driveway that needs paving, and the carpet with stains, or do we appreciate getting to live in this amazing house with yard and pool and garden and flowers and birds and a cat?
Do we focus on not having made love last night cuz we were too tired, or do we have fun remembering the great sex we had last weekend and the grand time we will have tonight? Do we focus on how little money we have in savings, or do we focus on feeling grateful for the money we do have? Do we lament our business not being huge and famous, or do we appreciate getting to do meaningful work for the hundreds we DO get to serve?
We always have a choice. One leads to happiness and one doesn’t.
FOR A LOT OF GUYS, intimate relationships are hard work!
It’s uncomfortable, way too emotional, and you’d rather just not deal with it at all, and hope it’ll work itself out. After all, she normally returns to her senses after a while. Right?
Even when deep down, you know you have some problems in your marriage or relationship, you might be saying what my friend said right after he found out his wife had fallen in love with another guy: “I knew we had some problems, I just figured we’d get to it some day”.
But here’s the great news.
It really isn’t meant to be that difficult, and it’s absolutely attainable to make it smooth and easy.
And if you’re being totally honest, wouldn’t it be worth a lot to feel admired, loved, and appreciated by her? Doesn’t it make you feel taller when she thinks you’re the best guy ever?
You just need to know some key points, and then do your best to practice them. By doing so, you can actually make it easy for her to see you as the man she fell in love with.
- She’s not like you. Never will be. Isn’t supposed to be. So don’t try to convince her to stop being “so emotional”. Simply accept that she has a different “operating system” installed than you do. Accept that her emotional way of processing information is as valid as your logical way of doing it. Just different.
- The #1 thing she’s looking for is trustworthiness and reliability in you. Why? So she can feel safe and relax. When she feels safe and relaxed, it’s really easy for you to relax and enjoy life.
- Face your own discomfort with her intense emotions and conflicts in general. You cannot make emotions or conflicts go away, period, so you might as well make friends with them. How? Own your discomfort about it, admit it out loud.
- Pay attention to her. Be an attentive mate, just like you were when you were first courting her. Chivalry never goes out of fashion. So notice how she dresses, notice when she comes and goes, hold her hand, touch her cheek … BE there in a way that she can feel. Don’t just be the silent brooder in the corner.
- Find your own power. Say yes when you mean yes, and no when you mean no. Don’t pretend to listen for 10 minutes while thinking, “blablabla, she’ll be done soon”. Be honest if it doesn’t work for you to be talking with her right now. Stand up for what’s important to you, in a firm, but non-aggressive manner. Let her feel you have a spine, and don’t just along with anything she says so you can avoid a conflict. She’ll respect the man you are when you do that.
Now, sure, there’s a lot more to the equation of having a great marriage. But if you can keep these five in mind, and use them as a starting point, you’ll be ahead of the game, and might even produce some serious breakthroughs and sexy action!
Eva, a woman who attended our Give Yourself to Love weekend, said after the first day, “I made love with God last night. The only difference with the man in my bed, was me!”
Another woman on the verge of divorce said, “After the first four hours this weekend, I got everything I wanted. We are back in love with each other. It’s like night and day. He hasn’t been affectionate with me for 8 years. He couldn’t keep his hands off of me this weekend. Something really opened up in him and healed him this weekend.”
When we fall in love, our lover becomes like a god or goddess in our love-struck eyes. As one person described it, “I remember the first day I ever looked into your eyes and felt my whole world flip.”
In that glorious honeymoon stage, we highlight the best of our partner in our mind’s eye. We uplift them with our words of appreciation and whispers of adoration. We go out of our way to generously give to them – touch, love notes, meals, flowers, gifts. We hang on to their every word, our hearts bursting at the seams with love!
When we meet our newborn child, we are likewise overcome with profound deep love. And it only grows over time. The bubbling delight of a child experiencing the magic of a butterfly for the first time delights us. We applaud their efforts at crawling or walking or later learning to ride a bike. We treasure their art creations with crayons and colored paper. We want to hold them and kiss them and squeeze their little cheeks. We express our love for our children in a thousand different ways.
Same thing when we see someone help a blind woman cross the street or a person with disabilities win a hard-earned race or a bubbly new puppy or kitten play with a ball – we are overcome with love and good feeling.
In each of these instances, we are seeing through the lens of love. We are seeing the best in someone – their innocence, positivity, and possibility.
Contrast that to when we are annoyed, angry or upset. At these times, we are seeing the worst in someone. We highlight what we don’t like, what we don’t want, or what we wish wasn’t there. We justify our bad feelings with recalls of past behaviors where they fell short. We circle around in negative thinking and lash out with hurtful or harsh words until our upsets take on a life of their own.
When we look through the lens of judgment, we cut ourselves off from love.
To feel love again, we need to shift our perception.
As Marcel Proust says, “Discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes.”
To create for ourselves a new experience, we need to turn our attention away from what we don’t want and put it on what we appreciate. We need to return to highlighting virtues rather than weaknesses. And we need to consciously amplify our experience by deliberately choosing to think about and express what we love.
This practice of shifting what you look for and how you see has been shown to be powerfully effective.
For example, we encouraged a couple to take on an experiment with their teenage son. He was about 17 years of age, wore a beanie hat with long hair that covered his eyes, smoked pot, got bad grades, and barely conversed with his parents. His parents were judgmental about his choices, and angry about his lack of connection and conversation. They had already tried everything they could think of to alter their relationship with him, but to no avail.
For one week, they decided to see their son at his best, to see him through the lens of love in their mind’s eye. Every morning for five minutes, they both imagined their son being powerful, loving, vibrant, smart, communicative and happy. It wasn’t easy at first, but they finally found a positive track and stuck with it. Before the week was over, they were both stunned when their son joined them downstairs for dinner with his hat off for some real conversation!
This couple changed their view of their son, and he in turn, changed in response.
Another woman we worked with who had been estranged from her sister for over twelve years took on this same experiment. Within a week, her sister called out of the blue, and they were able to successfully heal an age-old wound.
Mark and Lana moved back in with each other, more in love than ever, after being separated for almost a year, just from seeing each other with “fresh eyes”.
And last week, a couple in tears whispered in my ear their gratitude to us for saving their marriage, simply by recommending that they quit complaining, and instead appreciate each other every night before bed.
When we see the world through the eyes of love, our whole perspective changes. We see opportunities instead of challenges; we see the possibilities and potential in people and situations, instead of their limitations.
When we see the best in someone, we unchain them from the prison we’ve crafted with our judgmental word and thoughts. We free them to realize their full potential.
Not only do you change when I see you at your best, but I change too. I become a higher version of myself when I see you at your best. When I see your courage, I see my own. When I see your power, I connect with my own capabilities and competencies. When I focus on your generosity, I see my own giving heart. When I appreciate your efforts to do your best no matter what, I find compassion for my own shortcomings. When I see the depth of your love and care, I connect with my own loving nature.
Love is the only lens through which all things are possible.
It is in this magical place where we are empowered and supported to call forth the best of ourselves and each other. Love brings healing and forgiveness. It transforms hurt, fear, and conflict into harmony and love. Seeing through the eyes of love catapults us into a space of possibility where miracles and dreams have their best shot at being realized.
Are you up for an experiment?
Bring to mind someone with whom it would benefit you to see through the eyes of love. Begin by saying to yourself, “I am willing to see this person through the eyes of love.” Then, see them at their best. Focus on something you love about this person and amplify it with your attention. Meditate on their Full Potential. Let this vision be your prayer.
And then follow up your practice with action. Appreciate them this holiday. Give thanks for some quality, skill or virtue they possess. Write a letter, a poem, a song, or a text, or make a phone call to express your appreciation and grateful heart.
There is truly no greater gift that you can give to anyone (or yourself) than the gift of seeing through the eyes of love.
And honestly, there is no gift more greatly remembered.