Author Archives: Christian Pedersen

Opening To Love

My husband Christian and I have been busy of late. Distracted. More in our heads than our hearts. We felt a bit flat and off. I was definitely not in my feminine receptive loving flow – more in my masculine “doingness.”

When it came time for dropping back into our hearts and bodies with each other in lovemaking, I surprisingly felt a bit of dread about the whole thing. My body was so closed that mostly I felt like I didn’t want to open.

I could watch my mind wanting to rush out to the kitchen to eat something, to watch something on TV, to check my phone or email for messages – anything to avoid sinking and melting. I put on a shirt as a sign of sorts of my guarded, un-open heart. I dared to tell the truth about my resistance to opening.

Now, thank God, I am with a man who knows my deeper yearning: to melt into love and God through our bodies and hearts in sex. To let go of resistance and be fully present. To love and be fully open in my heart.

So he doesn’t pay much attention to my words, because he is listening to what is underneath my words: “Take me.” “Make me open.” “Melt my closed heart with your love.” He meets my resistance with his strong, yet gentle, persistent presence. I feel the strength of his hands and body as he wraps his arms around me and holds me close.

I push him away, but he stays with me. He kisses my face and neck and keeps holding me. He kisses me and senses my closed lips. He tries to tease me out. But I turn away from his eyes and lips and try to hide in his chest.

He stops for just a second to see if I am serious, to check if he really should back off. I love that about him — his heightened awareness and sensitivity to my body language and non-verbal communication. His checking in, enables me to feel safe, to trust him. I know if I really wanted him to back off that he would.

But deep inside myself, underneath this closed heart and body, is a desire to truly open and surrender to love, to melt. So I encourage him to stay, to continue to love me in spite of my “shut down.” He needs that reassurance to proceed. It helps him stay present, helps him know he is doing the right thing.

He keeps being there with me, relentless with his kisses and eyes and touch. He knows I will eventually open, that I won’t be able to keep resisting his love, his presence… And he is right.

Within minutes, I start to cry. Then sob. My whole body releases the build-up of tension and resistance in my cells through my unstoppable tears. I can feel my body relax more and more through my crying, and my heart begins to soften. He just keeps holding me, telling me it is good that I am crying. He knows that my tears are essential to my opening.

The tears eventually stop, and then I am laughing and looking at him and touching him and opening my mouth and heart and yoni to him, and he meets me there. In this sweet soft open loving powerful presence place.

And in the end we are melted and soft, a puddle of love, lying in each other’s arms.
We appreciate God and each other, for this delightful place of love and softness and strength and presence where all is well and good and right….

It never ceases to amaze me how I need to cry to soften myself out of masculine and back into my flowing easy open feminine heart. If he didn’t stay with me—if he took my resistance personally and stopped and turned away—I would never get to drop down into my tears and melt. We would never get to wash away all of the “disconnect” and “re-set” ourselves back to LOVE.

How grateful I am for the transformational power of Presence. And for having a man in my life who can funnel that presence through his eyes and body and call forth the deepest parts of my love.

Blessed be.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Posted in Communication, Couples, Love, Marriage, Men, Relationship, Women | Comments Off on Opening To Love

The Quality Of Your Life Is The Quality Of Your Relationships

We have worked with several men and women the last few weeks – couples feeling distant and lonely, fighting over stupid stuff, desperate to find their way back to each other – many considering divorce; and singles feeling hopeless and lost. They all shared how they felt depressed, bored and uninspired in life as a result of their unhappy relationships.

Within a short time of working with us, couples are looking at each other like they haven’t in years, sharing their deepest feelings in safe space, and feeling connected, hopeful and in love again.

Singles are feeling loved, seen, safe, powerful and beautiful, full of hope and possibility.

I know this might sound like “too good to be true” stuff, but it happens all the time, I assure you.

A man at our last workshop came up to me and said, “When I came on Saturday, I was feeling so angry with my partner and unsure about whether or not I even wanted to stay in this relationship. After this weekend, everything has changed and I am leaving feeling re-committed and in love.”

A woman said, “Wow. We haven’t felt this close to each other for years.”

And a single man said, “I got to have the experience I have wanted my whole life this weekend. Now I know that I can create that anywhere.”

I could list hundreds of examples.

The thing is, resolving conflicts and getting back to love is easy when you know what to do. Easy.

But humans are funny. For some reason we would rather struggle on our own for years and years rather than invest in a few weekends to learn skills that will save so much heartache and misery down the road. Most don’t even think to get help until someone walks out the door.

Not just in your romantic relationships, but in every relationship.
That’s right. We help anyone improve any relationship.

We’re like a one-stop shop for all your relationship needs.

Jeremy is a more effective restaurant manager.
Charlene, Kay, Greg and Cari are all better doctors.
Desiree is a better school psychologist.
Jerry is a better lawyer.
Amy is a better nurse.
Maria is a better therapist.
Vicky is a more loving and happier mother.
Jeff is now on good terms with his ex.
Mike and Jean created a breakthrough with their teenage son.
Mark, Mary, Machen, Laura and countless others have saved their marriages.
Paige, Andy, Samantha, Kate, Jessica, Diego, Grace, Jeremy, Naomi and many others have found the love of their lives after years of being single.
Beth, Kate, Molly and Jennifer all started families after resolving their relationship struggles.

You can’t keep doing the same things over and over again and expect different results.

Marriage, sex, dating and parenting do not get better by themselves. In fact, all professional experience, and lots of statistics, will tell you that you are headed towards divorce, separation, loneliness and dissatisfaction without some sort of effective intervention or education.

But with the right support and tools, any relationship can be improved!

For example, one couple came to us as a last ditch effort after he had an affair with another woman. They were both pretty sure that divorce was the only solution for their problems and past hurts. They have since forgiven each other and themselves and are enjoying the most sensational second honeymoon!

And Laurette was feeling so wounded she wasn’t sure she ever wanted to be in a relationship again. Now she is enjoying a wonderful new man!

Our workshops and programs offer a safe radical innovative approach to relationship that allow you to create what you REALLY WANT: connection, fulfillment, freedom, love, peace, aliveness, and bliss. We help you realize your Full Potential in your relationship world, teach you how to use the problems and challenges in life as stepping-stones towards your dreams rather than obstacles on your path.

To incentivize you to take the risk to jump in on a program that will catapult your relationships to new heights, we are offering a 2-for-1 spring deal for our upcoming two-day relationship training, Give Yourself to Love: Creating Relationships that Call You to Rise. May 5-6 in Auburn, CA, 9-7 PM both days.

Don’t suffer any longer. Seriously. Improve your relationships. Improve your life!

And do it now for the reduced investment of just $397 for any two people, May 5-6 in Auburn, CA!

Watch the video and get the details here: www.loveworksforyou.com/gytl

See you there!
🙂 Sonika & Christian

 
 
 
 
 
 

Posted in Couples, Love, Marriage, Relationship, Singles | Comments Off on The Quality Of Your Life Is The Quality Of Your Relationships

Life Is Short

Christian’s father lived a long and good life. He had four children, 13 grandchildren and was married for 53 years to a sweet loving woman. A couple of weeks ago, he pulled out his feeding tube and declared he was ready to die at the age of 80. His memorial service is tomorrow.

Two teens, a sophomore and a senior from Nevada City, recently had their lives cut short when an intoxicated 21 year-old young woman crossed the meridian on Highway 5 over Easter break and slammed into their car.

Minutes ago, I heard that a woman we know and love, beloved Lea Hume, was found dead after having gone missing while suffering from depression. Many family and friends are shocked.

And just last night, I coached a couple that just barely survived her leaving him for another man after 8 years together. They are breathing a sigh of relief at having re-discovered in the process how much they love each other and don’t want to be apart.

“All of our relationships are going to end – sometime, somehow. Either by separation, divorce, sickness, or death.”

The truth of that statement can be frightening. Or enlightening.

So many of us live life believing that death and illness will escape us, that our marriages will last no matter how mean-spirited or disconnected we are, and that conflicts and problems will miraculously fix themselves without work or effort. We continue on day after day, caught up in our computers and phones and TV’s, blind to the fact that life is short, today is all there is, and love is the only thing that matters.

None of us know how long we have. And the fact that all relationships and lives will end somehow, some time, can actually be a source of inspiration if we allow it to be.

A friend of mine, Evy MacDonald, was given 6 months to live with an ALS diagnosis. She described herself as a “bowl of jelly in a wheelchair”, when she made the decision to master unconditional love before she died.

She started with her own body. Everyday she sat naked in front of the mirror until she found something of her body to love and appreciate. It was hard at first. She started with hair and nails, and worked up to the more challenging areas.

Next she focused on the people in her life she needed to forgive. One by one, she reached out and offered apologies, asked for forgiveness, and forgave others for past grievances she had carried.

Her heart began to explode with love and, miraculously, her health began to improve. Within months, there was no sign of ALS, and it has not returned for the last 35 years. She is now a minister on the East Coast, making her life count with the people in her community.

Evy used her death sentence as an opportunity too shift her thinking, clean up her relationships, love herself and be a contribution to others.

You can do the same thing in your relationships, and preferably before you are forced by dramatic circumstances. Use the fact that your relationships will end someday to inspire you to appreciate what you have, to enjoy the moment, to reach out to one another in love, and to get help when you need it, so you don’t waste precious years feeling stuck and unhappy.

One couple I worked with recently finally reached out for help. Married for some 30 years, they came into my office and vulnerably shared how lonely they feel, how much they miss each other, and how frustrated they are at not being able to create connection with each other despite their frequent attempts.

In just an hour with my support, they dropped into their hearts and found the connection they have been longing for. They left with concrete tools for how to create love and closeness with each other, grateful for the chance to build a fresh new relationship together.

Christian and I use the fact that our time together is temporary (emboldened by our two-year long distance relationship and Christian’s father’s recent death) to continually appreciate the little things, like getting to wake up together every morning or share coffee and tea in the afternoons.

Christian’s limited mobility from a herniated disc these past several months have given rise to even deeper appreciations for health, sexuality vibrancy and the sharing of deep feelings – all of which have brought us closer to each other.

You can choose to let death be your empowering friend, nudging you to make the most of this life. You can let death guide your heart to make relationships and love your priority.

How would you be different if you knew your relationship was going to end? What would you do with your spouse? Your children? Your parents? Your best friend?

What would you do differently if you remembered life was short and you knew you deserved to be happy and to live a rich, full, empowering life? What risks would you take if this were your last week alive?

Who would you reach out to if you knew you might not have another chance? Who would you regret not saying, “I love you” to?

Ask these questions. Take the actions these questions inspire. Notice what shifts as you do. Use the inevitability of death and divorce and sickness and life struggles to crack open your heart, daring you to give, love and live just a little bit more!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Posted in Love, Relationship | Comments Off on Life Is Short

Creating Intimacy And Improving Communication

To improve security, we recently moved our entire website to a different server. As I was checking it out to make sure everything was up and running, I came across the testimonials page where a couple talked about how they went round and round on the same issues, and took turns feeling disconnected and shut down before they came to work with us.

Just today, a woman called me to say that if she could do it over, she would have picked a different man to be her husband. “He just doesn’t hear me when I communicate”, she said.

Another gentleman told me that after an almost-separation from his long-time girlfriend, he is finally ready to work on his relationship. “We both feel so judged by each other. We need to learn how to listen better to each other.”

Relationships can be hard. It’s easy to fight about the same things over and over. It is tempting to lose ourselves in our favorite screen and hope our problems will get better by themselves. It takes courage to improve our relationships and to dare learn a new way to communicate with each other.

One of the questions we hear often from the people we work with, is “How can we create more intimacy and connection in relationship with less reactivity and judgment?” In this article, we will offer a few different ways to increase intimacy and improve communication in relationship.

Get curious about your partner
To create more intimacy, it is imperative that we take time to step into each other’s worlds: to listen, to ask questions, to encourage the sharing of feelings, desires and thoughts without limitation or restraint, and to safely explore and discover the other person with curiosity, mindfulness and an open heart.

Often, we are oddly reticent to spend too much time just listening to our partner, or someone else. We are afraid to step into another person’s world. There is a concern, that if we really hear and understand our partner, really get their needs and concerns, our needs and opinions will get lost. We are afraid that we won’t get what we want if we don’t get our own needs across.

Consequently, with both parties fighting to be heard and no one listening, conversations tend to stalemate and go nowhere.

Therefore, any structured conversation that interrupts the usual batting back-and-forth style of communication and allows for both people to be heard, will be useful for creating deeper intimacy and connection.

Focused Exploration One Person At A Time
One way to deepen intimacy and interrupt fights is to take turns asking questions with the intent to learn more about each other. Agree that you will focus on one person at a time for, say, 10 minutes before shifting to the other. Knowing that you will both get to talk and be heard will help you feel relaxed.

Pretend you are listening to someone you don’t know at all. Be committed to discover something that surprises you. That will help you cultivate a curious mood as you explore.

Ask questions you authentically want to know more about. Any open-ended curious question will do. “How is that for you? How do you feel about that? What do you want? What are you afraid will happen if you don’t get that? What do you want me to really know? If you could have it your way, what would you change? Would you be willing to say more about that? Why is this really important to you? If you could go back and change anything, what would you change?”

Once one person has had a chance to share and be heard, switch roles.

Heart Shares
Heart Shares are a variation of the Native American talk circle, where the person with the ceremonial pipe has the floor to talk without interruption. Everyone else just listens until the pipe is passed.

Heart Shares are great practice for learning how to not react when triggered, and how to share from your heart without blame, criticism or complaint.

For couples, one way to do Heart Shares is to sit near or in front of each other with eyes closed, to eliminate visual distractions, and having cleared away all other distractions. Speak honestly and vulnerably in “I” statements as you go inward to discover and reveal your self. Avoid “you” statements and put-downs to make it easy for your partner to stay with you. Whoever has the floor first speaks until they declare they are complete, or when the agreed-upon time is up. Their partner then only says “Thank you” with great sincerity before taking their turn to share. (To keep Heart Shares safe, it is imperative both parties agree to not use against each other whatever is said in a Heart Share.)

Share. Then Respond.
Yet another way to increase intimacy is to take turns, sharing and responding without interruption, so that both people feel heard and both have a chance to respond on a topic. One speaks his or her mind and the other responds, after which they both repeat that same sequence. Then both parties switch roles.

Paraphrase Back
Take turns sharing and repeating back what you heard to be sure you are getting what the other person is saying correctly.

Light-Hearted Questions Practice
You can ask light-hearted questions to help create connection on non-triggering topics as a way to practice listening and exploring, which will make it easier to tackle more challenging topics later. Questions like, “If you could have any super power, what would you choose and why?” or “If you could go any place in the world for three weeks on a paid vacation, where would you go?” or “What is your sweetest memory of us?”

Conclusion
Remember that whatever the other person thinks or does makes sense from their point of view, and that there is a positive intent and desire underneath their feelings and behaviors. Taking time to listen and explore will increase understanding, build compassion and open you up new possibilities for connection.

We recommend you pick just one of the suggestions above and try it. Just see what happens. You might just surprise yourself with how quickly you can produce a sense of shared intimacy.

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

Posted in Conflicts, Couples, Love, Marriage, Relationship | Comments Off on Creating Intimacy And Improving Communication

Do You Wonder If You Could Do Better In The Relationship Department?

Do you ever wonder if you could do better in the relationship department? If you could find a better partner than the person you are currently dating or are married to? Somebody who is less critical, more open to sex, more successful, playful, and intimate?

In this day and age where we can pre-order products to our specifications and have them arrive overnight on our doorstep, where images of gorgeous young lovers madly in love are plastered on billboards and movies with increasing regularity, and where expectations for marriage bliss are at a all time record high, it is easy for us regular people to feel disappointed with substandard partners who are less than perfect at satisfying our fairy tale picture of our every dream come true.

Sleepless in Seattle was a classic depiction of a woman in an ordinary relationship with a man she knows intimately well. He farts, burps, snores, unceremoniously gives her his grandmother’s ring when he asks her to marry him, and makes unremarkable love to her. But it is clear he is a sweet nice guy who loves her deeply and would do anything for her. All the while, she secretly longs to be swept off her feet in romantic bliss by a handsome mysterious hunk from another city, and when presented with that possibility, dumps her fiancé in the middle of a Valentine’s Day dinner for an upgraded male model.

This schism between our actual experience and our fantasy of relationships is not so far off from what many men and women experience in dating and marriage. There is a rampant secret longing for that illusive something “better”, no one seems to be above it, and it is contributing to immense dissatisfaction in relationship, plus a 45-50% divorce rate.

It is not anyone’s fault really. We are impacted by high cultural expectations for marriage. We want everything that we expected in traditional marriage in terms of companionship and economic support and family life and social status. And we also want what romantic marriage brought us – a sense of belonging, connection, intimacy, a best friend, a play buddy, a trusted confidant and a passionate lover. And we also now have a desire for self-fulfillment in our relationships, for personal development and the realization of our full potential. And let’s not forget, that we want to find our soul mate too, a word that for most of history was reserved to God, someone with whom we can experience mystical transcendental oneness and bliss.

That is a lot to put on one person … on one single relationship.

Are these high expectations, in this age of customization, keeping us from being happy in our relationships? Would we benefit from lowering our expectations and standards? Would we benefit from choosing to make the best of our relationships as they are? Might we gain more by putting energy and time into improving our existing relationship rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater and starting over?

One of the first suggestions we offer to unhappy couples is to complain less and appreciate more. It shifts a couple’s attention off of what is missing on to what is wonderful and working, and this simple shift in focus often quickly replaces dissatisfaction with an experience of satisfaction, gratitude and love. This is an important first step – to make ourselves “satisfiable”.

Research suggests that the more choices and options we have, the less happy and fulfilled we are, the less satisfiable. Certainly, the more expectations and specifications any of us have for what we want in relationship, the less likely we are to find someone who is a match to them, and the less likely we are to experience satisfaction once we are in relationship.

Because, honestly, no one is perfect – no one can be everything we need and want all the time.

Yet sometimes, ending a relationship and starting over is exactly what is needed for us to be happier and more fulfilled. Certainly, some of us (like myself) who have divorced and remarried, know intimately the benefits of a more aligned and better matched partnership!

Where is that line between unreasonable expectation, reasonable preference, non-negotiable deal breakers, being grateful for what we have and dancing gracefully with what shows up?

While there are no easy answers to the complexity of our current day relationships, we can strive to be aware of our tendency to compare what we have to unachievable standards and to be tentative about throwing away perfectly good relationships.

 
 
 
 
 
  
  
 

Posted in Couples, Dating, Love, Marriage, Marriage Counseling, New Relationships, Relationship | Comments Off on Do You Wonder If You Could Do Better In The Relationship Department?

Valentines Day In Many Ways

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.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Posted in Couples, Dating, Love, Marriage, New Relationships, Relationship, Valentine's Day | Comments Off on Valentines Day In Many Ways

It’s A New Year – Just Do It!

“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

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Posted in Relationship | Comments Off on It’s A New Year – Just Do It!

Love In Pain

“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

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Posted in Conflicts, Love, Marriage, Relationship | Comments Off on Love In Pain

Until One Is Committed …

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

Posted in Conflicts, Couples, Dating, Marriage, Relationship | Comments Off on Until One Is Committed …

Complaining For Change

“You don’t listen to me!”
“What are you talking about, I’m right here in front of you … “

Sonika and I did a presentation this week for a group of couples and singles in Sacramento. We played out a typical interaction between partners. One of the couples in the group said, “We literally had that exact same fight this week. Have you guys been in our house?”

We hadn’t been in their house:) But we have been inside their relationship, and thousands of other relationships.

The conversation went something like this:

“You don’t listen to me!”
“What are you talking about, I’m right here in front of you … “
“That’s not the point. Look at you, with your arms crossed, all stiff, you’re not really listening”
“Want me to repeat every word you just said?”
“No! You’re being all defensive, can you just listen for once?”
“So I’m not doing it right, is that it? It doesn’t matter what I do, it’s not right for you!”
“See, you’re doing it again! Making it all about you when I’m trying to tell you something about me”
“Well, if you actually cared about what I think … “

From here, you can imagine how the rest of the interaction goes. More arguing back and forth, more disconnection as each one tries to get their point across.

A simple argument like this illustrates what pretty much every person in this world does to problem solve their relationship:

They bring up an issue they think needs to change, in this example, “You don’t listen to me”.

When I’m the one bringing up an issue, I think I’m just presenting an obvious problem, in a calm and reasonable manner.

But in the ears and eyes of the recipient, “bringing up an issue” like this sounds like nothing but complaining, blaming, and criticizing.

Why do I bring up an issue? In the hopes it’ll improve our relationship. In the hopes that you’ll get my point, agree with me, and change your behavior (to one I like better).

We call this strategy Complaining For Change.

Everyone uses this strategy in every relationship. With spouses, dates, ex’s, co-workers, employees, family members, you name it.

It’s like a bad movement that went viral long before anyone heard of Facebook.

It’s the #1 default strategy we use to improve our relationships. And it consequently, always, no-exceptions-ever, backfires.

The whole strategy rests upon a fantasy. The fantasy is, if you say, “You don’t listen” to your partner, that he’ll go, “Really! OMG, I’m so sorry I haven’t been listening you to. I’m such a doofus. You deserve to be listened to all the time, and every word you speak is gold to me. I promise it will never happen again, I’m really sorry about that, I love you, baby! Tell me again, what did you want me to hear?”

But has that ever happened in real life?

Nope, never!

We use the example of “You don’t listen”, but you can insert any other topic or issue.

“Am I the only one cleaning up around here?”
“Do you really have to spend that much money on clothes?”
“We really need to talk about the stuff in the garage!”
“Why don’t you want have sex anymore?”
“You’re going out with your friends again!?”

Or with our kids, we say things like, “Your room is a mess”, with the fantasy that they’ll go, “Oh, I’m sorry, dad, I’ll get it cleaned up right now, thanks for telling me”.

What actually does happen when someone tells you, “You never listen to me”? Do you want to listen more? Or less? What actually happens when you tell your kids, “Your room is a mess”? Defensiveness, resistance, more arguing.

When we complain for change, we make things worse.

As a matter of fact, we end up with less of the very thing we were trying to get more of. It produces the exact opposite of what we were hoping for.

“You never listen” produces less listening.
“Why don’t we ever have sex anymore?” produces less sex (Think about it, are you more or less attracted to your partner when he/she says that?)

Complaining For Change is basically a relationship tragedy.

It’s meant to make our relationships better, with more love, connection, and friendship. But instead it grinds down our love, patience, and good will and produces more of the problems we’re trying to solve.

So what to do instead?

We recommend two simple tips (granted, not always so simple to practice).

1. Quit Complaining For Change
2. Find and deliver specific appreciations

We mean #1 very literally. Just quit it. Knock if off. Don’t ever do it again.

Next time you catch yourself complaining, you’re better off zipping it and not saying another word.

Because everything you say after that point is only taking your further down a negative rabbit hole. You already know you’re not going to like where it’s taking you, so stop going in that direction.

As to #2, find and deliver specific appreciations, it’s the fastest and most effective antidote to Complaining For Change. It’s like kryptonite.

Sure, it’s not meant to fix all your relationship issues, nor are we recommending that you don’t deal with your legitimate challenges. But until you have a better method than complaining, you’re better off not talking about your problems and making things worse.

Whether it’s your spouse, date, brother, sister, anyone, find something to appreciate about that person and tell them.

Appreciations are to human beings like water and sun is to a plant. Without them, we wilt. With appreciations, we puff up and shine. Delivering appreciations uplifts the other person and supports them to be and bring out their best.

More importantly, it forces your mind to look for something you like in your life. It gets your focus off of what you don’t like. Every time you find something specific to appreciate, you’re reminding yourself that you actually have some of what you want in your life and relationships, that it is not all crap, and that uplifts YOU.

Every appreciation feeds BOTH of you, and you actually begin to create an upward spiral of positivity in your relationship.

This appreciation practice will disappear a good bunch of your problems. Most breakdowns stem from one or both of you not feeling seen, loved, valued and appreciated. As for the rest of your issues, your head and heart will be in a much better place to deal with … anything. With love and appreciation as the frame, it is more possible to work on your challenges together or by yourself.

Try it. Many couples have saved their marriages from implementing these two steps alone. Parents have had breakthroughs with their children. Co-workers have had miraculous shifts in their relationships at work.

And then get help for effectively dealing with the genuine conflicts and problems that inevitably show up in every relationship. So you can use them to bring you closer to one another, instead of farther apart!

For that purpose, consider attending our two-day Give Yourself to Love training. It offers powerful cutting-edge paradigm shifts and practical tools for improving relationships that stay with you for the rest of your relationship life!

You can save $700 per ticket in October!

More here: loveworksforyou.com/gytl

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Posted in Conflicts, Couples, Dating, Marriage, Marriage Counseling | Comments Off on Complaining For Change