Category Archives: Love

Hello Darkness My Old Friend

You know how the song goes: Hello darkness, my old friend / I’ve come to talk with you again. Although based on my own experience, it would be more fitting to say, Hello Fear, my old foe – I NEVER want to talk you again!

I met my first true love when I was 16, in my freshman year of High School. We met at a concert in our favorite grungy club, The Sprout. We danced to the music, sat outside in a doorway in the winter cold, smoked cigarettes and made out. I went home with butterflies taking over my body. Her name was Sidse. I was smitten.

But come Monday, back at our High School, I was terrified of running into her. I went out of my way to avoid her classrooms and the cafeteria, even though I desperately wanted to see her again. I told myself, with cowardly rationality, that I wasn’t really into her, and it was probably just a one-night fling, and ‘who cares anyways!’ But it was all rubbish. I was just scared. My stomach felt like a giant knot. I kept obsessing about her in my head, but the fear kept me from reaching out to her.

I suffered my way through the days, until Thursday of that week, when she flat out confronted me in the hallway. She planted herself right in front of me, seemingly without any of the fear I felt. What she said basically boiled down to, “WTF, dude?!” And that was that. As we finally connected, I was surprised to discover that she really wanted to see me again, and the feeling was entirely mutual. We went on to have a great time together for most of high school. She was my first true love.

I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if she hadn’t confronted me. Would I have worked up the courage to approach her, to get bigger than my fear? I honestly don’t know. But I do know, that if I hadn’t, I would have missed out on a great love story.

The only reason I had the courage to connect with Sidse on that first night at the club, was because I was drunk. For years, alcohol was the only reliable method I had to silence the fear in my gut and those nasty voices in my head. The older I got, the more alcohol and smoke it took to keep my fears submerged. But at some point, event that didn’t work anymore. I couldn’t escape my fears. They followed me wherever I went.

Eventually, I had to sober up and look at them straight on. On the surface, it never made much sense what it was I felt scared of. I had done lots of “dangerous” and “risky” things in my life. I had climbed volcanoes, travelled alone in foreign countries, jumped from enormous cliffs into rivers, raced mountain bikes down skinny mountain paths where my body could be broken by a split-second’s inattention. None of that ever scared me one bit. It was just fun. No big deal.

What really scared me was always much more personal and intimate stuff. Like reaching out to a girl or woman. Telling the truth about how I felt inside. Admitting I felt lonely or inadequate. Or stepping out on a public stage to offer something from my heart.

Perhaps most of all, it terrified me to look deep inside myself to see and feel what was there. Isn’t it odd how the scariest stuff is what can’t be seen with the physical eye?

A man at one of our workshops recently said it like this, “I never wanted to look deep inside because I was sure I’d find terrifying darkness and nasty parts of myself. I didn’t want to see it, and I didn’t want anyone else to see it, either”.

I’m not sure if I was more afraid of what I’d find “down there”, or of what would happen to me if others around me saw who I really was, caught a glimpse of what I really carried around inside.

I can’t even tell you how many ways I’ve tried to rid myself of fear in my life – to just get rid of it once and for all. I’ve tried distracting myself from it, drinking and smoking myself out of it, running away from it, screaming at it, getting all brave and “just doing it anyway”. But all of these attempts failed to eradicate my fears.

Even today, as a mature adult man (I’d like to think), with a wonderful marriage, an awesome family, enough money to be safe and comfy, and work that is meaningful and transformative, fear is still a constant companion in my life.

But my relationship with fear has changed dramatically.

Now it doesn’t screw up my life or my peace of mind. Not because there aren’t things to be afraid of, but because I have developed a sound, powerful, and kind relationship with my fears and with the parts of myself that are “deep down there”. I’ve learned how to tame my fears, talk to my fears, and treat them like a trusted companion whose presence is a known quantity, not a spooky unseen.

A few weeks ago, I wanted to reach out to a world-renowned best-selling author to interview for our podcast. In the past, I would have fretted about that action for weeks, not unlike how I fretted about connecting with Sidse way back in high school. This time, I just reached out to the man with an invitation, knowing I might not get a response. But lo and behold, in no time at all, he said, “That sounds great, let’s do it!”, and within a week, it was done!

I learned that fear doesn’t have to stop me – it actually has the positive intent to support me. It wants me to be safe, awake, clear, present and on purpose. It wants me to succeed and be loved. Instead of fear being an obstacle in my life, I now see fear as a friend – launching me into to my deepest compassionate heart, my wildest creativity, and the realization of my biggest dreams.

If you’re attracted to taking a deeper look at your fears, and how to transform them so you can live a fearless life and love fearlessly, we invite you to take a look at our Fearless Life workshop. This workshop is beyond our standard curriculum, and we only offer it rarely.

Take a deeper look here …

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Conflicts, Love | Comments Off on Hello Darkness My Old Friend

Is Love On Your List?

When Christian and I went to Denmark recently, we spoke to woman who’s a mother of four and whose husband travels for work a great deal. I asked her if his travel was good for their relationship, if it kept their romance and appreciation for each other alive. My thought was along the lines of “distance makes the heart grow fonder”.

But she said, “Quite the contrary! We are feeling very distant from one another. When he comes home from his trips, he prioritizes work and I prioritize the children. We fall into bed exhausted at the end of the day. We don’t make much time for each other.”

During the same trip, we listened to an audio book about a woman in a coma. In the story, her father came to visit his unresponsive daughter in the hospital and said to her passive face, “If I had known this was going to happen to you, I never would have said those last words I said to you. I am so sorry.”

A friend of ours was surprised by his wife’s confessions of an affair and a desire for divorce. He told us, “I knew our marriage wasn’t perfect. I knew we needed help. But I thought we had time – I figured we would work on our problems someday. But now it’s too late. I had no idea she was THAT unhappy!”

These three stories are all examples of how easy it is to put kids, work, and house projects at the top of our priority list, while relegating relationship, communication, and sex to the bottom of our list. Actually, all too often, relationship, play, and intimacy don’t even make the list at all!

Unfortunately, like our friend above who got divorced, or the father of a comatose daughter, what it takes to wake up to the importance of love and relationships is often news of illness, death, separation, or divorce.

You’ve probably heard it said a million times, that on your death bed you’re not going to be lamenting that you couldn’t work another hour, or make another buck. What you’ll really miss is another moment with your loved ones.

I believe we all know that to be true, but we don’t always live like relationship is the most important.

There are studies upon studies that confirm the number one factor having a truly happy and satisfying life is good relationships, not money, fame, health, or accomplishments. (See for example this great TED Talk by the director of the 70-year long Harvard Study, Robert Waldinger, who says directly that based on their enormous amounts of data, they conclude that the key to a good life is “Relationships, relationships, relationships”).

And yet, despite all our personal experience to the contrary, despite all the scientific support, it still seems that we drift into making work, kids, chores, money, and everything else more important than our intimate relationships.

What if we didn’t need to be presented with a threat of death or divorce before we took action in the love and relationship department? What if we could use the inevitability of loss and impermanence to inspire us to put relationship first on our list (or at least in the top three)?

The truth is, of course, that all relationships end – one way or another. We’re all going to die eventually. And some of us get old and sick and lose important mental and physical faculties, which take us away from relationship long before we die. Then there’s the infamous divorce statistics that tell us some 50% of first-time marriages end in divorce, and it’s even worse for second and third timers (some estimates say up to 73%!).

What if we used this knowledge to remind us to make love and connection in relationship more important than anything else?

Christian and I do just that, and for those very reasons. Perhaps it’s because our relationship started as a very-long-distance relationship, which was highly unlikely to succeed. After our very first meeting, we were sure we’d never see each other again. So when we did, it made us really appreciate the time we got to spend together.

Subsequently, while living in two different countries in very different time zones, we valued intensely any opportunity we had to talk by phone or visit in person. We have extended that same gratitude and mindful appreciation of each other to our marriage, even now that we live and work together and have for 14 years.

We are long past the “honeymoon phase”, but we still say goodbye with presence and love even if we’re just running a quick errand to the store. We greet each other with enthusiasm after being apart for a day or two. We say yes to lovemaking almost any time one of us initiates. We stop and talk and hug and playfully chase each other around the house. We appreciate each other every night before bed, expressing our gratitude for each other and our life.

I am reminded of the Meghan Trainor song that goes. “I’m going to love you, like I’m going to lose you. I’m going to hold you, like I’m saying goodbye.” That is great relationship advice to live by.

If you knew you only had a short time, how would you express your love to those around you?

If you put relationship to the top of your list today, what would you say to your partner, child, or friend?

Move relationship to the top of your list. Express your love and appreciation for the people you care about. Spend more money on experiences and less money on things. Create positive memories with family and friends. Live a life of no regret when it comes to love and relationship. Your happiness depends on it.

Blessings on your new year!
Sonika & Christian

PS. One way to put your love and relationship higher on your list is attend one our Give Yourself To Love weekend workshops. More here …

 

 

 

 

Posted in Communication, Couples, Love, Marriage, New Relationships, Relationship | Comments Off on Is Love On Your List?

Are You Lonely?

 

Are you lonely? You are not alone.

Recent studies suggest that about half of Americans feel lonely. Our networks, social interactions and relationships overall are steadily shrinking.

Some attribute this loneliness epidemic to our increased use of the Internet, smart phones and electronic media. Others attribute it to the individualistic mindset prevalent in our capitalist consumer culture. Still others attribute it to changes in our social structure: families separated geographically, a 50% divorce rate, forty-plus-hour workweeks, and more than half of American households consisting of one person.

Both singles and couples express this sentiment of loneliness, but with different possibilities for its resolve.

Singles believe that their loneliness will disappear once they are in relationship. Couples, on the other hand, believe that their loneliness would be resolved with a more intimate and available partner. Families believe their loneliness would disappear if they lived closer to their children.

Truth is, many of us feel lonely, whether alone, in relationship, in a group or in a crowd. Our experience of loneliness has nothing to do with the number of people we are around or not around. True intimacy and feelings of relatedness are much more about the quality of our relationships than the quantity.

According to Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D., “Loneliness refers to the difference between the amount of social contact and intimacy you have and the amount you want.”

We have been trained in this culture to want more, to want what we don’t have, to keep searching outside of ourselves for that illusive something that will have us feel fulfilled, ecstatically happy and in love most, if not all, of the time. We constantly compare our “insides” to other people’s “outsides” as we scroll through social media and news feeds of people who appear to have it all, and feel more and more inadequate and isolated no matter what are our current living situation or station.

Our loneliness is both masked and exacerbated by social media where we have hundreds of friends, but no one to call to feed our cat or to hold us while we cry about a family member who is dying.

So what is the cure for loneliness?

Certainly one thing we can do, is to shift our thinking to one of appreciation and gratitude for what we DO have – to focus on where we are loved, where we do have connection, where we are socially fulfilled, where meaningful relating does happen in our lives. Noticing where we DO have what we want narrows the gap between where we are and what we would like more of. Taking on a daily practice of gratitude is crucial for mitigating loneliness. Christian and I express our gratitude and appreciation daily, and can vouch for its value!

Another thing we can do is to focus on refining our interpersonal and social skills.  Improving our ability to engage in conversation, problem solve, make requests, give and receive compliments as well as feedback; communicate in positive ways non-verbally, be transparent about feelings and thoughts, and take responsibility for triggered reactions are all crucial skills to master for improving the overall quality of our relationships with others.

Taking a class or workshop or putting ourselves in environments where we get to learn and practice new skills with real people in live situations is ideal. Many people who attend our courses report not only feeling more connected, heart opened and inspired during our workshops, but more confident and engaging in life overall.

Expanding our circle of social support is also important to help us cope with unexpected life challenges and changing circumstances so we don’t need to go through life’s tough experiences alone. Spiritual communities, business networks, schools, volunteer organizations and personal development groups are places where we can foster meaningful connections with others.

Christian receives support from his ManKind Project community. We both enjoy lifelong friendships with fellow parents we cultivated during our children’s middle school years and our LoveWorks community is chalk full of wonderful men and women. These communities not only offer support to us when we need, but they likewise serve as places for us to grow, learn, and contribute to others – in and of itself deeply fulfilling.

We would do well being more proactive in increasing our opportunities for social interaction. You can invite people over for lunch or dinner, host a party, organize an outing, take a dance class, attend an event, arrange a games night…. In other words, put down the remote, get off the couch and create opportunities to meet other people in organized group activities. Christian and I find that we thrive when we step out of our comfort zone and go out of our way to meet up with people. Our favorites are inviting people over for coffee, taking dance classes, and hosting groups at our house.

Being of service and giving to others in need is another way to curb our loneliness and fill our soul cup. Volunteering to help at a soup kitchen, collecting clothes to fire victims, bringing a fresh cooked meal to a bereaved neighbor – activities like these allow us to escape our myopic self-focus and express the love in our hearts, and often puts our own problems in proper perspective. Not only that, but we build community connections when we work together with others for a common purpose.

Christian and I have joined a community work group with several other families. Once a month we gather at the host family’s property to work on whatever projects they need help with. A couple of weeks ago, some ten of us donated a day to a woman who was in great need for home clean up and repairs. We have handed out hamburgers to the homeless in Berkeley; we’ve visited and sung at nursing homes, or fostered kittens in our home. Nothing satisfies us more than being of useful help to others.  It’s a powerful and quick acting cure for loneliness and meaninglessness.

Lastly, and probably the most important of all, we can change our dysfunctional, negative thinking, in turn creating new actions and behaviors. Research reveals that over time, “chronic loneliness makes us increasingly sensitive to, and on the lookout for, rejection and hostility.” Lonely people get caught up in negative thinking about themselves and others, and have a bleak view of the future. “Lonely people don’t expect things to go well for them, and consequently, they often don’t.”

To get off the negative thinking train, we need to work diligently to improve our mood. As one teacher I worked with once said, “Mood is everything!” Certainly the gratitude practice we mentioned earlier will help with this, as will a support network, increased social interactions and effective relationship skills. We can also help ourselves with motivational talks, books, phone calls, songs, mentors, coaches, inspiring leaders and uplifting friends to support us in that endeavor.

Christian and I wrote up a declaration to read out loud to each other when we were hit with fear, despair and loneliness. And playing loud uplifting songs of triumph were great for reminding us of who we wanted to be and what we were capable of during lonely and hard times.

Loneliness is solvable, but we need to change ourselves from the inside out into people who are capable of reaching out and connecting with others.  Loneliness is a habit of isolation. We need to step outside our comfort zones into new territory, need to risk sharing ourselves transparently with others and create intimate relationships if we are to nip loneliness in the bud.

Diana did just that when she attended our Give Yourself to Love Training. She was lonely and depressed and in the middle of a break-up. Now she is happy and flying high on love. “You are a HUGE part of my growth. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t connected with you & your incredible, magical work. I couldn’t be more grateful. Thank you for your sweet love. I cherish it!”

Loneliness isn’t a death sentence. It is a call to step out and take a risk in the direction of connection!

I will end with a touching post from a friend of mine who recently lost her husband to ALS and her mother to pancreatic cancer within two weeks of each other. She was feeling lonely and lost, but took this leap towards connection.

Her post was titled, I am beginning to fall in love. “ and she continued, “Today I attended my first bereavement group. In addition to the facilitator and two hospice workers, there were seven of us in grief… What hit me was the huge love that I felt for these people with whom I had only spent 90 minutes. Their deep grief reflected their deep love, which echoed all my own love and grief, but in their own ways… having their own signatures. It was all so palpable, heart-wrenchingly beautiful. I sincerely look forward to having my heart raw and open to these courageous people for the next ten weeks. And in spite of any judgment that arises, being in the huge presence – experiencing the inner explosion – of Love.”

If she can do it, you can do it.

Reach out. Make a connection this holiday.

Much Love,
Sonika & Christian

P.S. Our intro workshop is called Give Yourself to Love for a reason. It’s a weekend that will open your heart, connect you with others and/or your partner, teach you invaluable relationship skills and remind you that you are not alone. For singles and couples.

Until Christmas, we’re offering an amazing 2-for-1 special. Details here … 

 

 

 

Posted in Communication, Love, Relationship | Comments Off on Are You Lonely?

From Wanting To Having Love And Happiness

Most of us spend more time than we might like to admit wishing for something to be different in our relationships. We want more engagement, less fighting, more sex, less distance, more intimacy, less time watching TV, more appreciation, less criticism, more dates, fewer nights at home alone, more communication, less silence, etc.

We don’t just want our relationships to be different. We want our lives to be different, too. We want a bigger house, a faster computer, more money, more clothes, more vacations, a skinnier healthier body, a younger look, and lots of better, newer stuff.

We are so accustomed to wishing and longing for more and different – whether in our relationship, work, money, kids, body, etc. – that we don’t even recognize that we are spending our precious lives in a state of constant wanting. This wanting manifests in our experience as unhappiness, dissatisfaction, boredom or loneliness. We feel like we are missing or lacking something important.

There is something I realized a long time ago that has proven to be pivotal for living a fulfilling and happy life:

Wanting and having cannot exist in the same space at the same time.

I think of life as a house with two rooms, the Wanting Room and the Having Room. The Having Room is the room in which we are engaged in life and love.

Just like in a real house, you are either in one room or the other; you cannot be in two rooms at the same time.

Unfortunately, when we want our lives to be different and the people we love to change, we are in the Wanting Room.

When we are in the Wanting Room, we inevitably produce unhappiness for ourselves. Our focus on lack and what is missing keeps us from noticing and appreciating what we have. It throws us into a state of resistance to our current reality and has us believe we are powerless victims stuck in unwanted situations, unable to powerfully create what we want.

Think about it. You only want stuff you don’t have, right? The mere wanting of anything is a declaration that you don’t have it. So when you reside in the Wanting Room, you’re likely to have internal conversations like, Why can’t I make my relationship work? Where are all the good men? My husband never talks to me. I wish I looked younger. Just to mention a few examples.

The Having Room, on the other hand, is where you get to enjoy experiences, where you harvest and partake in the fruits of your labor, where you appreciate what you have and count your blessings. It’s the difference between wishing you had an apple, and actually biting into an apple and enjoying the blast of taste and sensation as you do it.

Life is just better when you occupy the Having Room. So how can you do that? We’ll give some ideas here, and share a few real-life examples.

One way to shift from Wanting to Having is to take notice of and express your gratitude and appreciation for what you do have, even if you have very little. What is working in your relationship? What do you adore about your partner? What would you miss about your spouse if he or she suddenly vanished? What do you take for granted that you are grateful for? And tell them.

Another way to shift from Wanting to Having is to ask the question, “If I already had what I wanted, what would I do or say right now?” This question tricks your mind into imagining that you already have what you want, and enables you to bring to mind actions that you can take right now that are consistent with what you want to create for yourself. When you take those actions, you step into having the experience that you were longing for in the Wanting Room.

For example, if you are struggling with intimacy in your relationship and you want more connection with your partner, you can ask yourself, “If I were connected and intimate with my partner, what would I do or say right now?” Trust me, an answer will pop up in your mind. This question will move you towards creating more intimacy with your partner and thrust you into the Having Room.

At our last workshop, a woman was angry with her husband for something he said that triggered her. She was missing the close connection they were sharing before he said it and was now in the Wanting Room feeling disconnected from her man. When we asked her what she would do if she felt close and connected like before, she said she would go over to him and put her head on his shoulder and her hand on his knee. So we encouraged her to do that. As soon as she sat down next to him, her face lit up like a light bulb and a smile spread across her face. She was back in the Having Room (and you can imagine how he responded to that gesture:-).

A single woman called me for coaching, very distraught and lonely after her last relationship ended. She had a hard time getting out of bed and she was scared she’d never find love again. She was solidly anchored in the Wanting Room. During our conversation, I asked her, “If you knew you were going to be fine, and you would definitely find love again with a wonderful man, what might you do right now?” Her first response was, “I’d get out of bed and go to the gym!”

Just like that, back in the Having Room (And sure, this does not fix or deal with her entire situation, but it’s definitely a vast improvement over being in bed, depressed).

Just to be clear, wanting isn’t bad. That is where the best of our creative ideas show up! Wanting is the start of any improvement in life. You just don’t want to get stuck in wanting! Be there long enough to uncover what you want to create! Use your wanting to connect you to your desires and dreams. Then use that discovery to spark and move you into having, into action.

Everything you want – all of the connection, love, peace, fulfillment and joy you desire – lives in the Having Room.

If you find yourself stuck in wanting your relationship to be different, check out our Give Yourself to Love live relationship training. We will teach you how to step into having the life and relationship you long for and deserve. Click here for more info …

 

 

Posted in Communication, Conflicts, Couples, Dating, Love, Marriage | Comments Off on From Wanting To Having Love And Happiness

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

 
 
 
 
 
 

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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!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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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.

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

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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.

 
 
 
 
 
  
  
 

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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