Category Archives: 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.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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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

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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