Category: Premarital

Creating a Sanctuary

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During the stress of election time, have you found yourself overwhelmed or burned out by the onslaught of newsflashes? The chronic barrage of updates and social media stories can leave you feeling frustrated, sad, or helpless. Do you ever fantasize about escaping to a simpler less hectic way of life? One way to cope and tune out is to create a sanctuary where you can retreat and restore your sense of balance and inner harmony.

What is a sacred space? A sanctuary is a sacred space; it is a uniquely personal place that you carve out to reconnect with stillness. A place that rejuvenates your nervous system and allows you to calm and center your energy. This can be a physical place or an imaginary space that with practice, you can access anywhere.
If you have room to establish a small area dedicated for meditation or quiet time, try decorating it with relaxing photos of your favorite spots: perhaps pictures of nature; oceans, forests, sunsets, or hiking areas with waterfalls that you can place around you. Fill your sanctuary with objects that encourage you to travel within. If room is an issue, make it portable; set the serenity stage then dismantle it when you’re done. Taking the time to carve out a sanctuary sends strong permission signals allowing your body and mind to honor quiet time.

Light candles, play soft soothing music and if need be, set a timer; even fifteen minutes can make an enormous difference. A sanctuary supports your efforts to drop inward to quiet the outside chatter, relieve stress and to approach life with a clearer, calmer mindset. Imagine if you never recharged your phone or computer? Creating a sacred space reboots your nervous system and disempowers fear and anxiety.
The idea of opening up and closing down is like the very beating of our heart; the chambers open and close, both are necessary to sustain life.

Rumi, the famous 13th century Persian Poet, noted.

Just look at your hand
closing the fist always proceeds opening it.
A hand that is always opened or closed,
is a crippled hand.
So your heart also contracts and expands,
just like a bird needs to close and open
it’s wings to fly.

Shutting out the world allows you to open to your inner self. It takes you back to the you, unaffected or categorized by titles. There in the quiet chambers of your being you are free uninhibited by age, illness, or the past.

Although multitasking is rewarded these days, it has detrimental effects on our ability to focus. Taking time to cultivate a sanctuary can boost your mental and physical well-being. If there simply is no room to create a physical space, then create one in your mind’s eye. Get comfy on the bed or sofa or throw pillows on the floor and close your eyes. Begin to imagine a place where you feel calm, secure, in harmony with nature; a sandy beach with a slight breeze, the warm sun on your back. Or in the mountains surrounded by autumn leaves and a babbling brook. Wherever your place is, close your eyes and create the sensory details, the smells and sounds; perhaps play nature sounds on your computer or phone. YouTube has a plethora of these kinds of soothing symphonies from the ocean to a crackling campfire.

Once you’ve created a place in your mind’s eye, focus on your breathing. Slow your inhales and exhales to the count of five, this is guaranteed to induce relaxation. If you have set a timer, release any lingering concerns about time. Stay in your sacred space as long as you need and let tension and stress dissolve. In time and with practice, this inner haven can offer you solace whenever or wherever you need to drop in for a visit.
As the days grow shorter and the animals prepare for hibernation, we too can slow down, settle in, and relish in the safety of your sacred sanctuary.


No Judgments Please

No Judgments Please

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by negative feelings about yourself or others? Do you yearn for a life void of crippling judgments that keep you frozen and fearful? The art of nonjudgmental is like learning a new language, it takes practice. Margaret Mead, the famous American cultural anthropologist, once said, “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” Naturally this is a challenge, for inadvertently human beings pass down opinions and preferences, often unconsciously. Thankfully, life is dynamic and ever changing. As adults, we are free to re-program our life philosophies and belief systems. It is possible to cultivate the art of observing rather than categorizing and labeling ourselves and others.

When you release the need to place judgment on yourself or others, you lift any invisible partitions that may be isolating you from others. When we are afraid, the chambers of our heart race and love is cast aside. Judgments stimulate strong emotions that can cloud our true self and our ability to be receptive to change. Jiddu Krishnamurti, a globally acclaimed thinker and teacher who subscribed to no particular religion or philosophy claimed that “The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.” Judgments are often habitual, nonfactual, and spontaneous creating a sort of windstorm in our psyche. Learning one day at a time how to be nonjudgmental (which includes not condemning yourself when you fall off wagon) opens your life up to new possibilities. It gives you the freedom to indulge perspectives that differ from your own; without classifying them as right or wrong.

The following are a few basic tips to living with more observation and less judging.

• Observe language that triggers judgment such as; right/wrong, should/shouldn’t, fair/unfair. Become a witness to the verbiage you use to describe yourself and with gentle compassion rephrase them into describing your feelings. Rather than saying “I’m stupid or unworthy.” Try making a descriptive statement, “I feel anxious when I have to learn a new task.” Identifying the emotion behind the judgment helps reveal the crux of the misperception. Practicing loving kindness with your words can help you cultivate patience and a more positive, less fear based way of life.

• Become aware of your thoughts, when you learn to observe your thoughts throughout the day, you learn to let go of negative judgments. Imagine if you never saw yourself in a mirror, you would have no idea what you look like. If we don’t see our thoughts and patterns they remain invisible. By taking notice, we can stop judgmental thinking in its tracks. Perhaps every time someone expresses their belief system, we stop listening or when we are stressed we condemn ourselves. Being a witness to your thoughts is an initial step in letting go of patterns that knock you off kilter, and cause disharmony. Once you are aware, you can implement positive change.

• Begin to see problems and challenges as opportunities to grow. By embracing rather than judging a situation, you allow yourself movement for growth. When we stick our mind in the mud of old destructive, judgmental thinking we get stuck. Rather than inwardly cursing and blaming another or yourself, see challenges as an opportunity to practice your greater potential. Learning comes from solving a problem and often, we exaggerate our problems and see them as “Oh why me?” Hurdles and obstacles can become opportunities for creating positive outcomes. If we leave the judgment behind we have more mental capacity to search for solutions.

Mother Theresa once said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” Setting judgments aside cleans the cobwebs of your heart, mind, and soul creating space for life affirming love and serenity to grow. By practicing nonjudgmental living, we tear down walls and build lasting loving relationships with ourselves and others.


Finding the Positive

Author Wayne Dyer wrote, “Every time I see a coin on the street, I stop, pick it up, put it into my pocket, and say out loud, ‘Thank you …for this symbol of abundance that keeps flowing into my life.’ Never once have I asked, ‘Why only a penny…? You know I need a lot more than that.”

It’s really that simple. Day after day train yourself to say thank-you. We all know that the more we practice something, the more natural it becomes. Change the negative self-talk into positive, even if at first you don’t believe yourself. “I can’t believe I am late to work again, I am always late.” can be, “It was a tough morning, but I am glad to be at work and will adjust myself to what is. It’s a gorgeous day and I am happy to be a part of it!” Or, “I am so resentful that I have to work late, I wanted to go to the gym and now I won’t even be having dinner until 9:00” can be, “I’ll grab a healthy snack to keep myself nourished until I can have dinner. I’m lucky to have a job and I love so many things about it!” Even if you don’t feel like you love it at the moment, tell yourself you do. You can find something positive when you look for it. It sounds simple and it is. We often make life a lot harder than it needs to be.

It can take several months to make a shift, but changing the way that you talk to yourself every day will eventually have profound effects on your day to day attitude and even your physical health. You may be having a tough minute, but you don’t have to have a tough day.


Friends and Relationships – Making It Work

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You’ve met someone and decide to start dating. You have been telling your best friend about this person and can’t wait for these two special people in your life to meet. The highly anticipated day comes, and it doesn’t go as planned. Their interaction is lukewarm, or one person is friendly while the other is not. How do you balance your two relationships and keep the peace?

Consider all sides.

The first thing to do is to consider each side’s perspective. Being the new person trying to fit into a relationship triangle can be challenging, as can being the long-time friend who has to make room for someone new.

Examine how you might be adding to the fray.

Without being aware of it, you could be making the situation more complicated. Are you setting unrealistic expectations? Do you want them to interact with each other in a certain way, and are disappointed because they aren’t? Be prepared for the possibility that they may never interact the way you’d hoped. However, it is also possible that in time, they will grow closer, or at least more cordial to each other.

Also, consider your dating history and how it may be impacting your friend’s perspective. If you’ve introduced a number of boyfriends or girlfriends to your best friend, your friend may just be staying cautious until s/he knows this new person is here to stay. You might not be the only one who gets broken hearted by breakups…friends who have invested their feelings on your behalf can also experience a loss.

Have an honest conversation with your best friend and romantic interest, separately.

Your friend may be worried that your new relationship will change the status quo or even jeopardize what you’ve had together. Your friend may be protective, wanting to make sure this new person is “good enough” for you.

Ask your friend what it is about the person you are dating that they don’t like: Is it the person’s personality? Does s/he think you’re incompatible with this new person? Do they see a change in you? Does your friend feel neglected or are they worried that you will no longer have time for them? Getting to the core issue can clear up misunderstandings and clarify expectations.

It may help to let your friend know that s/he is still valuable to you, and that you will make a concerted effort to spend quality time with him or her.

In your sit-down with your significant other, communicate why your best friend is important to you. He or she may not understand your friend, the type of friendship you have, or your history together. If your friend is overtly expressing dislike, it can be understandable that your boyfriend or girlfriend might react to the animosity, or be overly protective of you because of misconstrued interaction between friends.

Some more points to keep in mind:

  • If you are having a disagreement with one of them, be aware that telling the other one about it can reinforce the wedge already between them.
  • Invite your best friend and romantic partner to events you would normally invite both of them to. Give them the chance to get to know each other.
  • Allow them to have the feelings they have, which may or may not change with time.
  • Try to have a positive attitude about the interactions. Expressing anxiety will not promote harmony.
  • These two people you care about don’t have to be best friends with each other. They don’t even have to like each other. However, what will work is for each of them to respect your decision to have the other person in your life and for you to accept their relationship as it is.

While it is can be initially painful to see discord between your friend and significant other, the situation can be successfully managed, and even repaired, with everyone’s best efforts.

 


The Freedom of Forgiveness

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“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
― Nelson Mandela

 

“True forgiveness is when you can say, “Thank you for that experience.”
― Oprah Winfrey

Forgiveness is not about pretending something didn’t happen, surrendering, accepting injustice, or being weak. It is about acknowledging what happened and moving past it, hopefully with more wisdom and enlightenment.

When we hold onto the feelings caused by a wrongdoing—anger, resentment, fear, hurt, shame—we keep ourselves imprisoned in that story. We relive the injustice and its effects on us, which prolongs the pain and can even cause it to grow. Releasing our feelings through forgiveness releases us from the story.

The following are some ways to facilitate the process of forgiveness:

Try to separate the facts from the story. Think of how your situation would be presented in a scientific journal. Only things that could be proven would be included, and anything not directly observed would be considered a hypothesis or prediction. Anything related to emotions, feelings, and hearsay would be useless to a scientist. This exercise can help untangle emotions from events to provide a more objective view of what happened.

Remember that this involves another human being. We all make mistakes. While being human doesn’t excuse us when we do something that is considered “wrong,” it is helpful to remember we all have faults, weaknesses, and errors in judgment.

Examine why you feel the way you do. Perhaps your feelings are tied to a previous betrayal, or the person’s actions brought up issues with which you are struggling but have nothing to do with this person. Knowing specifically what you are upset about and why can shed light on the real issue. It can also allow you to have a clear conversation with the person you want to forgive, if you decide to talk with them about it.

Make a commitment to forgiveness. Sometimes we say we want something, but don’t really want it or aren’t ready for it. To forgive someone and move on, we have to truly want to forgive that person. Give the same kind of focus and energy to forgiveness as you would a meaningful goal or intention. Imagine your desired future relationship with that person, or if dissolution of that relationship is in order, imagine yourself making peace with that decision and moving on in a way that is supportive to you. You may want to try Loving-Kindness Meditation.

Be gentle with yourself. Forgiveness can be difficult when the wounds are fresh. If you do not understand the reasons behind the injustice, or you can’t find any positive light from the experience, you may not be ready or willing to forgive. It often does not happen overnight, and it is also not something you master like a learned skill. Forgiveness is the subject of many spiritual teachings and can be viewed as a daily spiritual practice. Therefore, allow yourself to see forgiveness as a journey, not a destination you must reach. Try to release any self-judgment in the process. Forgiveness starts with you.


8 Loving Tips To Improve Your Relationship

Geo snuggle

Do you feel a little distant from your romantic partner? Could your relationship with a family member be closer? Are you experiencing some friction with a friend? Here are some Loving Tips on boosting contentment and happiness in your relationships with a loved one:

Accept the person for all that they are, and all that they aren’t. To truly love someone is to do so for who the person is right now, not for their potential or who you want them to be.

Resist keeping score. Keeping track of what you’ve done for him or her and comparing it to what you’ve received in return puts the focus on competition, judgment and may lead to resentment. Instead place your focus on love, kindness and gratitude. When you give or are kind to a person, do so because you truly want to rather than thinking that they will then give to you or be kind to you. If you do something nice for them and then expect a certain level of gratitude from them, you are not coming from your heart but from your ego. When we come from our egos, all that we do is unconsciously or consciously self-serving. When we come from our hearts, all that we do both consciously and unconsciously is purely from love. On an energy level, people know when affection or help comes with strings attached, which will create tension, distance and resentment in your relationship.

Keep your mind open instead of “knowing” their next move. When you predict someone’s actions based on your imagination or past experiences, you might be setting the relationship up to fail. If they do what you expect, there is the possibility that you have now cemented your negative prediction, which may close off possible positive future outcomes. And of course, if they don’t do what you expect, you may not fully accept it because your ego wants to be right. There is a saying, you can be right or you can be in a relationship, but you cannot have both. It is best to consider this if you find your ego wanting to be right and blinding you to the positive change that your partner or friend has made.

Offer the benefit of doubt. Remember that they are human and things happen. Some are within their control and some are completely outside of it. When a loved one falls short of their promises—or our expectations—and disappoint us, allow them the opportunity to have their side heard. Instead of jumping to conclusions based on what you think you “know” about them, ask him or her what happened. Be honest with your feelings of how their actions affected you. When the conversation has reached a resolution, even if that means to agree to disagree, let it go.

Listen. This simple tip is often overlooked. We sometimes go on “listening autopilot” when a loved one speaks, either because we “think” we’ve heard it before, are preparing our answer, or just daydreaming about other things. Think of a time you knew someone wasn’t listening to you and how that felt. It probably didn’t encourage a closer relationship with that person. Now think of a time someone really listened to what you had to say, and how that made you feel. For more on the skill of listening: How to be an Active Listener.

Get permission before unloading your day. When you have the urge to vent to your loved one about all the “crap” that happened in your day, first ask if they are willing to hear it. This shows that you respect their time and their choice to take on the energy you will be passing along to them. You will be expressing to them that you are aware that they are emotionally separate from you and that you know they may have other things on their mind. Often when one person shows this kind of consideration and respect, the other person learns how to show it as well.

Make distraction-free time for them. It’s not the amount of time you spend with someone that brings you closer; it’s the quality of that time. Set aside regular time with them that is “distraction-free,” which means silencing and putting away the cell phone and putting all your energy and attention on being in the moment with them.

Let them know how much you care. Friends, family, and romantic partners are sometimes the last people to hear how much we love them. Although you might consider it a given that the person knows your feelings, everyone appreciates hearing a reminder. At least 10 years after my grandfather had passed on, a much older cousin of mine told me how my grandfather used to tell everyone how proud he was of me. I had no idea as he never told me. It was nice to find that out. I would have appreciated knowing this when he was alive.


The Richness of Relationship

Sunburst clouds over ocean

Typically, we think of relationships in terms of our connection to the people we see every day, our friends, our families and ourselves, and perhaps to our immediate environment.

I think relationship goes much deeper than this.

Carl Jung coined the term collective unconscious, which is the idea that we are all connected on an ethereal plane because we share memories from our ancestral and evolutionary past. In this way, we have a relationship with everyone in the world and everyone who came before us.

However, I believe the scope of relationship is even larger than this. Not only are we all connected, but we are also all connected to the things around us.

Think about vegetation for a minute. Plants have an enormous relationship to sustaining life. Yet how often do we think of the relationship of non-human forms as being significant to our lives and well-being? We step on a plant and it dies. But what if you had not stepped on it and it had not died? Perhaps it would have grown into a beautiful peach tree that could have provided sustenance for a hungry person.

I noticed a beautiful Oriole in my yard today. For a moment, I was clearly aware of my relationship to this beautiful bird. I saw its connection to the tree, the sky, and how its song filled the air around me. I wondered how different my life would be if I did not realize that I was in relationship to this Oriole.

It is truly impossible to know the network of interconnectedness that exists and affects all living things. There is simply nothing that is not in relationship to each and every one of us. The secret to seeing the connectivity is a matter of feeling it, allowing ourselves to be aware that we are in relationship to all things.

Here is a short meditation you can practice to expand your awareness of relationship in the world:

  • Take several deep, slow breaths to quiet your mind. Tune in to your environment for a few minutes, while you continue to breathe fully. Notice what you feel and see yourself in relationship with.
  • Now consider what you may have missed. Try widening and narrowing the focus of your senses, and see if your perception changes.
  • Think of how you believe these discoveries affect you and how you affect them. How could you and the things you have relationship to affect others and vice versa? The world?

I would like to end with a quote by Carl Jung that speaks to the power of relationship:

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.


How We Can Support Gender Equality

butterflyWe’ve learned gender stereotypes from a young age—how females and males are supposed to behave and look; what societal roles and jobs they take; even how they think and feel. When we view someone not as an individual but as a member of their particular gender, and judge them on their ability to live up to those standards, it’s a form of prejudice and discrimination.

Although modern society has become more cognizant and open regarding diversity and individuality, there may be subtle things we do, say, and accept as fact that seem harmless, but are actually damaging to self-esteem and worth. It happens when someone assumes a woman has children or plans to. When it’s assumed a father is the one who works instead of choosing to stay home with the kids. It happens when a woman is expected to be a good consultant for matters of the heart or a man for practical issues. When a woman is expected to help in the kitchen or clean up while a man is expected to be on point with his sports knowledge. It’s most damaging when we stop ourselves from doing something because it goes against our perception of gender expectations.

We might be contributing to gender bias without even realizing it. So what can we do to support gender equality? Awareness is the first step. In your interactions with others, be on the lookout for:

  • Jumping to conclusions about someone based on gender
  • Expecting someone to behave or perform certain tasks because of their gender
  • Shaming or criticizing someone because they didn’t live up to a gender stereotype
  • Rewarding someone because they exemplify their gender stereotype

When someone does or says these things to you, keep in mind that the person may not be aware of their message, or that it is offensive or demeaning. Resist letting their ignorance become a part of you. Know your worth and value as a unique individual. You don’t have to ignore it, laugh it off, or keep it inside. You can say something if you choose. What you say and how you say it is a personal choice. Perhaps you can think of a way ahead of time to respond in such circumstances.

Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong. It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum, instead of two sets of opposing ideals. If we stop defining each other by what we are not, and start defining ourselves by who we are, we can all be freer.”

~ Emma Watson in a 2014 speech at the United Nations Headquarters

Keep in mind that the macroclimate of our society trickles down into our personal relationships. If your view of gender roles is rigid, it will restrict your ability to be fluid and grow in your relationships.

Let’s be aware of our words and actions. Let’s be kind and respectful to ourselves and others. We are all human beings, and we all matter…equally.


Evaluating Your Relationships

valentine cats3We are social beings. We crave connection and relationships. Relationships can bring us much joy, fulfillment, and security. However, there are times when we have to decide whether we want to continue our involvement with a friend or significant other. How do you know when it’s not working for you?

Counsel yourself like a friend.

Ask yourself questions you would bring up in a conversation with a good friend who is unsure whether they should stay in a relationship. For example: Do you find yourself making excuses for the person? How does the person usually make you feel…positive about yourself or feeling low? There is a difference between someone challenging you to be the best you can be and someone putting you down.

Make a list of pros and cons.

It may seem trite, but it’s a useful and important exercise. The purpose is to be able to see—in print—what you view as reasons why you are in the relationship. Compare the two columns. Is one stronger than the other?

Look at the items you’ve put under the pros column. Are they superficial or important? Did you have to struggle to make this side longer?

Look at the cons. Are they serious considerations? Your not liking the way the person holds their fork is very different than your not liking the way the person treats your friends. Are any of the cons deal breakers? If so, why have you continued to stay in the relationship?

Consider a wider scope.

Think of what other people say about the person. Not that you should make your decision based on popular vote, but it’s telling if no one has anything nice to say about him or her. For example, if you repeatedly hear that the person is not to be trusted, it’s possibly an attribute the person has hidden from you or you haven’t wanted to admit was true.

On the other hand, everyone liking who you are with does not mean the person is right for you.

Tune in, and listen up.

You will know in your gut what the answer is, if you allow yourself to look inside and consult your inner guide. You may not be able to put your decision into words or explain why you don’t want to be with someone. Your ability to verbalize your reasons should not affect your decision. Trust your instincts. If you feel less than yourself when you are with that person or that you consistently have less energy around them, you’ll want to seriously consider if that person is complementary for you.

It can be especially confusing when “nothing happened” that has caused you to feel the relationship is over—no personality change, abuse, breach of trust, etc. This confusion may be exacerbated when you try to answer the “what happened?” question from others. Just because “nothing happened” does not mean you should push your gut instinct to the side. It can also be difficult to admit it’s over when we have spent considerable time in a relationship…we may feel obligated to stick it out. Many relationships have a time when they come to an end. Some relationships are for our entire lives, but most are only for a portion of it.

Remember, it’s ok to decide a relationship isn’t for you. You can honor the good memories, lessons learned, and growth experienced, and move on gracefully. This is your life, to be lived authentically and with self-love.


How to Resolve Conflict Through Communication

_807Disagreement is a natural occurrence in life—we all have different opinions, ways of doing things, personalities, and communication styles. However, if one or more of the persons involved don’t communicate openly, or let emotions take over, a disagreement can easily turn into conflict.

Here are some suggestions for resolving conflicts in a respectful and productive way:

  1. Acknowledge the points the other person has made with which you agree; if you don’t agree, acknowledge you’ve heard their point of view. Simply knowing their viewpoint has been heard can go a long way in diffusing conflict. It is also helpful to reiterate in your own words what they said, which not only gives them an opportunity to elaborate on a point, but also to correct any misinterpretations.
  1. When you speak, it is best to keep what you say to your own point of view rather than telling someone how they feel, think, or act. Those are your interpretations of what you experience. Frame your point in a way that lets them know you are only speaking from what you see and feel, which allows them the opportunity to clarify the same situation from their point of view. It is also a chance for them to clear up any misunderstanding.

Look at the subtle but meaningful differences in these examples:

Example 1

“You make me feel unappreciated all the time.” vs. “I feel unappreciated when I hear you say _____.”

Example 2

“Can’t you see I was trying to help you?!” vs. “My intention was to help you. I understand now that is not how you experienced it.”

In both examples, the first response places blame on the other person, whereas the second response communicates your experience in the situation. Which would you rather hear said to you? Blame puts the other person immediately on the defensive and they will in turn block out anything you say, or worse, interpret any further messages as attacks.

  1. Be aware of extreme or emotion-full words (also known as nominalizations). Using words like “every time,” “never,” and “always” may result in the other person going on the offensive to prove you incorrect, thereby allowing them to ignore the point of your message. Also, take care that any emotion-full or more vivid forms of a word are true (e.g., sad versus devastated); if you’re exaggerating for emphasis, your message may lose credibility. Emotional language may trigger the other person to react on your emotion rather than on your message.
  1. Allow the possibility that people can surprise you. We all have the ability to learn, grow, evolve, and change. The longer or more closely you know someone, the harder it is not to jump to conclusions based on past experiences. As Eckhart Tolle said, “The moment you put a mental label on another human being, you can no longer truly relate to that person.” Although you can take note of someone’s patterns, try not to let your awareness keep you from having an open mind.