February 27, 2008

Breathing, stillness, and answers.

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood! Ah, Los Angeles, the weather is fabulous and, even if it's winter, it's like spring. I'm off today and usually have the grandchildren, but they're in Big Bear with the snow while I'm in La La Land, enjoying the balmy weather.

I'm in a bit of a peaceful place, which is amazing since I'm on the outs with the boyfriend, taking a breather to think about what is really going on and what it is that I want. I keep thinking about change, how it's so hard to do and so uncomfortable, but a life without it is not really living. I try my best to lead a conscious life, being aware of myself and what I'm feeling and what is going on at that very moment. There are many ways I do this, but mainly it's just holding still, being aware of my body and my surroundings, paying attention to my breath, and letting any thoughts pass right by without thinking about them. It's a zen thing, this living in the moment, and it's not easy - I was told by my first teacher that if we can be without thoughts for one breath, we are doing well.

So I achieve this, second by second, by meditation while sitting or walking, yoga, deep breathing, or even just focusing on something in the room, anything to give me one second or more of freedom from thinking. I remember years ago, when I had nose surgery and a cocaine-derivative was injected, that I had two days when the screen was white. Like all the chatter and confusion in my head just stopped and there was nothing there at all, just that white screen, and it was so peaceful that I thought this must be why people use drugs, to get away from all that chatter.

The real purpose of being quiet and in the moment is really more spiritual, to allow the truth to arise within in. It's like we have a dilemna and we think and think and ask our friends and read books about it and maybe even seek counseling, all of which are good. But then sitting quietly long enough, letting the thoughts pass us by, and just like that the truth speaks to us. Like magic, or maybe it's God or the Universe or some greater consciousness or whatever, but it's a peaceful resolution to what troubles us and, for me, always a path to calm and resolution.

In this troubled world, always being bombarded by stories of death and destruction, it's not easy to be happy and calm. Finding some way to stop the noise and be quiet inside isn't easy, but it's like a breath of clean fresh air or a visit from a long lost friend, a way to return to what's real and true. And even one moment of such peace is a blessing in our busy lives.

February 18, 2008

Sex and left-overs.

Are men clueless? From what I hear from the ladies, I think some guys might need a refresher course in how to please a woman. Here goes:

1) Sex starts outside the bedroom. Did you ever hear that men are like microwaves and women are like crockpots? This means that we are slow to warm up and get going. If you start foreplay waaaay before sex, like all the other times you see us, we will be warmed up and ready to go (almost) before we get into bed. Like holding our hand when we're walking, kissing our cheek during dinner, rubbing our arm, and any other thing tender physical gesture that can be done in public. Saying nice things about how we look or that we smell good counts, too. That all warms us up and makes it so much easier to respond to you in bed.

2) Don't hoard the stuff. When you have an issue with us, let us know right away or as soon as possible if we're in a public place or at our kid's house. Saving it all up and then letting us have it all at once is really not playing fair. That "I didn't like it when you...." and relating episode after episode weeks after they happened is not OK. Telling us at the time is good because it's real and happening and we can talk about it and use it to get closer to you, but later on it takes on a whole different picture, like we are being blindsided and can't remember what happened. Or saying "you seemed so unhappy with me when we went to ....." two weeks later but maybe we were sad about something that happened with a friend and it had nothing to do with you and you've been stewing about it for weeks and we're defenseless. You all talk on your profiles about "communication" so get busy doing it. It shows us who you are and we can respond immediately and clear it up so it doesn't grow into something that it was never meant to be.

3) Listening means not thinking, but hearing. When we are talking, it's your job to keep the spotlight on us. Every time you listen to us and then say something about you, it takes the spotlight off of us. Don't think when we're talking. We can tell you're doing that when you interrupt us to say something or have a response all ready before we're done. Listening is hearing what we're saying and asking for more information and letting us finish.

4) Keep wooing us. Remember at the beginning, all that chemistry? It was because we were both putting energy toward each other and creating some new chemical from that mixture. Think of fun things to do and make plans. This just "coming over" to our house gets old. Relationships are living things and require activity. Think about how much energy you put into your work or your hobbies or your sports and spend some of that time thinking about how to make things fun for us when we're together.

5) Ask for what you want. If you're not getting what you want, you have to tell us. Even if we guess, we could be wrong or completely miss the boat. If you want us to be more affectionate or to plan the next date or make you dinner or be more assertive in bed, you have to say it. I'm not talking about being critical, I'm talking about stating what you'd like. What's the worst thing that could happen? You won't get what you want, but you're not getting it now, so where's the loss? The best thing that could happen is that you get what you want, we know you better, and we are happier because we made you happy. Win-win for all.

6) Let us know you accept us as we are. Telling us what to wear or how to do our hair or that we're not as thin as someone else is demeaning and critical and damages the relationship. It's like my car. It's a Suburu. Telling it to be a Mercedes will have no effect. I bought a Suburu. You get what you buy. In a car and in a person. If you can't accept us just as we are, please move on.

7) Don't give us your left-overs. We know you have a busy life, but saying you can see us after everything else you do all week means that we are a low priority to you and we don't like that, nobody does. And calling to say that your other plans cancelled so you can see us means that we are that far down the list of what's valuable to you. Coming over exhausted and falling asleep at 8:30 at night on our couch is OK every now and then, but we get the picture if it's every time. Same goes for being late or talking on your cell phone or breaking dates or wearing sloppy clothes. We want to be important to you and giving us what's left of you after you do everthing else tells us that we're not.

What do you guys think? I'm willing to write a list of things that we ladies should remember about making you guys happy, so send me your suggestions!

February 16, 2008

Maybe the Prince is already here.

Fairy tales. Remember Snow White and Cinderella and how they suffered and then the Prince rescued them? We grew up with these ideas, believing that a fabulous man, with money and looks and charm, would come into our lives suddenly and create for us the life of our dreams. No struggles, no financial troubles, no relationship problems, just a house with a white picket fence, a few beautiful children, and bliss. That's what we learned as little girls and it's still haunting some of us.

Five of the Wowettes went out last night for a Girls Night Out to dinner and a movie. It's hard to find something as nourishing as giggling with girlfriends. We talked and laughed, we shared and we listened, we were sad and we were amazed, and we had a great time.

The movie, however, was a different story. We saw Definitely, Maybe, what I thought would be an amusing romantic comedy. This is the official introduction to the movie at A thirtysomething Manhattan dad is in the midst of a divorce when his 10-year-old daughter, Maya, starts to question him about his life before marriage. Maya wants to know absolutely everything about how her parents met and fell in love: Sounds cute, huh? And here are some critics' reviews:"...agreeable and engaging and real enough in the right smallish ways..." "Suddenly, unexpectedly, a Ryan Reynolds movie worth seeing."..."...will sprinkle its pixie dust over anyone who took their own circuitous path to true love." Sounds good, right?

OK, it was terribly overacted and completely predictible and almost irritating in its over-the-top cuteness. At least the three women stars were strong and not clingy, having their own careers and minds, which was unusual for a romantic comedy.
But what really got to us ladies was that it perpetuated the fairy-tale idea that the guy was the Prince, a handsome guy without flaws who would come back some day to declare his love for us. We ladies realized that we still carry around that idea, that the Prince is still out there and still perfect for us and we just have to stay thin and attractive and perky and he will appear. That no matter how fabulous our lives may be, we still need him to complete us.

I admit that I do have some of those old stereotypes in my head. I catch myself thinking that the guy should come up with great plans for dates, that he should find ways to bring excitement into my life, that he should be all the things I wish I could be but haven't become yet. And I find that men have flaws, that they don't always come up with ideas for dates, and they often lead lives that aren't exciting but routine. And sometimes I have found that disappointing, that they aren't going to whisk me off to Paris or fabulous live local events or introduce me to their stimulating friends and on and on. That they have lives that are the same week after week, going to work and having dinner with friends and seeing movies and the usual stuff. That they are real. Just like us.

So maybe that's better. There is something comforting about a guy with his feet on the ground, doing his job and keeping up with his friends week after week with no drama. And, really, I'm the one who has to create excitement in my own life and who has to become the person I want to become. We all bring baggage into every romantic relationship, no matter how healed and healthy we've become, so adding unrealistic expectations makes it even tougher. What's the answer? The bottom line is to love and accept ourselves first, really love our flaws and appreciate our beauty, before we share ourselves with someone else. Sometimes, we have to learn to do that while in the midst of a relationship, like I'm doing now, and it's a bear. But if you're lucky enough to have a really patient and kind guy like mine, be sure to share with him those struggles so he knows what's happening. And I wonder if a really exciting guy, the Prince who rescues you and takes you to his castle, would really be down-to-earth enough to be able to listen and hear and love us anyway. I vote we leave the Prince for the fairy tales and then maybe we'll realize our everyday guy is the real Prince after all.

February 12, 2008

It's not a coincidence.

I know I already wrote about the Conscious Life Expo I attended on the weekend, a bit of counter-culture that was good for the soul. I didn't write about another speaker, a young woman who was a life coach who spoke about synchronicity. Her name is Mindie Kniss who writes on her business card "positively influencing the collective consciousness, one life at a time."

It's an interesting concept, this syncronicity, the idea that there are no coincidences and that everything happens for a reason. The trick is to be aware of when it happens and be open to what it is teaching us. The audience told stories like receiving a job offer by phone at the same time as being told by a current boss that they were being laid off. Mindy herself was working for a pharmaceutical company in Africa and was about to be brought back to the states when she made the decision that she was going to work for only one more year and then devote herself to life coaching and writing. When she returned to her home post, she was advised the next day that the company was closing her office and that she had one year to choose a transfer or seek other work. That's synchronicity, that the universe is somehow managing our lives in positive ways, bringing things to us that teach us and push us and help us in our path to knowing ourselves better and leading more fulfilling lives.

Although I'm not religious, I've been known to say that there must be a God since so many things occur in my life that so obviously are meant to teach me something. When my mother was very ill and near death seven years ago, there were so many amazing things that happened to help me make her last months easier, like me being the only one to get right through to her doctors and people sending her flowers without realizing they was her favorite, to the only night I felt the need to sleep at her house and so was able to be with her in her last moments, even though I had no idea that it was about to happen.

And in my life, these things do happen, one after another,like I learn one message from one event and then the next situation is brought into my life to teach me what I need to learn next. When I formed the Wow group, I had no idea that I would be having monthly meetings and inviting speakers. The first dinner was so successful that I decided to do it the next month and meanwhile heard a relationship coach speak and invited her to the next Wow meeting and I've had free speakers almost every month since then. We've all enjoyed the speakers immensely, each imparting a different message about how to live more joyfully and successfully. But for me, it's like every speaker has spoken to something I was struggling with at that very moment of time, like some divine being cared enough for me to bless me with the message in my own front room, words that comforted or helped me solve a problem or were just the next piece in my own particular puzzle of life.

I used to think that life would get easy and that I would get to a certain age and the struggles would be over, but now I know that it doesn't happen that way. So I say thank you to those of you who help me on this path of healing and health, you who so graciously and generously share yourselves with me and allow me to share myself with you. May you all be aware of the synchronicities in your own lives and be joyful at the opportunity to learn and live more fully.

February 10, 2008

Auras, goddesses, and Dan.

I had the pleasure today of visiting the Conscious Life Expo with my daughter. It's a three-day event with over 120 exhibitors, lectures, and workshops with the philosophy that The primary intention of the Conscious Life Conference and Exposition is simple: to participate in the conscious co-creation of a new world, a world based on new paradigms in science, in spirituality, in longevity, in local and global community, in relationship, in health and well-being. And while we co-create this new wholistic model through our authentic self expression, we also participate in a powerful and passionate celebration of life and love. The purpose of the Conscious Life Conference and Exposition is to bring us all together. It is a three-day gathering of the tribes, a three-day celebration of evolution and consciousness and a three-day brainstorming session on who we are, where we are and where we are going.

In reality, it was a hotel full of women dressed like goddesses and men with long flowing robes and long hair sharing their unique secrets in life, each with a particular niche of their view of truth. We could have our tongue or future read, lie on a lavender mat on a moving circular board, see a picture of our aura, or eat assorted wheat-gluten-meat-and dairy-free treats. The workshops included "The Inside Scoop from Outside this Dimension" and "UFO Crash Retrievals" and "Acutonics and Soul Sonics" and "Animal Communication for Everyone." I admit to being a bit out-of-the-box myself, but I sure don't know what these things are all about. But it was a peaceful group of people quite serious about their views and I respect that passion.

We really went to see Dan Millman, the writer of "The Way of the Peaceful Warrior," one of the books I've read recently and wanted to go out and buy for everyone I care about. It's a somewhat fictionalized story of the author's journey to enlightenment and, as far out as his path has taken him, it gives a down-to-earth message of how to live life more fully and more consciously and it truly did change my life.

We didn't know what to expect meeting Dan. You never know if a great writer is a good speaker, but we found him to be amazing. It's like he was talking with each of us, delivering his message with stories and humor in a way that we really understood and that spoke to our hearts. He talked about "what is the way of the peaceful warrior" and what is the "real secret." And I'd like to share it with all of you.

In the midst of this hotel full of what we thought to be really quite far-out people, each touting their particular passion at the ultimate truth, Dan said that there is "one light and many lamps." That often messages are not what is right or what is wrong, but what we should remember and not forget. We should seek what helps us to live better, to rise above ourselves, and keep pursuing it as long as it works, that the path to enlightenment is really a way to learn about ourselves. That we can read every self-help and spiritual book written and attend every lecture, but the best way to learn is to just fully participate in life, to just "do it." He called relationships "voluntary adversity" because of the challenges they bring us and said that daily life will teach us everything we need to know to evolve into better human beings.

He's a humorous guy. He talked about how some of us think we'll find happiness in the western path of accumulating possessions and status and material things and fail and then go to the eastern path of nonattachment and meditation but that the real goal is balance. Like the really opposite words "peaceful" and "warrior," the most success in achieving fulfilment in life comes from a balance of both or "keeping our head in the clouds and our feet on the ground." Dan says it does take courage to live this life but that having a peaceful heart and a warrior's spirit is the balance needed - and that it's not about success or failure but finding one's individual limits.

And then he talked about The Secret, that hugely successful book and movie that came out recently that purported to be the Law of Attraction. Like positive thinking from the 1950s, it said that we need only know what we seek, like money or our soul mate, and that the universe would bring it to us. But he said that a spiritual law is something that always works and never fails, like the law of gravity, and that something that is only successful sometimes is really a theory. He did like that the Secret suggested that we focus on what we want, a path to knowing our authentic self, and that we should learn to dream bigger. But he said that the real secret is that changes take time and effort to reach our goals and that our lives are shaped by what we do more than what we think. Sure, it's good to have positive thoughts, but who can do that 24/7? Our thoughts are like a road map, but it's up to us to take the journey. And, like the serenity prayer I learned decades ago, we must learn what it is that we can change, what we can influence, and what we have no control over at all.

We can't change reality, but we can change how we perceive it, he says. Our emotions are the weather patterns of the body, and obviously we have no control over the weather. Feel frightened, he asked, and we realized that it's not possible to do that on command, but stand up or more around are things we can do. We can only control our actions and behavior so it's up to us to choose our actions - the challenge becomes turning what we learn and what we know into what we do. Dream big and start small, like planning to get fit and healthy but start by just putting on our walking shoes. The real secret of the Peaceful Warrior is to just get up and do it, just do it. He ended with a story about running up a mountain, that it was so hard and everyone wanted to stop and the leader said that they could decide to stop with every step, as long as they kept running to the top. I'll see you there!

February 4, 2008

Dating, distance, and love.

I had lunch again with my new friend, the psychiatrist. We got to talking about intimacy and I realized I really have no model in my life of how it should be and what it really looks like. I was raised in a family where we were taught to fear my dad and pretty much never saw any closeness between our parents, so I imagine my own issues with intimacy started at any early age.

I asked her to explain intimacy to me. She talked about having someone know us, the real us, sharing things about ourselves that others don't know. It's that ebb and flow of coming together as one and then separating as individuals. It's knowing that someone knows the real you and loves you anyway. It's knowing the heart of another person and sharing yours with them. It's knowing what someone likes and doesn't like and respecting those choices. It's cuddling and feeling safe and warm and contented. She said that intimacy grows step by step, inch by inch. It's not something that one can force or make happen, but it develops with getting to know each other more and more.

She also said that real intimacy can also come with spontaneous moments, those times when someone reveals something about themselves that endears them to us. Like he tells a story about his day or what he was feeling and we just feel warm and tender toward him. It can also happen with those little gestures, like when he reaches out to hold our hand or puts his arm around us in public or whispers a sweet nothing in our ear when we least expect it.

I'm not the only one who has intimacy issues, I'm sure. Just think about how we even talk about it with euphemisms. Instead of saying we're dating someone, we say we're "going out" or "seeing someone." Instead of "making love," we're "hooking up." Maybe talking about it that way makes it less painful when we break up. OK, it does require vulnerability to be intimate because we have to share things about ourself we'd rather keep hidden. But, says my new friend, we humans have an instinctual need to feel close and be loved.

So, I ask, how do those of us with a longer pole length let someone get close? Let it happen, she says, and enjoy the moment, watch our own behavior carefully, and let it unwind little by little. Share one thing at a time, listen compassionately, and watch as each of you open up to to the other slowly. I like to think of relationships as creating a picture, like when two people, each with their own brush and their own set of paints, create something that they could only make by doing it together. So let's see if we can create some beautiful pictures. Two by two.

February 1, 2008

Love, thoughts, and Maya

Another Wow meeting, another happy few hours for all. Last night, we gathered to share a potluck dinner, catch up, meet a few new ladies, and hear Maya Rasak speak. I love to watch how my home changes when the ladies gather, one by one bringing their lovely and lively spirits into my little nest.

Maya started by asking "What is love? How do I get more? How do I keep it and not lose it?" She asked us what love feels like and the ladies replied with words like joy and peace and bliss and belonging and a natural high. Maya shared with us some of her history so that we could understand that the messages we hear as children become wounds which affect our actions as adults. Messages like "You're not good enough....you'll never amount to anything....you don't deserve to be loved...." guide the choices we make now, like when we chose partners who act like our parents and trigger these old wounds. Although this is painful, it does create the opportunity for us to recognize these old messages, declare them inaccurate, and create positive messages to guide our actions. Negativity blocks the positive and we end up perpetuating the old self-destructive scripts, waiting for the same unpleasant reaction over and over and not knowing how to rise about it.

But thoughts are energy and thoughts become habits, so we can create new positive energy by changing our thoughts. Each time an old wound is triggered, we can think differently and create new neuropathways in our brains, finally learning to live in the present. And, in doing so, we will come to know that what we are searching for, the love and joy and peace we seek, is inside of us, that we were born with this gift and can learn to live in that place now. If we continue to search for those treasures in money or possessions or other people, we will always need more. But those good feelings, the love we seek, is in us and, by casting aside old negative scripts and living a positive and conscious life, we can live in that blissful place today. In Maya's words, "true peace and unconditional love are at our core, we ARE what we seek. We are surrounded by what we seek and the thought that we can't have it keeps us from it. We are born with a loving core that is real and we will feel it when we are fully present."

Some of us are new to experiencing self-love, myself included. She gave us an exercise to show us how it feels. She asked us to close our eyes, picture someone we love deeply, and recognize how that feels and where it is in our body. She asked us to then let that picture fade away and see if we could hold onto that feeling, allowing us to feel that love for ourself. She assured us who we are is at our core and that we can access this when our mind slows down, so she urged us to take at least five minutes a day being quiet, paying attention to our breathing and our bodies, learning to know and love ourselves, the ourself we are at our core.

Most of us have heard parts of that message, that we are our thoughts, that what we believe becomes our reality, and that we can change our life by changing our thoughts, but I can't remember hearing it in such a lovely package as Maya. Down to earth, glowing, kind Maya, eagerly and freely sharing such an important message with us strangers. Thanks, Maya, for an uplifting and encouraging and thoughtful message that is sure to change our lives.

(You can reach Maya at Maya@soulintegration.biz and view her website at soulintegration.biz)