Monogamy is becoming increasingly difficult to find. We’re in an age of sky-high divorce rates, pass-through relationships, and “friends with benefits”. Regardless of your sexual preference or current relationship status the road ahead may look scary, or bleak.
In my mind, the concept of monogamy is an inaccurate representation of reality. And when you expect one thing and you find another, disillusionment hits hard — and it all falls apart.
This isn’t a post about the benefits of polygamy. The problem isn’t that we are no longer happy with having just one mate or that we are hard wired to have multiple mates. It’s that finding a person who is truly “one” person is incredibly rare.
Whether you’re in or out of relationship, in life you bring all of your various personality aspects to the table. Each personality aspect has its own voice, almost like riders on a bus. As a result, what on the outside appears to be one person in actuality can be upwards of ten different voices all hiding behind a single face. Put two people like that together and you no longer are dealing with monogamy. You have a full size committee.
Now imagine that committee in bed. It’s no wonder that couples have issues!
The first key to success in relationship is that each partner be committed to finding and following the deepest true voice within, beyond the formidable noise of the personality aspects. Without a mutual promise to find the silence within and follow the wisdom of the heart, the relationship can only produce drama and struggle.
That’s spiritual practice. It doesn’t matter what you do to reach that place of clarity — it is only essential that you do it. Daily.
The second key is to give some rhythm and power to a healthy connection. Both couples and families need an anchor to come back to time and time again. The thing you do. The way you do it. Make a list of 5 things you both agree to do together, and then take turns asking for it. This will become your way of saying “I love you” when it might otherwise be difficult to verbalize.
The ego personality head noise can be deafening. The heart can be more subtle. Learn to love your partner’s voices and ask him to drop into his heart when he is stuck in his head. Stand as his witness and support through the journey of learning to live from the heart. Ask for a witness to your own.
With steady and wise attention, the voices inside can be reconciled and the committee can be dismissed. It’s at that point that one is truly “one person”, ready for transcended relationship with another. Ready to fly.
The month of August this year will have 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays. The Chinese call this phenomenon “silver pockets full” or “moneybags”. You may have seen an email about it as it was circulating widely several weeks ago.
Although it is not true that it happens only once every 823 years (it’s actually closer to every 11 years) it is still fun to think about. What would it mean to you to have your “silver pockets full”?
Pull out a piece of paper and start a list. If the only thing that comes to mind when you consider the abundance of wealth is money, we need to take a step back and think again. The first step to leading a truly abundant life is to notice all the goodness that surrounds you every day. Even if all you have is a pea, if you are grateful for it you allow it the chance to multiply. I understand that peas, when sitting on your table, do not reproduce. What I actually mean is that in your gratitude, you open the energetic door for the arrival of more peas. You are saying YES.
Abundance comes when you open yourself up to receive. This is an abundant Universe. If you doubt that, look at rainforests or try to count stars. The problem of scarcity manifests in life when you shut down to the flow that is always there. Back to your list: if you aren’t noticing much abundance in your life, you need to open yourself up to receive it. You need to find a way to stand energetically in YES. That means NOT resenting those who have more than you do, griping that you don’t have enough, or tucking bills away because you would rather not think about them. Find a way to be grateful so you open the door for more peas.
Beyond gratitude there is the second step to abundance: direct action. You can try Feng Shui, the science of the movement of energy and unseen forces in the environment. Even Snopes says that if you want to attract money using Feng Shui, you should make your own cash-attracting “money bag”. “Use a colored ribbon to tie nine coins into a square of cloth (both preferably red), then place your “money bag” on or near whichever spot in the house where money is either received or generated. (In other words, if your paycheck comes by mail, place it where you put incoming letters and packages; if your money comes via computer notification of a deposit to an online account, put it near your hard drive.)”
If you are one of those who views Feng Shui as Chinese hocus pocus, feel free to NOT engage in coin bondage and instead focus your energy on building the channels that bring you abundance. Financial abundance can come through new online programs, an offer of your professional services, or a new job. Other kinds of abundance can come through networking, being a good neighbor, taking your kids out for an unexpected fun surprise, or going to that yoga class you’ve missed for months because you were too busy.
I don’t know who I was talking about with that last one. Certainly not moi.
Just kidding. It was me.
Some of you will be people who want to cover all your bases. You know who you are. You get to pull out the silk ribbons and build a program, too. By the way, you’re my favorite kind of people. Practical AND spiritual. Probably a funky personality with a good story to tell.
Direct action means you aren’t just sitting on the couch, vibrating gratitude (although that’s a great start). It means you build the way for the abundance you want to come to you in a regular, intentional, strategic way. Or in a disorderly, chaotic, random, way if that suits you better. It means gets out there and make it happen in YOUR way…whatever that is.
Go for it. I’m cheering you on.
Have you ever found yourself saying more than you really should have, answering questions you wish you hadn’t answered, or felt disoriented by an audacious or cheeky approach? You may find these kinds of situations difficult and embarrassing, especially if you were raised to “be nice”.
Even worse than the feeling of social awkwardness, these events may throw you into a drama of your own. You might feel angry, inadequate, or want to back away. Or, you might get defensive and start to attack, saying things you later regret. Conflicts can snowball and before long you can find yourself in a landscape you don’t like or understand.
The best way to stop conflicts like this before they happen is to remember two things: don’t take the approach of others personally, and buy yourself time before you respond. Together, these two actions will make you unflappable.
Don Miguel Ruiz’ book The Four Agreements goes into a deep exploration of not taking things personally, which is the first rule for finding joy and peace. If you haven’t read it yet, put it on your wishlist….and if you have read it, make a short list of anything that makes you feel bad to see where you’re getting hung up. Remember that you were born OK and you will die OK, and you are OK at every moment in between. Anything that makes you doubt that is a signpost to where you still need to let go.
The second tool for stopping these kinds of conflicts is to ask questions that buy you time and space to respond from the heart. Learn the following phrases and use them.
– Tell me more.
– Why would you say that?
– Why would you do that?
– Why would you ask that?
These questions aren’t rude when spoken with authentic curiosity — they’re strategic. They protect you from intrusion and energy loss. And, they allow you to learn more about the person who is asking the question. That information will guide you to respond without falling into a battle that produces only more wounds and no real progress.
Unlearning old habits of reactivity and choosing how to respond instead will help you become more grounded and centered. Over time, your ability to hold your space will create the next step beyond conflict management: the ability to bring healing to challenging people and situation, thereby serving their soul — as well as your own.
We all have our blind spots, and we know they hold us back. Unfortunately, we don’t know how to develop our vision and bring light to the darkness. Do you have to do a Vision Quest? Not at all ~ and learning to see is easier than you might think.
Most people believe that a Vision Quest will give you a vision ~ some overarching plan for your life that gives new meaning and purpose. In my experience that’s not true. We don’t GET a vision on a quest of this nature. We DEVELOP our vision so we can see with spiritual eyes.
I developed my vision after four years living in the rainforest and the Andes. With only cold running water in the tap and no electricity, it was a 90 minute walk home from where the bus dropped me off at the base of the mountain. I often hiked at night because it was cooler. I never encountered any big cats.
Even if you wanted to leave everything behind and go to South America for the next few years, you wouldn’t be able to have the same immersion experience that I did. At that time there was no Internet. Now you can be anywhere and still be connected to home. This change in the world makes it harder to truly get away, but it also presents us with the opportunity to learn how to “tune in” from right where we are.
There are three essential things you can do to help yourself develop vision without leaving home or going to sit on the mountain for a week.
First, turn off the noise. During my years abroad, I stripped away the noise of the world so there were no distractions. In this iPhone world, it takes a real effort to learn to hear and see more deeply. Turn off your iPad, your phone, and your TV. Ignore your newspapers. Learn to sit or walk while observing, breathing, and listening. Become more embodied.
Second, relax your left brain. Refrain from picking up any books or other reading material. Avoid thinking about things and allow yourself to feel, instead. Be creative ~ pick up an instrument, a loom, a paintbrush, or a carving knife. Refuse to do math, science, or anything else that is deeply rational. Spend time in practices you normally don’t allow yourself to explore.
Third, look through the eyes of a child. Give yourself permission to be surprised. Imagine that animals can talk, that clouds are showing you images, that there is a spirit of alive intelligence that fills everything in every moment and that it is speaking to You. Imagine that your act of putting a pebble down “just so” communicates something important to the Powers That Be. I know this will be a stretch for many of you. Just play with it. Allow yourself to experience the world through what the Buddhists call “beginner’s mind”.
In a world where we are predominantly rational rather than intuitive, isolated instead of connected, and practical rather than curious you are in no danger of falling off the deep end into irrationality and magical thinking. But by allowing the pendulum to swing in a new direction, you will move closer to balance and integration ~ and in the process, you will hear and see a layer of life that was previously hidden from you.
As we move into the holiday season, remember the inspiration that brought it to us in the first place ~ and make space for those same forces to inform your own life.
We all know people who choose bad relationships…men who date women who need rescuing and women who “love too much”, usually to men who abuse that honor. Do these people just have bad luck in choosing a mate? Are they blind, or stupid? Not in the least. Something else is going on.
You’re seeing a healer in hiding.
If you’re a healer, you can’t help giving the world your healing gifts any more than you can change the color of your eyes. When it is your soul’s essential purpose to show up in a healing way, you will do that no matter where you are. Healers in hiding aren’t giving their gifts to the world in a straightforward way, so those gifts come out in a convoluted way.
The key to healthy relationships is showing up as the person you authentically are. That’s true not only for healers, but for everyone.
It’s sometimes easier to see what others need to do rather than what we need to do ourselves. Imagine the advice you would give to a healer in hiding. “Embrace your true purpose. Be yourself. Stop creating situations in which you struggle and suffer. Show up as who you truly are.”
That’s good advice for all of us to hear.
How can YOU come out of hiding and start being yourself in a much bigger way?
The word on the street and in the boardroom is that we should lean in to our work. But there are times that “leaning in” is exactly the WRONG thing to do.
It’s really about balance.
Take for instance, that person who is used to leaning into everything they do. They’re intense and passionate. They also believe if they don’t push, nothing will happen. Some people call them “control freaks”.
This is a perfect example of half of a set of polarities: holding on and letting go. Imagine those two polarities being the extremes of a pendulum’s swing. The only stable place along that arc is solidly in the middle. That place of integration and balance incorporates elements of both extremes but isn’t limited to either one. In this example, it embodies both letting go and holding on. Both exerting control and allowing. Both focus and surrender.
You can see from this simple example that there isn’t a singular answer for how the pendulum should find stability. Which direction the pendulum needs to go to become balanced depends entirely on where the pendulum is along the arc.
Human behavior is no different. If you’re that pendulum, already extreme in one direction, move towards the center. Discern where you are first. Then choose your direction, always with balance and integration as the goal. Going further in the direction you’re already going is a bad idea because it will only continue to give you what you’re already getting.
If you’re already habitually leaning in, learn to lean out. If you’re habitually leaning out, learn to lean in. Practice the opposite of your habitual responses. And when you come to center, embodying both, you will feel the freedom that comes with choice ~ the ability to discern what is needed in the moment and respond with wisdom and grace.