Tag Archives: commitment

5 Things to Consider Before Taking Your Relationship to the Next Step

By Sherrie Campbell, Ph.D.

love addictionThe beginning stages of love are phenomenal and exciting on all levels, but these stages can make us almost delusional as to who our partner is in reality. The truth is that all people, in time, become real people who are not perfect and have flaws. That is part of being divinely human. We are all perfectly imperfect. When things get real in a relationship is when we have the opportunity to get the best view and understanding of our partner.

5 things to look for before becoming more serious

1) Does your partner have self-love?: All positive relationships are born out of the love we feel and have for ourselves. We can tell if someone is self-loving by if they are happy, if they take care of themselves physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually and if they have compassion for themselves and others.

2) Are they responsible?: Does your partner have an organized life with their own passions which they are responsible for? Responsibility is synonymous with maturity. If you partner is responsible their life will be clean and there will be less chaos to argue over. It also eliminates your need to help them pick up and/or run their lives. We each have a life to lead and we will want a partner that is successfully leading their own life. This makes them interesting, attractive, dependable and exciting.

3) Is there a basis of friendship?: Friendship is at the core of love. Romance alone is not sustaining but if there is a genuine friendship underlying the romance it renews itself forever. Those who play together have a greater chance of staying together. Friendships are based in communication, experiencing life together and equitable sharing.  If this is there with your prospective partner, then you have a keeper.

4) Can and do they communicate with you openly and honestly?: Things change, people change and all relationships will face this kind of chaos. The most essential glue to keeping love alive is a firm foundation of honesty and communication. If you and your prospective partner can maintain honesty in your communication then resentments will not build and an open quality of flexibility can help you stay connected during more challenging times.

5) You both must want the other to be happy: Wanting each other’s happiness is of the upmost importance in the relationship and in life.  Happiness is sacred because it is an expression of love. When two people are genuinely happy they only stand to love each other more. A genuinely loving partner, one who is serious in their love and commitment, would love you enough (and vise/versa) not to stand in the way of your personal needs for happiness, even if they were not perfectly matched up with their own.

These five qualities are undeniably about each person being individually embraced and committed to their own happiness. When your partner is self-loving then they have love to give, they have love to share and they will possess the flexibility to bend around change and differences in desires, opinions and habits.  If your partner provides these five qualities then you can be assured that you have found a love that will stand the test of time.

Little life message:  Bring your individual passion and happiness to the table of love, this way you have something to share.

***

Dr. Sherrie Campbell is the author of Loving Yourself and is a licensed Psychologist with more than nineteen years of clinical training and experience. She provides practical tools to help people overcome obstacles to self-love and truly achieve an empowered life. Click here to get her free article on Five Ways to Make Love the Common Ground in Your Communication.   She is a featured expert on a variety of national websites and has a successful practice in Southern California. Receive free insights from Sherrie and to be involved in her Facebook community of others looking to improve their relationship. For more information visit http://www.sherriecampbellphd.com.

 

 

The Radical Transformation From Self-judgment to Compassion

Way of the heartWe were three days into a weeklong meditation retreat when one of my students, Daniel, came in to see me for his first interview. He plopped down in the chair across from me, and immediately pronounced himself The Most Judgmental Person In The World.

“Whatever I’m thinking or feeling when I meditate … I end up finding something wrong with it. During walking practice or eating, I start thinking I should be doing it better, more mindfully. When I’m doing the loving-kindness meditation, my heart feels like a cold stone.” Whenever Daniel’s back hurt while he was sitting, or whenever he got lost in thought, he’d rail at himself for being a hopeless meditator.

He confessed that he even felt awkward coming in for our interview, afraid he’d be wasting my time. While others weren’t exempt from his barrage of hostility, most of it was directed at himself. “I know that Buddhist teachings are based on being compassionate” he said bitterly, “but it’s hard to imagine they’ll ever rub off on me.”

Like Daniel, being hard on ourselves is familiar to many of us. We often distance ourselves from emotional pain—our vulnerability, anger, jealousy, fear—by covering it over with self-judgment. Yet, when we push away parts of ourselves, we only dig ourselves deeper into the trance of unworthiness.

Whenever we’re trapped in self-judgment, like Daniel, our first and wisest step towards freedom is to develop compassion for ourselves. If we’ve injured someone and are embroiled in guilt and self-recrimination, compassion for ourselves allows us to find a wise and healing way to make amends. If we’re drowning in grief or sorrow, arousing compassion helps us remember the love and connection in our life. Rather than pushing them away, we free ourselves by holding our hurting places with the unconditional tenderness of compassion.

When I asked Daniel how long he’d been so harsh on himself, he paused for several moments. “For as long as I can remember,” he said. From an early age, he’d joined his mother in relentlessly badgering himself, ignoring the hurt in his heart. As an adult, he’d treated his heart and body with impatience and irritation. Even in the face of a tormenting divorce and a long bout of chronic back pain, Daniel hadn’t been able to acknowledge the intensity of his suffering. Instead, he’d criticized himself for having screwed up the marriage, for not having the sense to take proper care of himself.

I asked Daniel to tell me what happened in his body when he was judging himself so harshly, and he immediately pointed to his heart, saying it felt bound by tight metal cords. I asked if he could feel that right in this moment. To his surprise, Daniel heard himself saying, “You know, this really hurts.” I then gently asked him how he felt about this aching. “Sad,” he responded softly, his eyes welling up with tears. “It’s hard to believe I’ve been carrying this much pain for so long.”

I suggested he put his hand on his heart, on the place where he most felt the most discomfort, then asked if he might send a message to the pain: “How would it feel for you to say, ‘I care about this suffering’?” Daniel glanced at me, then looked down again: “Strange, I think.” I encouraged him to give it a try by whispering the words softly. As he did, repeating the phrase slowly two more times, Daniel’s shoulders began to shake with quiet sobbing.

Like it did for Daniel, offering ourselves such care might feel strange and unfamiliar—or even downright embarrassing—at first. It might trigger a sense of shame about being needy, undeserving, or self-indulgent. But the truth is that this revolutionary act of treating ourselves tenderly can begin to undo the aversive messages of a lifetime.

Over the next few days, whenever Daniel became aware of judging himself or others, he’d check in with his body to see where he was feeling pain. Usually he’d find his throat, heart, and stomach tightened in fear, his chest heavy and sore. With a very gentle touch, Daniel would place his hand on his heart and say, “I care about this suffering.” Because he was sitting in the front of the meditation hall, I noticed his hand was almost permanently resting there.

One afternoon, Daniel came to tell me about something that had happened earlier that day. During meditation, a scene had arisen in his mind of being at his mother’s house, engaged in an angry exchange with her. As he tried to explain why it wasn’t irresponsible for him to take a week off to meditate, he could hear her disdainful reply: “You lazy bum, why don’t you do something worthwhile with yourself.”

This was the same sort of demeaning message that in his youth had made him want to shrivel up and disappear. He felt his chest filling with the heat and pressure of rage, and in his mind heard himself shouting, “You bitch, you don’t understand! You’ve never understood. Can’t you just shut up for one minute and see who I am!!”

The pain of anger and frustration was like a knife stabbing his heart, and he was about to launch into a familiar diatribe at himself for being such a wimp, for not standing up to her, for being a meditator filled with such hatred. Instead, he placed both hands on his heart and whispered over and over, “I care about this suffering. May I be free from suffering.”

After a few minutes, the stabbing anger subsided. In its place, he could feel warmth spreading through his chest, a softening and opening around his heart. Feeling as if the vulnerable part of him was listening and taking comfort, Daniel said, “I’m not leaving you. I’m here, and I care.” Throughout the rest of the retreat, Daniel practiced like this, and some of the most painful knots—the wounds of his young, anguished self—slowly began to release.

When he came in for his final interview, Daniel’s whole countenance was transformed. His edges had softened, his body was relaxed, his eyes bright. In contrast to his former awkwardness, Daniel seemed glad to be with me, and told me that while the judgments and self-blame had continued some, they were not so unrelentingly cruel.

No longer imprisoned by constantly feeling like something was wrong with him, Daniel was beginning to notice the world in new ways—other students seemed more friendly; the acres of forest were an inviting, magical sanctuary; the dharma talks stirred up a childlike fascination and wonder. He felt energized and somewhat bewildered by the fresh sense of possibility in his life. By holding himself with a compassionate presence, Daniel was becoming free to participate more fully in his world.

Like Daniel, whenever we’ve become addicted to judging and mistrusting ourselves, any sincere gesture of care to the wounded places can bring about radical transformation. Our suffering then becomes a gateway to the compassion that can free our heart. When we become the holder of our own sorrows, our old roles as judge, adversary, or victim are no longer being fueled. In their place we find not a new role, but a courageous openness, and a capacity for genuine tenderness—not only for ourselves, but for others as well.

Adapted from Radical Acceptance (2003)

Enjoy this talk on: Cultivating Compassion

For more information visit: www.tarabrach.com

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Lessons from the Bodhisattva: Feel Your Pain and Awaken to Healing

into the glare of the sunsetAlthough not always highlighted in the West, prayer and devotion are a living stream in Buddhism. The earnest wishes expressed in the practices of lovingkindness and compassion—May I be happy, May You be free from suffering—are forms of prayer. The aspiration to find refuge in the Buddha (or Buddha “awakened” nature) is an expression of devotion to truth and freedom.

When we’re suffering and turn to prayer, no matter what the apparent reasons for our pain, the basic cause is always the same: we feel separate and alone. John O’Donohue, in his book Eternal Echoes, writes:“Prayer is the voice of longing; it reaches outwards and inwards to unearth our ancient belonging.” This is a beautiful description of what I call mindful prayer. We reach not just outward to know our belonging, but with mindful prayer we also turn inward and listen deeply to the suffering that is giving rise to our prayer. When we are willing to touch the pain of separation—the loneliness, the fear, the hurt— our longing carries us to the tender and compassionate presence that is our awakened nature.

I experienced the transforming power of mindful prayer some years ago when I was suffering from a broken heart. I’d fallen in love with a man who lived 2000 miles away, and because we couldn’t weave our lives together, the relationship ended. The loss was crushing, and while I accepted my grieving process for the first month or so, as it went on and on I felt more excruciatingly lonely than I’d ever felt in my life.

In the room where I meditate, I have a Tibetan scroll painting (called a thanka) of the bodhisattva of compassion. Known as Tara in Tibet and Kwan Yin in China, she’s an embodiment of healing and compassion. One morning, as I sat crying in front of the thanka, feeling crushed and worthless, I found myself praying to Kwan Yin, wanting to be held in her compassionate embrace.

For a while, this seemed to help. Yet one morning, I hit a wall. What was I doing? My ongoing ritual of aching, praying, crying, and hating my suffering was not really moving me towards healing. Kwan Yin suddenly seemed like an idea I’d conjured up to soothe myself. Yet without having her as a refuge, I now had absolutely nowhere to turn, nothing to hold on to, no way out of the empty hole of pain.

At that moment, even though it seemed like just another concept, I remembered that, for the aspiring bodhisattva, suffering is the trusted gateway to awakening the heart. I remembered that when I’d remained present with pain in the past, something had indeed changed. I suddenly realized that maybe this situation was about really trusting suffering as the gateway. Maybe that was the whole point—I needed to stop fighting my grief and loneliness, no matter how horrible I was feeling or for how long it continued.

I recalled the bodhisattva’s aspiration: “May this suffering serve to awaken compassion” and began quietly whispering it inside. As I repeated the prayer over and over, I could feel my inner voice grow less desperate, more sincere. I knew it was true—I could awaken to the love I yearned for by directly touching the fullness of this suffering. The moment I let go into that truth, the change began.

That day in my meditation room, as I let the loneliness cut more deep, scarcely able to bear the searing pain of it, I realized that I was longing—not for a particular person, but for love itself. I was longing to belong to something larger than my lonely self.

As I let go into the yearning, I distinctly sensed Kwan Yin as a radiant field of compassion surrounding me, cherishing my hurting, vulnerable being. As I surrendered into her presence, my body began to fill with light. I was vibrating with a love that embraced the whole of this living world—it embraced my moving breath, the singing of birds, the wetness of tears and the endless sky.

Dissolving into that warm and shining immensity, I no longer felt any distinction between my heart and the heart of Kwan Yin. All that was left was an enormous tenderness tinged with sadness. The compassionate Beloved I had been reaching for “out there” was my own awakened being.

Whenever we pray, we might begin by reaching out, and in that way remember the warmth and safety of connectedness. Yet, we ground our prayer by reaching inward to the raw feelings of loneliness and fear. Like a great tree, mindful prayer sinks its roots into the dark depths in order to reach up fully to the light. When the pain is deep, the more fully we touch it, the more fully we release ourselves prayerfully into boundless, compassionate presence.

Enjoy this talk on Lovingkindness

For more information visit: www.tarabrach.com

3 Steps to Find Your Perfect Partner

day 55Have you ever stopped to think about how rarely we think about the traits we want in a partner in more than a passing way? Do you find that you seek a physical type and then hope that they have the character traits that you desire? Or, do you find yourself imagining that you can wish the traits into their character once you get the relationship started?

In fact there is a way to ensure that you bring just the right person into your life. Now this isn’t just magical or wishful thinking. Rather, it’s about focusing your thoughts about yourself and your ideal mate in a way that makes you open to the  person you want to meet.

There is a progression of activities to help you get to this point. It does take a bit of thinking and being honest with yourself, but it will be effective in attracting the right type of people into your life. The following tips will help you get started in organizing and focusing in on your relationship thoughts.

Step 1: What do I deserve in a partner?

This is a critical first step. If you don’t see yourself as deserving of that perfect partner, then you cannot expect him or her to walk into your life. You have to believe that you are worthy and deserving of a partner to fulfill your dreams and desires. Good self-esteem is one major factor in meeting the right person, since you have to feel good about yourself to attract someone that will feel good about you too.

Step 2: What do you really want?

Start by making a list of the traits or characteristics that you really desire. Is it a sense of humor, an intellect or a person that is understanding and empathetic? Think on these behaviors and see yourself with the person. What does the relationships look like and feel like? What are your feelings about the relationship? By imaging the relationship as it is, you will be more clear with potential partners about your vision of a relationship.

Step 3: Bring love into your life

Love is the greatest of human emotion, and it is a powerful tool for attracting the type of relationship that you are looking for. Surround yourself with people you love, including your pets, and also share your feelings of love with others. The more love you put out, the more that will be returned.

 

Originally published September 2012

Can You Medicate Meditation?

Drugs Make Me HappyThe use of anti-depressants by those involved in meditation practice is a very hot topic. Students often ask me things like, “If I take Prozac, isn’t that as good as giving up? Aren’t I admitting that meditation doesn’t work?”

Those who’ve been advised by a doctor to consider medication tell me they are afraid of becoming dependent on it, afraid they’ll never function again without it. Some wonder if taking medication doesn’t directly undercut the process of spiritual awakening.

They ask, “Don’t medications numb the very experiences we are trying to unconditionally accept? Wouldn’t liberation be impossible if we were on medication?” One student even quipped, “It’s hard to imagine the Buddha reaching for Prozac while under the Bodhi Tree.”

It’s true that some of the most widely used anti-depressants can create a sense of distance from acute fear, and a degree of emotional numbing. It’s also possible to become at least psychologically dependent on any substance that provides relief.

Yet, for some people, no matter how hard they try something else is needed to engender safety and bring anxiety to a manageable level. Whether the cause is life trauma or genetic predisposition, the brain chemistry and nervous system of some people lead to intolerably high levels of fear. For them prescribed medication for depression and anxiety may provide additional—and possibly critical—aid in finding the safety that enables them to trust others and to pursue spiritual practices.

At least for a period of time, in these cases medical intervention may be the most compassionate response.

I’ve seen students who were utterly incapacitated by anxiety and fear finally able to face it with mindfulness and lovingkindness once they started on medications. As a psychiatrist friend says, medications make it possible for some people to “stop anxiously doing, and just sit there.”

Medication and meditation can work together. As medications shift the biological experience of fear, mindfulness practice can help undo the complex of reactive thoughts and feelings that sustain it.

One of my meditation students, Seth, a composer and pianist, took anti-depressants after struggling unsuccessfully for years with debilitating anxiety, shame and depression. Seth dreaded performances and the expectation of perfection that surrounded them. He told me, “Knowing how to write and play music is my life. When I feel like I’m blowing it, I lose it completely. I feel totally worthless.”

When Seth began taking anti-depressants his fear level dropped significantly. The familiar stories and self-judgments would still arise, but because the fear was less intense, he was able to see that his thoughts were just thoughts, not the truth about how things were. Gradually, as Seth deepened his meditation practice, he became familiar with a new and different sense of himself. Rather than rejecting himself as sick and broken, he began wanting to care for and comfort himself.

After two years, Seth decided to stop taking anti-depressants. While his fear had decreased, he had also lost a certain degree of his natural sensitivity and empathy, and his libido was diminished. Within a few months of discontinuing the medication, Seth began to experience once again waves of acute fear and, at times, oppressive depression. But now when the old stories made their appearance, he could note them mindfully rather than getting lost in them.

Taking medication had driven a wedge into the trance of fear, and it no longer was so engulfing. While Seth’s emotions were still intense, his fear wasn’t fueled by overwhelming self-judgment and shame. He no longer identified himself as a broken person. Perhaps from time to time he might seek relief again from medications, but Seth now had a strength to his spiritual practice and a faith in himself that gave him a genuine sense of inner freedom.

There are no absolute recipes for working with this issue of taking medications. In making choices on our path, it’s important to ask ourselves whether or not they will serve awakening and freedom. Our best answers are found by honestly looking into our intentions.

For instance: What is our intention in doing therapy, in taking medication or doing a particular style of meditation? Are we using meditation as a way of escaping from painful relationships or unwanted responsibilities? Do we truly intend to face and accept fear? Are our choices helping us relax and become more kind?

As we honestly explore these questions, we can experiment through our practice to discover which of our choices are the most compassionate, and will best bring an end to our suffering.

Enjoy this talk on Finding the Juice Inside Fear

For more information visit: www.tarabrach.com

How to Commit to Joy

Love Is On The MoveNot too long ago, my ex-husband, Alex, brought us a big batch of his homemade almond butter. It is such a really delicious treat. I took a bite, and as I tasted it, I thought, “This is so good! I’m going to have some more.” And then immediately I thought, “No, I can’t have more. I’ll feel sick if I have too much.” So here I was, thinking about feeling sick in the middle of a good taste! Instead of savoring that wonderful flavor and pausing long enough to enjoy that deliciousness, my thoughts took me away from that simple pleasure.

This experience reminded me of how easily we can bypass the joy that lives in such small moments. I was also reminded that we can cultivate our capacity for joy by purposefully pausing in those moments when we experience even the
slightest tendril of delight or just a hint of “Ah…happiness.”

I often turn to Mary Oliver as one of the poets who most inspires me to pause and savor the moment.

Oh, to love what is lovely, and will not last!
What a task to ask
of anything, or anyone,
yet it is ours,
and not by the century or the year, but by the hours.
One fall day I heard
above me, and above the sting of the wind, a sound I did not know, and my look shot upward; it was a flock of snow geese, winging it faster than the ones we usually see,
and, being the color of snow, catching the sun
so they were, in part at least, golden.
I held my breath as we do
sometimes to stop time
when something wonderful
has touched us…
The geese flew on.
I have never seen them again.
Maybe I will, someday, somewhere.
Maybe I won’t.
It doesn’t matter.
What matters
is that, when I saw them,
I saw them as through the veil, secretly, joyfully, clearly.

The poet “held her breath as we do sometimes,” creating a pause so that she could be fully present to her experience of joy. She offers us a beautiful teaching.

Perhaps when you next experience a tendril of delight or a just a hint of happiness, you might remember Mary Oliver’s words and

“…stop time when something wonderful has touched you…”

pausing to become familiar with how that taste of joy or happiness lives in your body, heart and mind.

Adapted from Radical Acceptance (2003)

Enjoy this talk on Committing to Joy

For more information visit: www.tarabrach.com

photo by: VinothChandar

Elephant in the Room: Will He Ever Marry Me?

shutterstock_79607809Dear Cora,

I’ve been with my boyfriend for over five and a half years and I love him so much. We’ve been through a lot together, including a clingy ex and a pregnancy scare. We live together now and we are on the same page about wanting to stay together long term – but I want to get married and he doesn’t seem as anxious about it as I am. There’s always a reason to put it off – we need a new car, or a new place, or he wants to go back to school. These are all legitimate reasons not to talk about a wedding, but if we know we want to spend the rest of our lives together I don’t understand what we’re waiting for. I’m starting to wonder if he’ll ever propose, and what do I do if he never wants to marry me?

Sincerely,

Ringless Finger

Dear Ringless,

Sometimes the best thing to do when you get wrapped up in a singular issue is to take a step back and look at the big picture. Five and a half years of commitment with one person is no easy feat – and it sounds like the two of you have gotten over your fair share of hurdles together which I commend you for. It shows you two know how to handle undesirable situations that come up with any long-term relationship and see it through to the other side. That gives me hope you’ll make it through this as well.

The great wedding debate. That’s what you’re in the middle of my dear and many of us, especially those who used to pretend to walk down the aisle with pillowcase veils over our heads when we were five, have also been there. I’m not saying there aren’t men out there who also look forward to getting married, but women tend to take it to a whole other level. Both my brother and my uncle are serial monogamists. They are at their most comfortable in long-term relationships, but say the word marriage and they go white in the face. We’ve had many debates about it because it doesn’t seem to make sense that if they are willing to make the commitment, why not have the party to celebrate? For some people, both men and women, the idea of making it legally binding scares them to the core. That piece of paper adds a level of responsibility they can’t wrap their minds around.

It’s possible your beau falls into that camp. It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love you or that he isn’t in this for the long haul, but he has a mind block around marriage.

It is also possible that it’s the financial burden of the situation that is causing the “delay.” Weddings are expensive, no matter how intimate they are. You’ve had some legitimate expenses come up in your time together and maybe he’s right – there hasn’t been a right time to spend that kind of cash on a ceremony.

Or there could be something you’ve been overlooking. The key to finding out is laying all the cards out on the table. I know that sounds “so not romantic.” It isn’t, but it’s how adults in committed relationships deal with problems. The two of you need to sit down, face to face, and have a long conversation. This is not a chance for you to beg or coerce him into proposing, but an opportunity for both of you to tell each other what you want, what you’re afraid of and look at the obstacles together. It’s also a chance for you to ask why do you want to get married? Is it just because it’s something you think you’re supposed to do or because you want to legally commit yourself to this person forever? Being open and honest without pressure will allow him to open up to you as well and share his reservations.

Don’t fret, Ringless. This isn’t a sign of the end but merely a chance to grow closer. You and your love just need to get on the same page. I wish you the best of luck!

Best wishes,

Cora

PS. I’d love to hear from you all on this one, especially those that have been in long term relationships. What’s your take? Tell us in the comments below! And remember if you need any advice or want to share a trouble you’re having email your letters to editor@intent.com!

The Line Between True Love and Worst Nightmare

Happy 2gether Part IIBy Rebeca Eigen

I started studying astrology in 1985. I quickly found out that astrology is unsurpassed in its ability to help a person understand himself or herself. Most people who read the simple horoscope columns have no idea just how detailed and complicated it is. The subject is so vast you could spend your whole lifetime studying it, and there is so much to it that although I needed an understanding of the basics, I eventually developed a passion for learning specifically about relationships.

The 7th house is the house that shows us who we are and what we can expect when we are in relationships. And here is where the trouble begins, because it is a very misunderstood house (area) within the psyches of all of us. Most of us are used to finding our partners out there somewhere instead of looking inside ourselves.

A couple came to me for a reading recently, and they wanted to know “What is our compatibility?” These two people were in their mid-to-late 30s and had both been married before, and I asked them each this question: “Are you the person for you?” Yes, I know it sounded strange, but this is the real question at the bottom of our relationship struggles that we need to ask ourselves.

The people we are extremely attracted to are mirroring the parts of ourselves that we are missing. The curious thing is we can be repulsed and attracted to the very same person. When we have a feeling that we are “in love,” when we have that kind of fascination or compulsion toward anyone, it’s a real clue that it is a projection of our own unconscious contents. There will be an erotic, magnetic feeling within us when we meet someone who can carry the projection of our Shadow, our Anima or Animus as described in the analytical psychology of Dr. Carl G. Jung.

The Shadow is in us all.

This is why the ancients believed this house was also the house of open enemies, because the partner becomes the enemy that we will polarize with. At first all is wonderful. You feel you have met your true “soul mate.” But eventually (and this has to occur for our own psychological growth), the couple will begin to polarize, find fault with each other and a crisis (which is also a turning point in the relationship) will occur. The relationship will start to deteriorate so that they can differentiate, as John Sanford explains in the book The Kingdom Within. Unknowingly, they are BOTH carrying unconscious psychological contents for each other.

When we are “in love“, no amount of logical reasoning can talk us out of it either. We have to go through it in order to develop an awareness of our whole Self. Jung explained that deep within us, the Self is guiding us to our own wholeness, which he called the process of individuation. The alchemists called this meeting, the divine marriage or the coniunctio. Because it can wake us up and help us see many things differently, falling in love can be a very transformative and wonderful experience.

Then why is it so scary?

Because it can just as easily turn around and become our worst nightmare. Just as quickly as a relationship begins, it can end. The original love can turn to hate. When relationships end that violently, you know that neither partner was able to get past his or her projections. Unless they are both willing to do some inner work, they will just go on to find other partners and it will repeat and a pattern of victim consciousness continues.

As Paul McCartney sings in the song that he and John Lennon wrote:

I’m looking through you.

What did I know?

I thought I knew you.

What did I know?

You don’t look different, but you have changed.

I’m looking through you.

You’re not the same.

CHORUS

Why, tell me why, did you not treat me right?

Love has a nasty habit of disappearing overnight.

This experience in this song is archetypal because the Shadow side of us is unconscious. What’s interesting is that everyone else can see these parts of us and we can’t.

Inside us or outside of us, it is all the same — a reflection par excellence.

Whatever sign is on 7th-house cusp, whatever planets reside therein are a detailed picture of what we will develop in this lifetime with or without our intention or consent. So we might as well learn about this part of us and choose to develop it because then we can experience the more productive aspects of that energy.

I hear people with Mars (planet of action, male principle, directedness) in the 7th or ruler of the 7th telling me how violent their ex-husbands were, how they have attracted aggressive or angry partners. People with the Moon there tell me how needy and emotional their partners are, how dependent. Uranus … how unpredictable and detached, aloof. Saturn … how cold, unresponsive, limiting and critical. Jupiter … how opinionated, inflated, self-indulgent. These are simplistic descriptions, but an astrologer, knowing your 7th house, the aspects to your Venus and the ruler, has a very clear understanding of what your own specific needs are in relationships. We are all unique. Don’t feel something is wrong with you if you cannot live the cultural model of the white picket fence and the two-car garage. That may not be what your soul is requiring in this lifetime. So stop feeling guilty if you aren’t creating it.

Learn about yourself through your astrological chart so that you can make the conscious effort to be this part of you and learn to meet people — but only halfway. And that is the dance called Libra. So as Lee Ann Womack says in her song, “When you get the choice to sit it out or dance — I hope you’ll dance!”

* * *

RebecaEigen-72-dpiRebeca Eigen, an astrologer for 25+ years and author of The Shadow Dance & the Astrological 7th House Workbook, specializes in relationships. Using your time, date, and place of birth, she uses the astrological birth chart to evoke the symbolic and help you become more aware of your total Self. Her study of the Shadow using Astrological tools has given her an invaluable awareness of the unconscious and the role it plays in the relationships that we attract into our lives. For more information, visit her Web site: www.shadowdance.com.

The Secret to Sticking with Anything

Pedra do Bau [Climb]How many times have you started something new (exercise routine, meditation schedule, writing that book, a new project), got pumped and excited about it, and then within a few weeks or months it slowly faded into a faraway memory? It’s normal and happens all the time. Gyms plan that every January 1st memberships will soar due to New Year’s Resolutions and then by March and April it’ll be back to mostly regulars.

It’s not that these people are slackers or don’t care about their body. What’s really going on is their level of commitment isn’t high enough. That’s because any goal, intention, or desire takes time to evolve into something that you care enough about to make the required level of commitment.

So what’s the required level of commitment? The secret to sticking with any goal is having a solid 100% commitment. (I would say 110% to emphasis how big this level of dedication is, but doing that has always been a major pet peeve of mine.)

It’s very important that your commitment isn’t 99.9999999%, but it’s 100%. Why? Because, even with a 99.9999999% commitment, you still have a little opening to rationalize and talk yourself out of the action. This is not because you’re a bad person, it’s because all change involves some discomfort. If given even a slither of space to choose comfort over discomfort, you’re more likely to choose comfort.

That little .0000001% of space allows for talk like this: “I don’t feel like it today”, “I’m so busy with work ”, “there’s just a lot going on right now”, or my personal favorite (because I’ve it used for years) “I’ll just do it tomorrow and get back on track then.”

When you have 100% commitment to something, feeling like doing it has no importance on whether you do it or not. There is no option; it’s in many ways liberating because you make it a non-negotiable. You don’t give yourself the burden of having to choose every day. Then one day it’s become a habit that moved from your non-comfort zone to your comfort zone!

To make a 100% commitment, it’s important to always focus on the WHY of the commitment. Why do you want to commit to having some discomfort for a while? It’s the why that will get you to a place where you can be 100% committed to something. And it often takes a little time (or a lot) for everything to click and your why to become so clear and strong that the required 100% commitment is there.

For example, I’ve practiced meditation on and off for almost 15 years, and while I always ended a session feeling amazing, I couldn’t seem to stick with my commitment to do it daily. It was only when I was ready to eliminate all excuses (and this came after something “clicked” inside and I knew I needed it every day to express my highest self, which became a priority), that I could make the 100% commitment.

Don’t put yourself down if you haven’t been able to have the motivation or commitment to stick with something, but examine the WHYs. From that awareness, you can make 100% commitments to things that align with you and your unique values and path.

In what areas do you want to be more committed and why? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.  

Elephant in the Room: I’m Allergic to Being in a Realtionship

Screen Shot 2013-07-12 at 1.17.10 PMDear Cora,

I have been dating for a while but have never managed to commit to a serious relationship. I have friends who have found long time partners and it is something I really want. There have been several guys who I have really liked and put a lot of energy into pursuing something with them, but as soon as it starts to get off the ground I am suddenly turned off. It’s as if I’m allergic to getting what I want and run away. How am I supposed to get serious with anyone if I bail every time it looks like it’s about to happen?

Sincerely,

The Runner

~

Dear The Runner,

You have a fear of the thing you want most? Welcome to adulthood! Someone gave us the idea that this would be easy, but I’ve found as I’ve gotten older that you only become more and more aware of what’s out there of which to be afraid. Don’t worry though, I’ve also found that the fear leads to the things that are most worth it in life. The trick is to not let it control you, which as you know, is easier said than done.

I used to be in love with my best friend (we’ll call him Olly). In fact, we only became friends because I tried to go after him before finding out he had a girlfriend. He liked me though and we somehow managed to create one of the closest bonds I’ve ever had with a member of the opposite sex. We talked every day, about everything. He was a writer too, and we used to compete between ourselves to find out who was better. We pushed each other to be better, built a safe-haven together. I never made an open move when he was with his girlfriend, but I guiltily couldn’t stop myself from imagining what it’d be like if we could be together romantically. Okay, I straight-up pined for him for over a year.

By the time he and his girlfriend broke up I was talking to another guy. He was nice enough, but if I’m being honest I knew even then that dating this guy was really a distraction from being head over heels for my best friend. So I was not prepared when Olly showed up on my doorstep saying he was finally ready to give us a shot. Here it was, over a year of desperately wanting and fantasizing and building up this bigger-than-everything-epic-romance, and he was just offering it to me. Someone call Hollywood because my life was officially the most cliché romantic comedy yet to be written.

But I turned him down. At the time I told him it was too soon after his break-up and I wasn’t in the mood to be his rebound. Not to mention I was seeing someone, a really nice guy who didn’t need a year to figure out I was worth it! Maybe we were better off as just friends – it seemed to be working just fine. I had all the excuses, but I never told him the truth, that I was terrified. What if we tried and failed causing us to lose everything? What if we got involved and it was nothing like I imagined? What if he hurt me? Would I be able to survive us not working? I didn’t think so.

We stopped talking shortly after that because it was too hard. I had to hear from mutual friends that he got back together with his ex some weeks later. To top it off, it never went anywhere with Nice Guy because my heart was obviously elsewhere. I thought I was protecting myself from my fears and inevitably caused them all to come true anyway. I am an avid fan of the mantra “everything happens for a reason,” but to this day I still wonder how things would be different if I had just given Olly the chance. I wonder what would happen if I had given myself a chance to have what I really wanted.

From my experience I can tell you Runner that the regret is far worse than the fear. I don’t want to see you have to carry that around. There is no way to make the fear go away, but you can train yourself to breathe instead of running. The key is not to rush, take it one step at a time until you can get comfortable and the desire to bolt lessens. The main thing I want you to take from my story though is be honest. If it is a person that you’re meant to be with in the long term, tell them you’re scared. Most likely, they’ll reveal the same feelings and it’s a lot less scary when you have someone to be afraid with.

There will be bumps and bruises, my dear. I can’t promise you that you won’t get your heart broken – no one can. The thing is that the best things in life come with their fair share of risk and you have to put yourself out there to reach them. Don’t feel ashamed that you have fear, that only means you understand how important something is. Don’t let the fear make your decisions though, because you are worth the risk, what you want is worth taking the chance. Give yourself the chance to run in the right direction.

Best wishes,

Cora

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coraelephantSubmit your questions, troubles, and predicaments to Cora via editor [at] intent [dot] com or in the comments section below. The Elephant in the Room advice column will be published every Friday – a blend of humor, compassion, and wisdom specially tailored for our Intent audience.

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