Tag Archives: healthy relationships

How to Set Boundaries for Healthy Relationships

originalAre you depleted, irritable or overwhelmed? It may be time to reset your boundaries.

Setting healthy boundaries is the foundation for having positive, fulfilling and uplifting relationships.

Many years ago, I “broke-up” with my best friend. I was devastated, sad and depressed. Like any other gut-wrenching heartbreak – it took me months to garner the courage to break up and years to finally surrender and let go. She was a dynamic, charismatic, gorgeous, charming artist. We fell in love at first sight. Best friends. Soul sisters.

But…she was a flake. A huge flake. Inevitably, our dates were cancelled with lame excuses. I put up with this because she was such a delight. First, I felt slighted, then irritable, then downright angry. Finally, it just wasn’t ok anymore.

I needed new boundaries. I communicated my needs, but she simply wasn’t capable of following through on our commitments. I had to break up. Maybe, (hopefully) we’ll reconnect someday…but I needed to grow strong, respect my needs and find friends who could consistently show up.

HEALTHY EGO = HEALTHY BOUNDARIES

Establishing and gracefully maintaining healthy boundaries is a direct result of having a “healthy ego” – nothing to prove and nothing to hide. This is a function of the 3rd Chakra (Manipura) – the core or “power center” of the body-mind. The 3rd Chakra governs our sense of Self. When we have a strong sense of Self, we feel positive, empowered and confident and naturally create boundaries that honor our needs as well as the needs of others.

Healthy boundaries are permeable, yet firm.

When we have low self esteem (deficient 3rd Chakra), we tend to seek love and validation from others. We may overextend ourselves or allow someone to take advantage of us. If you consistently feel depleted, irritable or inundated – it may be an indication that it’s time to deepen and structure your boundaries more solidly.

An excessive 3rd Chakra (defended and “trying to prove something”) results in rigid boundaries and aggressively forcing, manipulating or pushing our agenda on someone else. These are defense tactics of a “High Ego”.

Seek middle ground.

One of my favorite definitions of intimacy in a relationship is from Harriet Lerner’s book The Dance of Intimacy.

An intimate relationship is one in which neither party silences, sacrifices or betrays the Self. Instead, each party expresses strength, vulnerability, weakness and competence in a balanced way.

3 TIPS TO SET CLEAR  BOUNDARIES THAT EMPOWER YOU + THE OTHER PERSON

1. HOW ARE YOU GIVING TOO MUCH? ASK FOR WHAT YOU NEED.

Are you abandoning your truth?

At work:

In a relationship: 

  • Are you allowing someone to treat you in a way that is disrespectful?
  • Are they not honoring your needs, even though your needs are valid?

To begin setting boundaries, you first need to communicate in a healthy, positive way. Avoid the shame – blame game. Get clear and grounded in what you want and need. Consider writing out exactly what you want in bullet points.

Approach the conversation from your most empowered space. Do a quick meditation before you approach the other person. Sit quietly. Get centered with a few deep breaths. Feel the energy rising up and down your spine. Call in your Highest Good and the Highest Good or Spirit of the other person. Visualize the conversation going smoothly and peacefully. Pray for clear communication, understanding and that both of your deepest Truths be served. Ask Spirit to speak through you.

Then, approach the other person confidently and humbly. Ask specifically for what you need. Expect that your needs are going to be met and that the other person will hear and honor you.

Finally, ask them what they need. How can you show up with more integrity, generosity and thoughtfulness? Think WIN–WIN.

2. DO CORE WORK (aka Mirror Work)

A good way to build your inner strength is through mirror work. Sit in front of a mirror, preferably first thing in the morning when you’re at  your most human and humble. Look at yourself in the mirror and say to yourself:

  • I love you.
  • I want you. 
  • You are special to me. 
  • You don’t have to be afraid anymore.
  • I am here for you.

These are what we call the “Good Parent Messages”, which build self love from the inside out. We begin to mother or father ourselves and become the “inner parent” who provides love, support, understanding and resilience from inside. When you feel the source of love inside, you naturally stand up for yourself in the outer world, just as a parent would advocate for their child.

3. FRIEND  + FAMILY BREAK-UPS

Sometimes we have to shift relationships because someone is not changing and we need to create safety for ourselves.  See the first paragraph above. This is especially true if you are dealing with a narcissist or an addict. If you ask repeatedly for what you need and do everything in your power to uphold your boundaries with little response – you may need to eliminate or minimize contact with someone.

Ask for help, get support, find a friend or mentor you can confide in or reach out for professional help if you need it. Hold yourself accountable and responsible for creating empowered relationships that enhance your life – in work, romance, family and friends. As soon as you strengthen your core, you will attract those people into your life who want to joyfully meet your needs.

What relationship is the most challenging for you to hold your boundaries? Leave a comment and share how you uphold your boundaries.

How Gentle Quarrelling Can Save Your Relationship

stock-footage-young-couple-hugging-and-being-affectionate-by-oceanShortly after we were married we went to India and spent our honeymoon in a yoga ashram and a Buddhist monastery. We also had a private meeting with the Dalai Lama at his residence in McLeod Ganj, in the foothills of the Himalayas.

As Ed recalls:

After some thirty minutes of talking with him I was feeling so moved by this gentle and loving man that I didn’t want to leave! I was completely in love with this delightful being. He was so ordinary, sitting between us and holding our hands. Finally, I said to him, ‘I don’t want to leave! I just want to stay here with you!’ I knew he would understand my sincerity and would say yes, how wonderful, I can see you are ready for the teachings. But, instead, he just smiled and said, ‘If we were together all the time we would quarrel!’

So relax, if the Dalai Lama can quarrel, so can we! Inevitably there are going to be times when relationships are not easy, when differences collide, when egos clash, when my needs seem more important than yours, or when your needs are not being met. For relationships create untold problems. Sitting in solitary bliss with our hearts wide open and love pouring out of us towards all beings is relatively easy, but as soon as we come in direct contact with another person everything changes. Our ability to stay open and loving, our selflessness and generosity, all this and more is immediately confronted by someone else’s own wants and needs, by their capacity to accept and love or not.

Relationships are not just an integral part of being alive, they are also the most vital and challenging teacher we can ever have. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche said, “If you can make friends with one person, you can make friends with the world.”

Difficulties in relationships show us the many ways our ego-selves try to be right, which can be a cause for either conflict or laughter. Once we were sharing some of our marriage issues with our meditation teacher, and he looked at us quite puzzled. “Why not just laugh?” he suggested. And he was right. Laughter really is the best medicine. When we see the absurdity of two ego’s knocking heads and trying to outwit each other it is very amusing. So often a disagreement is about seeing the same thing in two different ways: one sees a white ceiling, the other sees a flat ceiling, but it’s the same ceiling!

Sometimes, it can be healthy to have a good quarrel, if we can then just let it go and come back to loving. There are bound to be times of flow and times of discord but we don’t need to hold on to either. Difficulties arise because we cling to our own opinion as being the right one, and it’s this holding on, with the ensuing shame, blame and hostile silences, that causes so many problems.

In fact, those people we have a difficult time with are really our teachers. For without an adversary—or those who trigger strong reactions such as annoyance and anger—we would not have the stimulus to develop loving kindness and compassion. So we can actually thank our exasperating relationships for the chance to practice patience. What a gift!

We are not alone here, each one of us—both directly and indirectly—affect each other; everyone and everything is dependent on everything else. As Mother Theresa reminds us: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other.”

* * *

See our award-winning book: BE THE CHANGE, How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, forewords by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman, with contributors Edgar Mitchell, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Byrone Katie, Jane Fonda, Marianne Williamson, and many others.

Our 3 meditation CD’s: Metta—Loving kindness and Forgiveness; Samadhi–Breath Awareness and Insight; and Yoga Nidra–Inner Conscious Relaxation, are available at: www.EdandDebShapiro.com

Originally published January 2012

How to Find Balance by Losing It

Minimum DayThere’s this beautiful moment that happens a few weeks into dating someone new when, after countless sleepless nights either staying up with them or staying up thinking about them, you’re still able to maintain a thread of maturity that nudges you to get back to a normal sleep schedule. With somewhat divine timing, both people usually have this realization right around the same time, and then there’s that adorable little conversation you have where you establish you’re on the same page about being “in like” with each other but that neither of you can bear another day in the office sustained by two hours of sleep and four cups of coffee.

I write like I’ve had this kind of conversation about 11 times in my life, but that’s not true at all. It’s only happened in a rare few instances, but one of them was last night, hence my return to writing to you from my couch at an ungodly hour of the morning (yes, I think 7:45 AM is ungodly: I am no Thich Nhat Hanh.) All giddiness aside, I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t terrified when I looked at my blog this morning and noticed I hadn’t really written anything since September 2nd.

The two week gap between this post and my last written post perpetuated a familiar terror that I might be at the risk of “losing myself” – an affliction we’re all taught or compelled to be guarded against. My concern as I gazed at the dates with no blog entries associated with them reminded me of Liz Gilbert’s sentiments at the end of her famous novel, Eat, Pray, Love when Liz, having spent four months soul-searching and meditating regularly in India, carries her new routine into Bali as a grounding source of her finally-found self. It’s in Bali that she meets her now-husband and subsequently has a total freak out when she realizes she’s stopped meditating for two weeks in favor of…well…activities far more fun than meditating. Her extreme panic at the idea that she might be losing herself again is one I’m very well acquainted with, so I try to remember what her now-famed spiritual teacher Ketut tells her when she arrives distraught after her two-week beginning of a love affair:

“Sometimes to lose balance for love is part of living a balanced life.”

Balance is an interesting thing, really. It’s important to have it but it’s just as important to lose it, too … or so I am told. We must be human beings first, or else what would we as writers have to write about, anyway? If we’re not to get lost, how are we ever to explain the process of being found with any real authenticity?

In the process of seeking a balanced life, I think it’s important that we make room to actually live it. It’s the life that bears the stories, the stories that bear the writing. We’ll always come back to our proverbial pen and paper, or whatever routines that make us feel like ourselves. This time though, we’ll come back to them with a more open heart … and a heart that has more stories to tell anyway.

 

For more, check out my website, The Light Files, and follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Envy as a Catalyst for Change (Part 2)

139378542_825107ffa3Click here to read Part 1!

Once you recognize envy for what it is, use it as a catalyst for change. Figure out exactly what it is you envy your friend for that you lack. Maybe it’s as simple as needing a little excitement in your life or maybe it’s the beginning of acknowledging the need for a real, substantive change that makes the day into night. It’s up to you to process, fertilize and transform your envy into the fuel that propels positive change or the blissful acceptance and appreciation that demonstrate that you are truly becoming the person you admire most.

Jealousy is a bit harder to use for your own enlightenment but perhaps that much more important for you to understand and take control of turning the tables. It’s not always going to work: Your bestie’s engagement ring is going to be hard to stomach if the love of your life just broke up with you any way you look at it. But it can be a useful exercise in figuring out exactly why you are so soured. Start by asking yourself some tough questions.

If you are feeling jealous it’s because you lost something. But what exactly did you lose? Each instance of jealousy is merely a stimulus for you to examine your life, and while Plato’s words suggested the unexamined life is not worth living, the over-examined life may not be the way you want to live either. Assuming your friend isn’t marrying your ex, you’re not really losing anything tangible.

The truth is what you have lost is an idea – about yourself, be it about your own desirability or your (perhaps totally unrealistic) previous vision of your future. Whatever it is, go ahead and figure out how you can regain what you actually lost…not the man but the love you felt. Chances are if you and Mr. or Mrs. Wonderful broke up before you could go the distance down the aisle it’s because those things weren’t really on offer in the first place. So maybe you didn’t actually lose anything, and the jealousy and envy provided an opportunity for a productive new future… one in which you actually know what you need and want.

Jealousy is often a reaction to what cognitive behavioral therapists refer to as projecting the future. You see your friend happy and you predict –irrationally, that you will never be that happy. Remind yourself that you are not, in fact, clairvoyant, and your friend’s happiness can actually add to your own, and that your thought pattern can use a readjustment to see potential, not pain.

Of course, not all envy can be turned on its head but the truth is, not all envy is painful or even negative. In some cases, you can not only use your envy but also enjoy it. Think about it. Is there anyone you hate more than Gwyneth Paltrow, with her Vegenaise and her handmade this and that and her smug and perfect skinny, blond, rich everything?

Still, the majority of what you hate is not hate at all. It’s envy but the fun kind, the kind you and your friends can giggle about and yet still, in the back of your subconscious mind, recognize that there’s a decent quinoa recipe on her Web site you could probably pull off, and you could go to the gym or prioritize what the jealousy and envy brought so clearly to your mind. So thank you, Gwyneth. We may hate you – or really, just envy you – but you are making us better despite yourself.

Often, of course, it’s not that easy. Envy can eat at you. Jealousy can indeed become a monstrous force, a dark green cloud that throws a pall over moments that should by all rights add to your happiness, not slice a blade through it. The feeling that the grass is forever greener over the hill you can’t climb needs to be replaced with climbing lessons or gardening lessons so that you get what you want instead of nagging dissatisfaction.

But the truth is, the monster is not that ferocious. Just by recognizing it you have sapped its strength, turned it docile, made it into your pet, to be taught and tamed and ultimately to make yourself stronger by serving your needs and wants…now that you know what they are. The grass you fertilize may become the envy of the neighborhood. Then walk magnanimously over to the other side of the street …. and teach your neighbor how to do the same thing.

7 Tools to Resolve Any and Every Conflict That Arises

Cat VS. DogMany of us dread conflict. We wish we could just get along.

Life, however, has other ideas for us. Everyone is here to be there true selves, have their own opinions, likes, dislikes etc. How boring things would be if we all agreed on everything all the time. Where would our creativity be needed?

The exciting thing about conflict is that it forces us to expand into a greater creative expression of ourselves. Every time I have found the courage to call someone to task and have a discussion about our conflicting opinions, good things have happened. It doesn’t mean I always get my way, but I do put myself in a position to express my opinion, speak my truth, and listen to their side. Then I have a CHOICE: find an agreement, or walk away from the relationship/situation. And, importantly, I feel good about myself, that I have made every effort to find a resolution.

If we don’t speak up, we are sitting on an energy of resentment, fear, or frustration which can lead, later on, to unconscious expressions of that same energy which will probably not have good outcomes. Conflict is not inevitable. Conflicts are created by people and people can choose to end them. This cannot happen if the parties are set on victory instead of compromise or while they prioritize self-centered interest over the highest good of everyone concerned.

When the willingness to be available for discussion exists, there is no conflict that cannot be resolved.

If conflict is rooted in an ‘us’ and ‘them’, or ‘me’ and ‘you’, approach, then peace-building is precisely the opposite. We have to get past the adversarial mind-set and involve everyone concerned in addressing the common challenges, listening to other points of view, and seeing where we can meet, with an emphasis on what we DO agree on, and not on what we don’t agree on. When the focus is on what we all want, and not on what we don’t want, there is a higher possibility of success.

Our personal histories are all, in one way or another, shaped by the legacies of conflict. But as profound and deep-rooted as our differences may be, it is in our power to redefine those legacies, and, in so doing, redefine ourselves. Wherever we live in the world, we must recognize that ‘peace’ is not something you can win; it is something that has to be built and shared.

Here are 7 suggestions for conflict resolution:

1. Start with the points you all agree on. This sets a positive foundation of agreement to build upon.

2. Can you all agree that the outcome you want is for the highest good of everyone concerned?

3. Are you willing, if necessary, to set aside your personal interests for the highest good of everyone concerned?

4. Can you allow yourself to admit you are wrong? And/or admit that you hadn’t seen the situation from the other person’s point of view?

5. Are you speaking from wisdom or from self-centered ego?

6. Do you want to be right, or be happy?

7. Before starting a conflict resolution do one of the following meditations, either alone or with the other people, to release tensions and emotional charge, and to help bring your wisest self to the table. The more you are at peace within yourself, the more likely you are to manifest a positive outcome.

Laughter Expressive Meditation – Two Minutes
Step One: Laugh for no reason (one minute)
Step Two: Sit in silence (one minute)
After releasing stress and tensions with laughter, you experience joy, oneness, and creativity.
You can do this for longer than two minutes; just be sure and do an equal amount of time for each step.

Gibberish Expressive Meditation – Two Minutes
Step One: Gibberish (one minute)
Step Two: Sit in Silence (one minute)
Express your frustrations, resentments and tensions in the gibberish. You then find it much easier and quicker to drop down into a state of inner peace, clarity, and wisdom.

Setting an Intention Meditation – Two Minutes
Set the intention that you want the outcome of your discussion to be for the highest good of everyone concerned. Sit silently, eyes closed, relaxing into acceptance of what is, with compassion for yourself and everyone involved.

I look forward to your comments below.

And Join my Laughing Buddhas Network – it’s FREE!

What Makes a Great Relationship?

cute penguin couple - exploredIt seems that everywhere I go, every conversation I choose to engage in, the relationship issue shows up as the central theme. If I thought monogamy was a hot topic, it seems relationships are a crackling wildfire. Generally, the feedback I’ve been getting, is that good relationships are few and far between. And, the longer people have been together, the more challenging it appears it is to stay together. How very sad to me.

I recently told someone (a somewhat disheartened woman in a 30-year marriage whose spouse’s hip pain had put out his fire), that I was finally ready to be in a great relationship. She smiled and said she admired my optimism, but our conversation made me quickly realize that I’d be wise to take off my rose-colored glasses and take stock of what’s going on out in the real world. If a good relationship is almost impossible, a great one, although an admirable pursuit, may not be attainable. I’m determined to keep hope alive though.

I admit I’ve been on my own, relationship-less, for many years. My principal relationship has been with myself for all those years. The obvious reason was for my own physical healing (most thought I would not be here to even tell my story). I was so far down that frankly, the only way was up. It was, even more importantly, about my personal spiritual growth.

I’m trusting this concept of personal spiritual growth isn’t big news to anyone anymore. It is part of our human challenge and condition. Anyone who ever watched Oprah might agree that she offered a great service by bringing these kinds of topics to the everyday consciousness. I believe it is an ongoing conversation that needs to happen for our human species to keep evolving. I’m sure this means different things to different people, but I don’t think we can easily ignore it anymore.

My personal belief is that all of us are here to experience and learn through relationships. These opportunities come to us all the time. With parents, children, friends, business associates and even the casual stranger we meet and connect with. Every interaction with another, offers us a chance to be in relationship.

No man is an island.” John Donne.

For me, I’m most curious about the one on one personal and intimate relationship. I remember many years ago reading Gary Zukav define the concept of a “spiritual partnership”. In his incredible 1989 book Seat of the Soul, he says, “A spiritual partnership is a partnership between equals for the purpose of spiritual growth.” I know this is what I want, but wonder where do I find the other who is ready for the same thing?

Zukav goes on to brilliantly explain his four “c’s” or guidelines for a spiritual partnership. Briefly, the guidelines are: commitment, courage, compassion and conscious communication and action. It is well worth reading their full explanations here. I learned much from his wise words and know these are what I see as keys to putting the “great” in a relationship.

I’ve actually heard that people make “lists” of the things they are looking for in their ideal partner and stick by that list until they’ve ticked off all the boxes. This seems like somewhat of a futile exercise to me. Personally I’m more about another person’s energy, than a list of must-haves.

I’ve also discovered many people say they are ready for a relationship, but in actuality may not be ready. I smiled when I got a recent Hugh MacLeod Gaping Void daily email. Subject line: Forever. Graphic and Message: It took forever before I was ready… to find you. The piece went on to say:

And as we all know, Mr. or Mrs. Right isn’t just floating out there in the ether like some abstract, platonic ideal. You too have to be ready. You don’t get the person of your dreams ’till you’re ready to be the person of their dreams first. The giving precedes the getting, always. It simply has to.

We do all know this, right? Thank you Hugh!

I’ve been asking for interesting, intelligent, creative, and spiritual men to come into my life, and I admit a few have bravely shown up lately. Age doesn’t seem to matter as much anymore. Not to me anyways. I know that in our youth-obsessed culture, if there is to be depth and meaning, it has to be about something more than just the external, the physical.

I was shocked to read that 96 per cent of all adults say they would change something about their appearance if they could. This is one of the factors that led philosopher Jonathan Zap to say,

Suffering associated with body image has reached such epidemic proportions in our culture that it must be counted as one of the greatest spiritual plagues ever to be visited upon mankind.

My recent observations would lead me to agree. A culture that has lost it’s ability to age gracefully, looking for the fountain of youth, hoping to find it using fillers, injections, implants, surgeries and more. It’s not even that hard to tell who is keeping it real anymore. Somehow, it is no longer okay to get older and look it too. This isn’t only a women’s issue, as men are playing catch up in this arena as well. There are lots of statistics, if one cares to check out who’s doing what to themselves in the name of staying young. Perhaps I might need to explore this more fully in another piece.

In regards to the every changing way we do relationships, it is sad to see that current statistics show 50 per cent of all marriages end in divorce. But, the actual statistical breakdown I found, shows even more startling results. The range of results indicates that divorce rates might be anywhere from 50 per cent of first marriages, 67 per cent of second, and 74 per cent of third, depending on the source. The odds seem to clearly be stacked against the possibility of successful marriage.

Enough to make me re-examine how a future relationship might look to me. As one of my men friends recently said to me, “Marriage is a contract two people try to make work.” And I tend to agree. Sometimes for all the wrong reasons if the statistics are correct, and with very discouraging results.

Many years ago Bob Dylan said, “The times they are a changin’.” And they are. Many of the institutions we have clung to for so long, including the traditional concept of marriage, are changing. And quickly. I feel grateful that I’m at a place in my life where I have total freedom and can take responsibility for every relationship I choose to be in.

I admit I’m still the little girl who believes in happily ever after, but I’m aware how that must start with happiness from within instead of looking for something out there to “complete me.”

If I can take anything from the brilliance of Marianne Williamson’s lecture “Relationships and Spiritual Adulthood”, it relates to this one line: “It is our job to affirm a person.” She explains, “It’s not our job to change a person. It is our job to celebrate a person. It’s not our job to imprison a person. It is our job to free a person.”

I see a bright and hope filled future in this. The more I do my own spiritual work, I can only draw closer those who are doing theirs as well. Somehow in my own seeking, I continue to trust I will be found.

We all deserve to be seen and loved for who we are, not a media ideal we will never attain. It is our individual responsibility to continue to explore and reveal who we are both as individuals and as a species. This will be the key to attracting the other who themselves is doing the very same work. As the Beatles said, “All you need is love.” Sound too simple? We all deserve to give and receive love. In many ways I believe it is that simple if we allow it to be.

So, let me ask you, what have you found makes a good relationship? Okay, dare I take this up a notch… What makes a great relationship?

Please visit me at:  www.beverleygolden.com

 

Originally published November 2011

Want to be a Better Communicator? Hold up a Mirror

frameI recently took a couple’s workshop to learn some new skills, and to refresh the ones that I have let get rusty. Brushing up on new tools to deepen my connections and nurture my relationships is an ongoing practice for me because I know that if I don’t my well-being will suffer. My relationships are the most important aspect of my life. Without connection I become untethered, and feel lost in the world.

I specifically wanted to learn more about communication, and how to diffuse power struggles and stand offs in my relationship. I couldn’t seem to get my partner to see things from my perspective, and it always seemed like someone had to win or be right for things to get resolved.

As a therapist I consider myself to be pretty savvy when it comes to relating and communicating. I pride myself on reading, learning and practicing everything I preach, and I am relentlessly hard on myself when I “lose it” or become “triggered” by my unconscious. Choosing to attend a couple’s workshop as a participant, and not as a clinician, forced me to shed my knowledge to be open to the experiential teaching being offered.

I’m trained to listen to other people’s struggles, to interpret the underlying meaning of communication, and to reflect back my interpretation of what is being said based on my education and personal experience. I sit daily with my clients analyzing their words, actions and affect; I’m careful not to bring my own judgments or reactions into the picture.

I hadn’t realized how much my clinical training and experience effected the way I relate in my relationships until I was asked to practice a well-known couple’s therapy technique called Mirroring.

I had to let go of what I thought I knew to make space for what I could learn.

Mirroring is a form of communication that allows each partner to speak openly about any feelings while their partner actively listens without reacting. The listening partner is asked to “mirror” or reflect back what was heard…verbatim. The idea is that the speaking partner’s experience is being mirrored exactly as they see it for themselves. The listening partner’s feelings, judgments, interpretations, and reactions are completely put on hold until it’s their turn to respond.

This is extremely hard to do because the instinct is to defend, counter, argue or be right. Listening to another person’s experience, and honoring it as being completely valid and true (for them) is one of the greatest relationship gifts to be given. The only other time we have the chance to experience this kind of resonance is with a primary caregiver, and the likelihood of that for anyone is slim to none.

If you think about looking in a real mirror, you will realize that what you see being reflected back is your own interpretation and version of yourself. When you practice this technique it’s as if you are holding up a mirror for the other person. It’s not your version of their version, it’s an uncontaminated, pure and organic reflection of what they are feeling and experiencing.

It’s complete resonance with their authentic self.

Mirroring works in any situation. You can use it with your children, family, friends, and even in your job. It’s a diffuser of agitation because at the core of every human being is the deep need and desire to be heard and understood. Almost all arguing and fighting stems from the feeling of being unseen or misunderstood; when we feel like our own experience of things is being challenged or questioned our defenses get heightened and we want to “fight” to be right. When we experience someone else as valuing our feelings and beliefs of what is true, we can feel safe and calm.

Mirroring builds incredible trust, and it immediately turns the space between two people from scary to sacred.

If you set an intention to be a mirroring listener, you will see your relationships improve. Walk through the world this week as a mirror for others. Let go of your need to be right, and of what you think you know to be true. You will see how habitually you relate to others, and how quick you are to bring in your own ideas of how things “should be”.

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.

This Is What Real Love Looks Like

Burning Love -- Spring Botanical Red Tulip Flower“Real love is something so deep, so energizing, that you will not know it unless you experience it. Love is an expression of energy, not something that is transacted. Tell me one thing: can you love people when you meet them for the first time?”

(From the audience: No Swamiji! We don’t even know them, then how can we love them?)

Exactly! This is what you think. Let me tell you, with a little bit of intellectual understanding and meditation, you will realize that you can love anyone without a reason! You can love the trees on the road, you can caress them and feel the energy flow from you. You can love people whom you pass by on the road without even knowing them. Love is actually your very being, not a distilled quality that you possess.

Nothing is as misconstrued as love is today. Today, love is more of a transaction. If someone says something nice to you, you love him; tomorrow if the same person falls short of it, you don’t love him that much or you probably hate him.

Even your lifelong friend, with whom you chat everyday on the computer, will seem suddenly not-so-close if he says something that goes against your approval. Where is your love at this time? It has suffered temporarily!

It is just games that you play; a game in which love and hate surface alternately and interchangeably. And this love-hate relationship is not love at all. Be very clear. It is simply your reaction to a person or a situation, that’s all. This is what we call love. This is not real love. It is subjective love, that’s all.

Real love knows no object. It is simply there whether there is an object or not. Real love is the subject itself. It does not know any object. You are the subject and you have become love, that’s all. Any object that comes in touch with it, feels it. Just like a river flows naturally and people enjoy it at the different places that they encounter it, real love exudes from a person and the people around him will be able to feel it.

There is absolutely no room for conditioning in real love. The energy in you should overflow and express itself as love. It is then that you can break through the highly knotted boundaries of relationships and express yourself beautifully, as a loving being!

In order to discover the quality of your being, that is love, two things can be done. The first thing: repeatedly listen to words like these so that they create a conviction in you about real love; so that a space is created in you for the process of transformation. Second thing: meditate so that the transformation can actually happen.

In practical life, when you go deeper and deeper into relationships, you will understand that all that you feel is not real love, but just some form of give and take. It is all just adjustment, some compromise, some duty-bound feelings, some fear, some guilt. It is all there in the name of love.

Meditation will take you beyond these mis-understandings of love. Meditation will work at the being level. That is why it is a shortcut! When you have to go through life and know it by yourself, it will take you a lifetime. But with meditation, a space opens inside you to experience these things clearly for yourself, whatever your age may be.

Just understand this one thing: when you are able to love without a reason, you will expand like anything. Your world will suddenly seem larger than life. It will be so ecstatic. You will become an energy source to yourself and to others. You will be so overflowing that the energy in you has to touch others. There is no other way. Others will be naturally drawn to you.”

 

Originally posted September 2011

Is It Love or Is It Projection?

RequiebroBy Rebeca Eigen

There is something magical about the experience of “falling in love.” Psychologically it is their feeling function that gets activated when two lovers first meet. Emotions burst forth and sparks fly that ignite a passion and an unmistakable bliss. When you are with that person, you are “in heaven,” so to speak. And when you are away from them, you are longing for the next encounter. As the song says, “Suddenly life has new meaning to me,” and they are transported into the realms of the Gods (the archetypes). In our Western culture, our movies provide us plenty of examples of this experience — so much so that we all yearn for it.

We mistakenly call this love, and many find themselves searching for their other half, their “soul mate.” We believe that this is what will complete us and that this magic is what we feel to truly value another person. As you will see when you understand the nature of the “Anima” and “Animus,” this is only the beginning of an encounter with our unconscious.

It’s interesting that the word “soul” also means psyche. In the psychology of Dr. Carl G. Jung, he explains this phenomenon of projecting our Anima and Animus (the contrasexual soul images in our unconscious) onto each other. The psyche seeks wholeness, and a union of our inner opposites is what Jung called the process of individuation. When projection occurs, this process has begun as these contrasexual images are now out in the open. We will learn a lot about ourselves by the people we either extremely love or hate.

Often we will fall in love and get involved in some very unsuitable, destructive and soul-destroying relationships, but these, too, are showing us aspects of our shadow. In order to grow and be a whole person, we need to become aware of what is really happening. When someone is “into us”, we need to ask ourselves, “Is it love or is it just projection?” Two people won’t know until time gives them a chance to see who each other actually is — and this requires self-honesty and self-disclosure.

There is no other way to see these parts of us, so it’s inevitable that they will be projected. The intoxication and the intensity of the experience are clues that we are into a projection. Ordinary human beings do not evoke the instant passion that “love at first sight” evokes.

The Anima and Animus

A woman carries an image of her male counterpart that Jung called the “Animus.” This unconscious inner male is her God (soul) image that gets projected onto a man in the outer world. As inner and outer create a mirroring effect, she will know a lot about what shape her inner partner is in by the person upon whom the projection lands. The clue to knowing a projection has occurred is the feeling of intense fascination or obsession with a man whom she will feel is her ideal mate.

A man faces a similar dilemma. When a man projects his perfect God (soul) image onto a woman, she becomes the carrier of his “Anima.” His Anima acts as a muse to bridge the gap between his inner and outer worlds. She animates him from within.

When this happens to both people at the same time, we call this “falling in love.” They definitely fall. They fall into their own unconscious image as each projects part of himself or herself onto the other person evoking a feeling of fantasy and Eros. The erotic and sexual nature of the encounter is psychologically symbolic. It is each one wanting to merge with or penetrate into themselves.

As time goes on, it is inevitable that projections are going to fall off. They actually have to so that we can see who the other person actually is and relate to a real person instead of a God or Goddess (a symbiotic extension of oneself). When relationships reach this stage of familiarity, many people addicted to this kind of high start looking outside their primary marriage or partnership. Many relationships end and the alchemical process begins all over again with someone else. Some go on to marry the person with whom they feel they are “in love with,” and later become disillusioned when they realize that they have married a person who is not who they thought they were.

On the other hand, if they are both committed to their relationship, growing and becoming conscious, when the projections dissolve, there is an opportunity that arrives for both people. They can now discover and embrace their missing halves. This is not an easy task as it takes work and often involves a painful encounter with the Self. In Mysterium Coniunctionis, Jung says that an experience with the Self is always a defeat for the ego but that the death of the ego (the Self as you knew it) allows one to be reborn into one’s own wholeness as projections are taken back.

In taking back our projections, we can now see and accept our partners for who they are — not what we wanted them to be; not what we wish they would change into; not for what they can give us; but who they are. The love that can now grow between them is profound because it is REAL. Real love, unlike projection, is a willingness to see and support another person to be their own unique, separate self. This will untangle us from seeking in them the perfect parent-mirror image of ourselves, for as long as we are still seeking to be completed by another person, we will not allow them their own autonomy.

As love between them grows and expands to the entire cosmos, this kind of love gives each partner their freedom — the greatest gift of all. As the duet by Barbra Streisand and Celine Dion professes, LOVE will be the gift you give yourself.

* * *

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.

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