Tag Archives: relationships

From Intent.com: You Are Not Alone

“Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.”
― John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men

The thing they don’t tell you about getting older is how hard it is to maintain relationship. As a grade-school child, you’re in a room with 25 other kids your same age from your neighborhood and for roughly eight months, you have built in best friends. That’s how it goes for 13 years or so and then you slowly add more and more people until you realize, unless you’re intentional, you might not know anyone.

I can’t name one person I met in college. Seriously.

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As an adult, I’ve learned that if I want to have more than surface-level friendships, I’m going to have to put in the extra effort. I don’t know that I’ll ever find the consistency I had in grade school. I work from home. I’m a single adult. If I want friendships, I have to make them a priority. Here are some best practices I’ve collected over the past years:

1. Don’t expect your friends to be psychic. I’m not even sure the people advertising themselves to be psychics are psychics, but we expect our friends to know when we’re sad or sick or feeling left out. While you don’t want to end up in a one-sided relationship, involvement with another person is always going to require putting yourself out there in some form. If you’re feeling blue, invite a friend to dinner. Decide you aren’t going to let it ruin your night if they aren’t available. Maybe think of 3 or 4 people to ask just in case. The point is just to get some quality time!

2. Know what you love. It can be really frustrating hanging out with people who love football to watch football if you don’t love football. Who’s fault is it really? If they know they love football, they are only being authentic to what they love. What do YOU love? If it’s not football, that’s totally fine! Is it hiking? Is it crafting? Is it going to concerts? The more you know about what you love, the easier it is to find your tribe or to invite people into experiences with you versus always feeling like you’re tagging along with someone else. It’s no one else’s job to find out what you love so take the time to really think about it and then share it!

3. Reconnect. There has to be some advantage to all the social media we’re glued to these days. Maybe it’s an opportunity to reach out to family or friends you lost touch with long ago. Upon moving to LA last year, I reconnected with one of those grade school friends I mentioned after I noticed on Facebook that she’d also moved to Los Angeles after graduating from college in Texas. We sent a couple of emails back and forth and scheduled lunch. It was a little nerve-wracking walking up to the restaurant. Would it be weird? Would we even have anything in common anymore? But, from the moment we sat down at the table, it was as if we had never missed a day!

 

It’s hard to be vulnerable. It’s hard to say “I feel alone” because it means you want people around and so much of society these days says you’re weak if you need people. To that I say the world isn’t big enough for everyone to have their own islands, so community has to happen. I also think that some of our best refining comes in the context of community.

It is where we learn to be selfless and also to stand up for ourselves.
It is where we learn to love ourselves and also to put others first.
It is where we learn what hills we want to die on.
It is where we learn the value of “thank you” and “I’m sorry”.
Those seem like worthy lessons.

So, don’t forget.
You are not alone.
You’re here and I’m here and so we can go ahead and put the notion that you’re alone to sleep.
You are not hopeless.
You are not unworthy of love.
I can say that with full confidence because your heart is beating.
So get out there!
A lonely someone is waiting on your friendship.

Reaching Out For Compassion

Rabindranath Tagore embarrassment of compassion fills your eyes rain on we lucky spaces between potential and the real take my hand and walk togetherAt a weekend workshop I led, one of the participants, Marian, shared her story about the shame and guilt that had tortured her. Marian’s daughter Christy, in recovery for alcoholism, had asked her mother to join her in therapy. As their sessions unfolded, Christy revealed that she’d been sexually abused throughout her teen years by her stepfather, Marian’s second husband.

The words and revelations Marian heard that day pierced her heart. “You just slept through my whole adolescence!” her daughter had shouted. “I was being violated and had nowhere to turn! No one was there to take care of me!” Christy’s face was red; her hands clenched tight. “I was afraid to tell you then, and now I know why. You can’t handle the truth. You can’t handle me. You never could. I hate you!”

As she watched her daughter dissolve into heaving sobs, Marian knew that what she’d heard was true. She hadn’t been able to handle her daughter’s involvement with drugs, her clashes with teachers, or her truancy and suspensions from school, because she couldn’t handle anything about her own life.

At this point, compassion for herself was not only impossible, Marian was convinced it would have been wrong: the horror that Christy endured was her fault; she deserved to suffer.

We’ve all harmed others and felt as if we were bad because of our actions. When we, like Marian, face the truth that we’ve hurt others, sometimes severely, the feelings of guilt and shame can tear us apart. Even when the damage isn’t so great, some of us still feel undeserving of compassion or redemption.

At times like these, the only way to find compassion for ourselves is by reaching out to something larger than the self that feels so small and miserable. We might for instance take refuge by calling on the Buddha, Divine Mother, God, Jesus, Great Spirit, Shiva, or Allah – reaching towards a loving awareness that is great enough to offer comfort and safety to our broken being.

As a Catholic, Marian had found moments of deep peace and communion with a loving God. But, in her despair, she now felt alone in the universe. Sure, God existed, but she felt too sinful and wretched to reach out to him.

Fearing she might harm herself, Marian sought counsel from an elderly Jesuit priest she had known in college. After she’d wept and told him her story, he gently took one of her hands and began drawing a circle in the center of her palm. “This,” he said, “is where you are living. It’s painful—a place of kicking and screaming and deep, deep hurt. This place cannot be avoided, let it be.”

Then he covered her whole hand with his. “But, if you can, try also to remember this: there is a greatness, a wholeness that is the kingdom of God, and in this merciful space, your immediate life can unfold. This pain is held always in God’s love. As you know both the pain and the love, your wounds will heal.

Marian felt as if a great wave of compassion was pouring through the hands of the priest and gently bathing her, inviting her to surrender into its caring embrace. As she gave her desperation to it, she knew she was giving herself to the mercy of God. The more she let go, the more she felt held. Yes, she’d been blind and ignorant; she’d caused irreparable damage, but she wasn’t worthless, she wasn’t evil. Being held in the infinite compassion of God, she could find her way to her own heart.

Feeling compassion for ourselves in no way releases us from responsibility for our actions. Rather, it releases us from the self-hatred that prevents us from responding to our life with clarity and balance. The priest wasn’t advising Marian to ignore the pain or to deny that she’d failed her daughter, but to open her heart to the love that could begin the healing.

Now, rather than being locked inside her tormenting thoughts, Marian could remember the possibility of compassion. When remorse or self-hatred would arise, she would mentally say, “Please hold this pain.” When she felt her anguish as being held by God, she could face it without being ripped apart or wanting to destroy herself.

Two weeks later, when she and her daughter met again in therapy, Marian admitted to Christy – still acting cold – that she knew she’d failed her terribly. Then, gently and carefully taking her daughter’s hand, Marian drew a soft circle in the center of her palm, and whispered the same words the priest had whispered to her.

Upon hearing these words, Christy allowed herself be held, wept, and surrendered into the unexpected strength and sureness of her mother’s love. There was no way either of them could bypass the raw pain of yet unhealed wounds, but now they could heal together. By reaching out and feeling held in God’s mercy, Marian had discovered the compassion that could hold them both.

Whenever we feel held by a caring presence, by something larger than our small frightened self, we too can begin to find room in our own heart for the fragments of our life, and for the lives of others. The suffering that might have seemed “too much” can now awaken us to the sweetness of compassion.

© Tara Brach

Enjoy this talk on Cultivating Compassion 

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photo by: Wonderlane

Better Than Before: The Highs and Lows of Cholesterol

cholesterol“I’ll have the steak,” my husband with the three coronary artery stents announced to the waiter. “A fillet mignon, medium rare,” he added, with a look of self-satisfaction on his face. He was obviously proud of himself because he didn’t order what he really wanted—the marbled prime rib.

“While you’re at it, dear, why don’t you have cheesecake for dessert,” I suggested, “just in case you have any arteries left unclogged.”

I should say, however, that The Lawyer — dietary deviations aside – is in very good shape for a man his age and is extremely aware of what constitutes a healthy lifestyle. But that doesn’t always mean he makes the wisest menu choices when it comes to his heart. Indeed, out of my sight and left to his own devices he may just grab a hamburger — or horrors! — that deadly croissant-doughnut hybrid known as “cronut!”

He, of course, swears that a genetic predisposition—and my constant nagging—are the primary culprits for his coronary clogs. Therefore, I must remind him (always, of course, in calm, constructive tones), that while genetics may load the gun, lifestyle still pulls the trigger.

The reason I worry about what he eats, is cholesterol, a big component of all those unhealthy foods he likes to eat, and a known factor in heart disease. And while my husband’s cholesterol isn’t particularly high, every journal article I read seems to say that it should be lower!  It seems, too, as if practically everyone I know, the Lawyer included, is on a statin of some sort or another – 25% of all Americans over age 45, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. But do statins lower all cholesterol? How do you keep the HDL (high density lipoproteins — think “happy” ones) level high while lowering the LDL (low density, think “lousy”).  So my intent for this column is to help readers have a cholesterol ratio that is Better Than Before.

To advise, I turn to an expert, Ed Dannemiller, a specialist pharmacist, in the Cardiovascular Therapeutic Resource Center at Express Scripts and a recent guest on my new show for Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio Talk.  I started by asking just how bad is bad cholesterol.

Turns out it is very bad. “High cholesterol levels are the major controllable risk factors that contribute to hardening and narrowing of the arteries,” he says. “This is known as Atherosclerosis and it is the most common cause of cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and strokes. And as blood cholesterol levels rise, so does the risk of coronary heart disease, which is the Number one killer in America. “

But not all cholesterol is bad, and Dannemiller adds, it is important to understand the differences between the two types. High levels of HDL’s actually protect against heart attack and stroke, while low levels increase their risk. Too much of the “lousy” one circulating in the blood form thick hard deposits called plaque that narrows the arteries and makes them less flexible. Plaque that suddenly ruptures forms clots can result in and heart attacks and strokes because of the arterial blockage.

I have always been a firm believer in lifestyle modifications and Dannemiller agrees that for most people, those can help attain a healthy cholesterol balance.“LDL cholesterol is especially affected by diet,” he stresses. “Eat a heart healthy diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, and low in salt, fat, and cholesterol.”

He points to a Florida State University research study that found that eating an apple a day can reduce LDL cholesterol an average of 23%. “Apples are rich in pectin, a soluble fiber that blocks cholesterol absorption and prevents the body from storing it. Other LDL-lowering foods include oats, barley, beans, unsalted nuts and seeds, eggplant, okra, and fatty fish such as wild salmon.”

The main culprits for high cholesterol, he says, are fat. Hmm. What do you suppose they fry Cronuts in to  make them so tasty?  The Lawyer would obviously like to think it’s first-press, extra virgin olive oil! “Avoid saturated fat,” Danemiller cautions. “This includes fats from red, processed and organ meats, dairy products, and some plant products like coconut and palm oils.”

Processing liquid vegetable oil to make a solid fat creates the dreaded trans fats found in stick margarine, vegetable shortening, and some cookies, crackers, cakes, fried foods, breads and snack foods like chips, candy, and microwave popcorn, he explains. “Read your labels closely: Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated are the ‘good ones!”

Danemiller has a few other tips:

• Trim all visible fat from meat before cooking

• Broil rather than pan fry meats

• Prepare stews and soups a day ahead of time and refrigerate. Skim off the hardened fat from the top.

• Choose white meat chicken, lower cholesterol organic eggs and low-fat cheeses, milk, and yogurts.

• Lose some weight. As little as 5 to 10% of body weight can significantly reduce LDL levels.

And here’s the one The Lawyer particularly dreads — exercise. “Exercising is essential,” Dannemiller insists. “Just thirty minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity, like brisk walking, five days a week, or 25 minutes of the more vigorous jogging or running three times a week, can help your body to produce more HDL’s.”

Sometimes, though, lifestyle modifications just aren’t enough, and genetics may have a lot to do with it. “Cholesterol comes from two sources,” Damemiller continues. “The body itself makes about 75% of blood cholesterol, and the rest comes from food ingested. That means that some people are more prone to high cholesterol levels based on genetics. For them, medication treatment can be essential. Drugs like niacin are effective in raising HDL levels, but the workhorses in the medication class are the statin drugs which can decrease cholesterol by 30% to 40% or more, decreasing heart attack and stroke risk by 45% to 60%.”

Statins have some side-effects, including muscle pain. But Danemiller contends that statin drugs are so effective that it is worth working through these issues. “A lower dose of the same medication, a switch to another drug in the class, or changing the frequency of administration can help. If the statin drug is stopped, the muscle pains should subside within two weeks. If it persists after that, it may be caused by unrelated activities like other medical conditions such as arthritis, or possibly even low vitamin D levels or too much exercise.”

But didn’t I read somewhere that statins have been linked to memory loss?

“Studies found no evidence of this. In fact, long-term statin use can have a protective effect on memory and cognition.” Dannemiller says.

Also in the news last year, were reports that statin drugs increased the chance of developing type 2 diabetes, I challenged.

“While data suggests some statins may increase the risk of diabetes this risk is outweighed by the cardiovascular benefits for most patients.”

Lifestyle modifications and statin medication, if needed, are important elements to achieve optimal cholesterol levels. Just watch out for those Prime Rib and Cheesecake combos.

 

10 Quotes For the Food Loving Soul in All of Us

Ahh, food. How do we love thee, let us count the ways. Food is the fuel of our existence, the centerpiece of our social behavior and can even be our best friend in times of trouble or need. We have a complicated relationship. Some of us are wary of you and some of us over indulge in the delight. We definitely have our hills and valleys, but at the end of the day food is a vital part of the human experience. Actually, it’s a vital part of the living experience in general. So we’re toasting to the good eats in this week’s quote post. We rounded up a few of our favorites – some of them inspiring, some of them make us laugh, all of them are the truth. So grab a fork, dig in, and share if you too are a foodie.

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Let Your Actions Say ‘I Love You!’

i love youWho doesn’t want to be loved? It doesn’t matter if you’re educated, uneducated, young, old, rich or poor, every being on this planet loves to be loved. Although it’s great to say ‘I love you’ often to your loved ones, how many of us really mean it? How often does it come from your soul? The most precious things in life are said in silence. I am going to mention some of those below and let you say ‘I love you’ without uttering a word. Some of these suggestions may apply to your romantic loved ones while some for even the stranger on road. Apply these suggestions wisely and you may just fill your (and others’) heart chakra with a lot of inspiring energy!
Compliments: Genuine compliments are hard to come by. We don’t hear or see them very much! What if you start a practice of complimenting someone everyday? Keep in mind that some people may block your compliments and give you a cold shoulder. This has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with them. Don’t take it personally. Try with them again after a few days. Most people love receiving a genuine compliment and the ones who don’t are the ones who need it most.  So let your intention be to compliment those who seem to reject it. You may end up creating more trust and love in their lives and, ultimately, in our planet.
Hugs: Hugs come with therapeutic power. A hug with right intention allows a sacred exchange of healing. I just saw a post on my Facebook newsfeed that said a longer hug brings about feelings of joy and bliss. The post further mentioned that a sincere hug produces a hormone called “oxytocin” which makes us feel safe, relaxed and calm. It is recommended to hug for a duration of 20 seconds. Start with those who already feel safe with you or who need and  expect love from you. Once you are comfortable enough to spread this 20 second love, you are free to spread it all over.
Kiss: A small peck on cheek or a long, passionate kiss in the rain, both can speak volumes. A kiss says that you are loved, admired and cherished. Let kissing and being kissed become a new addition to your love menu. I am not asking you to jump on anyone that you feel like kissing (I know there may be a few or many!). But at least let your loved ones feel that you said ‘I love you’ with such a gentle gesture.
No tweets: Actions speak louder than your tweets. Instead of writing fancy love posts on your Twitter or Facebook, try to just give your undivided attention to your loved ones when you are around them. This means no Facebook or Twitter or Instagram use while they are with you. If they see you doing it, they may also follow your example, which leads to comfortable distance between people. Be need more genuine connection, more heart-felt interaction, more intense presence with our loved ones.  Don’t Instagram the special dinner before acknowledging the actual presence of everyone sitting at the table. Give social media a rest and arrive in the now, with love.
Gratitude: Express gratitude as often as possible. Your ‘Thank you’ is more touching than ‘I love you,’ at times. Pick small moments in the day that you can use to express gratitude. Don’t limit your gratitude either.  Acknowledge each and every person who helps you in some way.  The cleaning lady in your office, or the building security manager, or the stranger in supermarket who helped you. There are so many people who are deserving of your gratitude. Open your awareness to all the souls around you!
Since I don’t have any way of showing my love to you right now, I will use my words to express love to all who took time to read this post. My intention is to help you spread the silent love all over the globe!
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Committing to Presence for the Sake of Love

 Romantic Heart from Love SeedsJeff was convinced he’d fallen out of love with his wife, Arlene, and that nothing could salvage their twenty-six-year marriage. He wanted relief from the oppressiveness of feeling continually judged and found wanting. Arlene, for her part, was hurt and angry because she felt Jeff avoided any real communication or emotional intimacy. As a last-ditch effort, she convinced him to attend a weekend workshop for couples sponsored by their church. Much to their surprise, they both left with a glimmer of hope for their future together. The message they took away was “Love is a decision.” Their guides at the workshop had insisted that while we don’t always feel loving, love is here should we choose to awaken it.

Yet, back at home, when their old styles of attacking and defending were triggered, deciding on love seemed like an ineffectual mental maneuver. Discouraged, Jeff sought me out for a counseling session. “I don’t know how to get from point A to point B,” he declared. “Like when we were together yesterday . . . my mind told me to decide on love, but that didn’t make a difference . . . my heart was in lockdown. Arlene was blaming me for something, and all I wanted to do was get away from her!”

“Let’s take another look at what happened yesterday,” I suggested, then invited him to close his eyes, put himself back into the situation, and let go of his notions of who was right or wrong. “Just let yourself experience what it’s like in your body to feel blamed and want to get away.” Jeff sat still, his face tightening into a grimace. “Keep allowing the feelings to be there,” I said, “and find out what unfolds.”

Gradually, his face softened. “Now I’m feeling stuck and sad,” he said. “We spend so much time caught in this. I withdraw, often without knowing it . . . that hurts her . . . she gets upset . . . then I very consciously want to get away. It’s sad to be so trapped.”

He looked up at me. I nodded with understanding. “What would it be like, Jeff, if instead of pulling away during this kind of encounter, you were able to let her know exactly what you were experiencing?” Then I added, “And if she, too, without accusing you of anything, were able to report on her feelings?”

“We’d have to know what we were feeling!” he said with a small laugh. “We’re usually too busy reacting.”

“Exactly!” I said. “You’d both have to be paying attention to what’s going on inside you. And that runs counter to our conditioning. When we’re emotionally stirred up, we’re lost in our stories about what’s happening, and caught in reflexive behaviors—like blaming the other person or finding a way to leave. That’s why we need to train ourselves to pay attention, so that we’re not at the mercy of our conditioning.”

I went on to explain how the practice of meditation cultivates our capacity for presence, for directly contacting our real, moment-to-moment experience. This gives us more inner space and creativity in responding—rather than reacting—to our circumstances. When I suggested that he and Arlene might consider coming to my weekly meditation class, he readily agreed. They were both there the following Wednesday night, and a month later, they attended a weekend meditation retreat I was leading.

Some weeks after the retreat, the three of us spoke briefly after class. Arlene said that thanks to their meditation practice, they were learning how to decide on love: “We have to choose presence with each other, over and over and over,” she told me. “We have to choose presence when we’re angry, presence when we aren’t in the mood to listen, presence when we’re alone and running the same old stories about how the other is wrong. Choosing presence is our way of opening our hearts.”

Jeff nodded his agreement. “I realized that it’s not about getting from point A to point B,” he said with a smile. “It’s about bringing a full presence to point A, to the life of this moment, no matter what’s going on. The rest unfolds from there.”

Taking refuge in presence—choosing presence—requires training. When “point A” is unpleasant, the last thing we want to do is to stay and feel our experience. Rather than entrusting ourselves to the waves of experience, we want to get away, lash out, numb ourselves, do anything but touch what’s real. Yet, as Jeff and Arlene were realizing, these types of false refuges keep us feeling small and defended.

As I explore in my upcoming course on cultivating more conscious, vibrant relationships, only by deepening our attention and letting life be just as it is can we find real intimacy with ourselves and others. In more than thirty-five years of teaching meditation, I’ve seen it help countless people to deepen their capacity for loving, because if we are able to stay present, we can decide on love, and give it the space and attention it needs to ignite fully. When you are next in a conflict with a dear one, your might inquire, “What would it mean to decide on love? Can I commit to deepening presence for the sake of love?” Just the inquiry will draw you closer to your heart.

© Tara Brach

Note: Coming soon  – an online course on cultivating more conscious, vibrant relationships.

Enjoy this talk on: The Dance of Relational Trance 

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Submit Your Questions for a Chance to be on Help Desk with Rob Bell in LA!

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PARTICIPATE IN AN “OWN” TELEVISION SERIES

IN LOS ANGELES WITH ROB BELL!

READ APPLICATION PROCESS BELOW AND APPLY ASAP TO: robbellhelpdesk@gmail.com

WHAT:            The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), is seeking participants for the “Help Desk” series featuring Rob Bell!

WHEN:             April 8, 2014

WHERE:           Los Angeles (specific location TBA)

WHO:   Named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2011, Rob Bell is the author of a number of books including Velvet Elvis, Drops Like Stars, and the New York Times Bestsellers Love Wins and What We Talk About When We Talk About God. The founding pastor of Mars Hill, an innovative church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, his Nooma short film series has been viewed by over thirty million people. Rob’s speaking tours have taken him around the world and in 2013 he launched CraftLab, a leadership event helping executives, writers, artists and activists develop and create compelling new content. He and his wife Kristen live with their three children in Southern California.

Description: Help Desk is a television show on OWN that features renowned teachers, authors, and experts making themselves available in public spaces to provide advice to anyone who needs it. Help Desk is a deeply substantive series that grounds some of the great wisdom provided by today’s top experts and helps people live better and more fulfilling lives. Although the event is public, we are looking to secure a select group of participants who will be given priority to sit down with Rob.

What we are looking for:

We need people who are seeking advice to help them with a specific life issue or circumstance. Below are a few examples but we are open to hearing about any particular issues you would like to discuss:

-Dissatisfaction with career/feeling trapped

-Questioning faith or belief in higher power

-Overcoming addiction

-Difficulties with weight loss

-Overcoming specific anxieties or fears

-Divorce or breakup

-Coping with job-loss

-Issues revolving around sexual identity

-Financial hardship

-Sex and relationship issues

-Loss of a family member or friend

Requirements:

1. We need applicants to be available during the day on April 8th in the Los Angeles area.  Specific time and location TBA.

2. Provide a simple description of yourself (age, profession, relationships status)

and contact information (email and phone number).

3.  Photo of yourself.

4.  Specific question(s) you would like to ask Rob.

5.  Single paragraph description of the specific life circumstance that led to your question(s).

6. Please tell us how you heard about this opportunity (specific website, social media, word of mouth, etc.).

7. If selected, applicants will need to sign an Appearance Release.

Send email with answers to the above questions to: robbellhelpdesk@gmail.com

From Intent.com: Permission

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
-Eleanor Roosevelt, This is My Story

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You have to sign a waiver if you are going to have surgery.
You have to sign a waiver if you want to bungee jump or sky dive or get a tattoo.
You have to consent (in this country) to be married.
There are all sorts of potentially life-threatening/changing decisions we enter into that require our signature should we die/be permanently maimed/change our mind later and are mad. We sign off and say we understand the risks associated with our choice.

What if we went into emotional situations and relationships with the same mindset.
“Am I okay with the risks of this?”

I read a LOT of intents. Many of them are about reclaiming oneself from fear or doubt, blame or anger. The thing I want to drive home is that you can give or take permission from the things that drive you to those places as well.

Maybe it’s a friendship.
Or a work setting.
Maybe it’s a choice you keep making.
Don’t give permission for yourself to be torn down.
Don’t give permission to keep yourself in a negative space where you can’t trust your own decisions or worthiness.

Maybe that’s real dramatic or would require a lot of change. But what is more worth it? Is tearing down more okay than building up?

My hope is that somewhere, somehow you give yourself the permission to be amazing, to stop making excuses or to stop living under the cloud you’ve fought so long against. My hope is that you don’t waste another second feeling like you’ve handed over power to people and things that aren’t making you a better human.

Let me encourage you that you’re not alone in this.
Everyday people on Intent.com are sharing intentions of reclaiming their lives, in big and small ways. Don’t feel like you have to wait for permission to do the same.

“Dream and give yourself permission to envision a You that you choose to be.”
-Joy Page

Don’t Date Anyone Right Now.

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I’m in a generation of people who are getting married later and later.
We have careers to think about.
We have money to amass.
We have ourselves to find.
I am not arguing those are legitimate reasons.

I say there are bigger reasons not to date anyone for a season and they aren’t always the things you read about in Cosmo.

Don’t date anyone if…

-you don’t know what you love. I dated a guy for 2.5 years and the thing that ended up being the clincher was he had no idea what he loved. Sometimes you think that if you really love things, it’ll be enough when you’re linked to a person who doesn’t know what they love. But that’s not how it works. Finding out what you love requires time, space and freedom. It means allowing yourself the opportunity to be messy and try things and have them fail. Don’t expect a relationship to be what solves that for you. While a friend or love might inspire something in you, don’t doubt that there is a genuine experience to be had in you really getting in there and figuring it out for yourself.

-you’re aware of gaping wounds in your spirit. We’ve watched a lot of movies where people who are broken and down on their luck find the person of their dreams then they fall in love and live happy lives. I totally get that. I even know people who have that story as their own. What I am suggesting is that if you are aware of those wounds, don’t try and make a person a bandaid. Don’t avoid doing the hard work in your life by just finding someone to pour all your love and attention on. This other person is going to fail you. At least once. They’re going to have things you can’t fix because you aren’t a superhuman. What you do want to do is push them to be a better version of themselves. You want to put a high price on creating a healthy, safe space for relationship. So show that it is a priority by putting in the work now to address the wounds and speed bumps in your life. Don’t make a person a bandaid.

-you aren’t willing to manage your own life. You are looking for a partner- not a personal assistant, not a maid, not a foreman or your parent. So if you are looking for someone to come in and clean up your mess, then you would be better served to go on yelp and find a professional housekeeper.

So are you ready for a relationship?
Or is there good work for you to be doing in your own life?

The Improv Rules For Better Relationships & a Better You

Screen shot 2014-02-18 at 9.33.42 PMI’ve had trouble with social anxiety since I was a kid. For holidays I would hide in the bathroom or some hidden corner of my room just to avoid having to talk to family members we didn’t see on a regular basis. Today I am the most grateful person for Dominoes online ordering service so I don’t have to actually call the store and converse with whoever answers the phone. Initiating conversations in general sounds pretty horrifying as far as I’m concerned (note my job as an internet blog editor).  So it is with a great flare of irony that I didn’t find my footing in Los Angeles until I started taking improv classes at Upright Citizens Brigade.

For those not familiar, Upright Citizens Brigade specializes in long-form improv. So you and your scene partner start having a conversation and build a comedic scene around a “game” or a repeatable funny idea. And it’s all made up on the spot. So basically, you spend 3 hours a week for 8 weeks starting random conversations with people you just met. At the end of the course you then try to have one of those conversations (praying it’s funny) in front of every friend and family member you could convince to pay $5 to see it. It’s insanity – the definition of my worst social nightmare – and it’s the best thing I’ve ever gotten myself to do.

Don’t get me wrong, I have to pry myself off the back wall for every initiation I make. I want to throw up before 90% of shows I do and when I see the pros do it I am astounded at their ability to make it look so easy. What I’ve learned through my two years of classes and indie shows though has not only helped me develop as a performer (When I moved here I would rather be hit in the face with a shovel than be accused of being an actor, but now I have head shots. It’s definitely part of the dream) – but the rules of improv have helped me become a better person in life. Don’t believe me? Try a few of these basic principles and see the good it does for your own relationships.

1. Listen – This is the first and most important rule of creating any scene – but it should be the first rule of any interaction you have. Get out of your head and stop thinking of what you’re going to say next and actually take a second to hear the words someone else is saying. Watch their body language. Take notice of the intonation of their voice and make sure you understand what it is they are trying to tell you. For better or worse, everything said at the top of your scene if your foundation but it is only through listening that you can lay down bricks next to each other in a coherent fashion. Listen first, and you’ll be shocked how much easier it is to talk second.

2. “Yes and…” – Tina Fey has a similar list to this in her book Bossypants (which everyone should read) and she talks a lot about the “Yes and..” rule. This is actually the first thing you learn in improv. Your job as a performer is to agree. What does this mean? Don’t deny anything your scene partner says. You do not have to agree with it, but you’re not allowed to negate it or say that it isn’t true. It’s disrespectful and ruins the progress their contribution made. In real life terms, saying yes being means staying open to someone else’s ideas. It goes hand-in-hand with listening, really. The truth of the matter is that we’re all on this planet together and no one gets anything done alone. Honestly, it’s a lot more fun when you’re contributing together and a lot less stressful than trying to build an empire by yourself.

That brings us to “and..” This is the hardest part. You have to agree, and then add to the conversation. You have to participate. Otherwise you leave your scene partner doing all the heavy lifting and often times a scene will stall. It’s the same in life when you just plod through saying yes without actually getting involved. You become an inactive observer and before you know it you’ve watched so much go by without ever being part of it. So be open and jump in.

3. Be honest – When you’re building a scene it only works when everyone agrees that what you’ve built is real. If halfway through someone says “Ha, but I lied!” then it negates all the work up until that point. If you tell one lie then it’s impossible to be sure if anything that you’ve said has been the truth – on stage or off. An extension of this is don’t be coy. A lot of beginner improvisers will pretend to have a secret or delay saying their full idea because they think it will prolong the scene but really all it does is prolong the frustration. When you’re direct with what you’re thinking then it can be dealt with and built into the universe. When you’re dealing with real life relationships being direct may cause more confrontation initially, but the problems can be dealt with immediately and you learn only to make issues out of things that you really care about. When you purposefully try to be sneaky you waste scene time on stage, and you waste time in your relationships, for what? Something you’re going to have to deal with eventually, so just do it now so you can move on to better things.

4. Be a human – My favorite improv coach started our first class by saying the most popular critique he would give us would be “Be humans to each other.”  It sounds like common sense, right? I mean, how would we not be human to each other? What he meant was to combine all of the aforementioned rules and react to our partners like real people. We may be making things up but comedy comes from truth and you create a richer scene when you play it real. Being a human means you have to listen to what your scene partner says and be affected. If they insult you then you need to be honest and show that you’re insulted. If you’re not insulted then you better “yes and…” with the reason why. Sometimes in the real world we don’t take the time to be affected by the things around us. We’re moving too quickly in our own bubbles to absorb the events in our lives. When you take a second and process how something makes you feel and you react honestly to it you make progress. You learn. You grow. You’re more empathetic to others and you’ll find that it’s much less stress for you.

Improv hasn’t changed who I am, but it has given me several tools to be a better version of it. I will probably always choose the online option over calling it in, but at least I know I can get off the wall if I want to. I know that not all the pressure is on me, and if I can listen and react honestly then there’s the potential to create something out of nothing. Isn’t that the magic we’re all looking for?

How do you try to be a better human? Share in the comments below! 

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