Tag Archives: romantic love

Thich Nhat Hanh’s Greatest Teaching on Love and Mindfulness


The first time I was exposed to well-known Buddhist monk, peace activist, and author Thich Nhat Hanh, who visited Boston over the weekend, was when I read his book, Miracle of Mindfulness in a college course on Buddhism. I still recall one of our homework assignments for the class. We had to wash the dishes…which was awesome for my roommates. I’d pulled dish duty. A monk said so.

But, the assignment wasn’t to wash the dishes the way any of us typically wash the dishes, dashing off a chore so that we can move on to something better. Instead, the assignment required us to wash the dishes while being fully present and mindful. Never mind what happens next. We were learning through real-life practice that the powerful moment–the only one over which we have any guarantee or influence–is the one happening now. Don’t wait until later to be compassionate or kind, attentive and aware. A mind does not get stronger that way. It stays distracted and anxious about what comes next… And after that?… And then what?

On Sunday, in Copley Square, I was again reminded how miraculous mindfulness can be. I went with the expectation that I’d sit quietly, among hundreds of other people, in the presence of a revered Zen master, but didn’t anticipate much more. I knew it would feel meaningful and maybe solemn. I imagined we’d hear car horns or passing Duck Tours as we meditated. Quack, quack! I hoped he’d speak a little bit. Hopefully, we could hear and understand him. I momentarily wondered if it was unsafe to congregate in an open and vulnerable public space doing something spiritual, possibly viewed as religious. After all, we were in front of a church, among hundreds of Buddhists, yards from the Boston Marathon finish line, where two bombs went off five months ago to the date.

Trinity Church’s Reverend Dr. William Rich acknowledged this fact as he introduced Thich Nhat Hanh, who was now sitting under the hot sun clad in a knit hat and multiple layers of robes and meditations shawls. Wasn’t he melting? It struck me that it couldn’t be a coincidence, this event to sit in peace and healing near an area subjected to so much suffering a short time ago. The week before had also marked the anniversary of 9/11, the reverend noted. We were still at war and now considering military action in Syria. The day before marked the Jewish holiday of atoning for sins, Yom Kippur. In any number of ways, no matter who you were, the message of the day was clear. We are here to be together in peace. We’re here to practice greater awareness and compassion because the world needs both right now.

Small and centered, the 85-year-old Vietnamese monk in a knitted hat.

Following his introduction, Thich Nhat Hanh did something surprising to some. He said nothing. He didn’t even open his eyes. Instead, he sat silently and meditated, signaling for a typically pulsing cross-section of the city to join him. I don’t recall car horns. Definitely no quacking. A few small children giggled or cried briefly in the crowd, but mostly, it was very quiet.

When he eventually spoke, about 25-minutes later, the famous monk said only this: Breathing in, I am aware of my breath. Breathing out, I am aware of my breath, a simple mantra to set the stage for a talk that would succinctly and poetically teach a diverse group what it means to be mindful and how it creates peace. Next, he said: Breathing in, I enjoy breathing in. Breathing out, I enjoy breathing out.

The mantras and teachings gained momentum from there. We breathed in and out qualities of a mountain’s solidity and stability, water’s stillness and reflection, a flower’s freshness and beauty, and space. Breathing in, I have the element of space within me. Breathing out, I feel free… Space: free. Nothing was too heady. No one was left out. It was the most simple yet moving talk I’ve ever witnessed on meditation or Buddhism. If I was exposed to this teacher first in college, I was now getting schooled in a whole new way.

Then, the talk dovetailed into territory I would not have predicted for an 85-year-old celibate monk: love. It could have easily represented love for a family member or friend, but to hear a monk use the word darling in three different types of mantras suggested romantic love, and it made everyone smile. Darling, I am here. Darling, I know you are here. Darling, I know that you suffer, and I am here for you.  

“The most precious thing you can offer your loved one is your presence,” he said. “To be present means to be there. How can you love, if you are not there?” His voice was gentle, but the message reverberated. Love (romantic or otherwise) doesn’t work if we’re distracted or hiding– behind suffering, the TV, iPhone, alcohol, who knows. We all have our means of avoiding reality, some healthier than others. To love means to understand suffering, our own and our darling’s.

He linked the two segments of the talk seamlessly– the meditation, breathing, and mantras– with his thoughts on love. We practice meditation so that we can restore our presence and feel more stable, free, fresh, and beautiful. “You cannot buy it in a market,” the adorable monk cautioned in his sing-song accent, of the level of presence needed for true love. “You have to produce it yourself.”

Somewhere along the way, my tear ducts started producing an abundance of water. I was overwhelmed. It was too beautiful maybe, the day, his words, the fact that my present moment looked, felt, and sounded the way it did, and I was sharing it with hundreds of other people, some of whom must have been having a similar experience. Their suffering was all around, their love, too. I felt a hand on my arm, which startled me. It was a kind woman offering a tissue. I could hear others nearby also weeping. Monks and nuns were chanting now, singing the name of Avalokiteshvara, the saint of compassion, and a cello played. Damn cello, gets me every time. Vast blue sky space stretched overhead, and the ground on which we sat felt solid and stable. We were being restored.

The Buddhist monks and nuns chanting… also the cello. Sniff.

Life will always contain suffering, and it will offer opportunities to cultivate compassion, grow love, and strengthen our minds through presence and practice. Copley Square will always be the place where we went after the marathon to leave flowers, candles, sneakers, and letters. It’s where people cried and prayed  Often, they felt hopeless. Today, a proper memorial resides in the same spot, on the periphery of where Thich Nhat Hanh’s meditation event occurred. The earth, there, hugging the edge of the space where so many people sat in peace and thought about love.

I still hurry through the dishes most of the time, and while writing this post, I wolfed down an apple and peanut butter so fast, I barely tasted either of them. My spoon scrapped the bottom of the bowl, and I thought, heyyy, who ate my snack? But, then, a teacher or moment reminds me of the miracle of mindfulness and skill of being present. How I can always practice, beginning simply with breathing in and breathing out. And, sometimes, the expectations in my mind are blown away by the real-life experience.


Originally published on my website, Om Gal.

Coloring Your Fifty Shades of Love

As Valentine’s Day approaches hearts turn to notions of romantic love. But, as shown in Fifty Shades of Gray, love doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone, and there are at least as many shades of love as there are people in the world. In the Middle Ages the art of courtly love became popular. Knights became infatuated with maidens and went off to battle with their beloved in mind. That love often remained Platonic and never breached the doors of any bedroom. Today, as society seems obsessed with relationships and falling in love, it seems our identity is defined by whether we’re in love or not, with whom, for how long and if we plan to marry, separate, divorce or have an affair.  But more and more people who are on a spiritual path are seeking also that their relationships hold a spiritual essence. Relationships can become a way of consciously growing and expanding. Hearts for Valentines

In partnership we often find that the person in front of us mirrors some aspect of ourselves back to us. If it’s an aspect we love then we’re happy. On the other hand if it’s an aspect that we dislike, we turn on our partner and berate him or her, grow angry, frustrated and try to kill the demon by attaching our loved one. If we’re lucky our partner works with us to help us face our weaknesses and gently support us to grow into a better person.

In relationships, more than most any other realm, we are tested to discover who we really our. The ways we choose to love and accept others tells a lot about how we love and accept ourselves. Love, at its best, encompasses many more tones and hues beyond the romantic shade that’s so touted at the beginning of a relationship. It extends to include compassion, acceptance, tolerance. If we’re lucky and very conscious it can even grow into unconditional love. The many shades of love we discover are as vast and as varied as the human race. By waking up and relating with awareness our love can become like a rainbow and include a broad palette of tones to enrich our lives. As you go through the days consider the kinds of love you experience. There’s love for things like chocolate (one of my favs). There are many kinds of love for people — friends, family, colleagues, children. There’s love for pets and nature. Pay attention to how you love and if you feel inspired to play, create a drawing or painting to express your love through colors.

Debra Moffitt is the award winning author of Awake in the World: 108 Practices to Live a Divinely Inspired Life and “Garden of Bliss: Cultivating the Inner Landscape for Self-Discovery” (Llewellyn Worldwide, May 2013). A visionary, dreamer and teacher, she’s devoted to nurturing the spiritual in everyday life. She leads workshops on spiritual practices, writing and creativity in the U.S. and Europe. More at Awakeintheworld.com and on Facebook

Do You Have the Courage to Love?

The latest episode of SUPER BRAIN on The Chopra Well YouTube channel features a conversation between Deepak Chopra and neuroscientist Rudy Tanzi on love and the brain. If you’re alive and breathing, chances are you have experienced love in your life. Maybe you are in love as we speak. One of the most prevalent and least understood of human emotions, love has intrigued poets, philosophers, scientists, artists, and historians alike for centuries. At this point in our development we know more than ever about the chemistry of attachment and the psychology of affection. But are we any closer to understanding why we love certain people over others, how this experience affects us, and what it all means in the grand scheme? Let’s take a look. (Note: We’ll be limiting this article to an exploration of romantic love.)

There is something perversely unpredictable about love. If you have ever experienced love at first sight, unrequited love, heartbreak, rejection, or passion then you’ll know what we’re talking about. (And we suspect that will include almost everyone.) When a person walks into the room and stops you dead in your tracks, or looks in your eyes and shakes something up in the depths of your soul, the feeling may be intensely and inexplicably “right.” But what is “right” or “true” or “honest” about your love? Why this person over anyone else equally smart, beautiful, kind, or fill-in-the-blank? From an evolutionary perspective, romantic love stems from a mating impulse. We identify the most viable mates who will ensure our successful procreation.  But honestly, would anyone in love give you that answer?

As we learn more about the brain and its plasticity, it becomes clear that love cannot solely be a means to an evolutionary end. It changes us too much to be a one lane highway to a single destination. A healthy relationship can promote longevity, overall physical and mental health, and faster recovery from injury and illness. But experiences of heartbreak and rejection can trigger actual physical pain responses in the body, as well. Non-human animals identify mates and, according to the latest research, experience love and its associated emotions (empathy, possessiveness, grief of loss, etc). So as an evolutionary development, love is inefficient and even dangerous. Why would something so critical to our survival make us vulnerable to such crippling pain?

Anthropologist Helen Fisher says love is an addiction. We crave love; we go through withdrawal from love; we relapse into love; we pursue love at all costs. We may be predisposed to develop this addiction, like our pleasure hormones so readily available at the slightest touch and our ability to smell subtle pheromones. But as Deepak and Rudy point out, the brain doesn’t fall in love; we do. Something in us decides to make that first contact, to open our hearts to vulnerability and see our beloved as more than an object of evolutionary necessity. We commit the same follies time and again, but also learn and adjust constantly as we go. No two loves are alike. You might feel as though love just happens to you, mysteriously. But you are the conscious agent that activates what would otherwise only be a seed of possibility. And we choose love, despite its risks, because…well, consider the alternative.

So, those earlier queries aside, it seems the real question is: What will you do with your incredible and innate capacity to love? It’s nothing short of heroic to allow yourself to love. But then again, no one said this life would be easy.

Let us know your thoughts on love in the comments section below!

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Is It Ever Too Late To Find Fulfilling True Love?

Dear Arielle and Brian,

Nearly 35 years ago my husband walked out on me, and our two small children. I was devastated as I believed he was my soulmate, my one and only. I never remarried because I could never stop loving him and hoping that we would someday reunite (even though he remarried and currently is with wife #3). 

Now, as I near my retirement, I am suddenly aware of how little time I have left on the planet and I want to finally let go of the past and find new love.  Is it too late for me?




Dear Paula,

We have great news for you!  It is not too late for you to experience unimaginable, legendary love and manifest a soulmate who will appreciate and adore you.  We know of many men and women who had found love in their later years. Here’s the first step:  It’s okay to love your ex-husband.  In fact, it’s probably impossible to stop loving the ones we’ve loved and cared for.  However, you need to finally accept that he is long gone, not coming back, and it’s time to forgive him and let go.  See if you can find a little corner of your heart to place your love for him in and when you catch yourself thinking about him, remember to put him back into that little place and focus on the heart traits and delicious qualities of your soon-to-be met soulmate. Whatever destiny or karma you once had with your ex-husband is now complete so give yourself the gift of moving on to something that serves you and the greater good.

Ask yourself this: what are the traits and qualities my heart most desires in a soulmate?

Becoming laser clear about who this person is, what they’re like, and MOST IMPORTANTLY what you will FEEL like when you’re with them, is essential to your success in manifesting your soulmate.

Once you figure this out, and actually integrate this into the core of your being, you will be well on your way to new love.

Don’t spend a minute wishing you had done any of this sooner, if you could have, you would have.  Remember to leave room for divine timing and also be grateful that you are now open and available for the love you’ve always desired. 

Wishing you love, laughter and magical kisses,

 Arielle and Brian

Arielle Ford, author of The Soulmate Secret:  Manifest The Love of Your Life With The Law of Attraction and her husband Brian Hilliard, a business consultant, answer your questions about life, love and relationships. They believe that whether you are eighteen or eighty years old finding Big Love is always possible. Email your questions to:  soulmatesecret@yahoo.com

Arielle Ford has spent the past 25 years living and promoting consciousness through all forms of media. She is the author of the international bestselling book, THE SOULMATE SECRET: Manifest The Love of Your Life With The Law of Attraction. Her husband and soulmate Brian Hilliard is a business consultant with a life-long interest in spirituality and the practice of compassion.  They live in La Jolla, CA  www.soulmatesecret.com  and www.soulmatekit.com


Disclaimer: Arielle Ford, Brian Hilliard, the Big Love column and its publishers assume no responsibility for any consequence relating directly or indirectly to any action or inaction you take based on the information, services or other material related to this column

Shifting Roles: Supporting Your Spouse


Two people in a relationship may shift in and out of various roles and it is important to ebb and flow together like a tide.

Throughout the course of a successful marriage or long-term commitment, the two people in the relationship may shift in and out of various roles. For example, one person in the couple may support the other person going back to school. In order to do this, he or she steps into a supporting role, setting aside certain goals or aspirations in order to provide a stable base from which his or her partner can launch in a new direction. There are many gifts of learning inherent in this role—from having the opportunity to embody a nurturing stance to feeling the pleasure of seeing a loved one thrive. When our partner expands his or her horizons, ours expand, too, and we gain access to a world that would otherwise remain closed to us.

However, there is also much to be said for having a turn to be the one stepping outside the box, perhaps taking time to attend to our personal healing, spiritual pursuits, or other interests. In order to maintain balance within our relationships, it’s important that we address these issues each time one person steps into a supporting role so the other can try something new. When we are conscious about acknowledging that one person is bearing a bit more of a burden so that the other can grow, we stand a better chance of making sure the ebb and flow in the relationship remains fair and equal.

The most important part of this process is open communication in which each person has a chance to express how they feel and come to an understanding about the roles they have agreed to play and when they expect them to shift. Each time a dynamic shift occurs, a ceremony of acknowledgment can lend an air of distinction to the moment. This can be a simple dinner date or an elaborate ritual, depending upon what works best for us at the time. Perhaps the most important thing is expressing gratitude to the person in the supporting role and encouragement to the person moving in a new direction. When the flow of feeling and communication is open, a healthy closeness develops that allows each person in the relationship to have a turn at each of these important roles.


PHOTO (cc): Flickr / jenny downing

Extraordinary Love

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”- Rumi

Extraordinary Love is the ability to love for the sake of love itself. This ability to radiate extraordinary love in our lives requires a paradigm shift in how we love that can fundamentally transform every relationship that we know and is the essence of my book The Seven Symphonies of Extraordinary Love. Unless, we are willing to shift the context or the paradigm that we operate in about love, any actions we undertake will lead to only a variation of the past.

Extraordinary Love is not simply an emotion, a feeling, or a body sensation. It is awareness, consciousness and a way of Being. It is a conscious choice to love without conditions. You love another person simply for the sake of love, and not because of a special circumstance, or to fulfill our needs or attributes that they demonstrate. One makes an extraordinary choice to love extraordinarily.


In the context of everyday living and loving, I’ve observed seven different ways, seven different roles through which we relate to others with extraordinary love. These roles are: parent-child, friend-sibling, student-teacher, lover-beloved, man-community, husband-wife, and self-higher self. In my book The Seven Symphonies of Extraordinary Love provides a blueprint for creating peace within and without. Incorporating this knowledge into our consciousness enables us to flavor every endeavor of life with harmony, peace and happiness.

1. The symphony of unconditional sacrifice (Parent-Child): Despite how grown up and successful we become, part of us always remains a little child in our parent’s eyes. They may not have had the right tools or know-how to express this unconditional love for us in a skillful manner, but a parent never stops loving their child. By opening our heart to our parents we remove the barriers to experience the extraordinary love they have for us.

2. The symphony of friendship and unlimited generosity (Friend-Sibling): A true friendship is a treasure worth in gold. As the saying goes, a friend is someone who knows the music in our heart, and can render the composition back to us even when we doubt our own melody. As we navigate through the ebb and flow of life, we need to be willing to accept the gifts from our friends, for doing so provides them with the gift of giving. No matter what level of success we achieve, we won’t do it by ourselves. We need others to help us along the way, and it becomes our loving responsibility to pay it forward.

3. The symphony of obedience (Teacher-Student): The covenant between a disciple and master requires respect and obedience. What follows is an awakening of knowledge. Humility allows wisdom to flow. Acknowledging our teacher’s greatness breaks down the walls of ignorance and ego. Obedience to the master removes any blocks that keep us from leading a life of our highest potential. The heart that is open to such love of obedience is magnanimous, understanding and compassionate towards all beings.

4. The symphony of true romance (Lover-Beloved): True romance requires that one surrender completely to the agony and ecstasy of love. To feel the sweet pain and exultation of spirit is better than no love at all. Extraordinary love in this context of true romance is a communion, a complete surrender, a dance, an art, a supreme expression of beauty.
5. The symphony of community and humanity (Man-Community): Consider our individual significance as a human being doesn’t come from material successes but as a result of self-actualization. When we embody the true meaning of community and harmony in the core of our Being, we become intoxicated with love. Community means coming together in unity, and humanity is the essence of oneness. Community love is accepting others with compassion.

6. The symphony of devotion (Husband–Wife): Devotional love is giving of self through thoughts, feeling and deeds with complete surrender. This is the art of conscious loving with humility. When the feminine goddess merges with the masculine counterpart with such devotion and surrender, divine intimacy becomes available.

7. The symphony of awareness (Self-Higher Self): When love becomes our religion, nature acts as our scripture, and we begin to merge with the higher levels of consciousness. Meditating in this divine realm of consciousness then gives us the access to the eternal. A sense of oneness with our world engulfs us and we become present to the majesty of divinity in each of us. Extraordinary love becomes a way of Being, a natural expression.

When love is extraordinary, it imparts its perfume to the entire universe. Such extraordinary love cannot be concealed once it has been awakened within our heart.

~ Kaushal Aras

Kaushal Aras is a writer, professional speaker, and a thought leader in the human potential movement sweeping our planet. He is redefining spirituality and success as a way of living by connecting to our higher self, to our collective heart, so we can transcend the barriers to Extraordinary Love and World Peace. Sign up for a free tele-seminar with Kaushal and download the free eBook version of The Seven Symphonies of Extraordinary Love: A Blueprint for World Peace at www.thesevensymphonies.com. To have Kaushal visit and speak at your next event or run a seminar for your company or community, please contact him directly at info@kaushalaras.com or register for an upcoming workshop at www.kaushalaras.com

Access to the Eternal

The wisdom of the ages provides us a blueprint to access the eternal or as some say ‘All of it’. Consider there are three areas or stages that one usually dwells in either by conscious choice or by default.


  1. Physical World: This is where all the doing takes places. Your identity is built in this realm of existence. All the achievements and accomplishments fall under this category. Life’s challenges, the circumstances, the strategies and management of results are a product of this world. Having mastery in navigating through them using success principles and tools enables one to rise above the rest. The underlying context of this world is to become outrageously successful and change is the mantra, while art is the access to mastery. Vanity is the attribute to watch out for, as it can lead to one’s downfall.


  1. Linguistics World: This is the second stage of a person’s growth and development. People in this realm have gotten deep down in their heart of hearts that there is a world out there that needs a contribution. It is no longer about an individual anymore, but about resolution of causes that can bring healing to the masses i.e. world hunger, health care for all, reform, economies of scale, basic amenities, disease control, environment etc. Community is the access to this world, and use of inspiring and enrolling language is the tool of choice. Although this is a very worthy realm to be spending one’s existence and leads to fulfillment to an extent, it still has it’s limitation as it relates to transformation of self.


  1. Self Realized World: This stage is the prerequisite to begin tapping into the higher realms of consciousness. Spirituality is the access to this world, which is different from religion. It is about realizing one’s true self, and it’s relatedness with Oneness – the creator. Who you are being and how you grant being to others is the mantra of this realm. Meditation is the tool of choice, getting initiated by a perfect master of the highest caliber, and who has walked the path of eternal bliss becomes the primary reason for one’s existence. Love, gratitude and humility are the natural states of an individual residing in this domain. It is through self-introspection and being in an inquiry of one’s spiritual growth and development and most importantly through the grace of a living master (perfect adept), one begins transcending through these stages and beyond.          


“The Word is within you – just be devoted to that and nothing else” –   Hazur Sahib


-Kaushal Aras

Kaushal Aras is a writer, professional speaker, and a thought leader in the human potential movement sweeping our planet. He is redefining spirituality and success as a way of living by connecting to our higher self, to our collective heart, so we can transcend the barriers to Extraordinary Love and World Peace. Sign up for a free tele-seminar with Kaushal and download the free eBook version of The Seven Symphonies of Extraordinary Love: A Blueprint for World Peace at www.thesevensymphonies.com. To have Kaushal visit and speak at your next event or run a seminar for your company or community, please contact him directly at info@kaushalaras.com or register for an upcoming workshop at www.kaushalaras.com



Five Steps to Break Relationship Inertia

Lori Gottlieb’s book, Marry Him: The Case for Marrying Mr. Good Enough, has ruffled the feathers of many women who believe in falling head-over-heels-in-love with their soul mate. That big romantic female heart just delights in a good love story. And what woman has not grown up with fairytales whose high point is marrying someone larger than life Most women feel compelled to create some fiction just to get through the daily stress. However, it’s time to put a brake on the fantasy.

Here is my simple formula for relationship bliss: Happy Me = Happy Us.  

Gottlieb has essentially told the female community to lower their expectations and settle for an ordinary man. "An ordinary man! How dare she?" are what women have been telling me. A basic principle in stress management is when your button is being pushed, it is time to honestly reflect and shore up your personal weakness because the truth will set you free.

The problem and solution are compactly contained in the title: “Mr. Good Enough.”  How can a woman, who does not believe that she is good enough, marry a man who is good enough? A woman disappointed in herself will have a love lens which is darker than a happy woman’s.  It is analogous to focusing on the dark spot on a white page, the flaw, when the rest of the page is the larger context of a whole life. Therefore to find a good man it is imperative to get rid of the plastic bride and groom on top of that highly caloric wedding cake, what I like to call, “The McMarriage Syndrome.”

Here are five steps to break relationship inertia:
* Rid yourself of emotional programming: The perfect job, the perfect spouse, the perfect children. This false sense of perfectionism will ruin your self-discovery and happiness.
* Speak more kindly to yourself. Instead of criticizing that your belly hangs over your jeans, how about revising this observation to how voluptuous and substantial you are. Next stop criticizing others.  Note that people who frequently find fault with others are stressed and unhappy with themselves. Change your verbiage to the positive.
* Harness your power. You were born an original, so don’t feel like you are second rate. Take the initiative to fulfill yourself. When you know what you uniquely bring to the table, you will be able to see his uniqueness.
* Shed chores from that stressful, endless to-do list which keeps growing and saps your vitality and joy. When you ease up on yourself, you won’t need that long list of must-haves in a mate.
* Become a loving person. This will lead to being in love.

So instead of hitching your wagon to a star, become the star and shine brightly for others. My inner light greets your inner light.

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