10 Things I’ve Learned About Love

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Finding Matt and falling in love has been the single most amazing thing that has happened in my 29 year-old life thus far. Having this relationship as the foundation for everything else to happen in my day to day life, has made me stronger. Every feat, challenge, or disappointment doesn’t seem so bad with the love and support that Matt gives me unconditionally. In the 8 and a half years that we’ve been together, would you believe that we’ve never gotten in a fight? It’s hard for me to believe sometimes too. Of course, I’ve had my moments where I am completely annoyed with something that he does, and I feel upset or resentful towards him, but when that happens we talk about it. We’ve never both been upset with the other at the same time. We’ve never shouted at one another, and I’ve never felt like I needed a break from him (besides the night before he proposed, but I blame his annoying behavior that night on the stress he was experiencing in anticipation of the proposal). Kahlil Gibran described love as a “quenchless thirst” and that’s how I feel about Matt. I can never get enough of him. He’s my best friend, my favorite person in the world. I respect him, I like him so much (as well as love him of course) and I’m so proud to be his partner in life. These are a few lessons I’ve learned about love along the way, and I hope to continue learning more as time goes on.

 

1. Love Begins Internally. The perfectly matched couple will F**** it up if they haven’t first addressed their own issues. Rumi said not to seek love, but rather to first address your internal barriers to love. You need to be deserve a true love before you can expect to find one. Insecurities, jealousy, personal voids will all push away the most supportive partner. You have to address your own issues and work on yourself before you can expect to nurture a relationship. This is probably why Alcoholics Anonymous suggests people don’t start relationships in the first year of sobriety. Matt was sober for 4 years before we met, and had already had that time to deal with his own issues. I had made my share of mistakes in relationships prior, and thankfully, learned from them. Of course, we weren’t perfect when we met, and I still continue to work on myself, but our major issues had been worked out for the most part.

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Happy Weekend!

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We are a culture that has become obsessed with “happy”. Commercials, adds, all feature smiling people and promise you that their product will make you happier. Social media, too highlights this phenomenon as everyone posts pictures of their fun trips, smiling family and successes. Social media was called a “hall of flattering mirrors” in something I read once, and it’s true, but what you see on the commercials, and on Facebook pages is not the truth. Everyone suffers. Everyone feels sad, has doubts, feels envious of others’ “perfect” lives. This is what unites us. We must not fight our sadness. It’s natural to have low days, sad days, bad moods. Just like the rain, a good cry can cleanse our minds and bodies. Of course, it’s not healthy to feel sad ALL the time, but every now and again is completely normal, and healthy. It’s a sign that you are human, that you are alive and experiencing life. Next time you feel sad, don’t judge it, just notice it and let yourself feel whatever it is you feel. Happy Weekend!

Simple Pleasure-Doing Nothing

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Sunday was a rainy day, a lazy day. Matt and I spent the entire day inside, reading, browsing the internet, and watching our favorite movie “Garden State” for the millionth time. We had to resist the urge to go out and “do something”. I’ve noticed that if I don’t do something each day, I feel a bit worthless and unproductive (even on my weekend days). In “Eat Pray Love” Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about the Italian attitude towards a lazy day.

“Il bel far niente means ‘the beauty of doing nothing’… [it] has always been a cherished Italian ideal. The beauty of doing nothing is the goal of all your work, the final accomplishment for which you are most highly congratulated. The more exquisitely and delightfully you can do nothing, the higher your life’s achievement. You don’t necessarily need to be rich in order to experience this, either.”

-Elizabeth Gilbert quoted from the book “Eat Pray Love”

I’ve also been re-reading “The Geography of Bliss”, as it’s been a few years since I read the book for the first time. Eric Weiner writes about this “beauty of doing nothing” as a concept in happiness studies. He highlights this idea most beautifully through the concept of the café. Cafés, Weiner explains, are a place where Europeans can spend an entire day, people watching and socializing without an ounce of guilt. The most delicious part of this pastime is that it costs very little money, if any, but can provide you with a tremendous amount of joy, peace, relaxation, and reconnection.

I don’t think I’m the only one who feels guilty spending an entire day doing nothing. So why is that? What is it about our culture that has made us feel as though we have to do “something” everyday? Why do we feel guilty spending an entire day in our pajamas, reading, drinking tea, and laying around? And, if you say “but I am too busy to take a day off” should this be so? Our culture has glorified the concept of busy, and I know I have days where I’m rushing constantly from one thing to the next. It doesn’t feel good to be too busy, to have obligations, a planned and packed schedule. In fact, when I get too busy, I begin to feel as though I’m not in control of my life. I miss the option of spontaneity. There is something freeing about having the option to do whatever you feel like doing, in that moment, for an entire day. This is such a simple pleasure; one that anybody can enjoy regardless of economic status. I’ve written about the importance of creating space in order to feel mindful, connected, or creative, in the past and the concept of doing nothing is connected to the concept of creating space. How would people’s lives change if everyone in our country took one day off a week to enjoy the beauty of doing nothing? Try this sometime and allow yourself to really enjoy the day.

The Importance of Setting Intention

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I was in final savasana the other day at yoga, laying on the floor, legs and arms resting, palms up to receive, when the teacher discussed setting your goals for class. He explained that not everyone will have the same goal, and that our goals can change from class to class. Some people come to yoga to get in shape, some to relax, some to connect their mind and their body, some come to heal physically and/or emotionally. Of course, yoga will give you gifts that you may have never hoped for, but it is always good to have an intention, or a goal, and remember what that goal is so that you don’t get discouraged when comparing yourself with others. You may have a different goal than the person next to you.

Matt and I have also recently gotten into the show Scandal, for those of you who don’t know this show, it is basically about a group of lawyers, working for the main character (who is also a lawyer) Olivia Pope. They call themselves gladiators in suits, and “fix” problems that need fixing (mainly hired by politicians and other power players that reside in Washington. Olivia always asks her clients what their “end game” is, meaning, what are their goals. What is best-case scenario for the end result of their work together? What Olivia is really doing is setting an intention and a goal to shoot for.

This concept of goal and intention setting is so important for life as well. What is your end-game for your day, or your job, or your yoga class, or your conversation with your husband? Setting your intentions can be such a powerful step to take prior to entering into an experience, because it gives you something to aim for. This simple step of setting your intention/goal, can also prevent you from becoming side-tracked, or disappointed with the end results. For example, I recently competed in the Yoga Asana Regional Championship, and my goals while training were focused on my postures. My intention for the competition was to provide a graceful, strong demonstration of the postures that I could perform. It was to perform my postures to the best of my abilities. There was no strategizing to score points, or maximize my overall score. However, when I checked the results of the points, I found myself disappointed with my overall point score, and feeling discouraged as I compared myself to all the other amazing yogis’ points. Timeout. My postures were awesome, and I had left the competition feeling inspired, proud, and as if I had conquered something major. My “end-game”, my intentions and goals revolved around my postures, and I had reached my goal. Reminding myself of my original goal, helped to re-frame the entire experience for me, and reminded me of what a powerful tool intention-setting can be.

Remember this very simple concept before you begin something (even something as simple as a yoga class). Some days, my goal for yoga class is to really push myself, to conquer the monkey mind that tells me “I can’t do anymore”. Some days my goal for yoga class is to have compassion for myself because I am prone to believe that I have to do everything perfectly. I often put a lot of pressure on myself in life, a byproduct of which is pain and suffering, so some days, allowing myself to sit down and rest for a posture is my goal. Some days, when my life is crazy or I’ve had a particularly negative thought process for the day, my goal is simply to be in the moment, and to connect my body with my mind. The point is, that your goals can change, and simply by setting an intention prior to beginning, gives you a purpose.

Happy Weekend!

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I was feeling sorry for myself this morning because I injured myself in headstand a few days ago while practicing my yoga routine for competition. I went to a chiropractor and I’m going to be fine, but for a few days I can’t practice my full routine. The choices we make consistently, everyday, speak more about our values, beliefs, integrity, faith, and character than words ever could. Remember that today is your temple and you have the opportunity to fill it with whatever you want your religion to be. I want to fill my temple today with gratitude, happiness, love, integrity, and faith that everything will be okay. What will you fill yours with today? Happy Weekend!

Happy Weekend!

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Sometimes our failure to grow and blossom is a source of great pain. During times of adversity, often we adapt to survive. These adaptations can be neurosis, rigidity, panic attacks, eating disorders. Every behavior that we do has served us in some way at some time. Children growing up in unsafe homes, may suffer from panic attacks later in life because of their body’s increased sense of arousal (this arousal may have been the child’s way of staying alert to danger). Often, however we hold onto these adaptations long after they have stopped serving us, and they, in turn, cause us pain. If you watch Mad Men (Matt and I are Mad Men junkies) you will know that in the final episode of the last season, Don Draper finally began changing. He could no longer stay the same because it was too painful, he had to begin talking about his real past. This quote applies to this situation perfectly. What is causing you pain? Are you too controlling, are you stressed out, do you take on too much work and are thus constantly busy? What isn’t serving you? What is causing you pain? And can you let go and blossom? Happy Weekend : )

Simple Pleasure-Having A Bad Day

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“What?” you might ask “how is having a bad day pleasurable?”

Just hear me out. This week I had a bad day. It wasn’t the kind of bad day where you spill coffee on yourself or get stuck in traffic. It was the kind of bad day where everything feels hopeless, you doubt whether or not you are on the right path in life, and whether you will ever obtain your goals. It’s the kind of bad day where all of your fears, doubts, and stressors for the past month culminate and simultaneously express their presence. It’s been depressingly foggy here for the past month, which probably hasn’t helped my mood and I had to go pay my tuition for the fall semester of graduate school, which is always stressful.

Matt and I went to the beach. Our favorite beach and I told him how I was feeling: everything that I was afraid of at the moment, and everything that had stressed me out over the past week or so. I almost cried but didn’t (this wasn’t quite that kind of bad day) but I still felt a release and Matt pointed out that I was so far into the future, worrying about things that haven’t happened yet. He said “you’re just like me Hun” and I said “I’m just like everyone” and in that moment I remembered that this doubt and this fear, if nothing else, is what connects every human to one another. Of course, some suffer more than others, and about different things, but everyone, at some point, and probably often, suffers and fears, and doubts. In the social work program people speak of “the worried well” as a snide way to dig at the wealthy who seek therapy or at the therapists who treat the wealthy. It’s a term that denotes the idea that those with monetary wealth don’t have “real” problems, or don’t suffer. I would argue the contrary. I believe that we all suffer and must suffer. If we don’t have money to worry about, our mind will find other insecurities to focus on.

In “The Geography of Bliss” Weiner has this poignant moment where he’s smoking marijuana at a café in the Netherlands and wondering if being high is the reason the people there are so happy. He poses a question to the reader asking something like “if you could have a procedure done to your brain that caused you to feel pleasure always, and there were no possibilites of complications, would you do it?”. Think about this question for a second. Would you have the procedure to feel pleasure every second of every day? If the answer is no, then Weiner explains that you believe happiness must be earned; that in order to truly feel happy, one must not only earn this happiness, but also, at times, experience unhappiness. Everything experienced is relative. Following this philosophy, without unhappiness, one cannot have happiness. Without bad days, one cannot have good days, or even great days.

Without a really shitty yoga class, one cannot understand the elation felt after truly being in the zone, going through the asanas with a clear mind and relaxed body. Without a good, hard cry now and again can we have a truly good hard laugh? Rumi said that even grief and sorrow was a cause for rapture, I believe, because these extreme forms of emotion are also extreme forms of expression; a sign that we are truly and vividly alive.

So, I had a shitty day. I felt hopeless. I felt doubt. I felt fear and despair and sadness. But it also pushed me to realize that I was too far into the future. It forced me to stop and refocus my energy on the present. It caused me to make a mental list in my head about all of the things I was grateful for, and I realized that according to my values I really did have a lot. I am rich with love and I feel like I know who I am. I know where I want to go in life but am also open to the possibility that life could take me in a different direction. So, in the end the bad day changed me for the better, if not in the long run, at least in that moment. It made way for me to have a good day, and reminded me that perspective has the power to define a moment. I was able to change mine, and so my simple pleasure for the week was that bad day.

Happy Weekend!

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Sometimes gratitude can be a bitch!  There have been many times in life when my outlook was negative, for example why me? I don’t deserve this? But looking back, the main thing that propelled me to rise above those feelings was gratitude. How can it be? It can be so hard sometimes to really appreciate the moment when it seems like everything around you is terrible. But when you truly become grateful for the moment and what you have  it completely unlocks the door for more greatness to come in. Gratitude unlocks hope. That has been my case every time. It does take quite a bit of effort at times but gratitude will take you to places far beyond your imagination. In my case, gratitude has taught me to appreciate the small things. I have a tendency to keep my eye on the prize and think when I “get there” that’s what’s going to make me happy, but the case has been completely the opposite. The things that blow my mind have been the smallest and seemingly most insignificant, a butterfly on the lawn, a good cup of coffee or a walk to farmers market. It has opened me up to many things that have been there all along but for some reason I’ve only been able to see them when I reached a certain level of appreciation. This life is short and for me when I’m felling appreciative about all of the things that have happened in my life, it kind of all makes sense. So if your life’s seems like a mess, be grateful, give it some time, and I’m sure you’ll see how the pieces start to fall into place.