Thursday, January 17, 2013

Love Needs Room to Grow

Our nature is to want to escape anything that feels like it's limiting to us. Obligations, expectations, "shoulds." 

You know what I'm talking about. Do you like doing things that you have to do? Probably not. But what about doing things that you want to do--do you like that? Yes, of course. Well, the same rules apply to love. 

When you feel like you have to love--that you have to do things to make your partner happy, that you have to be a certain way to get the love you want--then the feeling of authentic love starts to disintegrate and die. Sounds harsh but it's true. 

Love needs space to grow. Like fire, it needs a little breathing room. Stifle it and it burns right out. 

The reason love dies under heavy limitations is because limits are counter to our very nature, which is growth. We can't help but expand. We can't help but evolve. We can't help but to change. 

The process of growth cannot be stopped within us--nor should it be. So when limits, expectations, and shoulds are placed on us by our partners and by ourselves, we automatically want to break-out of them. 

Now, let's be honest, we all do this. We expect them to act a certain way; we expect ourselves to act a certain way. We feel like they should (fill in the blank); we feel like we should (fill in the blank). I could go on and on about how this impulse to limit constantly shows up in our lives. But, why?  

One word: fear. 

We limit ourselves and others because we are scared. Really scared.  

We're scared that if we don't hang on tightly to our partners, they'll leave. We're scared that if we freely show-up as we really are, the people we want to love us, won't. We are scared that if we don't get our needs met by certain people, we'll go without. 

We're scared that love itself is limited--that there is not enough to go around. 

We feel a ton of fear about losing love so we try to lock it in place. Ironically, this coping mechanism backfires--the tight fence we build around love suffocates it in the end. 

Love can't live like this! It cannot be boxed in. It cannot be dictated or forced or obligated. If love is going to grow and flourish, it must be FREE.  

So this creates quite a dilemma for us. What can we do to change this pattern?    

Believe it or not, there is one thing we all can do to shift this dilemma, and that is: we must give our love away.

Like, for free. To everyone. You might call it free love. (What can I say, I'm from San Francisco…)

Now, before your minds run too wild let me clarify what I mean by this. Free love doesn't mean that we drop all our boundaries in relationships and go live on communes. I mean, go for it if you want, but that's not exactly what I am talking about here. 

What I am saying is that collectively we need a major shift in our perception about love. We need to understand that love can be anywhere that we bring it; and the more we bring it, the more we get. (And the opposite is also true: the more we set limits on love, the more it limits us.) 

Love does not reside with one special person! We are programed to believe otherwise and this makes us terrified! We grip so tightly to these people that the love gets suffocated. But when we recognize that love lives within us (no, it's not outsourced by them), then our fears about losing love will start to shift.

When I talk about practicing free love, this is what I mean: 

To love freely is to be kind, generous, understanding and compassionate to everyone you meet. 

Free love exists when you smile at strangers, when you chat with people in line, when you gaze up at the beautiful night sky. 

Free love is about appreciating your partner for who they are and how they choose to show-up in your relationship.

Free love is recognizing that love exists within you at all times; that there is an ever-abundant source of it ready to be shared with the world. 

Free love is the act of giving love away so you can keep it for yourself; it is the recognition that the more you share it, the more you receive it and feel it. 

Giving love away helps you learn that you can never ultimately be separated from love. And it is by knowing this that your fears about losing love will start to dissipate, and your urge to limit and control the love in your life will slowly fade away.   

When we subscribe to the belief system that love is limited--that there is only so much to go around--then of course we are going to be terrified about losing it! But, when we tap into the real truth--that love is limitless and it resides within us--then we realize that there actually is nothing to be afraid of. Love is always here. 

Free love may seem like a unattainable ideal or it may seem too simple to be true. But I encourage you to try it for yourself and see what happens. I think we all would agree that this world could use a little more love, right? Give your love away and watch the amount you feel in your heart expand and grow, just the way it's supposed to be.    

Why Feeling Like a Victim Makes You Unhappy

We all get caught in the victim-trap from time to time. Feeling like we've been wronged; like we were right and they were, well, I'm sure we can complete the sentence with lots of words. It's true, being a victim is not an uncommon stance to take in this world. 

But you should know that feeling like a victim only makes you feel worse. Many of us don't realize this. In fact, often we hang-out in victim-land because we unconsciously believe that it will get us what we want (which is care, concern, and love). On some level we think being a victim will make us feel better! We are sorely mistaken. 

If you recognize that sometimes you identify as a victim and you want to stop the pattern, then keep reading. In this article I'm going to discuss why feeling like a victim ultimately leads to more unhappiness, and how to turn the pattern around. 

The main reason feeling like a victim leads to unhappiness is because it means you identify with being powerless. And very simply, powerlessness = fear and fear = unhappiness. Always. No one likes to feel powerless! It is impossible to identify as powerless and be happy at the same time. They are basically opposite experiences.  

Why is feeling like a victim a powerless position? Because the essence of victimhood is that something other than you has the power to make you feel awful. And it's true, when something other than you is dictating how you feel, you are powerless.  

When you feel like a victim what you are forgetting is this: no one else is responsible for your experience in life. Of course you are affected by what other people say and do, but ultimately your sense of well-being is dependent on YOU. We are majorly conditioned to believe otherwise so this can be a hard concept for us to grasp. But it's true. 

If your happiness is dependent on what other people do or don't do, then frankly, you're screwed. But if you take responsibility for how you feel, then you are saying that no matter what you can feel good again. And that makes you very powerful. 
Contrary to popular belief, feeling better after we've been hurt is not about the other person admitting they were wrong and apologizing or changing. Although of course these things are nice, they are not the way out of feeling helpless. Helplessness is overcome by you taking your power back; this is done by accepting personal responsibility. 

Anytime you feel like a victim, the way to regain your power is to own your part in the situation. 

This is not always easy; but it is essential if you want to feel better. 

What exactly is personal responsibility? It is the statement that you are responsible for your experiences in life. 

Personal responsibility says, "Ouch, that hurt. And yes, I'm willing to take responsibility for my part in the experience. I am willing to move beyond it, back to my own sense of well-being." People who take personal responsibility are far from weak; they are empowered, conscious, and full of integrity. 

Not only does personal responsibility give you power in the moment, but it also gives you power for the future. When you can honestly own your part, then you can choose differently next time (choice = empowerment). It is only through the recognition that you could have done better that you are able to grow into a better version of yourself. Without personal responsibility, you don't get a choice to grow.  

Many people have a hard time taking personal responsibility because they think it means something is wrong with them--that if they make mistakes, they are flawed. 

But we all make mistakes. Mistakes are what allow us to grow. We cannot grow if we pretend like we don't play a part in our experiences in life. We have to take responsibility for our faults if we want to move passed them. 

This is a very radical position to take in the world! Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? Yes.

The next time you find yourself feeling victimized, ask yourself, "What is my part?" Do not bypass this question! If you can honestly answer it when faced with any circumstance that tempts you to be a victim, then you are on the path of seriously-empowered personal growth. And growth will always point you in the direction of more and more happiness. And that, of course, is what we all want. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

How to Intentionally Welcome the New Year

The New Year. A fresh start. A new beginning. 

For me, the marking of the New Year is filled with hope, with potential, and with anticipatory excitement. It is a time of reflection--honoring what has been, what is currently happening, and what is yet to come. 

Consciously honoring rites of passages such as the New Year allows us to think about our lives in a way we often don't do. It's easy to get caught in the grind--moving through life on autopilot. We have our routines and schedules--we trudge along week by week by week.

But the New Year is a break in the pattern. It is an ending and a beginning. It is an opportunity to stop, reflect, and start again. 

In this article I am going to guide you towards honoring your New Year. Here are some simple thoughts and questions to help you reflect on what happened in 2012, to align you with what you are grateful for in this very moment, and to set you up to move in the direction you want in 2013. 

Honoring the Past
As we move into a new phase of life it is natural and important to reflect upon what has been. A lot can happen in the span of a year. I'm sure for most of us 2012 was filled with many wonderful experiences, and challenging ones as well.

Take some time to fondly look back upon the beautiful memories you created this passed year. I'm sure if you think about it, there were many. Also take some time to reflect on what didn't go so well. For it is only by acknowledging what was difficult for us that we are able to make different choices for the future.  

When thinking about challenging things that happened in our past, one thing to keep in mind is: it's over. Sometimes we forget this. We get stuck, holding onto to fears and pains that affected us in the passed year or before. A lot of us carry the mindset that if we don't continue to think about the bad things that happened, they will continue to happen in the future. Ironically, it is by not letting go of the past that keeps it repeating in the present. After all, we can't move on from the past if we're still obsessing about it today. 

Honor your past, cherish the beautiful times, and be willing to let the challenging times go. Allow yourself to move into a new reality. Here are some questions to help guide you through this process: 

What was significant for me this passed year? 
What was challenging for me this passed year? 
What was wonderful this passed year?
How did I make it through the hard times? 
What were my best times? 
How did I grow? 
What would I do differently next time? 
How can I choose again? 
Who do I need to forgive? 

Deepak Chopra said, "Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future." Honor your past. Keep the dear memories close. And use the knowledge gained from the challenges to choose differently tomorrow. 

Gratitude for the Present
I have heard that the only time we really have is NOW. 

It is definitely easy for us to skip over Now. Just as we get caught up in our routines, we also get caught in both the past and future, skipping right over this very moment. And while the past and future are important and have their places, what is most relevant is what is happening for you right now. 

There are many ways that we can bring ourselves back to the now. Meditation is one. It, again, is an opportunity to disconnect from the grind and reconnect to yourself. The reason this is so important is because if we don't actively connect into ourselves, then we feel disconnected from everything else (Ta da! Amazing how that happens!). 

This is the simple equation of life--how you feel internally is how you feel about everything around you. Therefore, if you actively take the time to connect into yourself, you immediately start to feel reconnected to everything else too.

Here are some questions that will bring you back to Now: 

What feels good about my life, right now? 
What am I grateful for, right now? 
What does it feel like to be in my body, right now? 
What is important to me, right now?
What am I happy about, right now? 

Taking just a few minutes a day to close your eyes and pay attention to what is happening inside of you will make a big difference in your sense of well-being. Well-being happens now. We are usually just too busy to notice!

If you don't like sitting quietly, another option is to notice what is happening Now throughout your day. Ask yourself these questions randomly: 

What does the sky (trees, buildings, anything!) look like? 
What do I see, feel, smell, hear and taste? 

There is so much to appreciate around us all the time if we just stop and notice. Now is usually pretty damn good if we let go of what was (past) and what will be (future). Try not to forget that your life is happening right now. You don't want to miss it. 

Excitement About the Future
Consciously and unconsciously we are always moving towards self-actualization. What this means is that deep within us we are called to become whole. We long to grow. Our Souls long to grow. It's just what we do; it's called evolution. 

This movement within us towards becoming greater people cannot be stopped--nor should it be. The New Year is a time to get excited about who you want to continue to become. 

Sometimes people associate self-actualization with acquiring things or accomplishments. That is definitely a part of the process. But I believe the most important piece is about getting to know yourself as you already are. How can you be in the world in a way that more authentically you? Because the truth is you don't need to add things onto yourself--who you are now is already amazing. You just have to work on showing-up as that person in your everyday life.

Self-actualization is about embodying you authentic greatness. Ask yourself these questions to align with who you really are: 

How can I be more authentically myself in this New Year? 
What kind of person do I want to be? 
How do I want to show up in the world? 
What do I want for myself this year? 
What do I want to feel like? 
What do I look forward to? 
What are my dreams? 
What do I want to accomplish?  
What greatness will I share with the world this year? 

Everything that has ever been accomplished first began as an idea or a dream. It is by taking time away from the grind and connecting into ourselves that we set the wheels in motion for creating and building our futures. The New Year is a beautiful time to start. 

Allow yourself to feel excited about the potential changes that are on the horizon for you. There are tons of them! You have so much potential inside of you--tap into it so you can make it a reality in this upcoming year.

I wish you all a very Happy New Year. Here's to peace, joy, and kindness in 2013. I hope your year is filled with laughter, happiness, heart, abundance and most of all, lots and lots of Love.