Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Eightfold Path to a Truly Great Hug.


A truly great hug is a rich experience that has you pull another human body deliciously tight into yours as a way of saying, "I so deeply value your presence that I'm taking this exact moment to feel you, smell you, breathe with you - essentially stamp your being into my cellular memory so that even though we may be soon apart, you will in fact always be with me in the living fabric of my existence."

Also, hugs are physically and emotionally healthy for you - oxytocin, dopamine, bonding, decreased stress, etc.  Sooooo.....

1. Hug like you mean it.

Hugging some people is like embracing a telephone pole.  Now, I can literally hug the hell out of a telephone pole, (see pic below), but a truly great hug is definitely a two-person co-created gig.  However, some people just aren't ready for a truly great hug, for whatever reason.  They might not be comfortable with affection, might be in a rush, or they simply might not trust you, regardless whether they have good reason.

A great hug can quickly turn creepy hug when you feel your partner initiate the disconnect but you won't let go.  So hug like you mean it, but if you feel your partner moves to let go, then let go and live to hug another day.  However, if you suddenly find yourself in an embrace with truly great hug potential - or if you're uncomfortable hugging others and would like to experience a truly great hug - read on.

2. Be willing to be vulnerable.  Open your arms.

The act of hugging is an inherently vulnerable act.  As we open our arms, we expose our chest, our very heart, to the person before us.  It's a complete gesture of vulnerability, letting the other person know that we trust them enough in this moment to grant them passage into our personal space.  You can't experience a truly great hug if you don't allow yourself to be vulnerable.  That's why so many hugs these days are stiff and unsatisfying.  Too many of us are afraid to let each other in.  So if you're with someone you know will behave respectfully inside your embrace, take the risk and allow yourself to be vulnerable.  Open your arms and...

3. Close your eyes.

4. Breathe into the embrace.

Once the embrace has begun, rather than immediately unplug the hug before an authentic embrace has even happened, simply take a deep breath.  Allow yourself at least one deep breath before you even think about releasing.  You might find both bodies spontaneously synchronize to each other's breathing.  Breathing in harmony with another body pressed against yours is a wondrous experience.

So often, we quickly disconnect our hugs because we're afraid of holding the other beyond their comfort zone.  But you'll be amazed how many people in our world are completely starving for affection.  We don't lovingly touch each other enough.  We're literally dying to be touched.  That longer, deeper embrace you're willing to share just might be medicine to the person you're embracing.

5. Lean into the embrace.

I'm not a fan of the "tent hug," that hug where we create a tent by sticking our butts out so far because we're afraid our genitalia might touch.  Look, we're creating a non-sexual hug here, but it's ok that our bodies touch.  In fact, the most delicious, satisfying hugs are those where two bodies really meet each other, our chakras all lined up and zapping each other with good vibes.

Unfortunately, because we live in a culture so sexually screwed up (so to speak), a truly great hug does risk jiggling repressed sexual hot buttons we don't want jiggled.  So find the balance here.  There's little less satisfying than hugging someone so afraid of hugging me back that I can feel them exiting before we've even begun.  But there's also little more icky than hugging someone I'm not attracted to who starts writhing in my arms and pressing her pubis up against my groin (it's happened).  Just find the balance.

6. Squeeze, but don't suffocate.

A true hug is an embrace, an encircling, a loving act of surrounding another to let them know they are safe, accepted, loved.  Beyond the superficial world available to our mortal eyes, a genuine embrace is a deep form of embodied communication by which one beating heart can whisper to another, "I see you."  A great hug is definitely not an imposition on another.  We do not temporarily imprison another in our arms.  Rather, it's firm enough to say "I've got you" and loose enough to say "you're free to leave whenever you want."

7. Just be with the person you're embracing.

A truly great hug is a deeply mindful practice.  It's a moment to really be with another human.  The very gesture itself is a curious, even if ultimately futile, attempt by two bodies to occupy the same space at the same time.  We're literally pressing our bodies together as if to say, let's just both be here together, as one body, in this one place, at this very moment in time.  It's an extraordinary gesture.  Give yourself to the experience and really be here, in this brief moment, with this one person.  Drink in the scent of their hair, notice the pressure of their body pressing against yours, notice all the thoughts that arise in your mind, and then simply let them pass.  Be here now.

8. Let go. Smile. Breathe.

Absolutely nothing in life is meant to last forever.  A truly great hug ends with the simple act of letting go.  Letting go is one of the most powerful lessons we can learn in this lifetime.  It's our way of actively participating in the Life's evolution, for there can be no new creation if we hold on to what once was.

But if you do it right, that great hug will linger with you like sweet perfume for a brief moment, and you'll be able to recall it in your mind whenever you want to.  Nonetheless, it's time for you both to let go and return to your separate journeys.  Just know that the electrical magnetic fields of your two heartbeats intertwined in that embrace and so you are, indeed, now indelibly marked by each other's being.  You literally carry information about each other in your bodies.  And that's no woo-woo metaphysics!  That's for real!

9. Bonus Technique for the ambitious - The Massage Hug.

This is a real fan favorite.  Sometimes when I'm hugging another, I'll use my hands and fingers to gently massage their back.  It's just amazing how starved we are for touch, and this little added gesture can take a great hug and make it absolutely unforgettable.  However, I suggest you attempt this only once genuine trust is established.  And you probably shouldn't attempt it with your co-worker in the hallway.  You'll know when it's right.

Now get out there and hug somebody like you mean it!  Lives may very well depend on it... and Love definitely does!

p.s. No one to hug?  Just wrap your arms around yourself and give it to you.  Yeah I know it's better with another human being.  It just is, let's not kid ourselves.  Still, hugging yourself, if nothing else, is a great way to stretch your shoulders!

Whatever you do, have fun doing it!

Article c/o Bryan Reeves for Elephant Journal

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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

What's My Child Thinking?


Core Beliefs: What’s My Child Thinking?  What’s at my Child’s Core?

What is your child’s foundation–love or fear?
When considering  children’s core beliefs, it is important to reflect upon their early development.  Children who have experienced instability, frightening events, or inconsistent care likely live with a foundation of fear.  On the other hand, children who were born into safe, stable environments with consistent nurturing and care operate from a foundation of love.

Beliefs which come from a foundation of love are positive, such as:
  • I am lovable
  • I belong
  • It’s safe to have feelings
  • It’s safe to trust
Beliefs which come from a foundation of fear tend to be negative, such as:
  • I can’t trust adults to take care of me
  • I have to be in control to stay safe
  • It’s not safe to love or be vulnerable

Understanding your child’s core negative beliefs and the origins of those beliefs provides insight into your child’s behaviors.  The child who carries these core negative beliefs tends to display concerning behaviors such as stealing, lying, defiance, etc.  By looking beyond your child’s behaviors into core beliefs and emotions, you can make sense of your child’s actions.  By gaining insight into the feelings and perceptions at the root of your child’s misbehaviors, you can shift from viewing your child as manipulative and controlling to viewing your child as hurt, confused, and sad. 

As you replace punitive methods with patient teaching, careful listening, empathy, and positive structure, over time, you will build a new relationship based on a foundation of trust and connection.

Article c/o Cathy Schweitzer, MS, LMHP and Stefanie Armstrong, MS, LIMHP

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Monday, February 8, 2016

Love is not an emotion.


As I went through another break-up and some friends left, I was feeling alone.

I began to ask myself what this business of love is all about.

It seems to me that we have put great limits on our self expression when we choose to express ourselves through such words as love.

When I think of emotions like sadness, or even anger, it's pretty clear.  When I am sad, I cry, my energy is low, I procrastinate, I sleep too much or not enough, I have little will and I tend to turn into myself.  I change physically and mentally, and I have little control.

The same can be said when I am angry, sometimes there are tears as well, my body shakes, I have a vibration around my head and chest, my voice raises beyond my awareness of it, my scalp feels hot, my muscles tense, and sometimes I lose control.

But what of love?

I have experienced a longing for certain people in my life.  When they were not with me, I thought frequently of them, my energy spiked when in their presence.  Often other feelings of joy and lust were aroused when thinking about or in the presence of the one I thought I loved.

After a lot of soul searching, I realized there was a gap in my life, in my existence.  I had a longing.  Something within me was not fulfilled.  I felt vulnerable and exposed.

It has taken me all my adult life, and many affairs and relationships to realize that what I was claiming for myself as love, was often need.

A need to be accepted, to be wanted, to fit in, to be normal, a need to be worshipped, to be adored.  Perhaps I lacked something in childhood or perhaps I just lacked something in myself.  I wasn't sure, but the more I examined my past, the more I came to the conclusion that love is not an emotion.  All of those feelings in my heart area, and my stomach, and all of those desires, were not in fact love.

When I managed eventually to look up the meaning of the word "emotion", many of the definitions spoke about mental states and feelings.  They referred to joy, sorrow, anger.  I didn't see any that referred to love.  That is not to say they don't exist.

Everyone wants to experience love.  Many people think they are in it.  When they are not in it, they want to be in it.  Some people have even told me they are it.  I have been told that "God," whatever you understand by that term, is love.  I have been told to love myself first.  I have been asked if I love people, and I have told people I love them.

So it would seem that love is a place or thing to be in, an action that can be done - something semi-religious or spiritual.  That is, according to other people, to my experience so far, or to the laws of the universe so to speak.  Is this enough of an explanation of what love is?

Not for me.

Recently I spoke with a friend who was going through a difficult break-up.  She wanted to be in love.  She told me she missed being in love.  I was struck that it didn't matter who with.  The other wasn't even important.  What was important was the feeling she was missing.

It's a feeling I had when I was a teenager and saw a beautiful girl.  I still have that feeling, that wow moment, where my judgment is clouded and all I can think about are her beautiful eyes, skin, mouth, breasts or legs in front of me, the tone of her voice as it washes over me.

All that is just the wrapping of another human being and not anything to do with their morality, their politics, their judgment-calls in life.  So I ask myself, how can I love a persona I don't even really see when I am looking at them?  For me this is not love.

This is attraction - even passion or lust, but this is not love.  Many theologies accept we are created in the image and likeness of God and that God is love.  I don't claim to be God.  But I wouldn't mind being Love.

That sounds a damn fine thing to be able to say in this world, "Hi, I am Love."

The question then arose: how could I be Love?  Which again gave rise to the previous questions: what is Love?

The answer I have found is that Love is not that rise in temperature when someone you are attracted to is in your space or thoughts.  It's not the loss of appetite or the excitement of an encounter.  It's not a short skirt and heels or a rippling bicep and how we may react to them.

Those are feelings alright, but they are not Love.  It is certainly not that feeling of need we have for the other.  I have given myself over to many relationships and in hindsight I learned that I stayed too long, or I took abuse I should not have taken, or I was co-dependent or needy, or lots of other not-too-healthy stuff.

At the time I was telling myself I loved the other actively, and this was why I stayed.

I realize now that what I was doing was avoiding myself.  I was avoiding being alone, I was avoiding the deep inner work that I needed, and even desired, to allow me to evolve and learn and find my place on this planet.

I was actively not loving myself while trying to love the other.  There in was my answer, or part of it.

Love is an action.  Love is not something we feel, it's something we do.

Like all actions, Love requires a decision.  We don't fall hopelessly in love.  We make a decision to jump and sacrifice our power and our logic and our decision-making processes.  We abandon ourselves and jump into the other.

It's often why people become unsatisfied in relationships because what they are searching for in the other, or demanding in the other, they are not giving to themselves.  These unhealthy relationships only last so long before becoming destructive.

I am now a single man.  I am consciously trying to love myself daily.  I try to de-program the expectations of society.  I have plenty of love to give.  Which would imply that love is something more than action and decision and so my conclusion is this...

When I love you, I make a decision to accept you as I find you.  I make a decision to create space for you in my universe.  I create an invitation for you to step in and stay here for however long is comfortable.  I celebrate you actively.  When you step away, I continue to look after myself and I appreciate the moment for what it was and look forward to the next one.

I will not lose sight of myself or my path, for I truly believe the best way I can love you is by loving myself and tending to my garden.  So that when you come, it's a beautiful place that you might want to linger in a little longer each time.

Love is the clear, strong, decisive action of giving and caring based in a deep respect for both persons involved in the relationship no matter how intense or light, or long or brief that relationship may be.

That doesn't really describe an emotion now does it?

Article c/o Colm Maguire
for elephantjournal.com

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

If you're feeling down, here are 13 reminders to lift you up...

We've all gone through hard times.  And we all get through them.  However, some get through them better than others.  So what is their secret?  Most of it has to do with attitude.

Here are 13 things to remember when life gets rough:

1. What is, is.
Buddha's famous saying tells us: "It is your resistance to 'what is' that causes your suffering."  Think about that for a minute.  It means that our suffering only occurs when we resist how things are.  If you can change something, then take action!  Change it!  But if you can't change it, then you have two choices: (1) either accept it and let go of the negativity, or (2) make yourself miserable by obsessing over it.

2. It's only a problem if you think it's a problem.
Many times, we are our own worst enemy.  Happiness is really dependent on perspective.  If you think something is a problem, then your thoughts and emotions will be negative.  But if you think it's something you can learn from, then suddenly, it's not a problem anymore.

3. If you want things to change, you need to start with changing yourself.
Your outer world is a reflection of your inner world.  Don't you know people whose lives are chaotic and stressful?  And isn't that largely because they feel chaotic inside?  Yes, it is.  We like to think that changing our circumstances will change us.  But we have it backwards - we need to change ourselves first before our circumstances will change.

4. There is no such thing as failure - only learning opportunities.
You should just wipe the word "failure" right out of your vocabulary.  All great people who have ever achieved anything have "failed" over and over.  In fact, I think it was Thomas Edison who said something like, "I did not fail at inventing the light bulb, I just first found 99 ways that it didn't work."  Take your so-called "failures" and learn something from them.  Learn how to do it better next time.

5. If you don't get something you want, it just means something better is coming.
That's hard to believe sometimes, I know.  But it's true.  Usually, when you look back at your life, you will be able to see why it was actually a good thing that something didn't work out.  Maybe the job you didn't get would have made you spend more time away from your family, but the job you did get was more flexible.  Just have faith that everything happens exactly the way it's supposed to.

6. Appreciate the present moment.
This moment will never come again.  And there is always something precious about every moment.  So don't let is pass you by!  Soon it will just be a memory.  Even moments that don't seem happy can be looked upon as something that you might miss someday. 

7. Let go of desire.
Most people live with "attached mind."  What this means is that they attach themselves to a desire, and when they don't get it, their emotions plummet into negativity.  Instead, try to practice "detached mind."  That means that when you want something, you will still be happy whether you get it or not.  Your emotions remain happy or neutral.

8. Understand and be grateful for your fears.
Fear can be a great teacher.  And overcoming fears can also make you feel victorious.  For example, when I was in college, I feared public speaking (one of the top 3 fears of all humans).  So I find it humorous now that not only do I speak in front of a group every day by being a college professor, I also teach public speaking!  Overcoming fears just takes practice.  Fear is really just an illusion.  It's optional.

9. Allow yourself to experience joy.
Believe it or not, I know way too many people who don't allow themselves to have fun.  And they don't even know how to be happy.  Some people are actually addicted to their problems and the chaos in them so much that they wouldn't even know who they are without them.  So try to allow yourself to be happy!  Even if it's just for a small moment, it's important to focus on joy, not your hardships.

10.  Don't compare yourself to other people.
But if you do compare yourself, compare yourself with people who have it worse than you.  Unemployed?  Be grateful that you live in a country that gives unemployment compensation, because most people in the world live on less than $750 a year. 

11. You are not a victim.
You need to get out of your own way.  You are only a "victim" of your own thoughts, words and actions.  No one "does" something to you.  You are the creator of your own experience.  Take personal responsibility and realize that you can get out of your hard times.  You just need to start with changing your thoughts and actions.  Abandon your victim mentality and become victorious.  From victim to VICTOR!

12. Things can - and do - change.
"And this too shall pass" is one of my favorite sayings.  When we are stuck in a bad situation, we think that there is no way out.  We think nothing will ever change.  But guess what?  It will!  Nothing is permanent except death.  So get out of the habit of thinking that things will always be this way.  They won't.

13. Anything is possible.
Miracles happen every day.  Really - they do.  I wish I had enough space to write about all the miraculous that have happened to people I know - from healing stage 4 cancer naturally to having their soul mate appear out of nowhere.  Trust me: it happens all the times.  You just need to believe it does.  Once you do, you have won the battle.

Article c/o Kasim Khan
for thespiritscience.net

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