What Sources Your Happiness?

Do you wonder?
I’m curious about joy.

When was the last time you were deeply happy?
Take a minute now to remember!
You can enjoy it right now, if you like.

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If you let yourself,
even the memory will bring with it a visceral feeling in your body.
Notice how joy feels.
Likely, it feels good.

That bodily connection with an experience – past or present –
is my definition of intimacy.

I’ve felt it
…each time I held my seconds-old newborn children to my breast.
…in the arms of a new beloved encircling me for the first time.
…singing a soaring soprano line of Brahms Requiem with 150 others. 

These were some of the most extraordinary moments of my life.
Surprises of delight and wonder.

But I believe this intimacy – this deep felt connection – can also be invited.
We can choose it, if we decide to,
and even make it a practice.

You see, I don’t believe spiritual practice demands a certain posture
or particular location or somber attitude.

The essence of each of us — what some call the soul
longs for a connection that is deeply intimate.

But so often we believe we’re alone, separate from what we need,
and that robs us of a connection that’s more possible that we imagine.

In fact, we need that deep connection to our joy now more than ever.
Trouble is, for most of us unless we choose otherwise,
our neural pathways are grooved to notice what’s wrong instead of what’s right.

Blame it on our fight or flight, primitive vestibular brain
or early childhood patterning
or simply our preoccupation with whatever is occupying our mind at the moment.

Our day-to-day lives have the potential to be filled with far more joy than we allow,
regardless of what else is going on.
Unfortunately most humans are so out of practice attuning to their senses
that they rarely notice what’s also there to en-joy at any moment.

There’s the crescent new moon in the western sky at dusk.
The clarian call of a particular melodic bird song you can’t ignore,
or don’t choose to.
White splashes of blossom in a greening world.

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Our connection to the natural world ignites our joy
simply because we are OF Nature, not separate observers of it.
After 500 years of belief that humans are above nature,
here to dominate and control it,
As we realize what Joanna Macy refers to as “the greening of ourselves.”
There’s a connection we can only ignore if we numb our senses to the truth…

The beauty we sense in nature helps us remember a visceral connection to joy
that always exists.
And is always possible, if we allow it.

Weekly over the past month
I’ve been sharing a 5-step sense medication practice to help you reconnect to joy. 

By pairing the mind’s focus and intention with our senses’ awareness
we invite a deeper felt sense of connection with the world around us.
Then there’s more joy in any moment we choose.

Since you’re likely inside at this moment, look out a window.
NOTICE what catches your eye. That’s step #1.

Next, step #2, ask yourself WHY.
Why did your glance go there first?
Was it the color that attracted you, or ???
The more time you give this step
the more accessible the next will be.

Now, step #3, let yourself feel how fortunate you are
to have this glimpse of beauty.
Feel the THANK YOU of gratitude emerging in you.

If you allow yourself to recognize the fullness of this truth,
…if you give yourself permission to feel amazement for your good fortune
…to have sight in the first place, to live on a planet with beauty abounding,
…to have this particular instant of exquisite sight
you may also feel a WOW in your being!
Step #4 invites awe and wonder.
Appropriate reactions when we contemplate the miracle of our existence and this moment.

Step #5 is more a result than an action you’ll need to make.
When we feel this fullness, this intimacy with anything around us
it’s hard not to be aware of the truth of our interconnectedness with everything.

In this state, we feel open and welcoming.
We sense the beauty and connection with others and our surroundings.
We enjoy our differences and an interdependence that feels deeply intimate.

This sense of awe can feel numinous and quiet.
Or its very visceral power can drop us to our knees.

But as body and being unite,
we remember our connection to All That Is and feel whole again,
engaging our natural desire to reach out to help others.
The connection is so full it might be called Oneness… or Love.

Enjoy!

 

 

Have you missed REALLY sensing your feminine self?

Today, mother or not, 
it’s easy to forget that we live in bodies built for pleasure.

You see, Western culture teaches us to idolize the mind…
Still does. 
Without honoring the balance that the feminine brings 
physical pleasure has been turned into a shadow perversion
most women naturally distain.
So we learn to ignore our senses and mistrust our pleasures.

Our cultural ethos says,
“If we know enough we’ll feel safe.”

Only, I’m sure you’ve noticed…
though it’s vital to our safety,
all that information isn’t bringing us more happiness and contentment.

https://youtu.be/7_dgXcw1Ymg
Here’s a one-minute practice to help you FEEL more of that.

What we need and crave, 
especially during this COVID time,
is connection.

Question is…
where do you find more connection when socially distancing is insisting you have less?

Seeing folks on Zoom has been a help for some.
Last week my family virtually celebrated my son’s college graduation.
The connection was so precious, none of us wanted to end the call.
I was super grateful for Zoom!

But perhaps with all the virtual focus
— and our mind’s preoccupation with trying to make sense of it all —
we’ve numbed ourselves to the connection and pleasure that is ALWAYS available,
pandemic or not.

We have 5 senses and a most exquisite world to enjoy more than we do,
to even viscerally feel a tingly sense of awe and wonder.
(step #4 in this week’s sense meditation practice in my vlog).

Unless we’ve forgotten how to notice.
Unless we’ve let our senses atrophy.
Unless we’ve devalued the joys of living in a body,
Unless we’ve diminished our feminine capacity to receive
— instead overdoing, overthinking, overgiving.

My mission, Dears, is to help us remember who we are
as women, yes, but as humans! 

We are mind and body.
Head and heart.
Doing and being.
Remembering to give yourself balance is the hard part!

We’ve been celebrating motherhood today,
but the primal, elemental experience of being a woman
isn’t limited to birthing and succling.

We are built for intimacy with our bodies,
and an innate capacity to connect on a deeper level 
with everyone and everything we draw to ourselves.   

The work I do as a spiritual counselor and intimacy coach
is to help folks delve beneath the mind’s preoccupations
— and the stories and compensations we create to manage life’s suffering —
to reconnect to what is also true.
Always true.
And always there to help us feel safe and alive again.

I love this quote by Yeats, 
“The world is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”

Connecting to our senses
brings us back to a place of connection with a deeper sense of ourselves
and everything around us…
back to this place of home and steadiness
and a visceral knowing that we can trust all that is always here to support us.

No matter what’s going on in our world
— right here, right now, always —
we have the support we need to manage and to thrive.

Take on this practice, if you like.
And watch the precipitous escalation of your joy.
Isn’t that what we need now, more than ever???

How intimate are you with YOURSELF?

When you hear the word intimacy, what comes to mind?

…uh, right!
And likely there’s somebody else in the picture, too.

But this week I’ll be talking and teaching about…
intimacy with YOURSELF.

If you’re reading this in late March 2019 you can catch me and the brilliant Martine Florus THIS WEDNESDAY in Great Barrington and SUNDAY Live on my DiviningBeauties private FB group for practical and powerful ways to

  • shift body and soul struggle  
  • release your life-force energy — aka shakti
  • deepen intimacy with all the beautiful aspects of yourself.

I’ve enticed Martine to leave her luscious life in Hawaii
(for our snowy Berkshire spring!)
because we both agree…

and I’m sure you’ve noticed…

When you’re feeling most fully alive
— with or without someone else in your bed —
it’s because you’re intimate with yourself.

Right?

You pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you.
You honor your emotions and your boundaries.
You ask for what you want and need.

Well… that’s what we do on a good day!

I hope you were luckier than I was though.
No one taught me that my body deserved to be listened to!
Or that my intuition — and my happiness — depended on that connection.

My journey back to myself began over a decade ago when Martine and I met.
We were in Hawaii studying life-force energy and how to deepen intimacy with Caroline Muir and the Divine Feminine Awakened Masculine Institute.

That month I learned what has guided me since…
that success in any intimate relationship with another – and in life
is dependent on the quality of my relationship with myself.

I have to say that again!
The success in any intimate relationship with another – and in life
is dependent on the quality of my relationship with myself. 

That moment launched the work I do today with women across the globe to this day.

Over years Martine and I have translated the tools we learned so long ago
to our own unique way of helping women come back to their innate ease and aliveness.
We’ve found that no matter their age or life circumstance,
that feeling of aliveness is always there inside.
Helping people release what blocks it is our work and joy.

So if you’re local —
come join Martine Florus and me on Wednesday, March 27 at Sruti Yoga
for an evening of practical hands-on exercises using presence, awareness, pressure and movement to discharge long-held mental and physical restrictions.

You will be amazed at how your body and psyche work together to heal one another.
Find out more and register here.
But you don’t live in the Berkshires?
Martine and I will be live on my 
Divining Beauties private FB group the following Sunday evening, March 31st at 7PM. 
Click here to request to join the group for this free 45-minute class with us. 
 
The work Martine and I do has evolved over the years to mirror one another’s.
We’ve incorporated past studies of the human body and its energy centers
and a unique combination of our own teachings
that help women feel safe, grounded, and courageous enough to dive deep and transform old beliefs and patterns.
They say they feel freer, more open, and happier as a result.

Martine will share practices from the 4-dimensional perspective. These enable women to open up more space in their bodies, allowing more of their authentic potential to surface.

Together Martine and I will offer practical body-based experiences and suggestions to help you shift the energy of your beliefs into balance with your physical expression so you can access your true nature to live fully empowered and alive in joy, love, and ecstasy.

Do not miss this chance to experience a rare and powerful work with experienced and generous teachers. 
Register here for Wednesday evening’s event at Sruti.
For Sunday evening’s FB Live teaching on Mary’s DiviningBeauties private group
click here
 to request to join.

This is what we want, right, Friend?
To deepen a real embodied and intimate love affair with ourselves.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts,
so share them down below!!!

I’m so grateful to be walking this path with you.
AND PS.. On Sunday evening in my FB DiviningBeauties group I’ll be announcing my upcoming Jade Egg class… both local and on-line. It’s been 3 years since I’ve taught this practice anywhere except in my retreats… so if you’re one of the many women who’ve been asking all these years… and you register that night I’ll take $50 off. Come join me Sunday night.

Power and Pussy-grabbing

I don’t cuss a lot. Or at least I didn’t used to.

But the election in 2016 has changed me. Maybe you, too?

Power politics may have been around forever, but when so many Americans could disregard a candidate’s “Grab her by the pussy” comment as just normal male bravado, I realized I’d been living in a deluded bubble.

Clearly we haven’t come as far as I’d thought!

But here’s the truth that has morphed my own work and life since 2016. Whether political or personal, it’s the abuse of power that still gets the pass.  Sex, money, and gender are just it’s smoke screen.

As a women’s intimacy coach, it would be so easy to take sides here, to make it all about how f*cked up men are. But gender stereotyping doesn’t demand much intelligence. Still, how many times have you caught yourself in exasperation saying, “Men are so…!”

I assure you, behavior is determined by far more than genitals. Testosterone and estrogen do play a part, of course, and bad behavior needs calling out. Thank God for the “me, too” revolution!  But when we get fired up, it’s way too easy to fall into an indiscriminating and habitual oversimplification and lose touch with what’s really going on.

No matter our gender, when we stay polarized in blame, we are all powerless, unwitting victims of a larger dynamic. 

Since the election I’ve watched couples and individuals I’m working with get way more engaged as they untangle their blame and confusion around power. Sure, there’s no escaping how we’re shaped by our culture and childhood. But what’s really changing my clients’ lives and connections – no matter their gender – is exploring how their less-than-healthy masculine and feminine energies have been running the show.

What we’re really talking about here is power. How easy it is to wield it through force or playing the victim. How we try to get heard or abdicate our voice altogether. How we force ourselves beyond what’s healthy and then fall into a guilty vegging-out abyss. How control and familiar habits (in and out of the bedroom) help to keep us feeling safe but suffocate the juice and flow.

These are explorations and conversations that can change us from within. I love what’s been happening to me as I tap deeper into my masculine oak-tree consciousness and structure so my feminine flow can really let loose.  I’m seeing in my own life and my clients’ the powerful shifts that are possible with this dawning awareness. Then the extremes of pseudo-power and the lose of our effectiveness can relax toward our natural purposefulness… and the pleasure that results.

What happens when you’ve been curious enough to take your gender assumptions off the table and look at what’s really driving you? Have you noticed that there’s way more power there? And vitality, too?  Will you tell us down below in the comments?

I invite you to join me next Tuesday, April 10th at 6pm at Crystal Essence Wellness Center when we’ll be taking a deeper look at the way patriarchy has bastardized masculine power. (Grab a ticket before midnight tonight and save). 

No matter your gender, your authentic yang energy wants expression — it’s what frees the flow and joy of your yin feminine. Peeling away what distorts our masculine essence may be the most important work of our time if we are to preserve the health and preciousness of life on this precious Earth.

And if you are curious, there’s more here…

Why history still holds us hostage in the bedroom

It’s an epidemic. The way women make do in the bedroom.
I know because I hear their stories every day.

I’m still in the afterglow
from my Awakening the Divine Feminine women’s retreat this past weekend.
Discovering just how much more pleasure there in is life than we make do with.
(We even went skinny dipping!)

But too many of the stories we shared had the same theme.

Despite all our sexual liberation,
and with advice about sex everywhere,
something strange is going on here…
And we don’t have anywhere to talk about it
if we dare to even admit it!

In last week’s blog
I ran through a slew of reasons why we settle for what’s not really working.
How we hope it will change someday.
Or sadly, why we just get used to doing without.
And reaching for pleasures that sabotage what we most need.

The story is age old. Your mother probably did it, too.

In fact, that’s how the world ran until not so long ago.
For millennia women were expected to do sex the way the guys did it.
And now with so much male-created porn on the internet, we’re even more convinced.

You see, before the 60s
it was a radical idea for women to expect pleasure in the bedroom.
True!

So it’s little wonder most of us still don’t quite know how to make it happen.
And why we still make do with giving him what makes him happy,
instead of knowing how to get across to him what we want
… just hoping the next time will be different.

But women, here’s the truth…
For most feminine-essenced people, his way just does not work for us!
And here’s why…

The penis is directional.
It knows how to get to the goal
in the most efficient way for the biggest bang for the buck.
Right?

That’s how the male body works,
and masculine energy, too.
The world’s been built with it.
It’s why we can fly cross-country in 5 hours instead of riding horseback.
Thank you, masculine assembly-line efficiency…
(and the men and women who worked there!)

Photo by Laura Gariglio on Unsplash

It’s also why my dad hated to stop the car on trips to let us pee.
He just wanted to get there by the fastest, most efficient route possible.

Then there’s my mom…
She’d have liked to stop at the roadside to eat our sandwiches,
maybe find a picnic table by a field or brook,
instead of passing our waxed paper bundles back to us from the sack by her feet.

That’s how the feminine works!
A man or woman’s feminine energy cares more about how delightful the travel is.
How comfortable the seats are.
If you have your favorite music playing.
Who you’re sitting beside.

The feminine is about pleasure.
The masculine gets stuff done.

When it comes to the bedroom,
the fast fuck rarely gives a feminine being the kind of ride she’d most enjoy.

Instead
it’s all the little things that gradually turn her on

and eventually turn her into bliss.

And that, My Dear, may not be involve getting to the usual goal of orgasm.

The one thing I find myself nearly always suggesting to clients I work with,
(whether single or coupled)
is this…
Slow down! 

Isn’t it time to bring the feminine back into life and the bedroom?
If what you want is more pleasure,
then always making orgasm your goal may just be what’s ruining your chances.

Of course, the same goes for life!

Not unlike last week’s antidotes to remedy our habitual making-do,
consider shifting one thing this week,
in and out of the bedroom,
to focus on your real pleasure
instead giving in to that damned efficiency tyrant within.

What one thing will make a difference?
Maybe taking orgasm off the table just this once…
and exploring your or your lover’s body, strictly for the fun of it?

Or seeing just how much pleasure you can feel with the least stimulation?

Be creative.
Let you own inner masculine and feminine work together.
He makes the plan. She decides how she wants to feel.

The more determined you are to stare down
your well-ingrained, cultural preference for efficiency,
the more pleasure you’ll find yourself enjoying,
no matter where you’re playing!
I promise!

 

Is ‘Making Do’ your MO – especially in the bedroom?

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That’s the question I find myself asking again and again of clients and friends…
and me, too, much more often than I’d like to admit.


Is “making do” your MO… especially in the bedroom?

We say you’re waiting for the right moment
…or the right words
…or the right mood
to somehow ask for what would really work…
what would really feel 
g o o d.

But that moment just doesn’t seem to come. 

What’s up with this weird voicelessness we still tolerate
… especially in sex?!

This summer I’ve been fascinated by how my feminine-essenced clients and those who are more masculine struggle to communicate… or just don’t.

And I’m shocked by what I’m discovering…

On so many fronts women speak out for what’s right,
stand up for others, 
risk conflict or worse to let our voice be heard.

But if you’re like millions of other sexually-confident women
it’s hardest to COMMUNICATE about what’s most intimate…
and especially what’s not working so well.

So women make do with a mediocre (or worse) sex life
or search from partner to partner,
hoping to find one that finally gets how to please us…
without us needing to say a word.

Here’s the really sad news..
Making do is why WAY TOO MANY WOMEN – by middle age –
give up on sex altogether. 

It’s just not good enough to bother! 
(Or we despair that there’s no one out there worth the effort.)

So we make do with substitute pleasures anywhere we can find them.
Let’s see… the refrigerator? Facebook? Pinot Grigio? Amazon?

And if you do have someone to share your bed,
Making do can feel like this crazy either / or conundrum …

Do I make do as a people-pleasing compliant, eventually dis-interested wifey
OR
should I just give up and leave in frustration.

All because there just doesn’t seem to be a way to bridge
the arousal and communication gap.

WHAT TO DO?



First, take a breath…
I know, it’s a lot.

When I began writing this blog, it seemed simple enough. 
Lay out the problem and offer a few suggestions I’ve seen work.

But it’s now 10 days later. 
This is far more fascinating and complicated than I’d imagined.
So there will be a sequel… or two.
But for now, let’s start right where many of us are.

Last week my client Kristin put it this way…
“I don’t want to seem demanding
or worse, needy!!!
or emasculate him
or hurt his feelings by making him feel like he’s not doing it right.
We’ve been through this so many times!
I’m pissed off, hurt, disappointed…
And I feel like I’m going crazy,”

Of course she eventually looses it in frustration.
She can’t stand this man she hopes she still loves
and melts down into the raving bitch she hates in herself.

Then leaving sounds like a huge relief! 

All because these two are at a loss for how to skillfully communicate about what works best for each of them.

Why is this SO HARD!?!

Here’s the first onion layer of why I (and maybe you, too) have been known to make do. Then I’ll share a few solutions I’ve discovered over the years.

When we love someone, we love to make them happy. It feels sweet!
But confrontation doesn’t.
Why rock the boat by being difficult?, we might think.
Here’s why…

Estrogen makes feminine-essenced people naturally connection-oriented and conflict-averse.

Without it, humans wouldn’t have survived as a species!
So women learned to compromise our own desires and take care of everyone else’s needs.
But in the process we can lose track completely of our own.

So often I’ve heard the lament, “I don’t really even know what I want anymore.”

Then, like Kristin, we feel lost and confused.
Playing pleasing wifey clearly hasn’t brought the happiness it promised.
But the bitch isn’t that appealing, either!

So it’s time to step away and get some clarity.
Time for a little triage…
Time to make your own pleasure important again.

Are you ready for today’s challenge?
We’ll get to the bedroom by Thursday’s blog.
But for today, first things first!

How much pleasure can you allow yourself to receive from the smallest of the day’s delights?

Seems too simple, right?
But don’t be fooled.
This is real research.
And it can change your vision forever.

What’s there, just waiting for you to notice it…
waiting to bring you a moment or two of pleasure.

It could be something as simple as the blue sky,
or the clouds.
Or how good it feels to have your hands in warm sudsy water,
or the intricate scent tones of your morning coffee.

Can you allow yourself 10 seconds to really take in that joy?

What is here in your life already, just waiting to please you?

If you spend the next few days committed to coming back to your pleasure in a determined way, you will find it much easier (and more fun) to allow yourself permission to be more fully pleasured in the bedroom.

This is a skill, Dear Friends.
And likely one you weren’t taught in school.

You might even put up a few stickies on the kitchen cupboard doors
or the bathroom mirror to remind yourself.  

Enjoy our little experiment… and share below how it’s going.
What are you noticing?

Ok… I’ll be back on Thursday
with a few juicy facts about arousal differences and why we (ok, I) have so easily fallen back into making do instead of making my own pleasure as valuable as my partner’s.

Why is telling the truth so hard?

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I’ve been quiet for a while. Taking in the lessons from a bad break-up. It’s been tough. But amidst the heartache I’m starting – just starting – to sense that all this pain is going to be worth it. And I’m dedicating myself, more than ever, to truth.

Here’s why…
For most of my growing up (58 years and counting) I’ve skirted around the truth. I learned early, like everyone else, that telling the truth can be scary and dangerousBut evolution created the hard wiring in us to keep ourselves safe. No matter what. And kids are smart! So we find truly brilliant strategies to protect ourselves.

When I was young, I figured out fast that if I was carefully nice and kind and oh, so thoughtful, people were nice to me. Of course what lurked beneath my sweet surface wasn’t always so sweet. And speaking it would have felt selfish or hurtful – something I didn’t want to be — and would have surely gotten me punished.

I tried not to lie, since nice girls didn’t. My careful tact, innocent indecision, and quiet smile were effective ruses, and most of the time did the job. If you’re anything like me, you got good at being diplomatic and careful with truth. Each of us mastered ingenious ways to manage the truths we couldn’t handle. We had to, in order to protect ourselves or get what we needed.

Thing is, all this management begins to blur reality. We start believing whatever story best protects the image we like to project. And my inner nice girl wants to keep the peace. She hates to make anyone feel uncomfortable. She’s practiced for all these years pushing down messages from her body and intuition that said, “Hold up, Girl! Something’s not right here!”

The truth is hardest to see when we’re busy protecting a carefully engineered and highly effective self-image. We start believing it’s only safe to be that image of ourselves. In this breakup I received the gift of a mirror to see what I didn’t fully notice before in myself. And I’m grateful… if still feeling tender.

But here’s the wisdom I’m finally getting – and what’s becoming the through-line of my book:
Truth is the foundation of love. The more we can love and accept our real, unvarnished human being-ness — what’s really going on inside, and share that with our beloveds — the more intimacy we create and feel. That’s the authentic expression of the love we truly are.

Over the years my habit of not really saying what needed to be said has hurt a number of good men… and me, too, of course. It’s contributed to the ending of two marriages and several long-ish relationships. The more I delayed recognizing or sharing what was really going on inside, the more I craved truth. I missed its aliveness. It became my siren call. And when it finally came, it did hurt.

Along with the pain comes clarity and eventually, healing. When it’s coupled with courage and good will, when it hasn’t been too long poisoned by delay and denial, truth releases energy and aliveness. Instead of the Armageddon we so fear, what might just be possible is a fresh new kind of connection. It may not be what I’d wanted, but real and honest — I want that most of all.

So… I’m practicing truth telling these days. I’m a little bumbly. Sometimes it comes out too strong. Or the old fears keep me silent too long. And it’s not a happy ending every time.

Though I’m still nursing my wounds, through it all I can hardly believe the aliveness that comes with truth. What I most need now is courage to keep trusting its revelation. And how it clears the decks for more love!

I think this will change my life!

How about you? Does this resonate? If it does, I want to hear in the comments below. What cost have you paid for not speaking truth? And what miracles have happened when you have?

Thank you for receiving my dawning awareness and for reading all the way through this long-ish blog!! If you know others who might find it helpful, please send it along.

We are in this together, Dears. Wanting to live all that life has to teach us, to feel it all…the desolate sadness and the euphoric joy. This is what it is to be fully human and to travel the journey committed to growth and love.

How can I love better this year?

hands in form of heart

On one of the first fresh days of this new year, I had a come-to-Jesus moment.

I’m dating a wonderful new man. In a sweet moment of closeness, his purity and goodness were undeniable. I couldn’t imagine ever treating him badly, holding onto resentments, or failing to meet him with an open heart.

I believe that when we fall in love, we really do see this new being for who they most truly are. It’s the innocence and beauty of their deepest self that draw us to them.

But of course, this is the beginning of a new relationship for me. And I know the usual trajectory. As hurts and misunderstandings mount it’s not been long before I’ve lost sight of what had been so obvious.

In remembering this pattern, I’m overcome by a wash of shame… for the ways I’ve belittled men for decades, relegating them to other. Regardless of my best intentions, my disappointments and judgments have clouded their light. And as much as I’d rather not admit it, my love has been conditional. I needed them to change.

I’ve made men less-than in so many ways because they were different from me. I see now how my stories about them became the truth I created.

In that moment, lying beside my new sweetheart, I sent out a blanket apology to the Universe — to men in general, and to my ex-husband and past partners specifically — for making them wrong. And I vowed to release that habit.

Women disparage men. We often subtly make fun of them. Of course we’re encouraged by TV sitcoms, where they’re now often portrayed as bumbling, clueless dolts. It’s almost become a national sport.

In my counseling practice working with both men and women, I have been surprised by the frequency and poignancy of men’s broken-hearted stories. So often they are earnest in their desire to please their woman, but frustrated that they never seem to get it right. They frequently despair at ever figuring it out.

Their marriages are without the vitality they’d hoped for. Battle lines have been drawn in the bedroom when he’s wanted sex and she’s said no, when they’ve both made each other wrong for being who they are. More often than you might guess it is the man who comes to me, desperately reaching for straws to find some way to make things better.

I’ve done my share of disparaging partners for never quite getting me right, not knowing what I wanted, or being insensitive to my shifting desires. But over the last few years as I’ve listened to my male clients and their despair, my arrogance has melted.

This is a baffling time for many men, especially as they age. They still need to feel powerful and purposeful, to be respected and admired. But shifts in consciousness are changing mores and roles. Social evolution is calling men toward a more subtle and nuanced relationship with women and everything else. What used to work doesn’t anymore. What men once considered flattery is now harassment. They wonder how to express their appreciation without offending. So often, they just want to make their sweetie happy.

As a woman, I’m getting just as tired of the accepted stereotypes we place on men as I am of those women have endured for so long. I want to go beyond the easy condescension, the jokes and snickers about our men that women too often exchange when we gather. Despite all the consciousness raising, we still indulge in the old-boy games.

So this is what I want to know as I begin this new and promising relationship. How can I love better? How can I find the courage to speak my heart’s and body’s truths, but with a consistently open and kind heart?

Then there’s the bigger question…How do we as women give the consistent respect and understanding we wish to receive ourselves, despite the inevitable disappointments? How do we step away from an over-simplified male/female dichotomy and into true respect for each other’s needs and proclivities?

I know I won’t always get it right, but in the clear light of this New Year, I want to make these promises:
~I vow to honor each person’s honest and earnest attempts to love, no matter their gender.
~I vow to choose curiosity instead of condescension.
~I vow to speak my own truth and to compassionately respect the other’s experience.
~I vow to meet every person with my heart as open as possible, ready to recognize their struggle as my own and to welcome our shared vulnerabilities as strengths instead of weaknesses.

We can lament the differences between men and women. Or we can enjoy them – even benefit from them – and dwell instead on the richness of our shared perspectives. We are more alike than different, especially when we come from unguarded hearts. It’s our choice. Maybe this year really will be the start of something new.

Does this ring true to you? Do you have promises you’re making to remember the true essence of your beloved or those you love who’s difference has blinded you to their true self? I’d love to know. There’s space below for your comments.

And thank you so much for partnering with me as we strive to divine everyone’s inner beauty.

Sensual Aikido in the Ocean Life

Ocean wave

I was born landlocked in Pennsylvania. My parents were farmers who didn’t swim. And I had soundly failed Junior Life Saving at the Y when the lifeguard had to save me! The beaches I saw on TV were mysterious and alluring, but terrifying, too. And at 12, the pummeling I received by the New Jersey surf while visiting cousins kept me timid and fearful of wild water ever after. Pools felt safer and much more predictable. If I didn’t feel entirely at ease in the water, at least I wouldn’t be sucked down to unknown depths.

But of course the ocean is unpredictable. And as it would happen, when I played hooky and went to the beach in Rhode Island last week, the surf was crazy after days of storms. A phantom wave drenched our blanket in the first five minutes. I’d never seen waves like this at Ninigret State Beach. And just as I was mustering up the courage to make my way in, the sea sent seven raucous breakers toward the shore in ten-second intervals.

A flash of the old fear surged through me. But fortunately some years ago a dear friend taught me the secret to turning this fear into frenzied fun. You know it, I’m sure. When I dove directly beneath the wild heart of each crest, I came up soaked, but shockingly unscathed! And thrilled! Dancing with Mother Nature’s power and unpredictability – in whatever form it appears – has become one of my biggest turn-ons.

Still, this day’s display was nothing to take lightly. I was thankful for the lifeguard not 50 feet away! So I ventured in. Minutes later, I was no Venus stepping off her shell. Three leviathan waves – one right after the other – had caught me unprepared. I’d had a wild ride, mostly in intimate contact with hard sand and swirling water. And though I’d surely had moments of panic, I’d also loved it.

There seems to be a direct connection between what frightens us most and what makes us feel truly alive. Of course, some common sense and knowledge of Nature’s ways will keep you safer – up to a point. There’s always risk though. She’s not about to be tamed; nor should you be.

But, the waves that scare us don’t usually rise out of the ocean.

I’m betting there’s an enormous wave out on your horizon, coming toward you right now. Some opportunity for really living, for more​ feeling, for deep intimacy – with  yourself or someone else – that you’re scared to dive into, fearful that you’ll be swept out to sea – that you’ll fall into the same patterns or lose control or get hurt again?

But I’d also bet that you feel the pull of what’s possible. Can you let go enough to let life seduce you? Can you remember that you’re actually safer than you think when you catch the wave wrong, when you’re tossed under, out of control, scratching your elbows and knees on the sand, having your suit fill with grit? This kind of living isn’t about comfort. There may be consequences. But what I’ve found is that the more I let myself feel all that’s there, the safer I realize I actually am. It’s when I block feeling that I freeze in fear.

So how fully do you want to live? That’s the questions Jack Kornfield asks in his book, A Path with Heart. “In the end these things matter most: How well did you love? How fully did you live? How deeply did you learn to let go?”

The more intimate we become with what scares us – the more we understand its ways – the more able we are to play in its force. Like an aikido master, we learn not to fight against the waves as they approach or avoid the water altogether, but to feel the waves all around us and swim fully with the energies of life.

What risk does intimacy want from you?

mary market

In her recent book Lean In, Sheryl Sanberg encourages women to face challenges, take risks, and pursue their goals with gusto.

She focuses on career, where our culture says the reward is.

But leaning in in relationships can be just as daunting and juicy.
We want intimacy and yet we avoid it.
We long to be seen for who we really are,(in-to-me-see)
but we stay busy and unavailable…
even to ourselves.

It’s our habits that keep us conveniently disconnected.
We hide out in our busy-ness and cram too much into every day.
There’s so little time for self-reflection… or truly intimate connection with anyone else, for that matter.

What’s up with that?
Why are we so awkwardly hesitant to be truly intimate in our relationships
– with ourselves, someone else, or the world?
What risks are we afraid to take?
What truths are we afraid to say?
What challenges do we avoid, hoping the problem will magically disappear?

Maybe the truth will rock your world… or your relationships.
Being truthful is hard sometimes.
But, it’s often the things that aren’t said that create the distance. 
We will let a friendship slowly fade into memory before we’ll take the risk to share what we’re really feeling. We’re afraid to be that vulnerable.
We’re afraid we’ll mess things up.
We’re afraid of their reaction.
Lots of fear here, even if we’d rather call it something else.

But truth, though sometimes down right terrifying, is much less debilitating than dishonesty or hiding out in illusion or distraction.
It’s truth that brings a feeling of connection with others, and deep within, as well. 
There’s a surprising aliveness and freedom we feel when we’ve been courageous enough to let ourselves be seen.

I learned this lesson some years ago from a dare Mama Gena gave to 250 women in NYC in her School of Womanly Arts.
We were to flirt with a stranger before returning to class the following day.
Flirting, for Mama Gena, was simply enjoying yourself in front of someone else.

I was so terrified at the thought of such a thing that I forgot all about the assignment
until I was about to dash across 59th street to class the next morning,
having just grabbed a quick breakfast at the food cart on the corner.

I scanned the street, looking for a possible victim for my first fumbling attempts at this kind of flirting.
I did not think I would enjoy myself, that I was sure of!
In despiration I remembered the young man I’d just seen at the food cart.
He was gorgeous. And those eyes….!

I felt scared and vulnerable.
But instead of flaking on the challenge, I turned back to him, leaned in to my awkwardness, and said,
“I just want you to know that I think your eyes are beautiful.”

I felt a little ridiculous.
It was a risk. 
What would he think?
Yet I watched this young man’s cool-guy bravado melt away as his face softened
and he sputtered out the “thank you” of a sweet, shy 8-year-old.
For a moment, despite differences of age, race and culture, we were connected.
And that felt amazing!

How often we miss out on this kind of joy!
We notice something, yet so rarely say what we’re thinking.
I’ll probably always be working with my hesitancy to trust myself and the situation enough to say what’s true. Because, let’s face it, some truths will rock our worlds.

Yet practicing leaning in to the fear has deepened so many of my connections that it’s becoming positively addicting.
It’s the intimacy I must have to feel alive.

I have a challenge for you….
Try experimenting this Memorial Day weekend.
Surprise someone with a bit more of yourself.

​And watch how you’re affected.
How did it feel?
​Share with us below, to inspire us all.