Blog Archives

Five Lessons For An Enduring Relationship (aka my secret sauce)

May 12, 2017

We are relational creatures. So much of our satisfaction and fulfillment are related to the quality of our relationships.

There are many reasons that we seek out mates, but it seems that most of us are wired for it. Being in a couple can be one of the most rewarding and difficult experiences. The high divorce rate speaks to the challenges.

When I hear about couples who have been together a long time, I like to ask them what they have learned and for the secret sauce that makes it all work.

I’ve have been with my husband for almost fifteen years. We are celebrating our thirteenth wedding anniversary this month.

It has not been all rainbows and unicorns. Or roses and chocolates for that matter. However, I like to think that we have learned some things in our time together and have come up with our own recipe to keep things salty, spicy, sweet and umami.

When a writer/blogger I follow asked for advice as he was preparing for his nuptials, this is what I wrote.

My relationship is not always happy and I certainly am not gaga all of the time but life does not need to resemble a romance novel or Fifty Shades of Gray. I will choose real love again and again. I think part of enduring is that you weather and work through the hard times together. You build up fondness and appreciation to remember and draw on, to keep you going when you feel disconnected, annoyed or no longer like the sound of your partner’s chewing. And then you savor the good times. You appreciate them and remember to see the goodness in your partner.

The top five lessons I learned (aka my secret sauce):

  • Marriage and relationship are verbs in disguise. You are either tending or neglecting what you have. There is no neutral or doing nothing. You are moving away or towards each other at any one time.
  • Listening does not have to mean agreeing. And certainly not fixing. Listening is just listening and it’s key.
  • It is absolutely necessary to protect the sacred. You can replace the word sacred with respect. Whatever you call it, this represents a bottom line that does not get crossed. This provides safety for two people to be themselves and be together. Learning how to hold something sacred above all else is humbling and instructive. I believe it is a necessary ingredient in self-realization and healthy couplehood.
  • My husband and I have had a rule that has rarely been crossed of honoring the highest standard that either one of us holds or going with the person who feels most strongly about the issue or decision. This brings trust to our relationship and has enabled us to travel the world, raise a child together, make important decisions, keep cheetos out of the house, navigate in-laws and reconnect during difficult times. It answers what social neuroscientist Mark Brady calls the Big Brain Question “Will you be there for me when I need you?” with a resounding YES.
  • Lastly, live by this: love and connection is more important that being right. When conflict is arising, ask yourselves if you would rather be close or right. The answer is usually CLOSE.

Are you giving your power away?

April 7, 2017

A friend and I were recently at a local market buying a couple of last minute ingredients for a dinner we were cooking together. (I find cooking together even more pleasurable than sharing a meal – a way to increase hygge). After checkout, we bumped into a woman my friend knows who happened to be in the last month of her pregnancy.

My friend introduced me as an experienced and knowledgable doula. This very nice woman half apologized, saying that she wanted a doula but her partner was against it. Thus, they weren’t hiring one.

Being who I am and sensing that this woman was open, I responded that I had no intention of convincing her of anything and asked, “Since you are the one giving birth, how is that for you?”

She answered that it was disappointing because she imagines how helpful that support could be but that her relationship was complicated and challenging enough. She didn’t want to rock the boat any further and the best she could do is to respect the desires of her partner.

My heart breaks a little to see smart, capable and kind women feeling the need to give over their power to keep the peace, people please and avoid confrontation.

In the same week, two other women came to me expressing fear of asking for what they want because it went against what someone else wanted for them, be it a careprovider, adult parent or partner. The fear of alienating or aggravating someone else was stronger than their own desires.

If these kinds of stories touch you, notice what arises:
How would you want to respond? What would you say or do?
Do you see something of yourself in these women?
Are there times when you give over your power to appease someone else or avoid confrontation? 

Giving power away seems to be common among women, especially around times of vulnerability such as impending motherhood.

Whether you learned early in life to give your power away or it is situational and relates to a specific relationship, it is most likely connected to the need to feel safe, accepted and loved. The female brain interprets threat to a relationship as a threat to survival. Women are more likely to have a stress reaction that is triggered more easily than the fight or flight response and has been identified as tend and befriend.

Through our connections with other people, we establish a sense of safety and protection.

I’ve devoted myself to learning and developing tools to help women like the one from the grocery store to live from their own truths while experiencing deeper relationships and staying connected to what’s important to them.

Being of help has little to do with trying to fix the situation or defending a point a view or stereotypical representations of angry feminism. It’s about opening the heart of compassion and understanding, bringing awareness and inquiry, then expanding our perspective to include new possibilities.

Without compassion for our own reactions, for the choices a woman is making, for the role of the person she is giving her power to, we can not come close to the truth or truly serve.

Compassion is an anchor that allows us to create the spaciousness in which consciousness and change is possible, regardless of the outcome. We gain perspective and see what is really possible. Our desires, motivations and good intentions become compasses.

There is usually a very good reason when someone seems to be giving their power away. It’s easy to judge or want to change the pattern right away. Most women can sense when someone has an agenda, wants to fix or change them. It usually makes the situation worse. The antidote starts with feeling truly seen and accepted.

How can you bring more compassion to yourself and others in situations where power is being given away?
What’s your anchor?
What motivations or good intentions are present?
How can you see the situation without making anyone wrong (including yourself)? 

I would love to hear from you whether you are someone who finds yourself giving your power away or if you are someone who supports other women and sees this pattern playing out. How was this helpful? How might you address a situation like the one that I described above?

How To Find Feminine Wisdom

March 30, 2017

Divine Feminine Indian Goddess Statues

Seeking the Feminine

I began seeking Feminine wisdom when I was just a girl. I did not have a name for it but I longed for it and sensed it in the patch of woods bordering our urban neighborhood and in a graceful older woman in our community named Leah with long silver hair whom people said did something called yoga.

In those days, I did not have a mentor for this and my exhaustive searches in the New York Public Library only came up with books about the Salem Witch Trials. Still, I knew that I was onto something.

A few years later, I would slip a twenty from my father’s nightstand and take the subway downtown to the east village where I discovered a little store that sold crystals, healing herbs, magic candles, tarot cards and books that held the secrets of gypsy love potions and Wiccan incantations. I knew that I was getting warmer and briefly delved into this metaphysical realm.

When I interned at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I found myself drawn to representations of and by women. Though I had never gardened, I was magnetically attracted to old manuscripts of herb lore and recipes collected by midwives and alewives.

I know today that we are lucky to have the bits of wisdom that have survived. The Feminine was pushed deeper underground. Women were often persecuted and their knowledge eradicated.

Learning about the Feminine

Next, I began learning about world religions and mythologies through books and classes at the New School. I immersed myself in yoga, Buddhist philosophy, movement practices and anatomy studies. I was getting closer but had no idea how it would all fit together.

Then, I discovered the realm of women’s cycles and midwifery in my mid-twenties and found spiritual mentors like Sally Kempton and Shiva Rea. I travelled to India, Thailand and Belize to immerse myself in traditional wisdom and ancient healing techniques.

A deepening connection came through my monthly women’s group that met on the new moon for seven years and from the power I witnessed while attending births in the role of doula.

Discovering the Feminine

Now I see the Divine Feminine in everything. I no longer have to seek her out because she is always there. This wisdom has become more accessible and available because of the internet and the many women (and enlightened men) who have sought to restore our awareness.

Whether we call her Shakti (Sanskrit), Shechinah (Hebrew), the Great Mother, Yin or the Feminine, her quality is timeless, limitless and appears in the natural cycles.

She encompasses nurturing presence, flow and intuition. She is expressed through connectivity, collaboration and compassion. The journey to discover Feminine wisdom is an inner one.

She was there guiding me all along. We can always call on the Feminine for healing, support and wisdom.

There are many good books and resources out there today, but the doorway to feminine wisdom is inward. At first, it may be difficult to perceive among our busy thoughts and activity. Receptivity and being-ness are required. The Feminine can also be found in sensuous living, dance, music and nature.

Feminine Healing

We need the energy of the Feminine to balance our masculine-oriented culture and bring the dawn of wholeness individually and in our society.

 Many people have acknowledged the current call for the feminine and that it is rising. Whether implicitly or explicitly, my work with women is imbued with the feminine, both honoring and invoking it.

How do you experience the Feminine? 

When do you sense Her presence?

How to get more of what you want

March 24, 2017

Last week, I wrote about why it’s worth going for what you want. I hope it provided some inspiration.

It makes sense to follow up with how to get more of what you want. I am not talking about the laws of attraction or reciting affirmations (though if you dig that, it’s cool).

There are four simple reasons that people don’t get more of what they want. I was so fired about about this that I decided to outline them for you in a short video. (You may notice my dog making a few poignant barks.)

To sum it up:

  • Get clear on what it is you want.
  • Notice if there is resistance or secondary gain holding you back.
  • Go ahead and ask for it.
  • Look for it in your life.

Why it’s worth going for what you want

March 17, 2017

They didn’t think I could pull it off. Had I listened, I wouldn’t have backpacked across Europe for a semester at the tender age of 17.
These were the days before cell phones. To get in touch, you had to buy a calling card to use at a public pay phone.

There were no ATMs to distribute currency, so you had to go to a bank during its open hours (and not on a bank holiday or weekend!) to exchange traveller’s checks.

Instead of GPS, you found your way around by following maps in the Let’s Go Europe guide and by asking people in broken French/Italian/German for directions.

My boyfriend at the time and I started a jewelry business to pay for the trip. We made and sold embroidered and beaded necklaces and bracelets in the West Village of New York City.

I negotiated with my school to do an independent study in exchange for credit.

My parents rallied behind me when they saw how committed I was but they hadn’t been to Europe and were perpelexed by the drive I had to go there.

There were so many reasons this trip was unlikely to happen, which made it all the more satisfying when it did.

I am so grateful to have had a formative experience of going for what I want at a young age. From this, I later became known for my independent spirit and following my heart.

In addition to gaining perspective from independent travel and visiting other cultures, I shaped a new worldview that embraced greater possibilities. Through my experience, I developed an ability to see solutions that others may not pay attention to because they dismissed them outright.

As a life coach and educator, I use my insights to help others see things in a new light and expand possibilities.

So many women hold back from what they want (and struggle as a result)

They worry about being unrealistic, making someone else uncomfortable, breaking the status quo or enduring the pain of failure or embarrassment. It would break their hearts to hear the I-told-you-so’s or to be identified as one of those people.

I often hear women apologize, justify and explain as if they are little girls and need permission to do something big, bold or outside of the norm.

Because we are relational creatures, we care about other people and their reactions — both real and imagined. The female brain derives a sense of safety through connection. Breaking the status quo can be seen as a threat to that connection and result in expulsion from the group.

Some women think: who am I to do this?

Marianne Williamson responds by asking: who are you not to do it?

Following our own convictions and doing somethign new can be scary — where it’s starting a career as an artist, doula or acupuncturist, planning a homebirth, defying gender norms, moving to a new city or setting boundaries with a family member.
I am usually the last person to ever say that something can’t be done, no matter how outlandish, unconventional or challenging. My purpose is not to spur people into unrealistic expectations, frustration or failure. Rather, I want to live in a world where people live fully and go after their dreams.
I would not be who I am today without the belief that anything is possible, at least until we try and give it our all. And we wouldn’t have things like airplanes, automobiles, internet and lightbulbs. Movements have been born and our realities shaped by those who dared.

The pain of our unlived lives is more unbearable than living with our mistakes and failures.

My question (assuming it won’t cause harm to anyone) is:

How badly do you want whatever it is and what are you willing to trade or risk to get it?

Just because something is possible, doesn’t mean it is easy. And if it involves controlling a situation or manipulating another person to get what we want, that’s not the kind of possibility that I am talking about.
Thinking independently, setting boundaries and going against the status quo may be challeging but whatever the outcome, it means that you were willing to stand up for what you want and go for it.

Going for what you want is an act of courage and radical self-love.