True Beauty

IMG_4208A few weeks ago I met with two women from my spirituality group. They had never been to my home, and as we stepped onto the deck to begin our meeting they both remarked on the beauty of our land. I found myself qualifying and explaining about the dirt and weeds: “It was a lot more beautiful before the flood,” I said. But they both replied with, “You can feel the beauty. It’s still here.”

These are both women with a strong spiritual practice, which to me means that they have learned to see beneath the surface of things and tap into the underground river that informs and connects the invisible layers of our lives. While my husband and I look at our yard and see what was destroyed by the flood – the beautiful flower gardens, the luminous green lawn – they’re seeing the whole picture, feeling with their hearts into the energy of our land. When I looked through their heart-eyes, I saw/felt it, too.

In our image-based culture, we learn early to see through the lens of what is apparent on the surface. We’re not taught culturally to see essence, to breathe into the beauty that runs deeper than externals. And yet we’ve all had the experience of being bowled over by true beauty. It’s what we see you come across a woman, regardless of age or shape, who truly inhabits her body and her being. The wrinkles around her eyes or the size of her butt… they don’t matter. What you see is the true definition of beauty, which a woman living truthfully from her essence and radiating the light of her heart into the world.

This reminds me of one of my favorite poems by Emily Dickinson that I discovered in my early twenties. As I read back on it now I see that even then I was tapped into the underground river where truth and beauty are one, where the physical image is a reflection of the heart of truth:

I died for beauty, but was scarce
Adjusted in the tomb,
When one who died for truth was lain
In an adjoining room.

He questioned softly why I failed?
“For beauty,” I replied.
“And I for truth – the two are one;
We brethren are,” he said.

And so, as kinsmen met a-night,
We talked between the rooms,
Until the moss had reached our lips,
And covered up our names.

I recently received a copy of a magnificent book, “The Book of Mother’s Bodies,” by Jade Beall, which contains raw, untouched photographs of women’s post-baby bodies and a short essay in which each woman shares her struggle to embrace and accept the changes. These bodies are real: round, fleshy, skinny, asymmetrical breasts or nipples… and gorgeous. I have pored over these images and essays, drinking from the same underground river that we never see in this culture around women’s bodies. And when I place these images next to the airbrushed, so-called “perfect” bodies of fashion models, the models appear two-dimensional, boring and lifeless. The real women’s bodies tell a story.

It’s the same with a common symptom of relationship anxiety: not feeling attracted to your partner. If we take the symptom at face value we can easily jump onto the cultural bandwagon of alarm: Oh no! You’re not attracted to your partner! Time to jump ship. I often wonder how many thousands if not millions of solid, loving relationships have ended because the person didn’t know that lack of attraction is a symptom of lack of connection: of being disconnected from the Truth with a capital T that allows you to see yourself, your partner, and your relationship through clear and loving eyes.

When you’re seeing through these eyes you naturally and effortlessly see essence. You see what is enduring and sustaining, not the shifting, changing externals that respond to the passage of time. You see yourself as whole and worthy of love and you see your partner through this same, forgiving lens. If you’ve fallen into the grip of dissecting your partner’s face or “checking” to see if you’re attracted every time he or she walks into the room, ask yourself these questions instead:

1. Am I connected to myself? Am I seeing myself through clear and loving eyes?

If you’re judging yourself or holding yourself to an impossible standard of perfection, it’s quite likely that you’ll project this unloving lens onto the screen of your partner. Likewise, if your disconnection is a result of overwhelm, not enough internal space, or hormonal surges/imbalances, you may be looking at your partner through a distorted lens.

2. Is my partner connected to him or herself?

When your partner has fallen into his lower self, he’s not going to look as attractive. This is true of everyone. I’ll never forget the time my son said to me, “Mommy, sometimes you look really ugly.” I was taken aback, of course, but had enough curiosity to ask, “When is that?” To which he so astutely responded, “When you’re mad.” People don’t “look ugly” because they’ve gained weight or haven’t taken a shower in a few days; they look ugly when they’ve fallen into habitual patterns of anger, negativity, complaining, and victimization. Conversely, people look beautiful when they’re connected to their own essence, shining in the authentic strength of standing solid in who they are.

3. Are we connected to each other?

Marriages, like individuals, endure dark nights of the soul, times when the third body of the marriage encounters a crisis point and you’re both asked to shed and grow or become more calcified in your unhealthy patterns. When you’re traveling through these dark tunnels, neither of you are likely to be operating from your highest self. Paradoxically, however, if you embrace these crises as the opportunities that they are, you’ll both be stripped down to your most vulnerable essence and may find, to your surprise, that you feel more attracted to each other than ever. But invariably the disconnect will return, as it always does, and that’s when you remind yourself that love and attraction ebb and flow, just like everything else in life.

Sometimes a period of disconnect can last a day; other times several months. Regardless of the length of time that you can’t find yourself or each other, know that during these stages you may feel less attracted to your partner or find yourself perseverating on the theme of attraction. This is normal. And the more you know this, the less you’ll need to fan the fire of the intrusive theme and turn the attention of your focus where it needs to be: toward reconnection.

If you’d like to learn more about how to grow your love and cultivate a mindset that will foster real attraction, please join me for the next round of Open Your Heart: A 30 day program to feel more love and attraction for your partner, which will begin on September 13th, 2014.

Love is a Practice

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We have an idea in this culture that you either have it or you don’t: You’re athletic or you’re clumsy; you’re a great orator or you stumble over words; you’re talented artistically or you can barely draw a stick figure; love comes easily to you or you struggle to find flow in relationships. While there’s no denying that people are born with gifts, there’s also no denying that with enough accurate information, support, and practice, you can excel at almost anything.

Excel at love? What does that mean? It means that you won’t always feel what we call “in love” in this culture – that ecstatic, heart-thumping high that characterizes the first stage of some relationships – but that if you learn the Love Laws and commit to the Loving Actions that will kick fear out of the driver’s seat, thereby opening your heart to more expansive and sustainable states Click here to continue reading…

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Everest Turns Ten

I’ve written birthday posts for my kids for as long as I’ve had this blog. Last year I also wrote a letter to my firstborn, and read it to him in a private ceremony where I welcomed him into his ninth year. This year I’ve decided to share his birthday letter here.

I believe that one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is reflecting back their essential, intrinsic, inviolable qualities that are not based on externals, outcomes, or achievements. Children know themselves largely because of how they are reflected back by caregivers and influential adults. When we only reflect back their stuck points and challenges, it’s easy for them to develop a belief system of being “bad” or “wrong” in some way. But when we take time to reflect their intrinsic qualities of mind, heart, and soul, their stuck points are cushioned by a strong sense of Click here to continue reading…

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The Escape Hatch from Anxiety

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Life is uncomfortable; there is no escaping that reality. From the time we emerge from the perfect, symbiotic state of the womb and enter the world, we’re confronted with the fact that the external environment doesn’t always meet our needs and our internal state fluctuates from equilibrium to disequilibrium, often a dozen times or more in the course of a single day. I remember when my son was a baby and he was suffering from digestion difficulties. I tried everything in my power to ease his pain – including limiting my diet to three foods – but nothing helped. I clearly recall looking at him one day in his tiny four month old body and thinking, “It’s uncomfortable being in a body and there’s nothing I can do to change that.” It was my first of many motherhood lessons about letting go and realizing that part of our lot as … Click here to continue reading…

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What if I Learn to Trust Myself and Then...?

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Oh, the what-ifs…

I’ve received dozens of emails this past week inquiring about my upcoming Trust Yourself program with the same question: “What if I learn to trust myself and then I realize that my truth is that I have to leave my partner?” I’ve heard this exact question in other forms literally thousands of times over the years, as it’s the number one reason why people are afraid to turn inward: afraid to journal, afraid to meditate, afraid to connect to a source of personal guidance and wisdom, afraid to “do the work.”

My response is, first, to offer reassurance: I’ve never seen someone in a loving, compatible relationship choose to leave after choosing to turn inward and develop self-love and self-trust. It just doesn’t happen. It doesn’t happen because people who find their way to my work almost invariably are blessed to be involved with caring, honest, wonderful … Click here to continue reading…

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