The Value of Grief

It’s one of those nights when every song that plays reaches some part of my heart that can’t help but open to grief—I’m in tears every 10 minutes or so. Not because anything bad has happened, or because I’m in a difficult place—simply because it’s there—that grief, these tears—they are in me. It’s part of the human experience to suffer, sometimes to grieve, and if we don’t give it space when it makes a natural appearance, its later manifestation is never quite so congruent with our hearts.

This sadness, tonight, is asking for my attention.

Grief is not comfortable, for most of us anyway. It’s not something we choose to hang out with much. And in our efforts to avoid it, I often wonder what else we miss. We do so much to push it away, repress, suppress, distract, distance—but isn’t there validity in our pain? Isn’t there something there that, if we can lean into it, might have some wisdom to impart to our hearts?

There is a reason that we weep to the point that, at times, grief3
it can feel as if our hearts will rip apart. And I have to wonder, is it maybe our soul’s way of asking us to stretch a little further into life, into love? Love is certainly not for the weak of heart, so if we are going to feel its depth, we better find ways to strengthen our tolerance.

My belief is that when we are willing to allow grief some space in our hearts, and we stretch into the discomfort, and simply “stay” …we are equally strengthening our capacity for the other end of our emotional spectrum. We stretch ourselves into deeper love, to fuller compassion toward the human experience, into more receptive intimacy, into more complete authenticity, and into gentleness toward ourselves, and to those around us.

grief1

Grief can break us open, and in the depths of our open hearts, we sometimes find who we were made to be.

For the Love of Your Life,

Angie

 

 

 

 

 

Bullying–a Cycle of Abuse

Talking to our children about bullying definitely makes it more real, doesn’t it? When we begin to see our kids concern, hear their questions, feel their fear? And how we navigate those tender topics will have a lot to do with how our children respond to the idea, and the reality, of this pervasive form of societal abuse.

Nathaniel and I had an interesting dialogue tonight about bullying, victims, and different kinds of abuse—including one person lying about another, or blaming a victim and why victims of abuse so often remain quiet—how the cycle unfolds and continues to spiral, sometimes out of control. Maybe because he’s entering Middle School next year, and he’s hearing a lot about bullying, he’s sharing some growing concern about the issue. He’s wondering what it looks like, what he’d do, why people act in certain ways, and who’s at fault.

There are so many ways that people bully one another, many being so subtle that it can often take a panel of experts to decide whether certain behavior constitutes. There’s physical bullying—aggressive types of bullying. There are threats to physical safety, threats to emotional or psychological well-being. There is teasing, name-calling, taunting behavior. There is the type of bullying used to belittle someone—to cause them to feel left out, singled out, or hearing untrue rumors about themselves. There are devastating impacts from cyber-bullying these days!  bullying-research-image

Ultimately, bullying means there is a difference, or a perceived difference, in power. When one person seems to have power over another, and uses that power to cause harm—that’s bullying.

I gave an example of one boy bullying another, and the victim doing everything in his power to stop the bullying—talking, practicing compassion, setting boundaries, using defensive force, and even using humor—and eventually needing someone to help him advocate for himself, if the person bullying just won’t stop. Often, even if the kid being bullied gives fair warning, a “bully” will often respond with, “go ahead and tell. I don’t care if I get into trouble,” all the while, possibly feeling “above or beyond” the rules—or subconsciously trying to get the attention he desperately needs. So the kid finally tells an adult—someone who can set more effective boundaries and provide stronger consequences that hopefully make a difference for both kids.

And what does the person bullying do? He blames the victim for being a tattle-tale, a wimp. He externalizes any responsibility (most often, right?) and blames, even when he had every opportunity to change the behavior. And in his mind, this is the truth—it is the fault of the other kid, or the teacher, or the school… but never his—he simply can’t see it. And he convinces others that the other kid is the one at fault, and sometimes (oftentimes) his parents will enable the behavior and belief. And so the cycle goes…

…And children who are not held accountable grow up to be adults who believe they can do no wrong.

And the other kid? Hopefully he has enough emotional support to buoy his belief that he is not the one to blame and that standing up for himself was the right thing to do, and that sometimes we all need support—we need people to advocate for us when there is an imbalance in power. Sadly, this is often not the case—we have way too many kiddos, and subsequently adults who raise more kiddos, who feel safer simply keeping their mouths shut.

Why does this happen? Why don’t victims of such abuse get both the advocacy and the support they need? Similarly, this is a common scenario in adult relationships—both with domestic violence as well as more subtle types of abuse—“bullying.” The following article in Psychology Today mailto:https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-love-and-war/201311/why-do-we-blame-victims theorizes that it’s against our natural tendency to support the victims of such behavior because we fear letting go of our attachment to the belief that the world is safe. We prefer to believe that bad things happen to bad people, and we get what we deserve.  Holding these beliefs helps us to avoid the vulnerability that would come from true empathy. If bad things happen to people who don’t deserve them, they can happen to us as well.

Now this is an area I’ve struggled—for years, I struggled to acknowledge victims, even myself when I’ve been victimized. In fact, I’ve explored the extremes of this victim pendulum well! After recognizing that I spent much of my life as a victim, I formed a reactive defense, wanting to believe that we each have ultimate control of our lives. It used to really irk me when someone in a “victim position” actually claimed to be a victim, because I wanted them to acknowledge their own power and, therefore, a solution to the problem, because that allowed me to believe “I” was all I needed for solutions to my own problems. Of course this was my own way of avoiding vulnerability.

2121754867_745c975b98_mI continue to explore the balance between victimization and personal power, being a relationship therapist who does a lot of work around our primary issues being systemic and “relational” rather than solely “personal.” I support people in looking not at what their partners are doing wrong, but how they are responding because even when our partners make the worst of mistakes, it is our ability to respond effectively that sets us up for relationship success.

…And that’s another post!

This PT article asserts that our avoidance of vulnerability to others’ suffering comes with a deeper cost—that we are less able to empathize, less able to feel true compassion for others because of our own fear.

I want to add to this theory. If we actually look at the “wrong” that someone has done…. And we look deeply, we also become vulnerable to looking at some reflection of ourselves. Example: If we honestly look at a child who is bullying, we often look at the parents who’ve potentially taught, enabled, and modeled a way of being in the world to that child; we may also look at the school system that hasn’t provided safety, and we can’t help but look at a society that hasn’t provided enough community, support, and love. Ultimately, we look at our part in that society, if we are willing. To acknowledge the entire system that supports bullying—that supports abuse—we must look at ourselves. And that’s really uncomfortable for most of us.

When friends and family remain neutral about abuse or bullying, saying “it was both people at fault,” they deny the needed life lesson of the perpetrator, colluding with him or her, and they also make it less likely that the victim of abuse will reach out for support. This is one form of “enabling.” When we take the easy road, seeing both people as equally culpable, we not only continue to enable abuse, but we support the avoidance of accountability that we each need to hold.

Just to be clear, I am not talking about issues where each person truly holds equal responsibility and both are blaming one another, which can be very confusing. I’m talking about actual abuse—where there is a consistent pattern and a disparity in power; whether physical, sexual, emotional, financial, or psychological—and I’m talking about both children and adults. There is a big difference here in areas where we “claim victimhood,” and where people are truly victims. Both are real. Both are worth our time.

Nathaniel and my discussion ended in the shared belief that it is all of our responsibility to acknowledge where and how abuse and bullying manifest, and to step into the vulnerability of acknowledging our part in it either continuing or ending.

I feel grateful for the privilege of sharing these dialogues with this very wise soul! And I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

For the Love of Your Life!

Angie

 

 

Goodbye to Our Sandstone Home

home1

The Grand fort building that often took over this room!

Here I sit in my living room. The “Great Room,” actually…. Probably the only home I’ll ever live in that will be grand enough to have a room called a great room! And next week, another family will be here, sitting, looking around, enjoying the space—living their lives. Knowing nothing of the lives that have been lived within these walls for the past 15 years.

I want… and need to acknowledge this moment. While I have felt “ready” for way too long, I don’t want this opportunity for conscious closure to slip by without recognition. I want to be sure to feel the ending, to fully experience the transition of closing this chapter so that I can fully step into the next.

And what a chapter this has been…

So much about this home I have loved. First off, that it was the first place that my babies knew as home. It was the space I watched them explore the newness of life and love and relationship. It’s been the space that’s given them room to become who they are thus far. This has been a home that has captured so much laughter, so much play—the dancing and games and parties and shared time that this house has held—what memories!

The walls of my children’s rooms have held so many hours and hours of story telling, books, cuddle time, and long talks. The basement has been home to the kids learning about training our bodies—they’ve been immersed in it, with a huge home gym. They’ve had movie parties with friends in the theater, and slumber parties and sleepovers and play dates that will never be forgotten. We truly have been blessed to live in this amazing space.Papou

We’ve loved the beautiful, spacious kitchen where we’ve enjoyed cooking for friends and family—where my children have learned to bake and learned about their Greek origins, helping Mama, and

home4their Yia yia and Papou with all sorts of Greek dishes. We will miss the joy and love that has been shared in this kitchen, and look forward to bringing that same joy and love into the next.  cooking1

 

 

 

My garden has been my safe haven for the past four years.   It has been my place where nourishing my family through tending the soil has saved me at times—has given me a sense of calm in the storm, has connected me to my roots—particularly to my Dad, and has connected me to what sustains. I pray that the family who lives here will gain as much from digging their hands into the soil as I have. I hope that the children learn to love planting and harvesting and digging for worms.
garden1

garden2

 

 

 

 

 

 

home3The friends who’ve shared in our lives here continue to share in the transition, and deepen my experience of holding all that blessed this space. Amazing people who are a part of each of us.

home2

 

 

 

friends1

 

And there has been a lot of sadness too. There has been heartache and suffering of people not knowing how to love well enough, and children yearning for a certain stability that never fully came—who saw too much anger and too many tears to feel completely safe.

That breaks my heart and is a truth I hold tenderly, and will consistently work to repair.

This is the only home we’ve known as a family. This space has become part of our identity, and much of it difficult to let go. And I pray that our memories will continue to be cherished—the lives we have lived thus far between these walls will forever be part of our foundation, part of who we are, and what we will bring to our new home.

The time of transition has finally come, too long after it was needed. I see the final pieces being moved out, furniture broken down and stored, walls and carpets bare, the space becoming emptier and emptier—there’s a quiet now that, honestly, seems louder than anything this space has ever held.

And finally the tears come. Now I can weep at all that is being lost and let go. Now that it is so real, that my body, even, is experiencing the stillness—the lack of “us” here, now I can say my final goodbye to all that was, and was not.N&L

My children feel this ending—are beginning to experience the poignancy of what it means. They are expressing the sadness that comes with awareness and truth. Their reality still not completely stable, and they desperately need to rest in the comfort of something known. “Not quite yet,” I say, “but so soon. And it will be so nice, the newness and freedom.” And I believe it will be. This is a welcome transition—and yet welcome does not negate pain.

And for now, we need to simply be with the ending. We need to share gratitude for all that we have experienced here and all of the memories we can continue to hold. We need to say goodbye—to bless these rooms, the memories we’ve made here, and bless the space that will become a safe haven for a new family to grow and become.

May this house—this home—inspire LOVE to flourish. May it provide safety and security and warmth. May it be a place where adventure and dreams are realized, and where relationships deepen. While we know that a house does not make a home—that our home will be where we share our lives together as a family—may this become a wonderful home for a new family.

So many blessings,

Angie, Nathaniel, and Lilly

Us

For the Love of Your Life!

Angie

 

 

Happy Freedoms!

“No man is entitled to the blessings of freedom unless he be vigilant in its preservation.”   ~ Douglas Macarthur

I want to add “women” to the above quote, specifically because we have the same responsibility to protect the freedoms we’ve been given.

Suffragette March, London 1911I was considering this morning what I’m most thankful for, in regard to celebrating Freedom, and had this moment of overwhelming gratefulness to be a woman in the USA.  The blessings we are granted, as women in America, are relatively large, considering much of the world.  They seem, often, like “givens.”  Yet so many women, with the misfortune of being born in different parts of the world, have never known the freedoms with which we were born, simply for living on US soil.

I have been provided a right to an education, however far I choose to take it.  I have been offered medical aid and immunizations, which are mine to choose or not.  I have a right to vote.  I have a right to design the life that I choose, without fear of oppression based on my sex—and if I feel oppressed, I have a right to fight it.

I have a right to wear what I want, to express my nature in whatever oppressed-womanway it arises for me, from conservative to provocative, without fear of being arrested for exposing the majority of my body and face—sans my genitalia and breasts (and even in lovely places like Boulder, my breasts can be exposed!)  I have a right to worship who, what, and how I choose.  I have a right to develop my own beliefs, without fear of being arrested or killed for believing differently than the majority.

FGM-girlI have a right to my body—to empowerment and sexual expression.  I have never feared Female Genital Mutilation/Female Circumcision that millions across the globe have endured without understanding or consent. If you are not aware of this barbaric procedure, I urge you to read here and beware, the images are graphic and heart wrenching.

I have a right to marry whom I choose, or not.  And I have the right to divorce.

I have a right to stand and fight for what I believe, to speak what I want, to write and share and empower other women and men.

We really are incredibly blessed and I’d like to share a deep, heartfelt bow to those men and women who have done all they can to protect those freedoms, and to say “Thank you.”  We all have the right to continue to evolve our perspectives and our understanding so that our rights as human beings are even more in line with how we want to live.  And today, I want to wish all of you a day of celebrating all of our freedoms!passion-me

To the Love of Your Life!

Angie

An Evolved Woman

The following was excerpted from a social media post that crossed my digital path a few days ago, and I highly appreciate it.  It’s not insanely profound or life-changing. Just simple truths from one man on the path about what it means to be “An Evolved Man.”

As I read through, I began wondering how “An Evolved Woman” might compare–and I became inspired to come up with my own version.  Since this is the path on which I humbly stumble, it is helpful to acknowledge that this is a vision toward which I strive.

This is mine, anyway.  What’s yours?

10 signs he’s an evolved man

By Graham R White

1. He listens to and respects women: A gentleman never refers to ANY woman with defamatory language, because he has class.

2. He has the courage to ask for help and his ego is under control. He’s secure enough to do personal work with the support of those who can help him heal childhood trauma.

3. He is guided by a purpose and personal belief system. His decisions are based on a sense that something greater than his individuality exists.

4. He mentors youth because he recognizes the responsibility to share the wisdom of experience. As a father, a coach, a teacher or leader in the community he gives back.

5. His worth is determined by what he does, not what he owns. He looks after his financial responsibilities, but the lives he touches matter more than the buildings or businesses he builds.

6. He challenges himself and constantly seeks opportunities to develop his mind. His goal is not to win, but to grow.

7. Sex isn’t something he gets, but the result of the trust and connection his energy creates. He is not led by a ‘need’, and he doesn’t wait to be led. He’s absolute class in public and maintains discretion about his ravishing activities in private.

8. He lives without reservation and nothing to hide. His authentic life is enough that the praise about him happens when others are talking, not self-aggrandizement.

9. He looks for ways to make his world bigger, by developing friendships, travel and expanding his circles of influence to include people with different backgrounds and beliefs.

10. All things flow outward from his purpose. He is guided by a clear sense of who he is and while his vision of what he’s here to do may be audacious, it never comes across with arrogance.

That, is an Evolved man.

Graham R White

…and nowwomanshadow

10 Qualities of An Evolved Woman

By Angie Tsiatsos Phillips

1.  She has cultivated the ability to soothe her emotions—While she trusts herself enough to allow her own chaos, her pain, her anger, intensity, unabashed love to fill a room, she also knows how to return to her center.  She knows how to track sensations and thoughts with an observing mind, and honor the innate wisdom of her body.

2.  She has a respect for the unique perspective, and emotional body, of men.  She does not generalize and mock the differences in men and women—as society reinforces—but thrives and becomes further awakened by the polarities of masculine-feminine natures.

3.  She can yield completely into her emotional drives, without fear, yet trusts her developed moral compass to guide choices that affirm her integrity.

4.  She shares her natural strength in nourishing those around her—her children, her partner, her friends and family—because she is connected to God/Goddess energy and however it lives through her, and it emanates from the core of her being.  From a position of strength, she provides open arms and heart for others to yield into Love. 

5. Her worth is determined by the depth and potency of her relationships.  She is self-actualized, yet her self-actualization may be in a professional role, a mothering role, or any number of roles that engage her passion.  And in whatever role she exists, she deepens her experience, along with those around her, by her authentic and embodied presence.

6. She stands firm in her unique physical beauty, in whatever form that arises, but she does not value that more highly than her mind or her heart.  She attends to her body, mind, and heart through practiced self-care.  She is an advocate for other women to own their individual essence and power, and rather than shy away from them, she joins with them, knowing that when powerful women join forces, the world changes.

7. Her sexuality is alive in her eyes, in her hips, and in her movement.  She is comfortable owning her deepest desires and asking for all that she craves, physically, emotionally, and spiritually with an intimate partner.  She highly values the power of her sensuality and uses great care in sharing that energy.  She knows how to come alive to her man’s attuned touch and sink into the most primal language of her body.

8. She owns her space in the world—wherever, and with whomever, she is.  She lives fully awake and with integrity, consistently checking in and taking ownership of slips and trips along the way, but with gentleness toward herself and toward others.  She is able to pause… breathe, and sink into her deepest truth, even when life brings intense challenge.

9. She is curious, and she allows her curiosity and innate trust to guide her into attracting the next level of learning, the right people and experiences, from which she will ultimately expand her awareness as well as be able to express immense generativity to the world around her.

10. She speaks, moves, and lives from an internal source of love—her heart, mind, and body in fluid alignment and with transparency that opens her to the honest reflection from those around her.  She validates her own experience while strengthening her ability to open to the unique experiences and perspectives of others.

That is an evolved woman…  in my humble opinion

For the Love of Your Life,

Angie

For the Love of Lust: Part Two

(If you missed part one of For the Love of Lust, Click Here)  

We are built for bonding.  There is no doubt.  Whether we ever satisfy our relationship1innate need for deep connection is dependent on countless factors, but suffice it to say, creating meaning through our relationships is a prime motivator for much of what we do in life.

Could it be possible, however, that our desire for intimacy has a shadow to it?  Maybe that the moral laws that govern our fidelity do not coalesce with passion?  Could it also be that through our efforts to increase togetherness in our relationships, we simultaneously create an emotional barrier to eroticism?

Many partners will admit to waning desire that can become a burden to relationships, coming alive only in response to others or conversely deadening one’s spirit of Lust altogether, after significant time has past.  Most will simply describe this process as fact, as natural.  And while sex and eroticism can take dramatic turns over the course of time, to submit to these socialized beliefs can actually cause harm to these unions we’ve worked so diligently to forge.

In Part One of this article, we spoke to the evolutionary advantages of Lust.  We spoke to the health and necessity; to the brain circuitry specifically designed to support it’s expression.  We also acknowledged the complexity of attaining a harmonious balance between Lust and Love.  (Again, if you missed that, click here).

Becoming Friends with Lust—Ours and Our Partners

Esther Perel, PhD, author of Mating In Captivity notes that lust doesn’t always play by the rules of good morals.  In fact, sometimes those rules are actually antithetical to the cultivation of lust and eroticism because, for that circuitry to be activated, humans tend to require a little bit of risk—something that our intimate bonds have a propensity to constrain.

When we consider the closeness that intimacy allows, the stripping away of lifelong emotional layers that lends to the foundation of relational love—the transparency that fosters safety—we have to wonder as to the other side of the coin.  When we have become so open, so able to yield into the transparent dance of togetherness, we leave nothing for our partners to seek out in us.  And our practice of seeking is related to another region of evolved brain circuitry that is necessary for us to thrive as humans.  Seeking feels good to our brains–it provides a sense of purpose and pleasure and forward motion.  When there is nothing left to seek out in our partners, the pleasure that comes from seeking must find another outlet for expression.

To destabilize our intimate bonds with behavior that many see as riskyfor example, to rekindle eroticismcan feel as if it opposes the exact behavior that is nourishing our relationship.  So often, our “lust needs” take a back seat to the cultivation of care and closeness

lust5And yet… as is clearly stated in Part One, we are hardwired for lust as well.  So while lust can quiet itself for a time, that particular brain circuitry needs expression and ideally that expression would be practiced in a way that supports our vision for an integral relationship.

Lust, for most people, tends to require a certain amount of risk—these two emotional constructs act very similar in the brain, in fact.  The question in the development of lust in an intimate relationship subsequently becomes, how do we RISK without risking too much?

Neurochemicals of Risk

The nature of risk is related to the emotion excitement, which is essentially a combination of hope and fear.  Excitement, on a physiological level, provokes a state of hyperarousal, where thoughts and body states are pushed to stretch beyond homeostasis—our natural state of equilibrium—to a palpable emotional experience that, while stressful, is also related to positivity.  You see, when we push ourselves just slightly out of our comfort zone, and we experience some resulting pleasure, the reward center in our brains lights up like the 4th of July!

Exciting experiences activate dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain’s rewardDopamine1 system that helps us experience pleasure.  The pleasure and reward center is housed primarily in the frontal lobe of the brain, and provides a “reward value” for experience.

For risk to be related to reward, our brains need healthy doses of dopamine and adrenaline, along with their available receptors.  And the culmination of reciprocated lust ignites serotonin as well—which is related to feelings of happiness and mood regulation.  Top that off with healthy doses of oxytocin, vasopressin and endogenous opioids and this neurochemical cocktail—if given to a skilled mixologistis deserving of a worthy name!  No wonder our drive to acquire, and experience, the rewards of lust are so powerful.

The fact is, even a one-night-stand can stir these potent neurochemicals into existence, which is why we can experience incredible closeness—the feeling of, anyway—after even a brief sexual encounter.  And yet, one-night-stands do little for the other driver of our relational circuitry—those connected to Care, Bonding, and Love. 

Cultivating the Sweet Spot

Our brains and bodies have evolved to the point of reaping significant benefits of both intimacy and lust—just rarely collaboratively.  The relationship between the two is complex and clearly non-linear, as we may have previously assumed.  Science has demonstrated that both are necessary to our collective evolution.  And if we are to thrive, individually and collectively, we need to stretch into new possibilities for these constructs not only to co-exist, but also, to inform and enhance one another.

The current marital trends are far from indicating a culture of happy unions.  With over 50% divorce rate (60+% in second marriages) it’s time we take a look at the deeper implications of a society that is known to deny the health of lust.  More importantly, we need to cultivate a more united vision of intimacy and lust working, and playing, side by side.

Practices

There are many practices that have been designed to deepen our awareness and experience of intimacy and sexuality.  I’ll focus on three that I believe, and that are grounded in science, as central to supporting a healthy transition into developing lust within an intimate partnership—whether you’re in one or not.

These practices are for individuals, maybe those who are deeply connected to a partner and looking to enliven a relationship; and also for those who are seeking to explore a new relationship, where lust is alive from the beginning, and remains a central theme in the developing journey of Love.   These practices are simply “some” ways to help reconcile our need for security and adventure, closeness and separateness, stability and risk, predictability and novelty.

1)    Honor Autonomy

autonomy1In our desire for connection, we can often forget that we are primarily individuals seeking togetherness.  We can become essentially “fused”—not knowing where we end and our partners begin.  This feeling can be incredibly soothing and seductive initially, as we can imagine we’ve found our intimate home and that, finally, we are met, deeply recognized, loved unconditionally.  However, becoming over-connected can, in reality, become a hindrance to eroticism.

For deep connection to be possible, separateness is vital.  While this may seem contradictory, the ability to step away from our partners as separate entities, the ability to self-regulate and practice autonomy, are necessary qualities for one to be able to move toward the other.  As Esther Perel states, “When people become fused—when two become one—connection can no longer happen.  There is no one to connect with.  Thus separateness is a precondition for connection:  This is the essential paradox of intimacy and sex.”

Find ways to establish—or reestablish—independence, autonomy, and separateness.  Nurture activities and personal interests as a means for strengthening not only your attractiveness and desire-ability to your mate, but your own internalized “attraction to self.”

Also, encourage your partner—or future partners—to do the same.  Honor his or her need, whether stated or not, for separate interests and activities.  When developing closeness, look to the future vision that you would like to create—where there are worlds yet unexplored within the context of your partner’s autonomy.

2)    Cultivate Mystery

It can be difficult to be lustful for someone about whom we know everything. synapse1
If nothing is left to the imagination, our minds become uninterested, lacking the tension necessary for desire to flourish.  And as science of the mind is fairly certain, our sexuality is more related to the space between our ears than the space between our legs!

Nourishing the mystery in our intimate unions can feel somewhat counterintuitive since some of the elements of lust don’t necessarily support the development of a harmonious, transparent relationship.  Clearly, lust and intimacy are on very different trajectories, and when they yearn to coincide, fears of the unknown can destabilize our inner worlds as well as our intimate journeys.

One place where we can always escape the confines of fusion is into our own minds—where imagination can take us anywhere, to anyone.  And when we honor the beauty of our minds, simultaneously soothing the innate fears that may arise, we are cultivating our unique mental wanderings that may inform us of what naturally excites us.

The question becomes, can we tolerate the anxiety provoked by our partner’s developing autonomy—by his or her intrinsic capacity to always escape into the sanctuary of the mind, to where we are quite possibly NOT the center of their attending neural processes?  When we can stand firm in our own sense of self, within the vulnerable “unknowns” of our partner’s inner mental territory, we give space to his or her unique exploration of self, grounded in the safety of an intimate home.

An important distinction to consider with this level of the erotic dance is whether or not we are utilizing our fantasies as fuel for our intimate partnerships, or whether we are escaping into the erotic, only to return to safety and stability with our partners, and leave the fantasy separate.  Part of how fantasy can serve to edify our relationships is to acknowledge and share at least part of what is occurring in that solitary space.  Risk bringing the erotic design of your own mental forays into sexual play with your partner—and be open for him or her to do the same.

Conversely, when our own imagination confronts what we assume about ourselves—the principles and experiences within our comfort and moral code—with new stimuli that forces us to question our truest desires, our integrity, and our natural wiring for lust, we have an opportunity to strengthen our sense of self and to share something new and different with our intimate partner.

Through imagination, we maintain a sense of freedom and personal wonder

that can bring new life to our relationships.  

It can feel intimidating to allow our imagination to wander and wonder, to consider what or who, besides our current partner and situation might naturally entice or excite us.  Through our development of safety and closeness, we’ve forgotten that our erotic mind needs to flourish as well.  So allow yourself to re-attune to your innate lustful longings, and then allow them to come alive with your intimate partner.

3)    Practice Mindfulness

a.    In perception

Practice increasing your tolerance to the exploration of space between meditation1you and your lover.  When your partner feels distant, or when you are proactively choosing to strengthen your own autonomy, allow the emotions and the sensations that activate your nervous system to arise.  Welcome them, sit with them, yield into the discomfort of “stretching” your perception and tolerance.  Allow them to inform you of the long-standing patterns of anxiety and fear that tend to surface and cause discord.  Welcome that knowledge like a long-lost friend, here to help you increase both your ability to push the edges of your comfort as well as to strengthen your ability to track your natural sensation that ultimately will lend to deep understanding.

b.    In thought

Practice unconditional acceptance and presence to all of your thoughts from the perspective of an observer.  Practice noticing the thought, and letting it go, over and over and over.   Don’t fall into spiraling thoughts that trigger fear.  Rather, notice the thought arise, and witness it being released with each breath. Notice any impulse to create a story with your thoughts, to give deeper meaning to fear or insecurity.

According to Dr. Brent J. Atkinson, in his article, “Rewiring Neural States in Couples Therapy:  Advances from affective neuroscience,” we can easily “blindly trust” a feeling or thought, because our brains are hardwired for self-protection.  We often automatically attach ourselves to an emotion—as if the emotion is real, and the idea that someone else caused it feels just as real.  In all actuality, the automatic processes of the brain do this naturally.  Our “protective mechanisms” are designed for hypervigilance, first and foremost.  So if we feel fear, for example, we will seek out a source—external to us—that we can attach to the cause, and from which we can then protect ourselves.  This dynamic, while serving us in regard to our survival, can be toxic to our relationships.

Instead, practice simply noticing the thought without attaching it to any external source.  Allow it to exist solely, without spiraling out of control.  Practice being present to all that arises in regard to mental information, just as it is, without trying to dismiss, avoid, or change anything that may ultimately serve to bring awareness.  Simply witness… and let go.

c.    In body

Pay attention, nonjudgmentally, to the subtle signals and sensations of your body.  Reject nothing.  Notice in detail the sensations that are present—especially any tightness or tension that arises or that draws your attention.  Notice any small, seemingly automatic movements that could be related to a deeper emotion.  Allow those sensations to simply “be” without attempting to dismiss them or push them away.  Allow your sensations space to exist, and time to guide you to your body’s internal wisdom.

Also, nurture physical practices that help you touch into your own internalyoga1 resources—your body, your strength, the wisdom that resides in each and every cell of your being, along with your ability to practice new skills.  Experience your body in moments of strength, in times of vulnerability, though practices that stretch and push you beyond what you know.  Our physical selves help to shape our psychological selves, so be present to the shape and flow of your life.

Research has demonstrated that those people who enjoy physical practices, such as strength training, dance, cycling, running, or yoga, experience more excitement in their lives.  And as we practice risk by exploring new physical practices, risk becomes an integral aspect of our natural drive for learning and pleasure.  So the very practice of getting physical opens your neural pathways to experiencing more excitement, more risk, and ultimately more lust.

Embody Your Intention

We have an opportunity, individually and collectively, to transcend the inhibitions and fears ignited by longstanding ideas of lust, as well as our attachment to any historical meaning or power we’ve given over to it.  Lust is a natural, potent, necessary quality of human beings.  Like all other qualities intrinsic to our evolving selves, this specific circuitry in our brains needs to be understood and allowed space to breathe—to find it’s way out of hardwired constraints—in a way that helps us to thrive rather than has us cycling in a spiral of fear.

It is time we transcend the fears that bind our relationships, and allow our bodies the chance to expand their language repertoire—to own and practice our original language and deepen our understanding of the subtext, the nuances, the dialects of our own—and our partners—primary tool of communication.  It is time we work toward becoming fluent in our unique erotic style, allowing ourselves to fully embody the dynamics of seduction, and then share that energy with those whom we love and trust.

Through following the practices of presence, mindfulness, autonomy and mystery, we can begin to lay claim to our birthright for experiencing both the intense nurturance and love of intimacy, along with the fiery and erotic dance of lust—together.

If you’d like more tips for enhancing your intimate partnership, check out my !0 Rules For Intimacy, a free download with lots of juicy and challenging tips for Relationship Transformation.  And keep coming back and joining in the dialogue here!

For the Love of Your Life…

Angie