Category: Relationships

Robert Augustus Masters: Emotional Intimacy, Part 1

Robert Augustus Masters is an Integral psychotherapist, relationship expert, and spiritual teacher whose work blends the psychological and physical with the spiritual, emphasizing embodiment, emotional literacy, and the development of relational maturity. Here, Robert and Tami discuss emotional literacy and how it is lacking in our culture today. They consider differences in cultural conditioning between men and women when it comes to expressing emotions and the need to develop a toolkit to identify and work skillfully with anger. (70 minutes)

All in a flow together

What is spiritual awakening? Author, respected energy healer, and medical doctor Ann Marie Chiasson speaks of the journey as waking up to the reality that “we’re all in a flow together.” Rather than perceiving reality through the lens of what we want, we begin to see things as they are, which releases a tremendous amount of energy in our lives. Filmed live at The Wake Up Festival, Dr. Chiasson describes her experience of awakening and its implications in our lives.

We at Sounds True are committed to exploring the many faces and facets of awakening, and would love to hear from you as to your experience and understanding. Perhaps it is the case that there are 7 billion doorways into awakening, one for each human heart.

 

Spiritual friendship

What if the leading energy in our lives were to be our heart and our heart’s cry? What if living a “spiritual life” was actually synonymous with living a “heart-centered life”? These are some of the questions I have been asking myself—and the answers have pushed me more and more into prioritizing what I am calling “spiritual friendship.” What is spiritual friendship to me? It is the genuine meeting of two people who are vulnerable and open and truth-telling and available for actual contact and communion at the feeling level.

For the past eight years, I have been working closely with a Hakomi therapist (Hakomi is a type of therapy that works with mindfulness in a body-centered way). One of the principles of Hakomi is that the interpersonal wounds we have experienced in our life (for example, early wounds from childhood in relationship to our parents … sound familiar?) can only be healed in relationship with others. What this means is that interpersonal challenges can’t be healed on the meditation cushion or in solitary retreat.

Wounds from relationship require the context of relationship for healing. This seems pretty obvious, huh? But as someone who has been a meditator now for almost three decades, this was not something that was obvious to me in the early stages of my journey. Somehow I thought I was going to open completely to the universe and all of its mystery without ever needing to relate closely and vulnerably with others.

What I am actually finding is that connecting with other people in a heart-centered way is not just about healing. It is actually the most rewarding and fulfilling part of my life. Period. There is something about being fully received by another person and fully receiving another person, without the need for any part to be edited or left out, that feels to me like the giving and receiving of the greatest soul nourishment that there is.

blossom

Recently, I found myself in a room alone with a renowned scientist who specializes in the field of perception. We were at a conference and were sitting with each other in a room that had been set aside for presenters at the event. Finding ourselves alone in the room together, we both seemed a bit awkward at first. What would we talk about? I decided to bring up the topic of uncertainty as I knew that he taught quite a bit about uncertainty in the context of perception (for example, how we never know if what we are perceiving is the same as what someone else is perceiving, even when we are looking at the same thing).

Right at the beginning of what I feared would be an awkward conversation, this scientist said to me, “When you really start investigating how uncertain everything is, it’s enough to make you feel totally insane. There is only one thing that has kept me even the least bit sane, and that is loving relationships.” When he said this, I leaned over and said, “Would it be okay if I kissed you now?” He looked quite shocked. I gave him a big kiss on the cheek and said, “I never thought I would hear a scientist say such a thing. I have come to the same conclusion, but I thought that was just because I was some kind of a mushy-mush person.”

That moment in the green room was a moment for me of spiritual friendship, a moment of genuine connection where the heart breaks through any awkwardness or fear or holding back. I am finding those moments occurring more and more in my life, often in unexpected ways, and it is those types of moments that I hope will fill the Wake Up Festival from start to finish. We need each other so much. We need each other’s acceptance and reflection. We need each other’s unhurried presence. We need our love to break through. We need “community” in the sense of knowing that we are connected to others who are on a similar journey, where the vulnerability and tenderness of our hearts are leading the way.

Intimacy as the most vulnerable yoga

Can we allow another to deeply matter to us? Are we willing to take the risk to let them all the way inside – to really see, know, and touch our most core vulnerabilities; to open ourselves so profoundly that we’re left utterly naked and fully exposed, knowing that in any moment our hearts could shatter into millions of pieces? Many of our childhood biographies involved a very unstable environment, an uncertain reality where it was not safe to let another become too important, where we spent much of our time and energy learning exactly what we had to say and do in order to receive the love, care, affection, attention, and holding that we so sweetly needed. We can be quick to judge and admonish these early adaptive strategies, seeing them as “unspiritual” or neurotic or crazy, but perhaps they were in actuality the most luminous expressions of a certain kind of intelligence and creativity. Perhaps, upon deeper examination, they might come to be seen as special forms of grace, put in play by the great architect of love to ensure our own survival, as profound gifts sent to ensure the flowering of our precious hearts and nervous systems. As innocent little ones, we very naturally allow others to deeply matter; it is part of who we are. Over time, though, many of us have come to see that this sort of exposure is tremendously risky; it’s just too raw, too open, too scary. But as little ones we can’t really help it; we’re wired to connect.

Often in the challenges inherent in intimate relationship, we become convinced that it is our partner who is causing us to feel so bad. The evidence is so clear… isn’t it? They don’t respect us, they speak unkindly to us, they don’t understand us, they’re never there when we really need them, they just can’t quite connect with who we are at the deepest levels; and the big one – they just don’t meet our needs. We put a lot of pressure on our partners (and on ourselves, for that matter) to “meet our needs.” Before we know it, much of our lives become organized around getting our needs met; and there is something about this that can start to feel a bit off. It can be really helpful to take some time and look at this carefully. Of course there is likely some relative truth in these traits and behaviors in our partners, and they are worth exploring. This is not to say that the other person isn’t actually speaking and acting in unkind, overly defensive, or critical ways, and that this shouldn’t be related with. But we might also come to see that just by being in relationship, we will be forced to feel feelings that we really don’t want to feel.

To allow in those intense and challenging emotions and sensations which have previously been lodged in the body can be terrifying. Do we really want to do this? Maybe tomorrow; for now, it’s best to go take a walk, listen to some music, write another rambling facebook post, contemplate how awakened we are, make another cup of tea, or do some meditation. It’s not so much that our partner is doing something *to* us, but rather when we open ourselves to love, there are previously unmet emotions and sensations there, lurking in the unconscious, seeking the light of day. For many, it is in the context of a vulnerable, naked, intimate relationship where that which is still unresolved will most powerfully present itself to be metabolized and healed. If we look closely, perhaps we can see how we organize our lives around not having to feel certain feelings. To see this can be quite illuminating – and often very disturbing. It is easy to then fall into our old habitual patterns of self-aggression or avoidance, to start to become unkind to ourselves, falling into spiritual superegoic judgment, self-hatred, and shame.

lovers

Another option is to make the radical commitment to practicing the yoga of love, of holding ourselves in an enormous environment of kindness. We stay unconditionally committed to the truth that whatever arises in our experience – no matter how disturbing, anxiety-provoking, “unspiritual,” confusing, painful, or difficult – that it is ultimately workable, that it is a precious part of our own hearts that we wish to know deeper and to integrate into the entirety of what we are. We can be grateful for the gift of clear seeing, even if what we see is disturbing and anxiety provoking, for it is a certain kind of grace which allows us to finally see the ways we organize our experience, and how all of our neurosis and our strategies were our best efforts at the time to take care of ourselves. We are being given a gift, a fierce gift you could say, and an opportunity to let love dismantle those protective strategies that once served us, but no longer are.

Let us all hold those we’re in relationship with, including ourselves, by committing to taking love’s journey with them, knowing nothing about the route or the destination. Let us be kind to ourselves and our partners if we decide to truly take up the most vulnerable yoga of intimacy, knowing that it will take everything we have and are to navigate, as it offers fruits beyond this world.

Painting by Albena Vatcheva

 

Accompanying each other

Recently, someone who works at Sounds True asked me if I would be her “buddy” in an experiment. She is getting married in June,and she has historically been a nail-biter. She wants her finger nails  to look beautiful and elegant when she reaches out her hand and her husband-to-be places the ring on her wedding finger (perhaps you can see the photograph of this moment in your mind?). Her question to me: Would I stop biting my finger nails (I have been an engaged nail-biter since childhood….it’s all coming out here on the ST blog site) as a way to support her in this goal?

At first I thought, forget it. I have never been successful at stopping biting my nails for very long and why should I bother with this. And then I thought, I love this person. And she almost never asks of anything of me. And she is getting MARRIED after all. I have to say “Yes” without giving this another thought. So I quickly took the leap and agreed.

Now here is the interesting thing: It has been almost a month since we made this agreement,  and so far, I have been supremely vigilant in upholding my word (one small nail was ripped off, but otherwise I am ready to scratch anything with 9 long nails). Why is this approach working? Obviously, it’s not because I care about having good looking nails (since I haven’t for decades). It’s because I care about this person. I feel inspired by my love of her and my desire to support her in any way that I can. And beyond that, her goal matched a goal that I have that has been lingering under the surface.

And this has made me think about all of the support groups that exist for all kinds of things (from Weight Watchers to AA), and the tremendous power of creating a resolve not on our own but in relationship with another person. This is such an OBVIOUS point, but I have never seen this so clearly before. And as the Publisher of a company dedicated to transformation, I am asking some new questions: How can we help the Sounds True community link up (“buddy up”) with people who share similar transformational goals? Perhaps we could create “practice partnerships” where people check in with each other on a daily basis for a period of time in order to follow through on a commitment to a specific spiritual discipline? What type of vulnerability does it take to reach out and ask for support and how can we encourage people to do this? What other areas of my life do I want to “buddy up” with someone (whether that be a friend or coach) to achieve certain outcomes?

And at another level, I am reflecting on how much we simply need each other to grow and change. How another person’s love and presence can inspire us to stretch and do something differently, perhaps something we have always wanted to do but just didn’t have enough forward-motion on our own. And how this is the power of being accompanied and is something readily available we can offer and receive from each other.

And to take this even further, there are certain Sounds True authors who I feel are “accompanying” me on the spiritual path. Some of them might suspect they are playing that type of role in my life, others probably have no idea. These people are inner “touchstones” — their life and work inspires me to continue with my own life and work.  Occasionally, during a difficult moment, I invoke their name or their face, and I feel heartened.  And since this is all happening in the inner chambers of the heart, it is very possible that we don’t know who is feeling “accompanied” by our life, who is deriving strength and perseverance and follow-through from invoking our name and presence. I feel so grateful for all of the writers and teachers, past and present, who I draw on as “buddies”. It sounds trite to say “we need each other” and it is not strong enough language. My sense is that we actually exist for each other and because of each other. And the more wildly and passionately and freely we can acknowledge our companionship, the more daring we can be. We become supportive and supported risk-takers. We become fellow travelers on a journey where our love for each other calls us ever-deeper.

walkingpath7

Mothering and Daughtering

Tami Simon speaks with Sil and Eliza Reynolds, a mother-daughter team who are leading a revolution to overturn the conventional wisdom that creates rifts between so many mothers and daughters. Sil is a therapist in private practice, while Eliza is a student at Brown University. With Sounds True, they have co-authored a new book, Mothering and Daughtering: Keeping Your Bond Strong Through the Teen Years. In this episode, Tami speaks with Sil and Eliza about ways we can heal the mother-daughter bond especially during the difficult teen years, the essential tools that both mothers and daughters need, and what it means for mothers and daughters at any age to “keep it real.” (66 minutes)

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