Honoring 5 Years with 5 Tips to Thrive in Love & Relationships

 

Five years ago I reconnected with a man I once felt divine love with.  It was at Amma’s ashram in San Ramon, California.  It was just months after I returned from India and was finding my footing living in the Bay Area again.  I went to Amma’s that night, excited to re-immerse myself in the energy of India. 

I had spent the last year and a half in a deep inner transformation, becoming a yoga teacher, attending meditation retreats, visiting spiritual teachers across India, and learning powerful lessons from another experience of love in my life.  When my previous relationship ended, I realized I was okay, having found a deep love within and for myself through my spiritual inquiry.  

I showed up at Amma’s, to pay my respects for all I had learned and to pray for this new phase of my life.  I happened to walk up to the temple at just the exact moment Amma was about to arrive.  Everyone around me was dressed in white, praying and waiting in silence.  

In a moment, a white car pulled up and the door opened for Amma.  She walked through the entrance smiling and waving at people as she walked inside.  Just as she passed, I locked eyes with a familiar face on the other side of the aisle.  

It was a man I had met a year and a half before, before I went to India, before I had become a yoga teacher, before I had done this deep inner work.  His name was Michael.

I met him when I was first living in San Francisco when my housemate, a musician, invited me to join a music-walking tour he was a part of through the Marin Headlands and up to Point Reyes.  The musicians had planned an acoustic folk show for every night along the way and were going to hike on the Pacific Coast Trail and camp between shows.  All the musicians met at the Golden Gate Bridge, where I first met Michael.

But back to that moment at Amma’s, I immediately recognized him and remembered the love I had felt for him long before, standing above the Pacific ocean on the Golden Gate Bridge.  That moment of recognition quickly dissolved as Amma began to speak, guiding the group through a meditation.  Afterwards, I went over to Michael and gave him a hug. 

“You were the first person to tell me about Amma,” he said.  “I spontaneously said yes to an invitation to come here this evening…”

It’s been five years since that night and Michael and I are still together. This past year in particular has brought about huge transformation within myself and within my relationship, so I wanted to honor this milestone by sharing a few of the lessons I’ve learned over the past five years of falling deeper in love…

1. Be Honest and Transparent

Honesty establishes trust. 

I remember attempting to string together lies when I was younger, and it just never ever panned out the way I wanted it to.  I quickly learned honesty was the only answer, and that even if honesty was sometimes hard, I could always find a way to be honest at the same time as being compassionate and loving.

Honesty is about speaking the truth when you are asked, and transparency takes honesty a step further.  Transparency is when you speak the truth even when you are not asked.  Imagine something comes up that involves you and your partner, and you are holding on to feelings or emotions...

Transparency is when you speak up right away and get to the heart of the matter rather than holding it in and keeping it to yourself.

In order to be transparent we need to feel safe.  We need to create a space of non-judgement for our partner and ask that they hold that space for us as well.

An example where Michael and I have found ourselves to be more transparent in the last year, is if one of us feels attraction with someone else.  In the past it felt scary to speak of it, it felt like it needed to be some big secret we could never tell the other, but now, we just name it.  We allow there to be non-judgement.  We bring humor to it.  We remind each other we are human, and we are safe with each other and our experience is completely valid.  

We have even supported each other to explore those attractions, and spend time with the person we feel attraction with.  What I have found in those instances is that attraction does not necessarily need to go in a sexual direction.  Oftentimes there is an attraction when we have medicine and lessons to learn through spending time with that person.  Giving myself permission to explore those attractions has only deepened the love I have for my partner.

I realize now that there is nothing I could share with Michael that would cause me to lose love. 

Finding that sense of security and trust has been so healing.  Holding that space for him has deepened my ability to love unconditionally and provide a space of healing for him as well.

2. Communicate

You know how sometimes you can just tell your partner is upset about something but they are being all quiet about it?  You ask what’s going on, but they just shrug it off as nothing?  You then begin to feel distance, wondering if you did something wrong, unsure of how to re-establish a space of love and connection again?

I’m going to teach you the exercise that has literally saved my relationship, countless times in this exact situation.  It’s called Acknowledgment and Request.  I first learned about it in the book Kindred Spirit by Matthew and Terces Engelhart (some of you may know them as the founders of Cafe Gratitude).

Simply ask, “Is there anything you want to be acknowledged for?”  Allow your partner to speak, and do the best you can to be present and aware in your listening.  When he or she finishes ask, “Is there anything else?” 

Keep asking, “Is there anything else,” while intently listening and doing the best you can to remember each thing.  Now, it’s also important not to react or reply to what your partner is saying.  Simply give them the space to speak and have the floor.  When he or she is complete, lovingly repeat back each and every thing that was said, acknowledging him or her for it. 

When that is complete ask, “Do you have any requests?” Do the same thing - asking, if there is anything else after each request.  When the requests are complete, repeat back each one, sharing that you would like to honor those requests to your best ability.  

Sometimes it makes sense for both partners to have the floor to be acknowledged, and sometimes it makes sense for just one of us. 

Every time I have used this exercise, it has felt like we are starting fresh again with a clean slate.  it has allowed us to create a container of safety and honesty to let go of all the stories and illusions we may have been carrying and fully see each other with love again.  It has helped us to fully let go of and forgive, without the need to hold on to past upsets.  

To have a more in-depth, step by step guide of how this process it works, read my article here.

3. Create Layers of Support

A year ago I had a rude wake up call when my partner was away for two weeks and I realized how much I had been relying on him for support in my life.  

One of my friends Kevin shared, "If you're only relying on one person in your life, it's like you're standing on top of a flagpole.  That's a lot of pressure on one person, especially if his or her life is calling him or her to be elsewhere." 

I imagined myself standing on top of a flagpole, shaky and worried of falling.

He continued, "However, if you become like a spider, with many legs supporting you, it's okay if one of them takes a break.  You still have seven other legs to lean on." 

When you are supported in all directions, your weight is evenly distributed.  It is so much healthier.

I think it's really easy to get swept up in relying on just one person for our emotional, physical and mental needs. However, when we create more structures of support through friendships, therapy, coaching, healers, and especially in community, we can really thrive.

Over the past year, I brought awareness to becoming the spider and creating layers of support so my weight would always be easily distributed.  

This year, when my partner went away for the same retreat for two weeks, I felt infinitely supported. 

My days were full with connection and love.  I realized how much I had transformed over the past year, and how my ability to receive support created a deeper sense of freedom and independence within the relationship.

4. Find Intimacy Outside the Relationship

Are you finding intimacy with yourself?

Do you find intimacy in your friendships? 

Or do you wait to experience intimacy solely in one relationship?

It’s a lot of pressure to expect to receive all the love and intimacy we want in our lives through just one person.  This past year I’ve looked at where I am giving and receiving intimacy in my life and have experimented with deepening intimacy outside of my relationship.

The first place I looked was with myself.  I found when I could experience a deeper sense of intimacy with myself, it always improved the relationship.  This is where my practices of self-love came in - taking long bubble baths, massaging fine oils into my skin, repeating loving affirmations while I brush my teeth, keeping up with my yoga practice and making a delicious and healthy meals for myself, even if I’m eating alone… (For more self-love & self-care tips download my 4-day self-care reset here)

I also began to bring intimacy into my friendships.  I brought gifts.  I asked deeper and more intimate questions.  I shared loving touch, essential oils, sometimes brought flowers or chocolate.  

Finding intimacy outside of the relationship this past year for both of us has deepened the intimacy within our relationship.  

When I am feeling filled up, I am able to be so much more generous and offer that love to my partner.  However, if I show up depleted and expect my partner to give me that feeling of wholeness, it’s just not going to work.

Love is so much about generosity and our ability to give, and it takes us showing up as our best selves in the relationship, not just expecting the relationship to give that to us.

5. Share Appreciation, Everyday

After reading the book, Calling in the One by Katherine Woodward Thomas, I decided to try out one of her exercises of writing a letter to God, or the Universe.  

The idea goes that you write about all your challenges in a letter to God and sign it, “Sincerely, your name.”  Then turn the page and begin a new letter, this time from God to you.  

I tried out this exercise once when I was feeling some challenge in the area of relationship, and one of the things “God” or really, my higher self wrote back to me was to share what I appreciated about Michael with him every day.  

The task immediately took me out of a feeling of lack and brought light to all that was wonderful about this person in my life. 

I don’t think our minds are naturally looking for all the good in our lives and what we appreciate.  It just took a bit of awareness and training in order to switch my mindset around to see and appreciate the people in my life, and really, everything in my life.  

If you are looking to create or call in a thriving relationship, I highly recommend checking out Katherine's book, Calling in the One.

Bonus Tip:  Lead by Example

After speaking with my friend Luna Love about how she attracted the love of her life into her world, I felt inspired to add one more bonus tip for you all.  This is especially helpful for those of you ready to call in partnership in your life, but it also works if you are already in relationship.

Write a list of everything you want in your ideal partnership, and what you’d like your ideal partner to be like.  Then look at that list and ask yourself, “Am I embodying every one of these qualities?” 

Relationships are powerful mirrors, and often what we want to see more of in ourselves is what we say we want to see in our partners. 

However, we can take the pressure off our partner to be someone else by simply becoming that ideal partner we want to attract.  That is when we inspire change in those around us and call in the kind of people we want to be surrounded by.

People don’t change because someone wants them to. People change because they are inspired to...

For more on this topic, check out my other post, 6 Secrets to A Fulfilling Love Life.

 

How I handle jealousy and comparison

 
group of people-relationships-sisterhood-self love

I've found myself in a place of jealousy a few times in the last week.  It's not easy to be in that place of comparing yourself to another person. I was looking at other women's websites asking, "Why didn't I figure that out yet?"  or "She's doing this so much better than me!"

I began to see the negative self-talk and stopped myself in my tracks.  I remembered:

Jealousy is the biggest barrier to sisterhood.  It keeps us small.  It prevents us from seeing our own power.  And, it prevents us from focusing on the work that needs to be done.

So how do you release it?  I intuitively turned to my journal in those times, and I came up with a few steps that allowed me to release the feeling and turn it into empowerment.

Here's what to do:

1. Write out a list of everything you're jealous of about that person

Get it all out on the paper.  Be honest with yourself and purge.

2.  Turn the list into statements of affirmation

For example, turn, "She has lots of awesome girlfriends" into "I am making lots of awesome girlfriends."  Sit with it.  So often, when we are jealous or stuck in comparison, it is because that person has or is doing something we want to do.

When we feel jealousy, it is an opportunity to OWN our desires.  

3. Ask, "What would it feel like to already have it?"

When you read your new list of affirmations, ask yourself, "How does that make me feel?"  Expansive?  Powerful?  Bold? Write it down.  Then feel it in your body.

4.  Ask, "What am I grateful for?"

This is when you can step back and look at all you have done and all you do have in your life.  Then let yourself feel good about it.  

5.  Practice Metta (loving kindness) for yourself and the person you're jealous of

Metta is a meditation practice of loving kindness.  It is simply accessing the feeling of love and peace, sending it to every cell of your body and then sending it out to the person you are comparing yourself to.

6.  Use the sutra, "Tat T'vam Asi"

It means: I see myself in the other.  I see the other in myself. 

The other is just a reflection of your own infinite potential.

This sutra reminds us of what is possible.  It reminds us that all the people who trigger us are a beautiful mirror for what we need to see in ourselves. 

Jealousy can show us what is possible for our own lives.

That shift in perspective can empower us instead of making us feel small.  Jealousy shows us what is possible and pushes us to step into the next level of our purpose and our calling.

So next time those feelings of comparison, judgment, or jealousy arise, try out these steps and see if you're able to dissolve it.

With love, Meredith

 

30 ways to heal a broken heart

 
relationships-break-up-brokenheart-yin yoga

In the last few weeks, I have been meeting more and more people going through a break-up.

Many of my yoga students and close friends of mine have been letting go of their relationships.  With the recent autumn equinox, I've seen it is a cosmic time of letting go.

An astrologer once told me a break-up happens when you are no longer able to fulfill your purpose while in the relationship.  If somehow the relationship has been preventing you from living as your most true and authentic self, the planets align to end it.

A break-up creates the space for you to fulfill your sacred contract with life.  {tweet it}

There is something comforting to know that as difficult as it is to go through it, that there is something so much greater on the other side:  Living as your highest self.

I've been thinking back to my own break-ups, and what has gotten me through those difficult times.  I remember those were the hardest times for me to take care of myself, but that was actually what helped me through it the most.

So, whether or not you are letting go of something or someone in your life, I created this list of 30 ways to take care of yourself as a reminder to come back to basics, and the small daily actions to remember the love you can have for and with yourself.

30 Ways to Take Care of Yourself Now

  • Use essential oils, I have a diffuser in my house and it changes my whole state when the room smells like wild orange or lavender
  • Make your bed luxurious and comfortable – buy nice sheets, pillows, plants, and a nice mattress
  • Meditate for the love of it, not because you have to, but because you want to.  This means doing what is enjoyable to you - try pranayama, writing, saying affirmations, or drinking warm tea while you sit down in silence.
  • Keep crystals around your house to surround yourself with beauty
  • Do a tarot reading
  • Do yoga – this is an obvious one, but so many of us avoid yoga because we don't want to feel the difficult emotions we are going through.  However, feeling them is the way we can move through them.  Try a few yoga poses at home to ease back into it.
  • Turn off technology by 8 pm.  Create space to ease into sleep.
  • Make a vision board
  • Ask a girlfriend to hang out.  Take initiative with your friends.  Tell them what you're going through.
  • Invest in yourself.  Take that new yoga class, or get the massage you've been putting off.
  • Buy a box of raspberries.  Raspberries for me, feel like the most luxurious purchase.  It is expensive compared to other fruit at 5 or 6 dollars a box, but ultimately 6 dollars for a luxurious afternoon eating raspberries is worth it.
  • Buy flowers for yourself, for no reason.
  • Drink your favorite tea.
  • Use a hot water bottle.  This is a great comfort item, to have something warm with you in bed, and is also good for cramps.
  • Journal.  Try "morning pages" from The Artist’s Way.  Write three pages each morning on anything - just let it all out on the paper.
  • Give yourself a pedicure.  Wash your feet in the sink.  Put on nice lotion and paint your nails.
  • Take an Epsom salt bath.  This relaxes and soothes the muscles while removing toxins from the skin.
  • Be generous.  Take a girlfriend out for tea or make dinner for someone.  Giving takes the mind away from ourselves to come into a space of giving back.
  • Be creative.  Make a card, a collage, or a drawing.
  • Rub body butter over your body while reading the affirmations.  Try the affirmation, "I am healing my past easily and naturally now."
  • Buy something fun and new, and this doesn’t have to be expensive.  I was in Mexico last year and I bought a couple $1 woven bracelets.  They were bright and beautiful and brought me so much joy.  When I went home, I gave them to 6 friends.
  • Declutter your life.  Let go of the things you don't need.  Sell and give away things you don’t use.
  • Keep your home tidy and clean.
  • Surround yourself with plants.
  • Learn something new.  (Try picking up a new instrument and taking lessons!)
  • Write a list of your strengths.  Then ask other people what they think your strengths are.
  • Write a list of things your grateful for.
  • SING.
  • DANCE.
  • Create a new vision for yourself – write it down and read it every day.

PS.  Tonight I am back to teaching Yin Yoga at the dhyana Center in Sebastopol at 7:45 pm.  Tonight's theme is "Release Fear, Cultivate Wisdom."  If you would like to join us, click here for details.  

 

The missing link I see in so many relationships

 
relationships-meditation-self love

A few weeks ago I had a client tell me about her relationship.  "He's stuck.  He's not moving forward.  I think he's afraid of change." 

I listened and asked, "Is there anywhere in your life you feel stuck or not moving forward?  Is there anywhere you are not facing your fears because of what might change?"

She replied, "Yes, I think so..." and went on to tell me about it.

Our relationships are a reflection of what we need to see in ourselves.

When things aren't going our way it is much easier to look for what's not working outside of ourselves instead of looking within.

I shared with her about a time when I felt something was "lacking" in my relationship.  I was earning less than I knew I needed to at that time, and put my stress on him.  I thought, "You should make more money to fix this problem!"  I realized I needed to look at what was lacking in myself.

I know it's hard to make that step...  I was afraid, and didn't know where to start.  That's when I decided to enroll at IIN, commit to healing my blocks around money and take a closer look at my finances.  That was when everything began to change.

Whenever you feel you are not "getting" something you need in your relationship, take a moment to ask, "What am I not giving to myself?" 

A practice that has been so valuable for me to love myself first (rather than waiting for love and approval from the outside world) is metta meditation, or loving kindness practice.

This practice reminds me to fill myself up with my own love.  It reminds me to turn to my own heart and look within before placing blame or judgement on the outside world.  It reminds me to love myself first, and then send out love unconditionally to those around me.

The missing link I see, is simply self-love, and the willingness to look within ourselves, and find love there.

By loving ourselves first, we offer genuine love to others.  {tweet it}

 

You can learn all about the meditation in my next summer yoga video:  Loving Kindness Practice.  Watch it here:

[av_video src='https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hchgTtpXUWQ&feature=youtu.be' format='16-9' width='16' height='9']

With love, Meredith

6 secrets to a fulfilling love life

 
relationships-love-meditation-partnerships

This month I am celebrating love.

With Valentine’s Day and my two-year anniversary in February, I am reflecting on what makes me feel fulfilled in my relationship.

Is it the dinner dates? Is it when he takes out the trash and I don’t even have to ask? Those things definitely bring happiness, but unfortunately, it doesn’t last forever. I’ve found fulfillment is something much deeper than fleeting happiness.

Fulfillment is about knowing what I want, believing I am worth it, loving myself utterly and completely before someone else even enters the picture and having the courage to own my vision and live my dreams.

I created this list to share the big lessons I have learned about true fulfillment when it comes to love:

1. I Learned to Love Myself First

Women are natural nurturers. We love to give. However, we need to nurture ourselves first so we don’t get burnt out. By loving ourselves first, we can be more present and have more energy to give to those we love.

The days I do my meditation and yoga practice, go for a run, take a long shower (or on a good day, a bath) and rub my favorite homemade cacao body butter over my body, are the days I literally emanate beauty. Those are the days my partner notices my shift in energy and showers me with love. Those are the days I live with ease and grace, I radiate positivity, and attract exactly what I need in my life.

When we take care of ourselves and love ourselves first, we align with the love of the universe and attract more love into our life.

2. I Figured Out What I Was Looking For, Then I Believed in it

I was longing for love for months before I reunited with my current partner. I was healing from heartbreak, and despite my grief, I knew I would be with a man who also longed for the commitment and the spiritual growth I was seeking.

As a New Year resolution, I wrote out what I wanted and believed it was possible. “I see myself in a loving, committed relationship with an attractive, ambitious, and spiritual man. He is someone who nurtures and supports me, while giving me freedom to grow my wings.”

Just one month later, magically, at Amma’s devi bhava celebration, I found myself reunited with a man I had met (and adored) years earlier. After a year of traveling, it just so happened we were living in the same city again.

So often we yearn for love, but when it comes to specifics, we don’t know the first thing we are looking for. I learned to first figure out the “what,” then imagined the feeling and qualities of that person surrounding me.

3. I Listened to My Intuition

This is key to honoring ourselves, being in the right place at the right time, and deepening a connection with a person you are already with. I followed my intuition to leave a relationship that was not honoring me, and six months later was with that attractive, ambitious and spiritual man who adored me.

So many times I learned to honor my soul’s wisdom, listen to the dreams in my sleep and that little voice that knew what choices to make. By creating space in my life for meditation and yogic practices that strengthened my intuition, I created work for myself that honors my heart, and found a relationship that honors my worth.

4. I Learned to Ask For What I Want

When we know how we want to be loved, we have to ask for it! I have a friend who wanted to receive beautifully written cards from her beloved. All she wanted for her anniversary or birthday was a hand written card or notes from him around the house. As every special holiday or anniversary came and passed, there was no card, and no notes, and she was left disappointed. However, she never told her partner she wanted a card or a note!

We can’t expect the people we love to know exactly what we want. When we ask for what we want, we empower others to fulfill our request.

On my anniversary this month I woke up and knew exactly what I wanted: a vegan banana pancake breakfast served in bed with a serenade from my partner. He was happy to fulfill my request and it was an unforgettable way to start the day. Over the years, it has become less scary for me to ask for exactly what I want, and I’ve realized it is an essential step to living my dreams.

5. I Learned to Lead By Example

This is so key to not just having a fulfilling love life, but to having a fulfilling life. When I first started living with my partner and was unemployed, I wanted my partner to earn more money and take care of me financially. Then I realized my desires for my partner were a reflection of what I wanted for myself. I wanted to make more money and find fulfilling work, but I was putting it on him to do it for me. I saw it would be a lot better use of my time to focus on myself, rather than trying to change my partner.

When we want our partner to change, we can see it as a reflection of something we want to change in ourselves. People don’t change because someone wants them to. People change because they are inspired to.

I took charge of my finances, started school, and in addition to teaching yoga, took on clients as a health coach. The funny thing is, as I focused on my business, and myself my partner started making more money as well.

We think the problem is outside of ourselves, when in reality there is always a next step we can take in our own life right now, to bring us closer to what we want. By owning our desires, we can watch our money (and our love life) prosper.

6. I Learned to Initiate Communication

Whenever I came to a spot where I could tell my partner was upset, but did not want to talk, I learned how to initiate communication.

I used the exercise “Acknowledgment and Request” from Terces and Matthew Engelhart, founders of Café Gratitude. It can be used not only in love relationships, but also in work relationships, family relationships, and friendships.

Simply ask: “Do you have anything you want to be acknowledged for?”

Your partner may be thrown off for a minute, but be patient, and listen intently. When your partner responds, ask, “Is there anything else?”

Continue asking, “Is there anything else?” until your partner has nothing else they would like to be acknowledged for. Repeat back and acknowledge your partner for everything he or she brought up.

When you finish ask, “Now, do you have any requests?”

Listen to each of the requests and then repeat back each one, saying you will do your very best to honor them.

This simple exercise has opened the doors of communication for my relationship so many times.

It’s too easy to forget to acknowledge the person I love and appreciate most in my life. Being acknowledged is kind of like hearing “I love you.” We need to hear it more than once to maintain a constant level of connection and appreciation.

I’ve learned love isn’t something I can force. However, I can focus on my own fulfillment, my heart, and myself. I’ve learned love will find me there.

This article was also published on Elephant Journal !

 

The single most important tool I use in my relationship

 
Relationships-exercise-personal growth

Today I wanted to share an exercise that has been the single most useful tool in my relationship:  Acknowledgment and Request.  This exercise comes from the book Kindred Spirit, by Matthew and Terces Engelhart, the founders of Cafe Gratitude.

My boyfriend and I have used it in times where one person was upset (or maybe both are), frustrated, or not talking.  You know how sometimes you get upset or angry, but it's almost impossible to put into words to try and explain it to your significant other?  That's when this exercise really shines.

Here's how it works.  Decide who will be person A and person B.

Person A:  Is there anything you'd like to be acknowledged for?

Person B:  Yes I'd like to be acknowledged for ....(some examples: for doing the dishes last night, for working so hard, for always being the person to plan ahead, for picking up the kids, etc)

Person A:  (Listens) Is there anything else?

B:  Yes....(go on and list EVERYTHING you want to be acknowledged for.  Get it all out!)

Person A's job here is to listen attentively, with no interruptions or judgements. 

A: Anything else?

Repeat until there is nothing else Person B would like to be acknowledged for.  When Person B says:

B:  Okay, I think that's it.  It feels good to get it out.

Now it is person A's turn to acknowledge B for all the things he said.

A:  I'd like to acknowledge you for... (and name everything person b said. If A forgets something, it's fine for B to remind them)

This is where person B begins to feel relief, gets to feel seen, and listened to.  By this point, person B may be moved to tears and/or feel a weight lifted off of their shoulders.  Now A will ask:

A:  Do you have any requests?

B:  Yes, I request....(examples: that you help more around the house, that you help me make dinner on the nights I get home late, that you continue to love me unconditionally, that you support my choices, etc)

A:  Anything else?

B:  Okay, I think that's it.

A:  Well, I'd like to honor your request to....(Repeat back everything B just said)

Then switch roles.

When I suggest my clients try this exercise, half the time they try it and it does WONDERS.   Half the time they say, "My partner would never do something like this."  

A lot of emotions and resentment can add up if you've been with one person for many years.  I see this exercise as a way to start fresh with a clean the slate.  So even if it feels WAY out of your comfort zone, why not try it?  What do you have to lose?  Let me know how it goes!

Love, Meredith