Love, factually: Gerontologist finds the formula to a happy marriage

This post originally appeared in Science Daily on June 17, 2015.

the-cafe-phenomena

With wedding season in full swing, America’s newlyweds stand to learn from the experts: older adults whose love has endured job changes, child-rearing, economic certainty, health concerns and other life challenges.

Filling our knowledge gap on finding a mate and remaining married, Cornell gerontologist Karl Pillemer completed the Cornell Marriage Advice Project, the largest in-depth interview study ever done of people in very long unions, surveying more than 700 individuals wedded for a total of 40,000 years. The findings are detailed in Pillemer’s book, “30 Lessons for Loving: Advice from the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationships, and Marriage.”

To capture the voice of lived experience, Pillemer conducted a random national survey of nearly 400 Americans age 65 and older, asking how to find a compatible partner and other advice on love and relationships. In subsequent in-person interviews with more than 300 long-wedded individuals — those in unions of 30, 40, 50, or more years — Pillemer captured more insights for overcoming common marriage troubles. His team interviewed divorced individuals, too, asking how others might avoid marital breakups.

The average age of interviewees was 77 and included 58 percent women and 42 percent men. The average length of marriage in the sample was 44 years; the couple with the longest marriage were ages 98 and 101 and had been married 76 years. Responses were coded into the most commonly occurring recommendations, resulting in a list of the most frequently selected lessons for a successful, long-term relationship.

“Rather than focus on a small number of stories, my goal was to take advantage of the ‘wisdom of crowds,’ collecting the love and relationship advice of a large and varied cross-section of long-married elders in a scientifically reliable and valid way,” said Pillemer.

Pillemer uncovered common advice for couples walking down the aisle or decades into marriage. The top five lessons from the elders, along with Pillemer’s analysis:

Learn to communicate: “For a good marriage, the elders overwhelmingly tell us to ‘talk, talk, talk.’ They believe most marital problems can be solved through open communication, and conversely many whose marriages dissolved blamed lack of communication.”

Get to know your partner very well before marrying: “Many of the elders I surveyed married very young; despite that fact, they recommend the opposite. They strongly advise younger people to wait to marry until they have gotten to know their partner well and have a number of shared experiences. An important part of this advice is a lesson that was endorsed in very strong terms: Never get married expecting to be able to change your partner.”

Treat marriage as an unbreakable, lifelong commitment:“Rather than seeing marriage as a voluntary partnership that lasts only as long as the passion does, the elders propose a mindset in which it is a profound commitment to be respected, even if things go sour over the short term. Many struggled through dry and unhappy periods and found ways to resolve them — giving them the reward of a fulfilling, intact marriage in later life.”

Learn to work as a team: “The elders urge us to apply what we have learned from our lifelong experiences in teams — in sports, in work, in the military — to marriage. Concretely, this viewpoint involves seeing problems as collective to the couple, rather than the domain of one partner. Any difficulty, illness, or setback experienced by one member of the couple is the other partner’s responsibility.”

Chose a partner who is very similar to you: “Marriage is difficult at times for everyone, the elders assert, but it’s much easier with someone who shares your interests, background and orientation. The most critical need for similarity is in core values regarding potentially contentious issues like child-rearing, how money should be spent and religion.”

According to Pillemer, “These unique insights show the value of using rigorous survey methods to uncover the practical wisdom of older people. Although a number of general studies of elder wisdom have been conducted, no one had researched the specific advice elders have for a critical life domain like marriage. Therefore, the study points the way toward the need for future research on concrete lessons we learn over the course of our lives.”

Find Your Perfect Training Partner

This post by Jennifer Schaffner originally appeared in IRONMAN on April 22, 2015.

Tired of going it alone? Here’s how to find your best mate when it’s time to get your heart rate up.

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Many of us enjoy the solitude, quiet, and personal time that IRONMAN training brings. But after many months of going it alone, or a majority of training done solo, athletes often find themselves ready for some camaraderie in the pool and on the roads.

Olympic medalist and coach Susan Williams discovered the value of a consistent training partner when she decided to try to make the Olympic team in triathlon in 2004. “I reached the limit of what I felt I could do on my own,” Williams said. “I decided I needed other people to push me and keep me motivated and that’s part of the reason I joined up with a group.” Williams found a teammate who was willing to do all of her training with her and who had the run and bike skills to push her in her workouts. “He’s one of the reasons I made it to the Olympics,” Williams says of that training partner.

Whether we are trying to make an Olympic team, qualify for Kona, or PR in our next event, all of us can benefit from a strong team of training partners to help us achieve our goals and achieve more than we can on our own. Read on for five tips for finding your perfect training partner.

You are: New to the sport

Try this: Join your local tri club

Longtime professional IRONMAN triathlete Hillary Biscay always tells athletes to join their local tri club to find training partners. “Club events can help you find people of varying abilities to train with. The faster people will push you, and you will have a chance to help the people who aren’t as fast as you,” she says. “Joining your local club can be especially helpful if you are new to the sport or new to your area,” she adds.

You are: A weak swimmer 

Try this: Masters workouts

Triathletes without a swim background are often intimidated to join a Masters group, but with a little searching, you can usually find a group to suit you. Coach Susan Williams has seen many athletes improve just by having someone to push them. “Swimming with other people challenges you and makes it easier to push yourself. It makes the workout more fun,” she says.

I started swimming with Susan’s group in January. The first few workouts were very humbling, but I have already seen impressive results and am hooked. Don’t wait five years to take the plunge.

You are: Time crunched but looking for camaraderie   

Try this: Tap into social media

If you have a schedule that prevents you from attending group activities, your best training partner might be virtual. Most IRONMAN events have their own Facebook groups and getting to know some of the people in the group for your upcoming IRONMAN can be an easy way to find partners for your group rides or share information about the race.

Several years ago, I was training for IRONMAN Cozumel, a race that takes place in late November when many triathletes have already ended their seasons. I mentioned the race on a triathlon message board and ended up doing several long rides with a group of local athletes who were also preparing for that race. As an added benefit, I knew a few more faces on the course on race day.

You are: Making a leap

Try this: Seek out a tri mentor

A tri mentor is more than just a training partner. He or she is the person who lends you a wetsuit or race belt for your first race, tells you what to pack in your transition and special needs bags and guides you through your first few times as an age grouper, Kona qualifier or even professional, depending one where you are in the sport.

At all levels of the sport, most of us have turned to someone else to help guide us to the next level. My first tri mentor was my husband, who had been a triathlete for almost 10 years before I got the courage to do my first race.

If you don’t have a tri mentor in your life,  try looking to the people who are where you want to be. Want to qualify for Kona? Introduce yourself to the woman in your Masters group or tri club who has already done it. Thinking of racing pro? Seek out new pros to get their take on what your next steps might be.

You are: A competitive age grouper

Try this: Get to know your competition

The person who finished just ahead of you at your most recent race? She might be your most valuable training partner. Why? Because she’s just a fraction better than you and may be able to push you to reach a new level in training.

This strategy worked well for Amanda Wendorff, the first female amateur at last year’s IRONMAN Arizona. She met one of her competitors through social media. “We made a workout date to swim and ride and it turned out we worked very well together, despite being competitors,” Wendorff said. “We have managed to train effectively without competing in such a way that every workout would become a race,” she added.

Regardless of how you find them, being supportive and celebrating your training partners’ successes is the key to a fulfilling training partner relationship. As Wendorff puts it, “the perfect training partners are those who are evenly matched yet have slightly different strengths and weaknesses, and most of all, are legitimately happy for the other one’s successes.”

If you have been training solo but have plateaued or are bored with your training, it might be the perfect time to seek out some training partners. Having others to share the work will keep things interesting and help you push yourself to the next level.

6 Ways To Empower Your Daughter To Have Positive Body Image

This post by Rosemary Clark originally appeared in MindBodyGreen on June 2, 2015.

I hate my hair. It is too curly. It is too straight. I hate my thighs. My boobs are too small. My boobs are too big. I’m too short. I’m too tall. 

Sound familiar? Sadly, these kinds of statements seem even more present today than they were 20 years ago. And, they are showing up in the conversations of girls at an earlier and earlier age. My friend’s four-year-old daughter recently announced she couldn’t eat the healthy dinner in front of her, because she was fat and eating wouldn’t be good for her figure. True story.

We don’t want to criticize, push, or minimize, and we definitely don’t want to do anything to reduce self-esteem or create an unhealthy relationship with food. We want to soothe and encourage. But how do we do that? How in the world do we talk to our daughters in a helpful way about their bodies without the fear that we are fostering an eating disorder, or a lifetime of body issues? There are so many messages that tell us what not to do and they can leave us paralyzed without any clear options!

Here are some ideas:

1. Acknowledge the challenges and talk about them openly.

Our daughters are under constant pressure to look a certain way and the messages from advertisers are strong and seem believable. Pick up a fashion magazine, look at the images in social media, turn on the TV, walk through your local mall and you quickly get an overview of the pressure our girls live with every day.

So make sure to have conversations with your daughters to let them know that you understand what that pressure feels like, and how you manage some of those pressures in your own life. Express empathy for the journey of learning to love yourself.

2. Broaden your daughter’s exposure to women with all kinds of body types, sizes and shapes (who are also in powerful and meaningful positions).

The world is full of actresses, musicians, writers, business women, political activists, scientists, mothers, and other cool women doing cool things. Their accomplishments aren’t measured by the shape of their hips or thighs. Help your daughter see and appreciate the variety found in women, and in the joy of living and doing, rather than focusing on the shape of the body we live in.

3. Tell her she’s beautiful in ways she has not thought about or is certainly not being lauded for in our popular culture.

Praise the qualities within her that you admire and understand are important in life. Expand your own definition of beauty and let it flow out in your speech. Rather than always say “Your hair looks gorgeous like that,” try saying something like this: “That was a beautiful thing you did when you helped your brother.” Or “Your generosity/kindness/compassion for others is beautiful.”

In other words, emphasize that beauty is in the things we do and the qualities we embody in life, not how we physically look. This helps to encourage the realization that beautiful women are all around her, and they don’t need to look like the latest magazine cover.

4. Encourage healthy balanced living.

Rather than focusing on what popular media say we should look like, make a commitment to change the conversation a bit. Begin to talk about how living a healthy lifestyle is a gift of love to our bodies. For example, talk about increasing your water intake because it is such a healthy thing to do; how eating a balanced meal can make you feel energized; why practicing portion control will keep your weight in check.

And remember: indulging in a treat on special occasions or celebrations can be part of your conscious choices and is perfectly acceptable. Above all, always encourage self-acceptance, inner peace and stillness with a practice of positive perspective, meditation and mindfulness.

5. Make exercise fun! Move your bodies together.

I’m not talking about a regimented workout schedule that must be kept (no one wants to get stuck in that routine!). But what about integrating movement into daily living? And make it fun, a bonding activity, rather than another thing to check off the to-do list.

Exercise programs that stick are fun and enjoyable. So encourage the pursuit of wellness, fun and energy, rather than the pursuit of the perfect body. Have a dance off after dinner and learn the latest moves. Practice a sport you both enjoy. Walk together and talk about the day. Moving our bodies and feeling the strength within them helps us be comfortable and believe that they are the beautiful temples that they truly are.

6. Be a role model (and make sure all this uplifting talk is shown through your actions).

I cannot over emphasize this: Learn to love your own body! Speak kindly and gently about yourself. Our daughters learn from us every day by what we do and say. No magazine, movie star, or TV show have the power that you do. You are the real role model they look up to.

So ask yourself: do they see you being gentle and loving with yourself? Those thighs of your own … learn to love them for getting you from place to place. We only get one body and yours is magnificent!

5 ways pets can ease your stress

This post by Dana Blinder originally appeared in TODAY on Jun. 23, 2013

Pets can improve health 
Pets are not only cute, they can also help lower your stress level, research suggests.

A pet prescription can remedy all sorts of problems, says animal expert Arden Moore. Spending time around animals, such as going bird watching, enjoying the company of a therapy dog, or even playing with your pet spider can be beneficial to your well-being. “There’s something about the animal kingdom that possesses the ability for us to enjoy life a little better,” says Moore, author of more than 20 pet books and radio host of Oh Behave, an online Pet Life Radio show. Read on for five reasons to include some animal time in your day.

1. They relax you

Petting your cat or dog may be noticeably enjoyable for them, but the act can relax you, as well. Moore suggests petting with a purpose to increase the release of feel-good hormones in animals and humans. “Give your dog or cat a head-to-tail therapeutic massage by running hand over hand through the body,” she says. Your touch relaxes the animal and releases feel-good endorphins in you, reducing your heart rate. A therapeutic pet massage can also be used to regularly check animals for fleas or suspicious bumps, or to relieve muscle knots, says Moore.

2. They may reduce blood pressure

Communicating with animals may lower your blood pressure and improve your overall health. Moore suggests engaging animals in “happy talk,” or speaking in an upbeat tone. “Happy talk or laughter around animals releases hormones in humans that lower blood pressure, and make animals feel better too,” she says. Thinking happy thoughts when talking to your pet or speaking to birds and squirrels in your backyard may seem silly, but the conversation can put you at ease (even if it’s one-sided).

3. They’re therapeutic

Animals from dogs to rabbits are often used for therapy in hospitals and nursing homes. “I’ve taken my dog to a few hospitals and schools, and it’s amazing how people are reluctant to talk to people but will open up to an animal,” Moore says. There’s something rejuvenating, renewing about coming home to a friendly animal that greets you like a rock star,” she says. Moore suggests that the strong human-to-animal bond could be related to fond childhood memories. Even if it’s a just a spider, people often feel more comfortable being themselves around animals, says Moore. (Though admittedly, spiders aren’t for everyone.)

4. They can improve human nutrition

Eating alongside bad company may decrease your appetite, but eating in the company of an animal may improve your eating habits. “In nursing homes, if there’s a fish tank where people are eating, seeing those fish actually motivates some residents to eat,” says Moore. In some cases, the companionship of animals has helped the nutritional habits of their humans. For example, she says, research has shown that recipients of the Meals on Wheels program who were allowed to eat near their pets improved some of their eating patterns.

5. They improve your relationships

A good relationship with your animal friends may spill over into better relations with humans. An animal doesn’t care who you are or what outfit you’re wearing; they want to play and be around you, says Moore. This carefree, playful attitude, she says, has made many animal-lovers more prone to live in the moment. According to a 1997 study at the University of Michigan School of Nursing, observing animals in nature can teach valuable characteristics like patience, and help restore mental energy. Taking care of an animal can also teach responsibility and stimulate feelings of trust, openness, and companionship.

What’s the Key Imperative for Lasting Love?

This post by  Leon F Seltzer Ph.D. originally appeared in Psychology Today on May 29, 2015

"Couples Quotes," Fashion Ekstrax, used with permission

In the idyllic state of romantic love—and without a whole lot of rational thought—you typically attempt to secure the object of your passion by putting their wants and needs ahead of your own. It’s as though you’re saying to yourself: “So I can make you mine, I’ll make fulfilling your desires even more important than my own.”

And whether or not you’re aware of it, the “deal” you’re making to maximize the odds that the one who’s endeared themselves to you will return this endearment involves a considerable amount of manipulation. That is, your efforts could hardly be described as disinterested. As generous in spirit as your “giving” relational stance might appear, it yet includes a crucial contingency clause. Hopeful about enamoring yourself to your beloved, you’re essentially proposing a this-for-that, give-to-get, exchange. So even though to an outside observer your behavior might seem selfless or self-sacrificing, it’s actually an intuitive, and quite clever, way of “captivating” someone whose value you’re assessing as, well, invaluable.

The problem deeply embedded in all this is that whenever your love is fully reciprocated and you’re confident about the relationship’s permanence, you move beyond the courting phase to the commitment phase. And why should this presumably forward movement be so problematic? Simply because this is the time when you—and very likely your partner as well—righteously feel that what’s now called for is to be “compensated” for your earlier unselfish orientation. That is, it now feels as though your partner owes you something, that they should start making your needs, wants and wishes their first priority.

There’s a name for this, with which you’re doubtless familiar. It’s called the power struggle. And regrettably, it’s a stage in relational development that’s pretty much universal. Yet it’s a stage that (however arduously) can be “worked through”—though, it should be added, it can also last indefinitely, regardless of whether the couple actually stays together.

What I’d call mature love—the most “durable” kind of love, a fondness and affection that’s virtually guaranteed to triumph over all sorts of adversity—is the most enlightened stage of an intimate relationship. And your love can evolve into this final stage only if you and your partner succeed in developing the insights and skills to move beyond your earlier power struggle.

In contrast to competing with one another for the gratification of individual needs, this is a union where you and your partner have transcended your former “me-first” contrivances, so that your caring no longer has demanding strings attached to it. It’s become sincerely and authentically nurturant, honest, and real. At this stage, your partner’s wants and needs genuinely matter to you quite as much as your own. And, more than anything else, this much more “advanced” commitment is what truly enables the two of you to feel (almost moment-to-moment) each other’s love.

The relationship has grown into a two-sided, give-and-take “safe haven,” where earlier tensions between you have diffused or dissolved. In the best possible sense, you can comfortably count on each other and take one another for granted. Your partner’s empathic understanding, support, and compassion can now be “assumed.” These qualities could even be said to now define the relationship.

And this is a love that has little to do with giving your partner lavish gifts. Or over-the-top compliments. Or regularly deferring to their wishes or will. Nor does it have anything to do with taking undue responsibility for them (as in a kind of subservient codependency). No, it’s an affirmation of committed couplehood: a cherished “union” where your wants and needs are valued as much as your partner’s. Your desires—and your partner’s—are now “unified” or “tied together” in ways that at your relationship’s beginning would have been unimaginable.

Existing in such unison—distinct from any other, less intimate, relationship you may have had in the past—you’ve finally learned to think as a “we.” Without being enmeshed with or overly dependent upon each other, your very identity (as part of this mutually created “we”) has evolved into something new. In many ways, it now centers on your devotion to meeting your partner’s needs (as they, not you, define them) and willingly addressing these needs as though they were your own. In such a relationally enlightened state, pleasing your partner is no longer that dissimilar from pleasing yourself.

No longer do you see yourself as an autonomous “I,” which (despite your illusions) dominated your deliberations and decisions during courtship. And it’s exactly this transformation in how you regard yourself—as part of something bigger and in some ways more “vital” than your (ego-centered) self—that fosters the ever-strengthening security of your marital bond. Which, in consequence, has become more democratic and egalitarian.

You’re just not the same person you were prior to marriage. Nor, ideally, is your partner. For now, in the context of your intimate, mutually trusting “synthesis,” you stand confidently together as one. Yet your dependency on each other is basically healthy in that, precisely because both of you are fully, reliably “there” for one another, your need to lean on each other for support is greatly reduced. For now such support has already been established, or firmly “structured” into, the relationship. So you can comfortably be yourself—and a much stronger, self-reliant self at that. You know that whatever comes up, your partner will be in your corner . . . and you yourself are happy to be in theirs. Intermittent feelings of loneliness, which may have “afflicted” you earlier, are now a thing of the past.

And yes, there will always be certain divisions between you. But if you’ve come to see your partner’s needs as on a par with your own, these difference and disagreements will no longer put a wrench in your relationship. For you’ve learned the art of effecting workable concessions and compromises. You both show a readiness to adapt to—or cooperate with—each other’s preferences because you know your partner shares this willingness and grasps the “imperative” of such mutual accommodation.

"It's All About Love," Flickr, used with permission

If your union has made it to this final, most contented and fulfilling, stage, you’ve moved far beyond the non-reality-based dichotomy of “selfish vs. selfless.” Your relationship has now redefined, enlarged, or “stretched” your very self. Inevitable discrepancies in your and your partner’s needs now seem relatively minor. For in many respects their wants and wishes have become your own . . . and vice versa. More than anything else, this is what I’d refer to as the wondrous potential that exists when two people can live harmoniously as one. And paradoxically, they may each simultaneously become more of who they are individually, for their personal growth is no longer stifled by relational conflict.

In such an evolved union, you’ll find that compromise—the essence of all successful long-term relationships—comes more and more naturally. And it comes with an open heart. For your paramount desire is to maintain the hard-earned harmony that’s created such a mature, lasting, satisfying and fulfilling love in the first place.

The Truth About Expectations

GOALS

This post by  originally appeared in Huffington Post on May 26, 2015. 

Not meeting expectations, high expectations, low expectations or anything in between, expectations can trip us up.

We hold onto what we expect, even if it’s not what we want because maybe going out on that limb of change is too scary. Staying the same feels safe. The unknown, not so much.

We tell ourselves, “this is how it is, and I don’t expect it to change.”

Expecting something better can sometimes seem not worth the effort because the idea of disappointment can feel tragic. This is where trust comes in. And if yours has eroded away because of past disappointments then trusting in what you don’t see may be an option that’s long gone.

In my personal life, there was a time when I attracted relationships that were not what I truly wanted. My belief system kept me expecting broken, unhealthy relationships, so that’s what I kept getting. It was like I was caught in a loop of bad choices and I didn’t know how to get out.

But after a while, the discomfort couldn’t be ignored any longer and I realized something that had been true all along — my expectations were all up to me. Every last one of them. This realization was a game changer.

Our expectations can deliver what we want, if we take charge of them.

Be clear about what you want.
 This takes courage, but wavering won’t serve you. Make a commitment to your true desire. That true desire that bubbles up from your heart.

Declare your expectation. Say it loud and don’t settle for something you know isn’t what you want. There’s just no use in settling.

Have patience, young grasshopper.
 Just to make sure you know what you want, you will be tested. Things that are almost good enough will show up. The contrast of knowing what you don’t want is helpful in staying true to what you do want. This is where patience comes in. Wait for it, it’s worth it.

Believe it will happen. Know it in your bones. This may take a while, because shifting beliefs isn’t an overnight job. You’ve got to remind yourself of it everyday. Reprogramming a lifetime of repetitive thoughts that have formed beliefs takes time!

Expect it to show up then get out of the way. Get on with being you. Waiting for something to happen before you can be at peace with who you are is like chasing a dangling carrot that happens to be attached to a stick that happens to be attached to a hat that you’re wearing. You’ll never catch up. Stop running and waiting for the next thing or person to bring you happiness. Your fulfillment has been right next to you waiting for you to step into it.

As for me, I wrote a list of what I wanted in a relationship, the feelings I wanted to have, and I didn’t settle. But I wasn’t unfulfilled until the relationship showed up, in fact I was having the time of my life. I expected it to happen, then got on with myself. I did things I had always wanted to do, embraced my creativity, owned my open heart and there wasn’t anything or any person that could keep me from savoring and enjoying my own life. My joy and self-acceptance were the ultimate trump cards.

And yes, I did get the relationship I wanted. And he’s probably going to read this, so know this — he’s not perfect. (Can’t have any inflated egos around here). But he is perfect for me. So are the friends I’ve manifested into my life, the situations and the job. They all teach me, expand my heart and keep me grounded in unconditional love.

I still fumble too, it’s just part of it. But by releasing the expectation and not settling for less, I keep an open awareness of the amazing things that are coming my way, which leaves room for very pleasant surprises.

Want what you want with your whole heart. Feel it. Know it. Squeeze it. Jump in head first and own it. Expect it. Then let it go and enjoy each breath that leads you to a new desire.

He asked his dad for relationship advice. Pops told him to look at how he was spending his time.

This post by Chie Davis originally appeared in Upworthy on May 28, 2015.

I thought I was the only one who composed tweets in my head on a daily basis. Turns out, I’m not alone.

Musician and poet Propaganda admits to having the same thought process. In a spoken-word piece called “Be Present” originally posted by Humble Beast, he confessed, “I tend to think of life in terms of movie clips or tweetable moments. Somehow, I’ve convinced myself they last longer that way.”

The L.A.-based rapper and husband explained how thinking that way caused a rift with his wife.

He zoned out on Twitter during a conversation that they had, and she responded by giving him the silent treatment.

“I was too busy in my head composing a tweet where I would quote her with some sort clever hashtag about marriage and about how much I love her to be paying attention to her at that moment,” Propaganda said.

That’s when he knew he had a problem. But it wasn’t about social media.

It was about his pattern of not staying focused during their conversations. Whether it be posting status updates, multitasking, or even being distracted by a cutie patootie pet, lots of folks can relate. Propaganda’s dad got to the root of the issue while giving his son some advice.

He said that life is all about maximizing time by leveraging our presence.

When we obsess about our past, future, or even try to take advantage of hours by multitasking, it actually sucks away valuable time. He likened it to starting the day “frustrated ’cause you can’t find your keys. Focused on the meetings you’re going to miss and the traffic you’re going to sit in to realize you’ve been holding your keys the whole time. Slow down.”

Making a conscious decision to focus on one conversation at a time and single-task is not only good for our relationships, but also better for our brains.

According to researchonly 2% of people are actually good multitaskersDespite our own judgment, we’re actually 40% less productive when we try to juggle multiple tasks at once. Some studies even suggest that certain types of multitasking can lead to a 10-point drop in one’s IQ.

A productivity expert in Forbes points out, “It has been scientifically demonstrated that the brain cannot effectively or efficiently switch between tasks, so you lose time. It takes four times longer to recognize new things so you’re not saving time; multitasking actually costs time.”

In a fast-paced era when the average married couple only spends about two and a half hours per day together during the week, we need a reminder of how important it is to be fully engaged with those we love.

As Propaganda further reflected on his father’s relationship advice, what he says about developing mindfulness around time is incredibly valuable.

 “You’d better keep her on your side. She will slip through your fingers like sand. Her name is Time, and she told me a secret. She said multitasking is a myth. … And she begged me to stop stretching her thin and stuffing her full and stop being so concerned with the old her and future her but love her now.”

Yay! Two snaps for poetic, science-based knowledge!

Let Yourself Receive: You Don’t Have to Put Yourself Last

This post by  originally appeared in Tiny Buddha

Girl giving boy a flower

“Once you get used to people giving to you as much as you give to them and receive all of the benefits of a less stressful life, you will not consider putting yourself last.” ~Amanda Owen

Recently a good friend of mine helped me with a workshop project. She formulated spreadsheets, answered multiple emails and questions, provided feedback to my group, and then participated in the actual event by doing a demonstration.

“I’m not going to cash your check,” she told me the following week, after receiving my offering for the work she did. “I just want to give this to you as a gift. You are my friend; I don’t want to get paid.”

This made me mad.

Well, not really mad, because this is my BFF we’re talking about. But it bothered me that she couldn’t receive and didn’t understand the gift she could give me by doing this simple thing.

The act of receiving with gratitude allows the giver to feel joy. Giving and receiving is a two-way exchange of energy that can nourish both parties, as long as the receiver can receive. 

Our conversation lasted longer than I wanted it to.

“I get what you are saying,” she replied, and then I had to hear the word that made me know she didn’t get what I was saying: “but.” “But I really want to help you because you are my friend. I didn’t really do that much.” We continued in a circular argument.

“I need you to think about this differently,” I added, trying to rephrase my point, but it wasn’t going well.

Then I realized I was doing the same thing I was criticizing her for. How could I ask her to receive if I couldn’t receive the gift she was giving me by helping me out for free?

I love her for not wanting to be paid, for doing this for me out of the goodness of her heart, and she has a big one. I see the big gift she is trying to give me. I’m not ungrateful. I am a little stubborn though.

I wanted her to understand one of the basic laws of the universe—that you deny a person the basic joy of giving if you do not receive. But by not receiving her gift I was not being the best teacher. My resistance was stopping up the flow of abundance, and I was denying her joy.

I imagined that she was stopping up the flow by being unable to receive my check. So instead of feeling immense joy and excitement over being able to pay her, I felt dejected, which I know wasn’t her intent. Her intent was quite the opposite.

It’s all about connection, flow, and a dynamic exchange of energy.

When I give (energy, time, money, love, kindness) and someone receives it openly and gratefully, there’s now an open, flowing channel for more energy, time, money, love, and kindness to flow to me. My heart (and abundance) is in your receiving hands.

Understanding this means that I should have gladly accepted her gift of help. Instead, I was stuck in the need to be right and I couldn’t practice the lesson I was trying to teach!

Flow can be stopped up by only being a giver or only being a receiver. We need to practice an active balance of both.

We all know those who admittedly call themselves “givers.” I’m one of them. I picked a caregiving field as a career. I was brought up to believe that it is better to give than to receive. Over the years, I’ve seen people who give for a living burn out or get sick. I know there is a better way.

I was also brought up to be mindful of the needs of others. The hidden addition to that line is “before myself.”

No parent wants to teach their kid to be selfish, so we teach them to put everyone else first. How do we teach our children to be both good givers and good receivers? To be mindful of their own needs and those they love equally?

We must model to our children a life that fills us up. A life that is nourishing to our minds, bodies, and souls will create an overflow from which to give.

Wouldn’t it be nice to give freely from an overflow of energy, time, money, love, and kindness rather than try to give from our reserves and end up burning out? It’s not just nice, it’s spectacular! This kind of giving feels effortless, but it has to come from a fully nourished you.

We can do this is by receiving and nurturing ourselves first. Here are a few ways I have learned to receive and create this kind of overflow:

Rest when tired.

I know that if I am exhausted, nobody will benefit. I take opportunities to get extra sleep when I can instead of grabbing the second or third Starbucks that day. I listen to my body and relax when it gives me signs of pain or fatigue.

Pushing through pain or fatigue only depletes you further and increases the risk of illness or injury.

Say no more often to allow time for rest and rejuvenation.

It’s hard to say no if you are a giver. But saying yes to everything will burn you out fast. I have learned to prioritize my life in a way that helps me only say yes when I really mean it so I can give from a place of excess.

Ask for and accept help when necessary.

I have learned that asking for help is crucial, and have gotten better and better at asking for and receiving it. You won’t get extra brownie points for doing it all alone. You will just burn out.

Get still. A lot.

Carving out time in my day for stillness, quiet, meditation, or breathing is so important to replenish my energy. I no longer value going from sunrise to sundown without a break. I realize that the more I am able to take this kind of time for myself, the more I am able accomplish during my “doing” times.

I have learned to recognize and separate myself from the voice that tells me I’m not worthy of receiving. I can also recognize guilt as an old, conditioned way of feeling.

Once you understand the amazing flow that is created when there is an equal exchange of giving and receiving, you will look at each moment as an opportunity to do things a little differently.

When you are filled up, fiercely alive, and overflowing with energy and enthusiasm, you can give from the stuff that is spilling over.

How can you give the gift of receiving? By receiving, you not only nourish yourself, you nourish and empower the giver. The real flow of giving and receiving can heal the world!

 

Facebook & Google Are Terrified Of Tantra: 5 Things This Tells Us About Us

This post by  originally appeared in Collective Evolution on May 26, 2015.

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So here is a common e-mail I receive from Google and Facebook: “Your ad has been disapproved due to illicit sexual content.

These are ads for couples’ retreats where you deepen your intimacy and love. These are ads for online courses in intimacy, tantra, and sacred sexuality – on how to truly make love to each other. And there might be a picture of a couple looking at each other like they wanted to kiss. Not exactly the stuff of scandals. So what’s going on?

The reality is that Google and Facebook are the giants of the online world. And they are making statistically-informed decisions based on what is acceptable, digestible, and inoffensive to their consumers – the greatest percentage of the general public.

So what can we learn about the basic beliefs of our society from this? If these guys are operating under the assumption that certain things are generally offensive, what does this tell us about what a large percentage of our society really believes?

1) Sex Is Scary

We don’t want to talk about sex. We don’t want to see anything that might lead to sex. We don’t want our children to hear about sex. Sex is bad. Now I know that there is a segment of society that is very liberal and pro-sex. But on a very basic level, we are still repressing sexuality. We don’t know how to talk about it in a way that doesn’t make us nervous and stare at our feet. We’d really rather just keep it “under the covers.”

2) We Don’t Connect Love With Sex

What? Of course we do!! Really? If we believed that having a more sexual life is connected to having more love in our lives, then wouldn’t we want to talk about sex MORE? Wouldn’t we want more sex everywhere? If we TRULY connected love and sexuality, then we would be all about opening up our sexual channels and just letting them flow, because then more love would flow!! Right??

3) Maybe Our Sex Isn’t About Love

So this is the problem. Our basic sexuality is based on procreation. We aren’t taught anything as young people, so we default to our primal instincts of how to make babies. We all know this basic pattern. Two people are attracted, he gets hard, she gets wet, he gets in, orgasm, and done. (If we’re lucky, we figure out some pleasures along the way, but essentially those are the bones of it.) But is this about love? Not really. You might love the other person, but the physical act itself really has nothing to do with love. It’s just primal attraction and then release.

4) We Don’t Know What A Loving Connection Is

We are capable of such phenomenal connection. Love truly is such a powerful attractor. But we have mixed love up with promises, in-laws, parenting, and taking out the garbage. And we’ve forgotten what real love feels like. We’ve forgotten the magic of attraction and chemistry. And we think it’s normal to lose it “after the honeymoon ends.”

5) We’ve Never Learned What Our True Loving Potential Is

The magic of tantra is that it teaches us what is possible when we set aside all of our “stuff” and we truly allow ourselves to connect with another person with our purest, deepest, most spiritual selves. It teaches us about the incredible gift that it is to truly connect with another human being and the magic that can occur when we do it.

So What Else Could We Believe?

1) Sex Is Healthy, Wonderful, and Life-giving

Sexual energy is all around us. Sexual energy is there when flowers are being pollinated, babies are born, creativity thrives, and hearts are pounding. Sexual energy is life energy, it’s not just about hormones. It’s about whatever it is that makes us feel alive and renewed. It’s what makes us want to try new things and be creative. It’s about whatever puts a spring in our step and makes us happy that we were allowed another day on this amazing planet.

2) Human Beings Are Made For Love

We are all made to love. We thrive when we have loving connections, whether they are with close friends, children, lovers, or family. And parts of us shrivel up when we are left alone for too long.  Love is what we share with each other. We LOVE when we get to love someone else (just ask any grandparent about adoring their grandchildren, or someone who is newly in passionate love). We love BEING loved by another. Giving and receiving love nourishes us as deeply as good food and sunshine.

3) Sex Is A Beautifully Intimate Way To Share This Love

We were designed to enjoy sex so that we would procreate and continue having more little humans. But this is just a taste of what is actually possible. This amazing love that we speak of is tangible energy. (We know this because we can feel it when it’s there. And we can sure feel it when it’s gone.) To share this loving energy is absolutely magical, ecstatic, and healing. And how do we share it? With every ounce of our being… mentally, emotionally, spiritually and yes, physically. The largest sensory organ on our bodies is our skin. It is capable of phenomenal pleasure and delight. So to bring this amazing love and share it with another in the most pleasurable way? Yes, this is incredibly loving and wonderful.

4) The Loving Connection Is Everything

The greatest conduit for this love and pleasure is through the connection between two people. This is where the energy flows. Therefore, creating a clear, loving pathway between you allows the maximum love, energy, and pleasure to flow. Of course, this is our greatest challenge, because we aren’t taught how to be always loving, kind, and safe with each other and so the energy doesn’t flow. The issues of our life flow into the bedroom because this is the nature of the connection. But we can heal that. We can make it clear again, we just have to believe that it matters. That it is actually the core of our relationship. That it is how the love flows.

5) We Have Incredible Loving Potential

Tantra teaches us that in spirit there is unity, and in that unity, there is incredible bliss. But in the physical world, we are separate. We are each separate, different beings. But we are designed to join together; we are designed to fuse. And when we fuse together, we have unity. And where there’s unity, there’s bliss.

This can mean a loving connection between parent and child. This can be the bond between siblings. This can be a deep, trusting relationship between friends. But what is possible between two lovers is out of this world!! Add chemistry to love and intimacy? This is where we experience the fireworks. This is where the magic happens. This is where we experience the Love, Ecstasy, and mind-blowing Joy that we all know we’re capable of.

If You Want People To Listen, Stop Talking

This post by Peter Bregman originally appeared in Harvard Business Review on May 25, 2015.

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George*, a managing director at a large financial services firm, had an uncanny ability to move a roomful of people to his perspective. What George said was not always popular, but he was a master persuader.

It wasn’t his title — he often swayed colleagues at the same hierarchical level. And it wasn’t their weakness — he worked with a highly competitive bunch. It wasn’t even his elegant and distinguished British accent — his British colleagues were persuaded right along with everyone else, and none of them had his track record of persuasion.

George had a different edge, which wasn’t immediately obvious to me because I was listening to what George said. His power was in what he didn’t say.

George was silent more than anyone else who spoke, and often, he spoke last.

I say “anyone else who spoke” because there are plenty of people who remain completely silent — they don’t say anything, ever — and they are not persuasive. For many people, silence equals absence. But George was not absently or passively silent. In fact, he was busier in his silence than anyone else was while speaking. He was listening.

It’s counterintuitive, but it turns out that listening is far more persuasive than speaking.

It is easy to fall into the habit of persuasion by argument. But arguing doesn’t change minds — if anything, it makes people more intransigent. Silence is a greatly underestimated source of power. In silence, we can hear not only what is being said but also what is not being said. In silence, it can be easier to reach the truth.

There is almost always more substance below the surface of what people say than there is in their words. They have issues they are not willing to reveal. Agendas they won’t share. Opinions too unacceptable to make public.

We can hear all those things — and more — when we keep quiet. We can feel the substance behind the noise.

I could tell what George was doing, because when he decided to speak, he was able to articulate each person’s position. And, when he spoke about what they said, he looked at them in acknowledgement, and he linked what they had said to the larger outcome they were pursuing.

Here’s what’s interesting: Because it was clear that George had heard them, people did not argue with him. And, because he had heard them, his perspective was the wisest in the room.

This relates to another thing George consistently did that made him trustworthy and persuasive. He was always willing to learn something from others’ perspectives and to let them know when he was shifting his view as a result of theirs.

Because words can so often get in the way, silence can help you make connections. Try just listening, for once. It softens you both, and makes you more willing not only to keep listening, but to incorporate each other’s perspectives.

If you treat this silence thing as a game, or as a way to manipulate the views of others, it will backfire. Inevitably you will be discovered, and your betrayal will be felt more deeply. If people are lured into connection, only to feel manipulated, they may never trust you again.

You have to use silence with respect.

There are so many good reasons to be thoughtfully silent that it’s a wonder we don’t do it more often. We don’t because it’s uncomfortable. It requires that we listen to perspectives with which we may disagree and listen to people we may not like.

But that’s what teamwork and leadership calls us to do.  To listen to others, to see them fully, and to help them connect their desires, perspectives, and interests with the larger outcome we all, ultimately, want to achieve.

There’s something else we offer, as persuasive leaders, when we are silent: space for others to step into. Lau Tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher wrote: A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.

When people contribute their own ideas, they inevitably work harder than if they are simply complying with our ideas. Silence, followed by a few well-chosen words, is our best bet at achieving this leadership ideal.

So, how do we do it, in practice? We all know how to be silent. The question is: can we withstand the pressure to speak.

Few resist it, which is why we seldom have silent moments in groups. But that, according to George, can be used to our advantage.

“When you ask a question into a group,” he told me, “think of it as a competition. If you answer your own question, you’ve lost. You’ll be answering your own questions all day and no one else will do the work. But wait in the silence — no matter how long — until someone in the group speaks. And they will then continue to do the work necessary to lead themselves.”

There it is, his secret: Let other people speak into the silence and listen quietly for the truth behind their words. Then acknowledge what you’ve heard (which is, most likely, more than has been said) and, once the others feel seen and heard, offer your view.

And when they all agree with you? That’s the power of silence.

*I changed George’s name to protect his privacy.