Are you afraid of love?

For many the notion of intimacy brings an involuntary shudder of fear. All of us have experienced pain when our hearts were tender. If that hurt was too big, some decide never to be that susceptible again. While it’s healthy to shield yourself from emotional harm, shutting your heart completely brings its own misery. The challenge is how to defend your self while staying open for love.

beach-blue-girl-lost-love-imgflu-com-23411Here’s the tip. See if you’re ready to balance the security of protection with the risk of opening. If yes, check inside to see just how scared you are. If your heart is numb and heavily barricaded, it’s a sign you have unresolved trauma that needs healing. If necessary, get professional help. You need to feel you are safe and strong enough inside before you can feel vulnerable again.

When ready, take your trembling heart gently in hand and make a commitment to proceed with caution. Yes. sign up for dating sites, put the word out to friends that you’re available for relationship, but decide firmly to get to know someone before opening your heart fully. Researchers recently identified 36 questions you can ask and answer with a partner to give love a chance to flourish

Finally, when love comes, once you are secure in your own worth, you can experience the myriad gifts that love brings: a softened heart, the joy of companionship, the ecstasy of shared union, and an appreciation for all of life’s beauty. ©

Penelope Young Andrade, LCSW
From The Life Connection, February 2015

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Are you afraid of idleness?

you need more time for just ‘being’Like many, you may feel most comfortable when you’re being productive. That’s okay as long as you balance purposeful action with directionless rest. Unfortunately the notion that the devil lurks in idleness has a big grip on our culture and psyche. Even the word idle may send shivers down your industrialized-work-ethic spine. The problem is the kind of rest your nervous system needs and creative mind requires is exactly the kind that lollygagging and wool gathering offer. Down time means spacious time at home, in the tub, in nature, listening to music, reading novels…even museum/gallery crawls or meditation will do – as long as they’re aimless. (No screens!)

Here’s the tip. If you already know that you need more time for just ‘being’, see if you’re ready to make some changes. If yes, start with just 5 minutes. Make a cup of herbal tea. Shift your attention from thoughts about what you should be doing to your body’s experience here, now. If you feel like climbing the walls, be gentle with yourself. Find sensations that feel calm (check your feet/ hands). Move awareness back and forth between agitated and calm sensations for 3 minutes. Watch as the calmness spreads just by virtue of bringing attention to your body. If you still can’t settle down, seek professional evaluation for food allergies, over medication, or other physical/emotional issues.
Remember, making time for idleness increases not only your joie de vivre, but paradoxically also increases productivity. Don’t just do something, sit there! ©

Penelope Young Andrade, LCSW
From The Life Connection, December 2014

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Should you end your life at age 75?

One of our nation’s leading oncologists, Dr. Ezekiel Emmanuel recently created a storm when he proposed in an article in the Atlantic that he didn’t want to live past 75 years of age. Dr. Emmanuel writes that this is the age when research indicates productivity is over and we face the “slow constriction of ambition and expectations”. After age 75, Emmanuel said, he’ll refuse any life prolonging medical interventions including even antibiotics.

Although I appreciated Emmanuel clarifying that he was not suggesting mass euthanasia for the aged, was not a proponent of the right to die movement and supported everyone in making their own decisions, this essay landed like a blow. At seventy one, 75 looms larger and nearer for me than it does for Emmanuel at 57. Should I be planning my funeral?

Certainly, the notion of prolonging life at all costs regardless of its quality is not workable for us as individuals or as a society. We as a nation spend far too much money on costly medical interventions that prolong painful lives often only by mere months. It’s also true that summoning the energy for big, ambitious projects gets harder as we age. However, as I sat with his immodest proposal, I couldn’t shake the insistent sense that he was missing something important.

I know from my guilty pleasure of reading People magazine that Dr. Emmanuel and his famous brothers Rahm (Mayor of Chicago) and Ari (Hollywood Super Agent) grew up in a highly competitive, hyperactive family. Productive achievement was the coin of the realm in that household. Indeed Emmanuel mentions that parents’ dying at 75 protects children from the “pressure to conform to parental expectations and demands”. It doesn’t take much reading between the lines to deduce that the Emmanuel household was filled with such exhortation.

And look at the results! The Emmanuel brothers are all highly productive, valuable members of society who have given much to our society. No blame. However, I don’t get a sense that intimate relationships were a priority in this household. Nor that there was much invitation to stop and smell the roses.

What of those purposes and pleasures of human existence – developing and enjoying close relationships with loved ones as well as developing and enjoying an intimate relationship with the present moment! These, unless accompanied by active productivity, do not seem to hold much draw for Emmanuel. His description of his own 87 yr old father is telling. His dad is ‘sluggish’ and his relating consists of ‘needling phone calls’. Emmanuel tosses children and grandchildren into a sentence about legacy without much juice. Emmanuel’s concern for these relationships is primarily what he considers the ultimate tragedy – he would not be remembered as vital and independent, but rather frail and dependent.

I’ve always been interested that we are not revolted by the frailty and dependence of infants and toddlers. They require a similar amount of care and bottom wiping as frail and infirm elders do. Yet while children are adorable, elders are avoidable. Wiping an aged tush brings us up close and personal with our own demise. Emmanuel now suggests one solution for coping with our collective distaste for the infirmity of aging is to eliminate it. If we choose an early death (from an easily treatable UTI or pneumonia) we dispense with this dilemma entirely.

Soon after Emmanuel’s essay appeared, I saw an interview on TV with a woman who was caring for her obviously demented, frail, mother. While mother’s face was indeed blank, her daughter’s face was radiant with love and happiness. Caring for her mother was not a burden. For this woman it was a joy.

Granted, caring for elders is not a joy when time and money are in short supply for busy families. (We need public policy and support to make that joy possible for others.) But I got a glimpse in that daughter’s face of what might be the deeper purpose of being there to care for the elderly – opening our hearts to discover the joy of devoted service.

My own mother, at the end of her life, was not as interested in sharing intimacy with me as she was in getting her sandwich made, her blankets arranged, her medications sorted, etc. She was from the generation who had learned to survive with prickly independence. Although I made sure my mother got those basic needs met, I wished she would have allowed herself to share her fears and feelings with me so she didn’t have to be alone with them as she took her slow journey to death.

As for what is the deeper purpose for becoming aged and infirm ourselves—how about learning to relax into intimacy with loved ones? Or learning to relate to time and space in a new way? The present moment is always there and as we age we finally have the time and inclination to sit still for it. I love that meditation joke, ‘don’t just do something, sit there!

Successful aging requires shifting identities. The ways we have known ourselves to be, the ways we have lived our lives no longer fit or work. This can be a real liberation and an opportunity to expand our flexibility and ‘being’. Apparently, from what Emmanuel reports, his own 87 yr old father, though still trying to relate through old top-dog types of communication (e.g. needling his children), has adjusted to slowing down, swimming rather than walking and reports that he is happy!

Shifting identities in this way is also known as letting go of ego. Yes that’s hard, but you know what? It happens to be spiritually productive! Of course we can make ‘consciousness’ and ‘enlightenment’ into new ambitions and fall into some of the same ego traps we did earlier in life. Or we can hold our intention to be more present and loving lightly and compassionately.

If you don’t want to die at 75, don’t despair. You can still choose life at any age and live each moment to the fullest. Aging offers as many opportunities for learning and growth as any other time of life — if you accept them. Furthermore, we don’t have to wait to get old to appreciate the present moment, drop ego concerns, and focus on opening our hearts for love. We can start right now. ©

Penelope Young Andrade, LCSW
From The Life Connection, January 2015

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Penelope’s Picks | October 2014

One of my dearest, longtime friends, Dr. Shana Parker, has launched a 5 week webinar program for couples at her website. To explore this mastery course for couples or to sign up, click here.

1931172_1061086643198_1592_nFor Shana to take the time and energy and put her 30 plus years of experience into an accessible format for couples (or individuals) is an extraordinary gift to our human family…and a huge bargain! In an engaging manner, Shana teaches the seven essential skills every couple should know. These include listening skills, communicating from the heart, how to get your needs met, the best kept secret of psychotherapy: how to have a grown up relationship, as well as some pearls of wisdom regarding getting to “yes” sexually and taking your intimacy to the next level. As a bonus, Shana integrates the Psychosynthesis map to provide a foundation for Self awareness. This webinar can be live streamed whenever wanted or needed.

For over 40 years, Shana is a person I’ve been lucky to consider a friend and confidant. Her profound clarity has been a beacon for me during many dark times. I am so happy I’m now able to share her with you. If you or anyone you know needs support in deepening love in relationship… this course is a love saver.

Mark-cover-webSmMy longtime Psychosynthesis colleague, Mark Horowitz, is finally offering us his wisdom in book form!  His new book, The Dance of We: The mindful use of LOVE and POWER in human systems is a dynamic look at the way human systems converge for both good and bad. From micro systems like families to macro systems of corporations, communities and governments, Mark, tenderly and unstintingly dissects what works and doesn’t work at the interface of love and power. I particularly appreciated Mark’s authenticity in using his own early experience in the SGS cult to identify the ways in which good people can lose their moral compass when caught in dysfunctional systems. Mark’s ‘Four Principles’ guide us to solutions: Interconnectedness,   Honoring Life, Respect & Inherent Value, and the Double Golden Rule. To order see Mark’s website or Amazon.


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AAP’s BodyWise Symposium | June 2014

The setting for AAP’s BodyWise Symposium in Sonora last June couldn’t have been more beautiful. I was delighted to have this Keynote opportunity to share EMRx both at the site and through a world wide webcast. I was honored to share the stage with Dr. Dario Nardi’s lively presentation integrating EEG research and body types and Sue Ann Herron’s graceful filling in for Natalie Rogers’ presentation on person centered expressive arts.

aap symposiumOne highlight for me was meeting AAP Steering Committee member and author, Yon Walls, and doing a mini session with Yon portraying one of the characters in her captivating novel, Seeing Collette. Doing this session was a numinous experience for Yon and me as well as the attendees. AAP has promised to make all of our presentations available for purchase on line. Stay tuned. (That’s Yon to my left and another simpatico Symposium attendee Marylin Nelson on my right.)

Another highlight was meeting poet Joy Willow, whose book of poetry, Soma Song, is music to my ears and heart. You can find Yon’s and Joy’s books on Amazon along with Dr. Nardi’s, Dr. Rogers’ and mine.

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Welcoming Negative Feedback

Do you welcome negative feedback? Most of us enjoy positive feedback but view negative feedback as bitter medicine to be taken only when absolutely necessary. In ‘polite’ society when someone doesn’t like what you’ve done they usually keep it to themselves. This typically leads to loneliness and inauthentic relationships of hearts walled off with undelivered communication. Negative feedback offers an opportunity for personal growth and increasing intimacy. The challenge is that welcoming negative feedback requires rising above ego needs to be ‘right’ and appear ‘perfect.’

Here’s the tip. First, see if you are ready to grow personally and spiritually. If yes, make sure you have solid access to inner and outer resources of compassion for your imperfect self. An inner mantra like “It’s human to make mistakes, I love myself warts and all” may help. Second, whenever you receive negative feedback, take a breath and remind yourself, “This is a gift and bid for intimacy from the deliverer.” Consider saying, “Thank you for having the courage to come to me with your feelings. I welcome your feedback.” When you respond in this way, notice how hearts (yours and theirs) open and connections deepen.

Finally, take an undefended look at what the feedback is signaling about inner wounds which may need healing. Seek support from loved ones or professionals if necessary. Welcoming negative feedback is a signal to the universe in general and your Big Self in particular that you are committed to a journey of personal evolution and love. Get ready for boundless rewards.

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Giving and Receiving Compliments

Do you have a hard time giving and/or receiving compliments? If so, you’re not alone. For millennia humans around the globe have had superstitions about the dangers of compliments. Acclaim might evoke envy and the ‘evil eye’ unless preceded by praise for God. In some cultures parents protected thoughtlessly praised children by spitting in their faces! Include contemporary confusion about whether compliments are signals for sexual ‘come-ons’ and you’ve added another layer of trepidation. The problem is in our post modern era compliments abound. Furthermore, when praise is lovingly and relationally delivered it actually supports self esteem.

Here’s the tip. Whenever you’re inspired to give a compliment, look inside to see what has moved you personally. Leading with “you look great” may unwittingly evoke a subtle cringe response. Instead try saying something like “I enjoy your sense of style”. Speaking from an “I” position invites connection and mitigates the sense of being judged or compared.

receiving complimentsIf receiving a compliment doesn’t feel good, check whether this is a pattern for you or just a response to an ungraceful delivery. In either case, take a breath and remember you are safe. It’s okay for your talents/beauty/brains to be seen. If the giver is an intimate, it’s also okay to reveal compliments are hard to receive. Being vulnerable in this way keeps hearts open. It’s a basic need to be seen and appreciated, but not to be singled out with only your uniqueness for company. Find a way in all compliments to stay connected with each other.

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Choosing Happiness

Choose Happiness

Can you “choose” to be happy? Setting your intention to be happy goes a long way toward creating the conditions in which happiness can arise. Similar strategies include keeping a gratitude journal and looking for your responsibility in every upsetting interaction. These definitely help. However, complications may arise when you try these and notice deep inside you’re not really happy. You still find yourself turning to food, alcohol, drugs, TV/Computers for comfort and relief.

Here’s the tip. First, consider setting your intention slightly differently. Say to yourself, I choose to take whatever actions are necessary to make happiness arise more easily. Second, see if you’re ready for an honest self-inventory of what else you need to do to set the stage for happiness. If yes, perhaps you’ll need to eat differently, get more exercise, sleep, time with loved ones, or time in nature. You likely already know what you need to do.

Finally, it’s crucial to look inside for painful emotions you’re resisting. Sad, mad, scared emotions don’t disappear just because you decide to ignore them. Suppressed emotion often persists like a low-grade fever robbing you of vitality and happiness. If this feels too scary to do alone or if you are numb, be tender with yourself. Seek professional help to get the support you deserve. Remember, sad, mad, scared feelings are designed to move through your body in minutes leaving you happy, confident, peaceful… and, most importantly, empowered to choose the actions required to insure your happy life.

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Are you blind to good stuff happening for you?

No blame! Like all humans, your mind is Velcro for negative and Teflon for positive experience. Unfortunately this brain design often obscures the good that’s right here, right now – especially when things don’t match your pictures.

Are you blind to good stuff happening for you?

Here’s the tip. First, look inside and see if you’re ready to open to beneficial experiences even when they’re not all you’d hoped for. If not, get help to heal wounds keeping you stuck in ‘all or nothing’ thinking. If yes, allow yourself to feel (safely, responsibly, briefly in your body) the anger and grief that arise whenever life doesn’t match expectations.

Watch your embodied emotion move up, out, and done (in about three minutes max)! Notice that good feelings (relief, calm, etc) inevitably follow. Keep your awareness focused on those good feelings for another three minutes minimum! Feeling and focusing in this way actually shifts brain patterns. And, while still in this open state, review your day/week/month to look specifically for pleasure…from a stunning sunset, to a child’s laugh, to a loving call/email, to unexpected kudos at work.

Notice, too, how once you’re feeling good, it’s easier to access positive experience. Don’t be surprised if you even find a tiny glimpse of something beneficial in, around, or during disappointment! No pressure though. If you stay in your body, stay open to emotion, stay open to goodness, you’ll receive the unending gifts life is always sending…no matter how they look.

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Shambhala Center November 21st 2013

What a blissful evening this was.  Ruth Wallen MA, Shambhala Senior Meditation Teacher began by discussing points of convergence and divergence between EMRx and Tibetan Buddhism.  Previously, Ruth and I had many enlightening conversations  which helped me frame my presentation to be relevant to followers of Sakyong Mipam Rinpoche.   It was a delight to be in a room filled with mindfulness practitioners avidly interested in the bodymind connection and joyful living.

Shambhala Center

Shambhala Center

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