Monthly Archives: August 2015

What is Love, Really?

This is something that has shown up in my sphere recently: confusion and a little annoyance about the use of the word Love. In wellness circles we’re taught to “Be Love.” But on more than one occasion I’ve had a client turn to me and say, “What does that actually mean? How the heck am I supposed to DO that??”

It can definitely be frustrating. So, I thought it was time to have a discussion about Love. Capital L-o-v-e. What is it? Some common phrases:

Love is what makes the world go ‘round.
Love is all there is.
Love is the absence of fear.
Love is the source of all creation.

But, what is “Love” really? Do we not understand it? Or do we simply not have enough words for it? The Greeks had four words for Love. They are:

Storge        Philia        Eros        Agape

The first, Storge, is about empathy, or I prefer: compassion. Storge is the love that is presumably at the base of human interaction and connectivity. It’s about a shared humanity and a foundational understanding of one another. We may not all have experienced the same loss, but we’ve all experienced loss. We can relate.

Philia is a bit more involved. It’s friendship, loyalty, and affection with mutual respect. Philia seems to involve an investment in one another that includes compassion and pleasure in each other’s company. However, while it can be intimate (some of my dearest relationships with friends are deeply emotionally intimate), it does not involve physical intimacy. That is reserved for Eros.

Eros is intimate physical love. There’s a reason “erotic” stems from the word Eros. But here’s where it gets interesting. Eros, according to some philosophers (think Socrates and Aristotle), is also the gateway to transcendental soul love. Eros is the door through which we must walk if we wish to know the Divine personally, deeply, and return to the knowledge of who we are at our core. It’s a passionate, fire-breathing, active love. It’s Love in action. Eros is how we express ourselves most deeply and authentically with another human being. Eros is human Love. Raw, exciting, deep, and the source of creation. It’s how Divinity comes to life on earth. The union of souls in the midst of the physical union.

And then there’s Agape. Agape is considered by many to represent the unconditional Love of God. The God-love. The capital “L” in Love. Agape transcends everything that is human – it takes no notice of gender, race, nationality, age, etc. Agape is simply Love. It encompasses the energy of all that is, was, and ever will be. Agape is Love transcendent.

Agape is what I believe most people are referring to when they speak of capital L – Love. Love is the energy behind everything, therefore, it’s the source of all. If we can live from that space – Live Love – we are most closely aligned with our soul, who we are inside.

Love has many faces. It runs a spectrum from basic humanity to Divinity, and interestingly, those two are more closely related than the others. In my mind, the four types of Love reside on an ellipse, like this.

Love typesThough equidistant from each other on the line, Storge and Agape are closer to each other than the others from across the ellipse. For me, that’s the essence of who we are: Human and Divine; And this dance, on this planet, is about marrying those two elements and experiencing life in the entire spectrum of Love.

So, what is Love? And how do we “do” Love?

I think Love is both personal and contextual. Love is deeply individual, as well as global. It speaks to the tiniest piece of us while it also speaks to universal peace.

For me, Love is everything and nothing, simultaneously. It is the basis of that which is human and Divine, and its presence is in everything I see, touch, hear and feel. So, it’s everything. And yet, Love can never be contained, held, measured, or controlled. So, it’s nothing.

Love is the depth of what’s tangible, and it’s the breadth of what cannot be seen.

Love, therefore, is. And that’s probably the best definition, which is the good news. Because it means that by being true to who you are, you are DOING Love. By walking your path, constantly aligning with your authenticity and rediscovering what that means for you – you are doing Love.

In a more tangible way, though, doing Love can look like:

– Saying good morning (even when you don’t want to)
– Choosing kindness (over judgment)
– Breathing (instead of reacting)
– Helping somebody in need (no matter how small)
– Enjoying your food (not numbly eating)

I think you get the idea. Doing Love is about holding space for each other’s imperfect humanity, while also recognizing each other’s inner Divinity. Including for yourself.

 

What Are You Doing With Your Life? (Or How I Reconnected to My Verve.)

When people are doing what they’re meant to be doing, it’s evident. They have a certain glow about them. A radiance. They’re aligned with the infinite power of the Universe and it simply can’t help but pour out through every inch of them.

It’s in how they walk and how they talk – how they’re most human – that they express this pathway to the Divine.

Jen Pastiloff is doing what she is meant to be doing.

jenpastiloff-me

Post-workshop glow.

She’s one such example that I had the good fortune to spend three hours with this past weekend at her ‘Manifest-Station: On Being Human’ workshop at Moksha Yoga in Chicago.

It was one of the best workshops I’ve ever been to. Hands down.

How do you define what Jen does? How do you explain what she accomplishes in the time span of 3 hours, or about the length of your typical NFL football game? She herself has asked this question. In many ways her workshop defies explanation, though there are many adjectives to describe it: amazing, miraculous, transformative, beautiful, stunning, to name a few. It’s easy to gush about it, but hard to actually explain how it all happens.

And yet, it is also quite simple:

Jen reconnects you with your humanity.

In fun, engaging, provocative, and thoughtful ways, Jen combines music, movement, and moments to open you up to that which you are and that which you’ve been hiding.

Through a series of writing prompts Jen invites you to explore obstacles, beliefs, patterns, and love. Through basic yoga movements, Jen gets your body (and soul) up and engaged in the process. She has developed a workshop that takes you on a journey of the heart through the doorway of the body, using the physical senses of touch and sound.

As a person who has done a lot of work on herself (a LOT!), I admit to being somewhat skeptical (but hopeful) as I walked through the door. I wasn’t quite sure of what to expect, emotionally or physically. Physically, because I have a less-than-awesome foot right now and haven’t really done any yoga in about 8-10 years, I was more than a little scared about what lay in front of me. The good news is: you really don’t have to “do” yoga to do the workshop – which was exactly what I needed! Jen has said it repeatedly, but I was unsure if it was really true. (It is!)

But what about the emotional?

It was nothing that I expected, and everything I needed. Between the yoga poses we wrote, explored, and shared. Between writing we moved, laughed, and sang. We even had a hug fest and a dance party! We held each other up as we sat alongside one another, connecting at the most human of levels. It truly is a workshop that opens you up to see, feel, and understand yourself in new ways.

I have followed Jen on social media for about a year, perhaps less, maybe more. Even though I had heard about the workshops and read the glowing reviews, I still thought: “what could I possibly do that I haven’t already done?” (aka: all my aforementioned “work.”)

In my life, I have walked through my long tunnel filled with obstacles, suffering, and fear. I have turned over every stone and pebble along the way and fought hard to reclaim my life, create my life, and live my life; and I have come out the other side of that dark musty tube with a full and ever-expanding toolbox. So, I honestly didn’t expect too much. And yet…

And yet, it wasn’t necessarily something “new” that I learned, but rather a new way to look at that same thing, and thereby explore it differently. This led to understanding it differently and ultimately, embodying it differently. Embodying my truth differently, with more presence, joy, and VERVE. (Yes, I said verve. When was the last time you heard that word? Lol)

And that’s what Jen does: she reconnects you to your verve, your humanity, to humanity, in general. She creates a space in which it’s not only safe to be human, but celebrated. It’s a gift. Jen is a gift. She is walking her path with grace, love, and joy. And the joy is contagious!

When I find something that I feel is extraordinary, I have to share it. Jen is extraordinary, her workshop is extraordinary, and the fellow attendees are extraordinary, no doubt because of who Jen attracts and supports by simply showing up in life.

To Jen, my immense thanks and deep gratitude for showing up, walking your path, and sharing that presence with those around you. You are the real deal. It was a gift and a pleasure to share that space and time with you. I look forward to our paths crossing again.

To learn more about Jen, please visit her website at jenniferpastiloff.com and check her out on social media, where she posts regularly.

FINAL NOTE: This is important. Jen is expanding her workshop to reach the younger generation of girls. Can you imagine how different your life would have been as an adult if someone had taught you as a teenager to know you are enough, just as you are? Jen is doing that. You can tell it’s her passion. So, if you have or know any girls ages 13+ near Princeton, NJ and 16+ in NYC who could use this experience and learn at a young age that they are enough, check out Jen’s upcoming workshops in September, titled ‘Girl Power: You Are Enough.’

Are you Intense?

Are you Intense?

This is a question I’ve asked myself, mainly because I already know the answer: I can be.

It all began after a series of different meetings I had with my doc over a couple of months. During one of the earlier sessions he had said to me, “You’re intense, and you need to be with someone who not only understands, but appreciates that in you.” I listened.

Am I intense? I can be.

Fast forward a few months and at another session he said in passing, “I couldn’t live with you.”

Ouch.

It wasn’t meant to hurt, or to be a barb, but it did. (And don’t worry, there’s no discussion of anything remotely unethical going on.) It hurt, because I found myself not measuring up to some random externalized standard that had absolutely nothing to do with me.

Of course, that’s the truth of what happened, but in the moment I didn’t have access to that absolute truth, I just knew that it stung a little. Subsequently, I found myself asking, “What’s wrong with me?” and “Am I not livable?” Which ultimately evolved to “Am I not lovable?” And finally, the mac daddy of them all: “Am I destined to be alone?”

I suspect it took only about 5 seconds to go from his statement to the fear of being alone. It’s a well-worn path that is very easily navigated. Almost effortlessly, in fact. But here’s the beautiful thing: because I have done my work, because I have spent years forging through the dark tunnel and excavating the debris that was forming obstacles to my life, and because I have raised my awareness to the habit of negative self-talk, it took about another 5 seconds for me to access the truth behind his statement.

Just because HE couldn’t live with me does not mean that NOBODY can.

And there it was. Truth. Absolute truth. And it allowed me to go even further, which was like flipping through the most wonderful album of memories and joy you’ve ever created. Once I acknowledged that his external measurement had nothing to do with my self-worth, I was able to explore why he might feel that way, and that’s when it occurred to me: He only knows 30% of me. Perhaps more, maybe less, but 30% feels like a good number.

The fact is that he only knows that which I present to him, and since he’s my doc, I present my problems. He’s my “expert” for helping me sort through that which I cannot do alone. Therefore, it stands to reason that he couldn’t live with me (and finds me intense), because he only knows that side of me. He knows the percentage that is seeking assistance or a safe place to vent. While I suspect he might have inklings of the other 70%, it has been a rare occasion when I have presented it to him.

This got me thinking: What IS the other 70%? Here’s where that lovely virtual photo album of memories came into play. I suddenly found myself immersed in the joy of being me. It was decadent, blissful, and loving. It looked a bit like this:

  • He doesn’t see me dancing in the rain, or laughing so hard that I fall off the bed.
  • He doesn’t see me when I’m the image of bliss immersed up to my neck in a hot bubble bath, or how I get teary eyed during a commercial for animal rescue.
  • He doesn’t see the me that giggles at sexual innuendos like a school girl, secretly hiding my wry smile because I actually know what’s being talked about and the sheer pleasure it can bring.
  • He doesn’t see me singing like a dork while I dance in my car to my favorite song.
  • He doesn’t see me baking something for a friend that’s hurt, or taking pictures of butterflies on my daily walk.
  • He doesn’t see me when I’m so immersed in writing that hours can go by without my noticing it, and the smile on my face becomes semi-permanent.
  • He doesn’t see me talk to strangers and offer them a smile, or as I hug my dog during one of his seizures late at night.
  • He doesn’t see… me.

He doesn’t see the me that I know. Which means: he doesn’t know me. Well, not all of me.

He doesn’t know all this, because he’s not meant to. This is the breadth and depth of me, and it’s still only a glimpse. He knows the me that needs his expertise and his help. The me that comes to him feeling broken or worn down by life, in search of a tincture of assistance and support. And that’s the me he should be seeing, because it’s the me that he knows in relation to himself.

I was then reminded of an old saying that I often share about how we go through life comparing our insides to other people’s outsides. It will never match up. And this is true for almost everybody we come across in life. There are very few (if any) people that we share 100% of ourselves with. Every interaction falls somewhere on the spectrum from 1-99%, and I’d argue that most daily interactions fall somewhere between 1-35%.

People show us, and share with us, what they’re comfortable with, and we receive and share in return what we’re comfortable with. I would suspect that we are sharing about 30% of ourselves with the outside world at any given moment. And how we receive that is directly affected by our relationship to that person. That means that if I am your sibling, I will be receiving what you are showing very differently than if I were your boss, or your employee. We see and know people in relation to who we are to each other, and people only know what we choose to show them.

Which brings me back to the idea of being intense. I can be.

Actually, I think we all can be. And just as I can be intense, I can be light-hearted and soft. It’s part of the full spectrum of who I am, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Then, just a few days ago, I read this piece by Kate Rose on Elephant Journal, and it summed up my notion of intensity so perfectly I wanted to share. Intensity is not something to be ashamed of or dialed down – it’s something to be celebrated. And when it’s admired and supported it can fuel almost anything, including (and especially) Love.

Why Mini-Breaks are SO Important

I recently took a mini-break from social media. Actually, I am pretty good about keeping my professional presence on social media in balance, but I noticed my personal presence had gotten way out of whack. It all started with a Facebook post I read on July 21st by Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery (check her out here, if you haven’t already).

In her post she was talking about texting (or checking) and driving. I read the post and it struck a nerve. Although I’m pretty good about not texting and driving (though I could be better – which translates to “putting my phone away completely”) what stood out to me is that she commented on the checking. That, I’m afraid, is another story.

I check. I check often. It doesn’t matter where I am, or whether I hear the phone vibrate, I was always glancing down or opening up apps to see what was going on. I slowly conditioned myself into a Pavlovian response when it comes to my cell phone. And I don’t like it. That post was a wake-up call. Perhaps it wasn’t exactly the one Glennon intended, but it was the one I needed.

So, I made a decision: get social media off my phone and log off completely for a few days just to see what sort of autonomic response I would have. As it turns out, I was right. My Pavlovian response was strong, and now that my phone was no longer vibrating with messages and notifications every 5-10 minutes, I found myself feeling lost and somewhat directionless. It was weird.

Even though I didn’t spend endless hours online, I had conditioned myself to look at my phone during every stop light, in every waiting room, before bed and upon rising, among many other times during the day. Grabbing my phone to “check-in” had become reflexive, not responsive, and it didn’t feel good.

That lost feeling lasted for about a day, until I turned it around after realizing how much more free time I had. Suddenly, my mornings were more relaxed, and my bedtime routine was calmer. Yes, I missed my interactions with friends and friendly banter, but I enjoyed listening to music and reading again. I spent more time with my dog – actually with him, not just in the same space as him.

When I decided to go back online after a few days, it was deliberate. I no longer found myself drawn to see what I missed by endlessly scrolling. Instead, I allowed whatever was present to show up, and I responded accordingly. Perhaps some friends will feel I’m no longer interested in their stories – which couldn’t be further from the truth – but I don’t have any control over how they think.

What I do know is that I feel more in control than before, and I seem to be enjoying my time offline a little bit more as well. I’m writing more, which is awesome, and I’m connecting with friends via the phone or in person, which is also awesome. I feel calmer, too. As if my nervous system is getting a much-needed mini-break. One that will turn into a long-term respite from the frenetic pace of online life.

As of writing this piece, I still haven’t put the app back on my phone. I still have a residual reflexive response in glancing down at it every so often, and I still open it up expecting to see the app. When it’s not there, I take a breath and remember that life is being lived all around me. And then I go look for flowers, birds, or music, and it feels good. I can say hello later, when I’m at my computer writing, or taking care of something business-related.

Finally, this exercise has reminded me that mini-breaks, in all aspects of our lives, are important, because they’re the reset button we often need to realign with our Self again. Whether it’s a break from electronics, caffeine, work – whatever the case may be, a mini-break is often just what is needed to come into greater alignment with life.