Friday, January 12, 2018

Choose to Shine: Your Smile Is More Powerful Than You Think



“Shine like the whole Universe is yours.” ~Rumi
I had a revolutionary experience at a grocery store. Yes, a grocery store. I’ll never forget that day.
I believe that some of the most mundane and unimportant places I’ve visited have been the bedrock of my spiritual growth.
There is so much to witness at a store: people frantically trying to load up for the weekend, elderly in their motorized carts, people in line glued to their smart phones, and then of course the workers that 90 percent of the time seem achingly miserable and sad.
It was like any other day as I stepped foot into my local store to pick up up a few essentials.
I was walking in with the intention of getting some food for the week and ended up walking out with so much more.
Once inside, I saw a man standing at the front of the store with the biggest smile on his face. It was as bright as the sun. It was the kind of joy that you could easily tell was radiating from within.
I did what I habitually do: looked him in the eye, smiled, and called him by his name. As I grabbed my cart and glanced back up, I stopped dead in my tracks.
I had a huge rush of awareness: No one was noticing this man. Not a single person in my ten-minute stare down paid attention to him. No one.
He waved, with a big ole grin, to every single soul that entered the store. You see, his job was to acknowledge every person that walked through the front door. He was the “greeter” at a local store, and the best darn one I’ve ever seen.
This immediately fueled anger inside of me. It was as if he was invisible.
Why was no one seeing this man? Why didn’t they wave back—say hi, and enjoy his presence?
Why? Why? Why?
I wanted to stand right up there with him, get in peoples faces, and make them see us. But instead, I took a breath and allowed myself to get calm and centered before I did anything.
I decided to shift my attention to the entrance to actually see who was walking inside. 
First, I noticed a businessman that kept glancing at his watch; it looked like he was in a real hurry. Who knows—he may have been late picking up donuts for his next meeting (that he was running).
Next, I observed a mother who had a cart full of kids that were kicking and screaming. She was rummaging through her purse; I bet it was hard to find that grocery list while managing to keep “all arms and legs inside of a moving vehicle.”
She may have even been a single mom, and her only option was to take them with her (hardest job in the world—I watched my mom raise five).
I then witnessed a couple who seemed to have been so in love that even if the greeter was standing there with a sign that had their names in bright red, they still wouldn’t have seen.
They encapsulated my attention all together. I just love seeing love, and my heart skips a beat seeing others that love each other so much, they live in worlds of their own. Smiling into one another’s eyes, how could they possibly have noticed him?
Soon after I stopped watching, I turned my attention back to the greeter. He was an unbelievable man. 
It didn’t matter who walked through the door, or what baggage they were bringing with them—he treated each of them the same. He was so awake to life, so kind and conscious to the real meaning of love (little did he know).
His arms were open, ready to pour into anyone, no matter who they were. Even though he was being ignored.
I learned an incredible lesson that day, or lessons, I should say. And I’ll never forget these simply yet mighty realizations that are now imparted into my everyday life.
On days when I find myself judging others, and when my patience is awfully low, I think of this man. On days when I feel unappreciated and unnoticed, I think of him too.
I remember that he gave of himself, without any expectation of return. I remember how his smiled wasn’t dependent on if others smiled back. 
I think of how his joy radiated from the inside out and how others, including me, were still affected by his actions, even if it didn’t seem so.
So that “greeter” is perhaps the embodiment of truth. This is what life is about: giving others the benefit of the doubt, because you make mistakes too. Understanding other people’s suffering instead of judging them, because you have suffered also.
I would encourage you to wake up to the world around you, and realize that people are simply doing the best that they can. They really are.
Next time you feel the temptation to judge others for what you can only see on the outside, try seeing it from another angle.
Attempt to contemplate what they may be going through or the suffering you may not be able to see on the surface. Pass a silent blessing onto them and try to see yourself in them. 
This will happen to you. You will show love and get nothing in return. You will smile and not get one back. You might even be completely ignored. You’ll open your heart and people will pass you by.
At the end of the day, it’s not about how others receive you or what adversity you may face; it’s about one thing and one thing only: choosing to shine your light anyway.
I truly believe that the Universe can be ours, if we can see things from the whole and complete oneness. In a world that seems to be full of hate, rage, and anger, we must never forget that we are all in this together.



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Monday, November 20, 2017

4 Signs Your Relationship Will Last



When you start a romantic relationship, you go in with some idea that you and this person could go the distance — otherwise why would you waste your time?
Everyone wants to find the perfect formula to make a relationship last forever, but because every couple is different, a formula doesn’t quite exist. That being said, there are some important traits that all successful couples share. Therapist Kimberly Hershenson told what she feels long-lasting relationships have in common.

You trust each other.

It’s a big deal if someone puts enough trust in you to devote time to you and open up to you. If you’re going to be with them for a long time, it’s important that you show reverence and respect that bond.
“It is difficult to be vulnerable and share problems with others,” said Hershenson. “When a partner is able to open up to you it is important to not break their trust.”
In a relationship, trust is everything. If you feel comfortable and confident that your partner won’t do things to hurt you and is not going to cheat on you, then you may have a winning team.
You support each other.
The world can be a scary place, and one of the best parts about having a partner is having someone on your side when the going gets tough.
If you feel like your partner believes in your dreams and is there to listen when you need to talk something out, that’s a big part of a long-lasting relationship.
“Asking your partner how they are doing sometimes without even sharing your own personal issues allows you to be completely available to them,” said Hershenson. “Listening to others’ problems and lending an ear is a good way to “get out of your head” and let your partner know you are fully present to listen to them.”

You hold each other accountable.

Partnerships mean being kind, but it also means speaking your truth when they do something that upsets you. Staying quiet doesn’t lead to happiness, so knowing when to call your partner out in a healthy way will only make your love stronger and last longer.
“If your you or your partner is upset with the other person talk it out without getting defensive,” said Hershenson. “Acknowledge what your part was (even if it was simply upsetting them) and discuss what you could do differently in the future.”

If you are both able to admit when you’re wrong, it will cause your fighting time to be cut down and will prevent simple misunderstandings from turning into something much bigger.
You show physical love.
Though it’s important to show your partner love and support through your words, keeping up some form of physical love is important. This doesn’t just have to be sex — making sure to give your partner a kiss when you leave for work or holding their hand while running errands are other, more subtle ways to connect physically.
“Whether it’s a kiss hello or goodbye, snuggling on the couch or holding hands; even non-sexual touching builds connection between partners,” Hershenson said.
Even if it doesn’t come naturally, keeping up a routine of showing physical affection can make all of the difference.





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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

7 Keys to a Healthy and Happy Relationship


Here's just a little primer of 7 signs of a healthy relationship.
1.  Mutual Respect
If you don't have this - well, it's going to be a tough road.  This doesn't mean you agree with everything your partner says or does.   It does mean that you have admiration for each other, and steady undercurrent of love and trust throughout your relationship. You also have each other's back.
John Gottman, a pioneer in studying couples and marriage, could tell within minutes whether a couple was in it for the long haul or if they weren't going to make it - with startling accuracy.  How could he tell?  If there were any signs of contempt in the couple's interaction with each other, the relationship usually didn't make it.  
Abuse, whether it is physical, verbal, or emotional, defies mutual respect in every way, shape and form.  You have to have mutual respect to have a healthy relationship. 
2.  Arguing, Not Fighting
I've never seen a healthy couple that doesn't argue.  They never fight, however - they argue.  If a couple comes into my office and tells me they've never argued, something isn't quite right.
You can argue without fighting.  Arguing is non-combative - you and your partner state your points of view without name-calling or raising your voice.  Sometimes you agree to disagree - and that's okay.   Figure out what your "non-negotiables" are - the things that you will not budge on.  Now rethink that list.  I like the saying "You can either be right, or married."  Hopefully you and your partner's values (see #6 below) match up pretty well - that makes things much easier!
I'll do another post on how to have a healthy argument.
3.  Agreement on Sex
You're both okay with how often you have sex, how you have sex, where you have sex...and there's mutual participation.  Sex is not withheld as a punishment.  And if you or your partner are not comfortable with an aspect of your sex life, you can talk about it openly, without criticism.
You also find time to have sex.  I don't care how busy or tired the two of you are - there is always time for sex.
4.  Agreement on Parenting
There are bascially three main styles of parenting:
a) Authoritarian: The rules are the rules are the rules.  No exceptions.
b) Authoritative: This is what I refer to as a "Benevolent Dictatorship".  There are rules, and kids can give their input, but the parents have the final say.
c) Lenient or "Lassiez-faire": There are minimal rules. 
If the two of you don't agree on a parenting style, you need to talk.  Also, if you differ on whether your children should be spanked or not - you need to talk. 
You may have each grown up with different parenting styles - and we each tend to parent the same way we were parented.  If you don't have kids yet but are thinking about it, you must, must, must have this conversation with your partner.
People can change their personality styles.  A lot of that depends on # 6 (below).
5.  Equality with Money
Even if one of you makes more money than the other,  you both have an equal say about where your money goes.  There are no "hidden accounts", and you decide together before you make large purchases. 
If you are the one in charge of the bill paying, you pay the bills on time.  Period.  If you can't pay the bills on time, turn over that job to your partner or hire someone to do it for you. 
You decide on separate accounts if sharing a joint account is getting too complicated or frustrating.  Does that hurt the intimacy of a relationship?  No, it actually helps your intimacy.  You are no longer fighting about money.
6.  Common Goals and Values
Couples with very different interests can have healthy relationships - what counts is that they share common goals and values.  Couples of different religions (or non-religion) and cultural backgrounds can have healthy relationships - what makes a healthy relationship is sharing core beliefs.  You may both share the belief that giving back to your community is important. You may both share the belief that extended family members are welcome to live with you at any time.   Values and beliefs differ for everyone.
Common goals include intangibles like raising happy and healthy children, and tangibles like saving up for a house.  You can work together on setting one-year, five-year, even ten- and twenty-year goals.  Working towards something together strengthens your bond.
7.  Fun
"Sexiness wears thin after a while and beauty fades, but to be married to a man who makes you laugh every day, ah, now that's a real treat." - Joanne Woodward
Enough said.  Make time to have fun.  Life gets too serious without receiving regular doses of humor.



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Thursday, October 5, 2017

Fun And Creative Date Night Ideas


Having a regular date night can save your marriage. Seriously.
Going out for a date with your spouse or partner on a regular basis strengthens your bond as a couple and can reignite romance and passion between you.
According to a study by the Marriage Foundation, couples who have a monthly date night are 14% less likely to break up.
Another recent study by The National Marriage Project called “The Date Night Opportunity” confirmed that date nights foster stronger relationships and marriages.
They cited five specific benefits from couples regularly going on date nights:
1. Improved Communication
Couples are less distracted by children, work, and other responsibilities, giving them the chance to talk about important topics and mutual pursuits and goals.
2. More Novelty
Couples in long-term relationships become habituated to each other and can grow bored in the relationship, taking one another for granted. Date night adds excitement and novelty to the connection which leads to more satisfaction in the relationship.
3. Heightened Romance
Date nights can help rekindle the romantic and sexual spark in the relationship when they engage in romantic and intimate outings together.
4. Stronger Commitment
Date nights solidify your couple-ness and the connection just the two of you share. It makes you feel more committed as you strengthen communication and romance.  Going out together signifies to other people as well that the two of you are a committed couple.
5. Stress Relief
Stress is one of the main culprits of relationship conflict that can threaten your closeness. Going on date nights gives you an outlet for relieving stress, as it allows couples to step away from the challenges of daily life. During date nights, couples can provide love and support to one another that is also stress-relieving.
Now that you know regular date nights are beneficial to your relationship, the next step is figuring out what to do on these special nights out.
Are you looking for something a bit more exciting or unique than just going out to dinner and a movie?

While this classic dating idea is just fine, it doesn't necessarily provide you with the opportunity to create long-lasting memories.
You may want to experience togetherness on your date in a way you can't do sitting quietly in front of a movie screen.
If you have been in your relationship or marriage for a bit of time, you are probably running out of fun date ideas. You also may need to switch things up and try something new.

Here are 13 fun and creative date ideas for couples:

1. Go treasure hunting.
Do you have consignment shops around you or thrift stores?
You never know what you are going to find in those places!
Take an afternoon to go through your local thrift shops, and see if you can find anything fun to buy. If nothing else, you will likely see some odd things that you can talk about later.
2. Go to a state park.
Grab a picnic and find your closest state park.
Not only can you walk around and enjoy your leisurely lunch, but you will also be able to see wildlife and other natural things that your park has to offer.
Check out this list of state parks by state.
3. Go on a ghost tour.
One  fun date idea for couples is to learn the tragic tales of the dearly departed with a ghost tour.
Many cities offer ghosts tours of some sort that involve local haunted houses. Find out what secret stories lie within your city and have a fun date night with your significant other.
This is a great date idea during October when it's close to Halloween.
4. Play a few rounds of mini golf.
If you enjoy some friendly competition with your spouse, then set up a mini golf date.
The great thing about mini golf is that you can spend the time interacting with your partner while you are playing. You can talk about anything, whether it is related to the game or not.
You might decide that the winner of the round has to offer something fun and sexy to the loser. Then you have something to look forward to when date night is over.
5. Go to a museum.
There are so many different types of museums to suit varied interests — from art museums in every state to the International Banana Museum in California.
You and your partner can spend hours wandering through a museum, learning new things together and appreciating history, art, fashion, nature, science and so many other disciplines.

Take your time going through the museum, and grab lunch on the way out so you can talk about everything you saw.
6. Go bowling.
Bowling seems like an activity of the past, but don't you remember how much fun you used to have doing it?
It doesn't matter how good (or bad) you are at bowling, you will have a great time having a date that involves a little friendly competition and ugly shoes.
7. Do some volunteer work together.
Giving back to your community is a great way to feel good about yourself and to show your commitment to cause as a couple.
Take your partner to the local soup kitchen to prepare food for less fortunate people, or go to the local animal shelter and volunteer to walk the dogs.
When you volunteer together, you reinforce a shared value that can strengthen your closeness. You will both leave the date feeling satisfied and happy.
8. Find the sunset.
Do you live near water or some beautiful mountains?
Find the best place in your city to watch the sunset, and spend some quality time with your partner enjoying the natural view.
Bring along some light snacks and a bottle of wine to make it even more memorable.
9. Cook together.
On a rainy night when you don't want to get out, you can create a date night in the comfort of your home. If you have children, see if they can stay with friends or grandparents for the night.
Spend some time looking for a delicious recipe that is fun but easy, and prepare it from scratch together.
Turn on some music, open a bottle of wine, and chop and stir together. Create a romantic setting with candles, a beautifully set table, and dim lights.
Don't rush through the meal. Savor the food and enjoy holding hands and having a long conversation.
10. Go out dancing.
Find a dancing spot in town that isn’t just a regular nightclub crowded with hundreds of people
Try something new together like the salsa, line dancing, the tango, or the waltz. You might even join a class or dance club. Dancing builds confidence, coordination, and closeness with your partner.
When you dance together, you also spend a long time touching and holding one another which enhances intimacy.
It's great to learn something new together that you can use on future dates. Having fun together while being active and listening to great music makes for a perfect date.
11. Go wine tasting.
If you and your partner appreciate wine and are interested in winemaking, go to a local winery  or wine store, or take an organized wine tour together.
Many wineries plan special events with food parings and lectures on various wines that make this date fun and educational.
If you prefer craft beer, try out some local craft breweries and sample the beers that they have. Just make sure to call a cab if you end up having a bit too much fun.
12. Go bike riding.
When the weather is nice, you can take an early evening bike ride around your city or on local trails. Look for leisurely rides so you can ride side by side and talk as you go.
Explore areas you've never been before, and plan for stops along the way to sit and talk or share a picnic dinner you carry along in a backpack.
13. Take a stroll down memory lane.
Take your partner on a ride and drive past all of your old houses, your old school, and even the places you used to work.
This will help your partner paint a mental picture of who you were before you met and understand a bit more about where you came from.
When you're done, ask your partner to do the same so you can see his old memories as well.
There are so many fun things that you can do on a date. Depending on your budget and your interests, you are sure to find something on this list that will create a lasting memory for you and your partner.
The most important point is that you go on regular dates. Don't allow the weekend to creep up on you with nothing planned. Protect and enhance your relationship by making date night a priority as a couple.



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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Good Man Is The Most Difficult Kind Of Man To Love


It is a hard thing to love a good man. A good man is not a nice man – he does not do things to be nice, he does things because he has a moral code, a set of values he prioritizes and will always do his best to make sure that his actions are in line with his own personal standards. A good man will not do the easy thing or the convenient thing, or even the thing that he wants to do; he will do what he knows to be the good thing. 
He will never lie to you to spare your feelings or attend something because social constructs deem it the courteous or polite course of action, and he will in fact do many things that anger and frustrate you. But you cannot get mad at him, because after all, he is a good man.
A good man is the man who will take his ex-girlfriends call while he’s with you, because he knows that she has anxiety and would only ever call in an emergency, and he is obligated as a good man to do whatever he can to help even when it makes those around him uncomfortable. 
A good man will put the wants of friends and family before his own needs, even when he recognizes that his friends and family are being manipulative or selfish, because a good man is always loyal. Worst of all, a good man will believe that his unflinching honesty about not wanting a relationship will negate his increasingly relationship-like actions, the kind of thoughtful deeds that a good man would deem necessary in any and all interactions with a female, despite the confusion they would cause. 
And the lucky woman who gets to spend this time with a good man will not ever get upset, because how could anyone ever be mad at such a good man? Any woman knows that in todays world of non-relationships, to be given the gift of such open communication is a true blessing, even when it hurts.
To be with a good man is certainly difficult, but to then be without one is devastating. No one can fault a good man for making the logical decision to end an arrangement, especially when he is not doing it for himself. Of course a good man will always be courteous and gentle, which then makes getting over him essentially impossible. 
A good man will change you; you will bask in the warmth of hours upon hours of meaningful conversation and the knowledge that your good man isn’t doing this for any other reason other than his genuine interest in you and your thoughts. And so a good man, despite his flaws and sometimes irritating habits towards goodness, has set the bar so high that no chance encounter at a local pub or conversation on tinder will feel like they can ever come close to your good man. 
And since you cannot get mad at a good man, you will not be able to get over him either, and will instead sit at your desk writing a horribly clich├ęd piece about him so as to distract yourself from texting him on his birthday, because you don’t want that good man to feel bad for inspiring such feelings that would make you remember his birthday 4 months after your non-relationship has ended. 
Feelings that he tried to keep you from having, because he is a good man, and feelings that you could not have kept from having, because he is a good man. So it is true that finding a good man is hard, but keeping one is even harder and losing one is simply impossible – impossible to deal with, impossible to accept, and certainly impossible to let go.




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