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All the material is online, and you can come back to it as often as you want, and join a live cohort whenever I have one. Hey, I hear ya. Things were probably rough even before they got rougher! We live in uncertain times. None of this is entirely new. And you know what? I have faith in you. And just so you can have even more faith in yourself, here are two resources straight from my secret stash that have been very useful to me:. This is a daybook. You get an essay for every calendar day.
The culmination of one love, one dream, one self, is the anonymous seed of the next. Mark Nepo has been through a lot cancer, divorce etc. As a result, he always writes from a place of deep vulnerability. He also writes beautifully. No wonder Oprah went gaga over his book when she found out about it in You can either watch the livestream or go to watch from the archives right now for no charge perhaps the Nov 9 service will be of interest; lecture starts around He is one industrial-strength wallop of inspiration and the best living orator I know.
The services are spiritually-oriented and non-denominational. There are some recurring themes to his messages: Rev Michael was a pivotal part of starting my writing career 11 years ago. He is an extraordinarily helpful resource in times of trouble or joy. Meditation has been the single most transformative practice I have taken up.
It has made me a calmer, less reactive, more thoughtful person. The first thing I do every morning is meditate, and I consider it the most important part of my day. For someone deep into meditation, the list of teachers reads like the Team USA Basketball team roster: I am not exaggerating when I say these folks are the best at what they do:. Should you decide to purchase a package of the recordings, I receive a part of the proceeds. Meditation is the life-changing practice, and I sincerely hope you can join me.
Click here to sign up. Do you know what to do to make that pitch great every time? Or are you leaving those crucial turning points to chance? I get a lot of letters from readers. There are common themes to these letters: Why do I behave this way? Why does he do that? Can I trust men? Is a long-term committed relationship even possible? But rarely does a letter hit all of those themes at the same time. Martha, a very thoughtful 30yr old graduate student from Oregon sent me this letter recently.
But I tend to come up with philosophical and existential questions that make everything harder. This expands to different areas in life, specifically relationships. Learning that I belong to the anxiously attached category helped me understand the painful break-ups and self-destructive patterns of thinking that followed. In my life these external resources have been: Along with that, I was exposed to continuous fights over parental infidelity, leading me to lose trust in men.
Since I was also criticized a lot, I always wanted to be more, which served me well but also with the downside of never being happy with who I was. I also wonder if I lack determination in my decision-making or reactions. I wanted to break the taboo of dating someone from a different socioeconomic status, which is why I started dating my boyfriend Bradley about a year ago.
I often find myself analyzing everything my partner says, looking for its origin in order to discover the real him: These conversations alarm me and rev up my sympathetic nervous system to withdraw from trusting him in the long run. But then again, I realize that this is still giving authority to external circumstances to keep me content. I never fear being left because someone smarter or kinder may come along.
I fear being left for a more attractive girl, or simply a different kind of beauty. I worry about getting old and losing physical beauty, but at the same time I realize that being a goddess is not a requirement to keep a man loyal. Many men cheat even when they have a goddess at home. What puzzles me is that even though I consider my mother a very beautiful woman though lacked in other areas and know that it did not stop my father from cheating, I take physical comments to heart and I worry about losing the field to younger girls.
I wonder if I have unconsciously always gone for the wrong guys to prove myself that men are not trustworthy. I want to be OK on my own, even if no man is ever going to be loyal to me for eternity. I want to stop worrying and being loved to be happy. Well, if some of what Martha brought up resonated with you, raise your hand. Lots of raised hands out there. Which brings me to the topic I want to talk about today: Prof Kristin Neff of the University of Texas at Austin is the pioneering researcher of self-compassion.
After all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect? The most obvious one is recognizing our common humanity. And you would be wrong.
Out there in Oregon, writing these thoughts to me, Martha is probably pretty sure that she is the only person in the world that has this constellation of challenges. And yet, you the reader can probably identify with a bunch of them: Once you realize the rest of the world is also having these issues, it somehow becomes much easier to bear.
That brings us to Principle 1, Self-kindness. Some folks — especially perfectionists — have somehow internalized that there is virtue in ripping into yourself.
Besides, which part of you is ripping into which part of you? Are you slapping yourself in the face with your own hand, or elbowing yourself in the stomach? Do you have any idea how weird that sounds? Stop that now before I call in the shrinks. And that brings us to Principle 3, Mindfulness. Just go ahead and feel it fully, without letting it be your whole existence and identity. When you allow them to express fully, feelings fade over time. But if you resist them, they persist.
So let them be, then let them go. Mindfulness is also about being fully present in the moment. This happens to be the antidote to overthinking or rumination, which is what this letter is doing a lot of. Like many of you, Martha is a smart, highly-educated woman. And like many of you, she thinks a lot about things that have never happened and may never happen.
Some of these thoughts may turn into worries, which may become anxieties looming large enough to alter your daily behavior. For example, Martha talked about infidelity: What works is to do something else instead. For those of you who are in the Bay Area on Mon Oct 3, would love to see you at my live workshop. Please drop by and say hi! Christine Marie Mason is one of the most extraordinary people I know and one of my favorite humans. She has been an entrepreneur, CEO of 6 different companies, BA and MBA graduate from Northwestern University, organizer of nine TEDx events, a yoga teacher, artist, musician, mother of six fantastic kids, grandmother, and most recently, a prison peace mentor.
We met 15 years ago at a yoga retreat, so I thought I knew her pretty well by now. What I did not know was that when Christine was 12, her young mother was murdered and left in a cornfield. She had her first child at 19, then again at 20, and still finished college and the MBA program.
Her first husband eventually had a schizophrenic break and ended up losing his job and squandering all their money. Her second husband got cancer, then proceeded to cheat on her in spectacular fashion even while Christine was helping him recuperate. After a particularly long day in this spell of dot-com craziness, I was walking down a crowded street to catch a commuter train, when I saw my old friend Daniel. Daniel always had a ready smile.
He was self-contained, a loving husband and father and accomplished professionally—at that time he was CEO of a public company, making all manner of kitchen gadgets. That night, he was shining. It looked to me like he had shed layers of himself; he was carrying no burden. He responded in an instant. Poise does not freak out over laundry, talk too much, go 90 miles an hour to make it to a meeting, or accidentally break things due to inattention. After a great struggling 75 minutes of a vigorous athletic form of structured postures linked together by the breath we were practicing a form called Ashtanga yoga , the class arrived at Savasana , corpse pose, where we lay on our backs, arms outstretched, palms up, legs extended, letting all of our muscles relax, allowing our bones to sink into the floor, in a sort of half-state between sleeping and waking, a state of deep aware stillness.
Through the breathing, the rhythm, the turning inward of yoga—through the not turning to an external thing like whacking a tennis ball or working into the night —I found my first peace in long memory. Yoga, as it has been popularized in the west, is often practiced with pumping music. People move fast and sweat and detox. If the connection between my feet and brain does not work, how am I going to connect to other people?
Nor did I know where my organs were in my belly. My insides were like a black hole between my ribcage and my knees. Can you feel where your liver is, unless it is in pain? After a while, I found that I could lift my arches and run an energetic current up my shins and thighs and ass and heart and right out the top of my head and back down again.
The power I used in previous forms of athletics to release energy was something that could be channeled and leveraged inside of the body, to heal it and balance it, and restore equilibrium and clarity to my whole organism.
The yoga practice that was handed to me started a new kind of self-inquiry: Am I aware of my breath? Where am I looking? Where are my feet? Are all four corners of my feet on the ground? Are my arches lifted away? Where are my fingers? Are they evenly aligned or evenly spaced? Am I standing tall or leaning forwards or backwards?
Where am I in space? How good is my proprioception: What am I actually feeling? What is actually happening?
It was a straight line to hyperawareness. I began to learn that the body has rising and falling energies, that when it gets certain inputs it releases certain chemicals, that there is a virtuous loop between the actions of the body and the chemicals that are released, and that this cycle is autonomic until we intervene and override it.
We can start to use our breathing and our thoughts to restructure which chemicals are getting released from our minds and into our bodies. We can reprogram ourselves, literally. Once I began, it was rapid-fire study.
I went to my first class, and I knew I was going to return. Eventually, I found a connection to divine source on that quiet, meditative, sweaty little mat, something I never quite got in any traditional church. That tiny studio, with a purple Om symbol painted on the wall, above a pizza parlor in the middle of Chicago, curtains blowing in, sirens and car horns below, became a holy place. It was there that I discovered a sense of having a permeable body: I was made of the same stuff as everything else in the universe.
I wanted to go deeper. In , I went on a retreat led by power yoga founder Baron Baptiste. His easygoing introduction to yoga philosophy, musical open laugh, softness, strength, humor and accessibility just made me happy. For example, once we stayed for a full 20 minutes in a hip opener known as frog: Somatic theory says we hold our painful memories in the body, and holding this position for this long had people in the room women especially , letting go and weeping at all the things held in the groin and hips.
I took his teacher training in Tulum, just to keep growing. Then I stumbled, or was led, into a month of teacher training in an intense, academic program that honored a deep Indian lineage, with Yogarupa Rod Stryker- and that training has continued apace for the last 15 years — from the yoga of sound, to contact yoga, to extensive breath and tantric energy work, to studying Sanskrit texts — it is an unending investigation.
By investigating the body, I began to investigate the mind also, and then even deeper into relationships. Once, early on, I was holding a yoga position called side plank for a long time. This position requires the body to form a long, firm, extended board, placing one hand on the floor, the other to the ceiling, and balancing between the side of the bottom foot and the palm of the hand, holding the belly snug and the hips high.
It can be rigorous. My arms started shaking; my balance was challenged. I invite you to look at your reaction to that. Are you feeling proud, or maybe the inverse: How can you be kind to yourself in this moment, play your edge, and take responsibility for your experience? How much are your own thoughts and reactions responsible for your own suffering?
If side plank was hard, the other big practice, seated meditation, was harder. Sitting still, harboring a quiet mind, initially felt impossible. Even two minutes of meditation felt interminable. Every part of me resisted. To make it easier, all kinds of techniques were offered: Watch your breath right where it enters and exits the nostrils, imagine a flame, say a mantra. But it was all just practice to do one thing: To become a watcher of my own thoughts. But if I am watching my thoughts, who is thinking the thoughts?
These thoughts must be separately constructed. I am not my thoughts. And if I am not my thoughts, I can un-identify and manipulate them to a better outcome. Lo and behold, this was true. By watching and stopping unhelpful patterns of thinking, I learned that I could change the day-to-day experience of life in my body. Well, maybe one person. For example, I learned to not judge a rising emotion or thought — just to see it as neutral energy.
If all thoughts and actions are only energy, neither positive nor negative, I can transmute it. I can remove the negative element, and just use the energy. If an unsettling thought would arise, I would ask myself, what can I do other than sit here or numb out through work or busyness or sex or distraction?
What can I do to not numb out, to really feel and then leverage the emotion? Can I channel it into awareness, creative force, or even just let it pass through me? Most of the productivity and creativity in the last decade has been the result of having learned to transmute whatever intense emotion is coming up into an activity or action that is in touch with experience, rather than pushing it away. Now, if I have disturbing thoughts, I can choose to be matter of fact: With yoga, the recovery time from these disturbances, delusions and illusions and suffering is shorter.
It takes hardly any time anymore to come back, maybe a minute or two of breathing and —there it is! This is especially useful in navigating the daily kind of potential offenses in traffic or in the supermarket parking lot — is this my best self acting here? Yoga roots me in a life-giving and life-affirming place, rather than the old soup of pervasive inadequacy. It has made me strong, mentally and physically.
The yogic ideal is strength and suppleness, being rooted yet able to reach, the perfect combination of grounded and flexible. There is an Indian fable that puts it sweetly: Ananta is strong enough to support the world, yet soft enough to be a couch for the gods. I started going to class to feel better, and fell in love with the practice, and it gave me back my life. That translates into bringing others along with you.
Whatever you know, you are obligated to pass on: Those who know must teach. If you know, you owe. Teaching yoga, helping one person at a time find the tools and technologies to achieve the Poise of the Soul, is a great gift. I sometimes teach Vinyasa flow classes. Sometimes, I teach extremely stiff people, and witness what it means to grow old without being connected to your body—it is not for the faint of heart.
But I also see the relief they get from a single new insight or opening into a joint or the breath. It makes me recall my very first practice, and remember each time a teacher gave me a new posture or an insight. It reawakens gratitude and it gifts me with joyful learning. If you enjoyed what you just read, download a page excerpt at http: Click here to sign up and get automatically reminded of when it happens.
That whole story I tell about having written the book before my sex-change operation? I made it all up. And yet, here I am, dispensing advice to womenfolk on being a better woman. In fact, many of you, my readers, are plenty wise.
Julie has an unusual perspective on all of this:. He told her he had kids from a previous relationship and lived alone. She was in a long distance relationship with him for months before I found out who she was and told her the truth. It was a very sexually active and enthusiastic physical relationship in our marriage, and we were not fighting or distant.
He was a messed up human being inside who was a very good actor. It just takes one broken person. He had been binge drinking on work trips, too, and I never knew. He was a mess across the board. But the kicker is, she believed his lies long-distance and got back together with him. All while he was still lying to her about various things. They eventually broke up, but she still thinks she had some great love with him and even said nobody knows him like she does.
After seeing what long distance looked like that way, how easily it all was hidden whereas I discovered his behavior within two weeks of it starting , I would never advise it to anybody. He had a breakdown in life and the affair was only part of it.
He messed up his friends, family, work, and finances at the same time too. Of course long distance can be done. People have made it. Or than seeing a sudden change in a married partner or dating partner locally would likely be. Such a great letter! The other woman has no way of getting to know the cheating husband very well, so she constructs out of whole cloth this whole story about how great he is. Another great letter on the topic of long-distance relationships comes from Marcy.
Her perspective is slightly different:. We saw each other every couple of months for days until I moved to be with him and talked obsessively, both sacrificing countless relationships with people who were available locally. Was it worth it? In a way, yes! We have two children and built a relatively stable, often happy, in person life together that has lasted longer than many traditional marriages.
But I would likely never do it again. And we WERE genuinely compatible in the ways we experienced. Long distance relationships allow you to idealize positive traits for an extended period of time while grossly undervaluing negative traits. The intensity of the sex once you finally see each other, coupled with the future planning, almost guarantees it. Sex was intensely magical at a distance, but soon became detached and uncompromising once we saw each other regulary.
Sunk costs began playing their part: We married and began moving towards a sexless marriage in my late 20s. Now in my mid 30s, we have neither kissed nor had sex in years. You have no idea what someone is doing while it appears that they are deeply engaged in a chat with you.
While imagined him laying on his bed staring at his laptop screen in anticipation of my messages, my husband was undoubtedly playing videogames the vast majority of the time we were chatting. This became apparent when we moved in together and I realized that he struggled to look at me during conversations or have any serious face-to-face interactions with me at all.
In fact, this was one of the greatest downfalls in our marriage. My husband is a gamer and much prefer spending large portions of his free time engaging online friends. This did not change when I moved and is an enormous incompatibility that I downplayed. Playing video games alone is more fun than talking in person which he hates , or playing with our children which he dislikes , or even having sex.
He also prefers exceptional amounts of emotional distance, evident in seeking a long-distance relationship. You can insist on having separate hobbies, circles of friends, or vacations. You can subscribe to a multi-partner lifestyle like polyamory or swinging. Women picking matches for their friends: But what if there was an app that let you pick matches for your friends? Would that be more useful? Recently I came across such a collaborative matchmaking app.
So you get to meet dates that you have friends or interests in common with, as opposed to the stream of randos you see on most dating apps. Am I totally convinced this works? But it does seems worthy of a closer look. A few months ago, I gave a TEDx talk third one! The Five Pillars of Authentic Success. The first of the five pillars is Intimate Relationships. To be fair, the talk is not entirely about dating. But The Tao of Dating has always been about the whole person anyway, because dating brings into play all of who you are.
Why do you think half the book is about yoga, meditation, mindfulness, gratitude and other happiness practices? The Tao of Dating Superfan Contest for the ladies only. Some of you have listened to the audiobook over 20 times. Some of you have gotten copies of the book for a dozen friends. Some of you have memorized entire passages.
Some of you sleep with a copy of it in your pillowcase, even thought it makes the pillow lumpy. This makes Kip sad, of course, because he still has or so books on him, and he just wants to be held and read — preferably in your bed because well Kip is a guy duh.
Some of the illustrious titles in this library:. So just to make this clear: Below is how you score points. If I come up with more ways to score points, I will let you know. The talk has 5 themes: How to get better at selecting men: Avoiding psychopaths and sociopaths. The heart-spine selection criteria. Avoiding Bad Boys in favor of selecting Good Guys.
How to present the best possible version of you. How to find him at his best: Set up dating so you win. How to avoid unforced errors: We covered a lot of ground during the workshop. More specifically, I talked about six themes: Here are some simple ways you can get out of the way of your own success: Some of you were kind enough to answer my second survey question: In the meantime, here are the preliminary results of the survey.
This response summarized the challenge nicely: It turns out to be a source of considerable concern for a lot of ladies, as this poignant response shows: First, the letter from reader Lainie: You should take up needlepoint. The jerk is also predictable: Not very interesting or pleasant. A Big Question for You As I sit here in front of a computer screen with nary a reader of mine in sight, I often ask myself: Go forth and conquer, Dr Ali PS: Active vs passive interest.
How is he looking at you? Is he interested in you specifically, or just women in general? Having been that interested guy often, here are some things that come to mind: You are not a potted plant: Pick one depending on your level of interest and boldness: The praise sandwich has three components: Start with praise and appreciation, e.
End with praise and appreciation, e. This makes it less personal, so even if the unsavory things about him are true, he can hold his head up high and legitimately count you as a friend. Some of the questions we covered: What do you do when most of the guys you meet are younger than you?
How about an emotionally unavailable guy? How do you make him open up? Why is it that you always read about women having to change, but not men? The 15min excerpt below talks about the prime directives in male and female behavior, and how that creates three choices for strong women when it comes to choosing and relating to a man: Other topics covered in this talk: The two components of partnership with a Good Guy: Go forth and conquer, Dr Ali.
A few ways of doing that: Is there a central glitch in the human mate-selection operating system, and if so, how is it showing up in your life? Look forward to seeing you soon, Dr Ali. I understand that many of you had a rough week. So if you are not feeling tip-top, here are some ways to improve your resilience and bounce back, pronto: And just so you can have even more faith in yourself, here are two resources straight from my secret stash that have been very useful to me: All the best, Dr Ali.
I am not exaggerating when I say these folks are the best at what they do: Or the fact that even though he truly loves me, thinks the world of me and would do anything for me, he believes that any relationship will become routine. Whereas I believe that maybe most of us get married for the wrong reasons, and we simply mistakenly label different emotions as love, and so we inevitably would end up not content with our marriage and choose to leave or cheat. All humans suffer, however. We cannot ignore our pain and feel compassion for it at the same time.
Use the rubber-band technique. Wear a rubber band around your wrist. Any time you start to worry, ruminate or overthink, snap yourself so it stings a little. Your brain will very rapidly learn to stop doing the behavior that leads to the snap. You can kick habits like this in less than a week — sometimes in as little as two days. This also works for other habits like complaining, gossiping or eating brownies.
Get yourself a Pavlok. Instead of just a snap, the Pavlok delivers an actual electric shock to your skin, I kid thee not. You can program it to help you get up on time, quit smoking, exercise more, stop biting your nails, or kick a social media habit. I get on this hobbyhorse at least once per post, so might as well tell you again: Meditation is the ultimate antidote to rumination.
Your challenges are common. You are not alone. Many of those challenges can be overcome through practices like mindfulness, gratitude, self-compassion, and meditation. If the letter resonated with you, share your thoughts in the comments. All the best, Dr Ali PS: The Poise of the Soul After a particularly long day in this spell of dot-com craziness, I was walking down a crowded street to catch a commuter train, when I saw my old friend Daniel.
I kept going back to class, initially just for that Savasana. Connecting to the Body Yoga, as it has been popularized in the west, is often practiced with pumping music. Who is thinking these thoughts? Maybe one hundred percent. Strong like that, and equally soft.
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