My wife Caroline and I were brainstorming for my upcoming mindful reflection workshop, looking at ways to explore the topic of love.
Caroline: As a life coach, I see every day how people interpret their own lives. One thing always stands out: how the sense of self-love, or lack of it, impacts every relationship. No matter what transition or challenge they want to deal with, love always lies at the heart of their ability to move forward. Connecting with others depends on how they connect to themselves. And it’s not just relationships. Love permeates all our experiences and how we choose to react in all sorts of situations — out of resentment perhaps, or a fear of rejection, or from a sense of inadequacy. We reset that focus to help them become grounded and flexible.
Just as you judge others by what they do rather than what
they say, you understand yourself not from your
thoughts but from your emotional motivators
Stephen: I come from a different angle, but end up in the same place. People think that they lead with beliefs and ideas, but that’s not at all where everyday decisions come from. Just as you judge others by what they do rather than what they say, you understand yourself not from your thoughts but from your emotional motivators. If you act out of love it’s because you feel loving, not because you think it’s a good idea. The challenge is to work with your feelings. Logic alone is powerless.
Caroline: The first time I ask clients about their feelings, they often can’t say. They feel, obviously, but the feelings are covered up by rationalizations. When they let go of the shoulds and shouldn’ts, new possibilities appear. Even then, they try to think their way out of their thoughts. I help them see that they need to act, to take risks. It means exposing yourself. You learn to trust that being vulnerable won’t kill you, and that expressing your heart feels good — and right.
Stephen: I know that confusion all too well. I was a monk for eight years and retreated into a dry, intellectual life. I thought I was being clever but I was just hiding out, scared of my emotions. It wasn’t the answer. I started to move forward when I left. Putting it off only dragged out the pain. As soon as I accepted myself again as a feeling animal, I began to feel better. To become strong we have to accept all our feelings, even the bad ones. We learn from our pain.
Caroline: If we face it.
Once you honestly love yourself, you’re ready to explore your love for
your partner, for your family and friends, and finally for life itself
Stephen: Yes, the instinct is to turn away. As a short term survival instinct, denial helps us escape further harm, but as a long-term strategy it shuts down your feelings.
Caroline: This is where coaching diverges from psychotherapy. It’s not so much about analyzing as experimenting. Your workshops are less specific, more general, but that’s where your work and my work overlap. The point is to engage with life through mindful reflection, to take responsibility by recognizing your escape strategies and letting them go. What seems like a solution is sometimes the very cause of the problem. When you’re coming from your rationalizations and not your heart, denial looks easier, but it’s a never-ending stress. Facing your pain hurts, but only temporarily. The payoff is long-term clarity, and that’s the path to self-respect, to self-love and to emotional freedom. Once you honestly love yourself, you’re ready to explore your love for your partner, for your family and friends, and finally for life itself.
Stephen: We’ve both experienced marriage gone wrong. We’ve each written out our lives in books and made it a habit to continually clear out our emotional closets. We have ups and downs like everyone else, but we don’t get stuck in them the way we used to. What we share with each other, you with your clients and I with my students, is emotional freedom to enjoy more passion, intimacy and peace.
And that’s what we’re talking about in my upcoming Mindful Reflection workshop starting next week, on Thursday April 3: Love: Getting to the Heart of Life