?-?-? Before You Enter A Relationship

“Love does not obey our expectations; it obeys our intentions.” ~Lloyd Strom

Recently, I did something radical; I entered into a relationship with the intention of extending love. I consciously set the goal of peace.

It’s with the intention to experience more peace than ever before that the relationship began, and it’s with that same intention that we decided to end the relationship. In between it all, I felt deeply connected, heard, and loved.

What did I do differently this time that allowed me to experience a new level of peace and love? What about this relationship created the space for us to peacefully “break-up”?

Unlike other relationships I had that seemed to pull me deeper into fear, this relationship accomplished the complete opposite—helped to release me from it.

Whatever I did differently with this one, I wanted to bottle it up! As I took some time to reflect, I realized that what I did differently comes in the form of three simple miracle-minded questions that I asked myself before I even entered the relationship.

The three questions below helped me step away from fearful relationships based on getting and filling my perceived voids and instead, helped me step into a loved-based relationship built on extending the love and completeness I found within myself first.

And what a difference this shift made in my experience!

The next time you find yourself getting ready to join with someone in a relationship (or even a friendship) ask yourself these questions first:

1. What is it for?

In the past, I would just jump into relationships without any real intention set at the beginning. I wanted the attention and for someone to prove I was loveable. I wanted to get more than I wanted to extend. I was motivated by ego fears and desires to fill my perceived voids.

The way we move beyond these ego fears is by stopping and asking ourselves, what is this relationship for?

Without a clear goal set at the beginning, it’s easy to get lost and stuck in a fearful place. So with my last relationship, we decided that our goal would be peace, and that we wanted to help each other remember the truth about ourselves, instead of getting lost in the illusions about ourselves. What is this relationship for? To extend peace.

And this makes all the difference. When you do find yourself in a disagreement, you can remember that your goal is peace and then act accordingly.

The value of setting a goal in advance is that it will pull you through the tough times. Without the goal, it’s easy to get caught up in the ego’s drive to be right or justified. Having a common goal in mind allows you to move forward together instead of working against each other. In my last relationship I found that a shared goal connected us and gave us something to focus on.

2. What limiting beliefs are blocking me from authentically connecting?

A lot of times when we don’t experience something we say we want, it’s because we have some underling fear associated with getting it.

For example, if you say you want to experience a deeply loving relationship and it hasn’t shown up yet, it might be because deep down you’re scared of it. I know for me, I said I wanted to have a loving relationship, but when I got honest with myself, I realized I was actually scared of falling in love.

Somewhere along the line I decided that being in love would make me weak and vulnerable. When I went even deeper, I noticed that I had the belief that I wasn’t good enough yet to be loved. I didn’t think I was skinny enough, successful enough, or funny enough, and deep down I was scared that other people might find that out, too.

So what do you do when you realize you’re scared of what you want? What do you do with the belief that you’re not good enough? You simply become willing to move beyond the fears. Often times the awareness of our fearful patterns is enough for them to be released.

Sometimes I will even say to myself “I hear you fear, but I’m not going to let you determine my actions right now.” Instant personal power.

This opens the way for you to step beyond the limiting beliefs you carry about yourself. The truth is, you’re good enough right now in this very moment. There is nothing to prove. Become curious about your beliefs and behaviors. Invite them in, question them, and watch as they melt away.

3. Am I focusing on the content or the frame?

Fear-based relationships often start with a strong attraction to a body. I don’t know about you, but I’ve definitely been sucked into relationships because the frame was lookin’ good. I paid no attention to the content, aka the mind.

But at the end of the day, it’s important to remember that you’re always getting in a relationship with a mind. If the content is not engaging and exciting, circle back to the first question: what is this for?

When we put all our focus on the content and not the frame, we simultaneously release our expectations and allow ourselves to experience peace and love in ways that we might not have thought possible. The frame will shift and change, but lasting fulfilling connection starts and ends with the content, not the labels and clothes we place around it.

Ultimately, within others you can either lose yourself or remember yourself, because from a spiritual perspective, everyone is a reflection of you. And with that idea, relationships become a miraculous teaching device.

You decide if you want fear or love based on the intention you set at the beginning. I’ve both lost myself and remembered myself in relationships, but I prefer the latter.

The three questions above are how you open the doorway for a love-based relationship to enter your life.

By setting the goal of peace, becoming willing to move past our beliefs of not being good enough, and focusing on the content, not the frame, we can experience a deep connection and trust, which is perhaps one of the most miraculous things you can share with another human being.

via 3 Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Enter A Relationship.


Love as Escape

Much of daily life tends to be ordinary and unexciting. Making steady efforts day-to-day can be trying. It’s not always going to be fun. But, when you fall in love, life seems filled with drama and excitement; you feel like the leading character in a novel.

But if you lose yourself in love just because you’re bored, and consequently veer from the path you should be following, then love is nothing more than escapism. What you are doing is retreating into a dream world, believing that what is only an illusion is actually real.

Even if you try to use love as an escape, the fact is that the euphoria is unlikely to last for long. If anything, you may only find yourself with even more problems along with a great deal of pain and sadness. However much you may try, you can never run away from yourself. If you remain weak, suffering will only follow you wherever you go. You will never find happiness if you don’t change yourself from within. Happiness is not something that someone else, like a lover, for instance, can give to you. You have to achieve it for yourself. And the only way to do so is by developing your own character and capacity as a human being; by fully maximizing your potential. If you sacrifice your own growth and talent for love, you will absolutely not find happiness. True happiness is obtained through fully realizing your own potential.

via What Is Love? | Buddhism | Soka Gakkai International (SGI).

Make Love, Not Lutefisk

Hear that gagging sound? It’s Norwegian-Americans attempting to connect with their heritage.

It happens every year at this time; thousands of people choke down an infamous concoction called lutefisk. What people in America don’t know is that most Norwegians came to their senses decades ago and quit eating the stuff.

Lofoten Islands, Norway: Thousands of deceased cod sway in the breeze from drying racks. After this bizarre hazing ritual, they will become lutefisk.

To make lutefisk, catch yourself a cod. Take out the bones, skin it, salt it, and hang it out to dry for several weeks until it hardens and smells like a dumpster. Then, bring it inside and soak it in lye for several days.

Yes, lye — a substance defined by dictionary.com as “a strong caustic alkaline solution of potassium salts, obtained by leaching wood ashes. It is much used in making soap, etc.”

Et cetera indeed. When you use it to make fish, you get a gelatinous blob that slithers down your throat and makes you wish you had cooked a turkey for Christmas dinner like a normal American.

Norwegians didn’t invent lutefisk because they thought it was tasty. A long time ago, in the pre-refrigeration epoch, salting and drying fish was an efficient way to preserve it. They soaked it in lye afterward to pull the salt out and — believe it or not — make it more palatable. A century ago, lutefisk really was a staple in the Norwegian diet. Also a century ago, a lot of Norwegians fled the country.

To the lutefisk-eating Norwegian-Americans out there who are trying to keep in touch with your roots, here are some factoids to bring you to your senses:

Refrigerators have arrived in the Old World, as has the electricity needed to power them. They now have more pleasant ways to keep food fresh.

Today, more lutefisk is consumed in Wisconsin than in Norway.

Norwegians buy more frozen pizzas per capita than any other nationality. They consume 13,000 tons of frozen pizza annually — an average of more than five and a half pounds of cheesy goodness for every man, woman, and screaming toddler.

Yes, frozen pizza is a Norwegian staple food today. Why not get in touch with the 21st century and start a new holiday tradition?

I am a proud Norwegian-American, as is my mother, who every year at Christmas bakes about 74 pounds of traditional Norwegian Christmas cookies and other edible things. She never made me eat lutefisk when I was a child. This is because she loves me.

A couple of months ago, however, I tasted lutefisk for the first time — voluntarily. I did this for two reasons:

1) On every Scandinavia tour I lead, someone asks me about lutefisk. I tell them how horrible it is, which felt hypocritical since I had never even sniffed the stuff before.

2) I was intoxicated, and my judgment was impaired when I asked to try it.

The way it happened was I had just arrived in Drøbak, the town where I once was an exchange student. Per, my Norwegian host father, handed me a beer and a shot of akvavit and said, “We’re having something for dinner tonight that you won’t like. So we’ll make you a pork chop.”

“What is it?” I asked, and drank my akvavit.

“Lutefisk,” he laughed, refilling my akvavit glass.

Per sniffs the lutefisk between shots of akvavit.

“Are you serious?” I asked, drinking my second shot of akvavit. In the 15 years I have known Per, I had never seen him eat lutefisk before. But I sensed he was serious. The previous summer I had narrowly avoided home-cooked whale by taking him out for Indian food. He didn’t remember the whale steaks thawing in the fridge at home until our curry arrived at the table.

“Yes,” Per answered, filling my glass again. “It’s the first lutefisk of the year.”

This conversation and refilling continued for an hour or so while Per prepared the fish along with the traditional stewed peas and bacon drippings that are used to “enhance the flavor.” At one point, Wibeke, my sister’s girlfriend, knocked at the door.

“We’re having lutefisk tonight,” Per said gleefully. “Will you stay for dinner?”

Wibeke ran, very fast, far, far away.

By the time dinner was served, I was on approximately my 93rd shot of akvavit, happily munching my pork chop, when I was seized with drunken bravado. “I really should try that,” I said to Tordis, my Norwegian host mother. “Can I have a bite?”

All other conversation ceased. “Are you sure?” Tordis asked.


Moments before the lutefisk attacked, the evil bone was captured on film, dangling from my fork.

As I held the fork up to my mouth, I got that same sickly feeling you get as you climb aboard a roller coaster, wondering if you are about to become violently nauseous. I wanted to back out but everyone was watching. A quivering glob of what looked like jellyfish dangled menacingly from my fork. Mind over matter, I thought, and shoved it in my mouth, intending to gulp it down so fast, it wouldn’t register on my taste buds.

That’s when disaster struck.

There was a bone. One of those needle-like fish bones that pokes you in the tongue and gets caught between your teeth. I had to dislodge it from my mouth before I could swallow. The lutefisk sat there while I wrestled with the bone. It wrapped itself around my tongue like a lye-flavored python, attacking every taste bud. It might have been my only bite of lutefisk in my life, but it wasn’t going down without a fight.

Finally, my mouth was bone-free, and I gulped hard to get the fish down my throat.

I had done it! I could now speak from experience when telling people how horrible lutefisk is. And it was.

To be completely honest though, it wasn’t as bad as I had expected. It was surprisingly flavorless, with a texture somewhere between Jell-O and mashed potatoes. Nevertheless, I did not ask for a second bite.

There are worse culinary traditions in the world. In Athens, a friend once cajoled me into trying chilled sheep’s brain. (“It’s a Greek delicacy,” she said.) In Iceland, specialties include sheep’s testicles, and shark that is buried in the ground for several weeks until it’s rotten. No lye is required. They just dig it up and wash it down with their local firewater, called Black Death. Scotland has haggis, made from a sheep’s stomach lining. In America, we have egg salad sandwiches from vending machines that are kept warm by 40-watt light bulbs for an average of seven months before anyone eats them. (They taste fine as long as you swallow them whole without removing the plastic wrap).

So Norway is not the only nation with frightening cuisine. Nevertheless, it saddens me that lutefisk has become representative of my heritage when most Norwegians can’t stand it.

An article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer earlier this week reported that Seattle’s Norwegian community is in mourning this holiday season because for the first time in decades, not a single Seattle restaurant will offer lutefisk. The article quoted Kathleen Knudsen, editor of the Western Viking newspaper, as saying, “The Norwegian community is in a state of shock.”

Speak for yourself Kathleen.

The holidays are stressful in many ways, and every year at this time, I see interviews with psychologists warning that not all holiday traditions are good for you. “Move on, and make your own traditions,” they say.

So for Norwegian-Americans suffering from lutefisk withdrawal, fret not. It’s time to move into the modern age like the real Norwegians have. I have just returned from the grocery store. I am happy to report there are plenty of frozen pizzas to go around.

via Make Love, Not Lutefisk.

Without Regrets

We all have something stored in our memory banks of the past that we wish we could have done differently, or something we wish we didn’t do.

As we get older we learn and grow. But that doesn’t mean we have to regret what we did before we learned how to do things differently. If we didn’t go through those experiences we might not have grown into the strong and knowledgeable people we are today.

So what I’m proposing is that we get rid of the negative thoughts—the could have’s, might have’s, and should have’s—and start living a life that won’t make us feel regretful. Not even at an older, wiser age.

Here is a list of 40 things you can do to practice living life with no regrets:1. Realize that it’s okay to make mistakes. Just make sure to learn from your past mistakes, forgive yourself and move on.

2. Make your health and wellness a top priority and always take care of yourself so you’re ready to take care of others.

3. Follow your own path—not one that others want you to follow.

4. Find the humor in life and laugh like there is no tomorrow.

5. Relax and move with the flow of life by being unafraid of change.

6. Be adventurous by trying new things and taking more risks.

7. Have more intellectual curiosity and embrace creativity.

8. Try to find happiness with as many different people as you can.

9. Think for yourself instead of letting other people’s opinions influence you too much.

10. Try not to judge people before you get to know them.

11. Be thankful for what you have now instead of thinking about what you don’t have.

12. Wish well upon everyone equally and try to admire without envy.

13. Share your happiness with others instead of hoarding it all for yourself.

14. Don’t try to change someone—love who they are now.

15. Enjoy the journey, not just the destination.

16. Know that happiness is bigger than any bank account.

17. Control negative thoughts so that they don’t contribute to the outcome of your life.

18. Use your energy wisely because spending energy complaining, worrying or being impatient is just wasted energy.

19. Be bold. Find the courage to change things that should be changed and accept that there are some things that cannot be changed.

20.Love your work. If you don’t currently love what you do, figure out what you would love, and take the first step toward that life.

21. Turn your discontent into a mystery and enjoy trying to solve it.

22. Face problems from different angles in order to find solutions.

23. Gain independence by realizing that on this earth we are all dependent upon each other.

24. Change your perspective by taking on a wider view of things.

25. Don’t waste time trying to bring disagreeable people around to liking you.

26. Become the person you would like to spend the rest of your life with.

27. Be honest with yourself and others by saying what you mean and meaning what you say.

28. Treat people with respect and compassion.

29. Live in the now by loving the present and being aware of your thoughts and actions. Think happy thoughts and speak powerful words.

30. Try not to put things off until later.

31. Never hold grudges.

32. Face your fears head on and try to do the things that you think you cannot do.

33. Spend time with people who make you happy while also not depending on other people for your own happiness.

34. Stand up for yourself and others and don’t let anyone or anything hold you back.

35. Be yourself and love who you are now.

36. Be a participant in life rather than an observer.

37. Do the things that you love to do as much as you can.

38. Write out a list of goals and achieve them by doing them step by step. Don’t give up when things get difficult.

39. Do something every day that makes you feel proud of yourself—commit random acts of kindness whenever you get the chance.

40. And always keep on moving forward.

via 40 Ways to Live Life Without Regrets.

Can a friend be a lover, as a lover can be a friend?

It pains me at times
that I have deliberated
over whether a friend can be a lover
I’ve had lovers who were friends
but we were lovers
then a moment arises
the need for a lover
becomes a thirst
Is it fair?
that you demand more your friend
from the picture you drew?
sadness and loneliness
so they offer
more to you of themselves
if you accept their offer
can you turn back the clock
mistakes may slip
for after a friend becomes a lover
your knowledge of each other
is more intimate
flicking an emotional switch
so you no longer react as of late
your friend has gone
your lover is here
things now become more intricate
when a relationship ends
it invariably sours
communication is broken
you have lost your friend
to further the debate
if your friend
is your soul mate
then as your lover
is it not deliberated
that your soul mate
can be your lover
they know the inner you
not the intimate first
they can read you
know your thoughts
understand you at best
So how do we distinguish
between who is a friend
a lover and
a soul mate
can they be defined?
or do we combine and manipulate
how do we know if a friend
can be a lover
as a lover can be a friend?
Or do we confuse the two…..

via “Can a friend be a lover, as a lover can be a friend? (edited)” by wigs | Redbubble.

[I enjoyed this poem; it’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed poems about love.]

A Buddhist View of Romantic Love

The love of a man for a woman and a woman for a man is often the floor to which people fall after the collapse of other dreams. It is held to be solid when nothing else is, and though it frequently gives way and dumps them into a basement of despair, it still enjoys a reputation of dependability. No matter that this reputation is illogical — it still flourishes and will continue to flourish regardless of what is said in any book. Love, or possibly the myth of love, is the first, last, and sometimes the only refuge of uncomprehending humanity. What else makes our hearts beat so fast? What else makes us swoon with feeling? What else renders us so intensely alive and aching? The search for love — the sublime, the nebulous, the consuming — remains sacred in a world that increasingly despises the sacred. When the heroic and the transcendental are but memories, when religious institutions fill up with bureaucrats and social scientists, when nobody believes there is a sky beyond the ceiling, then there seems no other escape from the prison of self than the abandon of love. With a gray age of spiritual deadness upon us, we love, or beg for love, or grieve for love. We have nothing higher to live for.

Indeed, many take it on faith that romantic love is the highest thing to live for. Popular literature, movies, art, and music tirelessly celebrate it as the one truth accessible to all. Such love obliterates reason, as poets have long sweetly lamented, and this is part of its charm and power, because we want to be swept up and spirited out of our calculating selves. “Want” is the key word, for in the spiritual void of modern life the wanting of love becomes increasingly indistinguishable from love itself. So powerful, so insistent is it that we seldom notice that the gratification is rare and the craving relentless. Love is mostly in anticipation; it is an agony of anticipation; it is an ache for a completion not found in the dreary round of mundane routine. That we never seem to possess it in its imagined fullness does not deter us. It hurts so bad that it must be good.

Practically nobody questions the supremacy of romantic love, which is good enough reason to do a little poking around the foundations of its pedestal. Who is entirely satisfied with the romance in his or her life? Who has found the sublime rapture previously imagined? And if one has actually found such a thing, does it last, or does it not rather change and decline from the peak of ecstasy? And if it declines what becomes of one’s purpose in life? If a purpose is achieved it is no longer a purpose; it can no longer guide or sustain us. Does one taste of nectar satisfy us forever?

When we tire of crass, material goals we may go searching for love instead of, say, religious insight, because love seems both more accessible and more urgent, and because so much of institutional religion in our time has degenerated into insipid humanism. Some claim refuge here but many more, longing for authentic and moving experience, turn to the vision of the “lover,” that source of wonder, joy, and transcendence, who, it is thought, must be pursued and if captured perfected and if perfected then enjoyed forever — or until some other lover lights up the horizon. Love is its own justification, especially for the young who have no other inspiration or no career or responsibilities to dull themselves with as their plodding elders do. Longing bursts through this one channel that seems open, dizzily insisting that the life of unreflecting passion is the highest they can aspire to. They do not reason, but fall. Their elders do reason — obsessively — but fall all the same, thereby admitting that, with all their thought and experience, they find, when driven to extremity, they have nothing but love to live for.

This is not to say that such a surrender must be bad, only that it happens out of instinct and uninformed passion. Love is sweet and it is our nature to give way. But why do we worship it so ardently and why do we break off our search for fulfillment here? Perhaps because we see no other gods. Yet if love is the highest thing to live for then this is a hopeless universe, because we should see in a calm hour that Cupid’s arrows not only thrill us but make us bleed.

“Man Kills Estranged Lover, Then Self.” “Wife Stabs Husband in Domestic Quarrel.” “Love Triangle Leads To Shooting.” So read the headlines with depressing regularity. The stories behind these are only the most shocking of countless tales of passion, but they do forcefully suggest that romantic love is not always a blessing. One might object that hate, not love, spawns such tragedies, but where has such hate come from if not from a prior attachment now broken? We should know from experience how easily what we call love can turn to bitterness, jealousy, and malice, and though we protest that this is not the fault of love, we ought to notice that where one passion arises another is likely to follow. Passions are unreliable, volatile, dangerous, and a poor foundation for happiness.

Divorces, suicides, dissipation, violence, depravity, fanaticism, and other miseries great and small follow from passion, and yet passion is still, in the public mind, considered commendable, a mark of vigor and liveliness. Though everybody will admit that passion gone awry is dangerous, few realize that passion is by its nature likely to go awry. Romantic love is a chancy passion that may result in the opposite of what is desired. It may have happy consequences, too — else it would not have so many votaries — but it raises the stakes in the gamble of life and makes us more vulnerable both to our own weaknesses and to unpredictable fortune. As most of us count the joys of successful love (however we define it) worth the pain involved in its pursuit, we must learn to step lightly and with intelligence. We believe, with some reason, that love can ennoble and redeem us, and call forth our purest energies, but we are slower to see that when the lamp of love flickers out, as it tragically tends to do, we might lose our way in a fearful labyrinth of suffering.

Granted that few will shun the pursuit of romance out of fear of unhappy consequences, what can be done to ameliorate those consequences? If we really have nothing higher to live for, nothing to fall back on, the lugubrious truth is that nothing much can be done to ameliorate them, given the volatile nature of human affections, so it would be wise to make sure there really is no superior, sustaining ideal before committing ourselves exclusively to the chase.

Buddhism, of course, teaches such an ideal, which is nothing less than deliverance from all sorrow, called Nibbana. While worldly joys are mutable and fleeting, Nibbana is established, sorrowless, stainless, and secure. While worldly pains are piercing, unpredictable, and unavoidable, Nibbana is altogether free from pain. It is the end of suffering, the supreme refuge, the ultimate emancipation. The Buddha himself applied many terms of praise to it while recognizing their essential inadequacy. Nibbana cannot be grasped by language or concept, but it can be known and realized by one who makes the right efforts. This is a critical point.

The entire article is at:  Nothing Higher to Live For: A Buddhist View of Romantic Love.