In Part 1 of Relationships on the Spiritual Path, we explored issues of comfort, soul growth and judgment—and how the tender parts of us need to feel safe in order for the heart to open to its full capacity. In today’s blog, we’ll dive into some juicy territory and talk about expectations, the interface between intimacy and freedom, and the anatomy of trust. Let’s start with the elephant in the room—expectations.
Every relationship in my life lately has been an experiment of the idea of unconditional love and freedom. Byron Katie says egos can't love; they always want something. Whereas the soul can love unconditionally and expect nothing in return. Wide open heart. Zero conditions.
But this week, I finally really got a critical piece of this puzzle. Here's my epiphany. It's totally possible to offer unconditional love plus absolute freedom with no conditions. But ACCESS is completely conditional. (LIGHTBULB!)
Brene Brown says the most compassionate people on the planet are the ones with the highest boundaries. Now I get it! For so long, I made the mistake of thinking that unconditional love and freedom meant forgiving people over and over again when they hurt you or betray you. Giving people permission to break your heart. And that’s part of it. You can’t walk around guarding your heart all the time. When the gates of your heart are closed, you may be less likely to get hurt. But you’ll also be incapable of giving and receiving love.
I’ve spent years learning how to love without conditions. It may be the hardest thing you’ll ever do. But perhaps, even harder, is loving unconditionally while setting appropriate boundaries.
I recently attended an event with a coach who challenged us to stop dreaming so much and start DOING something about our dreams. He likened our big dreams to an acorn that had the potential to become an oak tree, and in scenario after scenario, he gave us examples about how “law of attraction” based inaction could thwart the acorn’s potential to become the oak tree. Sure, we could visualize the acorn as an oak tree. We could affirm the oak tree’s potential. We could even adopt a gluten-free diet and drink more green juice, in hopes that our efforts will help the oak tree grow. But unless we plant the acorn in fertile soil, nurture it with water, sunlight, and patience, that acorn is never going to realize its potential.
To demonstrate his point, he challenged us to an unusual form of “meditation.” Instead of sitting still and trying to calm our thoughts, we were invited to lift our arms over our head and bring the mind into present time while scissoring our arms together until our arms and shoulders got so tired and sore that we were ready to scream. Then, when we were all in pain and yearning to quit, he pumped the music up louder and dared us to keep going. Giving us permission to modify our movement if needed, he pushed us to keep up the pace if at all possible, to grunt and growl and cheer each other on. By the end of the exercise, I’m sure many people felt a sense of accomplishment and patted themselves on the backs as an acknowledgment of their determination, commitment, and self-sacrifice in the face of pain. As I looked around the room, most people were grinning with the kind of relieved, endorphin-laden “We did it!” looks you see when people finish running marathons.
But that’s not how I felt. I may have been the only person in the room of pumped up people who felt…PISSED- not with the coach, but with myself.
No Pain, No Gain
Maybe it’s because I endured the pain of twenty years of self-sacrifice during medical school, residency, and my medical practice that I find myself resistant to anything that forces me to hurt myself, especially if it’s fueled by the kind of peer pressure you feel when a group is pushing each other to keep going, even when it hurts. After years of living by the “No pain, no gain” philosophy, these days, I’m much more inclined to feel attracted to Martha Beck’s mantra- “Play until it’s time to rest, then rest until it’s time to play.”
A friend and fellow Hay House author Christina Rasmussen reached out to me this weekend because her book Second Firsts: Live, Laugh & Love Again about finding joy after loss launches today. Christina was about to hop on a plane to travel to New York for her book launch when she reached out and asked me if I had any advice for her, and here’s what I wrote.
Good luck dear! Here's my advice. Please hear me on this.You have already arrived. You have nothing to prove.You are already enough. Your inherent value has nothing to do with the success of this book.If the book is destined to succeed, it will, in spite of you. If not, it won't, and it won't be your fault. Turn it all over to Divine Order and just trust the journey.You are already "there" because there is no "there" there. There is only here.
Christina wrote back, “I am crying my eyes out reading this. You just gave me the best gift anyone could give me. I am going to give it over to the Divine right now. I am here and there and everywhere I could be. THANK YOU LISSA. You just freed me.”
You’ve Already Arrived
I was just paying it forward. The night before Mind Over Medicine launched, my friend Kris Carr, who has written two New York Times bestselling books and who wrote the foreword to Mind Over Medicine, called me to say, “Darling, I’m calling to tell you you’ve already arrived.” I too burst into tears.
It’s remarkable how much pressure we burden ourselves with. When What’s Up Down There launched in 2010, I was a nervous wreck. I barely slept the week before my book launch, and I lost about ten pounds that month because I was too nauseous to eat. I felt so much pressure to achieve some poorly defined measure of success that I pushed too hard and had to learn the lesson my mentor Dr. Christiane Northrup taught me about being less sperm, more egg. I wound up several months later with what I described as PPD (Post Publishing Depression, the rare malady nobody warns authors about.)
You already know how fear can paralyze you personally and professionally, rob you of your joy, and keep you from going after your dreams. But did you know it can also make you sick? Whenever your mind feels fear, it triggers the “fight-or-flight” stress response in your body, which disables your body’s natural self-repair mechanisms and makes you more susceptible to illness. But never fear (no pun intended). Here are a few tips for living a healthier, happier life by overcoming fear.
Understand that fear is primal. It originates from the lizard brain of your amygdala and exists as an adaptive mechanism meant to save your life. But in modern society, fear is a warning signal gone haywire. Most of what you fear - losing a loved one, money, or a relationship, for example - isn’t actually threatening your life, though it may be threatening your sense of security. You may not be able to ditch the emotion of fear, but you can make the choice not to let it run the show anymore.
Assess your fears to determine whether they’re helpful or harmful. If you’re afraid of crashing on the rocks when you consider jumping off a cliff, your fear is probably valid. But if you’re afraid to write the book you dream of writing because you’re afraid of failure, fear is only getting the way. Sometimes fear shows up as a valuable intuition, but often, it’s just an agent of self-sabotage. Learning to tell the difference can make all the difference.
Recognize that fear often masquerades as protection. Consider how many times you make decisions because of the “just in case.” Remember that “just in case” is fear masquerading as self-preservation. But it’s still fear, and it’s still harmful to your health.