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Monday, August 18, 2008

What is Undefended Love

I have recently started attending a class called "Healthy Relationships," which is based on a book called Undefended Love, by Jett Psaris, PH.D and Marlena Lyons, PH.D. The basic concept of this class is to assist us in learning how to create the intimacy that we often feel is missing in our relationships. As Dr. Psaris & Dr. Lyons put it, "Intimacy can only occur when the heart is undefended. To cut through our personal differences means learning how to love and be loved without defenses and without obstructions. It means cultivating the capacity to be emotionally present, even we we feel exposed or vulnerable, learning to relinquish the many strategies we have employed to feel safe and in control. Through developing the capacity for intimacy in this way, we discover love as an abiding presence in the emotional center of our being, our heart and we can never again feel emotionally disconnected, incomplete or unloved."

I have found this class, as well as the book, to be amazingly eye-opening and life-altering. The book Undefended Love begins by explaining Our Longing for Intimacy, then moves on to topics such as Finding Our Essential Self, Beginning our journey to Undefended Love, Yearning for Closeness with Another, Yearning for Connection with Ourselves, Moving Beyond the Impulse to REACT, Relaxing the Need to Have Our Needs Met, and finally, Dissolving Our Defenses.

This is one of those books that you wish you had read before you even thought about being in a relationship...but I believe it is never to late to change your life, if that is truly what YOU want.

The information from this book has made such an positive impression on my life, that I felt it was necessary to include some of the book excerpts on my blog. Since there are quite a few, I will post them throughout the week. I hope you find them as enlightening as I have.

About Intimacy

Many of us think of intimacy as having sex, being physically or emotionally close or exchanging deeply held confidences. But if specific behaviors such as these produce intimacy, then why don't we experience intimacy each time we do them? What makes one sexual encounter intimate and another not? If cultivating closeness is an avenue to intimacy, why do so many couples who have attained it report flatness, boredom, loss of vitality or a sense of being "stuck" rather than feeling passionately alive in each other's presence? If confiding in another is supposed to bring about intimacy, why does one communication make us flush to our roots while another leaves us untouched and unmoved?

Behaviors are not the source of our intimate experiences. That is why the use of the term intimacy as a euphemism for being sexual is so misleading. While some of us have experienced true intimacy and union through sex, what is intimate is not the behavior itself but the state of being we reach within ourselves and with our partners.

We all know what it feels like to experience a deeper part of ourselves, outside our daily routines and superficial exchanges. It is this feeling that we reclaim during moments of profound connection with another - a deep experience of ourselves. This is the key to intimacy: our ability to dive below the familiar world of our "outer self" into the less understood provenance of our human potential.

Finding intimacy begins with discovering ourselves, not with "fixing" or "controlling" ourselves or our partners. We have to be visible before we can be seen. We have to be available before our hearts can be affected. And we have to be present before we can be intimate. When we can drop all pretense and relate with a heart that is undefended, we can finally discover the unmistakable connection with our authentic selves and with our partner that we long for.

What is our essential self?

In the work of cultivating intimacy it is helpful to draw a distinction between our essential self and our essential nature. In many of the world's spiritual traditions, the most profound realization, the culmination of all spiritual quests, involves directly experiencing our essential nature. Variously referred to as the Absolute, The Ground Of All Being, our True Nature or our Original Face, this is the underlying nature of all existence. It is the impersonal, formless, timeless and changeless aspect of who we all are. Our essential self is our uniqueness. Think of a cloudless, star-studded evening sky. Now imagine the stars as cut-aways, letting light from beyond pass through them. That all-pervasive light from beyond is our essential nature, and the light that takes on the shape and form of each star is our essential self. We all share the same essential nature, that all-pervasive light, but each of us is a separate and unique manifestation of it.

Like snowflakes, we are all of a common substance, yet no two of us are alike. It is our "individuality" that we tend to fall in love with in each other: the way we hold and bring forth our essential nature through some very unique pattern that distinguishes us from others.

If all our ideas about who we are, who we aren't and who we are supposed to be were boiled away, the nectar remaining would be a sense of personal being, a pure sense of existence, of presence, of "I am." This is our essential self, and its qualities, like those of the baby and the enlightened master, are pure and unrehearsed. Through undefended encounters, we come to know and share with another this essence of who we are. Sometimes the experience is of a personal and individual love, an outflowing from the unique experience of our essential self. At other times the love is more universal, for everyone and everything, emerging from our connection with our essential nature.

1 comment:

coachsappho said...

thank you for posting this material - the information is rich and, while i am not teaching this approach currently, i teach aspects of similar material in my workshops for lesbians! so true, so true what's shared here - i wish more lesbian women would sit up and take notice!


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