Yesterday I had the honor to be a guest speaker at the Xanadu Life’s Coastal Cleanup in Santa Monica, CA. Every month this awesome organization leads a coastal cleanup event at the different southern California beaches as a way to promote environmental, personal, relational, and community wellness. The event starts out with a beach yoga class lead by a local yoga studio, followed by a social activity to get people to know each other, cleaning the beach of trash, and guest speakers sharing information about the environment and personal wellness.
We can learn so much from our environment and nature if we just stop to take it in and reflect. This past Sunday I shared with the Xanadu community 11 things I’ve learned about relationships by looking at nature and the actions we were taking to care for it. And here I showing you what that was:
- Know your world. We come here not only to play with each other, but to learn about our natural world. The same with our partners. How much do you really know about THEIR inner world? This natural world changes and evolves for us all the time. The moment I think I know everything about plastics, I learn something new from Heidi and Xanadu. Your partner is also ever-evolving. 2, 5, 10, 20 years can go by and you still will learn something new about your partner’s inner world, if you keep exploring it and keep asking it questions.
- Even small things are important to clean up. This beach was scattered with trash, but what did we find an abundance of? Cigarette butts and tiny pieces of foam or plastic. We of course do this beach and the environment a great amount of good when we pick up the bigger trash, but when we don’t take care of the smaller trash, see how the pieces get swallowed by our fish and our birds who then end up getting harmed. In the same way, if we don’t tend to the smaller issues in our relationships, or if we just pass by them, thinking that they are insignificant for us or our partner, then we may find them causing us harm down the line. We may see these small matters building up as resentment, score keeping, “evidence” that we don’t work. So imagine if we just acknowledged something was bothering us or that we were triggered.
- Open up. Watch flowers bloom and they don’t stop to think about what they look like internally. Tree branches reach out, further and further, even if they become vulnerable to power of the wind. To open up to our partner, to be vulnerable, to show up as ourselves and reach out despite what “may” happen, only gives us opportunity to get our needs met. To open up we allow our inner self to be seen for the opportunity that we can heal.
- Love is Life. Look at this beach and tell me that you aren’t in love with it. We find ourselves in awe regarding this beauty and all that it’s created and provided for us. The ground, supports us unconditionally beneath our feet, even when we act a fool. How are you filling your relationships in the same way?
- Embrace the Sun. Flowers and plants need the light. They cannot grow if they only experience the darkness. In the same way, we need to learn and consciously focus on the positives in our relationships. This is because our brain has a negative bias that it has an easier time remembering the negative experiences than it does positive. We have so many positive aspects to our relationships, yet how many of us have in the past focused on looking for the negative, or the reason to break up with someone.
- Be the Warmth. Animals and plants seek warmth to awaken and become their greatest potential. When it’s cold, we see animals contract in on themselves to conserve what warmth they do have left. But when it’s warm, we see them filled with energy and action. In the same way, our relationships need warmth for survival. Compassion, kindness, validation, appreciation, affection are all necessary in order to develop and maintain healthy, thriving relationships. Research on couples show us that it takes 5 positive interactions to negate 1 negative interaction.
- Collaboration. Everything in nature works in conjunction with one another for survival. The bees help the flowers help the bees. We clean the beaches and the water that keep our fish and seaweed safe which feeds us. We are not solely responsible for the health of a relationship. It takes the collaborating efforts of both within it. We don’t all have to be the best at everything, but we can give where we are and receive where our partner is. Where I am strong, we are stronger.
- Patience. Nature takes its time. This was not created over night. Imagine that this place looked incredibly different thousands of years ago. At the same time, the evolution of our relationships, the mental processes that each individual within that relationship, takes time. I cannot hurry up my partner’s conscious evolution anymore than I can truly hurry up the growth of a redwood tree. We can nourish it, encourage it, call it out on it’s bullshit, but in the end, it is their process and not ours to determine.
- Resiliency. How often we hear about earthquakes and tornadoes tearing across the earth. Or especially in SoCal, the fires destroying whole forests and deserts. I recently visited my aunt outside Joshua Tree and was looking out over the beautiful green (and brown) land surrounding her house. I’ve been going to her house for 6 years and recall when the land was just dust and burnt trees, remnants of the fire that spread far across the desert burning everything in it’s wake. We are resilient beings as well, and can be resilient within our relationships, as well. Looking at what we can learn following difficult times and applying them to help us grow stronger.
- Grow to your highest potential. Plants grow skyward, reaching for their highest self. In relationships we don’t stop where we are, but we continue to challenge ourselves for growth. We are open to the reflections and feedback from our most intimate partner, and we use it as food to extend to greater heights in our development.
- Take in what’s in front of you and enjoy that. Look around yourself. Take THIS in. Smell it, feel it, taste it, listen to it. You don’t have to create a fantasy or distract with something else. Look here, experience through all your senses. This is beautiful. And so is she/he. If you just experience them as they are.
- Wood. (Ok so I added this one on at the last minute. Hey, I’m a sex therapist)
To find out more about all the awesome events lead by the Xanadu Life, go to: http://thexanadulife.com/