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21 Lessons from the Love in 20/20 Series

As we find ourselves at the close of an unprecedented year that has challenged each and every one of us to do more – and better – in our personal lives, I am grateful to have committed to collecting and revising the best ideas on love throughout this year. Early on, we shared the idea that love is not a thought in our head, nor a feeling that arrives unbidden; instead, it is an action verb.

Loving is the hardest work that we do in a lifetime, which explains why we so often struggle with heartbreak and relationship issues that stay with us for years. Although our loving trials don't originate outside of us, certainly the stress of a world coming undone pushes at the fragile edges that might ordinarily be workable. These 21 ideas are tried and true and no matter what situation your loving heart finds itself in, they'll help you to see more clearly, take insightful action, and pay generous attention to the people who matter most to you. 

Love is always worth it. Love is never wasted. Love is what we are made of.  

1. Going with the Flow 

The term “go with the flow” is not new. In fact, it was first alluded to by Shakespeare over 400 years ago – and for good reason. Going with the flow of life is one of the most effective ways to create a more relaxed relationship to the events and people surrounding you, while also making you more resilient and adaptable to the ever-present unpredictable nature of life. 

2. Finding Emotional Courage

Most of us are risk averse when it comes to matters of the heart. This is why so many things that need to be shared are never uttered. It also explains why so many relationships expire long before the work is done. Staying intimately connected is only possible through the work of being emotionally courageous. 

3. Awakening to Arousal

Your arousal response is your body’s natural mechanism for accessing pleasure. Although often confused with the genital swelling that accompanies being turned on, the source and ignition for becoming aroused lives in the sexiest organ of your body - your brain. More specifically in the limbic area of the brain, which is also responsible for generating our emotions and developing memory.

4. Seeing What Is

The Buddha famously taught “With our thoughts we make the world.” True wisdom begins when we recognize the extent to which we are a captive audience to the voice inside our head. It is this inner reality and the often invisible relationship we have with ourselves that literally creates our lives. 

5. Equality for Deeper Intimacy

One of the most important attributes of our humanity is that we crave a sense of fairness and equality the way we do food or sleep. More than just an aspirational concept of governance, like “by the people, for the people,” all of our relationships thrive within the honest intentionality of creating equity between people.

6. Connecting in Times of Crisis

We all find ourselves in one of two buckets right now. Either separated from people we love and can't see them or with the people we love in a non-stop way that we usually reserve for holidays or weekends. Either way, this unprecedented time is testing our ability to show up for each other and forcing us all to reconsider what it takes to sustain the fragile and essential fabric of relationships.

7. Learning to Receive Love

There might not be a more powerful way to transform your life right now than by learning to receive love. Especially in these days of quarantine, when we are confined not only with our intimate others, but even more so with ourselves. All of our tricks of distraction and avoidance are no longer available in this present.

8. Learning to Rest

We are in a state of worldwide rest. Nearly four billion people, or half of the world’s population, are on some sort of stay-at-home order. In this unprecedented time – as we bear witness to what most of us thought impossible – we have a chance to really learn what rest can offer us. 

9. Making a Relationship to Gratitude

The most important lesson I have learned throughout all my spiritual searching and study is how many forms of healing occur within prayers of gratitude. Unlike the thank you notes that follow a gift exchange, these prayers to feel into gratitude are entirely visceral. Prayer is often misunderstood as a kind of asking for something you do not already have, when in truth prayerful gratitude is a deep recognition of all that we have already been given.

10. Getting Over Falling in Love

Love is an action verb with a specific skill set that is developmental – which means that we can learn it, practice it and get better at it. That said, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the efforts of keeping our loving relationships vital, and to lose sight of the many emotional and physical benefits we experience from loving over time. 

11. Listening With Your Whole Body

Perhaps the most transformative experience we can offer to our relationships is in the gift of deep listening. This is often confused with the surface listening most of us are trained to do, where we focus our attention on the words being said and prepare ourselves while someone else is speaking with our response. 

12. Making Sex the Glue in Your Relationship

It is a complex mix of issues that can make it a challenge to sustain vibrant sex life, but there are a few essential commitments we can make to keep up the intention and courage to work through them. So I offer this list as a guide to practices that have helped me keep coming back to both working with the pain and evolving the pleasure of being a healthy sexual being.

13. The Hidden Power of Breath

Most people accept breathing as an autonomic process that doesn’t require much thought. It turns out that, although our breath will rise and fall without our direction, adding a little agency and consciousness to our breathing goes a very long way in improving our health. 

14. Getting Through Tough Times 

It is not an exaggeration to say that 2020 has been a difficult year for everyone. We’re experiencing the global pandemic in ways that are unique to each of us, and it can feel exhausting to live and just be among all the uncertainty. As a result, it is common to feel unmotivated, tapped out, or not in control of your life. 

15. Lighting the Path to Orgasm

The most important revelation about orgasm is that you can’t make yourself – or, more importantly, anyone else – have an orgasm. And in fact, it is often our efforts to cajole them into being that makes our orgasmic potential even more inaccessible. As soon as we set orgasm as the finish line, we unintentionally invite in the performance anxiety about whether we will be able to cross that line.

16. Surrendering to the Wave

Our lives give us the opportunity to express what is strongest and best in us, that is the gift of living. The outcome is not ours to choose and also distracts from the work itself. While this teaching is simple, the practice is a huge challenge. How do we offer our work without attaching ourselves to the outcome, allowing the act of doing to become its own reward?

17. Shielding the Heart

A lot of us shield our hearts. We are so nervous about the potential for it to be broken by the loss of love, that we inadvertently keep it from use. Shielding our heart can become such a deep and prolonged habit that we often walk around with a shield we don’t even know we are wearing.

18. Fighting for Your Love

Sometimes you just have to fight about it. As human animals, conflict is not only a natural outcome of partnerships and family units; it is an essential part of building unity. Our differences may make life more interesting, but learning to deal with them effectively and with love is a challenge for which we are often not well prepared.

19. Out of Our Hands and Into Our Bodies

No matter what side of the political divide you fall on these days, our inability to control the outcome and the anxiety of living in uncertainty has become the backdrop for the culture. At risk of stating the obvious, we each face what feels like a precipice within only the relatively small acts of life that we can actually control.

20. From Grief, A Window To Gratitude

Wading through a transition into a life that has lost all its reference points is mysteriously also open to the present moment in surprising ways. Having been forced from the comfort of how we thought it was going to go, onto an unknowable new path, nothing ordinary can be taken for granted. 

21. The Generosity of Our Attention

It is my children that have taught me the most about my real presence in life. Years ago, it was their small hands taking hold of either side of my face and willfully turning my attention to fully face them. In their teen years, I learned through the moments I missed to pay closer attention when they were standing nearby ready to spill out their feelings and stories.