Presence – The basis for Intimacy

I’m doing an intensive with a client this week – a wonderful way to kick off life in Maine. I was concerned when I made the decision to move 4 hours north of Boston that work might slow down, but so far it seems to be increasing if anything.My client, whom I shall call Tom, struggles with his marriage, because he spends most of his time in his analytical brain. As I started working with him, I was describing what it’s like to live in the present, and use the analytical parts of our minds when appropriate, rather than trying to live there. I found myself saying: “We’re basically floating creatures,” meaning that when its not necessary to use the analytical part of the brain, we float. We allow the present moment to carry us.

For Tom, this is a completely foreign concept. He’s used to being in analysis almost all of his waking hours. His job calls for him to use his analytical skills constantly. He wonders why he gets bored at work, and has trouble listening to people. And he wonders why he has so much trouble with personal relationships and intimacy.

What’s it like to be a floating creature? It means when we don’t need to use our brains, we don’t. Our minds are designed that way – to relax when they’re not called upon to be in use. It’s what Linda Pransky described to me as ‘being stupid about life’ when I did my intensive with her some 20 years ago. That was her way of encouraging me to stop intellectualizing everything, to let go and relax. I tried it, and was amazed at the results. Rather than being lost and aimless, I found that the more stupid I got about life, the more intelligent my life became. Another way of saying that is that when I began to let thought drop on a regular basis, wisdom and common sense had much more room to find me.

The benefits of being a ‘floating creature’ – of living in the present – are endless. But in this article I want to focus on how it benefits relationships.

Relationships are much easier and simpler than we make them out to be. People enjoy each other when they’re present to each other. Shared experiences of any kind, when people are present together, create a sense of bonding, of closeness and intimacy. This is why war veterans love to reminisce about the war they fought, in spite of its horrors. War, like any crisis, brings us right into the present moment, and when we’re in the present, we experience life with more richness and depth.

This is also why connection and intimacy are so easy when you first fall in love. The other person has really got your attention, and when you’re around them, you let thought drop and open to the experience, to the present, to what may unfold between you. In fact you can’t wait to see what will happen next, so you are deeply present, curious, expectant, hopeful.

Whenever we let thought drop, we experiences varying degrees of presence. This is the basis for experiencing love and connection with another human being. We experience life through a wide angle lens.

Alternately, when we get into our personal world of thought, we experience life through a telescopic lens. You may be in the proximity of another person, half hear what they’re saying, and respond, but they won’t feel that you’re with them; there won’t be an experience of connection.

It’s been gratifying to watch Tom learn to stop analyzing and start living in the present. He’s becoming more light-hearted and youthful; he’s beginning to experience the deeper feelings that life has to offer. And he’s really looking forward to seeing what happens when he gets back with his wife. And so am I.

If you’re interested in learning more about what makes for successful relationships, consider attending the Loving Relationships Seminar, with Annika Hurwitt, on Martha’s Vineyard, September 28 & 29, 2013 Click for more details on how to sign up.

With Love,


Should We Be Happy All The Time?

A Couples’ Story, Part One: 

Should We Be Happy All The Time?

I was struck by a session I had recently with a couple.  They were separated and on the verge of divorce when the woman, Mary, came in for a four-day intensive.   Mary had faced some serious issues in her marriage over a long period of time, and had become very anxious, and, more recently, depressed.  She was tense, she didn’t sleep well, and was constantly pre-occupied with the issues she had experienced in her marriage.


After a few days of intensive learning about the inside-out nature of life, Mary’s experience of life suddenly shifted.  She saw how her own thoughts were creating the feelings of anxiety and low self-worth that she had been experiencing for so long.


First her mind got quieter – she started to feel more peaceful and, to her amazement, started sleeping better.  Then her own innate joy and well being welled up inside her.  Mary began experiencing happiness for the first time in a long time.  She was psychologically free, and it was beautiful to witness the transformation she experienced.


Mary and her husband re-united, and had a lovely honeymoon period that lasted for several months.  They just focused on enjoying each other.  Then something happened that reminded Mary of the issues from the past.  Her thoughts became focused on those issues and the pain the she had experienced with her husband.  Though they had put those issues behind them, suddenly it was all Mary could think about.  They arrived for their next session looking unhappy and downtrodden.


What was most remarkable to me about witnessing Mary in that session was the shift that took place in her consciousness.  When she first started working with me, it was as if she was caught in a world of mirrors, all of them reflecting her mental pain.  Learning about the inside-out nature of life had snapped her out of that dream.  Now she was caught back up in it and I could see that when I talked to her, she wasn’t really listening to me.  My words were like a distant echo, and what Mary was hearing, mostly, were her own thoughts cycling and re-cycling.


In Mary’s case, my mentioning that she wasn’t listening to me was what it took to snap her out of her dream.  Suddenly she looked at me as if seeing me for the first time, though we were half way through the session.  At that point I repeated much of what I’d already said, as I knew she hadn’t heard me.  I told Mary that it’s natural sometimes to re-visit issues that haven’t been healed in a relationship, especially as that relationship gets better.  Sometimes that’s what it takes to have enough safety and security to be present to the pain that occurred in the past, and get over it.  When we’re not available to have pain and grieve loss in the moment, sometimes we do so later.


Mary had stepped into a pitfall that people do sometimes when they learn the principles – thinking that because you know that your thoughts create your feelings  you should be happy all the time.  This is a misinterpretation of understanding the inside-out nature of life.  A more accurate way to put it is that when you see your thoughts creating your feelings in the moment, you can’t create as much unnecessary pain for your self.  You still may have grief sometimes, if you experience a loss, or other thoughts and feelings in response to life events.  But these thoughts and feelings will normally flow through you, creating depth and healing on the way.  It’s when we interfere with thoughts and feelings flowing through us, through over-analysis, resistance, or other ways of keeping thought in place, that we interfere with the design of our own minds – which is to experience our own innate well being again once the thought storm has passed.

Re-discovering Optimism: A Couples’ Story

A Couples’ Story: Sally and Sarah have been learning the prinicples, and it has changed their marriage. A couple in their mid-30’s, they had been married for 7 years. Their relationship was up and down, due to lack of communication and fighting. Whenever they would get into a disagreement, they would talk and talk, trying to sort it through. The more they talked, the more their relationship would spiral down. They had tried couples’ counseling before, and it had only made things worse. The more the therapist pointed them in the direction of their problems, the worse they felt about themselves and the more they fought. It was to the point where they were losing optimism about being able to make it as a couple.

The first thing that hapened after learning about the 3 spiritual prinicples discovered by Sydney Banks, was that Sally got more lighthearted, and Sarah became more confident. “I never realized before how much I keep things on my mind that weigh me down,” Sally said. “I’m feeling so much happier! I was completely happy for 4 days in a row – that hasn’t happpened ever in my life that I can remember. Then I went back to work and started to get down again, until I noticed that I was thinking heavy, serious thoughts, and then it lifted and I l felt great again. This is amazing to me.” Sarah said: “It used to be whenever I was mad or upset with Sally I would pretend that I wasn’t, because I didn’t want to upset her. Now I have the confidence to feel the way I feel without worrying about Sally so much. I don’t take it out on her, but I’m not afraid to tell her how I feel.”

Affter this initial progress, the couple had a honeymoon period of enjoying their relationsip more than they could ever remember. And then they had their first big fight. “I had been saving money for over a year so that we could have another child, and I went into that account and discovered that Sally had taken out a good part of that money and used it for a bill, without telling me. I was so upset – she knows how hard I’ve worked to save that money, and how very much I want to have another child. I couldn’t even talk to her for the rest of the day. But things went so differently when we talked about it! Normally I would have approached her very upset. But I waited, because I now know that wouldn’t work. She asked me if I was upset before going to bed, and I said I was, but that I couldn’t talk about it at that time. I waited until the next day, when I was feeling more calm about it. When we found a good time to talk, I asked Sally about the money, and instead of getting all upset and angry about it, the way she normally would, she said ‘of course I can see why that would upset you.’ Then she explained why she needed to draw on that money for an immediate need, and how she had more money coming in to replace it. I couldn’t believe how easily we resolved this. Of course what she told me made sense, but if I hadn’t waited until I was feeling better, I wouldn’t have been able to hear that. Something that would normally have dragged on for days or weeks was over within a day or so. Its like a miracle! Sally: ‘It was hard for me when Sarah wouldn’t talk or be affectionate before we went to bed that night. But it was different from before. I could tell that she wasn’t being cold or mean, and that made it easier for me to wait. Then when we talked about it it went so easily! It wasn’t even an arugment. We were back on track with our relationshp in no time! This is like a miracle for us – we are so happy!” Sally and Sarah say that they now have a confidence in their relationship that they didn’t have before, and confidence in their future together.

How Listening Can Lead to Better Relationships

I was talking with Sarah today, a client who came for the Four-Day Intensive. She was describing how her life has continued to change since the intensive. This is a woman who has struggled with relationships. As we discoverd during the intensive, some of her relationship issues came from having a mind that was constantly busy.  She had so much on her mind that it was hard for her to listen to people.  Oh, she could listen superficially, but mostly while she listened she had her own agenda on her mind.  So people felt like she was hard to connect with.  Her teenage kids were often angry with her because they felt like she didn’t listen to them or respect their requests.

During the intensive Sarah worked with the principles and her mind got much more settled and quiet.  She found herself noticing life around her  in a way she hadn’t for a long time.  Many people experience this during meditation or sometimes yoga, but the principles helped Sarah awaken to the mental chatter she carried around with her moment-by-moment in her life.  Once she saw that, she was able to be more settled and present, even when she wasn’t meditating or doing yoga.  In fact, she said that even during these practices there was always mental background noise; it wasn’t until she saw what was going on her mind that she was able to back off from what she had been doing that kept her thoughts going.

But what was really interesting to me was what happened later, 3 weeks after the intensive had ended.  Sarah said that she continued to become more and more aware of the feeling state that she lived in, and knew from learning the principles that whatever feelings she experienced were a reflection of  Thought.  The more she tuned into this, the quieter her thoughts became.  It came to her like an insight, just a quiet thought arising in her mind out of the blue.  But it impacted her with the feeling insights have, of taking her out of her ordinary mindset into a different level of awareness.  Something new was happening in her brain.

Since then, Sarah said, her mind has been getting more and more quiet.  Even her yoga teacher, who has known her for years, commented on it, telling her he was grateful that something had helped Sara’s mind get more settled and quiet.

I could tell that it was already easier to connect with Sarah than it had been, and have great hope for how her quieter mind will bring more depth and connection to all her relationships, especially within her own family.


During the intensive,k

How Thought Almost Led to a Divorce

How Thought Almost Led to a Divorce

When Brian and Mary came for their couples’ intensive, they were on the verge of a divorce. They had been married for 30 years and had 4 kids who were now all leaving the nest. When I interviewed them before their intensive, he said he felt they just needed to spend some time together now that the kids were gone and get close again. Mary, on the other hand, was clear that this intensive was their last shot at staying together. “We’ve been having problems for 20 of our 30 years together. We’ve been seeing a marriage counselor, and she has recommended divorce at this point. I’m not really sure why we’re coming to you, but I’ve heard that sometimes this works when nothing else can.”

After working with Brian and Mary individually at first, it became clear that they both had habits of Thought that were getting in their way. On his part, Brian thought he was unattractive. When he felt Mary was distant, it confirmed this belief, and then he would feel insecure, frightened and lonely. His way of dealing with those feelings was to find women in need of financial help, whom he would befriend and help out financially for a period of time. Their need of him made him feel less lonely and unlovable.

Mary, on the other hand, had picked up the thought somewhere along the line that she was stupid, or that other people thought she was. Whenever she would find out about one of these women who were benefitting from Brian’s philanthropy, she would think, “What does he think, I’m stupid?” This thought is extremely upsetting to her; whenever she thought it, she would become cold and distant. When she was cold and distant, Brian would look for someone new to help to get some emotional connection and warmth. And so the cycle would continue, to the point that Mary was ready to divorce him.

As Mary began to understand the role that Thought plays in relationships, she settled down and began to see that her experience of being ‘stupid’ was coming from her, from her own thinking, not from Brian. This was a very big realization for her. She began to be less guarded around Brian, as she learned more and more about the principles and simply began enjoying the moment.

From my perspective, it was obvious that Brian adored his wife, and had tremendous respect for her. Her coldness made him insecure, and those insecure thoughts made him lose his bearings – he didn’t know what to do to re-connect with her. As Brian’s thoughts settled down, the wall of Thought he so often lived in, that he was unattractive, also loosened their hold on him.

Mary and Brian began to communicate with each other in sessions, without anger and defensiveness. They began to be able to have a dialogue, and even laugh about things. The turning point came when, at a break, Brian stood up, screwed up all his courage and said to Mary: “Would you like to spend the break with me?” Mary, taken aback by his forthright effort to connect with her, paused for a moment, then said “Yes! I would!” They began re-discovering what it meant to spend time together without all their old thought patterns, most of which had been invisible to them, running the show.

When Brian and Mary showed up for the last day of their intensive, they were tentatively a team once again. They had that sweetness you feel around people who are just getting to know each other and are a little shy about it. That newfound sense of connection grew and grew after they got home. Their fear and mistrust melted away as they began to re-experience their real connection with each other. It was as if those 20 years of alienation and distance melted away without a trace. This so often happens when people re-connect with their true natures. No matter how many years you may struggle, been depressed or anxious, or had trouble in your relationship, when you re-connect with your innate mental and spiritual health your inbuilt capacity for truth resurfaces, and all those years of struggle appear like the illusion they really were.

I check in with Brian and Mary at 6-month intervals, and at the two-year mark all they have to say is: “Very Happy!”

How I finally got married

Though this happened 15 years ago, I told this story at a women’s seminar over the weekend, and the women there found it so helpful I realized I should post it on my blog.  Here is my story of how I got married for the first time at the age of 43:

My father died suddenly and unexpectedly when I was 10, and though I am told I cried a lot at the time, I did not get over it.  My mother went into a deep depression, which lasted for the rest of her life, and my brothers struggled with it in their own ways.  I grew up and started dating, but things didn’t go very well.  When I fell in love, the man left me, and when a man fell in love with me, I left him.  With every break-up, I would experience a terrible sense of abandonment and loss that would shake me to my core.  I would be frightened, feel like my world was coming to an end, and feel very unsafe.   In retrospect, I realize that these were many of the feelings I experienced when my father died, though that didn’t occur to me while I was going through it.   This would last for several months, and then I would begin to get over it, and the merry-go-round would begin again with the next person I dated.

In my early thirties, I went into therapy to get help with these constantly failing relationships.  I wanted to get married and have children, and by this time I knew something was wrong.  My therapist thought I hadn’t grieved the death of my father enough to get over it.  So we began that grieving process again.  I cried non-stop for several weeks, then off-and-on for months.  After a while, the crying stopped.  Unfortunately, it did nothing to change my dating pattern.

Another decade went by.  I was  40, and my dating pattern had not changed.  I was beginning to lose hope about the possibility of ever having children.  That’s when I attended a seminar where the 3 spiritual principles of Sydney Banks were being taught.  These principles – Mind, the spiritual energy that is formless and has a diving intelligence; Thought, the mental activity all human beings have from birth until death, and Consciousness – how we experience our thinking – provided a huge awakening for me.  This was in 1993,  and I’ve been learning from these principles ever since (for more on the Three Principles see and my website,

I soon became a much happier person.  I saw how much thinking I did that created worry and stress for me, and as I began to understand the illusory nature of thought,  my innate well-being and wisdom had more room to surface more of the time.  But several years went by, and my relationship pattern STILL did not change.  However, in looking toward wisdom, and less through the lens of my personal thinking, my life changed in so many other ways that I had hope that somehow it would change this too.

Then one day another break-up happened.  I wasn’t really in love but was trying to be – that old biological clock thing.  Still, the man I was dating betrayed my trust in a way that took me by surprise and really hurt. As soon as I discovered this all the mental and emotional alarms began to sound.   I was barely into my familiar nightmare of feeling betrayed and abandoned when suddenly I heard a voice say:  “That wasn’t so bad, was it?”

The voice was in my own head, but it was so unexpected, and so loud and clear, that it startled me.  I knew I had just had an insight, as it came with that unmistakable feeling of something coming from beyond myself and gifting me with an unexpected perspective.  It stopped my emotional roller coaster in its tracks.  With that Thought, I suddenly had the presence to be with the thoughts and feelings about this break-up as they came.  That presence began to heal those thoughts and feelings.  Rather than going into memory as I had done time and time again (without being aware of it) of previous break-ups and, undoubtedly, thoughts about my father’s death, which amplified the experience I was having way beyond what it actually was, I was able to be with what was happening.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t a very big deal!   To my amazement, I found that within a matter of days I was feeling fine, and by the end of the week, I was over it.  This was an entirely different experience with any break-up I had ever had before.

After that, I was reflecting on my experiences with relationships.  A thought occurred to me, one of those brought by Mind to initiate a process of realization.  I realized that with my learning the Principles my life had become extremely rich.  I was very happy, had far less worry, was sleeping well, had more and better friends and was experiencing an outpouring of creativity.  Still, my relationship pattern hadn’t changed.  So it was a moment of decision:  Date, and get abandoned, or don’t date.  I thought about it for some time, as neither seemed a good option.  Finally, I decided on the first option – date, and get abandoned.  Rather than fearing that anymore, I would lean into it, even expect it.  But I wanted to keep dating because even with these endings it was more fun than not dating at all.

The next person I met was from the west coast, and I lived on the east coast, so I was sure it would end quickly.  Given my decision, that was fine with me.  But he kept pursuing me, and we got along wonderfully.  Within 6 months we got engaged and were married one year later.  We had our daughter a few years after that, and we have now been happily married for 14 years.  Thought had been getting in my way all those years – memory thought that I wasn’t even aware of, and that was healed by the power of the understanding that the principles of Mind, Consciousness and Thought brought into my life.