What Love Requires

It is the act of loving that love requires. Love needs nurturing. Love needs attention. Love needs care. Love demands appreciation and respect. Love requires giving. Sometimes giving more than you take.  Without the execution of loving acts, love dies.

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“Love is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise. If love were only a feeling, there would be no basis for the promise to love each other forever. A feeling comes and it may go. How can I judge that it will stay forever, when my act does not involve judgment and decision.”  ―Erich Fromm

 

Featured Artist

Paulina Galka from Poland on Instagram

 

Removing What Isn’t Love

At any given moment you can give up your old stories of what love is or isn’t and redefine the way you feel. By Madeline Johnson

What do I know about love? Never said. No, no. no. Dad demanded respect and mom was angry at dad.  With all that yelling and screaming, it felt as if love was too weak walk the halls of our home.  Love was too soft for stomping feet, midnight tears and hands that punched the sky.

It wasn’t mentioned, or even whispered, because it wasn’t important. Not when there was work to do, bills to pay and good grades to impress. There was struggle to be had.

Love might have been dad working to provide and mom cleaning house and making meals.

There was a movie. Love Story. It was about a man and a woman and the woman was dying of cancer. Love was sad.

Something you lose.

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The first time I felt something like love was when dad brought me home a puppy. The cutest puppy in the world. That felt like joy, comfort, happiness, until I realized that someday I wouldn’t have him anymore, because he’d die.

Because love is something you lose.

The second time I felt love was on Easter. Grandpa brought me a huge milk chocolate  bunny. It was almost a foot high and I sat on the floor near the bed, hiding and ate it all before dinner. I wanted that love safe, in my belly.

Because love is something that you might lose.

What did I learn about love?

Love was something that went missing. It went upstairs to the bedroom and it moaned and groaned from the pain.

Love was still in a casket. Death unexplained. I was too young to understand.

Love was painful. It hurt like hell.

And love was embarrassing. Thanks to you Bob.  Love was everyone knowing about the cum all over your winter coat.

Love was shameful.

Love was losing him to a girl with big breasts. Love was carving my initials in my wrist. Love still knew that I did exist.

Then love became an obsession. It was to be chased. Love became a distant feeling that I wanted to grasp and hold and cling to.

But it kept running from me.

Love broke my heart wide open.

Love was fragile, something I wasn’t worthy of.

Now, I remove all of what wasn’t love, to something much more defined by me.

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Tell me, what do you know about love?

 

Featured Artist

@city_scum

What Would Love Do?

So how can we keep our relationships fresh?  In a time when so many are divided, perhaps we can start by adding some love to our language. By Madeline Johnson

During times like these when the world seems like an increasingly hostile place the disillusionment we feel in our hearts may ignite the desire to disconnect, isolate and retreat from others.

We might be starving for deep conversation but avoid so many opportunities to connect. We shy away from many topics – relationships, politics, the environment, economics – because we are so divided. We dare not stir things up or cause confrontation.

Be that as it may, we are innately social creatures, hardwired to seek each other out and profoundly shaped by our relationships.

So how can we keep our relationships fresh?  In a time when so many are divided, perhaps we can start by adding some love to our language.

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Seriously, when moments need mending, we might ask ourselves, What would love do?

Well for starters love might connect with a smile, send out a compliment and turn up the positive energy.

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Love might seek to build rapport with others – looking for ways to connect with commonality –  instead of repelling each other with problems and differences.

What would love do?

Love would tell a joke, laugh a little more, aim to lighten up hearts.

Love is bold and remains courageously open and admits vulnerability.

Love knows that while you are not going to get along with everyone you can adjust your expectations and maintain a level of respectful decorum.

Love is more civil and rises above the irrational.

The language of love remains calm and it doesn’t engage with just anything. Love never gets emotionally hijacked.

Love maintains a perspective and melts into this very moment, one beat at a time.

Love leans in and innately knows that people are covering up. Love looks for clues in every thing said and unsaid.

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Super Inspiring  Atlas of Emotions

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The Atlas of Emotion was commissioned by the Dalai Lama, his purpose is “ In order to find the new world we needed a map, and in order for us to find a calm mind we need a map of our emotions”. The simple, but not easy, goal of this Atlas is to help us be aware of our emotions. Awareness of our emotions means understanding how they are triggered, what they feel like and how we respond. Awareness itself is a strategy, it helps us understand our emotion experiences

Featured Artist

Mike Worrall

Too Busy To Feel

Why don’t we honor what it means to be a feeling, thinking being? By Madeline Johnson

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The consequences of emotional avoidance are usually worse than the experience of what we try to avoid.

What avoiding your emotions does –

  • Reinforces the idea that discomfort/distress/anxiety is “bad” or “dangerous.” It reduces your ability to face and tolerate necessary pain.
  • Limits your ability to fully experience the present moment.
  • Keeps you from moving toward the important, valued aspects of life.
  • Often leads to suffering: addiction, helplessness, hopelessness, depression, damaged relationships, and lost opportunities.

Read More How Avoiding Emotions Keeps Them High Intensity

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The ways in which we hold ourselves back by running from our feelings.

  • Situational: avoiding people, places, or things
  • Cognitive: avoiding thoughts, images, or memories
  • Somatic: avoiding unpleasant physical sensations
  • Protective: avoiding uncertainty through frequent checking, procrastinating, or assurance seeking
  • Substitution: avoiding by numbing, suppressing, addictive behaviors, or replacement emotions (i.e., replacing shame with anger)

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Those moments when you are just too busy to feel, but your emotions leak through anyway.

  • Will you love me if I’m boring?
  • I just feel helpless not being able to help you.
  • Why do I feel guilty letting you know what I need to be happy?

Why don’t we honor what it means to be a feeling, thinking being?

What if we were to embrace all of these feelings instead?

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These feelings are signals for growth. Eventually, you will have to walk through that door. These emotions you are running from are your keys to freedom. Let them guide you to do everything you don’t want to do.

Read Richard J. Davidson’s The Emotional Life of Your Brain

Featured Artwork

Liquid PinkContemporary and surreal digital collage art and photo manipulation by Gaia Barnatan. Based in Byron Bay, Australia.

The Messy Process of Loving Yourself

Learning to love and respect yourself isn’t something that you decide to do one day. It’s a daily practice. By Madeline Johnson

Learning to love and respect yourself isn’t something that you decide to do one day. It’s a daily practice. Self-acceptance requires patience and practice and maybe even managing those great expectations you have for yourself while holding onto your standards.

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Expectations can sometimes get in the way of lessons and joy found in unexpected experiences.

-George Leonard, Poet/Philosopher and the granddaddy of the consciousness movement.

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To be unaware of our irrationality and

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is what keeps us stuck.

Read More: The Three Levels of Self-Awareness by Mark Manson

An argument for loving and accepting yourself . . .

When we refuse to accept ourselves as we are, then we return to the constant need for numbing and distraction. And we will similarly be unable to accept others the way they are, so we will look for ways to manipulate them, change them, or convince them to be a person they are not. Our relationships will become transactional, conditional, and ultimately toxic and fail.

Go deeper into learning about how to better handle adversity in your life. Read his book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.

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Featured Art

Leif is an artist and Creative Director. His work explores themes of connectedness, the relevance of nature and the psychedelic experience. By utilizing these subjects he attempts to inspire the viewer into a realignment with themselves and their surroundings.

New Ways to Experience The World

Expanding your cognitive horizons through new experiences. Reimagining what exists in completely new ways. By Madeline Johnson

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The Objective:

Expanding your cognitive horizons through new experiences. Reimagining what exists in completely new ways.

Why we need to do it:

The complexity of today’s global society and the accelerating rate of change requires that we continuously learn, think, create, and seek to build and experience new innovations. Truth be told, we simply don’t have a choice.

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Understanding how we learn.

Fluid vs Crystalized Intelligence

Fluid intelligence is your capacity to learn new information, retain it, then use that new knowledge as a foundation to solve the next problem, or learn the next new skill, and so on. When you encounter an entirely new problem that cannot be solved with your existing knowledge, you must rely on fluid intelligence to solve it.

One way to think of fluid intelligence is that you’ll use it slightly differently each time you’re in a new situation, so it’s flexible and adaptive – like water in its fluid form.

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By comparison, crystallized intelligence is the ability to use all the learned knowledge and experience stored in our heads. When you’re taking a class at school, you use crystallized intelligence all the time. When you’re learning a new language, you memorize the new vocabulary words and increase your vocabulary over time. You can improve your crystallized intelligence by reading new books and taking classes.

Read  Five Ways to Improve Your Fluid Intelligence

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You can build your fluid intelligence by constantly exposing yourself to new things, as you are prime your brain for learning. What is new and unseen triggers dopamine, which stimulates the creation of new neurons, and this also smooths the journey to learning. “Always look to new activities to engage your mind—expand your cognitive horizons,” says Kuszewski.

High Attitude

Gains in intelligence don’t come from sticking to the same old routines. Keep exploring new things in life and keep learning new things. Tackle learning a new language. Take piano or drum lessons. Visit a new country and learn about the people and culture.

A Case for Immersive Experiences

A wide range of new studies are finding that motor skills, hand-eye coordination, aerobic conditioning and daily physicality are important for maintaining working memory and fluid intelligence.

Craving New Experiences & Exposing Yourself To New Ideas

I am the type of person that craves new experiences, specifically those that involve as many of my senses as possible.  I am more than willing to spend money and time on mesmerizing, immersive experiences like Jump into the Light, a new virtual reality experience in Manhattan; Fuerza Bruta, a dynamic, theatrical performance that started in New York and an Inipi Sweat Lodge Ceremony in Miami.

We also gain fluid knowledge by socializing, networking, mixing and mingling. Being with other people, we expose yourself to new ideas, environments, and opportunities.

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Featured Artist

Eugenia Loli

Starting off in the working world as a nurse, Eugenia then took a U-turn and became a computer programmer, which lead her down the path of becoming a technology journalist and a filmmaker.

Your Courageous Heart

I think it would amazing if we all came with operating instructions. A dashboard or a manual for our hearts by Madeline Johnson

You have to have a pretty strong, tough, courageous heart to love another person deeply. To commit your being to another. Oh and then to have it smashed and broken by them and to be brave enough to fall in love again.

Humans, they’re tricky.  We all are.  What is this fickle falling in and out of love thing we do?

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I think it would be amazing if we all came with operating instructions. A dashboard or a manual for our hearts. Something that could show our significant other that deep down, we all need the essentials – to feel love, appreciated and accepted.

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Read Simple Reminders

So what happens when we don’t feel loved? When we don’t feel like we are getting the love we need? The respect we want?

We feel threatened and we feel vulnerable. We fear being abandoned, rejected, thrown away. Discarded.

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The more vulnerable we feel, the more we want to run.  Sometimes in the heat of an argument, we lash out.

We say such harmful words when we are angry. Words we don’t really mean.

Why?

Because words are powerful and we think they will protect our hearts, they will shield us from heartache and protect our need to feel loved and accepted.

Why we think it works.

Because it does. Temporarily.  Until it doesn’t.

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Think about it. What’s more powerful than telling someone that you are done with them, you are leaving?  It’s over. I’m out of here.

Look at how powerful you look when you say or do that threaten to leave thing you do out of fear. You were the one to say it first. You won. You protected your heart.

Now they can’t hurt you. Momentary relief and then comes regret. You didn’t really mean that.

What you really wanted to say . . .

You mean so much to me. I am scared you will leave me. I am afraid you won’t love me.  I don’t want you to manipulate me. I need you to accept me. Why won’t you work this out with me? Don’t you really love me?

So why do we rage at the ones we love? Threaten to leave. Break up?

Because we are terrified.

Where did you learn such behavior?

These poor coping skills were learned from watching others. From past relationships.

This lack of self-awareness and emotional maturity creates disasters. Disasters that keep failing forward into relationships all over the world.

A Better Way to Protect Your Heart

It begins with understanding yourself better. Knowing what you are afraid of and facing that fear head on. The second step. Showing the world that vulnerability.

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Perhaps you have had your heart broken. Maybe you were hurt badly by someone in the past. Anyone – your mom, your dad, your uncle, sister, brother, friend. . . .

Perhaps you were abandoned.

You made a sworn promise to yourself – that will never happen again. I will be loved, accepted and cherished for who I am. I will never be left alone again.

When you are threatened you have a choice. You can try to scream your feelings from the roof tops and curse your way into a frightening rage to be heard or you can softly surrender and open your vulnerable heart to another.

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Read Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

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Flip side: What you need to know if you are really being manipulated.

Featured Art

Tomoki Hayasaka is a self-taught artist and designer from Sendai Japan. He makes surreal-conceptual art and design.

Close Encounters of the Real Kind

Such a refreshing thought – to actually meet someone who is genuinely real and speaking the truth.  Now that is some rare shit.

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Sometimes the very people we are closest to become unreal to us. We might easily assume we know what life is like for them and forget that, like us, they are always changing, their experience is always new. We lose sight of how fully they too are living with hurts and fears, how hard life can be on the inside. – excerpt from Radical Acceptance 

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Now I’ve been accused of being too tough on my family.  My tone too harsh . . . .coming in too hot. . . way too aggressive, they cry.   I’m not soft enough, gentle enough, kind enough.  I don’t give them enough room to be human.

I have also been described by my family as angry, enraged, and demanding and someone who can never be pleased.  This in turn has made me a lightening rod for blame.

It’s a terribly messy situation and it has also alienated me quite a bit.

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Recognizing Our Humanmess & Pulling Our Emotional Weight 

I had to ask myself, am I really that emotionally insensitive? or . . . .am I perhaps emotionally exhausted, with very little patience to have the “tell me what I want to hear conversations“. You know how they go.  The one you where you are trying to give some good sensible advice and it sucks all of your time and energy. . .and the troubled one cries, moans and complains and then goes on to make even bigger, unavoidable mistakes.

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Now having a mentally-ill ex who uses the children as weapons does nothing to elevate the family dynamics one bit.  He is sick, he is weak and the weak grasp onto anything they can to stay afloat. It’s truly painful and pitiful and annoying as hell.

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Growing up with a bullet-proof, hard-headed immigrant family I have been trained to do one thing and one thing only. When we have a problem we fix it. Simple as that. No added drama and delusional ego defense tactics. We simply make the repairs. . . . we change our behavior, our environment, our thinking, whatever it is we need to do, including removing ourselves from the messes left behind.

I was taught to humbly take complete ownership for myself, my life and my actions.

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Yet I do believe it is okay to ruminate for a solution and to sometimes overthink things – -but it’s not okay to go around thinking badly or poorly. The world is not out to get us. The real problem is you, it is very, very rarely what happens to you.

This lack of desire to sit with another and hold space for them for a very long time, when they do nothing to face their challenges – is the issue.

You see when I think about their complaints about me, I realize its not just my tone that they don’t like.  It’s how they interpret the tone.  When I am firm, they hear you’re not good enough, you’re a mess, you are just terrible and you really don’t have it together” and there in lies the suffering – the sever in the relationship.

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Stuck, it’s my lack of desire and willingness to placate them. To sit with their suffering. To buy into their woe is me helplessness.

For this I have been pegged as emotionally unaware, arrested in my growth and a non-compassionate person. Which is the farthest thing from the truth. I am wildly compassionate and loving but also a huge fan of the being absolutely honest with ourselves.

So, I do two things at once. I call bullshit on their desire to expect me to sit and stir the pot of sadness and sorrow that they decided to make for dinner and eat for left overs.

But, more importantly, I apply a bit of compassion to their pain and suffering by asking myself two questions before we begin –

What does she need right now?

What does this person fear right now?

These two questions help bring us closer together as humans.

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The Endless Struggle to Think Well of Ourselves & Living in a World Where Everyone is Real

“Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm; but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.”

T.S. Eliot “The Cocktail Party”

 

 

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Fact: A complete stranger upon meeting you within the first five minutes of getting to know you, will know more about your flaws than you will ever learn in a life time. 

-Alain de Botton

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Caught up in their own self-centered drama, most wander the planet fantasizing that they are a caring and kind person even when inside they know they are a absolutely reckless and uncaring.  We all walk the fine line of wanting to be accepted and appreciated while anxiously defending our ego.

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I agree with Alain de Botton –

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However, there is a difference between living for approval and connecting with others without ego.

Living in a world where everyone is real. (an excerpt from Radical Acceptance)

One of the most remarkable things I’ve noticed about the Dalai Lama is how he treats everyone equally. When the Dalai Lama says “My religion is kindness” he is expressing his commitment to live with the unconditionally open and loving heart of compassion. Kindness is a facet of the jewel of compassion.  It is the desire to help that arises when we remember that we are connected with every living being we meet. Each person is precious, each person is fragile, each person matters.

Remembering we are all real.

 

Read:

Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach

Be Who You Are, Not Who You Wish You Were

How to be authentic with Madeline Johnson, writer, thinker and strategist.

I am helping this genuinely lovely couple build their wellness empire. They own a mine, a mine with liquid gold. Lucky them. So blessed. I consult them about business, marketing and growth plans. I help them build actionable strategies and tactics. We have weekly FaceTime conversations and tonight after yet another long call they blew my mind with something they said to me.

They said, “Madeline, We are so happy we met you. You are so positive and you make us believe we can do anything. You make us feel so strong. You open our minds and you have made us understand that being around positive people is very important.”

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They didn’t know it but I was melting inside. My heart filled with a lightness, a brightness I haven’t felt in a very long time. I know that what I need is to feel valued.  Yes it is true, we all need to feel deeply appreciated. Tonight I felt recognized, respected and prized.  I also felt happy, light and free.

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I use to think feeling happy was practically impossible.

Now, honestly, between you and I well, I abhor the word “happy” and it’s my father’s fault.

So, Why The Hell am I So Happy?

I’ll never forget what my father, a depressing kind of dude at times, said to me when I was about 15.  You see I am a smiler. I smile through everything. I smile when I am sad, when I am angry, by myself, with others. It doesn’t matter what I am doing, I just feel a sort of smile in my heart.  So Mr. moody swinger, daddy O passes me in the hall and asks me –

Why are you so “happy”?

Nice thing to hear from father dear during my formative years.

My automatic response  because I am. I am happy.  Genuinely happy.

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Doesn’t matter what’s going down, I am always going to be happy. It’s just my nature. Sure I feel grief, sadness, anger, rage – yup, even rage, but for some reason, I always swing back to happy.  This is where the good vibes grow.

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P.S. If you want to be happy, be aware of manipulative ass hats with selfish agendas.