March 1, 2008 
 HealingHeartPower Newsletter
 Reclaiming the Power of the Heart
In This Issue

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As the weather vacillates between the snowstorms of winter and the warmer temperatures of spring, the March issue of the HealingHeartPower newsletter finds its way to your inbox.

I am delighted to be hosting Robert Masters and Diane Bardwell as they bring their Transformation Through Intimacy work to Boston for the very first time.

Articles in this issue have a particularly relational and quality of life flavor to them: Emotional Connection and Good Health: Why We Shouldn't Do It All Alone, Living a Life of Design: Building a Halcyon Life by my colleague, Hillary Rettig, author of The Lifelong Activist, and Working It Out After Divorce: Co-Parenting As a Lifelong Process.

I look forward to seeing some of you at the March 15 Healing the Traumatized Heart workshop. And it isn't too soon to register for our 2nd annual November EKP Cape Retreat. For details on the Cape Retreat, contact Gretchen Stecher at gwild7@verizon.net.

Your comments and contributions are welcome, as always.

Heartfully, Linda

 Emotional Connection and Good Health:
 Why We Shouldn't Do It All Alone

"Self-sufficiency" and "independence" are qualities our culture promotes and even idealizes. Look to the movies for the attractiveness of "the strong silent type" of man. And the professionally successful, self-reliant woman achieves higher social status today than the warm, nurturing, relationship-oriented woman of decades past.

One could say that we have not only enculturated a love affair with self-reliance, but also gone to the extreme of promoting pathologicial self-reliance. While self- sufficiency and independence to a point are important benchmarks of adulthood, taken too far, these same traits are hazardous to our hearts.

Henry S. Lodge, MD, author of Younger Next Year, writes, "the science of the past decade has demonstrated that love, companionship and community are deeply women into our DNA. Emotional connection is a biological imperative, and we pay a high price for ignoring it. Isolation is what's unnatural--and deadly."

Lodge notes that men who have heart attacks who go home to empty houses and have "a high level of stress are four times more likely to die within the first few years." For those who are most isolated, the risk of premature death from any cause is up to five times higher.

And being connected impacts the small stuff as well as long-term health. "More connected people are happier and healthier across the spectrum of life, in thousands of major and minor ways," acknowledges Lodge. Having a strong sense of social connection will reduce the number of colds you'll get, in addition to increasing the odds of surviving cancer. "Love, friendship and community can't be written out on a prescription pad, but they should be."

We would all be healthier if our culture would teach emotional literacy skills--to know ones own heart, and to value the time investment required to build and sustain intimate relationships. Instead of trying to push away, shut off, ignore or medicate our emotions, we need to learn to understand and heed the messages they give.

Lodge reflects, "Emotion is not nature's afterthought; it is one of the master regulators of health and happiness in every corner of your body. You have trillions of emotional signals moving around your brain and body every day." Trying to shut our emotions off is hazardous to our health. Learning to speak the language of our emotions and our bodies can help live a healthier and happier life.

This information really challenges the "I am a rock, I am an island," socialization process for men, which also has effected more and more women, as our society has promoted professional success and devalued investing time in nurturing relationships. I am afraid the pathological self-reliance idealized in our culture is rooted in the degree of heart trauma people live through and then ultimately, live with.

How do we promote connection in our daily lives?

1. Make time to cuddle up. My cats curl up with one another and sleep contently every day. The same can hardly be said for most people in our culture, including those who live with a partner.

2. Understand the biological imperative to be part of a group. It may be easier to do everything on your own, but you will go farther and last longer if you take the time to do things with friends, family and loved ones. Lodge says, "reconnecting with your community becomes a life-affirming, lifesaving and urgent priority."

3. Invest in and value your primary relationship. Lodge notes that men who are married live longer than men who are not, and credits this to their wives' emotional connections. "A woman's death cuts about five years off her husband's life expectancy." The fact that if a man dies, his wife's life expectancy drops for the first four years, but as she adjusts to her new life, her life expectancy increases. Lodge reflects, "That's a humiliating and embarrassing comment on how little effort men put into their emotional infrastructure."

4. Reach out to others. So many of us are always waiting for the other person to make the first move. Don't wait. Initiate. Find a concert you want to attend, and invite a friend or loved one to join you. Have a group of people over for dinner. Talk to the person exercising next to you at the gym.

5. Turn off the tv, and tune in to your relationships. So many people rely on the constant chatter of the television set to keep them company as they decompress after a long day. While the news can be a constant companion, it's not the same as a real- time conversation--or silent moment--with a loved one or friend.

Share your thoughts: 

 Living A Life of Design
 Building a Halcyon Life by Hillary Rettig

Gone are the halcyon days Samuel R. Delaney writes of in his memoir, The Motion of Light in Water: Sex and Science Fiction Writing in the East Village, when his full-time but fairly relaxed (and low-paying) job as a Strand Bookstore clerk was enough to support him and his wife, poet Marilyn Hacker, in an East Village loft while they began their writing careers. True, the loft was cold and seedy, but who cared? They were young, passionate, and living in one of the most energetic and creative communities in the world.

That was way back in the 1960's. Since then, the price of urban real estate has skyrocketed and incomes (in real terms) have plummeted: this makes it much harder to live as an artist, activist or other ambitious dreamer.

Another difficulty is The Winner-Take-All Society trend documented in a book by that name by Robert Frank and Philip Cook. They write about how modern technology has created global markets in which regional talent must compete with global superstars, and also with mediocre talents backed by powerful marketing and distribution machines (think Thomas Kinkade).

And while it's great that we all have access to the superstars, the trend has been hard on regional talents--including artists, craftspersons, food artisans, and even sports teams--who would have thrived in previous eras, but who these days simply can't compete. This trend converges painfully with the Bowling Alone trend documented by sociologist Robert Putnam in which Americans increasingly forego participation in the public sphere (i.e., they stay home and watch too much TV); and also the "erosion of the middlebrow" trend, in which American culture is increasingly squeezed into the "high" or "low" camps, with little in between. (So, for example, we've got opera and pop, but no Gershwin, Cole Porter, etc.)

In my own field, writing, the middlebrow was exemplified by publications such as The Saturday Evening Post, which published John Steinbeck, Kay Boyle, C.S. Forester, F. Scott Fitzgerald, C.S. Lewis, and Ray Bradbury, along with hundreds of lesser- known but still worthwhile talents. Because of the eroding of the middlebrow, these authors' modern day equivalents have a much harder time earning a living.

Happily, regional creativity and community are making a comeback. But a key survival strategy for ambitious dreamers remains finding a day job that meets our financial needs without sucking up all our time and energy, and also that doesn't violate our principles. Make no mistake: this is a challenging task that takes time to accomplish. But it is definitely doable, and totally worth the effort.

Here are some steps to get you started:

1) Cut back aggressively on your material "needs." This is a cliche, but it is also foundational to success in life. Many people now work forty or more hours a week to support a lifestyle they don't even like-- what's the point? Better to cut back-- drastically, if possible--and start building the life you really want. If you don't know how, start reading books on simplicity.

2) Get a career, not a job. As discussed in "The Lifelong Activist," many ambitious dreamers make the mistake of drifting from one crappy, low-paying job to another. (Cf. activist Mickey Z's book The Murdering of My Years). Instead, build a long-term career for yourself in some interesting, helpful and decently remunerative field such as social service, medical technology, green business, or library science. Or, if you're sufficiently motivated, you can probably get a job doing some form or art or activism. See The Lifelong Activist for more suggestions and strategies.

3) While employed, work diligently to reclaim as much of your time and energy as possible. Urge your boss to give you flextime or let you telecommute; reduce your workweek to 25 or 30 hours (while still preserving your benefits); or let you work four ten-hour days instead of five eight-hour ones, so that you have three days a week with which to pursue your dream. This is easier than you might think, but it requires that you, (a) work someplace that aspires to treat its employees well, and (b) are an excellent employee, so that your boss is willing to accommodate your needs Many people are initially reluctant to approach their boss with their "personal" needs, but find out that, once they open up and share their dream, their boss is often touched by their openness and motivated to support them. Humanity responds to humanity.

Is all of this easier said than done? Of course, in the short term. In the long term, it's far easier to live a life of keeping with your core values, and in which you have a chance to pursue your dreams, than to "murder" your years and live in unhappiness. It's probably also not as hard as you anticipate, in part because once you start making the move to living a "life of design," you'll meet other people on a similar path and you will all support each other in building your halcyon lives.

Hillary Rettig, author of The Lifelong Activist: How to Change the World Without Losing Your Way (Lantern Books, 2006) , is a coach and workshop leader who specializes in helping activists, artists and others overcome fear, procrastination, perfectionism and blocks. Read more of her writings at www.lifelongactivist.com

Learn more about Hillary's work... 

 Working It Out After Divorce
 Co-Parenting As A Lifelong Process

When I work with couples who are facing divorce, there is often a hope, if not a wish, that when the divorce papers are final, the issues that led to the divorce are gone or can be left behind. While this is wonderful wishful thinking, what I have found is quite the opposite: the very issues that lead to divorce not only remain, but also can be more intense without the commitment to work through difficulties that most marriage commitments bring.

When children are involved, this becomes problematic. If mom and dad (or mom and mom or dad and dad) couldn't work it out when they were married, why on earth would you think they could work it out once they were divorced....or would even consider trying?

Children feel all the tension that exists between their divorced parents. And they often suffer when parents ignore this tension or act out from it. Children often feel "in the middle" (and are sadly, too often placed in the middle when parents cannot contain or work through their disappointment, anger, fear, or hurt). And even when they are not placed in the middle, they still feel pain that their parents are treating one another with animosity, contempt, distrust, disrespect, anger or fear.

If parents really love their children, one of the greatest gifts they can give their children once they divorce, is the gift of working through whatever issues are needed with their ex-spouse so that they can co- parent in the most respectful way possible. When I say respectful, I mean respect both for the children and for one another as ex-spouses and co-parents.

For some divorcing couples, this is work, but doable work. If the couple is divorcing from because of different needs and different goals, yet from a place of love and respect, it can be easier to put the needs of the children first. This requires a degree of maturity on the part of both divorcing parents, and the ability to put the children's needs first and foremost.

For many divorcing couples, the pain of the broken marriage can be so great that it contaminates all good intentions. While intellectually, few divorcing parents can argue against putting the needs of their children first, deep hurt, anger, pain, and resentment can far overpower any intellectual understanding. Sometimes it is surprising how primal behavior between two divorced parents can be.

When one is coming out of a particularly painful or abusive marriage, working it out with the ex-partner seems virtually impossible. After all, isn't the inability to work things out the reason why the marriage broke in the first place?

I believe strongly that a divorcing couple can benefit profoundly from "divorce therapy"--therapy to help the couple work through the divorce and with co-parenting issues over time, to assure whatever healing is possible can take place, and that both parents can make the emotional room to act in the best interests of their children. This "divorce therapy" becomes a kind of family therapy as the children grow older and can participate in the process themselves. Having the divorce therapy or family therapy space for the children gives them hope that even the hardest issues are workable, and that when things feel overwhelming or impossible, there is really is a way to make things better over time.

The thought of being in on-going therapy with an ex- spouse can seem unthinkable or even like torture. Who wants to spend all that money? Who wants to see their ex-spouse regularly and talk about hard issues? Who wants to be in therapy for years?

On the upside, therapy costs are far less than legal expenses. Couples who work out their emotional issues in a therapist' office, spend far less fighting each other in court. Too, having parents take responsibility for working on their emotional issues gives an invaluable model to kids. Emotional illiteracy is epidemic in our culture, and learning good communication and relationship process skills will help both parents and kids in all areas of their lives. The healing, learning and understanding that divorce or family therapy can offer is well worth the time, the money and the emotional energy invested.

This is a subject I write about from more than a theoretical or even clinical place. It is a subject I have lived myself for the past 10 years. When my ex- husband and I separated and moved towards divorce, I asked that we engage in on-going divorce and family therapy until our son was in his early 20's. I am very grateful that my ex-husband agreed. While there have been many rocky passages, having the steady container of the family therapy has allowed profound transformation to occur at every possible level.

As our son has encountered some of the issues that led to our divorce, having a place to name them, explore them and work with them has created a sense of safety and empowerment for him. Being able to develop his own voice and be able to define his own needs to his parents has allowed our now 12 year old son an emotional maturity beyond that of most of his peers. While he understands why his parents divorced, he also understands that the issues underlying divorce can still be addressed, worked through and made better in the higher interests of parenting a child.

For me, as the primary custodial parent, having this space has been invaluable when issues have arisen. Knowing there is a place, a time, a container for the hardest issues allows them to remain contained when appropriate and worked in an appropriate way. When two people have a child together, they are indeed bound together for life. Honoring this truth, and making a commitment together to honor the child is a profound spiritual journey.

Share your thoughts... 

 Upcoming Groups, Workshops and Programs

As this newsletter arrives, Robert Masters and Diane Bardwell are leading their Transformation Through Intimacy weekend retreat. If you would like to do a private session with Robert or Robert and Diane, a few more spaces on Tuesday, 3/4 and Wednesday 3/5 are available.

If you would like to participate in a future Transformation Through Intimacy workshop, please let me know.

My next Healing the Traumatized Heart workshop is March 15 from 1 - 4 pm in Newton. There are a few more spaces available in that workshop. Register and you can bring a friend or loved one for free.

EKP opportunities in Newton include:
  • Being a guest client in the Student Clinic
  • Apprenticing in EKP
  • On-going Thursday night EKP Body Psychotherapy Group
  • On-going Sunday EKP Monthly Process Group

To find out more.... 

 About Linda

Me and Flora Linda Marks, MSM, is pioneer in body psychotherapy who has developed, taught and practiced Emotional-Kinesthetic Psychotherapy (EKP) for more than two decades. Author of LIVING WITH VISION and HEALING THE WAR BETWEEN THE GENDERS, she co-founded the Massachusetts Association of Body Psychotherapists and Counseling Bodyworkers and is the founder of the Boston Area Sexuality and Spirituality Network. She holds degrees from Yale and MIT, and has a vital 12-year-old son.

To find out more about Linda... 

The Boston Area Sexuality and Spirituality Network programs for the 2007-2008 season are posted on www.sexspirit.net.