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Stop Trying To Figure Everything Out. Open To The Mystery Instead.

Posted by Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. on October 19, 2017 at 7:40 AM Comments comments (2)

I like to figure things out. Whether it’s in my personal or professional life, I seem to be constantly searching for answers. I make pro and con lists, I journal, I meditate, I ruminate, I read personal development books, I attend workshops, I watch inspirational videos. Heck, sometimes I even check my horoscope. I try to solve all of my problems down to the most minute detail. I weigh my options, check my calendar, make more lists, and think, think, think, think.


I try to think my way out of (and into) everything.


On the one hand, I enjoy my tireless mind. It has helped me accomplish big goals like getting my PhD. On the other hand, sometimes my over-thinking is just a bunch of rumination that doesn’t help much at all.


Most of the time I feel like I’m in a feedback loop from hell (as Mark Manson so eloquently described in his book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck). My feedback loop involves me over-thinking, followed by attempts to quiet my mind, followed by getting annoyed at myself for not being able to quiet my mind. This usually ends in frustration and hopelessness - hopelessness that I’ll never be able to access the part of me that knows the solution to my problem.

 

To get out of my feedback loop from hell, lately I’ve been playing with the idea of simply opening up to mystery. In other words, surrendering to the fact that some problems, issues, and life decisions aren’t meant to be known right now. And some might never be known (at least not at an intellectual level). My rational mind refuses to accept this, because it’s convinced that with enough logical thinking it can solve any problem. Sometimes my mind even convinces me that if I quiet it down enough, I’ll be able to tune into my heart/soul/intuition, where all the answers will be revealed.

 

Sometimes this happens. Many times it doesn’t.


This has led me to wonder if sometimes my heart/soul/intuition doesn’t have the answer because I’m not supposed to know the answer.

 

One of the main things that all humans have in common is that we’re participating in an enormous mystery. None of us truly knows why we’re here, or what happens after we die, or what lies beyond the reaches of what modern science has discovered about the world around us.

 

Speaking of science, I recently attended the International Transpersonal Conference in Prague. The conference was a gathering of a few hundred people who are interested in what I like to call life’s “big questions.” Questions about why we’re here, what our purpose is, and how we might help humanity evolve for the better. One of the panel discussions literally tried to answer the question, “What is the purpose of the universe?.” It was like my idea of heaven.


The conference was also the most cross-disciplinary meeting I’ve ever attended. The presenters and attendees were scientists, researchers, psychologists, quantum physicists, astro-physicists, indigenous shamans, nobel prize nominees, monks, mystics, and more. What they all had in common was an interest in the great mystery. They came to this interest in a variety of ways. Some spent years studying physics or astronomy only to realize that they couldn’t find all the answers there. Some had life-changing psychedelic experiences or spiritual awakenings or vision quests that brought them face-to-face with self-transcendence. It felt like a gathering of people from all corners of the globe and from a variety of disciplines who had bumped up against the edges of some great Unknown.



 

Many of the presenters brought up the idea that for the past few hundred years, science has been far too focused on what you might call materialism. In other words, most scientists hold that matter (i.e. physical objects made of atoms) is the basis of reality. This materialistic mindset has brought us many great technologies and scientific discoveries. We have things like electricity, airplanes, and organ transplants because scientists have spent years exploring the basic material aspects of physics, chemistry, and biology.


But there is still a lot of unknown.

 

Since the early 1970s, physicists have used what’s called the Standard Model of particle physics to explain most of the physical world around us, and they’ve done a really good job. But even the Standard Model doesn't explain everything (read this article for a full description). Scientists have also found that when you start to examine matter at a quantum level, particles no longer behave like concrete physical objects. Instead, particles seem to behave like waves or clusters of vibrations that are held together in specific ways.


There are even studies suggesting that when we observe matter, we change the way that it behaves (at least at a quantum level). Dean Radin, Chief Scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, gave a presentation about how his lab has used double-slit optical experiments to show that humans can influence physical matter (photons) at a quantum level - even from a distance - simply by setting a conscious intention to influence the photons. Put more simply, consciousness affects matter.


These experiments fly in the face of a strictly materialist paradigm, because unlike gravity or the electromagnetic force, consciousness is not currently recognized in the scientific community as being a physical force. Instead, consciousness is often thought to be a random byproduct of neurons firing in our brain - it is not believed to have the ability to influence anything in the physical world. But if consciousness is not a physical force, then how is it able to affect physical objects like photons? Dr. Radin’s research has since been replicated by at least one independent lab (you can watch a video about his experiments here). In a nutshell, his results suggest that our intentions and attention might influence the world around us in ways that we don’t fully understand.

 

One of the main hypotheses that was put forth at the conference was that consciousness might be the underlying substrate of all of existence - not matter. In other words, scientists from a variety of disciplines are starting to converge on the idea that there is some sort of “intelligent force” that might be governing the laws of our universe. This force is really hard for us to wrap our heads around because it seems to transcend space and time. But in the same way that gravity causes an apple to fall from a tree, this force seems to hold our universe together in some sort of non-random, coherent way.


People have referred to this force as the cosmos, consciousness, intelligence, information, creativity, the field, energy, vibration, or even as love or god. Not god as in organized religion or a man sitting on a fluffy white cloud. We’re talking quantum physics here, but sometimes language is limited in its ability to describe complex, mystical phenomena. Nobel Peace Prize nominee Ervin Laszlo referred to our universe as “a non-local field of complex vibrations that are held together in a coherent way by a force that we can best identify as intelligence.” Theoretical quantum physicist Amit Goswami described physical objects as being waves of possibility that become particles of actuality when we measure or observe them.

 

Kind of mind-blowing, right?

 

At the moment, however, there are more questions than answers. We don’t know if things that happen at the quantum level can be extrapolated to the physical world that you and I see with our naked eyes. We don’t have the instruments to measure this “intelligent force.” We don’t even seem to have the cognitive capacity to identify it - although some people who have experienced spiritual awakenings (awakenings that bypassed their usual cognitive abilities) seem to have come close to feeling/experiencing/knowing it.

 

To hardcore rational materialists, these ideas sound like nonsense. Materialists believe that our physical world is what it is because of the physical laws that we’ve discovered so far. As Rupert Sheldrake mentions in his book The Science Delusion:


“Science is being constricted by assumptions that have hardened into dogmas. The 'scientific worldview' has become a belief system. All reality is material or physical. The world is a machine, made up of dead matter. Nature is purposeless. Consciousness is nothing but the physical activity of the brain.”

 

But the International Transpersonal Conference showed me that science is starting to push the boundaries of these ideas. It appears that science is starting to open up to mystery. The scientists at the conference were not all voodoo-hippie-weirdos. They were researchers with rigorous academic credentials, shamans with deep indigenous knowledge, and physicists who work on cutting edge projects like the CERN initiative. That being said, the researchers who are exploring these mysteries tend to live on the fringes of science. Many are even scared to admit their interests in “mysterious” topics because they fear being ridiculed by their colleagues.

 

This is not new. Throughout history, scientists who espoused “fringe” ideas were often regarded with caution at best, or accused of witchcraft at worst. Even Galileo was imprisoned for his hypothesis that the earth revolves around the sun. I believe that right now, humans are at a point where we need to loosen our grip on materialism and open up to the idea that there might be forces in this universe that transcend the known laws of physics. This doesn’t mean we throw out all of the great materialist ideas that came before us. It means we broaden our mindset to include something more.

 

This cross-disciplinary, open-minded pursuit of mystery and truth is what’s ultimately going to take science, and humanity, to the next level. After all, is it so hard to believe that one day, science and spirituality might converge? Perhaps eventually we will develop tools and methods that confirm, rigorously and scientifically, the transcendent phenomena that mystics (and ordinary people) from a variety of religious and spiritual traditions have been describing for thousands of years. These people often describe spiritual awakenings that involve experiencing a sense of immense oneness, interconnectedness, and love that transcends all sense of their self, ego, space, and time. Could this feeling of transcendence be the “intelligent force,” or consciousness, that’s holding our universe together? Only time will tell.

 

I also believe that for many of us, our personal and professional lives are microcosms of the shifts that are slowly starting to happen in science. On a personal level, many of us have spent most of our lives trying to use the laws of reason and logic to solve our problems. Many of us hold matter as primary, believe the world is random and meaningless, and have closed our minds to the possibility of mystery. Personally, I’ve spent years studying within a materialist paradigm that has taught me to do research in very narrow (albeit rigorous) ways. Like many people around me, I’m starting to open up to the concept of mystery in both my personal and professional life.

 

Tama Kieves recently posted a video on Facebook about how we never truly figure anything out. Instead, we follow it out. In other words, when you are presented with a decision, issue, or problem, you engage in action - any type of action - and that action provides you with information. You can then use that information to inform your next action, and so on. You mindfully engage with the mystery of life and see what happens.

 

But, in the end, maybe I’ll never figure anything out. Maybe our universe is just a random bunch of matter spinning around aimlessly. Maybe consciousness is just a byproduct of our physical brain. As a good scientist, I need to stay open to these ideas until someone proves otherwise. However, I need to stay equally open to the idea that there is way more to our universe than we currently understand.


In this moment I’m choosing to let things be and play with the mystery. How about you?


***


If you’re interested, here are a few books written by some of the conference presenters (note that I haven’t read all of these books, so I’m not necessarily endorsing them - I’m just providing them as resources for those interested!):

 

The Intelligence of The Cosmos: Why Are We Here?

The Science Delusion: Freeing The Spirit of Enquiry

Real Magic: Ancient Wisdom, Modern Science, and a Guide to the Secret Power of the Universe ( coming in 2018 )


And here are the websites of a few of the speakers I enjoyed listening to:

 

Dean Radin

Amit Goswami

Ervin Laszlo

Stephan Martin

Richard Tarnas

Jan Rak



Should You Tell The Truth Or Keep Quiet? The Paradox of "Radical Honesty"

Posted by Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. on September 22, 2017 at 4:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Over the past 7 years I’ve written countless blogs about the importance of being authentic. I’ve called this authenticity many things: soul, true self, inner guidance, intuition, etc. No matter what I’ve called it, I’ve consistently advocated that my readers (and myself) live from a place of honesty and truth.


But now I’m going to tell you the exact opposite.


Because the truth is that you don’t always have to share your truth - at least not all the time or right away.

 

A few weeks ago I was watching an episode of Ray Donovan on Netflix (a guilty pleasure). The episode involved a (dysfunctional) family party where most of the characters gathered together to celebrate a birthday. After a few too many drinks, many of the characters started telling each other deep, often hurtful truths about their feelings and their relationships. The party went completely off the tracks as everyone began fighting - with words and fists. In the same episode, there was a character who portrayed a cheesy self-help guru who kept preaching about the idea of “radical honesty.”


This got me thinking about honesty, and the situations when honesty is (and is not) appropriate in our lives.

 

I was reminded of how often we all go to parties that have huge white elephants in the room that everyone ignores. We smile, we shake hands, we make idle chit chat, all the while knowing who is actually upset with who, who cheated on who, and who can’t stand to be in the same room with who. When I’m in these types of social settings I often get intense cravings for something real. I want people to talk about things that matter to them, to be honest with each other about their feelings, and to avoid going to a party if they really don’t want to be there. I have a very hard time making small talk, which is why you’ll often find me huddled in a corner with one (or a few) close friends, digging deep into what’s really going on in their lives.

 

I crave authenticity from everyone around me, almost as if truth is the air that I breathe.


But.

 

I’ve realized over time that honesty must go hand-in-hand with discernment. There is a time and place for everything, and sometimes, sharing your truth at the wrong time can do more harm than good.

 

I mean, do you really need (or want) to know how many people your partner has slept with? Do you need (or want) to know the real reason(s) why your parents split up? Do you need (or want) to know what your partner fantasizes about when they masturbate? Do you need (or want) to know what your boss really thinks of you?

 

For some people, the answer to all of these questions will be yes. For others, it will be a mix of yes and no, or all no. All of these answers are fine. The problem with encouraging radical honesty is that it makes people feel like they’re doing a disservice to their soul if they don’t tell and seek out the truth 100% of the time.

 

Let me make this very clear: I think that sharing your truth is crucial to a life well-lived. It’s just that you need to be psychologically, emotionally, and even physically ready for the repercussions of your truth. The reason for this is that radical honesty often blows your life wide open. It shines light on all the dark spaces that the people around you might not be ready or willing to see. It is a fire that burns away all that is untrue (think Daenerys Stormborns’ dragons). It can cause people to be angry with you, to reject you, or even to think you’re crazy. Your relationships or friendships might dissolve, you might lose your job, or you might lose the respect of people you admire. You need to be strong in mind and body in order to face these reactions, especially when they come from people you care deeply about.

 

So I’m telling you to be authentic. And to not be authentic.

 

Yes, it’s a paradox (as all good wisdom is).

 

You need to decide for yourself, using the most clear discernment that you can muster, which situations are calling forth radical honesty from you. And you need to be prepared for the potential repercussions.



 

The decision-making process around whether or not to share your truth is complex and unique for each person. There are all sorts of situations where we can decide to share or decide to hold back. These situations can be as mundane as saying “no” to a social invitation that would sap your energy, to something as intense as how to share your truth within the tangled web of infidelity. Esther Perel’s upcoming book, “The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity” poses a few interesting questions:

 

“What draws people outside the boundaries of commitment they worked so hard to establish? Why does sexual betrayal hurt so much? Is an affair always selfish and weak, or can it in some cases be understandable, acceptable, even an act of boldness and courage? And whether we have known this drama or not, what can we draw from the excitement of infidelity to enliven our relationships?


Must a secret love always be revealed? Does passion have a finite shelf life? And are there fulfillments that a marriage, even a good one, can never provide? How do we negotiate the elusive balance between our emotional needs and our erotic desires? Has monogamy outlived its usefulness? What is fidelity? Can we love more than one person at once?


For me, these conversations are part and parcel of any adult, intimate relationship. For most couples, unfortunately, the crisis of an affair is the first time they talk about any of this. Catastrophe has a way of propelling us into the essence of things. I encourage you not to wait for a storm, but to address these ideas in a quieter climate. Talking about what draws us outside our fences, and about the fear of loss that accompanies it, in an atmosphere of trust can actually promote intimacy and commitment. Our desires, even our most illicit ones, are a feature of our humanity.”


In other words, Perel is advocating honesty before the storm - in a container of deep trust between two people. But she concludes with a warning:


“Be forewarned: Addressing these issues requires a willingness to descend into a labyrinth of irrational forces. Love is messy; infidelity more so. But it is also a window, like none other, into the crevices of the human heart.”

 

The point is that when it comes to being honest about anything, timing is everything.

 

However, being honest is kind of like having children - the timing might never feel 100% perfect. But you can start to get smart about when and where to be authentic. As I mentioned in my recent blog about relationships, you can get honest with your partner about your needs and desires before the storm of infidelity hits. You can get honest with your boss about what you need at work before things get so bad that you have a heart attack. You can get honest with a friend who is disrespecting your boundaries before you end up getting into an irrational argument.

 

Personally, I’ve found myself growing into a space in my life where the repercussions of my authenticity are often less painful than the weight of keeping things inside. I’ve been doing a lot of contemplation and personal work around what is deemed “right” or “wrong” behavior by my culture, society, friends and family versus what is “right” or “wrong” for me on a deep, soul level. I’ve been playing with the archetype of the “rebel soul” who isn’t afraid to be my truest self, even if my self doesn’t quite fit within my current cultural/societal matrix. As Rumi wrote,


"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,

there is a field. I will meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,

the world is too full to talk about.

Language, ideas, even the phrase 'each other'

doesn't make any sense."


Yes, I have a professional life that sometimes requires me to maintain a certain persona. But little by little, that persona is falling away. I’ve grown tired of wearing masks in all areas of my life, both personal and professional. These days, I write blogs about all sorts of taboo topics and I’ve been very public about my personal struggles, including the 6 years that I spent on antidepressants. I’ve shared all of this knowing full well that friends, family, and even future employers could read my words and not like what I have to say. And while I’m happy to have an open discussion with these people about the things that I post online, I’ve come to realize that if a person or employer rejects me because of my truth, then that person or job isn’t meant to be in my life anyway.

 

At least not right now.

 

Because you see, the truth is a tricky beast. Truth operates in a non-linear fashion, and if you’re open enough, it will always find you. This means that sometimes the very people who rejected you or thought you were crazy will eventually come around. They might never agree with you - they might not even like you - but they will respect the fact that you shared honestly from your most authentic self.

 

When you share honestly from a deep, true place, you carry an energy that is often more important than the words you’re saying. We’ve all been in these situations before, when someone is sharing with us, or we're sharing with someone, and the content of what we’re sharing is coming from a sacred place. Our words might be upsetting, but they come with an energetic release. There is a sense of growth, clarity, and even respect on both sides for bearing witness to the fires of truth.

 

Besides, there’s only so much that we can convey with language, anyway. My blogs are heavily language-oriented, given that they are made up of the written word. But I’m often trying to convey feelings and energy more so than intellectual concepts. Some teachers call this energy a “transmission.” Whatever you call it, I’m trying to give you the felt sense of what it means to embody honesty, and how to develop the discernment necessary to know when to act on that honesty versus when to remain quiet.

 

In the end, the decision rests with you. There will be times when you will mess up by sharing too much, too soon. But this is part of the non-linear learning process.

 

I encourage you to practice discernment, share when it feels right and true, and make sure you’re ready for the potential outcome. If you’re not ready, stay quiet for now - but not forever. The truth will find you eventually.




Reconciling Creativity, Sexuality and Monogamy

Posted by Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. on September 7, 2017 at 4:30 AM Comments comments (4)

At first glance, the title of this blog might seem a bit odd. The words creativity, sexuality and monogamy don’t often appear together in the same sentence, but lately I’ve felt called to pull them together and share my thoughts on how they interrelate. As some of you know, I’ve been studying sacred sexuality for a couple of years. During this time I’ve learned and experienced some very interesting things - but I’ve also bumped up against what you might call sacred sexuality’s “shadow side."

 

Sexuality is such a charged and value-laden topic that even new-age-types haven’t escaped the murky waters that lie at the intersection between sexuality and spirituality. It’s difficult to navigate these waters to find teachers who are operating with full integrity. I’ve found a few, but I’ve also been treading very lightly by approaching sacred sexuality with a lot of caution and discernment.

 

I recently finished reading Jacob Nordby’s new book, Blessed Are The Weird which, on the surface, has nothing to do with sexuality. Instead, the book is about harnessing your uniqueness in order to heed the call of your creative soul. Until you get to Chapter 18 - almost at the very end of the book - to a chapter called “Raw and Sexy.” In this chapter, Nordby makes the case that creativity and sexuality are so linked that it’s almost impossible to separate them. He writes,


“The thing is, art is sexy. Creativity is sexual. Sex is the energy of creation itself. They are inextricably bound together and certain traditions tell us that they emanate from the same ‘chakra’ or energy center in the body.


And, of course, sex isn’t just a matter of fitting body parts together. Sex is the collision of worlds, galaxies, universes, souls, birds, and bees, and…everything.


A person with great creative energy is likely to have above average sexual energy too. How they express (or repress) that may or may not be with another human, but it’s still there beneath the surface, boiling away and generating enormous power.”

 

He goes on to say that, “Powerful creative people exude this tremendous sexuality - others are drawn to them because of this energy in their work and because of the indefinable, invisible sexual radiance that shines from them.”

 

This is often the reason that rock stars have groupies and artists have muses. We are drawn to these peoples’ energy because it reflects an energy within us, which is the energy of creation itself. Nordby’s “Raw and Sexy” chapter was the first time I’ve read something so practical and down-to-earth about sacred sexuality. Nordby isn’t a far out tantrika with a Sanskrit name who talks about having energy orgasms. Instead, his chapter laid out, very matter of factly, the point that creativity and sexuality come from the same energy source, and that creatives throughout history have had difficulty knowing exactly what to do with this energy. We’ve all heard of great creatives who had many mistresses, muses, and sexual liaisons. In modern times, the tabloids berate us with these peoples’ multiple marriages.



 

You might not think of yourself as a “great creative,” but I bet you’ve had glimpses of the links between creativity and sexuality in your own life. You don’t need to be an artist or a writer or a musician to be creative - some people are creative through science or IT or raising children or coming up with business ideas. At its core, creativity simply involves thoughtful curiosity - and sometimes taking action on that curiosity. The next time you get a creative burst about anything - take a moment to notice how you feel. Often, creativity comes with a certain level of excitement and anticipation that very closely resembles how we feel when we’re getting sensual/sexual. If you feel into it, you’ll notice that creativity and sexuality seem to come from the same source.

 

So, what does all of this have to do with monogamy?

 

Well, as I alluded to a moment ago, creatives throughout history have often had troubled partnerships. But as Nordby describes, one of the defining features of creatives (or “Weird People” as he calls them) is that we have a lot of difficulty abiding a life that is not real. We seek authenticity in all areas of our lives, including our sexuality. Nordby writes,

 

“Many Weird People have struggled with a world that judges them harshly for stepping outside the sexual lines drawn by society. As with most of the other judgements leveled at us, this is because our insistence on getting and staying real makes us honest with our behavior. Where our behavior deviates from what is commonly accepted, society reacts out of fear.”

 

Creative people, by nature, push boundaries, regardless of whether they are painting, making music, or building a new app. Creative people make the unknown, known. They bring the subconscious, conscious. They challenge the status quo and provoke change. This is Art with a capital A.


One system that pervades our lives and is heavily embedded in the status quo is the modern monogamous marriage. In many ways, marriage is a ritual - some might even say a collectively shared myth - that many of us choose to take part in (myself included). There’s nothing wrong with this. But it’s natural for creatives to want to push against those walls, even if it’s ever so slightly.

 

Not too long ago, marriage used to serve economic, societal and practical purposes. People got married for family alliances, or to have children to help on their farms, or so that there was a woman at home to make food while the men worked. These days, we’re told to marry for love (whatever that means), and we seem to be trying to figure out modern marriage on the fly, without ever stopping to give it much thought. I think it’s a very interesting thought experiment to ask yourself why you want to get married (or why you got married). Your answer might be, “Because I love my partner.” But really, why marriage? You can love your partner without being married. Perhaps you want/wanted to make a public declaration of your love and commitment. Or maybe you just want/wanted to have a big party with your friends and family. Or maybe you decide not to get married, but you make a private commitment to be monogamous.

 

All of these options are perfectly ok - there are no right or wrong answers here. My goal is to get you thinking about the point, and implications, of monogamy in our modern society, especially in terms of how your choice for monogamy intersects - and might eventually butt heads with - your creativity and sexuality.

 

Let me make this more practical by using my own marriage as an example.


(Gulp).


My husband and I are both highly creative people in our own ways. He’s a visual artist and entrepreneur who is like an open channel for creativity. His art spans everything from collage, graffiti, and graphic design to building sculptures and furniture. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t have some sort of art- or business-related idea. He has endless notebooks and folders and files of sketches and concepts. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever met such a creative person in my life. And I’m creative in my own ways, too - some similar and some different from his. Most of my creativity comes through my writing, but it also comes through my research, my approach to science, and my insistence on asking and pursuing life’s big questions.


And, as you might expect based on this creative energy, my husband and I are also very sexual/sensual people in our own unique ways. Note: this doesn’t mean we have sex 24/7. It means that our sensuality and sexuality have always been an important part of our lives and our marriage - in ways that have been thoroughly enjoyable and immensely frustrating. Like most couples, sometimes our sexual needs and desires match, and other times they don’t. If nothing else, we’ve always tried to maintain an open dialogue about sexuality so that we can be clear with each other about our wants and needs.

 

How does all of this creativity and sexuality manifest in our relationship? Well, this mashup basically results in a life that involves us constantly pushing the limits and boundaries of everything around us - inside and outside of the bedroom. In a sense, we’ve served as each others’ muses in order to make our shared life a work of art. All of the decisions we make, from deciding not to have children, to deciding where to live, to deciding where and how we want to work, have been thoroughly discussed within the container of our most creative values and dreams.


And we continually push each other to be more creative. He has inspired my entrepreneurial ventures, helped make logos for my website, and coached me to get paid what I’m worth. I’ve encouraged him to be more public with his art by building him a website, making videos of him creating his art, and reminding him to post regularly on his Instagram feed. We’ve pushed each other to take risks and stay inspired by moving to different countries and traveling as much as we can.

 

Our life is a work of art that we’ve co-created between us. It’s a work of art that has not only inspired us, but also often inspires people around us.


Now, before you start thinking that our relationship is 100% awesome, let me set the record straight: our lives are not awesome all the time. In fact, there are many times that we struggle. We get tired of pushing boundaries, and sometimes we long for what you might call a more “simple” or “normal” life. We spend our fair share of time debating about life choices, values, wants, and needs. We yell, scream, cry, rage, make-up and everything in between.

 

And here’s what ties everything that I’ve been talking about so far together: my husband and I have often struggled to reconcile our creativity, sexuality, and monogamy. As Nordby described in Blessed Are The Weird, creativity is sexy. Creativity is one of the main things that attracted us to each other. And it’s also what attracts us to other people, and other people to us.


I mean seriously, it’s almost impossible to walk into my husband’s art studio and not find it sexy. The smell of paint in the air, canvases all over the place, raw creative potential waiting to be formed. My husband is also a natural flirt. He’s very charismatic and extroverted, and he’s friendly with almost everyone. Put him in front of a female bartender or administrative assistant and you’re pretty much guaranteed to get free drinks and a meeting with the president of the company. When my creativity is “on,” people sometimes find me sexy, too. Whether I’m giving a talk, sharing a blog, or speaking passionately about philosophical topics - for some people, it’s a turn-on. I sometimes think of myself as a “virtual muse” who (hopefully) inspires people by describing my life, and my struggles, online.

 

Long story short: there have been times when people have been drawn to my creative radiance and my husband’s creative radiance. And there have been times when we’ve been drawn to these people, too.

 

The thing is, when we try to dampen our natural creative spark so that others won’t be drawn to us, we die a little inside.

 

Perhaps you and your partner have been in similar types of situations. There are a lot of things to ponder when these attractions happen. One question is to ask whether the attraction is simply feeding your ego, or if it represents something true. How each couple deals with these questions is entirely unique. Some people split up. Some experiment with making their relationship polyamorous or monoga-mish. Some decide to remain exclusive to each other. The important thing is to realize that you have a choice. Yes, you get to make the rules about your relationship, regardless of what other people think. The people around you might not agree with your choices, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that your choices are true, and are filled with integrity, for you and your partner.

 

I’m sorry to disappoint, but I don’t actually have a clear-cut answer for how to reconcile creativity, sexuality and monogamy. I’m in the journey of figuring it out for myself. As Jacob Nordby writes,

 

“I don’t know exactly how we should resolve this tension - how we should raise the curtains and free ourselves to play in the great, unashamed dance of creation. It is a puzzle.


It is a puzzle worth solving.


When we solve what it means to be ourselves (and free ourselves to be that), something magical happens. There’s that word again: magic. But it is magical. It is high magic to leap the fences that once held us in a cramped little prison of other people’s opinions and run pell-mell toward the horizon of our own destiny.”

 

Perhaps, by sharing vulnerably here, I’m helping you know that you’re not alone. If you and/or your partner are creative types, you might have noticed that the areas of sexuality and monogamy are challenging for you. Developing an awareness around the links between creativity and sexuality might help you understand, and better channel, your creative and sexual urges. Note that “developing an awareness around the links between creativity and sexuality” does NOT mean that you get to use your creativity as an excuse to engage in behaviors that would be hurtful to your partner. (Besides, it’s highly unlikely that your partner would fall for an excuse like “my creativity made me do it!.").


Instead, this awareness invites you to get honest with your partner so that you can begin to co-create authentic partnership. As I mentioned in my recent blog about getting real about relationships, authentic partnership is not always pretty. It will most likely be hard for you to share of yourself so vulnerably. But it’s the only way to be real.

 

And, as with most things in life, finding the answer might not actually be the point. Perhaps the only way to reconcile these things is to live with them in a messy, human, honest and vulnerable way. As Nordby shares,

 

“Being human means being sexual. Both things - humanity and sexuality - also mean being constantly entangled in complication.


Entanglement and complication. We often use those words as if they are bad ones.


As if having deep, tangled roots is somehow wrong.


Of course, the great, soaring part of us (I call it Soul) knows flight and weightlessness. It fears the snares of earth for good reason.


But once conscious of this - once aware that we can free ourselves over and over again, no matter what - the only thing for it is to relish entanglement. Root deeply in the rich, dark earth of being ourselves; these strange, heavy, beautiful, temporary human creatures.


For everything fought against grows. Everything denied or disowned becomes more powerful. Everything hidden will reveal itself in darker ways.


And all that is embraced is liberated.”


At the end of the chapter, Nordby summarizes his ideas like this:

 

“Sexuality and creativity can’t be separated - they are the same energy.


The world has had a twisted, fucked-up way of dealing with sex.


We deserve better.


The only way to get better is to get honest.


When we get honest, we get free.


When we get free, we unleash our creative nature and our pleasure in all of life.”

 

And so, my friends, I encourage you to embrace your creativity, your sexuality, and your humanity. Live as your wild self, in partnership if that’s what you choose, with honesty and with integrity. Your truth might bruise your partner. It might scare them. It might dissolve your relationship. It might help your relationship grow.


In all cases, it will set you free.




Is Your Life Feeling a Little Bland? It's Time To Reclaim Your Wild Nature (Here's How).

Posted by Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. on August 11, 2017 at 5:00 AM Comments comments (6)

Sometimes the daily grind can start to wear on us. Bills, chores, errands, looking after loved ones, waking up at the same time every day, commuting to and from work, checking items off your To Do list…even if you love your work and adore your family, our daily routines can sometimes feel drab and uninspiring. On the one hand, routines help us develop security and stability, and they can be very comforting. On the other hand, we can get so stuck in our routines that we go through our lives as if we are asleep - never stopping to look around and question whether our routines are serving us.


Almost all of the work that I’ve done in my adult life has involved spending time at a computer. On the one hand, this is awesome, because I can work from anywhere and set my own schedule. On the other hand, my heart and body know that I’m not meant to spend so much time in front of a screen.


And so I’m reaching out to you, dear soul on the other side of the screen (as Qoya founder Rochelle Schieck likes to say), because perhaps you’ve felt something similar.


Have you ever sat back in your office chair, taken a breath, looked around, and thought to yourself, “My work/life isn’t supposed to be this way?” Have you ever looked outside of your office window (if you’re lucky enough to have one) and longed to be outdoors? Have you ever felt like there’s something not quite right about spending 8 hours per day on a computer? Have you ever wondered why we seem to work on pointless “make-work” projects, send endless emails, attend meaningless meetings, and make inane small talk at the water cooler?


Me too.

 

I’ve written many blogs about topics like breaking out of the 9 to 5 grind - but I think the issue goes deeper than that. I think the 8-hour “workday” started picking away at our souls long before we got our first “real job.” For many of us, it started when we were 4 or 5 years old, when we first went to school. How many of us, sitting in class, had the same types of feelings that I described above? How many of us stared out of the classroom window, longing to be outside?

 

Humans have spent the last few hundred years becoming very civilized. We prize our inventions and accomplishments - often for good reason. We’ve managed to extend our lifespans, travel all over the world with ease, and even venture into outer space.


But at what cost?

 

We’ve created a society that forces us to be caged animals for most of our lives. In fact, even the evolution of humans’ ability to use thoughts, logic, and reason is a mixed blessing. Our minds constantly jump from one topic to another, rarely giving us time to stop and appreciate the present moment. Research suggests that “a wandering mind is an unhappy mind” and that “the ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.”

 

We’ve created our own physical, mental, and emotional cages, and now many of us long to break free. When I say “break free,” I don’t mean you need to quit your job, or home school your children, or abandon modern society. There are more subtle (and socially acceptable) ways for you to break free if you aren’t ready to make major life changes. So how do you break free?


You go wild.

 

How do you go wild?

 

You start paying attention to your instincts, emotions, and intuitions. You start to notice the subtle language of your heart and body by learning how to quiet the mind. And you do things that feel wild for you.



 

A couple of months ago I read Martha Beck’s latest book, “Diana, Herself: An Allegory of Awakening.” The book is a story that’s meant to serve as an example of how humans can awaken to their true nature. The main character, Diana, gets lost in an endless forest and is forced, in a sense, to go wild. She’s told that “Waking up is the goal, be-wilder-ment is the method.” I won’t give the whole book away, but suffice it to say that Diana uses 7 tasks to transform out of her ordinary existence into a barefoot, wild-haired, intuitive, connected, and awakened soul.

 

At some level I believe this is what many of us are craving. We don’t necessarily want to give up the luxuries of running water and heated homes, but we long for some sense of wildness that we know is our birthright as humans. Babies and young children are experts at being wild. I was recently talking with a friend who mentioned that her 1 year old daughter is particularly rambunctious. My friend jokingly said, “If we could just let her run outside naked, without having to put sunscreen or shoes on her, and without ever having to sit her in a high chair to eat or make her lay down so we can change her diaper, then she would be the happiest child ever.” To which I replied, “It sounds like she just wants to be human!”


I wasn’t saying this as a critique of my friend’s parenting skills (we both laughed at my remark). My friend is an excellent mom and of course she wants her child to wear clothes and not get sunburnt and learn how to eat at the table. But what do you think human babies were doing during ancient times? They were probably running around naked, eating in the dirt, and sometimes getting sunburnt. In other words, they were wild. With the best of intentions we end up taking the wildness out of our children so that they’ll be “civilized” and fit in with modern society. Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing - most of us were raised this way and it makes perfect sense.

 

Our job as adults, however, is to reclaim our wild nature.


Let me ask,

 

When was the last time you put your bare feet on the earth?


When was the last time you got dirty?


When was the last time you played - not for sport - just played without any goal or objective?

 

Our wildness is part of us. It is in our heartbeat. We feel its call after we sit under fluorescent lights all day and spend two hours commuting home. We feel it calling to our bodies after we end up with carpal tunnel syndrome or one of many other vague auto-immune diseases that don’t seem to have a specific cause. We sense it in our hearts when we get the urge to do something a little crazy. After all, as Alanis and Seal say, we’re never going to survive unless we get a little crazy. I believe this statement to be fundamentally true. Humanity needs to get a little crazy - a little wild - in order to evolve as a species and create the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.

 

Your task, then (for your health, the health of our species, and the health of the planet - no biggie, right?), is to figure out what feels wild for you. Everyone’s version of wild is different - and none is better or worse than the other. The main thing, of course, is to make sure you aren’t harming anyone else or yourself in the process. For some people, wild might mean having a glass of wine after putting the kids to bed. For others, wild might mean having an orgy. It’s up to you to decide what feels wild, and then make time to do it.

 

If the word “wild” doesn’t work for you, pick a different word. A friend of mine describes her process as “going feral.” Some people try to imagine themselves as animals - living more by instinct instead of always relying on rational thought. I think about this often when I watch my cat. When my cat walks into a room, there’s a moment when I can tell that she’s trying to figure out what to do. She has many options - she could play with her toys, sleep on a chair, jump on my lap, or climb up the bookshelf. As far as I know, she doesn’t use language to think about which of these things to do. There is some instinctual, wordless part of her that guides her in the direction of what she most feels like doing in that moment. When humans go wild, they start embracing a similar decision-making process. Instead of relying solely on the language of rational thought, you begin feeling into the wordless nudges that tell you which option is most suitable.

 

Below I’m going to give a few examples of activities that feel wild for me. You don’t need to do my version of wild - my intention is to offer some examples of what wild might look like for a (relatively) “normal” person living in the modern world. You’ll notice that some of these activities are rather tame, while others are a little more “out there.” There are, of course, more things that help me feel wild, but not everything needs to be shared publicly. So here’s a sample:

 

  • Dancing
  • Being in nature
  • Doing non-work related activities between the hours of 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday. Sometimes I go for tea in the middle of the afternoon, or go for a walk, or read a book, or eat cake.
  • Any form of travel that breaks my usual routines. I’ve noticed that even work-related travel seems to pull me into a new headspace, where I can take a breath and tap into the pulse of life.
  • Any activity that involves getting dirty, like sticking my hands or feet into the earth or sitting on grass without a blanket. Lately I’ve been making a point to try to get leaves and twigs in my hair, usually by laying down under trees.
  • Any activity that involves being naked outdoors. A few that I’ve enjoyed have been skinny-dipping, dancing under the full moon, nude beaches, and rubbing clay on my body, sunbathing, then jumping in a lake to wash it off. I’m sure that one of the reasons these activities feel wild is that they’re taboo, but I also think it’s deeper and more primal than that. These activities literally put my body in touch with the body of mother earth - and like my friend’s baby - there’s no place that my body is happier.
  • Spontaneity
  • Camping
  • Sacred sexuality (you can read my blogs about sacred sexuality here and here)
  • Walking around in thunderstorms that burst open on hot summer days. For extra wildness points, try making out with someone in one of these thunderstorms. Grrrr!
  • Doing anything that’s different from what I would usually do on a workday
  • Staying up until 5am after having a soulful evening with friends
  • The “mini-glow” brought on by a glass of wine
  • Music that makes me want to move my hips (check out my playlist on Spotify here)
  • Deep, honest conversations - usually about taboo or vulnerable topics
  • Adorning my hair and body with beautiful things like butterflies, flowers, essential oils, and luxurious creams
  • Swimming in fresh water lakes
  • Letting my wavy hair air-dry instead of blowdrying it straight - and making sure I don’t cut my hair too short
  • Thinking about, looking at, or embodying magical creatures like fairies and unicorns
  • Trying new things
  • Gazing at the stars or staring at a fire
  • Going to a pub for a drink on a weeknight
  • Anything involving sacred rituals
  • Hiking
  • Live music, especially outdoors or around an open fire
  • Challenging myself to do nothing for an hour, or an afternoon, or a day
  • Watching animals (domestic or wild)
  • Finding, feeling, and participating in magic
  • Reading about topics related to transpersonal psychology, the evolution of consciousness, and the nature of the universe. Here are a few articles that I’ve read lately (just a little light reading for those who might be interested): 

 

I want to take a moment to flesh out the bullet about magic. For me, part of going wild involves opening myself up to the magic of the universe. My wildness and my sense of magic are deeply interconnected. On days when I spend a lot of time on the computer (or stuck in my head) I like to ask myself the question, "Where is the magic right now?" Then I either remind myself of magic, or I go find it.


By "magic" I don't necessarily mean hocus pocus. It's hard to describe in words, but for me, magic is the felt sense that I live and participate in a meaningful universe where people and events are connected in ways that we don't fully understand. Sometimes magic appears as a song, or a synchronicity, or sunlight dancing off a spiderweb. Magic can be simple, like the feeling I get when I gaze at the stars, or complex, like synchronistic events that give me goosebumps.

 

Here are a few examples of magical events from my life so that you’ll have a better idea of what I mean - and so that you’ll start being able to recognize these types of events in your life.

 

  • There was the time I submitted my resume to a company’s online HR database and then ran into the CEO of the company at a pub that very same night (and ended up getting the job through meeting him).
  • There was the time I signed up for Sera Beak’s Soul Fire retreat and left my apartment the next day to find that someone had spray-painted the words “I will set my soul on fire” on the sidewalk in front of my apartment.
  • Or the fact that I went to the soul fire retreat two weeks before I moved to Prague, and out of a group of 31 women, three of them ended up having connections in Prague who helped with my move.
  • There was the time I met my husband through a synchronistic meeting of our two best friends from high school.
  • There was the time I was tagged in a random Facebook comment on the blog of an American who was moving to Prague - and that American ended up being my next door neighbour (and now friend, hi Mel Joulwan!).
  • Or how about the time a couple of months ago when I sent an email to a transpersonal psychology professor who I’d never met, who informed me that the 2017 International Transpersonal Psychology Conference happens to be in Prague this year (for the first time in 25 years).
  • Or the time I saw an article in a magazine (that I usually don’t read) about a professor who was doing yoga research at Harvard Medical School - a professor who ended up hiring me 2 years later through a series of synchronicities?
  • Or the time I couldn’t leave the United States for months because my Canadian passport had expired, only to have FedEx show up with my new passport on the day that my mother-in-law passed away (a day that I happened to call in sick even though I wasn’t sick and even though I didn’t know yet that she had passed). Because I'd called in sick, I was home to receive my passport and could then travel to Canada to be with my husband.
  • Or the time my husband’s updated Czech passport arrived at the Czech consulate in Toronto in the morning of the day we were moving to Prague (after months of us waiting for it to arrive).
  • And let’s not even get started on the many times I’ve had dreams or hunches about people, only to have those people show up in my inbox - or in my face - shortly afterwards.
  • There was also the time a few months ago when I decided to make magic a more intentional aspect of my life, then went for tea with a friend and she pulled this tarot-style card for me (from a randomly shuffled deck):



 

I have more examples, but I think you get the point. And if you think hard enough, I bet you can come up with examples of similar types of events in your life. Seemingly magical ways that you met or felt pulled toward certain people or events, or times when things lined up for you in ways that you never could have imagined or forced to happen. Just reminding yourself about these types of events is often enough to put you back in touch with universal magic.

 

If I wanted to, I could choose to believe that all of these synchronicities were just random coincidences. And I’m objective enough to admit that this might in fact be true. But why not choose to believe that we live in a participatory and meaningful universe? Life is way more fun (and wild) that way.


The word “participatory” is very important here. You’ll notice that in all of the events above, I was participating. I put myself out there and then I let go and allowed the universe to respond. This is what I mean when I talk about concepts like stop trying so hard. You take inspired action, then you surrender and let the universe do its thing (which won’t always be what you think should happen). In my examples above, I submitted my resume, I signed up for the retreat, I decided to move to Prague, and I decided to contact professors. These decisions were often guided by nudges and intuitions that didn’t make logical (or financial) sense.


This is what going wild helps you do. It helps you get quiet enough to listen to these nudges - because these soulful, intuitive, heartfelt longings are the actions that the universe responds to with magic.

 

It’s like being the universe’s dance partner. A good dancer doesn’t go limp while her partner drags her across the floor. A good dancer feels into her partner’s natural flow and moves in kind with it. When you feel into your wildness, and take inspired action, the universe dances with you. Sometimes the results are beautiful. Other times they’re scary, or challenging, or tragic. But they always serve the evolution of your Soul.

 

The goal of this blog is to help you awaken your sacred animal body. Because, after all, humans are just wild animals masquerading in civilized clothing, surrounded by modern gadgets, craving the wildness and magic that is their true nature. It’s time for you to remember this part of yourself. It’s time for you to wake up.

 

What makes you feel wild? Where is the magic in your life today?

 

Find it. Do it. Be it.




Let's Get Real About Relationships (They Aren't What You See On Facebook)

Posted by Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. on August 3, 2017 at 4:15 AM Comments comments (2)

A few weeks ago my husband and I were walking through a park in Prague and I noticed a couple taking a selfie. This in and of itself was nothing out of the ordinary (summer in Prague = an abundance of selfie sticks). However, as we got closer, I could hear the couple arguing. With a look of total exasperation the woman said to the man, “No, don’t look over THERE, look over HERE! And could you at least TRY to smile for god’s sake?” The man shifted his gaze, smiled, and she snapped the photo. Then they went on their way, obviously annoyed with each other and barely taking in the view.


As we passed the couple I thought about the future of that photo. I thought about how she would probably post it on Facebook, and how her friends and family would be excited to see the happy couple surrounded by a gorgeous European vista. Some friends might even get jealous - wishing that they had a relationship like hers or that they could get some time off work to travel. I felt like I’d been let in on a little secret. I was the only person, aside from the couple themselves, who knew that they were actually bickering moments before they captured the perfect shot.


The experience made me think of the many ways that we tell white lies to the world. For all I know, that couple probably has a great relationship and love each other deeply - but in that moment they presented a slightly false image to the world. Most of us do this on a regular basis, and I’m no exception. I’m a photo-holic and there are over 1,000 photos that I’m tagged in on my personal Facebook profile. Probably at least half of these photos are pictures of my husband and I smiling our big smiles, arms around each other, having a good time. We've traveled to over 20 countries together, and I try to capture perfect shots in every single one. In most of the photos we actually are having a good time. But sometimes we’re not.


Sometimes we’re jet lagged or arguing or exhausted. Like the time on our honeymoon when we got into an argument and then walked the entire length of the city walls around Dubrovnik, Croatia without saying a word to each other. Or the time in Santorini, Greece when we got annoyed with each other during our morning coffee - but we still managed to capture perfect shots like this one:


 


I’m sure you’ve experienced something similar. I’m not saying we’re all terrible liars who should never post happy pictures on Facebook. Instead, I’m trying to draw our attention to a subtle layer of non-truth that many of us perpetuate online. This behaviour is so insidious that we don’t realize we’re doing it. And I think it underlies a bigger problem.


The bigger problem is that many of us are ashamed to admit that our relationships aren’t perfect. We plaster our social media profiles with perfectly positioned, expertly filtered photos of our relationships and families in an effort to say to the world, “Look at us! We made it! We’re doing awesome things together and we’re so happy.” It’s almost as if we feel the need to put our relationships on display so that people on the other side of our screen can validate our worth.


I’ve always been fascinated by relationships (I even studied dating and married couples for my PhD), and this “online perfection” phenomenon is no exception. I’m curious why so many of us feel the need to portray our relationships in such a positive light, when the truth is often much murkier and more complex.

 

I’ve never given a speech at a wedding, and perhaps that’s a good thing, because I would probably say some version of what I’m about to write below. So let’s get real about relationships, shall we?

 

Marriage As a Paradox

 

I once heard someone say, “Sex is easy. Love is hard.” And if you think about it, you’ll realize it’s true. Of course, mind-blowing sex isn’t necessarily easy to accomplish, and sex is perhaps more of an art than a science, but once you get the basic mechanics down, you can choose to have sex without much effort, thoughtfulness, or presence. Love, on the other hand, is a tricky beast. It doesn’t have “mechanics” or a basic operating manual. Sometimes it creeps up slowly, other times it hits you out of the blue. Once you feel it, it’s hard to let it go. Love is easy when you’re inspired, feeling good about your partner, and having a nice time together. The true test is being able to remember your love when you’re pissed off, or when something tragic happens, or during the mundane routines of daily life.

 

I got married on July 17th, 2009 in the Stratford Ontario city hall, with 35 friends and family in attendance. The ceremony lasted 15 minutes and in truth I don’t remember much of it, but I do know that the words “for better or worse” were included in our vows. At the time, I knew what this meant intellectually. It meant that I would stand by my husband during all of the wonderful and challenging experiences that we would have in our life together. What I’ve learned over the past 14 years of our relationship, however, is that having an intellectual understanding of “for better or worse” is completely different from actually living it.

 

My life with my husband has been extremely blessed, but we’ve also seen our fair share of challenges. He stood by me for two years while I tried to get off antidepressants. He supported me while I worked to get my Masters and then my PhD. We’ve each lost one parent - my stepfather to an oxycontin overdose and his mom to cancer. We’ve seen each other through financial difficulties, existential crises, unemployment, career transitions, entrepreneurship, creative struggles, home ownership, scary medical results, cross-continent moves, wrinkles, age spots, grey hair and all the other lovely things that come along with aging.

 

During this time I’ve realized that marriage is actually a perfect paradox. Why? Because marriage is both the easiest and the hardest thing that I’ve ever done. Easy in the sense that I love my husband, we’re compatible, and we hold a deep love and respect for each other that flows like an underground current beneath everything we go through. Easy in the sense that we can gauge each other’s wants, needs, and moods based on a microscopic eyebrow movement or barely discernible change in tone of voice. But marriage is hard because we push each other’s buttons in exactly the right ways. We force each other to grow and evolve even when it’s uncomfortable. We vote on opposite ends of the political spectrum and always need to find ways to be inclusive of each other’s points of view. We live with the mundane drudgery of daily life (dirty laundry, chores, bills) while also trying to maintain a sense of passion and excitement.


I realize that most of the challenges we’ve experienced have been existential life stressors that only privileged people have the luxury of enduring. But they’ve been struggles, nonetheless.


I’m not the first person to write or speak about the complexities of marriage. In fact, research suggests that you can love and hate your partner at the exact same time. How’s that for a paradox?

 

Here are a few more examples. I recently finished reading Dani Shapiro’s memoir “Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage” in which she candidly articulates the sometimes difficult journey of her 18-year marriage. She shares the beautiful, passionate moments of her partnership while also revealing her process of coming to terms with, and forgiving, her relationship for not being the idealized fairytale that she’d originally had in mind. In the documentary “Dancing in the Flames,” Marion Woodman describes her and her husband as having had 5 different marriages to each other during their 50-plus-year marriage, based on a number of “deaths and rebirths” that they’d gone through individually and as a couple. Esther Perel’sMating in Captivity” (which I highly recommend for all married or soon to be married people) sheds light on another paradox of the modern monogamous marriage, namely that the erotic and the domestic often don’t mix. Perel explains how our needs for security and our needs for freedom are often at odds with each other throughout our entire relationship.

 

Marriage is, in all honesty, the work of a lifetime.


We Seek What We Want To Cultivate

 

As a young single woman I remember belting out the lyrics to Alanis Morissette’s “21 Things I Want In A Lover.” I sang this song with devotion, like a prayer to the universe. It was my attempt to call in “the one” who would assuage all my relationship woes. This is what Alanis and I were after in a partner:

 

Do you derive joy when someone else succeeds?


Do you not play dirty when engaged in competition?


Do you have a big intellectual capacity, but know that it alone does not equate wisdom?


Do you see everything as an illusion, but enjoy it even though you are not of it?


Are you both masculine and feminine?

Politically aware?


And don't believe in capital punishment?


Do you derive joy from diving in and seeing that loving someone can actually feel like freedom?

Are you funny?


Self-deprecating?

Like adventure?

And have many formed opinions?


Are you uninhibited in bed? More than three times a week? Up for being experimental?

Are you athletic?


Are you thriving in a job that helps your brother?

Are you not addicted?


Are you curious and communicative?


Today I can review this list and confirm that these are in fact many (though not all) of the qualities that I look for in a mate. More importantly, however, I now realize that these are actually qualities that I either like about myself or want to cultivate more of in myself. In other words, all of the things that you want your mate to be are usually characteristics that you wish you had more of yourself.

 

One of the primary tasks of marriage, then, is to focus on cleaning up your side of the street instead of lamenting about the faults of your partner. Anyone who’s been in a relationship for long enough knows that no matter how hard you try, you will not change your partner. Instead, you can focus on nourishing the qualities that you want to bring forth in yourself. Part of nourishing these qualities involves doing your best to show up in your relationship as the most authentic version of yourself that you can muster.

 

Embracing Authentic Partnership


None of my friends have been spared from challenges in their relationships - even though on the surface their relationships look great. In our most honest moments they tell me of doubts, infidelities, therapy, sexual dissatisfaction, addictions, fantasies, and annoyances. Make no mistake - you are surrounded by these people. They are the couple passionately making out in the park. They are the couple holding hands and looking blissful. They pass you on the street. They sit beside you at the office. And yes, they fill your Facebook feed.

 

Every single person who is involved in a relationship for any significant length of time has their fair share of problems. This isn’t a problem. The problem is that we pretend we don’t have problems. Not only do we pretend, but we feel ashamed of our issues. We feel inferior and wonder if we’re the only ones who don’t have a perfect partnership when in fact, our relationship issues might be one of the main things that we all have in common.


The solution to this situation isn’t going to be found in a new lover, or a weekend getaway, or some sexy lingerie. The solution comes from having the courage to stare your relationship issues in the face, with your partner, and walk through the flames together. This is what I mean by showing up as the most authentic version of yourself that you can muster. You might think you’re being super authentic and truthful in your relationship, but if you dig a little deeper you might notice otherwise. For example, what little white lies do you maintain in order to avoid revealing your real needs to your partner? What one thing are you most afraid to share with them? What part(s) of yourself are you hiding from them? Keep in mind that the things we’re scared or embarrassed to share with our partners are usually things we’re ashamed or judgemental of in ourselves.

 

Of all the personal development work I’ve done, this is by far the toughest task. Speaking from your soul - no holds barred - with the people you love puts you in an extremely vulnerable position. You open yourself to criticism, judgement and rejection. You expose the deepest, weakest, most fearful parts of yourself in the hope that your beloved will acknowledge those parts, take you into his or her arms, and love you anyway. Sometimes this happens, other times it doesn’t.

 

Your partner doesn’t necessarily need to agree with your authentic expression, but in order for the relationship to continue, he or she needs to come face to face with whatever hurts, fears, or insecurities your authenticity brings up in them. This takes a lot of emotional maturity, patience, wisdom, and understanding. Wisdom has, in fact, been defined as the ability to hold paradox. You and your partner need to fully acknowledge and embody the fact that you are a living paradox. You love and hate each other at the same time. You are perfectly matched and horribly incompatible. You are sexually attracted to each other and have fantasies about others. You adore your children and wish you had more time for yourselves. You are meant for each other and could have been meant for others if life had worked out differently. You want to be married and you long for freedom.


You are all of these things at the exact same time. You are a messy, living, breathing, human work of love.


My advice to you (and myself) is to get real about your relationship, both within the relationship itself and with how you present your relationship to the world. Let’s stop perpetuating the white lie of the perfectly happy couple. Post pictures on social media that come from a place of true joy, not a place of trying to prove how awesome your life is. The next time you feel inclined to share the perfect shot of you and your beloved, you could use the three gates of speech to assess your motivations. Ask yourself, is this picture true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? We can all feel the difference between photos that are coming from a place of inspiration, truth and joy versus photos that are forced. Let’s all start filling our feeds with Truth.


In addition to adding some integrity to your online persona, you can also start talking to your partner about your needs, your longings, your dreams, and your desires. Confide in your friends, family, partners and lovers about your doubts, insecurities, and fears. This is how authentic partnership happens.


Your Relationship As Your Teacher


The most important thing to remember is that unlike perfectly choreographed photos, authentic partnership doesn’t look pretty. There are arguments and tears. Your fears sometimes feel crippling. Your exposure, unbearable. You will wonder whether your relationship will make it. And you will need to come to terms with the fact that maybe it won’t. But the alternative would be to settle for a relationship that doesn’t acknowledge and embrace the authentic you. If your relationship can’t rise like a phoenix from the fires of Truth then you need to trust that it has run its course.

 

This poem by Michael Reid illustrates this point beautifully (note that I think gender is irrelevant in this poem - it could also be called “Dear Man” or be rewritten in a way that honors same-sex couples).

 

Dear Woman,

Sometimes

You’ll just be too much woman.

Too smart,

Too beautiful,

Too strong.

Too much of something

That makes a man feel like less of a man,

Which will start making you feel like you have to be less of a

woman.

The biggest mistake you can make

Is removing jewels from your crown

To make it easier for a man to carry.

When this happens, I need you to understand,

You do not need a smaller crown -

You need a man with bigger hands.

 

Know that your relationship, whether it continues or not, is one of your greatest teachers. In his blog “My Lover, My Guru, My Wife,” Jacob Nordby described it this way:

 

My new clarity wouldn’t allow me to lie anymore. I began to see my partner as a mirror of myself. A mirror so close, in fact, that I could no longer blame a single thing on her without seeing in that judgment an exact reflection of myself.

 

Oh, lover, my guru. You show me my deepest wound and brightest light. Your face appears wherever I look. If I should leave you and seek another, you will only change form but bring me always back again to the same unlearned lesson.

 

Oh, lover, my guru. Thank you for teaching me to love myself. Thank you for being a reflection of all that remains unresolved and asks for healing. I need not journey to far-off sacred places or beg for rice in saffron robes. Before me you stand with all the lessons I so dearly wish to avoid.

 

Oh, lover, my guru. I bless our moments of high bliss under star-woven skies. They remind me of a contract—made perhaps in some nonmaterial place—for us to meet and come together like this. Like this and also like all the other ways we rub and scratch and polish each other until the reflection is clear beyond words.




We Must Descend To Ascend

Posted by Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. on July 21, 2017 at 8:20 AM Comments comments (10)

When I wrote my book, The Antidepressant Antidote, in 2010 I had big ambitions. I wanted to publish with Hay House, become a New York Times best-selling author, and eventually end up on Oprah. I think this type of “career trajectory” is shared by many in the self-help / personal development space. We believe strongly in our message, and we hope/trust that our work will reach a large audience. We’re encouraged to “build our platform” through online newsletters, inspirational Facebook posts, and stylized yoga-esque photos of ourselves on Instagram.


Personally, I’ve realized that as noble as these ambitions may seem, they are often personal needs masquerading in spiritual clothing.


In other words, the tendencies that drove me to work hard to finish my PhD, succeed in the corporate world, and do research at Harvard Medical School are the same tendencies that pushed me to try to grow my online platform, publish a best-selling book, and sell online products. My default is to put work above everything else and feel guilty if I’m not being productive. I’m not saying that the work I’ve done is bad or wrong - it’s just that many times it was coming from the wrong place.


Yes, I wanted to save the world. But I also wanted acknowledgment, recognition, accolades, and admirers. I wanted the world (aka the internet) to validate my worth. I wanted to feel good enough. In essence, I wanted to feel loved because I have trouble summoning that love from within myself.


Over the past several years I’ve been hearing a call from deep within that’s been asking me to slow down so that I can begin to approach my life and work in a new way. I now realize that my move to Prague in August 2015 marked the beginning of my descent into the unknown. Yes this sounds a tad esoteric, because it is. In fact, the rest of this blog is going to sound esoteric / metaphysical / spiritual / woo-woo, because it is. This is not an apology. Rather, this is an acknowledgement that I’m well aware of how strange these things might sound. I’m well-trained in the rigors of science that ask us to ignore these types of concepts. But as the saying goes, if we keep doing what we’ve always done, we’ll keep getting what we’ve always gotten. I’m willing to open my mind to these ideas, and I hope you are, too.




Descending into the unknown is a process that I’ve come to know and experience as very real. It’s a phase that many of us go through at different times in our lives, and it typically involves shedding former layers of identity because they don’t work anymore. In essence, we become wanderers. In his book Soulcraft, Bill Plotkin describes it this way:


“The Wanderer creatively ventures into the dark depths, like Orpheus looking for Eurydice, to bring back to the day world what is yet unknown. The rules and conventions of society are not going to help the Wanderer do her work; new possibilities and patterns must be tapped. She allows her inner vision to take precedence over tradition. The task that lies before the Wanderer - retrieving her soul - is truly daunting.”


In her re-visioning of Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey” into “The Heroine’s Journey,” Maureen Murdock describes the descent into the unknown as “Initiation and Descent to the Goddess” and an “Urgent Yearning to Reconnect With the Feminine.” Sera Beak has described it as a “divine depression.” In his fantastic article called “Mutiny of the Soul,” Charles Eisenstein says,


“Depression, anxiety, and fatigue are an essential part of a process of metamorphosis that is unfolding on the planet today, and highly significant for the light they shed on the transition from an old world to a new.”


Some have argued that there is always sadness involved in the process of “waking up” to our true nature, which is love. As we begin to wake up, we realize that nothing outside of us - not a new car, or a lover, or an outfit, or a child - is going to bring us happiness. We begin to truly understand, deep within our bones, the cliche that happiness comes from within. We also begin to understand that love comes in many forms, both light and dark. In this article on the disappointment of waking up, Matt Licata describes it this way:


“You may be asked to provide sanctuary and safe passage for fear, uncertainty, doubt, and despair. These are the secret allies guarding the gate and have been placed on your path as disguised forms of love. They have not come to harm, but as portals into something new, quantum, vast, and non-controllable. Dare to see that things are not always as they appear. Relationships ending, dreams collapsing, careers recycling, the death of a family member, and the infinite symptoms of the somatic and emotional worlds … drenched in purpose, soaking in meaning. Evidence not of error, failure, or defeat, but of the relentlessly creative nature of love as it emerges here.”


This week I found out that one of my most loved teachers, Shakti Malan, passed away. In her final newsletter, sent just 8 days ago, Shakti described her initiation into the unknown:


“A key element of this transformation was the process of dismemberment: The way that I had put myself together in a very particular form, filtered through ancestral and family frameworks, and built on expectations of myself developed over a lifetime, was unpicked as an act of grace.”


As I mourn Shakti’s passing, I see within myself this same process of dismemberment. When I moved to Prague I left behind almost everyone I knew. This created a blank slate upon which I could paint. At first, I approached my life and work in much the same ways as I always had. I worked hard, felt productive, and gave myself permission to relax every once and awhile. However, over the past year, my body, mind and soul have made me painfully aware that my old masculine-dominated ways of operating simply aren’t going to cut it for me anymore. Every aspect of my life, from my career to my relationship to how I spend my free time, seems to be going through a massive overhaul.


And so I’ve been in a process of pruning and allowing things to die. I removed a lot of content from my website. I no longer scroll through social media. I’m being very selective about the books I read. My paid work has trickled to a minimum. I don’t seem to be motivated to work on much of anything. I seem to have been stripped of goals, fantasies, desires. I’ve been forced to ask myself questions like, “Who am I if I don’t have a big project or goal to work on? Who am I if I’m not actively trying to save the world? Who am I if I’m not pursuing something grand? Who am I if my bank account is struggling? Who am I if I don’t blog, or post often on Facebook, or write more books? Who am I if I don’t show/tell the world what I’m up to? Who am I if I don’t make a big impact?”


Sri Ramana Maharshi posed the question “Who am I” to himself so many times that his consciousness broke through and he reached enlightenment. Perhaps this will happen for me, but I’m not banking on it anytime soon. Instead, I’m sitting with these questions and allowing myself to feel the answers that scare me. Many times I simply feel empty. It’s a very odd (but very necessary) feeling for me to not have any major goals or projects. Little by little, I’m beginning to realize (at a deep, experiential level) that I don’t need to be on Oprah or write a best-selling book or get 500K likes on my blogs to make a difference in the world. In his article called “The Age of We Need Each Other” Charles Eisenstein describes the process of dismantling his ambitions:


“The first part was the disintegration of personal ambition. The second part was the disintegration of the ambition to do big things to change the world. I began to understand that our concepts of big impact versus small impact are part of what needs to be healed. Our culture validates and celebrates those who are out there with big platforms speaking to millions of people, while ignoring those who do humble, quiet work, taking care of just one sick person, one child, or one small place on this earth.”


Some people view the unraveling of ambitions and a descent and withdrawal from traditional society as naive or even mentally unstable. However, others hold that descent and withdrawal are the most sane and responsible things that a human can do when they have finally had enough of the dominant worldview. Eisenstein put it this way,


“What if there is something so fundamentally wrong with the world, the lives, and the way of being offered us, that withdrawal is the only sane response? Withdrawal, followed by a reentry into a world, a life, and a way of being wholly different from the one left behind?”


The most difficult part, therefore, is to wait patiently for this new and different life to unfold. Marion Woodman writes,


“It takes a strong ego to hold the darkness, wait, hold the tension, waiting for we know not what. But if we can hold long enough, a tiny light is conceived in the dark unconscious, and if we can wait and hold, in its own time it will be born in its full radiance.”


And so, my friends, I wait. Maybe you’re waiting, too. Today I felt called to share vulnerably from where I’m at in this moment - not with grand ambitions - but with the heartfelt and humble desire to reach others who might be experiencing their own descent. Let’s wait together and realize that our slowing down, our waiting, could be the most important thing we’ve ever done. Maureen Murdock shares,


“The heroine must become a spiritual warrior. This demands that she learn the delicate art of balance and have the patience for the slow, subtle integration of the feminine and masculine aspects of her nature. {…} This focus on integration and the resulting awareness of interdependence is necessary for each of us at this time as we work together to preserve the health and balance of life on earth.”


Here's to waiting together.



An End. And A Beginning.

Posted by Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. on April 4, 2017 at 10:35 AM Comments comments (9)

You might have noticed a sense of “lost-ness” that’s come up rather regularly in my blogs over the past 6 to 12 months. My reasons for feeling lost are varied. They are professional and personal, small and large, deep and shallow. And while I won’t go into all of the details here, I’d like to share a couple of themes that have been coming up for me during this time.


First, I feel like my tolerance for in-authenticity has reached an all-time low. I crave absolute honesty and integrity from everyone around me, including myself. My bullshit-meter has become lazer-sharp. I feel as if layers of illusion are being removed from my eyes. Illusions about my identity, my work, my relationships and my life in general. I don’t seem to be able to tolerate the un-true - even tiny white lies feel so false that they make my skin crawl.


I’ve been blogging for years about accessing my True Self / Soul, but it feels like lately my True Self has been turning up the volume. She wants me to see (and say) things as they truly are. No sugar-coating, no faking, no games, no staying small so that I won’t rock the boat.


Second, I have a strong desire to simplify my life. I tend to consume information like a ravenous beast, but lately I feel like I’m on information overload. I spend way too much time in my mind. And I’ve realized that sometimes I use my mind as a way to escape from my life. I overthink and over-analyze to avoid feeling. To avoid living. To avoid being fully present with whatever is happening in this moment. Like many people, I also use the internet to escape. I scroll through Instagram and Facebook looking for a “hit” of inspiration - to the point that it has started to feel like an addiction.


I have a desire to pull back - WAY back - from many of my daily structures and behaviors. I want to pull way back from my online presence and my identity as “bethanybutzer.com.” Because who is bethanybutzer.com, anyway? Supposedly she’s an “author, speaker, researcher and yoga teacher who helps people create a life they love.” But this is starting to feel stale and cheesy to me. Because in reality, Bethany Butzer is a human being who does her best to present herself authentically online, but the persona you perceive and the images that you see on your screen aren’t really “me.” They are a digital version of me.


I have a desire to fully inhabit my life as it is being lived in every moment - as opposed to living in two worlds (one digital; one “real” ).


I want to start from scratch. A blank slate.


This begs the question, what does Bethany Butzer (the human) REALLY want to do with her “one wild and precious life?” I’ll tell you right now that sitting in front of a computer most days simply isn’t cutting it. I don’t know exactly what it is that I want to be doing with my time, but I feel like I need to start stripping layers away so that I can find out.

 

Here's what I don't want. I don’t want to offer 5-step processes to help you create a life you love because the truth of the matter is that there is no simple 5-step process. Each of our lives are so unique that the only person who can answer your Soul’s desires is you. I don’t want to be a slick self-help guru who publishes cheesy New York Times bestselling books. I don’t want to feel pressured to “grow my online platform.” I don’t want to “monetize my passion.”


Most of all, I don’t want you to think that I have the answers. Because I don’t.


What do I want? I want to be me. In all of my mess, all of my vulnerability, and all of my honesty, in the hope that at a bare minimum, my mess will help others feel less alone. Perhaps, as Amber Rae says, “My mess is my message.”


What do I want? I want to feel turned-on. Not only in a physical sense, but turned on to life in general. I want to feel alive, energized, and excited about what I’m doing, how I’m living, and who I spend my time with. As Michael Singer describes in his book The Untethered Soul, I want to access my infinite energy by keeping my heart open and my mind quiet.


I think it's finally time to put my concept of Stop Trying So Hard into practice in my daily life.


In the interest of pulling way back, simplifying my life, and cultivating my turn-on, I’ve decided to go on an “information fast.” I’m not going to be posting on (or scrolling through) Facebook or Instagram for awhile (this social media fast will start soon, and I’m not sure how long it will last). I’m going to unsubscribe from a lot of newsletters. I’m going to keep my workload at a minimal level. This is going to be tough for me - but it feels necessary.

 

There are a few resources that helped me with this decision process. The first was a video by Anaiya Sophia about Knowing When To Stop. The second was this article on living from our deepest knowing by Dorothy Hunt (posted on the Science and Non-Duality blog) - especially this quote:


“To the Western mind, living without a goal, without a map, having “nowhere to go and nothing to do” sounds like sheer madness—boring at best, lazy, irresponsible, uncaring, and an invitation to chaos at worst. But nothing could be further from the truth. It might mean we are finally available for Truth to move spontaneously within us, allowing action to come from the dimension of our being that is at peace. Doing is coming from Being. It does not mean living stupidly, or passively, or being unable to make plans. It means not being attached to those plans. It means being open to what is here now rather than judging it, being curious rather than fearful about this moment’s expression. It means being authentic, real, engaged, and intimate with experience.


To live from our natural state means discovering that there is no map for how to live. The voice that always asked “how?” has been quieted, and we are living more and more directly from the Mystery that is whole and undivided. This mystery of our Being is deeply and unflinchingly present to the moment as it appears, and thus can move with an intelligence, wisdom, compassion and love unknown to the mind that seeks to be in control.”

 

The third was a short article (also from Science and Non-Duality) by Vera de Chalambert that has the best title ever: Truth is An Orgasm You Can’t Fake. I’m pasting the entire article here because it’s so good:


“Everyone is suddenly a ‘spiritual teacher’ these days pushing the proverbial crack of ’empowerment’. And even though you have indeed come with gifts to offer, like sex, spiritual teaching shouldn’t be engaged in until every cell of Reality is begging for it, calling for you by name. Until she makes her advances, cooks your heart in her furnace, burns up your false dreams and forcing currents, leaves you breathless and speechless and unable to long for anything less. Ever.


Until then, please stop. Be quiet. Stay close to the ground. Ripen. Don’t “step into your power.” Rest into your vulnerability. Stop marketing sand in a desert. Get weary and tired and thirsty. Feel the humility of death in the scorching sun. Then, let the longing for the Real guide you… you might die, but you might get water from a rock. Taste it. Let it taste you. Then you can’t help but devote your life to Water.


Otherwise you become just another pawn of the patriarchy; a dead thing selling smoke, high on the violence of certainty. Pushing your agenda, your brand of half truths upon parched, suffering beings. Don’t let the culture of rape speak through you. Soften and worship until God is enflamed. And flowing. Stay in the unknown until freedom takes you through every orifice.


Truth is an orgasm we can’t fake.”


And so I feel like I’m entering a cocoon - or an incubation period - while I wait for my Soul to tell me what’s next. At the moment I’m a gooey half-caterpillar, half-butterfly that needs time to fully gestate. As Tama Kieves shares in this blog:


“The artist Pablo Picasso wrote, ‘Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.’ And the philosopher Nietzsche said, ‘You must become a chaos before giving birth to a shining star.’ These are not poetic elaborations. They are descriptions of how a metamorphosis works. First, things fall apart before they fall together.”




By the way, in case you’re worried about me, please don’t be. This is a naturally occurring down-point in the sine wave of life. I’ve inhabited these down-curves often enough that I now recognize them for what they are. I’m not depressed or suicidal. I’m not losing my mind. Actually, maybe I am losing my mind. In the best possible way.

 

I have no idea where this journey is going to take me. Perhaps I’ll emerge with a new mission for bethanybutzer.com. Maybe I’ll have a flash of insight for a new book. Or maybe there won’t be any discernible “end product.” After all, T.S. Eliot put it perfectly when he said,


“We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”


This might be an end. Or perhaps it’s a beginning. Because T.S. Eliot also said:

 

“What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”

 

And so I deliberately create space. An ending. And a beginning.



PhDs and Scattered CVs: Academia is Ready for a Change

Posted by Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. on February 21, 2017 at 10:20 AM Comments comments (0)

When I respond to questions about my professional background and current job, my answer often involves keywords like “Harvard,” "PhD," “consulting,” “research,” “psychology,” “yoga,” and “Prague.” These words make it sound like I have my shit together and even (perhaps) like I live an interesting life. And while this is true (to some extent) I think it’s important to highlight the underbelly of a career that has often left me feeling confused, scared and unsuccessful (and a tad crazy).

 

Perhaps we can start with the time in 2014 when I applied for 40 tenure-track professor positions and didn’t get a single interview. When I applied for these 40 positions I was a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard Medical School, I had good reference letters, I’d won lots of scholarships and awards, and I had a reasonable looking CV with a decent number of first-author publications.

 

So how is it possible that not a single university was interested in hiring me?

 

There were probably several reasons. My research area was a bit "woo-woo" (I was studying yoga in school settings), I’d changed research topics several times throughout my career, I’d taken a break from academia to work in the corporate world, and in some ways my CV looked like a train wreck. Or maybe a more accurate way to describe it would be that my CV resembled a series of interesting professional roles that were vaguely associated, with large gaps in-between “real” jobs. The gaps represented times when I’d worked as an entrepreneur teaching yoga, writing a book, and consulting independently. I even worked at a garden center for a little while. To help explain these gaps during job interviews, a professor once told me to say that I’d taken time off from academia for “family reasons” (AKA to have children). I don’t have children, but most HR policies won’t allow an interviewer to directly ask whether you have kids, so my colleague thought this would be a good idea.

 

I thought it sounded ridiculous.

 

These types of white lies and professional “illusions” are part of what’s given me a distaste for working for anyone other than myself. I don’t want to have to fake a “proper” career trajectory in order to get a “real” job.

 

The problem is that my relationship with academia has been like a terrible teenage romance. Academia and I are so on again off again that no one can keep track of our relationship status (not even Facebook). There have been times when academia has felt exciting and fulfilling to me, and other times when I feel so stifled and suffocated that I can’t breathe. When academia didn’t call me back after my 40 job applications I even went so far as to drop everything and move to a cabin in the woods to escape my heartbreak. I’ve “dated” small universities, mid-tier universities, and some of the best universities in the world. But the story always ends with a break-up.


Academia: A Field In Need of a Change

 

When I try to make sense of the various parts of my CV I realize that the golden threads that tie everything together are research and personal development. Why? Because I love asking questions and searching for answers. My mom tells me that I used to ask “why” about so many things when I was younger that it drove her crazy. The only way she could handle me was to strap me into the child seat on the back of her bicycle and ride around town so that the noise would drown out my constant questions. My aunt tells me that her and I used to sit and stare at the night sky and I would ask endless questions about the stars, the moon, and where people go when they die (this was at age 4). Even now, at age 37, I sometimes put my husband to sleep with my endless musings about the potential secrets of the universe (but it’s ok because he puts me to sleep with his endless musings about soccer).

 

My obsession with “why” is what led me into academia. I’ve jumped from research topic to research topic because I like to ask “why” about everything. I get bored if I’m forced to keep asking why about the same topic over and over. This makes my CV look bad, but it makes me feel good to stretch my wings and learn new things. Zora Neale Hurston described my situation perfectly when she said, “Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.”

 

But there’s an issue I’ve noticed from working in a variety of research settings: I think we’re going about our research the wrong way (at least within Psychology). I’ll say right from the outset that I don’t know what the “right” way is. But I keep coming back to the assertion that there has to be a better way.



 

One of the main things that I find troubling about academia is how isolated we all are. We work in our individual labs, splitting hairs over the tiniest minutia of research questions, publishing in journals that the general public can’t access (thus very few people read our work). We compete with each other for grant money, space, publications, and prestige instead of collaborating to move our fields forward. We’re reinventing the wheel in isolation as opposed to working together.


Sometimes I feel like all we’re doing is contributing to society's information overload. And what’s the purpose of all this information anyway? Do we really need to develop more 5-point Likert scale questionnaires? Is it really all that important to prove an obscure theory that doesn’t make much of a difference for the world as a whole? Some have argued that research in Psychology follows a logarithmic curve in which a lot of progress was made in the early years of the field, and now we’re just adding very small increments of knowledge on top of larger theories that were already established.

 

Personally, I believe that researchers think too much. We’re way too stuck in our minds. Over the past few years I’ve been on a journey to spend less time in my mind and more time in my body. It’s amazing how I’ve ignored the intelligence of my body by placing logic, reason and mental capabilities above everything else. I’m quick on my feet mentally, but completely uncoordinated physically. My mind is like a thoroughbred racehorse while my body has been patiently waiting to get out onto the track. Proponents of transpersonal research methods (specifically intuitive inquiry) suggest that our bodies can actually be important research tools. As Rosemarie Anderson writes:

 

“Too often, the scientific discourse of Euro-America tends to suppress and discourage intuitive processes, especially body-based knowings such as proprioception and kinaesthesia. This deep listening to intuition in research has a greater capacity to unfold into new ways of theorizing and envisioning that are closer to lived experience than do the rationalistic styles that dominate much of world culture and scientific discourse.”

 

By adding body-based inquiry to my professional life, I’ve realized that my interests in sacred sexuality, specifically the masculine and feminine energies that exist within and around us, are not only part of my spiritual life, but my professional life as well. I’ve realized that academia has been operating for the last 100 years (or more) on a masculine model that emphasizes competition and individuality. This masculine model doesn’t need to be completely demolished. Instead, it needs to be blended with feminine approaches that emphasize connection and interconnectedness. As Dorit Netzer suggests,


“…in the union of [conventional] masculine and feminine perspectives, [intuitive inquiry] seeks to balance structure and flexibility, exterior and interior, reason and emotion, thinking and feeling, discernment and holism.”


I think that female researchers, along with their open-minded male colleagues, are going to play a key role in bringing the feminine back into academia. Indeed, in her study of the role of the body in the psycho-spiritual development of female mystics, Vipassana Esbjorn-Hargens suggests that women are teachers of conscious embodiment and that sexuality is integral to this embodiment.

 

I believe that bringing the body and intuition back into the research process is going to be crucial for moving psychology forward. Of course, there will always be a place for the rigorous, “unbiased” research methods that we’ve all come to know and love. But there’s a place for subjectivity, too. After all, what is a hypothesis other than an educated guess about what you think might happen? Keep in mind that many researchers study topics that are of deep personal interest to them, and many of us arrive to our fields with biases in hand. In his book “The Wounded Researcher,” Robert Romanyshyn suggests that research is soul/spiritual work in that many of us study our own deep, unconscious wounds. Romanyshyn writes,

 

“The work that the researcher is called to do makes sense of the researcher as much as he or she makes sense of it. Indeed, before we understand the work we do, it stands under us. Research as a vocation, then, puts one in service to those unfinished stories that weigh down upon us individually and collectively as the wait and weight of history. As a vocation, research is what the work indicates. It is re-search, a searching again of what has already made its claim upon us and is making its claim upon the future.”

 

Let’s take my personal research trajectory as an example. My undergraduate thesis focused on Asperger’s disorder and Autism largely because I’d seen examples of these disorders in my family. I pursued a Masters degree in clinical Psychology focusing on anxiety and depression because of my personal experiences with these disorders. I pursued a PhD in romantic relationships because of crushing heartbreaks and dysfunctional relationships I’d been through in the past. I study yoga and mindfulness in schools to help youth avoid going through what I went through with anxiety and depression.

 

But I’m totally unbiased about the topics I study, right? Wrong.

 

I often come back to a question I’ve been asking myself since my undergraduate degree. Specifically, is it even possible for humans to study themselves? Would we expect a cat to have the ability to study itself? Do we really think that human emotion and behaviour can fit neatly into the boxes of a 2 x 2 research design? Perhaps we lack a certain level of (meta)awareness necessary to unbiasedly do research on ourselves (or to even ask the right research questions to begin with). Or perhaps we lack the appropriate scientific methods…maybe humans are so complex that we can’t use the same empirical approaches to study ourselves as we use to study particles in a vacuum.


Academia: A Saturated Job Market


Let me bring this topic back to earth by sharing how I see the academic job market today. Right now I see many young people going to graduate school because they don’t know what else to do. They get a Masters or a PhD to prolong their education because they doubt they’ll be able to get a job with only a BA or BSc (little do they know it will probably be just as difficult to get a job with a PhD). Many people pursue a graduate degree because they’ve bought into university marketing programs with hip looking ads that convince them that a Masters or PhD would be a good idea.


Universities operate as businesses just like any other business. They want your tuition money whether you get a job afterwards or not. So we end up with lots of graduates with PhDs and not enough jobs. Many people (myself included) end up cobbling a “career” together by doing multiple postdoctoral fellowships, teaching courses at several institutions, and doing their best to make ends meet. Then, when they apply for academic jobs, they’re looked down upon because their CVs are scattered. Graduates are doing their best to survive, but they're having trouble getting jobs. And when they do land part- or full-time work, they aren’t being paid nearly as much as they’re worth.

 

There’s something seriously wrong with this picture. And it needs to change.


My "Solution"


The way that I’ve “solved” this issue is by becoming what you might call an “independent professor.” I do research and I teach, but I’m not employed full-time by an academic institution. I ask my clients to pay me what I’m worth and I only teach courses that I’m passionate about. I do this because I refuse to contribute to a system that I don’t agree with. I want to do research that has a real impact on the world and I want to be compensated fairly, in a manner that suits my talents. I refuse to follow the bullshit illusions that tell me I need to work at a top-tier university or have a perfect career trajectory to be taken seriously. I want to make my own schedule, have lots of downtime, and contribute to meaningful work. I want to use my intuition and my body-based knowings to inform my research questions and even my results. I want to blend masculine and feminine approaches to research in the hopes of helping explain the complexity of this beautiful universe.

 

In essence, I want my life and my career to be a work of art that inspires me (and others) in the process. I want to help all of us access our full potential - our true masculine and true feminine - so that we can flourish and thrive personally and professionally.

 

And so I willingly admit that I don’t have my shit together, at least not in a traditional sense. I worry about money and retirement and how I’m perceived by my colleagues. My CV is a train wreck and I don’t know where my career trajectory is going. Perhaps I’m creating a new trajectory that others with PhDs can follow. Or perhaps someday I’ll find a university that welcomes faculty like me. What I do know is that I have a deep dissatisfaction with how things are being done in my field. And I want to do things differently. I’m determined to find a “better way” to live and work.

 

How about you? You might not be a researcher, but there are probably aspects of your line of work that you wish were different. What can you do to help facilitate these changes? How might you use your skills in a new way to move your field forward? How can you make your personal and professional lives a work of art that inspires other people to innovate and live their truth?


It’s time for you to embody your authenticity and bring it into your career. We’re ready for a change.

 

 

Three Tips To Tap Into Your Sacred Sexual Energy

Posted by Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. on January 24, 2017 at 4:00 AM Comments comments (0)

A couple of months ago I wrote my first blog on the topic of sacred sexuality. It was a blog that I was nervous to publish, but (to my surprise) it ended up receiving quite a bit of support. So I’ve decided to open the door a little more by sharing three basic practices that I’ve been using in these initial stages of my journey. This blog is written for women, but I think it’s important for men to read these words, too. Why? Because if your partner happens to be a woman, it will help you learn about her (and your) sacred sexual nature.


First I need you to know that the intention of these practices is NOT to boost your sex drive or give you 5-hour orgasms or help you perform magical tantric sex tricks for your partner. In fact, it could be argued that these practices have little to do with physical sexual intercourse at all. At it’s core, sacred sexuality is an inside job. In other words, it’s not about pleasing your partner or attracting the man/woman of your dreams. It’s about getting in touch with the sacred creative life force that exists within you (and within everything/everyone around you). No one owns your sexuality - not even your long-term romantic partner - and if you engage in these practices solely to please him/her then you’re missing the point. Your sexuality is sovereign - it is yours and yours alone - to be used how you see fit. In its most elemental form, your sexual energy is a vital aspect of your creative spark (and the creative spark of the universe).


When I say that your sexual energy is to be used as you see fit, I don’t mean that it’s ok to use sex in an unethical way. This is, in fact, the dark side of some teachings of sacred sexuality. We’ve all heard of ashrams and communities led by charismatic “gurus” who use sex to manipulate and control their followers. That’s not what I’m writing about here. I’m writing about using your sexual life force with integrity, in a clean, clear, authentic, direct way, to enhance your sense of aliveness as a woman and, if you choose to, enhance the aliveness of your partner(s) and the world.


Tapping into your feminine life-force is one of many ways that you can serve yourself and the world. Some people honour the sacred by becoming monks/nuns, or through prayer, or art, or singing, or dancing. If the practices that I share in this blog don’t resonate with you, drop them. On the other hand, if you’re intrigued and want to learn more, keep reading.


These tips are easy and straightforward, mainly because I want to make them accessible. I don’t want to share a bunch of “woo-woo” tactics that will send you running for the hills. However, I will say that these practices can open the door to woo-woo if you decide you want to go that route. But for now, let’s keep it simple.


Tip #1: Move Your Hips (Every Day)


Most women are taught to restrict the movement of their hips. This teaching is so subtle and insidious that we hold it at a subconscious level and rarely realize we’re acting it out in our daily lives. Here's an example. When walking down the street, it’s likely that you don’t sway your hips much from side to side. Why not? There are probably a multitude of reasons, but I believe one of them is that we don’t want to attract the “wrong type” of attention. We don’t want to look “too sexy,” or “slutty,” or provocative. I’m sure we’ve all come across a woman who was walking confidently, swaying her hips, perhaps dressed a tad provocatively - and assumed that she was out to get laid (or a bimbo, or superficial, or a prostitute). We try not to stare at her, but we want to stare at her. Why? Because she is reflecting back to us our natural sensuality and beauty as women.


The result of not exercising our full range of movement is that many women have a deep, chronic tightness in their hips / pelvic area. Some people call this “body armouring.” In a sense, we feel the need to protect this delicate area of our body, so we constrict it and shut it down. Most women have been violated in one way or another at some point in their lives. This violation can take the form of rape or sexual harassment or more “mundane” behaviours acted out by other people or even the media. At the very least, almost all of us have had the experience of a stranger touching us in an uninvited way (if you’ve ever spent time on a dance floor, this has definitely happened to you). Even when this touch doesn’t have malicious intent, it makes an energetic mark. Years of this type of touching can cause us to build up layer upon unconscious layer of body armour. Personally, I’ve been doing yoga for years, and my hips are one of the most flexible areas of my body, but I’ve realized that there’s a whole other layer of tightness underneath. It’s a subtle layer, built up from years - and perhaps lifetimes - of energetic contraction and constriction.


At their most relaxed and natural state, women are receptive creatures. The act of physical sexual intercourse between a man and a woman provides a perfect example. Here's why. There is a completely different physicality and energy between penetrating versus being penetrated. Being penetrated can feel quite vulnerable, even in long-term, loving relationships. To be fully present for her male partner, a woman needs to be relaxed, open, and receptive. She needs to trust the intentions of the person who is about to penetrate her. At an energetic level, she is allowing her partner into the mystery and sacredness of her inner world. When her inner world is constricted (physically and/or energetically) it is difficult for her to open up to her partner and to her own divine sexual nature.


One easy way to get back in touch with your natural sexual energy is to move your hips every day. When I say “move your hips” I don’t necessarily mean exercising or doing yoga (although these are decent options if that’s what you feel most comfortable with to start). What I really mean is moving your hips in a way that would make your mother (or maybe grandmother) blush. You can do slow, sensual circles, you can “twerk,” you can writhe on the ground, you can belly dance. The exact movement doesn’t matter - as long as it helps you tap into your sensual energy.

 

I tend to do this in two main ways: while meditating and while dancing. In the past, when I meditated I sat very still and chastised myself for making even the most subtle of movements. These days my meditation involves a bit of sitting still mixed with moving my hips (while sitting). I move in slow circles and back and forth. I allow my back to arch and curl, and I allow my upper body to follow along. Sometimes I go to a private spot in my apartment, put on some sensual music, and move my hips some more. I allow my body to move freely in whatever way it wants/needs to move.


If it helps, you can imagine yourself as the most beautiful manifestation of femininity that the world has ever seen. You can imagine something that you long for, and dance as a devotion to your longing (watch this video by Anaiya Sophia for more on movement for longing). With these visualizations in mind, you won’t be able to resist moving your hips in the ways that they are meant to move as a woman.

 

What is the point of all this gyration? It’s to help unwind years of conditioning that have trained you to constrict and contain your natural feminine essence. Sacred sexuality isn’t about learning new tips or tricks, it’s about remembering who you really are. It’s about returning to your true sexual nature without guilt, without shame, and without other people’s opinions of what your sexuality should be. Moving and stretching your hips will help you release deep areas of physical tension (such as your psoas muscle, or “soul muscle” ) as well as emotional tension. So get moving! And when I say every day, I mean every. day. Move your hips even when you feel bloated or unsexy - just make the movements a little more gentle. As you regularly engage in this simple practice, you’ll probably start to notice more subtle forms of energy emanating from your hips and moving up your body - this is your subtle sexual life-force.


Tip #2: Prioritize Pleasure


We women have a nasty habit of over-giving to everyone else at the expense of ourselves. We take care of our partners, our children, and even our pets before thinking of taking a moment for us. In fact, we often feel guilty when we do things “just for us,” as if the universe (or friends, or family) are going to admonish us for being bad parents or bad spouses or simply being an all around selfish person. But as I say all the time, there is such a thing as good selfishness. When you take care of your own needs, you give yourself the energy to be there for others.


I know you’re busy. I am too. When I say “prioritize pleasure,” I don’t mean you need to take off for a solo vacation to Costa Rica (although that would be awesome!). What I mean is that you can start to fill your life with simple pleasures. Things that are quick and easy to do, but that make you feel good.

 

I bring simple pleasures into my life in a few different ways. Sometimes I buy myself flowers, or I take a bubble bath. I make sure that the products I use on my skin and hair are as healthy for my body (and the planet) as possible. I diffuse essential oils to make my work space feel like a spa. I buy high quality teas that I really enjoy. I’m a very scent-oriented person, so every morning after I shower I “anoint” my body with scents that inspire and suit me (my favourite has always been vanilla). I wear clothes that feel soft and comfortable on my skin. I listen to music while I work. I cook food that nourishes my body and soul. Note that this doesn’t mean I diet or that I’m vegan - sometimes my Soul wants me to drink green smoothies and eat tofu, and other times it wants me to drink red wine with steak followed by dark chocolate - so I listen and obey.


There are lots of ways that you can bring simple pleasures into your life, even if you have limited time and/or a tight budget. Hey, masturbation is free and can be done pretty quickly if need be! Seriously though, one of your simple pleasures could be to give yourself an orgasm a few times per week, or even every day (read this article for a hilarious take on the potential importance of women orgasming every day). Whatever your simple pleasures are, try to make sure they’re things that are simply for you - no one else. So for example, you might think that one way to introduce a simple pleasure is to spend more time reading to your son because it’s something you enjoy doing. This is all fine and good (yes, read more with your son!) but you need to invest time and energy into pleasurable things that are really just for you. Get a pedicure or a massage, or give yourself 5 minutes to enjoy your coffee uninterrupted.

 

You can take this practice a step further by paying attention to what would feel most pleasurable in any given moment - even during difficult moments. As Jennifer Posada often says, even crying on the floor feels better with a pillow. This practice helps you develop of form of “pleasure-based mindfulness.” In other words, you tune into the present moment and see what would feel most pleasurable for you right now. And now. And now. Maybe your office chair is bothering your back and you need to lower it. Maybe you need to close your eyes for 5 seconds to give yourself a break from the glare of your computer screen. Maybe you need to take a deep breath.


The point of this pleasure-seeking is to acknowledge the pursuit of pleasure as a spiritual, and sacred, practice. As women, we are built for pleasure. Seriously. Your clitoris has 8,000 nerve endings that have no other known purpose aside from bringing you pleasure. As a woman, when you fill your pleasure meter, you become radiant. You also become better able to serve others because your well is full. Pleasure puts you in touch with your deep creative potential and opens you up to possibility.

 

Tip #3: Get To Know Yourself “Down There”


Women receive very mixed messages about their pussies. (Note that I’ve chosen to use the word “pussy” here in the way that Mama Gena uses it in her book Pussy: A Reclamation). On the one hand, we’re taught that our pussies are ugly. We’re told they’re hairy, smelly, bloody, and generally confusing. Compared to the (relatively) straightforward penis, our pussies are mysterious. There are too many folds of skin, too many hidden aspects, too much unknown, so it’s easier to just ignore the whole thing. We’re taught to hide our pussies and to not pay attention to what our pussies want out of fear of being labeled slutty.

 

On the other hand, we’re surrounded by pussy all day, every day, mostly through advertising and media. We’re bombarded with hyper-sexual images of women all the time, but we aren’t allowed to be these women (because that would be slutty). Over centuries, people have murdered and fought wars over wanting pussies, but on some level many of us think that our own unique pussy is gross.


My invitation to you is this: get to know (and hopefully love) your pussy. If you’re the more practical, scientific type, you can start by getting to know your anatomy. Do you know (like, really know) where your clitoris is? How about the difference between your clitoral hood and your clitoral head? What about your cervix? Your vulva? Labia? Vagina? Grab a hand mirror and take a look at yourself down there. Or spend a little extra time with your pussy in the shower. There are even websites that can help you learn more about your anatomy and pleasure, check out OMGYES for example.

 

At first this might seem weird. You might even get grossed out or feel self-critical. If this happens, remind yourself that the jewel between your legs is a coveted treasure - a treasure that men (and women) have yearned for over lifetimes. Pussies around the world have inspired poetry, war, and devotion beyond measure. So start giving your pussy the love that she deserves!


Another practical step (if you’re pre-menopausal) is to start tracking your monthly cycles. There are apps to help with this (I use one called Lunacycle). Women aren't taught to pay much attention to the 28-day cycle that we go through each month. On the contrary, we're encouraged to "push through" any bad moods, irritability, headaches, tiredness, and cramps so that we can be productive members of society. We're taught to "suck it up" and basically ignore the fact that we are women. But the truth of the matter is that our hormones go through pretty significant changes each week, and by acknowledging these changes we can help ourselves go with the flow of life instead of pushing against it. As Dr. Christiane Northrup describes:

 

“The menstrual cycle is the most basic, earthy cycle we have. Our blood is our connection to the archetypal feminine. The macrocosmic cycles of nature, the waxing and waning, the ebb and flow of the tides and the changes of the seasons, are reflected on a smaller scale in the menstrual cycle of the individual female body. The monthly ripening of an egg and subsequent pregnancy or release of menstrual blood mirror the process of creation as it occurs not only in nature, unconsciously, but in human endeavor. In many cultures, the menstrual cycle has been viewed as sacred.”


Read the rest of Dr. Northrup’s blog for more details, but here’s a super quick summary of some of the aspects of our cycles. When we’re ovulating we tend to feel sexy and energetic, when we’re pre-menstrual we get irritated by people/situations that push our boundaries, and when we’re menstrual we need to give ourselves time to rest. While you might not be able to take three days off work every time you menstruate, you can do small things to make your life more comfortable during this phase, like preparing meals in advance or wearing comfortable clothing (even dress pants can be comfortable if you find the right pair!).

 

I’ve started paying attention to my cycle in a few ways. Every morning I meditate in front of an “altar” of items that are personally meaningful to me. I change the items each week to honour the current phase of my cycle and to remind myself to pay attention to my cyclical nature. I track my cycle using an app that helps me see the phases of my cycle in relation to the current phase of the moon. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the moon goes through a 28-day cycle each month (just like women), and others agree. Paying attention to my body in this way has helped me be gentle on myself when I need to be, and tap into my natural energy when it’s highest. If you want to learn more about the importance of your cycle, check out Shakti Malan’s course on Entering the Wisdom of Women’s Sexual Cycles and Alisa Vitti’s work.


Getting to know the practical aspects of your pussy is all fine and good, but you can take this even further. As Mama Gena suggests, you can start talking to your pussy. Take a quick look at her in the mirror before you hop in the shower and say, “Good morning, gorgeous!” Let me tell you from experience that this is going to feel weird, and you might start to question your sanity. But there is something about acknowledging the existence of your pussy that feels so good. It’s as if by acknowledging her existence, you are righting an ancient wrong that has taught you to ignore her.

 

You can go even further by asking her questions and “listening” to what she has to say. In addition to having “gut instincts,” I’ve come to realize that we women also have “pussy instincts.” It can take some time to remember these instincts (the practices above will help) but eventually you’ll start to notice her “voice.”


You can try it right now. Do a couple of the practices that I listed in Tip #1 and #2. Then think about a situation in your life that you are unsure about, and ask your pussy a question about the situation. Place your hand on (or hover it over) your pussy. Take a few deep breaths and see if you can tap into her energy. Her response might come as a feeling in your heart or your stomach. Or you might actually hear some sort of voice. Or an idea or image might suddenly pop into your head. Or she might motivate you to write her answer in your journal. Don’t panic if you don’t get a response - our pussies are generally shy from years of us ignoring them. Be gentle with yourself and eventually you will start to feel/hear her. Yes, this last bit is a tad woo-woo, but I couldn’t resist :)

 

Bringing It All Together


In this blog I’ve done my best to give you a few easy techniques you can start implementing today to begin tapping into your sacred sexuality as a woman. These tips might seem simple, but they’re powerful. Moving your hips, prioritizing pleasure, and getting to know your pussy will open new doors for you if you practice consistently. Again, I’m not saying you’re going to become a better lover or have mind-blowing orgasms (although this is possible). The reality is that your partner might not even notice a difference in you - at least not at first. But eventually, if they are tuned into you enough, they will start to sense something going on beneath the surface. They might not be able to name it, but they will feel it. At that point, you can choose to engage them in your journey, or continue to fly solo for as long as you see fit. It’s up to you.


In the meantime, if you’re interested I encourage you to learn more about this topic. A few teachers who have inspired me in this area are Shakti Malan, Jennifer Posada, Mama Gena, and Anaiya Sophia. I would also love to hear from you! What have your experiences been with sacred sexuality? Have you tried any of the tips above? How did it go? Let me know in the comments below.




It's Time To Share Your Truth

Posted by Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. on January 3, 2017 at 4:00 AM Comments comments (4)

Back in November I shared a few details about my current journey into the unknown. Part of this journey has involved a deep exploration into who I am, what I want, and how I can be of service in the world. I am still very much in this dark, murky exploration, and very few answers have revealed themselves. However, one consistent response seems to arise when I ponder questions about what I'm here to do.


I am here to tell the Truth.


I'm still not exactly sure what this means, but here are my thoughts so far. Of all the projects, goals, blogs, online courses, and other activities I've engaged in since launching bethanybutzer.com in 2010, there is one theme that seems to serve my audience more than any other. This theme involves an honest, vulnerable sharing of my Truth - whatever my personal Truth happens to be in that moment.


I'm not talking about Ultimate Truth here, such as enlightenment, self-transcendence or non-duality. If you're interested in people who claim to have reached this epic level of Truth, check out Gary Weber, Aisha Salem, and Meike Schuett. Instead, what I'm talking about here is my Soul's personal Truth. The Truth that emanates from the deepest levels of my unique, human experience. This personal Truth is a tricky little devil because it's often entangled with various aspects of my humanity, like feelings, emotions, fears, and past conditioning.


But I've done my best to share several aspects of my personal Truth over the years, like my experiences with antidepressants, my desire to stop overachieving, my explorations into sacred sexuality, my dissatisfaction with my dream job and much, much more. I've made all of this information public, to the dismay of some of my colleagues, friends and family members. Past, present and future employers are free to explore some of my deepest struggles and psychological blind spots. My mom and my in-laws can read about my thoughts around sex and relationships. And while I don't share all of the details of my personal and professional life, I share enough to make myself (and others) rather nervous and uncomfortable.




The question is, why do I share so much of my Truth so openly and candidly? What exactly is the purpose of all of this Truth-telling?


Back in 2010 when I started sharing my Truth publicly, I followed the advice of many online marketers and tried to monetize it. I wrote a book, I taught workshops, and I developed online courses. I took the common self-help approach of, "My life is awesome, let me help you create an awesome life too." My products served many people, but my inner achievement addict got tangled up with my financial fears and I started obsessing over things like monthly sales and growing my online platform. Over the past couple of years - particularly over the past 6 months - I've started backing away from offering these types of services, and I've realized a few important things:


I'm not sure if my Truth-telling wants (or needs) to be monetized. I'm not sure why I feel so compelled to tell the Truth in my personal and professional life. I'm not sure exactly what purpose all of this Truth-telling is serving.


What I do know is that when I tell my Truth, it feels right - even when it's scary. I no longer aspire to have a glossy online presence that makes it look like I have everything figured out. But to be honest, telling my Truth is fucking hard. When I share my Truth, I run the risk of being rejected or ignored. I run the risk of people being upset with me. I run the risk of wrecking relationships and burning professional bridges.


Paradoxically, telling my Truth is also easy. My most vulnerable blogs, emails, and conversations often roll out of me with such force that it doesn't feel like it's me doing the writing/talking. It's as if my Soul wants to bring light to the topics and issues that many of us would rather keep in the dark.


But in order to bring these topics to light, I need to visit the dark. I need to sit with the deepest, darkest parts of myself. The parts that are scared to be admitted, scared to be known, scared to be shown. And while being in the dark is uncomfortable, there is also a sweetness to it. Like a love song that makes you cry and gives you goosebumps at the same time.


This doesn't mean that I tell the Truth all the time. I still have my fair share of big lies, small lies, white lies, secrets, and unspoken Truths. I'm starting to see my journey as a gradual unfolding of Truth-telling, with everything being revealed in perfect timing. And when I share my Truth, I think it gives other people permission to do the same. It helps them examine the darker parts of their lives and their psyches, and hopefully gives them the courage to bring these shadows to light in the service of their soul.


A Truth-telling archetype that has been surfacing in my consciousness a lot lately is the Dakini. As Shakti Malan describes:


"Dakini is a term from Tibetan Tantrism denoting a female deity who is an embodiment of the enlightened condition. A dakini can be manifest in human form as a guide to help others towards their awakening. Dakinis have a dual role: they are angels and they are demons. As angels, they act as muses – they inspire their students towards their highest possibility. The name dakini literally means “sky dancer” – a term referring to what happens when a woman‟s sexual energy opens up all the way through her body. In her demon role, the dakini can act as seductress and as a destroyer of illusions. The dakini seduces her partner to the truth, and destroys his/her illusions. The dakini is traditionally depicted as a young dancing woman with a skullcap filled with blood in one hand and a curved knife in the other. Like the goddess Kali, she may wear a garland of skulls around her neck. She is often depicted as standing on the head or body of a human or animal, depicting the ego that she has conquered.


All women are an embodiment of the dakini. The question is whether you are willing to take on this sacred power bestowed on your sexuality, and use it clearly and wisely. That is the correct use of our sexual power as women."


Similarly, Anaiya Sophia describes the Dakini as:


"The great tantric priestesses who seek the darkness, illusion and suffering on purpose, so they may eat it with vigor and wild abandon. A Dakini is a female with a very sharp, brilliant wisdom that is uncompromising, honest, with a little bit of wrath. Despite their gentleness and humour, they are direct, sharply intelligent, radical, and courageous. In essence, they live their lives and accomplishments as shining examples of dedication, compassion and realisation.


The Dakinis literally consume suffering - both our own pain and the suffering all around us.

 

In essence they literally Love the Hell out of everything they turn their attention to. Their medicine will awaken our fierce love, a form of dangerous devotion that stirs a compassion so rich and deep, that no matter how cruel or cold we/life might seem to be, there is a burning Hope."


While I am far from being a self-realized Dakini, I believe this archetype calls to me because I am meant to embody many of its principles. I am meant to share my Truth as a portal that opens this ability in others, and helps break down the illusions they've built around themselves and their souls. Whether this process is meant to be part of my "career" or something that I do "on the side" remains to be seen.


In the meantime I plan to continue my explorations into the unknown. Right now, my personal Truth is this: I have no clue what the future holds for me personally or professionally. I suppose none of us do. I'm entering 2017 with an open heart and a blank page. I have no major goals, resolutions, projects, or products to complete. I have no business plan. I haven't done any whiteboarding or brainstorming or mind mapping around what grand new service I should offer this year. I often feel uncomfortable, sad, anxious, and confused. Being goal-less is a very foreign feeling for achievement addicts like me. During the first few days of 2017 I've been vacillating between a sense of calm over everything unfolding perfectly, to a sense of panic that I have no clue WTF I'm doing with my life.


And so as we enter this new year I have absolutely nothing to offer you, dear reader, except for this blog and my commitment to continue sharing my Truth when my Soul calls on me to do so. I can only hope that my Truth-telling will serve my highest good, and the good of the world.


With this in mind, what Truth do you need to share today?


My Journey Into The Unknown

Posted by Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. on November 16, 2016 at 7:30 AM Comments comments (8)

A few weeks ago I received some disappointing news. A book proposal that I’d been working on with a small publishing company was suddenly, and surprisingly, rejected. The idea for the book had been percolating in my mind for 4 years, and I spent 2 years sharing my concepts and ideas with the acquisitions editor. She gave me very encouraging feedback all along the way, which is why I was so surprised when she wrote to tell me her publisher was rejecting my work.

 

However, after the initial shock wore off, I noticed a new feeling emerging.


Relief.


I realized that I’d been trying too hard to force my ideas to fit within this particular publishing company’s niche - to the point that my proposal didn’t feel authentic anymore. In fact, the entire time I was writing the proposal I had a sense of unease. It was like I had to force myself to write, which is odd for me, since writing is one of my passions.


The irony is that the book is based on a popular blog I wrote 4 years ago called Stop Trying So Hard. In other words, I was trying too hard to write a book about not trying too hard. So the proposal got shut down.

 

Sometimes the universe has a wicked sense of humour.

 

The rejection of my proposal was the “pièce de résistance” of several months of soul-searching about my career. I’ve spent much of the summer and early fall ruminating about what’s next for me professionally. Right now, my website and bio describe me as an “author, speaker, researcher and yoga teacher.” Well, it’s been 6 years since I wrote my book, and 4 years since I gave a talk for the general public or taught a yoga class. So what am I actually doing? Is my website even accurate anymore?


One thing that I have been doing a lot of is research. However, I know based on my time in grad school, and the various academic positions I’ve held, that too much research isn’t good for me. Research often traps me in my analytical, logical mind and blocks me from my creativity. Over the past 4 years I’ve had full-time (or close to full-time) research-related work, which has simply been too much. As I once read somewhere, "Be careful what you're good at. You could end up doing it for the rest of your life."

 

Over the past few months I’ve been using my achievement-oriented mindset to help me decide what direction to take next professionally. In other words, I keep journaling and brainstorming and obsessing about WTF I’m doing with my life. I come up with ideas like, “Screw that publisher! Maybe I should just self-publish my new book,” or “Maybe I should lead a retreat in Prague,” or “Maybe I should design a new online course.” One of the reasons the publisher rejected my proposal is that they don't think I have a big enough online platform to promote the book. This led me to several other ideas like, “Maybe I should host a free webinar to get more followers on Facebook,” or “Maybe I should collaborate with someone so we can help each other grow our email lists.”

 

But do you know what? Every single one of these ideas feels flat. They feel inauthentic and cheesy. It’s not that I have anything against online courses or personal development retreats - I’ve led many of these types of events in the past and I probably will continue to do so in the future.

 

Just not right now.

 

This leads to an important question: Exactly what do I want to be doing with my time right now?


I keep asking myself how I can best serve myself and serve the world via the gifts I’ve been given. I keep asking, “What does love want to produce through me right now?” When I manage to slow down my inner achievement addict (who thinks I should be producing new products), a quieter, more subtle voice emerges. It’s barely a whisper, but I know that it is the voice of my soul. And here is what it says:

 

“Right now, the universe wants to produce a softer version of you.”

 

You see, I’ve spent most of my adult life living within very hard edges. I’ve focused obsessively on achievement - a mindset that brought me all the way to Harvard, which is fantastic. But I’ve been too serious. Too focused. Too perfect. I’ve used my achievements to define my identity and my sense of self-worth.


The universe wants me to release my iron grip on my life and start colouring outside the lines. It wants me to let up on my hyper-masculine obsession with achievement, and let in a feminine energy that involves yielding to creativity instead of forcing it to happen. As I mentioned in my last blog, I’m very grateful for everything that my inner masculine has brought into my life, and I have no intention of eliminating him. I just need to give him permission to let go of the reins a little.

 

This process began when I left Harvard 1.5 years ago to enter into what Bill Plotkin calls “the unknown.” In his book Soulcraft, Plotkin describes the process of entering a “second adulthood” where we come into closer contact with our soul. This second adulthood is often precipitated by a loss of various structures that once made up our identity. Sometimes this loss comes from receiving a terminal diagnosis, or a divorce, or surviving a natural disaster. Whatever the external cause, the result is a period of time spent in the unknown, where many of the labels that previously defined you no longer exist.

 

I’ve spent the last 1.5 years in the unknown, and I’m not exactly sure when this period is going to end. In fact, I feel it deepening.




Spending two months living in the woods, and then moving to the Czech Republic, has stripped away much of my former identity. I’ve entered into a world where hardly anyone knows me or has any idea what I do for a living. I can walk down the street in Prague with an almost 0% chance of seeing anyone I know. The Canadian values and structures that I was raised with either don't exist here or take on a different form. Often, my language doesn't even exist here. I don’t speak Czech, so I spend a lot of time being non-verbal in social situations, which allows me to exit my often overpowering verbal, analytical mind and access subtle non-verbal cues that I never would have noticed otherwise. I live thousands of miles away from most of my friends and family. I don’t own a home or a car. I don’t even own my furniture (I rent a furnished apartment).


I seem to be doing the exact opposite of what most people my age are doing. Instead of “settling down” with stable structures like a house, car, and corporate job, I’ve spent the past year and a half systematically dismantling every single structure that once helped me feel secure.

 

Am I crazy? Perhaps. But this leap into the unknown seems to be exactly what my soul desires.

 

The result is that it feels as if the boundaries around my personal and professional lives are loosening. The rigid boxes, titles, and roles that I used to place myself in are more diffuse and open to possibilities than they used to be. After all, when you don’t have external structures to define what your career should look like, or what your relationship should look like, or what your friendships should look like, it gives you the freedom to re-create these structures in a way that is most aligned for you.

 

The paradox is that this freedom is both liberating and terrifying. I’m reminded of my friends in grad school who did research on choice overload. Honestly, my life is a super-sized bowl of choice overload right now. My husband and I are both self-employed and our work is completely virtual. We own almost nothing right now aside from our dishes, books, clothes, computers, photo albums and a cat. We have no children. We have Canadian and European Union citizenship. This means we have a multitude of choices in terms of where to live and work. Our relationship and our professional lives are open to so many possibilities that it’s almost overwhelming.

 

I’ve realized that the universe needs to create a softer version of me so that I can exist in this type of environment without completely freaking out. The softer version will show me a new way to live. It will show me a new paradigm that isn’t solely based on achievement and busy-ness and climbing invisible ladders.

 

So what exactly will this softer version of me look like?

 

Well for starters, I need to pay the bills, so I will continue to do my research consulting work as long as it is available (albeit on a part-time basis and in a more relaxed way). I do research on yoga and mindfulness in schools, which is a lovely way for me to use my skills to benefit the world. However, this work has been slowing down over the past few months, and it might dry up completely at some point. But instead of forcing myself to frantically create new products or find new consulting gigs, I’m going to spend some time unwinding.


I want to unwind years of achievement addiction that have told me I need to be perfect to be a worthy human being. I’m also going to spend time pursuing pleasure and doing things that light me up. I’m going to spend time being naughty and mischievous - not in a way that hurts anyone - but in a way that helps me feel what it’s like to slack off and break the rules.


My soul no longer wants me to be a perfect “good girl” who pleases everyone else, neglects her own pleasure, and never rocks the boat. My soul wants to read poetry in cafes on a Tuesday morning and have solo dance parties in my living room in the middle of the afternoon. My soul wants to binge watch on Netflix and read books that have nothing to do with personal development. My soul wants to have belly laughs - lots of them. My soul wants to share her truth and have difficult conversations when necessary. My soul wants me to fully inhabit my feminine, sensual body. I’m learning how to do some of this unwinding through my studies of sacred sexuality, which I intend to continue.

 

I fully acknowledge the fact that I’m privileged to have this lifestyle. But as I’ve mentioned before, this privilege didn’t come out of thin air. I helped create it, and I’m going to milk it for everything it’s worth.

 

This means that I’m going to be stepping back from a few more structures, in order to go even deeper into the unknown. For example, I’ve been blogging religiously, without fail, every two weeks since 2010. And while I know that consistent blogging is important in terms of growing my online platform, I’ve decided to remove the “every 2 week” rule, at least for now. I will still blog - but it will be on a soul schedule instead of a linear time schedule. I also plan to spend less time on social media.

 

All of this might sound like I’m moving backwards professionally. It might sound like I’m being lazy or reckless. And in some ways, I guess I am. But I like to think of it more as an incubation period. It’s a time for me to yield to my own pleasure as a way for the universe to show me how I can best serve the world, instead of me trying to force myself to serve in the ways that my ego thinks are most appropriate. This process might take a month, a year, or a decade. While slacking off might come easy for some people, it is excruciating for achievement addicts like me. I might run out of money. I will freak out regularly. In fact, my inner achievement addict is freaking out at this very moment because I’m making these words public.

 

But I refuse to live anything other than my soul’s most authentic life. This is often challenging, but always worth it. This is also the beauty of soul work. It is often counter-intuitive and paradoxical. I mean, really, shouldn’t I be taking my career to the next level by putting myself out there, growing my platform, making connections, and "knocking it out of the park?" Shouldn’t I be climbing the ladder and saving for retirement?

 

Right now, my soul says no.

 

I’m reminded of a story Sera Beak recently shared on Facebook, where she described feeling completely “done” after giving a talk at a personal development gathering. In Sera’s words, after giving the talk she,


“...felt a distinct kind of divine depression, a slap down of my lofty spiritual ideals, a subtle refusal to continue my mission, accompanied by a teenagerly ‘tude: “fuck off universe, this gig totally blows,” and the sinking realization that shit might not “get better” for a loooong time on this planet…no matter what I, or souls far greater than I, do.”


Sera went on to describe Gandhi’s final interview, in which he shared that he was losing hope in humanity. She concludes,


“If Gandhi felt like giving up and things had gone to shit, it’s OK if we “spiritual” people do too. It’s OK to feel “done” sometimes. It’s OK to throw in the transcendent towel, draw the cosmic curtains, hang the “do not disturb sign” on your divine doorknob and watch 6 seasons straight of True Blood.”

 

And so, this is where I am right now. I’m “done” with my achievement addict. I’m done with producing online courses and regular blogging and teaching yoga and leading personal development retreats. Perhaps not forever, but for now.


I’ve realized that in order to write an authentic book about not trying so hard, I need to truly live it. I need to see what happens when I let go of the rope and practice what I preach. Only then will I be able to re-emerge with the confidence to share what I’ve learned. So I’m hanging my ‘do not disturb’ sign and opening to a softer version of me. I don’t know what this softer version will produce, aside from possibly making me a better human being. Which is, of course, everything.

 

How could me slowing down possibly serve the world? I have no idea. But I’m about to find out.

 

I’d like to leave you with a blessing by John O’Donohue, from the book Anam Cara. I hope these words serve you and I on our journeys toward soul-full work:

 

May the light of your soul guide you.

May the light of your soul bless the work you do with the

   secret love and warmth of your heart.

May you see in what you do the beauty of your own soul.

May the sacredness of your work bring healing, light, and

   renewal to those who work with you and to those who see

   and receive your work.

May your work never weary you.

May it release within you wellsprings of refreshment,

   inspiration, and excitement.

May you be present in what you do,

May you never become lost in the bland absences.

May the day never burden.

May dawn find you awake and alert, appreciating your

   new day with dreams, possibilities, and promises.

May evening find you gracious and fulfilled.

May you go into the night blessed, sheltered, and protected.

May your soul calm, console, and renew you.

 

From my soul to yours,

 

Bethany

Pulling Back The Curtain On Sacred Sexuality

Posted by Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. on November 2, 2016 at 6:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I write from a pretty vulnerable place. I share a lot of personal details about my struggles, my joys, and the various teachers who have inspired my journey. In this blog I’m taking my vulnerability to a new level. You see, for the past 2 years or so I’ve been learning about (and greatly inspired by) a topic that I rarely (if ever) mention publicly.

 

The topic is sacred sexuality.

 

In reflecting on why I don’t write about this topic much, I realized it’s because of embarrassment and shame. I was worried that if I blogged about sacred sexuality people would think I was a crazy hippie. Or that I had some sort of sexual dysfunction. Or that I was practicing “deviant” sexual activities. The ironic thing is that one of the first few things you learn as a woman studying sacred sexuality is that women have been taught - for centuries - to harbor embarrassment and shame when it comes to the physical act of sex and their sexuality in general.

 

There are women in my life who are doing deep spiritual work and who are blogging about it from the rooftops - but they keep their explorations of sacred sexuality behind closed doors. They are learning awesome things from great teachers, but they’re afraid to post about their teachers' work because they don’t want their friends and family to know about the “risqué” things that they’re studying.

 

On the one hand, I get it. To some extent, sexuality is a private matter and we don’t all need to be preaching our pillow talk. It's understandable that some people don't want their friends, colleagues, or children learning about their sex lives. However, as I’ll explain in more detail below, I think it’s crucial for women to come clean about their interest in, and explorations of, sacred sexuality in a way that both honors their lifestyle and respects their privacy. Why? Because the world needs it. Mother earth needs women to own and be proud of their sexual nature, and I truly believe that women waking up to their divine sexuality will help make the world a better place.

 

Last summer I attended a retreat in Montana led by Sera Beak. At one point during the retreat, Sera asked the group to close our eyes. Then she said, “Raise your hand if you’re a sexual priestess.” I’m not sure how many of the other women in the group raised their hands, but I did. Sera went on to explain that whether we realize it or not, all women are sexual priestesses. In my opinion, one of the first steps to owning our roles as sexual priestesses involves releasing the shame and guilt that we might feel around claiming such a grand title.

 

I’ve realized that withholding my sexual truth inevitably leads to hurt and pain - for myself and others. So I’m coming clean. The reason I’m writing this blog is to be transparent and do my part to pull back the curtain of shame and guilt that often surrounds this topic. So here goes.

 

A Few Disclaimers

 

First, a few disclaimers:

 

  1. I’m very new to the study of sacred sexuality, and this blog is in no way meant to be an in-depth exploration of this topic. I’ll be referencing a few teachers along the way - feel free to explore those resources if you want to learn more.

  2. Throughout the blog I’ll be referring to dynamics that can exist in heterosexual relationships - not because I don’t think these dynamics exist for same-sex couples - but because most of my experiences have been with men.

  3. When I use the terms “masculine” and “feminine,” I’m not necessarily referring to men and women. I’m also not saying that either energy is better or worse than the other.

  4. When I talk about “sacred sexuality,” I’m not just referring to physical sexual intercourse.

  5. When I use the word “pussy” I’m not trying to offend anyone. What some authors call pussy, others call yoni, or vagina, or soul, or your true self. They are all the same thing: the core essence of who you really are as a woman.

  6. I’m going to make some generalizations about male-female relationships. I’m not trying to say that all relationships are like this - I’m using it as a literary device to give examples of how certain patterns might manifest in our daily lives.


My Initial Explorations

 

So what exactly do I mean when I use the term “sacred sexuality?” I’ll be honest by admitting that I don’t completely know. At the broadest level, my personal explorations into sacred sexuality have involved delving into the masculine and feminine energies that live within and around us. In other words, sacred sexuality isn’t only about the physical act of sexual intercourse. It’s about finding ways for the true masculine and true feminine energies to dance within you and within your partnerships.


I particularly enjoy Lissa Rankin’s musings on what sacred sexuality might look like in the context of dating - a concept she calls “open monogamy.” Lissa shares:


“In a spiritual partnership, sex becomes a gateway to communion with the Divine, rather than simply a mutual quest to get off. With love and tenderness holding the vulnerability of the heart safe in an ocean of trust, physical intimacy becomes a gateway to expanded states of consciousness, where you see the Divine in the eyes of your beloved, and you are seen as the embodiment of the Divine in the eyes of your beloved. As you share breath and heartbeats, you experience pleasure not just from the superficial level of genital orgasm, but from the deep heart connection and deep pleasure of full-bodied ecstatic union. As two people commune sexually as a gateway to spiritual connection, unhealed wounds can be cleared, conflicts between the partners can be healed, and Divine love can enter the union as a reminder of what is possible when unconditional love marries the flesh.”

 

This might all sound a bit abstract, and in truth, it is. But let me try to offer a few concrete examples.


For years the various coaches and teachers that I worked with told me that I needed to get more in touch with my inner feminine - but I had no idea what they meant. My first attempt to connect with the feminine involved attending a retreat by Sally Kempton at the Kripalu Centre for Yoga & Health. The retreat was about developing a personal relationship with the feminine - specifically through studying and meditating on various goddesses, like Kali and Lakshmi. During one of the meditations - which wasn’t explicitly sexual in any way - I started to experience an energy that felt kind of like sexual arousal, but bigger. Where did I feel this energy? In a spot that we women are still having trouble finding a word for, so I’ll use a few. I felt this energy deep within my vagina/pussy/genitals/yoni. The energy slowly moved up my body, and it felt delicious.

 

I later learned that I had experienced a manifestation of feminine energy in my body, and that this pleasurable energy is my birthright. I realized that the more I give myself permission to feel this energy in my daily life, the more I’ll shine in general and make the world a better place.

 

However, as is the case with most personal development, change happens slowly. After coming back from the retreat I got back into my busy life and all but forgot about my experience. A year later, something nudged me to read Sera Beak’s book Red, Hot & Holy, which led me to sign up for her Soul Fire Retreat. The retreat was a life changing experience that helped me get a better sense of my soul/true self. The retreat wasn’t explicitly about sacred sexuality, but we did a lot of work with reconnecting with the divine feminine within and around us.

 

My post-soul-fire experience has ushered several fantastic teachers into my life, like Shakti Malan, Jennifer Posada, Esther Perel, and Mama Gena. I’ve taken courses on reconnecting with my sexual cycles - which means acknowledging the fact that as a woman, my body changes every week in a cyclical way, and there are practices I can do to honour each phase of my menstrual cycle. I’ve taken courses on energy orgasms and becoming a sexual priestess. I’m reading books about “mating in captivity.” Right now I’m reading Mama Gena’s new book called “Pussy: A Reclamation” which is absolutely fantastic (seriously, her chapter on “Cliteracy” should be required reading for both men and women). I also have teachers on my list whose work I plan to delve into at some point, like David Deida and Alison Armstrong.

 

What have I learned from my initial explorations?

 

That I need to give myself permission to be a woman.




Men, Women, & Relationships

 

Like many women, I’ve spent most of my life operating purely from my masculine, because that’s what’s valued in modern society. Masculine energy tends to have a one-pointed, goal-oriented focus. In other words, the masculine runs a tight ship and gets shit done. If you look up “Bethany Butzer” in the dictionary, I fulfill these requirements to a “T.” Do you want productivity, reliability and achievement? Call me up. I can literally count on one hand the number of times I’ve skipped class or handed a project in late or forgot to do something on my To Do list. In 10 years of university I never pulled an all-nighter to get work done. My personal and professional lives are probably the most tightly run ships around.

 

The problem is that my ships run so tight that I've lost my ability to loosen up. I forgot how to flow and be open and creative and spontaneous which, among other things, are some of the energies of the feminine.

 

And I know I’m not alone. Countless women in my life, from a variety of cultural and educational backgrounds, have followed a similar pattern. In fact, I would argue that the majority of my female friends and colleagues live from their masculine. How does this manifest in their day-to-day lives? Well, for starters they do almost everything. They work, they raise kids, they cook, they clean, they pay the bills, they organize family events, and the list goes on. In other words, they get shit done. And they do an impeccable job. The problem is that they stop taking care of themselves in the process. They spend time carefully braiding their child’s hair while they barely have time to wash or style their own. They make sure their husband has a healthy lunch packed for work while their lunch consists of instant coffee and a bagel.

 

Now before I go any further I want to make it exceptionally clear that this isn’t about man bashing. Because guess what? Women are helping perpetuate this problem. First of all, I think most men aren’t exactly sure how to handle women who are operating from their masculine. I think that many men from my generation and socio-cultural background were raised by (well-meaning) parents who made them unsure about how to inhabit their masculinity and femininity. In other words, these parents didn’t want their sons to be over-controlling assholes who abuse their wives. Many (but of course not all) men from my generation were taught to respect women. They were taught not to be “too masculine.” However, they were also taught not to be “too feminine.” Their parents didn’t teach them how to cook or do laundry or cry in public because then they’d be pussies. The result is a generation of men who have a lot of ambivalence about their inner masculine and inner feminine. They aren’t sure which “camp” to inhabit - if they inhabit any camp at all.

 

But don’t worry, because super-masculine-woman will come in and fix all of this by doing everything! Because the (well-meaning) parents of my generation taught us women not to ever have to rely on a man. We were told that we can do everything that a man can do, and more. We were taught to reach for the stars and achieve, achieve, achieve, because we don’t need a man to make it in this world. We were taught to be hyper-masculine, and to avoid the feminine because was too weak, too emotional, and too sappy to make it in this cutthroat world.

 

Men often come from families that didn’t encourage them to be masculine or feminine, whereas women are often taught to inhabit their masculine.

 

(Side note: I’m extremely grateful for my upbringing and for the women who came before me who fought for our rights. Many of us, however, have taken these original intentions too far. Also, please let me reemphasize that I don't think that all women and all men were raised like this. It's simply a pattern that I often see in many men and women around me - which I absolutely realize is based on my personal social/cultural context).

 

This results in many heterosexual relationships that look something like this: the woman controls almost all aspects of the household, and the man walks on eggshells doing his best not to piss her off. He sits still, wide-eyed, watching her run around like a hurricane until she tells him what to do. When he does what she asked him to do, he never does it good enough (i.e. her way) so she ends up re-doing it herself or getting angry and accusing him of not doing enough around the house. When the woman gets upset because she’s physically and emotionally exhausted (typically during PMS), both partners get frustrated and can’t figure out what all the fuss is about, because things seem to run relatively smoothly at other times of the month (usually because the woman is able to successfully suppress her anger when she isn’t PMS’ing and because women aren’t taught how to ask for what they need).

 

Modern men and women are stuck in a place where they don’t know how to allow both the masculine and feminine to dance within themselves and their partnerships.

 

Sound familiar? Personally, I’ve seen this dynamic play out in my relationship many times. The worst part is that sometimes when my husband would try to take the initiative by cleaning the house or surprising me with dinner I would actually get annoyed. Annoyed! Why? Because I’d notice that he didn’t clean the way I’d clean. He didn’t use the right detergent on the hardwood floors or he didn’t put a bounce sheet in the dryer. Or he’d make a dinner of pork wrapped in pork with a side of pork (my husband is Czech and thus loves meat, bread, and beer). During these times I’d act like I appreciated what he was doing, but I would be giving off an annoyed vibe and/or “fixing” whatever it is that he’d done (like delicately picking pork chunks out of my risotto). Living in my masculine and always wanting things done MY way actually emasculated my husband and made him feel like he couldn’t do anything right.


Bringing The Masculine & Feminine Into Balance

 

My explorations into sacred sexuality have taught me that there shouldn’t be shame in operating from my feminine. She is not weak or emotional or crazy. When properly nurtured, she is the seat of my divinity, my intuition, and my creative potential. Which is why I’m starting to give her the attention she deserves. I’ve been pulling back on my household duties and letting my husband take more of the reigns - even when he doesn’t do things my way. I’m giving my husband (and myself) permission to dote on me, to take care of me, to adore me. Sometimes this means I let him pay for dinner instead of insisting that we go 50/50. Other times it means I let him buy me a pair of shoes without hassling him about how much they cost. Or it might mean that I leave it up to him to schedule his own dentist and doctor appointments. These days he does his own laundry, and we take turns cooking. The steps are small, but they add up.

 

My explorations have also taught me that my inner masculine is not wrong or bad. It’s just that I’ve let him control too much of my life so far. As Shakti Malan shares:

 

“It's often very valuable to clearly see, and appreciate, what your masculine has brought into your life. It's not about telling him to leave - it's about developing a conscious relationship. Without the masculine, the feminine has a hard time being in the world and she gets overwhelmed by her own intensity of experience.”

 

So I’m taking this opportunity to publicly thank my masculine for all of the amazing things he’s brought into my life. My inner masculine is responsible for giving me the determination, focus, and discipline to be the first person in my family to attend university. He’s responsible for helping me get my PhD, win awards, work at Harvard, and run a super-organized household.


But these days I’m craving feminine qualities like joy, pleasure, and flow. I want to let go of the reigns. My inner masculine perceives these qualities as slacking off, but my true self knows that these feminine aspects, in combination with my masculine, are essential to a life well-lived.

 

Case in point: Combining my masculine qualities of focus, discipline and organization with my feminine qualities of flow, pleasure, and spontaneity is how I ended up leaving Harvard to live in the woods, followed by a move to Prague. My current lifestyle is the result of me combining my ability to get organized and go after what I want (masculine) with my desire for beauty and inspiration and an ability to leap into the unknown (feminine).

 

It’s not about eliminating the masculine or feminine. As with all things, balance is key.

 

Cultivating Radiance Through The Feminine


Now that I’ve been settled in Prague for a year I’m starting to up the ante on nurturing my feminine by taking more unscheduled time for myself. I've devoted every Thursday to spending time with my soul / true self. I’m surrounding myself with small things that make me feel good, like high quality essential oils, lovely body creams, and comfortable socks. As Mama Gena calls it, I’m “pussifying” my life. In other words, I’m surrounding myself with an environment that makes my pussy/soul/true self feel good. Because when I honour these aspects of my femininity, I shine. I radiate a light that is infectious and that changes the world, one person at a time.

 

I know this because I’ve experienced it. I just didn’t know exactly what it was. There have been times in my life when I’ve been tapped into my soul/pussy/true self, and I know that others can feel it. Both men and women. Sometimes men interpret the feeling as sexual attraction - and sometimes they’re right. However what’s been more common in my experience is that when I’m “tuned in” to my radiance, both men and women simply want to be in my physical presence (without necessarily wanting to be sexually intimate). My light acts like a muse or a courtesan - inspiring them to reach their highest potential. Sometimes I’ve taken things further and this light got transferred into a sexual relationship, which in my opinion is sacred sexuality in the truest sense of the word. For me, sacred sex happens when my radiance is turned on, and the sexual relationship reaches a level of intimacy and closeness that inspires both partners inside and outside of the bedroom. It’s rare, but it happens.

 

There are, however, shadows to be aware of in the realm of sacred sexuality. For example, there is a difference between turning on your radiance and attracting men and women into your life in order to inspire them and change the world, versus attracting people to make yourself feel better about yourself. Personally, I’ve done both. There were times in my life when I had a series of men orbiting me, not as a muse or courtesan to inspire them or help them grow, but instead as a method to boost my low self-esteem. These men might have been tapping into some of my radiance, which is what kept them interested - but I wasn’t using my light in an honourable way. This meant people got hurt in the process. As I mentioned in my last blog, discernment is key. These days, I’m doing my best to discern when someone is drawn to me based on my inherent, natural radiance versus attracting people based on a desire to boost my self-worth. It’s not easy, but I’m getting better at it.


Sacred Sexuality: It's Happening All Around You

 

What's my take-home point? I want to share my explorations into the masculine, feminine, and sacred sexuality because I’m tired of hiding it in the shadows. I want to be an example of the fact that not all women (or men) who study sacred sexuality are “far out” deviant hippies with names like “moonbeam” and “sting.” There are people studying sacred sexuality all around you - you just don’t know it because they’re hiding. There’s the wholesome soccer mom down the block who is actually in a polyamorous marriage. There’s the CEO who wears a suit all day and then dances naked under the full moon at night. There’s the strict schoolteacher who spends her weekends practicing orgasmic meditation (OM).

 

Keep in mind, however, that having an interest in sacred sexuality doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing anything “kinky.” It simply means that you’re working/playing with the dance of the divine masculine and the divine feminine in your own unique way(s). This might mean that you’re interested in moving orgasmic energy through your whole body, or it might simply mean you’re interested in taking a dance class.


Personally, I don’t have a “spiritual name” or a perfect understanding of what sacred sexuality is. I’m a (relatively) normal, down to earth woman. I’m also a scientist who places a great deal of value on rigorous research. I even did my PhD on romantic relationships - and published a study about sexual satisfaction - but there’s a difference between reading about sexuality in books and actually living it. To be honest, I don’t have any research to back up a single word I’ve mentioned in this blog. But it is my lived experience which, in my opinion, is more rich, juicy, and meaningful that any peer-reviewed academic article.

 

Now that I’ve come clean I’d love to hear from you. Have you been studying sacred sexuality but you’re too scared to admit it? Are you a woman (or man) who is starting to give yourself permission to embrace your inner masculine or feminine? Come out of the shadows in the comments below!




Why Your Healthy Habits Might Not Always Be Good For You

Posted by Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. on October 19, 2016 at 3:35 AM Comments comments (0)

I recently started spending every Thursday with my soul (AKA my true self). This means that I do everything in my power to keep my To Do list as empty as possible on Thursdays. This new routine is terrifying for my false self, which tends to be an overachieving workaholic. In fact, when I first started celebrating soul days my false self created huge To Do lists full of self-help activities like reading motivational books, watching inspirational videos, and going for walks in nature.


But there was something about this process that didn't feel quite right. It felt over-scheduled and forced - like I was pressuring myself to feel good. So I decided to take a different approach that involves leaving my Thursdays wide open. Every Thursday morning I sit in meditation for 15 minutes and gently ask my soul what it feels called to do that day.


And guess what my soul's answer usually is?


Nothing.


That's right. My soul seems to feel like doing absolutely nothing.


This baffled and irritated me at first (and to be honest, it still kind of does). It also causes my my inner overachiever to totally freak out. During these moments, overachiever Bethany chimes in with thoughts like, "Come on, soul, pull yourself together! Let's do some super awesome personal development shit so that Bethany can learn and grow and transcend and serve the world! I mean, really, you want to do nothing? What does that even mean? Do you expect us to just sit here and stare out the window?"


To which my soul replies, "Yes. I want you to wrap yourself in that blanket, sit in a comfy chair, and stare out the window."


So I do it. And I find it absolutely excruciating.


But, being the good soul student that I am, I've kept doing nothing when that's what my soul wants to do.


Then, right on cue, two resources came into my world. One was a video interview by Gabrielle Bernstein, and the other was a song by the band Daughter. Both resources talk about our tendencies to numb ourselves from feeling what we need to feel. Most of us are relatively familiar with the concept of numbing out through drugs or alcohol or sex. We've all been in situations of heartbreak when we have sex with someone as a way to numb ourselves instead of feeling an emotional connection, or we drink too much in an effort to forget about our stress.


I've used these not-so-healthy coping mechanisms many times in my life - but my soul days have made me realize something very important:


I also sometimes use healthy habits as a way to numb out from feeling what I need to feel.


As Gabby mentioned in her video, a huge habit for me is numbing out through work. Here are a few examples. As an undergraduate student I got into regular arguments with my long-term boyfriend. I vividly remember hanging up the phone in tears and then immediately grabbing my textbooks and heading to the study hall in my residence. I rarely gave myself an opportunity to cry it out or process my emotions. Similarly, during the last year of my PhD, my stepfather died tragically and unexpectedly from an oxycontin overdose. I took the requisite week off from my studies, but I kept myself busy instead of letting myself feel. After my week was up, I plunged myself back into my work with a vengeance - rarely talking about or acknowledging what happened. I finished my PhD with perfect timing and even won a national award for my research. Even now, when I get into arguments with my husband, I feel an almost irresistible pull toward my work. I sit at my desk, take a deep breath, and jump headfirst into the most difficult project that I can.


In other words, I use work to avoid life.


In my twenties I spent 7 years in therapy, and not a single therapist ever called me out on this numbing behavior. Why? Because achievement and productivity are so valued in our culture that most of us don't realize when we're using work to numb ourselves. In fact, we're praised and given awards for our overwork.


But overwork isn't the only strategy that we use to numb out. I've realized that many of us also use "healthy habits" like yoga, meditation, and personal development to avoid our feelings. I'm not saying that these techniques are bad - I'm a yoga teacher and I've spent years researching the beneficial effects of yoga and meditation. However I've noticed that there is a fine line between using these techniques for our well-being versus using them to avoid feeling.




Here's an example. I've noticed that there are times when I force myself to do yoga or meditate in an attempt to make myself "feel better." In the same way that someone might have a few too may drinks or smoke a cigarette when they're stressed - I turn to contemplative practices. During these times I notice myself trying to "force away" whatever I'm feeling. I sometimes use stretching and breathing techniques to get rid of my sadness or anxiety, instead of allowing myself to fully experience these emotions.


I've realized that I don't enjoy feeling my emotions, and I try to avoid them at all costs. I've noticed that I'm afraid to be vulnerable. I'm afraid to be human.  It takes a heck of a lot for me to cry in front of anyone - even my husband. When I do cry, it usually means that I'm so upset that my avoidance tactics simply aren't working anymore. When I cry, people who know me well know that I mean business.


This doesn't mean that I'm numbing out every time I use a contemplative practice. What I've realized is that I need to use laser-sharp discernment to identify when I'm numbing versus when my body and mind actually need these practices.


I've noticed that if I get still and tune into my body this process becomes relatively straightforward. For example, let's say I'm feeling anxious about work and I get an urge to do some yoga. Before starting to practice, I'll close my eyes and notice how my body feels about doing yoga. Sometimes, my body feels like, "Yes! We've been sitting at a desk all day and we really need to move." Other times, my body says, "I'm actually exhausted. The last thing I feel like doing is yoga. Maybe you can roll out your yoga mat, get a blanket, and lay there for awhile. It would really help if we could feel through and process this anxiety instead of avoiding it."


I was trained in mindfulness meditation, which involves bringing your attention into the present moment by focusing on some sort of mantra or sensation, such as the breath. I'll be the first to say that I think mindfulness is amazing - but for me personally, sometimes it feels like a form of avoidance. For example, I might be feeling sad, so I force myself to sit and pay attention to the feeling of the breath coming in and out of my nose.  The whole time there's this sadness sinking deep into the pit of my stomach - but I try to ignore the sadness and focus on my breath. Or "watch the sadness pass by like clouds in the sky."


The same goes for repeating positive affirmations. How many of us have plastered post-its all over our homes with messages like "I am abundant" and "All is well" when we actually feel like crap and don't believe a word we're reading?


As you start paying attention to your own body you might notice similar patterns. Perhaps you start being able to tell the difference between times when you listen to music as a form of genuine release versus times when you put on a happy tune to force yourself out of a bad mood. Or maybe you notice that instead of meditating you really just need to have a good cry or punch your pillow.


These days I've taken up a practice that I believe is one of the most difficult I've ever tried: doing nothing. I've dabbled in doing nothing before, but this time I'm committing to doing nothing regularly. For me, "doing nothing" means that when I feel a deep sense of longing, sadness, anger, or anxiety, I don't immediately run to my yoga mat or watch an inspirational video. Instead, I sit with the feeling. Sometimes I close my eyes, other times I literally stare at a wall. I make no effort to try to make myself feel better. Instead, I allow myself to feel the emotion in my body. I feel the longing as an ache deep in my chest or the anxiety as a knot in my stomach. I notice how the emotion morphs over time. Sometimes the feeling gets stronger, sometimes it decreases. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I get angry. In all cases, I resist the urge to numb.


(Side note: If you've been through serious trauma like sexual abuse or war, feeling into your body and emotions can be a very intense process that's probably best done under the supervision of a professional. Click here for a listing of psychologists in the United States and Canada).


Personally, I see this new practice as a radical form of self-love and self-acceptance. I see it as my soul's way of fully embodying me as a human. My soul is here to feel what it's like to be in this human body - both in ecstasy and in sorrow. 


The past year of my life has involved a lot of work with discernment. Discerning when to speak my truth versus hold back. Discerning when to act versus remain still. Discerning my truth, regardless of others' opinions or beliefs.


Feeling into my body and fully experiencing my emotions is leading me to a deeper level of truth than my logical mind has ever revealed.


I invite you to notice which healthy habits you might be using to numb yourself. Maybe you keep yourself so busy with sports that you don't have time to feel how stressed you are. Maybe you run marathons obsessively because you're unhappy. Maybe you're hyper-focused on caring for your child because you don't want to face the issues in your relationship. Maybe you spend tons of time preparing healthy meals because it helps you avoid dealing with a childhood eating disorder. All of these behaviors look healthy on the surface - but they might actually be forms of avoidance. It's all about discerning - for yourself - whether your behaviors are true for you or not.


Have you ever noticed a tendency to numb out using healthy habits? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!




Why Are You Reaching For Your Phone?

Posted by Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. on October 5, 2016 at 3:35 AM Comments comments (0)

These days a lot of people complain about how everyone has their faces stuck in their phones. It seems like everywhere you look, people are texting, scrolling, and talking their way out of the present moment. Now before you stop reading, let me make it clear that this blog isn't about bashing technology or complaining about millennials. Personally, I think technology is awesome. And besides, this isn't only a "young people" problem. This weekend I was having brunch at a beautiful cafe in Prague where I watched two women in their mid-sixties spend almost the entire time on their phones instead of taking in this awesome ambiance:




Now I'm the first to admit that while I think technology is awesome, I'm not the most tech savvy person. I was a late adopter as far as cell phones go. I I was the last of my friends to own a cell phone, and even then my phone had a small plan that was only for emergencies. I text with my left index finger - no thumbs - and even though my fingers are very small I seem to be incapable of consistently hitting the right letters. I've never been much of a phone person anyway, so you'll rarely find me using my phone to talk or text anyone. I also rarely - if ever - pull out my phone in social situations, like when I'm having dinner with friends. I've even had friends comment that they feel uncomfortable going on their phones around me because I never seem to use mine.


I have, however, noticed one habit that has crept up on me: scrolling. I mostly use my cell phone to post on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram - this is a part of my professional life that I enjoy. But there are other times when I reach for my phone - almost without realizing it - and begin scrolling mindlessly through social media.


Sound familiar?




Lately I've been experimenting with bringing more mindfulness into my relationship with my phone. Here's how it works. If I've already done my professional social media posts for the day, and I find myself lured toward my phone, I ask myself:


"Why am I reaching for my phone?"


I've noticed three main themes that come up in response to this question: boredom, discomfort, and distraction.


I think these three themes apply to many of us. How many times have you pulled out your phone because you were bored waiting for the bus or for an appointment? Or maybe you grab your phone when you feel uncomfortable in a social situation. Or perhaps you start scrolling because you're trying to distract yourself from having a difficult conversation or feeling a deep emotion.


I think it would be worthwhile for all of us to infuse a bit of mindfulness into our cell phone use.


It's not that there's anything inherently wrong with scrolling. Maybe sometimes you really do need a quick break and scrolling does the trick. What I'm advocating is that we become more aware of why we're scrolling. If you're scrolling because you're bored, or uncomfortable, or trying to avoid something, see if you can put your phone down and simply be with those feelings. Using a mindful approach, you can breathe in and out and just feel the sensations of your feelings without judging them. Or, if you're avoiding something, stop watching cute kitten videos and do what needs to be done. My guess is that you'll feel much better afterwards.


Here's a recent example of my new mindful phone practice. Last week I arrived early to a meeting where the conference room was locked. At first, I sat on a bench outside of the room and immediately felt drawn to my phone. I asked myself why I was reaching for my phone and my answer was that I was bored. So I kept my phone in my purse and started looking around. This felt somewhat uncomfortable - there were people sitting at tables and desks all around me, and I thought it looked strange for me to be starring into space. I think many of us feel like we need to look busy and important all the time - and we use our phones to perpetuate this illusion. So instead of trying to make myself look busy, I sat with my feelings of discomfort and boredom and focused on my breath and my surroundings. It's not like anything magical happened as a result of this practice, but I did feel more present in the moment I was in, instead of bringing myself into a virtual, imaginary place. I made eye contact with people, I noticed the unique construction of the building I was in, and I gave myself a moment to chill out and disengage from over-stimulation.


I think the same principle holds for other forms of technology, like TV. Again, I'm not saying that TV is bad. I love watching movies and documentaries, and even some shows (Game of Thrones, anyone? Yes, I want to be Daenerys Targaryen and own a few dragons - however in my version I'd also have a couple of unicorns). Anyway, I've noticed that sometimes my approach to TV isn't exactly mindful. For example, on weeknights, if my husband and I are both at home, we'll usually watch an episode of something on Netflix. Over the years this has turned into a bit of a habit, and we rarely think about other ways that we might use this time.


Recently our American Netflix account finally caught up to the fact that we now live in the Czech Republic, despite our use of different types of IP-switching-software (see how tech savvy I am - not?). Without Netflix we don't have much to watch because while my husband understands Czech TV, to me the Czech language still sounds like telephone wires hitting each other to create electric shocks. Before switching to the Czech Netflix (or "Czech-flix" as I've started to call it) we've decided to go a little while without a consistent source of TV. This means that we can approach our evenings more intentionally and mindfully, by being present with what's up for us in that moment, and by paying attention to what we truly feel like doing.


I often wonder what people did in the evenings before the advent of TV. I'm not a historian, but I imagine people probably talked more, or listened to music, or read. Or maybe they went to sleep early because they were exhausted from working on their farm all day. Regardless, I think it would be interesting for each of us to spend a bit of time without evening technology. What would your weeknights look like if your entire family was at home, but no one used any form of technology? How would you engage with each other? What would you do to occupy yourselves?


I think these are extremely important questions to answer. Because the truth is that if you watched less reality TV or spent less time on your iPad, you might end up engaging in activities that are more meaningful to you. Maybe you would pick up the guitar you haven't played in three years or pull out your sketch pad or have an engaging discussion with your partner. Maybe you would learn more about what lights your children up. Or maybe you would have time for some self-care or spend some time working on your personal/psychological development.


I believe that cultivating a more mindful relationship with technology will help us harness innovation to move forward, instead of using our gadgets to remain stagnant.


What about you? Have you ever practiced a mindful approach to reaching for your phone? Have you ever gone a period of time without TV? Have you ever taken a "technology fast" or a social media fast? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!




What If Your Purpose Has Nothing To Do With Your Career?

Posted by Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. on September 20, 2016 at 4:50 AM Comments comments (4)

These days there's a plethora of self-help books and online courses aimed at helping you find your passion and live your purpose (full disclosure: I offer such a course). Many of us get hooked very quickly on the idea of monetizing our passion. We want to make money doing what we love and we want to make the world a better place in the process. This is a noble goal, and if you're lucky enough to have achieved it then I tip my hat to you.


But this blog is for the rest of us.


This blog is for those who have a tricky time getting paid to be their True Self. This blog is for people who poured all of their savings into what they thought was their purpose, only to lose it all. This blog is for those who are biting their nails while looking at their bank account - hoping that the law of attraction will eventually kick in and bring them the Ferrari on their vision board. This blog is for people who repeat affirmations about being financially abundant when they don't actually believe a word they're saying.


Because here's the hard truth that many of us need to hear: sometimes your purpose isn't supposed to have anything to do with making a living. Your passion might not actually want (or need) to be monetized. And the more you try to convince people to pay you for a purpose that doesn't need money, the less authentic you appear to your audience.


This doesn't mean you'll never make money from following your passion, or that you're doomed to work at a boring office job for the rest of your life. It means you might spend years (or decades) cultivating our passion without making a cent - until the time is just right - and suddenly people start paying you to do what you love. Or you might spend your whole life working at a boring job to pay the bills so that you can follow your passion (for free) in your spare time.


None of these options are wrong. None of them are less "evolved" or "enlightened." We each have unique gifts and reasons for being on this earth at this time, and not all of these gifts need to be tied to earning an income.


Because sometimes when we tie money to our passions, the passions themselves start to fade. Other times, our passions morph into things that aren't even our passions anymore but we keep doing them to pay the bills. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of this. It is simply our job to be aware of what's going on beneath the surface, and get back on track if we've fallen off.




Trust me when I say I need to read this blog as much as you do. From an early age I tied my purpose to my profession. When I was 16 I decided I wanted to be a psychology professor so that I could do research that would reveal the deepest truths of the human mind, and ultimately, the universe (easy, right?). After getting my PhD that passion shifted (for a variety of financial and non-financial reasons) and I ended up in the corporate world where I made great money - but felt 0% passion about what I was doing.


So I did what many self-helpers advocate: I quit my job to follow my bliss. Since 2010 I've gone through a variety of iterations trying to make money from my passions. I've tried coaching, teaching yoga, leading workshops (online and offline), writing books, and doing research. I even worked in a greenhouse for a few months. All with the intention of helping the world and making an income at the same time.


But the relationship between my passions and my bank account is complicated. Sometimes, money rolls in almost effortlessly from projects that I'm not all that interested in. Other times I create products and videos for things that I'm passionate about - but they end up being painful to watch because people can sense how badly I want to be validated by having them purchase what I'm offering.


On the surface my life might seem like I'm one of those people who "made it" at making a living doing what I love. And in many ways I'm extremely fortunate that I work for myself and can afford a pretty great lifestyle. But the truth is that I worry about money regularly. And I often wonder whether it makes sense for me to link my passions with my income. These days, most of my income comes from doing research on yoga in schools. But do I jump out of bed every morning eager to prove the benefits of yoga for children? No. The research I do is for a worthy cause and it pays the bills, but it isn't quite my passion.


One of my passions has always been writing, but I rarely get paid to write. And some days I don't feel passionate about writing at all. At this very moment I have a publisher who is interested in working with me on a new book - which I will write entirely for free. Sure, I might make some royalties if the book sells well, but it's very difficult to make a living solely from writing books (even if you're a New York Times bestseller). The idea of spending a ton of unpaid hours writing this book is scary. Which is why, for me, linking my passions with my income is a complicated, and often uncomfortable, process.


This is also why I think it's crucial for us to take a good hard look at our underlying motivations for monetizing our passions. Perhaps you want to make a living while also helping the world. Great. But it might not happen all at once, or in the order you expect, or at all. It might be that what you're actually seeking is validation for your lack of self-worth, as opposed to really wanting to help anyone. Or it might be that your purpose is to simply enjoy life and have fun regardless of your bank account.


Your passion and purpose might end up having absolutely nothing to do with your career. You might never make a penny from your passion or get any recognition for it. Heck, most of us are lucky to even figure out what our passion is.


So the question becomes: Do you want (or need) to monetize your passion? Why or why not?


I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!







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