"I can't say I have control over my emotions; I don't know my mind. I'm lost like everyone else."
- Richard Gere
If you haven’t watched "Inside Out" (see sneak-peak clip on YouTube) a Pixar movie, it’s worth viewing, not only for the pure entertainment value, but also the educational aspect. Imminent emotion Researcher, Paul Ekman, who also helped develop the Cultivating Emotional Balance Teacher’s Training (CEBTT) with B. Alan Wallace, was beckoned to Hollywood to give guidance on the facial movements for the characters in the movie. The movie illustrates only five of the universal seven. Regardless of gender, culture, ethnicity, age, we each will exhibit the same macro and micro facial movements for these seven emotions. They are sadness, anger, fear, disgust, contempt, surprise, and joy (or called enjoyable emotions in CEBTT). Of course, there are many other emotions, more nuanced, that do have cultural, gender, and ethnic differences.
Sociologists suggest the evolutionary function of emotion is to save our lives and to motivate us to engage in behaviors necessary to form relationships. Such facial cuing had to be the same in order for understanding to be passed along our makeup for these reasons and it all happens below the scene of conscious awareness. Even if we are trying to conceal an emotion and blunt the gross movements on our face, there are micro-facial movements that are out of our control. We are caught in the grips of evolution and those around us will catch on via their own attuning networks signaling them “something’s up.”
Antonio Damasio, University of Southern California, has studied neural correlates of emotions and formulated a theory of Somatic Marker Hypothesis. Essentially, there are neural pathways that connect to the brain, going both directions to and away from brain (not a one way street), and it is this that allows us to have the embodied experience or maybe all to often, the un-embodied experience.
Our meditation practice informs us very intimately about these neurological processes if we are mindful and attuning to our meditation experience. If we are having a difficult time with an emotion and not so sure what it is, Dr. Paul Ekman might just suggest to you, grab a mirror and check out your facial movements. Ahhh, maybe you’re not familiar with those facial movements, then watch Inside Out and you’ll very clearly see the common five emotions we display on our face. The two emotions cut from the film are contempt and surprise. I think we know what a face looks like when we are surprised. For contempt, not to get overly politically here, but just check out the majority of Donald Trump's photos and you’ll witness contempt at it’s best (universal gesture is lip corner tightened and slightly raised).
Until next blog, enjoy the movie and may your practice be truly an embodied experience and your emotions held with compassion and loving kindness.
"We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking we used when we created them."
- Albert Einstein
As we continue our investigation of the Four Balances (see link for previous blog explaining Four Balances), let’ examine how our cognition influences whether we are aligned with cultivating balance in thought or dropping into a dissonance and miserable mental state that arises with thought.
A slogan suggested from renown author and nun, Pema Chodron, is "don’t believe your thinking, don’t believe your thinking, don’t believe your thinking." If it’s true that we think about 50,000 thoughts daily and most of these thoughts are recapitulations from the past or futuristic thoughts, then we surely may want to adopt this slogan for the time being.
As a sex counselor there are few topics (maybe money being the other hot topic) such as sex that ignites mental states that are riddled with much intensity and density. While understanding our stories about our sexuality is vital to undercover it’s nature, the negative thinking about our sexuality is what needs transformation. If we could download our daily thoughts about our stories around sex, what would they be? Write it out. What is the story line? What would the title be? This inquiry is important to know. Because once we peer into the thoughts produced, we can see how it leads to mental states that plague our sexuality.
A recent exchange between a couple in my office, I’ll call them Jay and Karen, went like this. She shared what she thinks when he makes advances toward her. It goes something like, “I hate when he comes onto me like this. It’s always the same and he never asks me if I’m even interested. He just goes in for the ‘kill’ and I just give in because it’s too much of a headache to talk it out." Karen says this is at least 90% of the time what she is thinking. Jay shares his thoughts, “I know she doesn’t care about sex anymore and she always turns away from me if I try to kiss her. She seems like she’s just putting up with me. I’m usually thinking that she doesn’t really like me or sex, but because I want to have some closeness with Karen, I guess I look at this type of sex as something that may get us to be close.” Jay says this is what goes on for him in his mind almost 100% of the time.
They both said they knew the other person had those thoughts as they had shared them with each other at various times, but could not get themselves out of the habit of recapitulating the same story. This is what I call a cognitive imbalance or cognitive dissonance. We often just let our thoughts run amuck and we don’t intervene on our own behalf to stop the storyline that we repeat over and over. I asked them what their deepest intention is for the relationship. They both agreed that they want connection, closeness, love, and to feel sexually satisfied.
So how do we bring about a cognitive intelligence and resonance with our sexual partner? Check up on your thinking. Is it aligned with your intention or conative intelligence? If not, then we must change our level of thinking to a resonance with the Intention. Jay and Karen want to have connection. They’re ruminating thoughts are not in alignment so the first step is to create a new thought pattern that reflects connection. Instead of Karen assuming Jay is just wanting sex and pursues her to “get some,” she is practicing mindfulness of her thoughts and changing the story knowing that Jay wants connection and that he wants her to enjoy their sexual play together. Jay is doing the same thing. They are telling a new story that reflects connection and love and their sexuality is founded on these principles.
Quoting from Gandhi, "watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions." To watch our thinking requires mindfulness. It requires us to remain on guard, to be a custodian of our thinking is such a way that when we sway from a balanced emotional state we reel in discursive mind of rumination and negativity bringing it back to rest in calm and peace that is held with kindness, love, and connection. To finish quoting Gandhi, “ watch your actions; they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, your character becomes your destiny.” So begin to think kindly of your partner and watch how your destiny becomes that of kindness and connection.
“The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character, and will. No one is compossui (master of himself) if he have it not. An education which should improve this faculty would be the education par excellence. But it is easier to define this ideal than to give practical directions for bringing it about."
- William James
This blog is the continuation on the topic of the Four Balances taken from my five-week retreat on Cultivating Emotional Balance Teacher’s Training (CEBTT). The focus of this blog will discuss attentional balance. Our capacity to pay attention, to be attuned, to take interest in, will determine if our conative or intentional intelligence takes flight. The take off of this flight has the potential to be in service of our well-being and our flourishing, if we hone our capacity to pay attention. And thankfully, we are wired in such a way to train our attention.
In 2013, Microsoft Canada, released a study on attention spans. The study consisted of 112 participants in which their brain wave activity was monitored using an electroencephalogram (EEG). The researchers were able to determine if participants maintained attention or were distracted from the task at hand. The conclusion showed the average attention span of the 112 participants was only 8 seconds. In 2000, it was 12 seconds. A goldfish has an attention span of 9 seconds. Maybe fish lips will have a new meaning!
If we are loosing our capacity to maintain attention without distraction (which is correlated with lower levels of happiness, Killingsworth study), we set ourselves up for navigating our lives in a haphazard way. If our emotional balance is to be realized (which originates from our intention), our ability to maintain attention is imperative. If we are wavering in the typical distracted patterns, our lives may begin to careen out of control spinning us in a direction we are wishing to pull ourselves from.
Couples seeking sex counseling often seem to be walking blindly through their sexual lives wondering how they arrived at the doors of alienation and resentfulness while pointing a finger toward the other. I ask them what the intention of their partnership is and how they execute that intention day-to-day. While they often have the typical endearments of I love them, want to be with them, can’t see myself being anywhere else, their actions and words are not congruent or in resonance with such aspirations.
In reviewing the Four Balances with them, it becomes clear, they become swept away in distraction, whether external (i.e., iphone, TV, alcohol), internal (i.e., rumination), or both. They loose course and become caught up in patterns of thoughts and emotions about what’s wrong and keep their attention on the "wrong." This inevitably causes an ambush of the wished upon intention of an open heart, compassion, tenderness, and connection with their partner.
Training in staying on target with an intention, does require focused attention. This part of mind training is employed through mindfulness. Mindfulness imbued with tenderness, compassion, and openheartedness stimulates positive involvement with your partner, enhancing the relationship and closeness. A ripe environment for sexual intimacy.
In discovering we’ve gone off course of loving our partner, just as they are, flawed and all, reinvigorate this discovery with tenderness and openheartedness. Then, over and over, we return our attention to the good, the beauty of life just where it is with curiosity. This does imply effort, commitment, and tenacity. The alternative is to perpetuate destructive tendencies that will continue to tear at the fabric of intimacy. When we discover we've gone into ruminating patterns, we've awakened from the trance, good news. Start anew. A true love story. One based in kindness and respect. Ultimately, it comes down to making a commitment to keep coming back to the deepest aspiration for flourishing within our relationships, so that when the winds of life begin to blow us off course, we choose to refocus, refresh and return to love. Now pay attention!
“Sometimes you hear a voice through the door calling you, as fish out of water hear the waves, or a hunting falcon hears the drum’s come back. This turning toward what you deeply love saves you.”
This blog is the continuation on the topic of the Four Balances taken from my five-week retreat on Cultivating Emotional Balance Teacher’s Training (CEBTT). The focus of this blog will investigate Conative Intelligence. Conative intelligence is an aspect of our mental life that compels us into a certain direction for what we desire or want to achieve. In contemplating the first of the Four Balances within CEBT, we may relate to the meaning of Conative Intelligence as the quality of intention, aspiration, will, volition, motivation. All of which under penetrating insight reveals itself as a deep yearning for flourishing. If we attune our lives purposefully for what we desire and commit to it’s unfolding, while appearing at first blush as a simple task, it becomes an exercise of dedication and courage.
Our modern lives have taken the shape of long work days; kids in childcare; fast food restaurants; Starbuck’s to keep us going; 100+emails each day; multiple texts messages; phone calls; managing finances; cleaning the house; maybe some exercise; going to movies; concerts and other entertainments; sex ... oh did someone mention time for that; and sleeping maybe six hours, etc. You get the picture. Where is the time to even consider what you truly aspire for in life, when what’s being dished up is modernity in full throttle?
In assessing Conative Intelligence, one aspect of conation is the knowledge that we make choices in how we spend our time. The act of free will often has turned into the perception of “I have to, because … fill in the blank.” Another aspect to Conative Intelligence is to strive for something or the ambition to achieve something. Again this striving and ambition has become a plethora of demands yanking at us for attention. Yet, inquiring more deeply into the nature of Conative Intelligence, qualities of serenity, stillness, compassion, kindness, and wisdom are revealed. So how in the world has such intelligence been hijacked by modernity that promised us peace, love, and light? We made choices with our free will in our striving and ambitions and placed our source of happiness on people, places, and things. The old cliché’ of “looking for love in all the wrong places.” Thankfully, at any moment, we can choose otherwise with our free will and place our efforts and attention on our heart’s desire and to know our Conative Intelligence.
So let’s begin with turning our attention toward this innate goodness that has all the fossil fuel, so to speak, to guide us toward our hearts true desire. This is not a promise of drinking the Kool-Aid, because attending to our hearts true desire does take courage, dedication, perseverance, kindness, and a re-arrangement of our current circumstances (to some degree, at least). Everyday, begin the day with this simple mindfulness practice. As we investigate our lives in this daily practice, note insights that arise, emotions that surface, and sensations that arise and where they are located.
Begin this practice with finding a comfortable position and take notice of your breath and allow your body to relax and be at ease. Focus on your in-and-out breath for a few moments. Now begin your vision quest journey. Ask yourself the following four questions. This is not an exercise in finding a “right” answer, but instead to allow the question to sit within you and answer itself. This is not an exercise in mental projections, but rather an exercise of inquiry into the hearts perceptive. Now ask yourself these questions (it helps to record these and listen while in meditation):
(Source: Visions Quest questions from Alan B. Wallace, PhD)
In the words of Christopher Reeves, a true Superman with an indelible spirit, said, “So many of our dreams at first seem impossible. Then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the WILL, they soon became inevitable.” May your true hearts desire flourish and be brought alive, because for each of us, the world needs it now.
Imagine all the brilliant flashing lights displaying words like compassion, altruism, gratitude, love, and happiness. Imagine all the money moving through slot machines and gaming tables going toward education, healthcare, and the impoverished. Imagine all the shows having a theme about loving-kindness, compassion, enthusiastic joy, and equanimity. Well, if we are talking about Vagus as in the vagus nerve, then it’s for certain we’re talking about the same thing. Guess Vegas has a long way to go and probably why what happens in Vegas, will stay in Vegas.
Dacher Keltner at UC Berkeley, has devoted many years to research on the vagal nerve and what is now called the nerve of compassion. The vagal nerve is a nerve that originates in the brainstem (lower brain, unconscious area) and runs through many visceral organs including the heart. Studies find that the stronger the vagal tone, the more compassionate one is. It is suggested that high vagus nerve activation in a resting state, promotes altruism, compassion, gratitude, love, and happiness.
This helps explain that during compassion meditation one feels the ever expansive and warmth in the chest region. This nerve, known as the rest and digest or tend and befriend nerve, is responsible for that activation. This part of the nervous system is our relaxation response and not only reduces heart rate, but also reduces inflammation. Inflammation is the beginning process of any disease, be it depression, insomnia to heart disease and cancer.
Studies show that meditating on compassion shifts resting brain activation to the left hemisphere, specifically pre-frontal cortex, which is the seat of happiness, biologically speaking. Oxytocin, coined as the trust hormone, also activates this nerve as if priming for compassion and helping relaxation.
As we practice mindfully with compassion meditations, we are showering our bodies with great benefit, which is a kind and loving act of self-care. As we send compassion out for the wish to alleviate others afflictions, we are still receiving great benefit. Jon Kabat-Zinn provides this reminder, “In Asian languages, the word for 'mind' and the word for 'heart' are the same. So if you’re not feeling mindfulness in some deep way as heartfulness, you are not really understanding it. Compassion and kindness toward oneself are intrinsically woven into it. You could think of mindfulness as wise and affectionate attention.”
"The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure , the process is its own reward."
- Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart set out to circumnavigate the globe in 1937 and disappeared over the Pacific Ocean. In her decision to take this flight said, “decide whether or not the goal is worth the risks involved. If it is, stop worrying.” She left a legacy representing courage, determination, and following her hearts passion. Maybe some of you, like me, have taken to voyages that seemed risky and confronted the place inside our heads that threw stones at such a possibility.
The human spirit has a built in regulatory system that has the capacity to conquer such fears as sky diving, learning to fly, climbing a mountain peak, or taking a trip to another country. Such experiences open life in ways that if not done, we wouldn’t be who we are today. But what about the risk of day–to-day circumstances of our lives that present themselves over and over only to be shut down, shut out, refused. We close to the vulnerable moments, keeping our hearts closed.
At times, I witness this in my office as patients struggle to get in touch with their vulnerabilities. Discussing sex is like opening Pandora’s box. It’s not about the sex per se, but about what gets in the way of actually being present to body sensations, feelings, and thoughts just as they arise in any given moment. The “what’s getting in the way,” or fear, is that difficult place that feels like the plane will probably go down in the pacific. Or the paper tigers that seem real, which as fear spells, False Evidence Appearing Real.
Researcher, Brene Brown, in her pivotal work on the courage to risk being vulnerable, says that vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center, of meaningful human experience. How desperate we are to be seen and heard, to be noticed as valuable and worthy. Yet more than not, fear hijacks life’s experience of living wholeheartedly. So much of our conditioning as a child until this moment keeps us locked into modes of fear, shame, guilt, unworthiness, etc.; so why even leave the runway, right?
Making the decision to act on the calling of our hearts and risk vulnerability seems the only real and true option. And with gratitude and appreciation, I bare witness to hearts opening to their stories, to their tears, to their need to be loved and held. I know in those moments of space and time that the universe changes in some very magical way. This space is wide open, like the sky Amelia flew in with the vast ocean below her. These moments of wholehearted expression feel like the open sky and vast ocean.
That is what our hearts have to offer. This is where vulnerability leads. Sometimes we may not land where we’d like, yet the experience of being in a field of such expansiveness makes it all just fine anyway. I would say when we risk vulnerability of the heart, it’s the experience of the flight that really matters anyway. As Amelia says, "the process is it's own reward." May your heart take wings so you may experience what I’m certain Amelia experienced as she encountered the great expanse of the sky and ocean.
"The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all living beings, which are all part of one another and involved in one another."
- Thomas Merton
Matthieu Ricard, PhD, molecular geneticist, Tibetan monk and called the happiest man on the planet from fMRI scans recently shared this on why we want to practice compassion. He stated, “Our minds are like gardens and they will grow naturally, but if uncultivated they are influenced by the weather and whatever seeds are in the winds. Some will grow big and others shrivel and in the end we may not like the results.”
We don’t have to look to far to see the state of affairs on the planet that seeds of aggression, greed, hostility, and hatred have been blowing in the wind. These seeds have grown into many unwholesome manifestations such as bombings, shootings, rape, slaughtering, etc. However, we can, also, with gratitude turn to many practicing meditations like tonglen, loving-kindness, compassion and equanimity. Our genetics and body system are equipped with the material that when properly and precisely instructed have the potential, capacity and ability to override the lower brain centers responsible for hijacking the possibility for more humane behaviors.
Neuroscience is continuing to show significant results with meditation. In published studies with loving-kindness meditations (LKM), results show reductions in cortisol levels (stress hormone), increase in oxytocin secretion (bonding and trust hormone), lowering of heart rate and heart disease. Also, brain regions linked to empathy, caregiving, and feelings of pleasure light up on fMRI scans suggesting new neural wiring in action.
An important zone in the brain called the supramarginal gyrus where part of the mirror neuron system is situated, allows us to identify postures and gestures of other people. When this linking is unhindered from pathologies, we have the capacity to feel empathy. Our visceral organs have important neural pathways that link to these regions (we call it our gut instinct), therefore, informing us when we need to turn our attention toward ourselves or another with a compassionate heart.
Considering the unsettling circumstances this beautiful planet is being subjected to on a daily basis, may we strive to relieve her suffering and the causes. Considering the fear that is driving people to harm one another and to harm our animals, may we strive to relieve others and our suffering and the causes. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama reminds us, if we want to know happiness, practice compassion. If we want others to know happiness, practice compassion.
“Once there was a tree....(read the story)…..and the tree was happy.”
- Shel Silverstein, The Giving Tree
Just take this moment and check in with your day so far. Since your day began, how many thoughts have you had about what you want? How many about what you don’t want? How much of the wanting is about getting an object of desire such as a new job, relationship, sex, food, clothes, house, car, etc., fill in the blank. How much of the not wanting is about the exact same things?
Like a Tasmanian devil, we are frantically seeking endeavors that consume our time and energy on gaining something, getting pleasure, improving our status, and getting approval. Yet, we can also assess that these same conquests bring pain, loss, disrepute, and attack.
The Industrial Revolution changed our lives, yet most of our desires began to revolve around acquisition of “things.” In the late 1880’s, Sears and Roebuck started mailing consumer good catalogues to customers. Their motto was “Don’t be afraid to make a mistake” because there’s a money back guarantee and these "things" could be returned or replaced. Catalogue advertisers spent approximately 90 million a year (2.3 billion in today’s dollar). Today, a whopping 100 billion is spent for online advertising alone.
At any given time, we have just about any possible desire at our fingertips, literally. Google anything your heart desires and within seconds hundreds of thousands of opportunities will present itself. If your desire is for food, check out how many restaurants offer delivery to your home so no need to go anywhere. If you want entertainment, it’s endless. Sex, check out pornography, or the 2,500 dating websites promising your soulmate. And, of course, shopping opportunities galore for clothes, appliances, books, yoga mats, shoes, cars, homes, etc. all awaiting a buyer. And, in "The Giving Tree" as Shel Silverstein writes, “You may cut off my branches and build a house … then you’ll be happy," but not really.
The United States is one of the most unhappy countries on the planet despite what’s available to us. This “what’s next syndrome” keeps us seeking and hoping and fused with a “believable” reality outside of ourselves. Consider making your “what’s next” a pause. Slow down the process of getting, having, wanting, and craving and take note of what's present in those moments. Observe how the wanting is mostly tied into a very frenetic, panicky energy and the not wanting with aggression and discontent.
There is a way of not falling into the trap of what’s next. Think of what’s been on your mind regarding a desire or some dissatisfaction. Now take it through this mindfulness exercise called RAIN (by Jack Kornfield):
Next time you feel the urge to “get something” or “get rid of something,” practice this process. Happiness is an inside job. Rearranging the furniture, so to speak, is only an attempt to keep you away from what’s really going on inside. It may be that the new pair of shoes or ending the relationship or enjoying sex is the most authentic way to proceed. But until we pause and look at what our mind wants us to believe or not believe, then we will continue on the “what IS next syndrome” ride that produces more of the same – unhappiness.
After the boy had taken everything the tree could give, it's leaves, branches, and trunk, the tree invited him to sit on his stump because the boy was an old man now and needed rest. Before we waste our entire lives on "what's next," rest now. Rest with ease and peace of what's now. Just as it is. However it is. Be mindful. Be authentic. Be happy …. and the tree was happy.
"Meditation is one of the ways in which the spiritual man keeps himself awake."
- Thomas Merton
In the first blog for Tara Mandala Truckee Sangha, I introduced the concept of neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to be molded and change through our entire life. However, most of us remain on a trajectory of conditioned, habituated patterns. With the exponential growth of research on meditation in neuroscience, some small conclusions can certainly be elucidated about some findings. The brain has the capacity to create new neural pathways, which has significant implications as to what pathways will generate well-being or not, wittingly or unwittingly. Therefore, having a strong motivation to train our minds in this process for the good, is within our potential.
The brain structures have evolved over 400 million years with the lower brain system and higher brain system. The lower is called the reptilian and limbic brains, which are the oldest, having elaborate networks that remain out of conscious awareness, and biased to fear and negativity. The more modern brain center, neo-cortex, a two-lobed structure blossomed with the higher mammals, such as primates and humans. The neo-cortex dates about 120,000 years and the more modern "version" is about 5,000 years old. So from an evolutionary standpoint, we as humans with a neo-cortex are in the infancy, so to speak, of this brain system. An important region in the neo-cortex is the region called the Pre-frontal Cortex (PFC), specifically on the left side. This is the executive function center and where neuroscience is paying close attention.
The PFC has nine functions including; body regulation, attuned communication, emotional balance, fear extinction, flexibility, insight, empathy, morality, and intuition. It may appear obvious the reasons for accessing this particular region and how might we train our minds in developing strong neurological networks to override fear, emotional instability, insensitivity, rigidness, unwholesome actions of body, speech and mind. What is definitely worth noting is we are overcoming tremendous neurological pathways that have very ancient roots in our brains, which have profound affects on our behaviors. How often does reactivity get the best of you? Having a high degree of self-compassion and compassion for others is paramount as it is a very potent antidote to the prolific narratives of hatred, confusion, greed that dominate our minds.
The good news is that through an activity such as meditation, we cultivate pathways to this center. No definitive daily time has been firmly established; however, it appears that 30 minutes a day after 8 weeks has produced notable changes in this region. As we may experience in our own life when we are on track with our practice, our sense of well-being is enhanced. This sense of well-being is a way to monitor our sense of how our life is more stable, congruent, flexible, and the capacity to not be quite as reactive. And I would even invite you to contemplate how much more authentic, present to what arises, and connected you are to your own inner life as well as those around you. Something worth noting to check up on.
While those practitioners on the Buddhist path may not need science to prove anything to them about the truth of this transformative path, it is interesting and may be the gateway to others who have the curiosity about meditation. Remember, Buddha himself said that there are 84,000 paths allowing each of us a suitable path. May each of us know our path and may we each know well-being.
"A friend is always good to have, but a lover’s kiss is better than angels raining down on me."
- Dave Matthews
In my office, I have two swivel chairs placed next to each other for the purpose of allowing couples to turn toward each other, but it also gives them the opportunity to turn away from each other. Inevitably most sit either directly facing me or swivel away from each other, when the discussions address their sexual issues. When I inquire about the last time they shared a passionate kiss, it’s usually not remembered or it’s been a very long time.
During courting, potential partners will begin the mating ritual of lip biting and lip licking (unconscious process), in hopes of getting to lock lips. I had the delight of trekking chimpanzees in a trip to Tanzania a few years ago and I’ll attest to these behaviors in primates, our common ancestors. The males will wildly be licking their lips and biting when a female in estrous is nearby. These displays are seen in courtship in humans as well in hopes of leading to the first kiss. When kissing finally takes place, a rich cascade of neurochemical events takes place. As we all know, this is a very powerful biological experience that keeps us going back for more.
Kissing causes various chemicals such as oxytocin, dopamine, endorphins, testosterone, and phenylethylamine, to be released. These hormones and neurotransmittors promote pair bonding, strong feelings of love and romance to arise, reductions in cortisol (stress hormone), heightened attention toward our lover as well as obsessive perseveration of them. While all the lip smacking and licking is going on, our sexual organs and genitalia are getting primed and ready for the possibility of sex. Helen Fisher, Rutgers Sex Research, suggests the reason men have a more “wet" kiss is to pass testosterone via saliva to the female to promote her desire to have sex. So gals, now you know, next time that wet kiss is making its way on your mouth, it’s because biology has a purpose.
This bountiful pharmacy may be accessed just through kissing, yet most couples begin to turn away from their partner, no longer wanting to kiss. Of course, the problems that lead to the lack of kissing in a relationship is complex, yet with the promotion of attuning to, attending to, and paying attention to the finer essentials necessary in bonding, we can access this chemistry in the hope of letting nature help facilitate the process of reconnecting. Also, these chemicals promote well-being and greater health.
Here’s the kissing homework assignment I suggest this mindfulness meditation practice. Sit facing your partner, take a few deep breaths and relax into the gaze of each other’s eyes (which by the way stimulates oxytocin). Set a positive intention with one another for the benefit of the relationship. Place your attention on your heart area, bringing a quality of kindness toward yourself and then send that loving feeling through your heart to theirs. Stay with this for a few minutes. Setting an alarm is a good idea. Once the alarm chimes, lean toward one another and kiss. The kiss at this point can be very simple. Then return to your meditation on sending a loving feeling toward them. Repeat this cycle about five times. Doing this daily either at the beginning or ending your day in this way, will promote love, kindness, friendliness and even sexual desire. When you complete the cycles, take a moment to give each other a warm embrace (again, promoting oxytocin). Like all mindfulness exercises, they are a practice and remember it’s a practice. Not for perfection, but for acceptance of how life shows up. So practice showing up and turning the proverbial swivel chair back toward your partner, embracing them with the delight of a kiss (or kisses).
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