What do happy women know that you don’t?

When was the last time you felt really happy within yourself?
Do you feel comfortable in your own skin?
Have you wondered if you will ever discover genuine contentment?

These are just some of the questions that made me wonder, what do we women really want out of life? So, I Googled “what do Australian women want” and found links about losing weight in fad diets, finding a man and whether men from other countries like Australian woman. I was appalled! Not one link talked about what we really want in our lives.

So I thought more about what we genuinely yearn for. Then the line from PS, I Love You jumped to mind… “The truth is… we don’t really know!”

We are heavily trained to look outside of ourselves to fill the empty hole within our heart and soul. Yet, if we are to find happiness as a woman the answer lies within us. It is about feeling good about ourselves on the inside and being self-assured. A woman’s genuine self-value shines from within and speaks loudly to anyone around us. It naturally radiates! Self-value and contentment follows from loving and accepting ourselves as we are. This sounds simple and yet like the Holy Grail, it remains elusive to most of us. What we do not realise is that love and acceptance is innately within us, and our disconnection results from conditioned beliefs and unconscious emotional patterns.

The real cause of loneliness, low self-esteem and anxiety is the clouds that block the brilliant sun, which is our authentic core-self. We are disconnected from ourselves and as a result, we are in emotional distress most of the time. The real solution to this problem is not more shopping trips or yet another phone call to our girlfriend, only to feel empty all over again as soon as we put down the phone. Nor is the solution finding the next intimate relationship or fling to temporarily quench our thirst. The real solution is to open our awareness to our blocks, dissolve them and then re-balance our authentic emotional selves and inner-connection. Genuine connection in relationships is important however, it only ever follows from self-healing and inner-connection. It can never be the other way around.

The process of inner-connection and re-balancing our emotions is all about creating a new relationship with ourselves. It is where we learn to distinguish between emotional patterns and those emotions that are adaptive to current circumstances. The more we understand and work with the powerful energies of our emotions, the more we understand ourselves. Only then can we make choices that serve our truth and create the life we know we are meant live.

Join Janet McGeever, Emma Creed and myself for a fabulous weekend of learning new ways of relating to your emotional self that increases your self-confidence, acceptance, happiness and self-love.


Learn more about how to work with your emotions rather than be overwhelmed them in my new book…

“Don’t Tell Me To Get Over It: A woman’s guide to navigating emotional overwhelm”



What stops us from regular mindfulness practice?

Mindfulness is a beautiful practice to expand our conscious awareness and presence. We become more aware of what is occurring in the present moment both within ourselves and in the external world. Mindfulness practice can result in increased inner peace, improved concentration and memory and youthfulness. It is well known for its physical health benefits and preventive value. However, it is astonishing how this simple and effective practice is often avoided, dropped or even resisted. There are a range of reasons why we may push away mindfulness even though it benefit us enormously.

Reasons why we discontinue mindfulness

The first reason why we might discontinue mindfulness is that it involves relaxation. Often when we are stressed, anxious or distressed we tend to resist calming down. Relaxation is actually the antidote to stress and anxiety. However, ironically this can be the most difficult thing to do when we are tense.

Another reason why we may resist mindfulness is that we can become lost in our messy minds. It is like we forget to clear our thought patterns, which then overwhelm us. We may feel trapped and hopeless in the torrent of thought. Then we do not see the forest for the trees. This is when our mind needs ‘de-fragging’, just like a computer does. Mindfulness is the mind’s de-fragging program, however we often do not realise the need for it when we are caught in metal noise.

The third reason we may cease mindfulness practice is when we are entangled in a hurricane of emotions. When intense emotional patterns are triggered, it can be very difficult to pull ourselves away from the emotional overwhelm to practice mindfulness. Strong emotions tend to distort rational thought and distract our awareness from the present moment.

The good news

The good news is that a well-rehearsed mindfulness practice can overcome these barriers. The more we become accustomed to mindfulness, the easier it is to reconnect with the practice. It is like fitness building. So when we embrace mindfulness as a life style change and apply it into our daily lives, we benefit from it in the times when we need it the most.




Join us on Friday afternoons at 1pm for an hour of mindfulness based training and psycho-therapeutic insights. “Embrace What Is” is an on-going relaxed group that will support your mindfulness practice and help you to integrate this practice into your everyday life.

Call Vanessa on 0424 507 101 to book your place in this exciting and innovative group

Bookings are essential, as places are limited




Adaptive emotions and emotional reactions

Honouring our emotions the mindful way

Mindfulness allows us to increase awareness of whatever is occurring in the present moment without thoughts such as judgement, over analysis, or self-doubt. The practice is about watching or witnessing our inner processes with our awareness. So when it comes to learning how to honour our emotions using mindfulness practice, it is all about learning to witness the raw emotion as it arises in our body, as well as witnessing the thoughts and urges attaches to those emotions.

The nature of emotion

When we witness emotion, it is important to differentiate between feelings, thought and actions. Our emotions are the actual feelings that arise in our body. They are sadness, anger, guilt, fear and happiness. There are a multitude of other emotions, however these are the core five feelings that most other emotion stems from. Emotions are not thoughts about our emotions, nor are they our behavioural reactions. This is a very important distinction, as when we practice mindfulness of our emotion, we are simply practicing witnessing the emotion itself. Yes, re-activity involves thoughts, feelings and actions, but for the purpose of getting to know emotion, it can be a great practice to witness the emotion itself, stay present with it and simply identify it.

Only when we are clear in our process of witnessing the emotions within our body and identifying the emotion, can we begin to understand what they are about. We may experience an awakening out of confusion as we gain clarity about which emotions are arising in response to different events. For example, I feel scared when I do not know what is going to happen. I feel angry when someone steals my property. I feel guilty when I hurt someone. I feel sad when I lose something important to me. I feel happy when things in my life are generally in balance. So this is a good place to start.

Adaptive versus reactive emotion

As we begin to become acquainted with our emotional processes we may come to notice that some emotions make intuitive sense and are in proportion to the events occurring around us. These are adaptive emotions. They are primary reactions to situations that give us information about ourselves in the world. Remember, this is simply the arising of the emotion itself and not our actions or thoughts about the event. The emotions are as simple as a child’s emotional response to the world. These emotions have an innate wisdom of their own.

We may also develop the awareness that some emotions are disproportional to events around us, and they may repetitively arise under similar circumstances in ways that are individual to ourselves. These are far more complex than adaptive emotions. These emotions are often telling us more about a psychological pattern which we have learnt as a child or from a trauma or a highly distressing event. As children we are generally conditioned to distort our emotional responses. These emotions are either intensified or suppressed due to messages we receive from significant people in our lives. We learn to suppress anger, or feel guilt in situations that are not our fault, or develop anxiety when we do not know why we are scared. In mindfulness when we witness our emotional reactions which result from psychological patterns, we treat them in similar ways as with adaptive emotions. We simply bring our conscious awareness into the emotion and remain present with the sensations in our body. As we do this, we may also become aware of memories, images or senses that tell us where these emotional reactions are really from and what they are about. In this way we gain valuable insight about our emotional selves and sometimes about what aspects of ourselves require healing.

So on one hand, there are adaptive emotions which directly emerge from a situation and tell us about how the situation impacts on us. On the other hand, there are emotional reactions from psychological patterns which tell us about current life events as well as our past conditioning, trauma and psychological wounding. As we practice regular mindfulness, we generally increase insight into our patterns as well as our adaptive responses to situations in the world.

The key is awareness. Our patterns may need healing, however we can do this through seeing them clearly with mindfulness and learning how to refrain from spontaneously reacting from emotional triggers. The journey of mindfulness supports our self-understanding with compassion. This results in honouring our emotional selves, as well as increases clarity and peace of mind.


“Embrace What Is” is an on-going relaxed group that will support your mindfulness practice and help you to integrate this practice into your everyday life.

Click here to register on the Event Facebook Page

Join us on Friday afternoons at 1pm for an hour of mindfulness based training and psycho-therapeutic insights.

Call Vanessa on 0424 507 101 to book your place in this exciting and innovative group

Bookings are essential, as places are limited



Why Happiness is not the Goal of Mindfulness Practice

A lot of people begin mindfulness practice to find happiness or inner peace. However, when they arrive they may find themselves being told that the aim of mindfulness is not to be happy but rather is simply to train the mind to remain present and attentive to what is occurring in the now. This can even be a source of disappointment to seekers of happiness. Disappointment and disillusionment are exactly why happiness is not the goal of mindfulness practice. Generally, when we seek happiness, it remains elusive.

Happiness is like love in relationships or the end of a rainbow. The more we try to find it, the more disappointed we become. The key to happiness and peace of mind is actually to stop looking for it. It is bizarre that when we finally abandon the search and get on with our lives that we are more likely to find what we are looking for. This is why in mindfulness the goal is to expand awareness in the inner moment, and not to find happiness. Ironically, when we attend to the present moment fully and forget about ourselves and our quests, that is the perfect state of being for happiness and inner peace to arise.

Join us on Friday afternoons at 3pm and Saturday mornings at 9am for an hour of mindfulness based training and psycho-therapeutic insights.

“Embrace What Is” is an on-going relaxed group that will support your mindfulness practice and help you to integrate this practice into your everyday life.

Click here for the Embrace “What Is” Facebook Event Page

Call Vanessa on 0424 507 101 to book your place in this exciting and innovative group

Bookings are essential, as places are limited


It’s all a Matter of Expectation!

Becoming Conscious of Gender Expectations in Intimate Relationships

The issue of expectations in intimate relationship has two dominant perspectives, the male and female. In reality, there are multiple perspectives. In fact, there is a different perspective for every person on this planet. But today I will focus on dominant Western gender perspectives about expectations in intimate relationship.

From the dominant Western female perspective of expectations in intimate relationship, a lot of women believe it is important to have high expectations of the men who date them. There is a culture of increasing “feminine desirability” and the concept of “deserving” that are echoed in how women want to be treated in intimate relationships. There is also the age old concept of male wealth, status and how well they can be provided for. Finally there is a new addition to women’s relationship expectations. This is wanting emotional safety and sensitivity from men in relationships. These are generalised and do not pertain to all women, but they are trends in media and Western culture.

From the male perspective of expectations in intimate relationships, I am hearing more and more from men that the expectations from women are simply too high. I am hearing a lot of anger and discontent from men about unrealistic feminine expectations of them. As men seem to feel more marginalized for not living up to these expectations, they are asking questions about what they see as women’s manipulation and criticism of men. I also hear men saying that they do not know what women expect of them or what they should be doing in intimate relationship. It is described as the goal posts are always moving and that it seems to men that no matter how much they try, they are never good enough.

Looking Down the Consumer Lens

As gender roles and beliefs have shifted post World War II in the West, there has been a great deal of discount between men and women, putting each other down, relationship disharmony and increased rates of divorce. Since generation X, most simply are not getting married at all. Ironically, through this journey there is actually more socioeconomic expectation on the individual to succeed financially and being everything to themselves. Given we are social creatures and that societies financial expectations are high in the West, this has lead to a whole lot of incredibly stressed men and women looking after themselves. This has also resulted in sole parenting (usually women, but not always) being the social norm which disadvantages families and children. It is sad that the only winner in all of this is consumerism!

Expectations and Gender Differences

Back to gender… Given this social context in the West, the feel of the connection between the genders is more like war than love. From both parties, there appears to be a great deal of misunderstanding and lack of healthy communication. Gender differences in expectations just seem to become polarized, leading to increased isolation and heart break. Rather than listening to each other, both men and women tend to be defensively reacting to each other in this tug-of-war. Women hear men say that women are manipulating and expecting all this stuff in relationships, while often they feel deeply hurt from previous relationships and just want to be loved. Men hear women say that men are useless and are bastards, while often they are carrying their own wounding from relationships and are protecting themselves from being hurt again. Let’s face it, this topic goes straight to our hearts like a poison arrow.

The truth is, love is healing! The loving connection that can be cultivated between men and women in inmate relationships can buffer us from the world’s harshness and increase our physical and mental health. The misunderstanding between genders partly stems from both men and women holding old traditional expectations in relationships as well as newer expectations that stem from social and technological change. This leads to a confusing mess. Feminism has often been blamed for this. However I think it goes deeper than that.

There have been huge shifts in consciousness in humanity which has affected gender beliefs, practices and expectations. We are all lost! These shifts require more understanding of ourselves and then each other more than what has ever happened throughout written history. It is challenging for all of us! As we are giving the other gender a hard time, we need to remember this context and give ourselves and the opposite sex a break. We need to bring compassion and gentle understanding into the mix. These changes in awareness of gender will take time.

What gender expectations have caused you problems in intimate relationships?

Have there been experiences of coming into compassion for the other gender rather than criticism?


Building Self Confidence the Mindfulness Way

Self-confidence is that sense of being acceptable, safe, self-assured and capable. It is the ability to feel good about oneself and not buy into those annoying self-talk messages in our heads that tell us we are too fat, ugly or stupid! Unfortunately, self-confidence is often sort after and illusive. This is especially so in situations that increases anxiety such as a new date, public speaking or a job interview.

How many times have you rocked up to that wanted job interview only to lose all your sense of self-worth, even though yesterday you were beaming with confidence when you caught up with your best friend for coffee in the park? We all lose a sense of confidence when placed in circumstances that challenge us or test us to get something we want. The question is… “what can we do to increase self-confidence when we find ourselves in stressful situations?”

Anxiety and Self-Confidence

Some things that tend to happen in stressful situations are that we become a prisoner of our anxiety which leads to disconnection from ourselves and becoming less aware of how we are presenting ourselves. Anxiety can lead us to talk louder and faster, make more mistakes, and become overly conscious of what we say or do. We tend to remember these times and cringe! To make matters worse, our inner critic judges our every attribute and move and we remember things that we might want to forget.

Mindfulness and Self-Confidence

The practice of mindfulness can show us another way! I remember reading the Delia Lama’s words in the book “The Art of Happiness at Work” where he said that when he speaks publically he is not nervous or self-conscious because he practices being present in the moment for the people listening to him. His focus or concern is on others and not on himself… while he is simultaneously aware of himself. This gives us two clues to increase self-confidence and come out of self-loathing or at least self-persecution. Firstly is to have more concern for those you are there for or are giving to. And the second is to witness and be aware of the self without judging about the self.

Mindfulness teaches us how to witness the self without being caught in the thoughts and emotions of the “ego self”. We can witness thoughts without believing them or the emotional landscape attached to them. This is a great way of facing those situations that seem to strip us of self-confidence as we can practice the art of mindfulness rather than floundering around in anxiety.

The Practice of Mindfulness to Build Self-Confidence

To practice mindfulness simply watch your breath without needing to change it. Allow your chest to expand and contract in its own time and its own way. As you breathe, allow yourself to witness your thoughts come in and out of your mind, knowing that they are only thoughts. Remain open and curious as emotions arise and physical sensations in your body emerge and fade. Notice if your thoughts try to convince you of some future unpleasant fate or that you are flawed in anyway. Watch them rise and then disappear without being caught “the story” of anxiety provoking thoughts. Know this response rising is simply a habit… a pattern of thought, feeling and actions. Irrespective of the outcome, know deep in the pit of your being that you are safe… you are good enough…. and either way, you can succeed at your goal.

When we put ourselves in situations that challenge us and practice mindfulness, we can build our confidence. We can increase confidence to some extent through visualising success in difficult situations, but the actual practice of mindfulness and perceived success, is what really builds self-confidence. Remember that success includes decreased anxiety in the stressful situation rather than the outcome of gaining the job or relationship. Mindfulness shows us how to succeed by helping us to centre our conscious awareness, calm our mind, and observe ourselves rather than remain self-conscious and fearful.

Has there ever been a situation where you “faked it until you made it”?

Now close your eyes and imagine adding the practice of mindfulness to your experience…..

If you are looking for more information and audio meditations that can guide you through mindfulness, subscribe to 10 Days of Mindfulness Mediations in this page.


How do my Emotions Contribute to Weight Gain?

It is well known that people who are depressed, grieving or are simply unhappy can either put on or lose weight. The role of how we feel about ourselves and the world can be an important ingredient to losing excessive weight. How can emotions contribute to physical body weight and why does someone’s emotional landscape become reflected in their body? For those people who are physically affected by emotional ebb and flow, these questions about how emotion affects our physical body is very pertinent.

Emotion is often attached to thought, however it is often felt in our bodies. Long term emotional stress or depression can very well have a physical effect of weight gain. It is as if the heaviness of the emotion is held in the muscles and organs in the body. In Eastern medical traditions, such as in kinesiology and acupuncture, emotional anatomy is well regarded. Emotions are said to sit in body parts and do affect physical manifestations in the body. I find in my work as a psychotherapist, that many people’s physical symptoms fit perfectly with their emotional concerns. Likewise, I also see people’s physical symptomology affecting their emotional experience. It can become a self-perpetuating pattern where the physical and the emotional feed off each other to create full blown psychological and physical conditions.

Emma & Self-Loathing

Emma came to see me about her depression. She said she was feeling down, slobby and had put on so much weight in the last six months. She said she could not sleep well and that she felt lonely and angry most of the time. As we talked, it became clear that the end of her intimate relationship with Tod contributed to her mood and self-image. The relationship ended a year and a half ago, but it was only six months ago when he began a relationship with someone else. When we discussed the quality of that relationship and what it meant to her, it became apparent that Emma had built a great deal of resentment towards Tod over a long time. As she spoke, she began to realise that she had expected him to make up for his mistakes. When he finally found someone else, she realised he was not going turn around and apologise and change his ways.

What was really important however, was the meaning this had about herself. Emma realised that she had come to hate herself because on some level she believed it was her fault that he treated her poorly and never made up for his behaviour. Her self-loathing for his lack of considerate actions and choices had resulted in depression and weight gain. Of course, the physical and emotional cycle spiralled out of control as the increased body weight lead her to hate herself even more. And it stopped her from moving forward and finding a more rewarding intimate relationship.

Emma’s Way Out of Her Bind

In recognising her pattern of self-loathing, increased body weight and depression, and her interpretation of the events that underlay her pattern, Emma began to consciously turn it around. When she explored the pattern and gained clarity of herself, her beliefs and attitudes shifted. She realised that Tod’s actions were an effect of his own patterns and were not actually about her. She learnt that she could hold a sense of self that was not dependent on how others treated her. She also learnt that she could create an environment of self-love in her life and challenge the beliefs that lead her to think she was worthless or not good enough for love.

Emma’s journey in therapy was not a quick one but it was rewarding!  As she learnt healthy ways of thinking, feeling and actions that honoured herself and her body, her depression lifted over time. Likewise, her body weight decreased as she became increasingly happy about herself and her life and increased exercise and maintained a healthy diet.  The key here was that she did not try to enforce a diet and exercise regime on top of her self-loathing and depression. Rather she lovingly shifted bad eating and exercise habits with her increased self-esteem and self-efficacy from changing the ways she perceived herself in the relationship with Tod. Therefore the changes she made were more permanent life style changes that reflected and her happy sense of self.

The Emotional Dimension of Weight Gain

The emotional dimension of weight gain and lose is often underestimated. Sometimes where there are stubborn self-defeating patterns when people are trying to lose weight, the emotional landscape is an essential aspect to understand and overcome. There may also be other physical conditions attached to the intra-personal dynamic such as adrenal or thyroid problems, but the emotional aspects are still important.

Have you ever realised the emotional aspect of weight gain?

I would love to hear your experiences and questions

[Disclaimer. All stories used in this blog are fictional characters based on the wisdom I gain from working with clients. No character in this blog is an actual person or a client]


The Emotional Battle Between The Sexes

While it is not the case for every individual person, generally there are gender differences when it comes to emotions. Perhaps this issue is most common in heterosexual intimate relationships. Today I want to focus on these gender differences that are associated with emotion. Throughout this blog I will speak about gender in terms of ‘men’ and ‘women’. However it would be more accurate to say those who are predominantly masculine/feminine in orientation. For simplicity’s sake I will just state ‘man’ or ‘woman’.

Gender Differences With Emotion: The Battle Begins

Men and women in Western culture have very different conditioning when it comes to expressing emotion. It may also be the case that men and women have different “felt experiences” when it comes to emotions. However this is more difficult to ascertain. It is like asking a person who has been blind from birth to express how they understand the colour green. We simply cannot experience another person’s inner felt experience of emotion!

In regards to expression of emotion, generally women are more comfortable with what is viewed as vulnerable emotions such as sadness and fear, while men are more likely to be comfortable with expressing anger when they are hurt. However these social trends are harming both genders. When anger masks sadness or sadness masks anger, the emotional expression does not allow for appropriate felt emotions to properly guide that person through the life experience. Beyond that consequence, there is yet another reason for learning how to feel and safely express appropriate emotions… Our relationships between men and women also the price.

Women are more likely to be judged by men as ‘too emotional’, while men are more likely to be judged by women as “emotionally insensitive”. This is one of those relationship issues that is so common it is cliché. But what is really happening here?

At The Heart Of The Battle

There was a psychological experiment that aimed to test the difference between the felt experience of emotion and emotional expression in young boys. The psychologist got the boys to look at images that ranged from mundane to emotionally provocative. They also got their mothers to watch them through a one way window and gauge how emotionally affected their son was buy each image. At the same time the boys were monitored for their physiological arousal for each image, to assess what they were feeling on the inside. What they found was that there was a huge difference between what their mothers perceived the boys to be feeling, and what the boys were actually feeling. So we can gather from this experiment that boys at a very early age are taught to hide their emotions. This discrepancy is generally not found in girls.

Given results like these it is not surprising that men react to women’s emotions the way they do. Not only would it be hard to stay disconnected from their own emotional reactions when a person around them is connected to theirs, but also, in relationships men often see their role as the one who “makes their woman happy”. So they would be incredibly emotionally uncomfortable, trying desperately to keep their emotions hidden and at the same time feel like a complete failure because their woman is crying. As a woman myself, I am no expert on men, all I am doing is piecing together bits of psychological information and matching it with men’s lived experiences that I hear about as a psychotherapist.

On the other hand, it is also not surprising that women often become deeply hurt in intimate relationship when their man attempts to cope with her emotions by dismissing them, minimising them, trying to fix them or to control them. Women often feel put down, disrespected or rejected when their male partners try to “get rid” of their emotional expression, or even their felt experience of emotion. Women end up feeling like there is something inherently wrong with them for feeling their emotions, which tends to only add to a deep seated shame for being a woman.

Resolving The Battle In Conscious Relationship

The key to resolving this dilemma in intimate relationship is to understand this vital gender difference, and learn how to respect and honour each other for those differences. It is men’s ability to compartmentalize his emotions and put aside the emotional landscape of interpersonal relationships, that enables him to focus on one thing for a sustained period of time and create material things or govern countries. While women do these things too these days, these careers require that we are in our masculine to carry them out. So whether you are a man or woman, you need to disconnect from body-felt emotion and be in your head to carry out masculine tasks. Men are quite naturally very good at this. As a side line, women in the work place are still more likely to be the ones who are concerned with the emotional landscape of the work environment, while men are focussed on “doing the job” at hand. Women who can appreciate their man’s masculine presence in their relationship are generally going to have healthier intimate relationships.

On the flip side, it is a women’s connection to their bodily-felt-emotional-selves that can flow and ebb with the emotional landscape of interpersonal relationships, that attracts men in the first place. She brings him out of his head which helps him to feel!!! Feminine wisdom of the emotional reality helps women to nurture, empathize and guide interpersonal relationships. The feminine is connected to the Earth, nature and other people. She can feel what is happening around her. She feels her man’s interest or lack thereof… she feels their connection or the absence of it… she feels the dance of the relationship! This is a powerful wisdom, that if respected and honoured can help both parties co-create a beautiful intimacy. Men who are consciously aware of her wisdom in her body-felt-emotions will have a far easier and more fulfilling time in their intimate relationship with their woman.

For both genders, to honour each other they have to understand and appreciate each other’s differences regarding emotions. Men can learn to listen to women’s emotional wisdom as a guiding force in their relationship dynamic. She will be very aware of the increasing distance in their relationship where he may be oblivious. Likewise, she could understand his lack of comfortably and understanding of emotion (both of his and hers) and allow him to open up slowly in his way. Perhaps she could hold the space for him through physical touch, appreciation for what he does and by not asking him too regularly to express his emotions. She may need to ask a little bit because otherwise he is likely to not step forward. He does need to be willing to step forward even if it is uncomfortable. Another masculine trait is to “not fix what is not broken” and will ignore emotional aspects of the relationship if he can. So he might not realise the importance of expressing himself without some guidance.

Another important aspect of working with emotion in conscious relationship is for each person to understand and honour their own emotion. For her, it is very important that she learns to validate and honour her own emotion, as traditionally in Western society the Feminine and emotion have been very injured. The more she trusts in her body-felt-wisdom and feels supported for it from her male partner, the more she will find her self-assurance and will shine. He will then feel good about himself because he is helping her to “feel happy and appreciative”.

Maybe this is what they mean by “give and take” in intimate relationships. Opening your mind and heart and walking in your partner’s shoes for a while could help you discover what it could be like to be on the receiving end of your reaction to emotions or the lack thereof.

How comfortable do you feel with your emotions in your relationship?

How do you and your partner communicate about feelings in your relationship?

Happiness: The Holy Grail!


‘Happiness’ is interesting because there is controversy as to whether it is an emotional state or a deeper state of being. As an emotion it could be said to be ‘pleasure’ or a warm glow inside our belly, perhaps the solar plexus. It could also be said to be the absence of unpleasurable emotions such as anger, fear or sadness. But one thing that can be said about happiness is that a great many people crave or desire it!

In his article “Opening up to Happiness”, Mark Epstein made the point that in Western culture we are looking for happiness in all the wrong places. He then went on to speak about Buddhist ideas that ‘gasping’ for things that create pleasure and ‘condemning’ what is unpleasurable, leads to unhappiness by default. I tend to agree with both Mark and Buddhist wisdom. Happiness cannot be arrived at when we are in a state of attachment to outcomes and material things.

This does not mean that pleasant outcomes cannot happen or that we cannot have beautiful or expensive material objects, rather it simply means to be in a space of non-attachment to these things. They come and they go! Attachment means that we experience emotional highs for the pleasurable experiences and emotional lows for the unpleasant experiences which counteract happiness. Happiness is a balanced inner sense of openness to both experiences, and perhaps it is a resilient mind-set of making deeper meanings out of the unpleasant ones.

Non-Attachment Through Adversity

I recently caught up with an old friend who I had not seen for a number of years, who over the past twelve months lost his home due to a land slide, lost his livelihood (which was tied up with him home), and lost his long term intimate relationship. As we talked it became apparent that there was residual pain around his losses, especially for his relationship, however, ultimately he was still happy! What is amazing about my friend is his depth of awareness and his commitment to spiritual practice. He embodies a lifestyle that embraces spiritual or higher meanings that make his experiences “OK”. This ‘OK-ness’ is something that can make or break us through transformation, adversity or even trauma. There is resilience in accepting what we thought was unacceptable, so we can “receive the pleasant without grasping and the unpleasant without condemning” and align ourselves with happiness (Mark Epstein)

When I speak about acceptance, I do not mean allowing abuse to continue, nor do I mean to not make pro-active life-enhancing choices when we have the ability to do so. Rather, I am referring to accepting what we have no control over so we can be in a state of non-attachment to the outcome. This also does not mean that we will not feel normal adaptive emotions associated with the death of a loved one, a significant loss or adversity. Of course we will, and there are important psychotherapeutic processes to go through to honour those emotions. What I do mean is that we do not need to make it worse for ourselves by condemning ourselves, the world, other people or even God.

What Is Happiness?

I believe happiness is both an emotion AND a state of being! Happiness is far more than pleasure versus pain. I agree that like the Holy Grail, the more we grasp for it, the more elusive it will become. To settle into a state of happiness is to come home to one’s self with compassion and acceptance. It is to open to life and love with wisdom, integrity and healthy boundaries. Happiness is about creating, giving or pursuing something meaningful IN A WAY that embraces our life force and says “yes!” to our heart. It is the actualization of our purpose and real connections with people we love.

What is your experience of happiness?

When has a state of happiness been easy to attain and maintain?