Finding Love…Cultivating a Grateful Heart

Finding Love….Cultivating A Grateful Heartstock-footage-closeup-of-a-buddhist-monk-with-orange-robe-pray-in-temple

Thanksgiving always reminds me of the importance of Gratitude for living a fulfilled and awakened life. This year what I also realized though, is that I don’t always feel grateful. I complain. I criticize. I judge the actions of others. I forget in these moments that much of what I see “out there” in the world of “not me” actually exists “in here”….that is within me. When I am truly honest with myself I admit that what I don’t like in others is actually a reflection of some part of me. Put another way, the truth is that…in some way, at some time, and to some extent….I am that too  (whatever “that” is in that moment

The Full Meaning Of  “I am That”

When I think of “I am that” I am referring to “that” as the wonderful magnificence of me…as well as the shadowy hidden parts of me. I am “all of that” in equal measure, in fact. I had a spiritual teacher who would say….if you see it, and can recognize it, then you are it. I believe this.

Cultivating Gratitude For All Of It

From this more “all encompassing” perspective, I feel called upon to cultivate gratitude in my life. I am grateful for all that I may label as “good”, as well as all that I may label as “bad” at any given time. Most of all , I am grateful for the “unifying field” that holds it all together and allows for the possibility that we can all be “at one” with one another. “Wholeness” and “Oneness” is what I seek at all times for myself and for the world

From Gratitude…Flows Forgiveness

It seems to me that from a place of gratitude, forgiveness can begin to flow easily and abundantly. Surely, if I am “that” and you are also “that” then we can forgive both ourselves and everyone else who may have “wronged” us. Actually, in fact, forgiving one is forgiving the other. Is there really any separation?

Now Love Emerges fully realized

Now is when love begins to really emerge into consciousness. It was always there but it can now be seen and felt in a way that was not possible before.

My gratitude then becomes a gratitude for the love that is everywhere present .….within and without all of us at all times.

So…Thank you, Thank you, and Thank you again

prayer of Gratitude

prayer of Gratitude






Finding Love….How To Reclaim Your Hidden Self

Finding Love…. Reclaiming and Celebrating the Hidden Self



I’ve recently begun a series of blogs devoted to solving the “riddle” of “Finding Love” in our lives. First I talked about “The Importance of Feeling Seen”. Next I touched upon “Daring to be vulnerable”. Now I want to talk more specifically about the part of us that often is not seen by others…the “hidden” self that feels tender and vulnerable and remains unseen unless we allow it to emerge from the shadows of our personality. In fact, the famous psychologist Carl Jung referred to our hidden self as the “shadow”. In simple terms, your “shadow” is any part of yourself that you don’t want to be seen by others…and in fact you may not even allow yourself to see it because you have denied it for so long or buried it so deep. Examples of “shadow” parts of us might be our extreme shame, or our desperate longing to be loved…orperhaps our bitter jealousy of a sister, brother, or friend.

Virtually anything can be in our shadow if its something we don’t want to “own” or admit to. It could even be a hidden talent that we are afraid to develop lest we won’t be perfect at it. Whatever the shadow is doesn’t matter. What matters is uncovering it…first to yourself…and then to another with whom you wish to achieve authentic intimacy. Uncovering and exposing your shadow is important work on the path to wholeness and, I believe essential for finding lasting love.

How Do You Know What’s In Your Shadow?

I think most of us are pretty conscious of certain parts of ourselves that we keep hidden much of the time. Who amongst us has not been jealous or envious for example? Recently I have found that it’s quite liberating to admit to my trusted women friends that I have felt jealous of them from time to time. I was amazed when I did this. When my jealously was hidden and suppressed I found it difficult to be happy for the good fortune of my friends. When I admitted envy, I could rejoice with them. I could join with my friend and we could be happy together. My jealously came out of the shadows and became an admitted part of who I am.

Now…. Look At Your Projections and Discover The Connection Between Judgment And Projection

In order to find deeper parts of our shadow selves that we really don’t want to admit to or just can’t see, we have to notice the places where we sit in extreme judgment of other people. What happens is that when we really don’t want to admit to a trait within ourselves we react strongly to that trait in another person. This very human tendency is called “Projection” and it’s a really good way to keep our shadow selves at bay. For me, a really good example was when a good friend of mine got a new car that I’d been coveting for a while, but I could not afford right now. All of a sudden I was talking negatively to others about the extreme foolishness of her buying this car. My extreme reaction was Projection. I could not just be happy for her until I admitted my jealousy and took back the projection. My projection, in this case gave me a clue about that same old hidden part of myself called envy

Know That You Are Enough

Brene Brown is a well-known “Shame” researcher who has studied the emotion of shame extensively. One of her findings is that people who are driven by the need to be “perfect” are often keeping huge parts of themselves hidden from themselves and others. What they are keeping hidden is obviously anything that does not fit the image that they are trying to project of being “perfect”. These hidden “non perfect” aspects are part of the shadow of a perfectionist. What a burden! Perfectionism becomes a problem of course, simply because it is unobtainable. Brene Brown stresses the importance of Knowing that you are enough which means, I believe owning all of the parts of yourself…the perfect and the imperfect. In her book, Daring To Be Vulnerable Dr. Brown also talks about how often all of us avoid looking at the imperfect parts of ourselves by staying ultra busy, or numbing ourselves with the many distractions that are available in our modern world. Drugs and alcohol also serve this purpose.

So…. Celebrate All Of Who You Are

So…now that you know how to find your “hidden self”, rejoice in it, reveal it, and celebrate your well-earned place in the human race. People will find you much more approachable as you emerge from the shadows, as long as you surround yourself with a trusted cadre of like-minded folks. One of my favorite songwriters is Leonard Cohen. He has a great line in one of his songs about how true enlightenment comes when a crack appears in anything that we as humans call “perfect” This is how the line goes: “There is a crack, a crack, in everything…that’s how the light gets in. That’s how the light gets in”




Finding Love….The Importance Of Feeling “Seen”

Baby In Mirror

Baby In Mirror


I have not posted in awhile, but have not lost sight of my intention to explore the mystery of how to find love in our lives. I’m offering a way that we can each create an individualized roadmap in order to embark on this life altering journey. I will be breaking down the journey in a series of blogs. This one is about looking carefully at where we are right now in terms of feeling we are “fully seen” by important people in our lives…including ourselves. I believe this is the first step toward the ultimate goal of wholeheartedly giving and receiving love.

       My long hiatus from writing blogs has come about because of two recent experiences in my life. In the “living” of these experiences I have learned something that I only knew intellectually before. My “embodied” learning is the following: I don’t believe that any of us humans can fully give and receive love unless we have had the experience of being fully seen, heard, and understood by meaningful people in our lives. . My first experience was attending the “Burning Man” festival in the Black Rock desert of Nevada. The second experience was attending a 2-day couples therapy workshop where I learned something of the principles and practice of Imago couples therapy.

Burning Man

The Burning Man experience is difficult to explain in a few sentences, but for the purposes of this blog, the feature I want to concentrate on is a Burning Man main principle. It is the principle of “Radical Inclusion”…. which basically means you are encouraged to show up at the event in whatever way best expresses your true and most authentic self. Of course, in such an environment people are going to dress, or not dress, in very extreme ways…but this is exactly the point. What I found at Burning Man was that I got to “play” with as many versions of myself as I wanted…and everything was accepted and celebrated. This might sound like a really fun costume party…but actually it was a whole lot more. Much more important was the “heady” feeling I got that people really saw and appreciated me. I felt like I was about 3 years old on the jungle gym…saying, “Look at me!!!” At the same time, of course, I was looking at everyone else and appreciating the way they were presenting themselves. The best way to sum up the experience is that a true feeling of love and acceptance permeated through my body and soul at Burning Man. It was a feeling of love for everything and everybody, and I promise you that no drugs were involved. Wonder why “Burners” go back to Burning Man year after year? This is a big part of why. We don’t get this experience in life on a daily basis. More’s the pity. I think we really need it.

Imago Couples Therapy

It was excellent timing for me to attend the Imago Couples therapy workshop right after Burning Man. In this training I learned the importance of “mirroring” for the quality of  couples communication …that is the importance of being able to feed back to a person that you have really heard and understood them. This is not unlike the experience of mother and baby. When a young baby is held in his/her caregiver’s arms, the caregiver ideally “mirrors” back to the infant that this infant is seen, heard, and loved. The “mirroring” is done through the “baby talk” of the adult who is responding minute to minute to the baby’s vocalizations…maybe even imitating them. This is the basis of attachment. This is the basis of love. More fundamentally, the “mirroring” experience in early infancy is what gives the baby the experience of actually existing. (kind of a I am mirrored, therefore I am)  When an infant experiences the facial expressions and “attunement” of a caregiver, this infant feels love. And the love feeds back to the caregiver who loves back in equal measure

The Couple Is Just Like Mother/Father and baby

Attachment in a couple is actually exactly like mother/father and baby attachment. Through the repetitive “mirroring” exercises of imago therapy, each member of the couple practices hearing and repeating back exactly what they heard from the other half of the couple. The result is pretty amazing, as each member of the couple understands, maybe for the very first time, what it is like to stand in the shoes of his partner without judgment and assumption. Love can begin to flow freely again  from a place of truly understanding who that person before you actually is.

What These Experiences Can Teach About The Importance Of Feeling Seen

After the experience of Burning Man and now having tried leading couples through mirroring exercises, I’m convinced that we must each find ways to bring the people and experiences into our life who allow us to  feel fully seen, understood, and appreciated. These days I’m not willing to spend much time with people when this is not the case…Life is too short and I know for a fact that love can only emerge, thrive, and grow when enough of your environment “mirrors” back to you your full, flawed, and ultimately imperfect self.




Finding Your Way To Love…The Journey Begins

Finding Your Way To Love….The Journey BeginsKlimit the Kiss

I would like to invite you to go on a journey with me. The destination I have in mind can be reached at the end of an interesting and sometimes challenging treasure hunt. So, you may ask, “What is the treasure we seek?”   In my view this treasure is far greater than any material possession you could ever imagine. The treasure that can be yours, and mine, if we chose this journey, is the finding of true love in our lives. Finding “true love” for you may take the form of finally connecting with the “soul mate” you have been longing for. Or, if you are already in a solid relationship, your treasure may be discovering a deeper and more intimate connection with your beloved. Your “treasure” may even be connecting more deeply with your family and friends. In this treasure hunt you define your treasure. What do you long for? How do you want to feel in your most important relationships?

Defining your destination and creating your map…What is your starting point?

At the beginning of any journey it is useful to consult a map. The map begins with where you are right now and ends with your final destination. In the case of finding love the only difference is that you create the map in your imagination. It is therefore unique to you. You will need to decide where you are right now, and where it is you want to go. This may sound obvious and simplistic, but actually it’s not always.” It’s important to be able to take an honest look at yourself and make peace with the “way things are” right now. For example, you may need to admit, “Yes, I am just really lonely and I long for a life partner, or, yes, it’s true, I feel alienated from my family or distant from my partner.” Admitting these things may feel incredibly vulnerable, but it’s an essential “starting point” for you journey. So…. where are you right now? Only you know the answer.

Using “Visioning” To Discover Your Destination

Dr. Michael Beckworth, founder of the Agape spiritual movement in Southern California, is a proponent of the use of Visioning to actually help us each, individually, to “open ourselves up to what love feels like.” This is the first step to being receptive to love when it shows up. If we have been alone for a long time, for example, we may not remember the feeling of loving another and being loved in return. In visioning, the idea is to take time to immerse yourself in a meditative and/or prayerful state of mind and just observe and feel what comes up as you imagine loving another without reservation, and being loved for exactly who you are. In visioning, you call forth all that you have ever experienced about the feeling of love. Then you allow yourself to feel all of these feelings. The key here is that we have to convince ourselves at our very core that such love is possible and that we are deserving of it. This is really essential because if we don’t believe love will happen to us, it simply won’t. Visioning is a creative process whereby we can harness the power of our imagination to actually change core beliefs we may have been carrying around for a long time.

The difference between Visioning and Visualization

There is a process in metaphysical thought called visualization whereby the practitioner is encouraged to clearly visualize exactly what he or she wants in great detail and somehow “if you see it, it will come” That’s not what visioning is. In visioning the idea is to open up your heart and call forth that which lies dormant within you and allow your deepest feelings and desires to emerge. In visioning, it is not about what your conscious mind already “thinks” it knows…. rather it is about opening up your consciousness and discovering that, at your very core, there is a deeper knowing that we all possess about what true love really is…and how it feels from the inside out. If we can feel it, remember it, and believe in it…. it can be ours. In your conscious mind, you might believe that there is a checklist of attributes that must be possessed by “the one” who will be your soul mate. He/she must be tall, blond, and rich for example. However, if you depend upon such a checklist you may well miss out on your treasure when it shows up. You won’t recognize it, because it does not fit your criteria.

Ok…what now…I’ve got my starting point and I have an idea of how I want to feel when I have brought love into my life.

You now have an idea of where you are now and how you want to feel when you reach you destination (your treasure). Obviously this does not mean your relationships are now wonderful and/or you have found the one. Stay tuned to my next series of blogs and we can learn together how to tackle the various roadblocks and obstacles that may block our path. The blocks and obstacles are like the physical challenges that a car might encounter as it travels its way across the country. Some of these challenges are expected, and some take us by surprise as we make our way to the final destination. The important thing is just to stay on the road and keep moving forward.


By Leslie Kays

The Golden Key To Long Life And Happiness


Sustained Happiness

Recently there has been a proliferation of research regarding the nature of “Happiness”…that elusive state of mind that we all crave. Much of this research comes from the relatively new field of “Positive” psychology. The research methodology often involves compiling “self report” surveys from all over the world. The main question asked of people recruited for the survey is very simple. It is usually some variation of   “How happy are you, and to what do you attribute your level of happiness? Research subjects are given general categories from which to choose including health, wealth, spiritual practice, relationships with family and friends…etc. The findings after upwards of 15 years of this kind of research are shocking…but not altogether surprising.

General Findings Of Happiness Research

As compared with middle age adults in other highly industrialized countries, Americans rate extremely low on the “happiness” scale. Our rates of anxiety and depression are sky high. At the same time we have disturbingly high rates of “mood” disorder and general discontent, we also spend the most money trying to solve our “happiness problem”. Common attempts to “feel better” include buying the latest technological toy, taking exotic and exciting vacations, working on improving our bodies, engaging in numerous “self help” activities, and taking psychiatric medications. Overall these attempts appear not to be working. At the very least, the results don’t seem to last.

So…What’s Wrong With This Picture?

To put it simply…in popular American culture, many of us seem to be seeking happiness in all the wrong places. We would do well to look at the activities and values of people in other parts of the world who report higher levels of happiness…as well as looking at populations in the United States who report higher long-term levels of happiness. When researchers did exactly this, here is what they found:

The Top Three Characteristics Of People Who Report High Levels Of Happiness

  1. The happiest amongst us consistently report that they enjoy meaningful, intimate, relationships with family and/or friends
  2. A higher degree of contentment is correlated with those who have found a sense of purpose in their lives. This can be achieved either through work that is more of a “calling”, or really anything that one can feel passionate about
  3. A belief in something that is greater than the “self” also brings about a sense of peace and acceptance. Anxieties are “soothed” by this idea, and it does not necessarily mean the belief in any particular religious ideology…although it could.
  4. People who know how to re-write their life story are happier and probably have a longer, healthier life!

Importance of Relationship

The good news is that improving your relationships is something anybody can do at any time. It doesn’t take huge amounts of money unless you are amongst those who really need to work on how to connect with others. Here are some steps you might consider:

  1. Assess your current relationship environment. Does everyone you deal with on a daily basis add value to your life? If not consider gently letting go of those who do not. This could even mean changing jobs if you are forced to work in a hostile environment
  2. Consider reconnecting with people from your past. These people are like “gold” because they can help you reconnect with lost parts of yourself that can enrich your present sense of yourself
  3. Nurture your relationships every day. Don’t be afraid to be the first to call. If you find you are “working too hard” to keep something going though, this is another sign you may need to let a relationship go
  4. Don’t forget to be your own best friend. Spend time alone getting to know yourself in an atmosphere of quiet contemplation. Become curious and interested in the world through whatever “portal” makes sense to you (such as books, movies, nature) This will make you interesting to others and people will want to be around you.

Live Long And Thrive

I’m aware this is the Kaiser tag line, but I’m gonna borrow it because I like it. The longest living amongst us always report that they derive energy and the “will to live” through their relationships. As an added bonus, successful long-term romantic relationships often begin as deep committed friendships. Friendship is the fertile soil out of which intimacy sprouts and flourishes.



















Want A Clear Path To An Awakened Life?..

A root cause of “relationship distress” is the “re-opening of a primary childhood wound.” This wound is related to the doubt we have all carried around, since childhood, about our inherent “lovability”.  Although it is true, of course, that each of us has a different experience of being loved and cared for in childhood…. none of us ever gets that “perfect” love we long for.  When someone hurts us again in a  way we have been hurt before, we feel that hurt all over again.  Each of us has very specific “triggers” that function as entry points to our own particular version of the  “wound.”  Clinical psychologist Dr. John Welford believes that the search for a “love” partner in life is all about finding a way to heal our original childhood wound.  We are testing the strength of our “lovability” in the courtship process, as well as testing how well we can love our chosen partner. It is therefore a process of simultaneously giving and receiving as we risk “putting ourselves out there”

Dr. Welford also believes that, because our sense of being a complete and lovable self  is so dependent on how others perceive us, we have mixed feelings  about attaching ourselves to another too deeply. In our own minds there is always the possibility that we will be forced to change who we really are in order to be what we think our partners want us to be.  The fear of “giving up” our power in this way can lead to carrying around resentment about dependency in close relationships. Our task is how to navigate this delicate tightrope of needing something so badly at the same time resenting and/or fearing this need.  In addition to this, we may also be perpetually afraid that we won’t be able to hold onto what we have, once we have it. Is this not the very definition of vulnerability?  What kind of skills do we need to help us with this crucial navigation task? To put it in another way…what state of consciousness do we need to adopt in order to walk the “tightrope” with ease and grace?

First…Remember That The Love You Seek Is Already Yours 

At first glance, the concept of already having what you seek may seem counterintuitive. However, if you think of the concept of Love differently and see it as an absolute principle that operates in the world rather than a relative commodity that is traded back and forth and can be lost and found…. You will know that love is always there. You just have to see it and claim it. I knew a songwriter/philosopher once who wrote lyrics about absolute love that sum up what I mean beautifully.  Tad’s words were as follows: “In the colors of the morning sky, in the face of just one passerby, a gift, a song, a way to be…. Love is waiting patiently.  The message of this song, for me, is about the Omniscience of love.  As Tad so poignantly states in his song, Love is everywhere!..It is waiting patiently for you to claim it for yourself. He also talks about the importance of “letting the love in” to your wounded heart.  This speaks to the importance of cultivating an “open” heart and allowing love to heal what ails you.

Next…Consider The Possibility That Relationship Is The Path To Healing Your Original Childhood Wound 

If you are starting from the place of knowing that you already have love in your life, then all of your important relationships are about sharing that love with another, and reminding each other of its existence. This would apply, I think, weather we are talking about your “life partner”, your child, or your best friend. Awareness of Love’s Omniscience is a consciousness shift, I think. That said, it is of course important to be cautious and protective of yourself in the beginning of a relationship. The love between you and this person needs to be solid and trustworthy, before you open yourself up too completely.  Inevitably, though, because you are transparently revealing yourself to another, you will experience hurt. Something may be said that reminds you of an earlier experience in your child hood, your “guard” is down, and that old childhood cluster of wounds is “triggered”.  At this point, according to Dr. Welford, you have a choice.  Do you “act out” against the person who has inadvertently “pushed a button”?  Do you become angry and defensive and try to hurt that person back?  Or, do you choose to understand this “trigger point” as an important key to understanding yourself. If you chose the later option, you have given yourself and your partner a precious gift.  Together you can investigate what “just happened”, and draw from that deep pool of absolute love to understand both yourself and your partner at a whole new level.  The trick is to keep blame and criticism out of the conversation, which is of course the difficult part in a culture, which is so often so judgmental. Intimacy is, in my view, the antithesis of judgment and blame. It is about opening up your own narrow view of the world to incorporate the world view of another. This is why I see creating “heart centered” intimacy as a clear path to an awakened life.   Without the judgment and blame of either yourself or others, You  awaken to to who you and your” beloved” really are.

By Leslie Kays MFT