What is Life Made Conscious?
“Living consciously is different for everyone, but here’s how I describe it. It’s accepting your life on life’s terms and living through what you want and value within it. But it’s more than that. Understanding that the things you are dealing with are ultimately important, but you are not alone. We have been conditioned to believe that our actions and behavior are who we are and it’s the measurement of who we are. Because of this division of “who we really are” with “what we do” or “what we’ve done”, we’ve experience an unnecessary amount of suffering. We think that the problems we are facing and the solutions to those problems are outside of ourselves. This is largely untrue. The living through the illusion that things are “separate” from us leads to problems mentally, emotionally and it really leads to problems in our relationships. To me, living a fully conscious life is to understand my ultimate potential and to know that I can create the life and relationships that I want.”
Why does life seem to be so hard for so many of us?
“I think it goes back to what I just mentioned. We aren’t what we do. We’re not our thoughts or behavior. We are more than that. When we seek things outside of ourselves to bring us happiness, we ultimately suffer. All the money, status, and recognition in the world is not enough to bring long lasting satisfaction. I see many people and couples who feel empty because they are not feeling the satisfaction they thought they would from attaining material wealth and various achievements.”
How can people reframe their experiences to find more balance in their lives?
“Well, I don’t really believe that balance is entirely possible to begin with. For example, I have 2 young kids and right now my wife and I are spending a tremendous amount of time and energy in being parents. So we’re doing the best we can. Part of that is taking care of ourselves. But I certainly don’t feel balanced and that’s just where I am right now. If I fight this reality, I just make things worse for me.”
So what can we do to feel better?
“This is where living consciously is important. Here’s why. We are not ultimately in control of many things in our lives but we can focus our intention on those areas of our lives that we have the most impact. So I can’t control my thoughts as maybe I’d like to, but I can change my relationship to those thoughts. Things aren’t just “happening” to me. Life is working for me. Maybe not the way I want it to at the time. But I can change the way I am viewing my current situation. I ultimately contain all of the “solutions” to all of my problems.”
That sounds a bit harsh. Should we feel we are to blame for our circumstances?
“Not at all. We are only as aware as we can be in any given moment. This isn’t our fault. But it is our responsibility to do what we can with what we have to improve our relationship with ourselves and our circumstances. I wish it was possible for people to get the “magic pill” to feel better but I think we’ve seen this is an illusion and it’s caused more harm that good in our society. The “way out” or path to healing is all about facing our problems and not beating ourselves up for having them. It does no good to be angry with the fact we are angry, or upset with ourselves that we behaved badly. We need to treat our “wounded” selves as we would our kids. With love and compassion but with a feel of knowing that we can grow from our experiences and make the changes we seek. Loving firmness is a good way to put it. We can do that for ourselves. Responsibility and blame aren’t the same thing. We can be lovingly responsible and not blame ourselves.”
How do you address men specifically and the issues they are dealing with?
“As a military veteran, as a father, and as a husband, I know what it’s like to sort through a stress, depression, and anxiety filled society. It’s not enough to just power through anymore. We owe it to ourselves and our families, and our spouses, to show up. There’s a better way to live.”
How do you think you are successful in helping men become more connected with their partners?
“Men are getting left behind by women. Whether we like that or not. We have to step up to live more consciously and relationally because it serves us to do so. Emotionally intelligent as well as our normal sense of intellect. So in recognizing that, men can take a huge step. Men have traditionally be “taught to be men”, as if there is something bad that will happen if they aren’t “turned into men.” We don’t turn young girls into women. Why do we do that with men? I got that from my mentor Terry Real, the founder of Relational Life Therapy. Men need just as much nurturing, love, and connection as women. Most of us weren’t given this and taught this. So our relationships can be lacking of connection and healthy intimacy. I teach men how to be more comfortable in their own skin and how to be themselves in their relationships. Usually women just want more of their husbands. They don’t want a different one.”
What do you emphasize in your therapy with couples?
“I help couples not only understand their problems and do the skills but also understand themselves, their family of origin influences, their traumas from this, and the important skills to connect. Couples therapy isn’t just about learning skills, it’s more than that. If we don’t address the trauma and unfinished business left over from childhood, for example, all those helpful skills go out the window the moment we are triggered and emotionally charged.”
How do you help couples dealing with what they feel is an impossible situation?
“Couples tend to struggle with communicating what they want and need. Not just though words but through behavior and actually connecting with one another. We can learn empathy with our partners by connecting with the hard stuff. I also like to be with the client by relating my experiences as a spouse and as a father. I’m right in the room with them. That’s important. Even with things as devastating as infidelity, there is a way to heal and to make your relationship BETTER than it was. Living consciously is about honestly dealing with what is in front of you. Not just getting past what is painful but connecting on what is present by being present.”