Lessons In Loving

By Kathlyn and Gay Hendricks

Since the publication of Conscious Loving 30 years ago, we have committed and recommitted to expanding our capacity every day to give and receive more love. This journey has taken us to the depths and wild edges of experiencing and exploring what love actually is and what love can open.

The experience of genuine love isn’t a Hallmark card. When you open to love, you begin to realize that loving is being with and being in the same space with whatever is happening. Loving is welcoming and including what the light of love illuminates. This practice of being with, of presencing, opens the inner space of feeling more alive, and more connected and engaged with life. And the practice opens the possibility of experiencing yourself and others as unique, evolving works of art rather than improvement projects. 

Being real and being response-able enhances the practice of loving. We have relished the experience of being able to be completely ourselves with each other for 40 years. Now it looks easy, but the playing field rests on choosing authenticity over and over, and choosing to respond rather than react hundreds of times. We’ve learned to get curious in the midst of defensiveness and to say what we’re noticing and feeling in the midst of the pull to blame.

Appreciating and getting curious really polish the lens of love so we can experience its lusciousness more directly. One of the definitions of appreciation is to give sensitive awareness to something. That’s pretty close to love. Imagine sitting with a close friend on a porch swing as they share what’s happening. That’s the path of appreciation that opens more bandwidth to love. 

We’ve found that people are better at giving love than receiving, Receiving genuine love touches you, changes and melts you, opens memory closets where you carefully packed away old painful experiences. Being loved, receiving love, means you get more transparent, more affected by how everything is connected to everything. 

Whether that’s a feeling emerging or an old memory that love’s presence is spilling out of the past, love leads to transparency. For most of us, that’s very scary. Most humans hide what they think is unlovable, and most of us believe that something about us is unlovable. When we enter into the journey of loving another, those beliefs surface, and fear contracts us away from letting those parts of ourself — the shyness, the stupid choice, the withholding — be loved. 

Loving fear means turning toward the contraction, feeling into the fight/flight/freeze/faint that you are experiencing or noticing, and giving your presence and sensitive awareness to the held breath, the impulse to strike back, the desire to run out of the room. We’ve learned to not only easily say, “I’m scared,” but to also wrap fear in love, to bring awareness and being with to the fear rattle itself. In that moment, love opens the spigot and allows flow, circulation, landing, and locating here and now. We’re connected, on the same team, practicing what Ram Dass called “walking each other home.” 

We’ve found over and over that turning toward the contraction, and opening breath and body to be with it fully, deepens the experience of love. We can actually expand our capacity to enjoy more love every day and the gifts that love brings.

Love enhances connection and creativity. When we’re seeing and sensing ourselves as whole and lovable, intuition and creativity blossom. New choices appear, as do more opportunities to invent more ways to love and learn from each other. We committed to use every interaction as an opportunity to learn how to love more deeply and found that recommitting is the key to continuous expansion through the greatest adventure that people can experience. 

Here’s a summation of the most valuable love lessons we’ve learned:

The 7 Discoveries 

The First Principle 

Relationships thrive when each partner commits to total union with the other person and total creative expression as an individual. 

The First Magic Move

Make a heartfelt commitment to the other person that you're willing to go beyond all your ego- defenses to fully initiate unity. At the same time, make a commitment to going all the way with your creative expression. Then observe the emergence of your defensive barriers every day. Report them honestly, but don't take them seriously. In fact, ego defenses disappear quickly when you turn them into play. 

The Second Principle 

Relationships thrive when each partner learns from every relationship interaction, especially the stressful ones, instead of running programmed defensive moves. Some popular defensive moves: criticizing, listening-filters, lying, sulking in silence, making noisy uproars, numbing out with food, drink, smoke, TV, and other habit-forming drugs. 

The Second Magic Move

Make a heartfelt commitment to learning something new from every relationship interaction. Notice your defensive moves as they emerge, and gradually transplant wondering and truth- speaking in place of defensiveness. 

The Third Principle 

Relationships thrive in a climate of absolute honesty — no hidden feelings or withheld truths. All feelings — anger, sadness, joy, fear, sexual attraction — are okay to discuss with the other person, and each person is able to listen, free of listening-filters such as listening-to-find-fault and listening-to-fix. 

The Third Magic Move

Notice your feelings and thoughts, and speak about them to your partner. If there are things you’ve done or feelings you’re afraid to talk about, make sure to speak about those to your partner. Get familiar with your habitual listening-filters, and practice summarizing what the other person is saying, with no distortion, and acknowledging the feelings embedded in communication. 

The Fourth Principle 

Relationships thrive when people keep their agreements impeccably. It doesn’t matter whether an agreement seems trivial (“Sorry, honey, but I forgot to take the trash out.”) or significant (“Sorry, honey, but I slept with your twin sister and the maid of honor the night before our wedding.”) There is no such thing as a minor lapse of integrity, according to Tom Peters, and our experience has confirmed this radical notion. 

The Fourth Magic Move

Monitor each agreement you make very carefully, making sure you want to make it in the first place. Once you make an agreement, fulfill it impeccably or change it consciously by communicating with the relevant person. 

The Fifth Principle 

People thrive in a climate of 100% accountability, where nobody blames or claims victim status. 100% accountability is the shift from “I was wronged” to “I take full responsibility for events occurring the way they did.” From this empowered position, problems can be solved quickly, because time and energy are not squandered in a fruitless attempt to find fault. 

The Fifth Magic Move

In any situation, claim responsibility for having created it the way it occurred. Wonder about how and why you might have wanted it to occur that way. Speak in empowered language rather than victim language (“I choose to go to the dentist” rather than “I have to go to the dentist.” “I take responsibility for eating so that I have a healthy body,” rather than “Why did you buy that huge bucket of buttered popcorn? You know I can’t resist it.”) 

The Sixth Principle 

Relationships flourish when partners appreciate each other liberally. People grow more beautiful through our appreciation of them. Relationships take a quantum leap when each partner practices appreciation of the other person as a daily art form. 

The Sixth Magic Move

Invent new ways to appreciate the other person every day, and speak appreciations frequently. Live inside questions such as, “What is my partner’s true essence and how can I invite it forth?” and “What could I appreciate about my partner at this moment?” 

The Seventh Principle 

Everything can be resolved with willingness and love. Love is the ultimate healer and liberator, because only love is vast enough to embrace its opposite. In other words, you can love yourself even when you hate yourself, and the hate will melt in the larger presence of love. Whatever emerges in a close relationship is the next thing that needs to be loved. 

The Seventh Magic Move

Love as much as you can from wherever you are.
— Thaddeus Golas

Kathlyn (Katie) Hendricks, PhD, BC-DMT, the Chief Creative Officer and Director of Training for The Hendricks Institute, is an evolutionary catalyst and freelance mentor who has been a pioneer in the field of body intelligence and conscious loving for 50 years. She describes her purpose this way: “I feel through to the heart with laser-love and evoke essence through deep play.” 

Katie is the co-author of 12 books, including the bestselling Conscious Loving... At The Speed of Life... and Conscious Loving Ever After: How to Create Thriving Relationship at Midlife and Beyond

Passionate about the power of embodied integrity and full-spectrum presence, her work explores the how of consciousness and the structures and practices that befriend and transform fear into presence, relational authenticity, and resonant collaboration. She specializes in translating concepts such as commitment into directly felt experiences that lead to new choices and creative engagement.

Her unique coaching and leadership programs have generated hundreds of body intelligence and relationship coaches in the U.S. and Europe. She developed and led the unique Leadership and Transformation Training for 30 years, and is currently joining with her community through the Foundation for Conscious Living to create the Big Leap online programs. These online videos are designed to support people in coming home to presence, restoring resourcefulness, and creating caring communities.

Katie earned a PhD in Transpersonal Psychology and has been a Board Certified-Dance/Movement Therapist of the American Dance Therapy Association since 1975.

Click here to visit the website of Hendricks Institute.

Gay Hendricks, PhD, the President of The Hendricks Institute, has been a leader in the fields of relationship transformation and bodymind therapies for more than 45 years. After earning his PhD in counseling psychology from Stanford, Gay served as professor of Counseling Psychology at the University of Colorado for 21 years. He’s written more than 40 books, including bestsellers such as Five Wishes, The Big Leap and Conscious Loving (co-authored with his wife Katie), are both used as a primary text in universities around the world. In 2003, Gay co-founded The Spiritual Cinema Circle, which distributes inspirational movies and conscious entertainment to subscribers in 70+ countries.

Gay has offered seminars worldwide and appeared on more than 500 radio and television shows, including Oprah, CNN, CNBC, 48 Hours. In addition to his work with The Hendricks Institute, Gay is continuing his new mystery series that began with The First Rule Of Ten.

Click here to visit the website of Hendricks Institute.

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This article appears in: 2020 Catalyst, Issue 7: Love