Can We Still Be Friends After The Breakup?

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Wild FlowersKatelynn shared during the introduction to one of my classes that she had been struggling to cope emotionally after a recent breakup. I asked her if she could tell us what brought about the dissolution of the relationship. She told us that significant differences in their needs and values were generating a lot of conflict. Her former partner left on short notice when he was offered a job in California. I asked Katelynn if she was making any effort to keep in touch with him. Katelynn told me that she found it too painful to keep in touch and so she stopped returning his calls.

I had Katelynn close her eyes, begin to breathe softly and deeply and bring her former partner to the forefront of her awareness and then tell us how she was feeling. Katelynn said that she was feeling mildly depressed, isolated and numb. Katelynn later shared that she was missing her former partner and that she was experiencing a profound sense of emptiness combined with feelings of sadness and anger. She said that the whole experience left her wondering what she had done wrong.

Katelynn told me that the pain and pressure that she was experiencing within her body let up as she continued to work with the practice of breathing into the feelings and sensations. After some time she began to experience a greater sense of peace, calmness and ease.

The wound that never fully heals

The loss of a love can be especially devastating. The painful emotions that arise while we’re in the midst of a breakup can leave us feeling overwhelmed. The intensity of the feelings gradually diminish over time, but that doesn’t mean we have thoroughly processed our losses.

The vast majority of us have never learned to work constructively with our feelings. And many of us never fully process these losses. Much of the grief, hurt, sadness and disappointment remains trapped within our bodies. The painful feelings that arise in response to the losses that we experience over the course of our lives form layers of armor as they accumulate within our bodies. In many instances we end up building walls around ourselves. Someone who is well matched for us may come along at some point, but our fears and suspicions create barriers that prevent us from trusting or letting anyone in. The deadening resulting from our leftover emotional baggage also prevents us from being as fully present.

It’s Complicated

Breakups can be especially complicated. We develop a strong attachment for the person that had been a part of our life and there are qualities about them that we truly love. We often experience a painful sense of longing after the breakup for what is no longer. There are also circumstances that get in the way and aspects of us and our partners that that made one of or both of us feel that the relationship was unworkable.

Letting go can be that much more difficult for those of us who haven’t learned to process our feelings. The parts of us that are not processing emotionally cannot let go because they are still living in the past. We do tremendous damage by tearing ourselves apart in the process of separating from our partners.

Deliberately hurtful or just being true to themselves

We all say or do things at times that are hurtful to others. Partners that are especially abusive can leave us with deep emotional wounds. It’s important for us to know abuse when it’s happening and to sever all ties with those who have an inclination to inflict verbal, emotional or physical harm upon us. We also need to distance, if not sever ties with former partners that are toxic. That can be hard to do in some instances, especially if there are children involved.

We sometimes feel hurt when our partner’s feelings and needs do not reciprocate our own. But that doesn’t mean they are intentionally doing anything to hurt us. They may just be being true to themselves by doing whatever it is that they need to be doing at this point in their lives. In some instances they may be misguided, confused and making all kinds of mistakes. And yet we need to be able to let go and allow them to live the lives of their own choosing even if that doesn’t involve us to the extent we want it to.

The only constant is change

Every now and then someone comes into our lives with whom we share a special bond. We may only know these individuals for a short time or they may remain an active part of our lives for many years to come. Our feelings and needs change over time and so do those of our partners. Differences in values, needs and expectations can create incompatibility. Sometimes the people that we have invested in can no longer live up to the promises they have made or meet our expectations. But that change doesn’t necessarily mean that these individuals are no longer an important part of our lives or that we have to completely sever the bond. Doing so can be very damaging to everyone involved.

Change is the only constant. Everyone and everything we know and love is in a continual state of transition. We often experience feelings of hurt, loss, sadness, disappointment and anger when we, our partners and our relationships change. Breathing softly and deeply while fully immersing our awareness in the midst of these feelings helps us to reconcile conflicting feelings and expectations so that we can allow the people in our lives to be who they need to be and our relationships to evolve. Maintaining our connections to the people that have played an important part of our lives as we and they change is an important part of our healing and personal growth.

The feelings that arise when a relationship with someone that we once shared a romantic connection begins to go through a transition can be very uncomfortable. We may feel hurt and angry, but at some level we still love this person. And if they ever experienced feelings of love for us then they probably still do. We’re still relating to this person with whom we share a connection and yet the relationship is not what it used to be. It can be an awkward adjustment when we’re still interacting with the same person and yet we’re no longer physically intimate. We often feel anxious that our former partners will start seeing someone else and it often hurts when they do. It takes some time to adapt to new sets of boundaries, ways of relating to one another and the continuing changes that take place.

Attachment and Loss

Liz was six to eight weeks out of the relationship when she first came to my class. The remainder of this chapter is taken from a series of conversations we’ve had over the past few months.

Liz: At the time came to your class I was in this crazy place where my whole life was changing. Everything that I was most terrified of was happening. I thought I was searching for a partner and going into romantic relationships in a mature way. I was looking for support so I didn’t have to go through life alone. Having to do it all for myself was terrifying because for much of my life I felt that I couldn’t always rely upon or trust my parents.

Don and I met when I reached out to him on Ok Cupid. I noticed on his profile that he had also traveled to India. We chatted a bit, talking about our experiences in India. Don told me that he had just moved to New Hampshire and that he was teaching himself to cross country ski. We agreed to meet to go cross country skiing for our first date. I started spending a lot of time at Don’s condo and after six to eight months he bought a house and I moved in, believing that this was a serious relationship.

I invested so fully and quickly in Don and our relationship once I sensed that he was really interested. We got together four years ago and I never adjusted that image. I was in it for the long haul no matter what. I really stuck with it all the way through despite the fact that a lot of changes were occurring during our final year together. On some level I knew intuitively what was about to happen and that scared the shit out of me.

Don started pulling away from me in September and then we broke up in May. He became more invested in other things, but I didn’t adjust my level of commitment to the relationship or my dependence on him. So when Don broke off the relationship in May, it felt like my entire support system was gone.

I couldn’t extract my grief from the terror I felt over what was going to happen to me. I was angry with Don. I was having so much difficulty concentrating and my energy was really diffuse. I was desperate to have something move at the point when I came to see you.

I finally got all of my stuff out of Don’s place and moved to an apartment. Don was focused on selling his house. Finding new homes for the dogs was really traumatic for both of us. I felt the trauma of it too because one of the dogs was mine, but I had no control in the situation because at the time I didn’t have enough money to take them. There wasn’t much communication between us during that time. I don’t think we spoke for three to four weeks. I was feeling this big empty hole and felt like I was operating as half a person.

Tour de France

I was doing a lot of biking, working with a physical therapist to address some of the structural issues pertaining to my body over the summer and then I started working with you. I had three weeks of vacation time at the end of summer before starting my new job. I wasn’t sure how to fill that time so I was asking all of my friends and trying to come up with ideas. I was thinking of going camping in Maine or taking a road trip to another city, but no one was biting.

Don was leaving in August to go and travel for the next two years. He had been planning to tour Europe by bike for three months and he said to me “Why don’t you just meet me over there. We’ll do the bike trip and you can spend your three weeks touring with me.”

I wasn’t sure if spending my three weeks on a bike tour with my ex-boyfriend was a good idea, but I remember talking with you about it. Everyone else thought that was crazy. And they were asking me “Why would you go on this international bike trip with an ex-boyfriend that had recently broken up with you?” You had said that it would probably help me to work through the loss. I had a feeling that everything was going to be okay and it felt like it was a trip that I wanted to do, so I went ahead and did it.

I did have a contingency plan. I made a concerted effort to plan things so that if it was really horrible and felt awful that I had all the equipment with me to keep doing the bike trip by myself. I would have done the exact same trip on my own, about a day’s worth of biking behind him, because he’s a much faster rider than me.

Lovers to friends

The trip was awkward at first. There was a learning curve on what it was going to be like because we were so freshly broken up. We had all kinds of logistical details to deal with from the time we started the trip. Don was really trying to not be such an asshole in the ways that he traditionally was. We had to get the bikes on the train one evening to get to the ocean. I was trying to find something I could eat on the train that wouldn’t aggravate my food allergies. I got back close to the time the train was leaving and I could see that Don was clearly frustrated and then he snapped at me.

I went right back into my old pattern of feeling awful but not saying anything about it. I was thinking “This sucks and it’s not any fun.” But then he apologized saying “I’m sorry. That whole situation was dumb. I shouldn’t have been mad at you.” I could see that he was clearly making an effort.

Then something else happened within a couple of days. I was feeling weepy, sad and lonely. We were staying in this international hostel. All I wanted was to have my pain be seen and acknowledged and maybe have a hug. We were in this room with bunks and I was curled up on a bed crying. Don washed up and then went downstairs to work on his travel blog. I stopped crying after a while, cleaned myself up and went down to work on the blog with him. While we were sitting there alone in this lounge I let him know that I was having a hard time and that I felt bothered by the fact that he acted like I wasn’t even in the room and then left. I didn’t like it that he was ignoring me and that it was making things worse. I told him that I was feeling alone, unseen and that he didn’t care if I was upset.

Don then acknowledged what I was feeling saying “I’m sorry that I just walked out on you. You must have felt so awful when I just walked around you like you weren’t there and then left. I was just trying to give you some space because I didn’t know what to do. I thought that I was doing what I would have wanted, which would have been to be left alone. But that’s not what you wanted at the time and it actually made you feel worse.”

Don then asked me “Well, if it happens again, what should I do?” I responded by saying “Why don’t you give me a hug?” Don said that he wasn’t sure if that would be okay. I felt comforted by the fact that Don actually listened and then relayed back not only what I said, but insight based on it. He was clearly paying attention and putting two and two together. I felt during that conversation that he really understood me very well. He gave me a hug and I felt seen and acknowledged. For once he totally got it.

There were a number of days when I had bad moments. One day I was crying and biking for a full hour. I probably biked ten miles crying. I had my sunglasses on so people couldn’t tell I was crying. I said to myself “I’m going to keep going.” And so we did.

Processing

On a trip like that you really do have to depend on each other. We had to work as a team. In some ways our dynamic was very similar. We were still the same people, but in other ways it had changed. One of the really nice things that happened is that I was able to separate all the pain I had of being alone and losing the support and being afraid of the future and being angry at him for breaking a promise and not supporting me. There was a separate grief, which was really important for me to get to. The trip gave me the opportunity to gain access to that grief. It made me clearer on the fact that I do love this person and I don’t want to not talk to him. I don’t want him to be gone. I don’t want someone else to be having these conversations with him.

It took me several months for me to realize those were separate sets of feelings. On the one hand I’m feeling “Shit! What am I going to do? How dare you break your promise?” On the other I’m thinking “I really did love you and I wasn’t just using you for your support.”

I’m happy that we were able to spend the time together and that we’re still in touch. Don is off touring Europe now so we communicate via G-chat and talk on the phone occasionally. I don’t know when he will be in the Northeast again.

Moving On

A huge percentage of my free time was devoted to Don and the life we shared together. After living together in Don’s house for a year I moved down to Boston to go to law school and he stayed in New Hampshire. For three years we talked on the phone every night. And then on the weekends I would either travel back up to New Hampshire to see Don or he would come down to Boston to see me.

Before I would go into the weekend thinking to myself “I’ll see Don then we’ll decide what we’re going to do together.” That’s all gone now. What I find really disturbing is the feeling of having to get used to doing everything on my own. It’s like “What am I going to do? I have to go find my own friends and make my own plans.”

I feel like I’m becoming more emotionally independent. I’m getting used to the fact that he’s not there and I’m finding that there are other people I can talk to when something happens. And I can also process things on my own without having to talk to anyone at all. That’s giving me some space to move forward. I feel like I’m doing a relatively good job evaluating my life, what’s real, what kind of things I want to invest in now that I have this new single life. I’m figuring out what I want in my job and I’ve been getting involved in this meditation center. It would have been really hard to do that if I was still feeling as shitty as I was.

Ben: I knew there was some risk involved when I encouraged you to go on the road trip with Don. I didn’t exactly know how the road trip was going to turn out, but I had a strong intuitive sense that you needed to go and spend the time with him in order to do the processing needed to heal from the breakup.

Liz: Many of my friends were telling me to not talk to Don for a year saying that it would make me feel better. I felt the absolute worst during the three weeks that we were not talking at all.

Ben: I see other people that follow suggestions such as those given by your friends and not talk to their former partners for a year, if ever again. It has much to do with their lack of emotional-cognitive sophistication. They end up shutting down portions of their body – mind consciousness.

Completely severing such a bond can be very destructive to everyone involved. Abruptly severing ties is very jarring to our body – mind. Cutting off makes it much harder for us to process the hurt, fear, sense of loss, confusion, anger and other feelings that are a normal response to the changes taking place in our relationship. These emotions are more likely to remain trapped within our bodies. We end up hurting ourselves in ways that negatively impact our ability to form healthy attachments with potential companions that we encounter along the way.

We may need periods of time after a breakup where we agree not to see each other, talk on the phone, text or email to help facilitate the transition. This time apart can help us to adjust to the transition taking place by enabling the various parts of us to reconcile or come to terms with the fact that we are now in a different kind of relationship.

Liz: It’s been a year since my housemate broke up with his girlfriend. Now he’s constantly dating several women at a time, but he isn’t actually connecting with any of them. He’s only using them to hook up and doesn’t take it any further. He doesn’t appear to be at all conscious of what he’s doing.

Ben: Much of the population is so disconnected from their pain. They never really process emotionally and heal the wounds they suffer in a breakup. They end up doing a lot more damage to themselves and others by acting out. They sort of, but not really connect with others. Sadly, many people continue to operate indefinitely at that level of unconsciousness in their romantic involvements.

I’m seeing lots of change in you over the past few months. I could feel how you were in a very raw and vulnerable space when you first came to my class and that concerned me. You were contracting or closing in around the hurt of the breakup. The healing sessions that we did enabled you to do the deep emotional processing needed to facilitate the healing of the emotional wounds going back to your relationship with you parents and those pertaining to the breakup of your relationship with Don.

You’ve become more resilient and that’s enabled you to make the transition much more gracefully. The sessions helped you to process much of the grief while putting you in a more receptive space that made it possible for you to learn and grow from the experience you had with Don. There’s considerably more work to do, but you’ve made a lot of progress.

Liz: I think that’s true. And the work that we have done has also affected me in some ways I didn’t anticipate. I’ve made some progress in my relationship with my parents. My anger and expectations towards them had limited my ability to have a better relationship. I was able to let go of some of the expectations I had of my parents and that made it easier for me to accept them for who they truly are.

One aspect of the real pain I felt with Don was not knowing why he left. I kept asking myself “Why? Why? Why?” I felt this huge need to understand the reason behind his decision to leave and understand that it wasn’t my fault.

Going on the road trip gave me the opportunity to reflect on everything that happened between Don and I over the past few years and that gave me a fresh perspective. Don had gone from kindergarten through grad school without a break and then straight into a job. He had been working for five years and always felt lot of pressure from his father. I could see how all the demands and responsibilities were weighing so heavily on him. The house and dogs that other people might have appreciated were very burdensome and he felt like he just couldn’t take it anymore. So he extracted himself from all of that in stages.

I could see the things Don was doing such as taking time off and getting rid of all these things that were burdening him was probably the right decision for him. It sucked for me to lose it all after four years of investing in him and yet he was not enjoying his life. I could see that it was very courageous of him to leave his job and live off savings for two years. Seeing Don so unburdened and joyful and realizing that he hadn’t been happy made me realize that it wasn’t about me. I could see that Don had chosen the wrong lifestyle for himself and he was trying to make a correction that was really in line with his heart.

Ben: I doubt that you would have come to this realization you had if you had not done the healing sessions and gone on the road trip with Don. This whole experience turned out to be a crucial part of your healing after the breakup. By being open and present you have been able to do much of the healing and gain understandings that you probably wouldn’t have come to otherwise.

Liz: I’ve read a number of books by the author Cheryl Stayed. One of the things she says repeatedly in her writing that really got to me is “The fact that someone wants to leave is reason enough to leave.” The reason Don wanted to leave is because he felt like he had to and so he did. I felt some sadness. I wondered why he wanted to leave. I didn’t want him to leave, but he did.

So much has happened since we made that road trip in August. I started listening to a podcast one evening called Dear Sugar. A woman that called in that evening was struggling with a recent breakup. She said there was an amazing chemistry with the man she had been seeing for the past year, but he had now distanced himself from her saying that he was discovering that he really liked men and needed time apart to discover if he was bi or gay. He said that he really did care about her and that his ending of the relationship wasn’t about her. Relationship expert Dan Savage who happened to be on the show that evening said “People don’t breakup with someone they truly want to be with. They give you some excuse to try to make you feel better so that you don’t hurt as much. But that excuse becomes the sword that you fall on. You end up getting more deeply hurt because you’re hoping that they will come back. You end up thinking “He’s going to discover that he really does love me.”

Listening to that podcast made me reflect on my own situation. The big reason Don gave me for breaking up is that he was going on this trip, that it would be really long distance and that it didn’t make any sense to continue the relationship. He then said that it wasn’t about me, but about the circumstances. The part of me that was holding on to the hope of Don returning was thinking “Maybe when this trip is over Don will return and we’ll get back together. He really does care about me. It’s not about me. It’s about the trip.” But that’s just not true. If Don really wanted to be together, he wouldn’t have broken up with me and would have maintained the relationship while he was traveling.

Don and I had a conversation over the phone not too long afterwards. I was trying to get him to admit things that he had done that made it easier for me to believe that our relationship was permanent and that he was serious about it even though he had already backed out. I admit that I had a part in not wanting that to be true, but I think he did things to lead me to believe that he was in it for the long haul.

I was really clear that I wanted to be married someday, but there were times when I felt insecure and I would ask Don if he was really committed to the relationship. He would respond by telling me “Well look at my actions. What are my actions telling you?” Don’s actions were telling me that he was a settle down sort of person. He had a job that he took very seriously, bought a house, a car and had two dogs. We also saw each other every weekend. And so I kind of took him at his word. But he never really intended it to last. In his view he feels that he was very clear that marriage was never on the table.

Don also said on many occasions that he didn’t believe in marriage as an institution. He felt that people go through so many changes and that it didn’t make sense to make a promise to stay together, to continue to care about one another and make the relationship work. He said that to him it only made sense for people that had been together for a really long time and then got married for practical reasons like taxes or health insurance.

In my mind I was thinking that Don and I would stay together for a long while and when it made sense we would get married. Don felt like he was saying that marriage was not on the table, so don’t look for it. I took what Don said as meaning that it was definitely a possibility while he felt like he was saying that it was not.

Don didn’t make it clear to me that he was not in it for the long haul even though he knew that at some level. In some ways, that deprived me from of the opportunity to leave earlier. Had I done so, I wouldn’t have had to experience that huge loss all at once. We were having this conversation and he wasn’t owning his part of what happened between us. He took no responsibility saying “I have nothing to apologize for. I did a really good job.” I realized that I was never going to get what I wanted out of him on this. I really let go of a lot in that conversation.

Ben: The person doing the breaking up doesn’t always know what they want. They feel uncomfortable and they’re afraid to be honest by coming right out and saying “I really don’t want to be in the relationship with you anymore.”

Liz: Don and I have talked a lot less since that conversation. I had been holding onto the hope that Don would get tired of traveling and that we would get back together. Holding onto that hope was holding me back. That conversation enabled me to let go of the hope. We’d been catching up once every ten days or so. The conversations felt more generic and the connection had faded a bit having lost some of its intimacy, but that wasn’t as terrifying as it had been before. Things have been moving in a very different direction since that conversation. I’ve been focusing more on my new job and getting more serious about my meditation practice.

Ben: Whether or not we can remain friends depends on our own needs and considerations as well as those of our former partner and the unique chemistry between each pairing of individuals. We may find it difficult to open to or trust a former partner because of the damage that’s been done. We sometimes outgrow former partners or we realize that we didn’t have much in common to begin with. Sometimes it is best to just let go and move on.

Just because the romantic relationship didn’t work doesn’t mean that there isn’t a potential for a meaningful friendship. Couples that were horrible as romantic partners sometimes make the best of friends. The romance can sometimes die out, and yet there’s still a deep love for one another. Some couples need to maintain a cordial if not friendly relationships for the sake of any children involved. And there are those who manage to work out their differences and get back together. It’s up to each of us to tune into our feelings, needs and intuition to determine the extent to which we open ourselves and allow our former partners to be a part of our lives.

Liz: Don visited Boston a week ago and we had lunch. It went fine. We caught up a little about my job and his travels. I felt myself holding myself back from him this time – in my mind I kept wondering “What are looking to get out of this?” I would listen to him talking about how he doesn’t miss the burden of having dogs or owning a home and feel my disappointment that we were just very clearly not on the same page. I didn’t talk to him about that feeling, though, because it’s not that kind of relationship anymore. At this point, in answer to the question of whether I think I can be friends with my ex, I would say this: we can be cordial, I’m curious to know what’s happening with this person who holds an important place in my life story so we’ll stay in touch, but we can’t be close and intimate friends now. My trust in him has been broken, I’m too disappointed, and I need to open up that intimate connection space so it will be available for someone else someday.

©Copyright 2015 Ben Oofana. All Rights Reserved. This content may be copied in full, with copyright, creation and contact information intact, without specific permission.

Ben Oofana is a healer who began his training with Horace Daukei, one of the last surviving traditional doctors among the Kiowa Indian tribe. Call (913) 927-4281 to learn more or to schedule an individual session.

A special thank you to Kathleen Lolley for granting me permission to use her painting “Wild Flowers.” Be sure to check out her work at http://www.lolleyland.com and her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/LolleyArt

Why Emotional Intelligence is So Crucial to the Success of Our Love Lives

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enamoured II
Rachel has dated lots of men over the past fifteen years and at one point she was engaged to be married, but the relationships never seem to work out. None of the men that she has become involved with have been an appropriate match. Some have also had serious emotional problems. Rachel’s attempts to make sense of her interactions with these different men has left her with a lot of confusion and frustration.

Most of the people that show up in my classes are having difficulty in their relationships. Some struggle with patterns of abandonment and unrequited love. Many are in the midst of a painful breakup or divorce. Others are stuck in horrible relationships with partners that hurt and abuse them. But many of these individuals can’t seem to let go of their partners and move on even though their relationships are causing them so much distress. The emotional pain that they haven’t been able to process keeps them locked into a holding pattern that prevents them from letting go of partners and relationships that are not working.

Our technologically advanced society places a high value on intellectual development. We may be intellectually sophisticated and yet we are often stunted in our emotional development. Being stunted emotionally seriously impedes our interpersonal development. That’s why so many of us lack empathy, compassion and the ability to understand ourselves and others. Our emotional — interpersonal deficits greatly limit the extent to which we can form any kind of healthy attachment.

We’ve learned to shut down and disconnect from our feelings and physical bodies from the time we come into this world and that greatly impairs our ability to gain access to and process our feelings. It is through the parts of our body – mind consciousness that experiences feelings and emotions that we form attachments.

We need to be able to process our feelings so that we can know when someone is a good match for us or not. We need to be able to process our feelings so that we can address the issues that arise and bring the conflicts that are a normal part of being in a relationship with another human being to resolution. We need to be able to process emotionally so that we can let go of our attachments to partners that are not healthy. We need to be able to do the deep level emotional processing in order to learn and grow from our interactions with others and form healthy attachments.

Spinning ourselves around in circles

Many people come to my classes expecting to hear a lecture or thinking that they’re going to talk their way out of their suffering. And then they wonder why I have them sitting there with their eyes closed doing meditative practices. We do spend some time discussing the issues and concerns of everyone in attendance. But the primary emphasis is to get people out of their heads and into their bodies by doing the practices that will facilitate healing. I’ve learned through my own experience and that of the many people I’ve worked with. Attempting to think or talk our way out of our heartaches spins us around in circles and that downward spiral keeps reinforcing our suffering.

There is an intellectual component to healing and yet many of us over do it and end up getting stuck in repetitive loops of thought. We can never think or talk their way out of these kinds of dysfunctional relationship patterns. Our attempts to make sense of what’s happening by over-analyzing what’s not working in our relationships keeps generating more fear, anxiety and other painful emotions. The accumulation of these emotions reinforces our dysfunctional patterns.

We can work with a life coach or spend years of our lives and thousands of dollars on psychotherapy. We may come out of our coaching sessions or therapy with “how to strategies” or an intellectual understanding of our suffering and yet the patterns that have caused so much pain and stress in our romantic involvements keep repeating themselves.

I am not in any way saying don’t work with the psychotherapist. Psychotherapy can be a very important part of our individual healing process. I went to psychotherapy for three years and I would sit there talking about what wasn’t working in my life. I gained a much needed intellectual understanding, but it did little to help me do the deep level emotional processing necessary to heal the wounded parts of myself. The same kinds of dysfunctional patterns kept playing out in my relationships. I had to incorporate other practices and resources to facilitate the healing of the deep emotional wounds.

Lack of understanding

Two men and eight women showed up in one of my recent classes. One of the two men spent much of the class processing the grief and emptiness over the death of his wife. The first woman that spoke shared that she had never been able to get back to herself since she broke up with an abusive boyfriend two years ago. She was feeling a deep sadness, along with a sense of being unsafe and unsupported as a result of having lost her boyfriend. A young Malaysian woman revealed that she has been suffering from depression. This woman’s soon to be ex-husband couldn’t deal with her moodiness and lack of engagement. The husband ended up having an affair. This woman’s emotional distress was greatly exacerbated when she discovered that her husband had been unfaithful. She said that her emotional state is constantly fluctuating and that she’s always looking for an escape. A Korean woman told us how angry she was to find her boyfriend texting another woman even thought he was open about the matter and assured her that the other woman was only a platonic friend. She admitted that the feelings of jealousy were making her crazy and that she would sometimes cry, become violent and start hitting her boyfriend.

One of the younger women that attended that night told us that she was scared to let go of the boyfriend she had broken up with nearly a year ago even though he was seeing other women. She was still obsessed with her former love and overwhelmed by feelings of anguish, hurt, jealousy, regret and self-pity. I spent some time looking into her aura afterwards. I could see that she was extremely ungrounded and strung out on her former partner like an addict craving her drug of choice.

None of these individuals knew how to work constructively with their emotions before attending my class. All of them indicated that they felt better after I had them go through the practices. It remains to be seen whether any of them will follow up to do the much needed work that would facilitate the healing of their own woundedness.

People often show up in my classes a time or two and then disappear. It saddens me because I see and feel the fear, pain and confusion held within their bodies. And I can tell by looking at, listening to them and feeling what’s going on within their bodies and minds that they do not possess the understandings or resources that would enable them to fully heal the deep emotional wounds on their own. Many of the same patterns will continue to play out in their relationships. They will most likely attract the same kinds of partners and reenact the dramas of past relationships all over again. And some will just give up on romantic relationships all together.

Cultural deficit

Most people in our present-day Western culture cannot grasp the kinds of ongoing practice that people in the various ancient spiritual traditions have done for thousands of years to develop their bodies and minds. So many of us lack the discipline and drive that would compel us to do the practices with any kind of regularity. Many of us are also overwhelmed by the demands placed upon us. We’re also finding it difficult to keep our minds focused because our brains have been rewired by our excessive use of technology. We say we don’t have time to devote to intensive practice. But we might be surprised how much time would become available when we cut down on the amount of time we spend surfing the net, playing games and watching television.

As a society, we tend to be very outwardly focused and that’s why we possess such a limited awareness of our own internal state of being. Many of us do not understand our own emotions. We’ve never learned to work constructively with our feelings and have absolutely no conception of the amount of deep emotional processing that is needed to truly facilitate the healing of the wounded parts of ourselves. And many of us are so fearful of going to those wounded places within. This whole range of our body — mind consciousness remains stunted in its development. Our resistance to experiencing the full range of our feelings perpetuates the dysfunctional patterns in our relationships that continue to cause us so much suffering.

Healing can only occur when we do the deep level processing and make use of the resources needed to facilitate the healing of our emotional wounds. Only then can we develop the emotional intelligence that will enable us to create the kinds of healthy and loving attachments that we truly need and desire.

Looking into the mirror

We’re immersed in a culture that operates at the very surface most levels of awareness. Many of us excel in our professional lives, at various creative endeavors and other areas that we’re passionate about. And yet we often feel hurt, lost and deeply confused when it comes to interpersonal matters.

Our relationships serve as a mirror of the conflicted issues and unprocessed emotions that we’re holding within our bodies and minds. Dysfunctional relational patterns such as the inability to commit to or be faithful to another person, unrequited love, abandonment and becoming involved with unstable and abusive partners are all reflections of how deeply wounded we are and the fact that we have failed to develop emotionally. The vast majority of us fail to recognize and make use the opportunities to heal our woundedness that are being presented to us within the context of our relationships.

Much of the population cannot easily access their feelings. Those of us who find it difficult to access to what we’re feeling will have greater difficulty working through conflicting thoughts and feelings. Therefore we cannot understand our own needs, desires and other driving forces working beneath the surface.

We all have a conscious and subconscious mind. The part of us that is conscious is primarily aware of our current set of thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations and the environmental input filtering through our sensory channels at any given moment. Our subconscious mind contains all of the hurts, losses, confusion, disappointments, conflicting needs and desires and issues that we have failed to bring to resolution.

Shutting down or avoiding the feelings and issues that we rather not face only widens the gap between our conscious and subconscious minds. Those of us who have shut down emotionally and that have disconnected from the wounded parts of us do not really know ourselves. We cannot possibly understand or be intimate with another person because we are not able to understand or be truly intimate with ourselves. We cannot really see the other person for who they truly are because we are so blinded by our projection. We act out our anger, fear, hurt, insecurity and confusion by saying and doing things that are hurtful to our partner. And for that reason our relationships turn into a series of big messy dramas that involve little learning or growth.

Relationship as a journey of healing and personal growth

Relationships just don’t work very well when we’re deeply wounded …at least not for very long. I used to get so caught up in my own projections that I couldn’t see the women I had developed an attachment to for who they truly were. I would try to get these women’s attention and to get them to reciprocate what I was feeling. In some instances I would unwittingly push to the point to where it made them feel uncomfortable. A few of these women cut me off completely. I was then hit with the reality that my feelings and desire for connection would never be reciprocated. I would then find myself engulfed in this all-consuming pain. And the torturous pattern just kept replaying itself.

I suffered a great deal of abuse during my childhood and adolescence. Much of the drama playing out in my romantic relationships was a reenactment of past trauma. These painful dramas were a reflection of my own woundedness. Nothing changed for the better until I did the work necessary to facilitate the healing of the deep emotional wounds. Facilitating these changes required a tremendous effort. Despite the fact that I’m in a much better space, I continue to see the journey of healing and growth that I began as a lifelong process of transforming my body and mind.

Many years of intensive training in the Chinese Internal Martial Arts of Xin Yi Quan, Baguazhang and Chi Gong with Sifu Li Tai Liang has shown me a side of ancient Chinese culture that is very wise and deeply connected to the forces of creation. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from all of my training is the value of intensive daily practice.

I do hours of intensive practice to develop my body and mind from the time I get out of bed in the morning. I begin with Chi Gong and other forms of Internal Martial Arts practices. And then I’ll do about an hour of a special meditative practice that I’ve developed over the years that helps me to digest what’s going on in my life and any subsequent feelings that arise. Working consistently with these practices helps me to develop a stronger connection with the authentic core residing deep within and the higher power.

I begin the meditative practice by acknowledging whatever is happening within the context of my relationships. From there I’ll direct my attention to what I’m feeling in response to what’s happening and to the parts of my body where the feelings are situated. I then begin to breathe softly and deeply while centering my awareness in the middle of the feelings and sensations that arise.

Processing what I’m feelings in this way enables me to take whatever is happening in my life and use it as fuel for growth. Processing these feelings gives me an intuitive understanding of myself, the person with whom I’m relating and the nature of our interaction. It helps me to communicate more easily and effectively. I’m finding it much easier to bring issues to a place of resolution.

Much of the trauma of my childhood and adolescence was so deeply ingrained within my body and mind. I would have never fully healed these wounds on my own. Deep tissue body work helped to bring the emotions stored in my body up to the surface so that I could process them. I worked with a number of exceptionally powerful healers whenever the opportunity presented itself. I also went on many vision quests, a traditional Native American healing practice that involves going out to fast alone in the mountains for four days and nights without food or water. The healing sessions and vision quests enabled me to build a whole new foundation.

The overall quality of my relationships improved as I began to take the steps to facilitate the healing of the parts of me that were so deeply wounded. The romantic projections began to lose their intensity and dissolve. I then found that I was no longer attracted to unavailable, disingenuous and abusive women or those with whom I did not resonate.

The many years of intensive practice has made me very empathic. I began to feel the presence of the women that I found myself attracted to and the way they reacted or responded to me. I also became more acutely aware of my own feeling and energetic responses to the women with whom I interacted.

There have been many instances since that time where I would approach or engage a woman in conversation when I felt a strong physical attraction. But then I would realize that there was nothing more than physical attraction. I got to a place where I could politely disengage if I felt a lack of resonance or sensed that the woman I was speaking with wasn’t in a good place. At other times I would realize that there was a lot of common ground with the woman that I had been spending time with, but I also had a clear sense that the connection was one of platonic friendship.

I have friends of both genders and yet in many ways I find it easier to relate to women. I most enjoy spending time with sensitive, open-minded, creative, caring and intelligent women that I can learn from. For me, one of the most difficult aspects of living in New York City is the fear and suspicion that many women hold towards men. Sadly, there are significant numbers of badly behaving men in the city that give women legitimate reasons to be concerned for their safety and wellbeing.

There have been instances in which I’ve engaged with women and it was quite obvious that we both enjoyed the interaction and shared many common interests. The potential was there for friendship and possibly something more and yet their fear and mistrust made it difficult for them to be receptive. I have sometimes felt sad about the missed connections, but I’ve found it easier to let go. Some of these same women were more receptive to me when I ran into them at a later date. I’m also noticing that more women are drawn to me and that they feel safer in my presence as I continue to heal and grow.

Relationships are very much a learn as we go process. We will invariably make mistakes along the way. I have at times felt ashamed over the lack of awareness, sensitivity and understanding that I demonstrated the past. Working with the practice I’m describing in this chapter enables me to be more cognizant of the feedback I’m receiving. I’m better able to learn from mistakes and to correct course when necessary and relate in healthier ways.

Having the ability to access and process what I’m feeling adds greater depth and dimension to the interaction while making it possible for me to relate from a place of greater authenticity. Breathing into the feelings and sensations that arise in response to what’s happening in my interactions makes it possible for me to be that much more fully present. I can then use whatever happens within the context of my relationships as fuel for growth. I’ve become more intuitive and empathic and that enables me to be more in tune with the needs and considerations of my partner and other people with whom I engage. And that has resulted in a huge increase in the overall quality of my interactions. I’m also seeing these same kinds of changes taking place within those who have the opportunity to work with me.

Cultivating emotional Intelligence

The practices I’m teaching in my classes of becoming fully present to any feelings or bodily sensations that arise in response to what’s happening in one’s personal interactions cultivate emotional intelligence. Breathing into the feelings and sensations as they arise awakens the innate healing intelligence residing within the body and mind. This healing intelligence facilitates a process of “digestion.” Whatever happens within the context of one’s relationship can then be used as fuel for growth.

I sometimes feel as though my hands are tied when I’m sitting in front of the class room. I see and feel the extent to which people are wounded as I’m looking into their bodies and minds. In many instances the wounding is so extensive that it cannot possibly be healed by practice alone. These individuals need serious intervention to facilitate the healing that would not otherwise be possible. It’s very unfortunate that the majority of those in attendance have absolutely no understanding of the healing practices of the Native Americans and other ancient traditional cultures. And therefore they have absolutely no sense of what’s truly possible.

Native American’s didn’t have access to the kinds of modern medical interventions that people in today’s world depend upon. They lived out in the wild and learned to rely upon the forces of nature. It was a fairly common practice among many of tribes for people to go out to fast alone in the mountains without food or water for four days and nights. Many of these individuals received various gifts and healing capabilities. The traditional native doctors would allow other forces or beings to work through them to facilitate healing within the body and mind that would not have otherwise been possible.

Some of the more gifted traditional Native American doctors went on the vision quest many times over the course of their lives. At some point towards the end of their lives they would transmit portions of their power to a younger apprentice. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to spend a number of years training with one of the last surviving traditional doctors among the Kiowa Indian tribe. Since that time I have furthered my development by going on many of the vision quests.

The presence working through me during the individual sessions facilitates the healing of the deep emotional wounds associated with patterns of abandonment and unrequited love. The emotions become more manageable as the grief and other painful feelings associated with a breakup, divorce or death of a loved one are diffused and then digested. Changes taking place within the biochemical makeup and neurostructure of the brain and the building of the infrastructure consisting of the chakras and layers of the aura create greater mental — emotional stability and a sense of well-being. Those who have the opportunity to work with me become more firmly rooted in their bodies. Their connection to the authentic core residing deep within and the higher power grows much stronger. The profound awakening that takes place within the body and mind provides tremendous insight and understanding into the patterns that have played out in one’s relationships. The changes resulting from these sessions also make it possible to attract healthier companions and create more fulfilling relationships.

©Copyright 2015 Ben Oofana. All Rights Reserved. This content may be copied in full, with copyright, creation and contact information intact, without specific permission.

Ben Oofana is a healer who began his training with Horace Daukei, one of the last surviving traditional doctors among the Kiowa Indian tribe. Call (913) 927-4281 to learn more or to schedule an individual session.

Is Our Use of Smartphones and the Internet Preventing Us from Healing and Stunting Our Personal Growth?

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Candy CrushThe world was a very different place in the mid-nineties when I started traveling from New Mexico to work in Boston and New York City. The Internet was in the early stages of development and cell phones had only recently become available to the general public. I was making four trips a year and spending a little over two months at a time on the road stopping over in Kansas City, New York City and Boston before returning to Albuquerque.

The people I worked with at that time would often schedule individual healing sessions for my return trip months in advance. What amazes me is that the majority of people kept their appointments despite the fact that they were booked so far in advance. Some people would even schedule two or three sessions per visit.

Having trained with a traditional Native American doctor made me a novelty. In many instances I would go on the radio or offer a workshop and then I would have all kinds of people wanting to work with me individually. I had so much work when I first started traveling to Boston that it usually took me two to three weeks to get out of town. I felt totally exhausted by the time I returned to Albuquerque. I usually took a few weeks to replenish and work on my writing.

A large percentage of the people that I worked with during that time continued to work with me for two, five and ten years or longer. In many instances the presenting issues that they initially came to me for would have been resolved. But many chose to continue with the individual sessions because of the growth that they experienced in different areas of their lives.

It was nice having so many people to work with and I just assumed it would continue that way. But my good fortune began to change as the technology continued to advance and people were spending more and more time on their smartphones and behind the screens of their computers.

I struggled to make sense of what was happening for quite some time, wondering why it had become so much harder to maintain a practice when I knew that my work had become much more powerful and effective over the years. In time I learned that people practicing other forms of healing were having a similar experience. One healer I know that had a huge following over the years now anguishes about how little work he now has.

Developing certain cognitive skills at the expense of others

There are both positive and negative aspects to our use of the technology. Certain kinds of computer games strengthen brain functions related to fast-paced problem solving. They have also been shown to enhance visual-spacial skills and improve our capacity for rapid decision making. The primary cause for concern is that we may be developing certain cognitive skills at the expense of others.

The internet provides us with access to vast treasure trove of information. Rather than having to trudge a considerable distance to the library, we can now find the information we need in a matter of minutes by doing a search on Google.

We’re now consuming three to four times as much information as we did just a few decades ago. Our brains are to some extent adapting to this deluge of information. We’ve become a lot better at finding the information we need and have also improved our capacity to assess the trustworthiness and value of content of a particular website. One can easily debate that last sentence when we consider the massive amount of garbage being sold online as a result of “highly converting” sales pages. Having quick and easy access is in many ways a good thing. There problem here is that this ease of access to so much information also comes with a price.

The technology that was designed to serve us is in many ways is taking over our lives. Many of us are plugged into our devices for over twelve hours a day when we combine the amount of time we spend on the internet, our smartphones, iPods, tablets and television. The more time we spend in these virtual realities, the less time we spend actually participating in life. We’re not getting out and going places as much, engaging in as many activities or being as directly involved with other people because we’re spending so much time staring into the screens of our smartphones and computers.

The technology that was designed to help us to get more done is making it possible for us to complete many time consuming tasks in a shorter amount of time. The irony here is that the demands and expectations placed upon us have increased. We now have so much more to do and that’s leaving us less time to do many of the things we truly want and need to do.

It can be hard to resist the endless stream of useful and fascination information available online that we either want or need to learn more about. The problem is that it is not humanly possible for us to absorb all of this information. But we can easily find ourselves getting distracted by all kinds of irrelevant, mind numbing and time consuming distractions if we’re not being mindful of what we’re doing. Sitting there in front of the computer for extended periods of time also takes us further away from what’s happening in the here and now.

Our use of the internet is consuming huge amounts of time. Many of us have sat down to watch a video, catch up on the news or read an article and before we know it hours have gone by. In many instances, we’re staying up late into the night reading articles, posting on Facebook and scrolling through the news feed, checking out videos on YouTube, tweeting, chatting and answering emails. Consequently, we wake up feeling tired the next day; therefore we are not as present or productive.

Disrupted sleep rhythms

Light-sensitive protein in the cells at the back of our eyes called melanopsin signal the brain’s internal clock, which controls the body’s circadian rhythm. Blue light, which is the most abundant during the morning hours sends a message to our brains that it’s time to wake up. Red light which is more common in the evenings signals our brains to start powering down. Our computers, tablets and smartphones emit large quantities of blue light. Our use of theses gadgets during the nights disrupts our brain’s natural rhythms by throw off our natural sleep-wake cycles.

It’s highly addictive

The internet acts in some ways like a drug with its element of instant gratification making it highly addictive. Many of us crave the stimulation we get from our gadgets. We see the evidence our addiction in our compulsion to spend time on our smartphones and computers even though it interferes with our work and social life.

The internet is designed to appeal to the brain’s craving for novelty and stimulation. The quick hits of novelty that we experience whenever we go online provide us with a sense of instant gratification. The production of the neurotransmitter dopamine in our brain’s reward centers feeds into our sense of excitement. In its absence we feel bored.

The dopamine induced sense of instant gratification created by our use of technology compels us to keep picking up our cell phones to text or check for new email, tweets and status updates. The reinforcement we get from these hits of dopamine makes it harder and harder for us to stop. We’re like the mice in the science experiments that get a food pellet as a reward every time they push a lever. It’s really scary when we realize how manipulated we are by our technology and the people who are using it to serve their own purposes.

It has become an automated response for us to reach for our phone the moment we have any down time. We can’t go more than an hour without checking our gadgets. And then we feel irritable and antsy until we get our fix. Our cravings for stimulation continue even after we unplug, and that keeps us coming back for more.

People plug in with their smartphones while waiting in line, walking to wherever it is they’re going and even sitting on the toilet. At least half of the people riding the subways in New York City are staring into the screens of their smartphones. Many of us are not getting adequate rest because we’re staying up late into night doing whatever it is that we do online.

The unrelenting pings, buzzes and beeps and other notifications that alert us to new messages, tweets, texts and status updates keep our body and mind in a state of high alert. The constant alerts and other distractions play into the more primitive aspects of our brain that are designed to respond to immediate threats. These parts of the brain were designed to ensure our survival. And they demand that we pay attention.

Filling every waking moment

Smartphones and the internet are making it possible for us to fill nearly every waking moment of the day with some form of activity or distraction. From the time we wake up many of us are texting, tweeting, posting on Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram, checking out other people’s posts or calling them, listing to music and playing games.

Our use of smartphone and the internet are teaching our brains to become bored very easily. Many of us are caught in a vicious cycle in which constant stimulation reduces our ability to entertain ourselves or be present in the here and now and that causes us to seek out more intense stimulation.

Filling our every waking moment with all of these digital distractions is counterproductive. Time spent in stillness without distraction is essential for sparking and sustaining creativity. But we seldom give ourselves the opportunity to be alone with our thoughts or settle into the deeper levels of processing because we’re always plugged in. The resulting loss of creativity greatly limits our potential.

The loss of empathy

I couldn’t help but notice a billboard some months back showing the latest editions of Samsung’s tablet, the Galaxy S and other devices. I was a bit taken aback when I read the words “Meet the family.” Samsung even put the words “Life Companion” on the home screens of their S4. Samsung is intentionally working to create an association in our minds between their smartphones, tablets and other devices to our need for family and companionship.

Rather than bonding with other human beings, our primary relationships are now with our devices. They have in essence become our life companions. We eat with our devices and sleep with them next to our bed or under our pillow. We’re texting while spending time with family and friends or going out on dates. We’re texting while walking down the street. We’re even putting our own and other people’s lives at risk by texting while driving.

Our devices have made it possible for us to be more connected to what’s happening in the world around us than ever before. The same technology that helps us stay connected is actually putting more and more distance between ourselves and others by limiting the extent to which we engage with one another. We can sit in a coffee shop or be surrounded by friends and family and yet we’re oblivious to everyone else around us because we’re so absorbed by what’s happening on the screens of our devices.

Many of us have reconnected with old friends on Facebook. Connecting with friends, coworkers, former loves and prospective new loves when we go online can be a good thing. But it can also be preventing us from being present in the here and now and to the people in our immediate proximity. It can also elicit immediate and intense feelings of intimacy that leads us to romanticize online connections. Rather than being present with our partners, we’re giving our time and energy and attention to all these digital distractions.

Our interactions with other people have taken on a more impersonal quality as we have come to rely more heavily upon our devices. Many of us are hiding behind the screens of our computers and smartphones because we are too threatened by face to face interaction. We’re becoming less caring and considerate of the needs and concerns of others. We make plans to get together and then blow it off with a text message. We sign up for classes and never bother to show up. It doesn’t matter that the person who set up the event has invested a considerable amount of time, effort and money to make the event happen. Many of us are afraid to approach or be approached and yet we’re willing to meet some total stranger online. And men that have no interest in spending time with or getting to know a woman are using smartphone apps like Tinder to hookup.

Our inability to focus our attention on and be fully present with one another is diminishing the quality of human interaction. What so many of us fail to realize is that we’re losing our capacity for empathy.

Changing the structure and function of our brains

Scientists in the not too distant past believed that our brains stopped developing in childhood. In more recent years they have developed a greater understanding of the brain’s plasticity. Scientists now understand that our brain’s neurons and synapses change as our circumstances change. They’re influenced by everything we learn and experience.

Constant digital stimulation overwhelms the processing capacity of our brains that are not adequately equipped to handle the deluge of information. And by doing so it is short-circuiting the cognitive and emotional processes taking place in our conscious and subconscious minds.

Our use of the internet encourages hurried and distracted thinking and superficial learning by exercising neural circuits devoted to skimming and multitasking while ignoring those used for deeper thought and introspection. In doing so it is rapidly and profoundly altering the structure and functions of our brains. The habits that we develop while spending time online continue even after we log off. A weakening of our capacity for critical thinking, imagination and reflection occurs when skimming becomes the predominant mode of processing.

The slow steady stream of information and the integration of knowledge

Most of us understand that computers have a limited processing capacity. The human brain also has a limited processing capacity. Our brains are only capable of processing a limited amount of information at any given time. Exceeding this capacity can greatly hinder our ability to learn.

The range and depth of our intelligence depends on our ability to transfer information pertaining to our immediate experience in our working memory to the filing system of our long term memory. The information flowing into our working memory is referred to as our cognitive load. Our working memory can only handle a relatively small amount of information at any given time. A break in our attention can easily erase it contents from our minds. We cannot retain information or draw connections with existing memories when we exceed our mind’s ability to process and store it. Our ability to learn and our understanding remain poor when we cannot translate new material into conceptual knowledge.

People tend to retain more and experience greater comprehension while reading linear text such as that found in a book. Reading from a book, learning to play an instrument or practicing the various forms of a martial art provides us with a slow and steady stream of information that the brain is capable of assimilating. This gradual process of assimilation is essential for the integration of knowledge.

The internet by comparison blasts us with multiple streams of information through a fire hose. In doing so, it overloads our mind’s capacity to process and store information. We’re bombarded with innumerable distractions in the form of instant messages, emails, links to other articles and videos and advertisements whenever we go online.

The cognitive overload that many of us experience as we spend time online makes it more difficult for us to retain new information or draw connections with existing memories. That impedes our ability to translate new material into conceptual knowledge. We comprehend less and therefore our ability to learn suffers.

We tend to read faster and less thoroughly whenever we go online. We spend much of our time scanning headlines, bullet points and other bits of information that stand out on a page or clicking through to other content that we never spend much time on any one thing. In the process of doing so we tend to overlook relevant details. Our range depth of comprehension remains poor.

The constant disruptions that we experience whenever we go online are remapping our neuro-circuitry in ways that are making it difficult for many of us to concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes at a time. This inability to concentrate on any one thing greatly impedes the process of integration that needs to take place for information to become incorporated into our long term memory.

Multitasking

The ever increasing demands of our present day lives cause us to feel that we have to get more done and that only adds to our sense of overwhelm. One of the greatest appeals of multitasking is the promise of greater productivity. We may think we’re accomplishing more by multitasking, but in reality we’re taking unnecessary risks, making more mistakes and we’re less cognizant of what we’re doing.

Juggling email, phone calls text messages, tweets and other incoming information changes how we think and behave. Our brains are always having to reorient themselves when we’re constantly shifting our attention from one thing to another and that further taxes our cognitive faculties. The price we pay for these constant interruptions can be severe. Constantly switching our attention from one task to another greatly weakens our ability concentrate on a given task and shut out irrelevant information. We’re more distracted and that weakens our comprehension. We have greater difficulty remembering and we’re more likely to misinterpret or overlook important information.

Constantly shifting back and forth from task to another rather than focusing on one task at a time may damage the brain’s ability to handle strong emotions and hormonal responses. People who spend a lot of time multitasking, switching frequently between applications, websites, text messages and other forms of technology tend to have lower amounts of gray matter in the brain’s anterior cingulate cortex.

Cognitive and emotional deficits

Higher media multitasking is associated with a reduction of gray matter density in the Anterior Cingulate Cortex. The ACC is involved in decision making and emotional regulation. It acts as a mediator between the cognitive functions of the prefrontal cortex and the emotional responses of the limbic system. The regulatory functions provided by the ACC are essential to our emotional wellbeing.

The ACC is linked to motivation. It helps us to anticipate and prepare for the various tasks we undertake. The ACC serves an evaluative function by helping us to detect and resolve conflicts. It recognizes and then evaluates the magnitude of the discrepancies in our thoughts, actions and circumstances. These assessments make it possible for us to adjust our performance so that we can respond more appropriately. The ACC is also vital to the regulation of physiological process such as blood pressure and heart rate.

People with decreased volume in the ACC are more prone to emotional instability in the form of moodiness, fear, worry, anxiety and depression. They tend to have greater difficulty controlling urges, delaying gratification and are also more prone to substance abuse. Decreased volume in the ACC has also been linked to obsessive compulsive disorder and P.T.S.D.

The loss of density in the ACC occurs when we fail to develop the rich neuro-connections needed to contain and process our emotions. Any impediment to our ability to process our emotions stunts our healing and personal development. The negative impact on our cognitive, emotional and motivational process resulting from the lack of sophisticated neuro-connections may contribute to our poor decision making capabilities and failure to take constructive action.

The impact on children

An even greater cause for concern is how all this constant digital stimulation is creating attention problems for children whose brains have not yet fully developed and that are in the process of determining what their priorities are. Many can’t get their homework done because they’re always feeling that pull that compels them to text their friends or go on Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat.

In times past, children spent much of their time outside playing in their natural surroundings. Children nowadays are physically under-stimulated, while visually and auditory overstimulated because they’re spending the majority of their free time plugged into some form of entertainment technology.

But aren’t you reaching more people now that you’re online?

People have said to me on many occasions that the internet is making it possible for me to reach more people. It’s true that I do reach larger numbers of people now that I’m online. I much rather be reaching fewer people and having those I work with be consistent enough to actually experience the healing that needs to take place within their bodies and minds.

People are often excited to learn about various spiritual practices or to find classes, workshops and healers online. The problem is that they are more likely to jump from one thing to another rather than sticking with anything long enough to derive any significant benefit. I have so much more work to do in order to create the articles, videos and other content and conduct the weekly classes that are enabling me to reach all these additional people. I’m doing classes on a weekly basis. Even that doesn’t seem to be enough at times.

Just the other day I was working with a woman who was receiving and then having to respond to work related emails during the session. She was telling me that she could feel her mind racing. Everyone and everything has speeded up and life has become more pressurized now that we’re online. We have to slow down in order to do the level of deep processing necessary to facilitate healing.

I find it frustrating when the people that show up in my classes or that work with me individually attempt to communicate with me by text. Important information needs to be communicated, but I cannot adequately address the depth or complexity of their concerns through such a limited means. Texting can be useful to relay factual details such as plane arrival time, to let someone know that we’re running late or to pick up something on the way home. Texting does have an immediacy to it, and yet it is the most distant form of human interaction. Texting is the furthest human beings can remain from one another while communicating. We’re training ourselves to become less present to our feelings and physical bodies, our surroundings and other people when we rely on texting and that is diametrically opposed to healing.

Text messages are snippets of communication that are in many instances devoid of a feeling component. We cannot hear the other person’s voice or see their facial expression, therefore we are less aware of the impact of our communication upon others. We’re also cheating ourselves out of the opportunity to experience the feelings that would normally arise within ourselves in response to our interactions with other people. To rely upon texting as our primary mode of communication is to stunt our emotional growth and interpersonal development.

The excessive use of information technology is overwhelming the body and mind’s processing capacity by leaving people saturated with all this additional sensory input that they cannot possibly process. It draws people’s attention away from the moment while desensitizing them to their feelings and physical bodies. And that impedes their ability to do the processing necessary to facilitate learning, personal growth and healing.

People are in many ways not as present or available. And they are not as malleable. Their bodies and minds cannot be as responsive when they are on sensory overload. They tend to become distracted much more easily, which means I have to work much harder to connect people to their internal state of being and keep them on track.

Some people do appear to be present in the moment and yet only a small percentage are able to sustain this presence. And of those who are able to access their feelings and other aspects of their internal state of being, only a few are able to maintain the focus and discipline needed to facilitate true healing.

Electronic media is now filling so much of the space where people have meditated, prayed, reflected and dreamed. The internet has for many become a substitute for their internal state of being. As a matter of survival, I have to develop an ever increasing presence online through articles, audio recordings and videos if I am to continue to reach people and survive in my practice.

Are you saying that we should ditch our devices?

It would not practical for us to ditch our phones and computers considering that we now live in a world where we are all dependent upon them to some extent. We do much of our shopping and pay our bills online. We also correspond through email, keep ourselves up to date with what’s happening in the world and do all sorts of other things. Our devices do serve a purpose and yet it’s important for us to be mindful of the impact that our technology is having upon us and not allow it to take over our lives. We also need to learn to set them aside or turn them off for periods of time.

©Copyright 2015 Ben Oofana. All Rights Reserved. This content may be copied in full, with copyright, creation and contact information intact, without specific permission.

Ben Oofana is a healer who began his training with Horace Daukei, one of the last surviving traditional doctors among the Kiowa Indian tribe. Call (913) 927-4281 to learn more or to schedule an individual session.

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Resonance

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ikat

Growing up in Southeast Texas was not easy. I had few friends during this part of my adolescence and I never resonated with the culture or felt any connection to the land. I remember always wanting to be somewhere else.

Adolescence is an awkward time for most of us. I was painfully shy and that sometimes made social interactions very difficult. I would often have crushes on girls, but my feelings were, in most instances, not reciprocated. I was often told “I just like you as a friend.” I felt devastated by the lack of reciprocation and often wondered if it was something about with me.

People in the community sensed that I was different in some way. The school that I attended was very poorly disciplined. I was called Ben Gay by other students and endured years of physical and verbal torment. At one point I found myself dogpiled at the front of the Assembly of God church that I was forced to attend by a horde of fanatical congregants trying to caste Satan out of me.

I made my way to Oklahoma by the time I was seventeen and found myself living among a community of Kiowa Indians. Many of the Kiowa people didn’t quite know what to make of me, a non-native adolescent showing up in their midst. Something about the old traditional culture felt very natural to me and that made it easier for me to adapt and become a part of the community. I tied my own feather bustles and danced in the tribal powwows. I sat up many nights with the native elders in the peyote meetings. I went on to apprentice with one of the last surviving traditional Kiowa doctors.

Some of the younger women in the native community I lived in showed an interest in me, but I was afraid to get involved. There was a very degenerative element among some of the native communities. A large percentage of the young women in the community I lived in were very self-destructive. Many were smoking, drinking heavily and using other substances. Some of the more promiscuous women would end up having children from a number of different partners. Most of the young native people who wanted to get anywhere in life moved to the cities to pursue their education or find work.

I moved out to the Navajo Indian Reservation during the time that I was training with my mentor. Alcoholism was also prevalent on the Navajo reservation, but the Navajo had a stronger connection to their own traditional culture. More of the young Navajo women were getting their education and then going on to excel in various professions. Some were also exceptionally attractive. It was easy for me to connect with the Navajo women I met, but I didn’t have very many opportunities to do so because I was so caught up in my training.

Everything was changing so rapidly among the native population. I felt very at home living among the native people and would have been content to remain among them for the remainder of my life. I could also see that the old traditional culture was dying out with each passing generation. Alcoholism, violence and other forms of dysfunction were becoming more and more prevalent. I felt I had no choice but to leave.

The mainstream culture I returned to felt very foreign. Most people had absolutely no point of reference for the kinds of things I had experienced while living among the Kiowa and apprenticing from a traditional native doctor.

The New Age movement was taking off around the time I returned. I came across individuals here and there that were truly committed to doing whatever it took to facilitate their healing and personal growth, but many seemed to be looking for a means of escape. The primal force transmitted to me during my apprenticeship with the traditional Kiowa doctor has a very visceral quality about it. Some were frightened by the intensity of the power and would run as soon as the feelings and issues they had spent much of their lives avoiding made their way to the surface. Only those who were willing to be truly honest with themselves and committed to their growth seemed to resonate with this kind of power.

Trying to connect with women on a romantic level was especially difficult. There was very little common ground and that made it difficult to relate to one another. I felt strongly for a number of women that had captured my attention over the years and yet the feelings were often not reciprocated. At other times, I would start seeing a woman and then she would break it off after a while because I was too far outside of what she was accustomed to. Not being able to connect on an intimate level with the women I found myself attracted to was very painful. I felt for the longest time that I just wasn’t the kind of man that women found attractive and often blamed myself thinking that something was wrong with me.

Caught up in the projection

The physical and emotional abuse that I suffered during my childhood and adolescence prevented me from developing many of the internal resources I needed to be fully functional. Many of my basic needs for love and connection had never been met and that left me with a sense of deprivation. Consequently, I lacked certain faculties needed to establish a healthy and loving relationship.

The pain held within my body left me very disconnected from my feelings and physical body. The pain combined with my unmet needs fueled the projections that caused me to form unhealthy attachments to women that were not a good match for me. These projections were so powerful at times that I could not distinguish them from reality. What felt like love and connectedness was, in many instances, only an illusion. I fell deeply in love with someone that didn’t exist.

I usually resisted the reality of what was happening and the overwhelming emotions that consumed me when the women I found myself attracted to didn’t reciprocate my feelings. Trying to make things work only prolonged my suffering. In many instances I would keep trying until it finally blew up in my face. I was then left with the horribly painful feelings of abandonment and rejection.

It usually took me some time to fully embrace the reality of loss when things were not working out. I would breathe for hours and sometimes days into the painful feelings that were surfacing. Making a concerted to be fully present by breathing into all those horrible feelings helped me to diffuse and then digest the painful feelings and emotions.

I began to receive deep tissue body work and healing sessions whenever the opportunity presented itself. I also started going back to do the vision quests, a traditional Native American healing practice that involves going out alone into the mountains to fast for four days and nights without food or water. All of these practices helped me to digest huge amounts of emotional baggage. Digesting the painful emotions and other stresses I held within my body opened up a whole new range of sensory awareness. My projections began to dissolve and that made it possible for me to really sense what other people were about.

Chemistry

I remember sitting in a Chemistry class one day during my junior year of college when the professor asked for a volunteer to assist him with a demonstration. Our chemistry professor then proceeded to mix two chemical compounds together. The mixture began to bubble and fizz for a few seconds and then it suddenly exploded. The professor and student’s faces were covered with the residue of the chemical compound. Fortunately they were both wearing glasses.

The lack of reciprocation I experienced from the women I found myself attracted to evoked all kinds of painful feelings and I often felt like something was wrong with me. I was so disconnected from my feelings and my physical body that I did not register that there was a lack of chemistry with these women.

Our ability to experience resonance with others is a function of our emotional intelligence. Many of us have spent so much of our lives avoiding our issues and suppressing the feelings we haven’t wanted to deal with. Shutting down emotionally disconnects us from our intuition by constricting our range of awareness. We only develop an awareness of how we resonate with other people when we become truly present. Experiencing our true feelings and bodily sensations awakens our sensory awareness while helping us to become more fully present.

Learning to digest the painful emotions held within my body and working with various other spiritual practices has heightened my sensory awareness. I’ve become more conscious of my own internal responses to other people and that helped me to gain a sense of the unique chemistry that exists between myself and every person I encounter. I began to move away from people whose presence was not a good match or that felt uncomfortable. I found myself gravitating towards and engaging with individuals that were healthier and more compatible.

Increasing my sensitivity gave me a better sense of the women I encountered. That made it easier for me to feel if they were on a compatible wavelength. I would often feel the emotions they were holding within their bodies and the kinds of issues they were dealing with. I began feel how women were responding to me emotionally and sense the energetic flow between us.

Trying to make a relationship happen

Many of us have fallen into the trap of trying to make a relationship happen by chasing after another person. We hear stories about men who have chased after a woman and then after months or even years of pursuit the woman finally decides to give the guy a chance and they end up getting together. What usually happens in these situations is that the person doing the chasing invests huge amounts of time, emotion and energy pursuing someone who never reciprocates their love interest. Or even worse …the whole thing blows up and the pursuer ends up with a poison arrow in their heart.

It has often been said that men are colorblind. I felt like I had to work to make the connection happen when women did not reciprocate my feelings. Healing the deep emotional wounds diffused the driving compulsion that had in times past caused me to pursue love interests. I began to feel a presence flowing from within as the connection to my internal source grew stronger. This presence alleviated the unbearable sense of aloneness.

My sensitivity grew to the extent that I could feel the resonance between myself, the women I found myself attracted to and everyone else I encountered along the way. I realized there was no need to chase or try and force things when I truly resonated with a woman, because the connection had a life of its own.

Seeking Out the Cultures, People and Places with Whom We Resonate

Who we resonate with will depend upon own individual personality and temperament. It’s important for us to pay attention to how we feel when we interact with various groups and individuals. We may be surprised to discover how we experience a stronger resonance with certain kinds of individuals and cultural groups than we do with others. It’s important for all of us to go to the places and seek out the people with whom we thrive and resonate.

Every culture has its own unique beauty and I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to various parts of the world and spend time among the people of many different cultures. All of the cultures I have spent time in have shaped me in some way. They have also helped me to develop different sides of myself. I feel that I can express different parts of myself through my interactions with people of diverse cultural backgrounds.

Everyone has their own unique individual traits and yet they are also shaped by their culture of origin. Every racial and cultural group has its own distinct mind or consciousness and operates on a particular wavelength. I find that people of different cultures have very distinct energies. I feel tremendous variance in the frequencies from which people operate. I can also sense a profound difference in sensations that come with physical touch as I interact with people from different cultural backgrounds.

I was riding the number 7 train in Flushing one evening after moving to New York and noticed the hands of the young woman sitting next to me were covered with mehndi (henna tattoos). I was very curious about the intricate patterns on the woman’s hands and asked her about them. It turns out she had recently gotten married and we ended up getting into a long and animated conversation. I felt stunned having never experienced this kind of resonance with another human being before. My interaction with this woman, along with a few other South Asians I met soon thereafter awakened a strong instinctual pull that led me to Sri Lanka and later on to India.

It took some getting used to being in India and Sri Lanka, but after a while I found myself feeling very much at home. I found it so much easier to connect with the people I encountered in this part of the world.

People in India and Sri Lanka were far more responsive to the kind of healing power that I work with. I offered to help an older diabetic friend when I was staying in Mumbai. He started telling his friends and then they told their friends. I didn’t have a cell phone at the time, so people would call my friend who wrote out the messages by hand and then have them delivered to me. I would then have to go to the pay phone to call and schedule appointments. The people I worked with in Mumbai would start telling me about all the changes taking place within their bodies and minds after the healing sessions and then they wanted to know when they could do another session.

Spending time in India and Sri Lanka is very healing for me. Women in India have a tendency to be more reserved but, I found many of those I spoke with to be very engaging. Sri Lankan and Indian women could be very shy, and yet they would often smile and make eye contact with me. Some would even approach and engage me in conversation.

I discovered rather quickly that the women in this part of the world have a completely different way of forming attachments. I found it so much easier to connect with them. South Asian women were less likely to play the hurtful emotional games that have become so prevalent between men and women in the United States. Women that were interested definitely let me know. And those that showed interest were more congruent about their desire to be in a relationship. They also tended to form deep and lasting bonds.

I find a sensitivity, emotional warmth and a willingness to more open and honest about what they are feeling among many South Asian women that I found very comforting and nourishing. The ability to open up and share what I was truly thinking and feeling also made for a much better quality of relationship. I soon realized that I felt much more comfortable with South Asian women physically, energetically and emotionally.

Women I got to know in this part of the world were better able to relate to me as an individual. Many had an intuitive understanding of my work, the kinds of experiences I’ve had and the intensive practices I do on a daily basis. That probably had a lot to do with the similarities in their own cultures.

India and Sri Lanka are lands of extremes. There are numerous wars and insurgencies raging at any given time. Communal violence is also fairly common in certain areas. Those who make up the lower echelons of Indian society suffer horrific abuses under the caste system. There’s a deeply entrenched misogynistic mindset that perpetuates the abuses of women and girls. And there’s a form of narcissism that is very prevalent among the older generations that feel entitled to tell their adult children who they can and cannot marry. One also encounters tremendous beauty in this part of the world and some of the kindest and more warm hearted people one would ever have the good fortune of getting to know.

Being on my own in India and Sri Lanka has not always been easy. I often had to rely on total strangers to help me find my way. In many instances they offered food and sometimes provided a place for me to sleep or companionship along the way. People were always walking up and making conversation with me at all hours of the day and night. Most of the people I encountered had good intentions, but I encountered my share of those who were looking to take advantage. I have at times found myself in some very dangerous situations where I was confronted with people who had every intention to inflict harm upon me.

Depending on my intuition to get a sense of the people I encounter became a day to day reality and a matter of survival. I got caught off guard a few times when I was too hot, hungry or tired, but in most instances my intuition has been very reliable. I was always sensing the people that I encountered by feeling their presence to determine if they had a good heart and intentions. I would get away from people if something about them felt bad or uncomfortable. Maintaining a state of openness to people and my surroundings definitely paid off. I’ve had many wonderful experiences and have developed a number of close friendships as a result.

India and Sri Lanka has more than its share of problems, but in many ways I feel more at home in this part of the world. I would have more work than I could possibly handle and make enough money to live there. But with the economic disparity, I wouldn’t be able to afford to return to the United States to continue my training.

I returned to the New York City so that I could continue training with Sifu Li Tai Liang. Xin Yi Quan and Baguazhang are Internal Martial Arts that have their roots in Taoism. Very few people know what Sifu knows and those who do usually only pass on what they know to a few of their top students. I felt that I would be foolish to walk away from this opportunity. The other reason I needed to return to the United States was so that I could continue to go on the vision quest. It was during the vision quest that much of the traumas of my childhood and adolescence healed and that I received the many of the gifts that have enabled me to facilitate healing in others. I still have a long ways to go in my training.

There’s a vibrancy about New York City. One experiences a sense of electricity and excitement in the air. Depending on one’s perspective, there’s a million things to do here …or distractions to escape into. There’s also a lack of continuity that causes life in the city to feel very fragmented.

My own personal experience has often been that people seem to be present in the moment, but they cannot sustain it. Many have showed up in my personal life over the years and then disappeared. People with a wide range of health related, emotional and interpersonal issues show up in my classes or work with me individually. They often acknowledge the improvement in their condition and respond in other ways that indicate that they’re getting something of value from the healing process taking place, and yet many disappear. What’s sad is that many of these individuals are deeply wounded. They’re either so disconnected that they don’t realize how bad of shape they’re in or they’re unwilling to do the work necessary to facilitate healing. I work to reach as many people as I can through classes and workshops, radio interviews and other media exposure in order to find those who are willing and able to do the work.

Having lived in Oklahoma, Missouri, New Mexico and Colorado, I was used to meeting people wherever I went. I quickly discovered that New York City has its own set of rules governing social engagement. People primarily meet through friends, family and coworkers or some kind of shared activity. That can work for people who are plugged into a large social network, but it has always felt incredibly constricting to me.

Online dating is huge in New York. Many people here don’t know how to interact with others without the help of their devices. They’re afraid to talk to one another in person and yet they hook up with some stranger they’ve met online.

My friend Emma hasn’t been in a relationship since she came to New York two and a half years ago. She occasionally hooks up with men she meets online. Some of these men don’t even bother to call or text afterwards.

Emma was telling me how her girlfriends complain saying that all the good men are taken. I normally find it much easier to relate to and I much prefer to spend time with women. But it has been my experience and that of numerous other men I have spoken to that many women in the city are unapproachable. They never give us a chance to really sit down over coffee and get to know them.

I was serious about having someone in my life, so I did a little experiment of talking to women I found myself attracted to whenever the opportunity presented itself. I would talk with at least two women a day. My little experiment went on for about three years. I ended up going on lots of spontaneous dates, but no lasting connections ever came of it.

There have been many occasions where I have spoken with women for hours. It was obvious that there was a lot of common ground and they indicated that they really enjoyed the conversation and yet they still wouldn’t exchange contact information.

Many of the women I spoke did give me their email addresses and phone numbers and expressed a desire to continue the interaction. A few even hugged me or gave me a kiss on the cheek as I was making my exit. I would usually follow up with an email or phone call, but it was often the case that I never saw or heard from them again. I had to go to other cities, states and parts of the world in order to have someone in my life.

Women in the city are often subjected to harassment by sleazy men as they walk down the sidewalk. And some have experienced far worse. Those who are unable to differentiate are more likely to be suspicious of any man that attempts to approach or express interest. Any attempt to engage is regarded as an intrusion.

New York has more than its share of narcissistic men that move from one woman to the next. Women I know talk about the shopping cart mentality. There’s always someone new or better. They tell me about the men who show up in their lives, only to abruptly drop out of the picture.

Women that have been hurt often find it difficult to trust. Those who have disconnected from their feelings tend to lose touch with their intuition. That may prevent them from recognizing a man with a good heart that truly has the capacity to love and care for them. Many lose sight of fact that there are lots of good men that want more than anything to connect with a woman they can love and be loved by.

One cannot possibly process the massive amount of input flying through our sensory channels in the city that never sleeps. All that added sensory input impairs our capacity to process our feelings and bring issues to a place of resolution. Our inability to process our feelings and tune into our intuition makes it difficult for us to know when it’s safe to open up. It’s very difficult for us to know how we resonate with one another when we’re so disconnected from our feelings and physical bodies, stressed out and full of toxic emotional residue. Our fears are in many instances so great that they override any sense of resonance that we may experience with another person.

Another impediment to forming any kind of meaningful connection is people’s unwillingness to show up fully present. Many say they want to have someone in their lives, but in reality they’re too afraid to allow themselves to be open and vulnerable. I was talking with a friend the other day that had recently gone through a divorce. She told me that evening “My former husband was a reflection of where I was at when we met years ago. He was very generous with me financially, but he was never emotionally available. I would have run a mile in the other direction if I met a man that was that was really present. Being present made me feel really uncomfortable because it meant that I would actually have to show up. I wanted to be with someone that I could hide behind.”

Emma said that she got the sense that many people here are handicapped by their inability to connect. There are lots of nice people here, but sometimes it all feels incredibly lonely and remote. And that makes it very sad.”

Emma then wanted to know how people like her and I survive in a place like New York City when we find it hard to resonate or connect with other people.

I told her that we are all relational beings that need to experience deep and meaningful connections with other human beings in order to thrive. Being in New York City has forced me to go within to find my own source of nourishment. I survived by doing lots of intensive practice. Sometimes I just had to breathe into the horrible sense of aloneness. I have also learned to keep myself open, to be friendly and engaging, but to not expect much from anyone. I meet and interact with so many people as a result of my work. I have connected with more people over time. I also find ways to get out of the city to spend time in places where people have a greater capacity to show up more fully present.

I know many people that find it extraordinary difficult to find love or even make friends in the city. Some have bailed out because they found the loneliness to be so unbearable. Other people that operate on a more compatible wavelength seem to do quite well in the city. They manage to get in with the right groups of people and they feel right at home. One sees many couples and families and it’s obvious that they’re really enjoying themselves. Many do have vibrant social lives and excel in their careers. Some people are ideally suited to be in New York City and others are not.

People’s attention spans have shortened drastically as they began to spend more and more time staring into the screens of their computers and smartphones. They’ve become far more distracted and disconnected and that makes it so much more difficult for them to maintain a connection to their internal state of being. I now have to work much harder to maintain a practice. I have no choice but to adapt. The challenge I now face is to find a way to do more of my work online so that I can create the additional streams of income that will afford me the opportunity to return to India and Sri Lanka for extended periods of time.

Increasing Our Capacity to Experience Resonance

The kinds of individuals we form attachments to and how we resonate with them depends largely upon our internal state of being. Our tendency to shut down emotionally causes distortions in our sensory filters that create lots of confusion. The deep emotional wounds that have not healed often cause us to attract and be attracted to other people that are also holding a great deal of pain and confusion within.

Any practice or therapeutic modality that enables us to heal and grow will increase our ability to resonate with and attract healthier companions. Practices such as Chi Gong and Pranayama nourish the internal organs by bringing more life force into the body. Increasing the amount of vital life force in the body helps to create greater magnetism. People are more likely to notice and be drawn to us when we work with Chi Gong, Pranayama and other intensive spiritual practices.

Our feelings and emotions are a fluid medium that facilitates growth when we learn to work constructively with them. This fluid medium adds juice to our relationships with others, in that it makes it possible for us to love, care and form attachments with others.

The practice of breathing into any feelings or bodily sensations that arise will enable us to become more fully present. Our capacity for empathy and to bond on an intimate level will grow as a result. The women or men with whom we naturally resonate will naturally be drawn to us. The effect is considerably stronger if they are in touch with in their own feelings and physical bodies.

The healing of the early trauma that took place during the vision quest facilitated the changes that have made it possible for me to attract healthier companions and create more fulfilling relationships. The vision quest is too intense for most people. Many people that have worked with me have experienced the same kinds of changes as a result of the individual healing sessions.

My sensitivity has increased tremendously as a result of the practice of breathing into feelings and bodily sensations and the vision quests. I feel other people’s presence and I’m drawn to those that feel good to me. I feel how people respond to me and my own emotional response to them. Relationships have taken on a greater depth and the overall quality of my interactions has improved.

Not everyone is going to like or resonate with us. We may outgrow people that had once been an important part of our lives. Highly dysfunctional people are more likely to find us intimating as we continue to heal and grow. But nature abhors a vacuum. In the process of letting go we will find ourselves attracting and attracted to healthier companions.

©Copyright 2014 Ben Oofana. All Rights Reserved. This content may be copied in full, with copyright, creation and contact information intact, without specific permission.

Ben Oofana is a healer who began his training with Horace Daukei, one of the last surviving traditional doctors among the Kiowa Indian tribe. Call (913) 927-4281 to learn more or to schedule an individual session.

The Disappearing Act

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walk awayThe disappearing act is something that has been around for as long as we have existed as a human race. We often hear of about parents disappearing in the personal accounts of those who were abandoned by their mother or father as children. The tendency to disappear has seemingly become more common among people in our present day and age.

Becoming involved with another person and then vanishing is a very hurtful and grossly insensitive thing to do. The people who do the disappearing are often so self-absorbed or immature that they don’t really consider how their actions affect another person. Of course there are instances in which the disappearance occurred not by choice in situations where one was imprisoned or drafted into military service. The remainder of this chapter consists of a dialog between Priya and I in which she shares her recent experiences with a Stephane, a man that showed up in her life a few months back and then abruptly disappeared.

Priya: My young husband passed away unexpectedly in 2012. I was just starting to get back into dating after a year of mourning his loss and had created a very short profile on OkCupid to test the waters. My profile consisted of two photographs and three lines. And then one day I got a message from this guy saying “I didn’t think it was possible, but your profile is even shorter than mine.” We then we started chatting back and forth.

Stephane had mentioned in his profile that he works as a psychotherapist. It was interesting because he started asking questions about me. I responded by saying “You’re the therapist …figure it out.” Much to my surprise, he came up with some pretty accurate insights. He guessed right off that I had just come out of a long term relationship.

We decided to meet after a flirtatious exchange. The first date felt very disconnected. Stephane appeared to be stressed out, exhausted and older than the picture posted on his profile. We met in a crowded bar and at the time he seemed to be more interested in watching the game. Two other guys at the bar were flirting with me. I thought that it was all playful and fun, but it seemed to really bother Stephane.

The first date didn’t go very well, but he said maybe should give it another try. Stephane was very quick to set up the second date. He wanted me to come down to see him in Brooklyn, which was fine because I love exploring this part of the city. This time he came across as someone who was very willing to open up. I assumed that had something to do with the fact that he’s a psychotherapist by profession. One thing I did notice is that he tended to overanalyze everyone and everything around him.

I could sense a lot of anxiety about Stephane, but I started to see his eyes brighten over the course of our conversation. There was almost this boyish look on his face as he began to relax. I loved the transformation I saw taking place in Stephane as he began to let his hair down, access his free inner child and just act silly.

At some point our conversation turned to the subject of loss. I then shared with Stephane about the loss of my husband. I loved that he was so open to hearing what I had to say. I had shared a very important part of me and felt that the fact that I was more vulnerable with Stephane made him more attracted to me. My sense is that a person is being intimate if they’re sharing a lot of personal information. I didn’t think it was possible to share that much information and still have an intimacy barrier. I hadn’t shared my loss with anyone before in my dating experience, so for me that meant intimacy. But looking back, I don’t think it was the case for him and at some level I sensed it. I should have listened to my intuition

I felt that we were growing closer after the second date. We kissed at the end of the date and he said lets meet again. I texted Stephane after a few days, but then I didn’t hear from him for a long time.

The experience of being intimate with Stephane stayed with me, making me miss my husband in a different way than before. Something about my interaction with Stephane was helping me to process the grief. The feelings continued to surface for a couple of days. I felt that it was healthy to access these feelings and I wanted more.

I texted Stephane and said “Hey, let’s get together.” Stephane responded by saying “Let’s do it.” He said “How about tonight?” I was up for it but then he canceled at the last minute. I was a little surprised because I thought that we had progressed further. Stephane didn’t make himself available for another date.

Bewildered, I sent Stephane a message saying “I really enjoyed the time that we spent together and if you feel similarly, I would love to see you again and often.” I received no response at all. I felt so disappointed and so I stopped texting him. A couple of months went by. One night I was out with my friends and for some reason I thought of Stephane. I had a little too much to drink and I texted him saying “Where the fuck have you been?” That captured his attention. And then we had this playful exchange. During the exchange he said “Me not responding doesn’t mean that I’m not interested.” I then replied with “Well okay, what are you going to do about it?” Stephane then said that he would love to hang out. I thought I would give him another chance and see where things wanted to go and so we finally did hang out again.

At that time I told Stephane “I’m in a place right now where I just want to be friends. I’m not looking for anything long term. The conversation is very good and I feel that we connect on many levels. That’s something I enjoy and I’m in a good place. So I would love to see you more often.” Stephane seemed to become very relaxed around the whole idea of no commitments or expectations.

What I was hoping for is an adult relationship in which two people are fully present for each other for whatever period of time. It doesn’t have to be forever or a year. It could be for a month. But at least they fully honor the connection. And I do believe that’s possible. I believe that you can be friends and share about your life and share your ideas to change the world. And you can also have an intimate sexual relationship. I thought that Stephane had that potential given the depth that he had demonstrated before.

At that point, we really started to see each other. After that date he invited me to his place. I ended up spending the night. We talked for five or six hours. We had another date where he came over to my place and again we talked for hours. After the second big date I started to feel like he tapped into this whole reservoir of pain inside of me. It felt like layers of grief were surfacing, because the depth of sharing was something that I had only previously experienced with my husband. Now I had shared with another man. Having done so was beautiful, but it also felt sad.

The date seemed perfect. I felt euphoric and was glowing afterwards. But then a day later I started to slip into a depressive state and mourn the loss of my husband even more deeply than before.

I slept with Stephane in a certain position that I used to sleep in with my husband. I could hear his heartbeat and it reminded me of my husband’s heartbeat. It reminded me of how my husband’s heart suddenly stopped and that evoked a whole range of emotion.

During our time together I saw Stephane transform from this stressed out individual into this guy whose eyes were sparking and full of youth. Suddenly he changed into this effervescent personality. I loved watching the transformation. We kissed, made love and it was so tender and romantic.

Along with the sadness came feelings of abandonment. Stephane had already shared with me that he’s the kind of person who cannot commit. He said at one point that it was very easy for him to walk away from a relationship. The whole time I kept fearing that he was going to walk away. I also knew that if I chased after him or tried to text him that it would sabotage this relationship and that he would put even more distance between us.

I went through my usual abandonment cycle which I feel with almost every guy, but this time I decided to do something completely different. Normally I delete the guy’s number so there’s no way for me to text him. Or I do text him, the guy runs away and then it’s over. This time I decided to take it to the next level. I decided to own these feelings by sharing them with Stephane, not to burden him or expect anything from him, but purely to share.

Stephane’s biggest fear is that someone will start expecting things from him, but that’s not what I was doing. I assumed that since Stephane is a therapist, he would understand what I was going through and we could be friends. And that he would also understand that I’m not feeling all these intense things because I’m expecting more from the relationship. So I picked up the phone and I called Stephane and told him what I was going through. In the moment he was very compassionate about it, saying “Hey, I wish I had the time right now to talk about this. I can’t right now because I’m at work, but let’s meet on Wednesday.

Tuesday came and I didn’t hear from Stephane. So I texted him and said “Hey, what’s going on? Are we meeting Wednesday or not?” That’s when I received a text message saying “Sorry, I think that our last conversation was a little intense. Understandably intense, but not at par with where I’m at right now. Sorry.” Stephane broke up on text and that was it. I never heard from him again.

In receiving that text I felt two things. It felt like a stab in the heart, but at another level I was almost expecting it. I felt the same things when I received the phone call letting me know that my husband had died. The abandonment wound is so primitive that at some level we almost expect to be abandoned. Every time a relationship ends I feel two things. I feel really sad, but I also know that it was going to happen anyway.

Sometimes I miss the fun parts of the connection I shared with Stephane. I miss the music we shared, the depth of conversation, the intellectual connection and the perceived emotional closeness. Now I feel that he was holding back a big part of himself. I don’t think he was really letting me in. And that’s why it was so easy for him to walk away. Why else would you be able to walk away so easily.

Ben: The thing that caused me the most grief and frustration when I first came to New York was this seeming inability of the people I encountered to form any kind of meaningful or lasting attachments. The tendency to disappear is indicative of deep interpersonal deficits. You can meet someone here in the City, share all kinds of deep personal information and feel like you’re really making a connection. But there are lots of people here don’t really comprehend that in terms of intimacy. It’s nothing for them to just disappear, because what may feel like a connection to you and I really doesn’t mean anything to them.

I feel fortunate to have spent time in other states and countries in different parts of the world. One of the things I value most is the experience of connecting with people wherever I went. It was so amazing to open up and share with someone I was meeting for the first time. There was a greater sense of continuity in that something good would usually come of the interaction. It may not necessary turn into a romantic relationship, but it often developed into a friendship or some form of connection.

Many people living her in the city lack a certain empathetic quality that would enable them to bond and form meaningful attachments. I see it on a personal level and in the people I work with. People we encounter or interact with can seem to be really present in the moment, but they cannot sustain this presence. They often just disappear. It’s just the way that many people here operate.

The disappearing act happens to some degree everywhere. It’s just much more prevalent here in the city. People in communities across the country and in other parts of the world often warn their friends and acquaintances about a potential love interest if that person has acted in ways that were hurtful and abusive. Word gets out and then the man or woman gets a bad reputation. The advantage of this is that it holds men and women accountable for their actions. People in a place like New York City can do all kinds of horrible things to one another and seemingly get away with it because there isn’t the extended social network to hold them accountable. It’s so much harder to hold anyone accountable here in a city of eight million strangers.

Priya: But what is commitment anyway? My sense is that it is about accountability to another person. It seems that a lot of people here are so scared of that. And they fear that they will be asked for something that they cannot fulfill. One of the things that Stephane said is “I cannot disappoint a woman. If I think I’m disappointing her then I will walk away.” At some level he perceived that by sharing what I’m going through that I was asking for some massive amount of support …something that he felt he couldn’t provide me. And so he already knew that he had disappointed me and that’s why he walked away. He behaved consistent with what he told me about himself. And that’s the same pattern he’s been playing out with women. This is what I understand based upon what he shared with me.

Ben: There are a lot of things about the environment here in New York City that cause people to operate on a very surface level. We’re bombarded with massive amounts of light, sound and other stimulus. And there are innumerable distractions. People are stacked above, below and on all sides of us. And that means that other people are constantly in our energy field. All of that static interference exceeds our processing capacity. Our state of disconnect is further exacerbated as we continue to spend more and more time on our smartphones and computers.
All the shit flying through our sensory channels leaves us saturated, thereby overwhelming our processing capacity. We can barely do the processing necessary to work through our own feelings and issues because our brain-mind is so overwhelmed by the sensory bombardment and all the other distractions that it is forced to contend with. Interpersonal relationships invariably suffer, because we do not have enough available bandwidth available to be fully present.

Priya: That’s so bizarre. I will create that bandwidth, because connection is why I’m alive. That’s why I’m here. How can you live without that? I don’t get it…

Ben: But you have a different orientation. Your orientation is to experience that deep intimate emotional bond or connectedness. Other individuals build barriers around themselves. They may hunger for the sexual hookup, but they don’t allow anyone into that deep personal space. They are avoiding their own feelings and issues. In doing so they are abandoning themselves and therefore they cannot be truly present with anyone else.

We operate with these assumptions that say everyone is looking to love and be loved, but in doing so we are setting ourselves up to be hurt. Much of the population is wounded in such a way that prevents them from being truly intimate with another human being. Many are threatened by intimacy. Matters are further compounded by the fact that they do not recognize their inability to bond as an issue that needs to be dealt with. And many of those who do recognize the issue do not possess the willingness or desire to do what it takes to heal.

Priya: One of the things Stephane told me was that he was really surprised that I kept texting him even though he didn’t text back. I responded by telling him that I knew that most people would feel rejected if someone didn’t text them back. I just had this intuition that we would be really good friends and that we have a capacity for connection. And that I thought that his unavailability was his problem and not mine.

Stephane’s response was “Wow, good for you that you thought that way.” I could have continued to think that way, but I was up to my capacity where I couldn’t indulge his unavailability any more. I felt like I was playing this role of drawing him out of his shell all the time saying it’s safe. I’m safe. It’s safe to connect. I considered texting him again, but I feel like I’m worth more than trying so hard to draw someone out of their shell. So I just chose not to. Maintaining a connection shouldn’t be so hard if it’s meant to be.

I come with so much connectedness that some people cannot bear it. They cannot be in my presence. My groundedness and connectedness makes them encounter the uncomfortable feelings they are avoiding.

Ben: The act of being fully present in our personal interactions can trigger a lot of feelings. One has to experience a lot of feelings in order to be fully present in their interactions with others. A large percentage of the population is not willing to do that.

Stephane, like so many other men in the city, may continue to move from one hookup to another. Or he may eventually find a partner who operates at a similar level of disconnectedness with whom he can relate on a superficial level that doesn’t force him to address his issues. It’s like they’re sort of together, but there’s no real depth or intimacy.

Priya: Stephane told me that he’s working primarily with returning vets and patients struggling with addictions. When I asked Stephane how he’s helped his patients, he told me that he primarily focuses on strategies to help them cope. I could see that his reviews were really good when I looked online, but then what does a patient who is so low functioning really know.

Ben: There are highly skilled psychotherapists that make a profound difference in the lives of their patients. But I sometimes feel cynical about psychotherapy, because I know of so many therapists who are just as damaged, if not more so, than the patients they are purporting to help. They may have an intellectual understanding of psychopathology and yet they’re not really doing the deep processing necessary to work through their emotions and heal their own dysfunction.

None of us are perfect. We are all wounded in some way and we all make mistakes. And yet I’ve felt horrified by the level of dysfunction in some of the psychotherapists who have shown up in my classes and that have worked with me individually. Sometimes they disappear because of their inability or unwillingness to face the issues. I’m thinking “Okay, so you’ve earned your degree and now you’re practicing as a psychotherapist. But how can you possibly facilitate healing within another when you’re not even doing the work necessary to facilitate your own healing?” One of the most important qualifications for those of us who work in any kind of therapeutic capacity is that we strive to live from a place of integrity by consistently addressing our own issues to the best of our ability.

Intellectual understanding will only go so far. I look into people’s auras all the time. I see people who have gone through years of psychotherapy. I see many instances where they possess a greater intellectual understanding of their suffering and yet they’re still holding so much trauma and other stressful emotional content within their bodies. Psychotherapy can be a very important aspect of the healing process, but it needs to be combined with other modalities. One also needs to be willing to do the deep emotional work.

Priya: At one point Stephane said that he didn’t have any interest in going back to address childhood issues with his patients. And that may be a reflection of his own unwillingness to address those issues and do the processing necessary to heal his own emotional wounds. That may also account for the fact that his approach is based primarily upon offering coping skills, rather than addressing the underlying issues. I’ve noticed that lots of people are not willing to go back to address childhood issues. I’m sure that’s not the only way to heal. There must be other ways.

Ben: Unresolved issues from our past are often the underlying source of our present day struggles. These issues have a tendency to play out in our present day lives. They need to be addressed at some point. We cannot fully heal until the wounds are healed and the issues brought to some form of resolution. That’s not all there is to healing, but it’s a very important part of the process.

Relationships will invariably bring our core issues to the surface. Much of the populace has spent the vast majority of their lives avoiding or disconnecting from their feelings, physical bodies and the issues they haven’t wanted to deal with. They’re afraid to experience their own feelings. And that’s why many people bail out as soon as a relationship brings their core issues to the surface.

I met a Chinese woman one evening while attending a class. I found the conversation with Jian to be very enjoyable, so I asked her if she would like to come along with me to pick up an order I had placed at Whole Foods. She then asked me if I would like to have tea. We ended up going to McDonalds for tea because it was the only place still open at that hour of the night. It turns out that we had a lot in common. We ended up talking about all kinds of things. And we kept taking until three in the morning.

Jian shared with me that evening that she had recently come out of a relationship with a man that she met in a bar. Before long he had moved in with Jian and she ended up becoming pregnant. Jian’s lover was apparently very cruel. He made a point of sending Jian a picture of himself with his new girlfriend shortly after he broke off the relationship. I felt very concerned at the time because I could sense her grief and I knew that she had been deeply hurt.

I really enjoyed talking with Jian and thought I had found a friend. Jian works as a nutritionist, so I had a sense that we could learn from and possibly help each other. I wasn’t all that physically attracted to Jian, but we shared so much in common and I really enjoyed the connection. There was a light playful quality to the interaction and it was a lot of fun spending time with and her. I hadn’t known Jian for that long and wasn’t yet sure how I felt about her, but was open to the possibility that there could be potential for something more at some point in the future. At that time I just wanted to be there for her as a friend. I would have also been perfectly content if the connection remained a platonic friendship.

Jian and I were supposed to meet again the following week. She woke up late that morning and then called to say that she didn’t feel like going out. She then invited me to come over to her place. We spent much of the day talking and drinking the amazing fruit tea that she makes from goji berries, longons and other various other ingredients. We exchanged a few emails afterwards and then she just disappeared. I sent one email telling her that I really enjoyed the connection and that I valued her friendship, but I never heard back from her.

Priya: So many of my friends here are struggling with these same issues.

Ben: The stress of living in a place like New York City makes it all the more difficult to remain grounded in our feelings and physical bodies. People who live in their heads can easily lose touch with their intuition and the empathetic capacity that would enable them to bond with another human being.

One sees lots of couples here in the city. Some people do find love in the city and yet so many others struggle to find someone special with whom they can share their lives. New York is full of men like Stephane who will show up in women’s lives and then disappear. These men want to act like they don’t have any vulnerabilities at all and so they play it cool. A lot of women end up pursuing unavailable men and then they devise all kinds of strategies for holding onto them in their attempt to make the relationship work.

There’s percentage of men and women on the dating scene in New York like the guy Jian was going out with that exhibit sociopathic characteristics. On the surface they possess superficial charm and good intelligence. And yet they tend to be so out of touch with their own feelings that it impairs their ability to empathize with the feelings, needs and considerations of others. They are pathologically egocentric and are incapable of love. Their sex lives have a very impersonal quality and are not well integrated. There’s an unreliability, untruthfulness and insincerity about them. They also lack remorse or shame when their words and actions cause pain. These individuals tend to possess a magnetic quality that draws others in, but they can be very wounding to those with whom they become involved.

There are actually a lot more men and women in the city who want more than anything to find someone with whom they can share a deep meaningful and lasting connection. Sadly, there are so many social barriers that are preventing people from engaging with one another. Many of the men I have spoken to tell me that the women they encounter won’t even give them a chance.

Women that have been hurt by unavailable men like Stephane often internalize the painful feelings. All of the stresses and distractions of being in New York can make it that much more difficult for them to process their feelings. Fears, hurts and other conflicted feelings held within often get projected onto men and that can make it difficult for women to open or trust. The deep emotional wounds that many women hold cause them to gravitate towards men like Stephane or those that exhibit sociopathic tendencies. And yet in many instances they’re afraid of the men who are truly desirous of a relationship that have the capacity to show up fully present.

Priya: There’s a lot of the fear among men and women in New York City. And that fear often shuts down the natural flow of interaction. Much of this fear has to do with a lack of trust of people’s intentions. People here often feel you want something from them. Even if you’re sincere and have the best of intentions, they still don’t trust you. And in many instances they assume that you have some kind of ulterior motive.

Ben: There are a disproportionate numbers of men here in New York that are afraid of commitment. And there is also a level of fear and guardedness among women that I have not encountered anywhere else. Many won’t make eye contact in public spaces, or they react very negatively if a man were to approach them. And yet many of these same women anguish over the fact that they don’t have a man in their lives.

I’ve met women and have sometimes spoken with them for hours in all kinds of settings. We seemed to have a lot in common and it felt like there was potential for friendship. But in some instances they were still unwilling to exchange contact information despite the fact that we shared many common interests and they enjoyed the conversation. If it were anywhere else we would have most likely continued the conversation. Others have expressed their desire to continue the conversation, but have often disappeared after exchanging a few emails.

Much of the fear, guardedness, inability to commit or just show up fully present stems from the fact that people have been deeply wounded at various points in their lives. We are all empathic to some extent. Those who are not strongly rooted in themselves may internalize the attitudes, fears, confusion and other mental-emotional baggage of those around them. These mental-feeling states then compounded by people’s inability to process their own feelings and bring issues to a place of resolution.

Noted psychotherapist Carl Jung spoke at great length about the individual and collective consciousness. Every city, state, region, nation, ethnicity and race has its own collective psyche. An element of fear, guardedness, mistrust or suspicion has become incorporated in the collective consciousness of people residing here in the city. We can easily get sucked into the collective mind if we’re not firmly rooted in ourselves. Operating from the collective state doesn’t really serve us, but sadly many people have a very limited capacity to step back and examine themselves and do the deep internal processing that would enable them to truly think their own thoughts and feel their own feelings.

We have all been hurt somewhere along the way. A fearful and guarded state of mind is more likely to become our default mode of operation when we fail to process what we’ve gone through and any subsequent feelings that arise. Allowing our fears to control us stunts our growth. And that limits the quality of all of our relationships by preventing us from being as fully present in our interactions as we could be.

South Asia has a whole different set of challenges, but one of the things I enjoy most about being in India and Sri Lanka is that there’s a greater sense of continuity in personal interactions. I meet all kinds of people along the way and find that I’m much more likely to see or at least hear from those with whom I connect again. There’s a much more reciprocal nature to my interactions with women in this part of the world. I have sometimes given my business card to women that I met along the way. In many instances they initiate by calling or emailing me.

Priya: I would initiate contact or show interest in men that I met because I didn’t know the social rules. I didn’t have a problem with that, but it seems dating here in the United States has developed all of these unspoken rules. Girls are not supposed to initiate contact.

Then there’s a lot of focus on keeping the dating interaction light and breezy. And there are all these other rules to determine how long we’re supposed to wait before we text so that we don’t sound too desperate or needy. People here in the United States have this strange obsession with neediness or clinginess. No one wants to be perceived as such, but that’s a defense against our own feelings of vulnerability. Everyone feels needy to some extent, but we’re so ashamed of these feelings that we punish ourselves. In many instances we devalue and then punish those who we perceive to be needy or vulnerable. We cut that person off, reject or throw them away.

Ben: That’s another thing I really like about being in relationships with women in India and Sri Lanka. It’s much easier to express one’s feelings of attraction and desire to spend time with another person. It’s okay to have wants and needs. I feel a much greater sense of acceptance. I can express what I’m feeling without fearing that the woman I’m engaged with is going to run away.

Priya: Having a communal orientation is a normal part of life in India. We expect to be supported and to support others. It’s normal to need other people and that’s not a problem. The main drawback is that people, and especially women, are not as self-reliant as they could be. Women are almost expected to be vulnerable and needy and are protected for that reason. And it’s okay to be needy. A woman certainly won’t be rejected for that reason.

I found myself wondering what I had done to attract this experience of being abandoned when Stephane disappeared. And that evoked feelings of shame. I was thinking that like attracts like and that maybe I have a little Stephane in me, otherwise why would I attract someone like that into my life. Maybe it’s an indication that I’m not as developed as I think I am and that I wouldn’t be attracting people like Stephane into my life if I didn’t need them to teach me these lessons.

Ben: We do tend to attract people and situations that reflect our woundedness and the issues that we need to be addressing. We also have to be careful with the new-age-isms or we end up creating a lot of additional confusion.

Much of South Asia is swarming with mosquitos. We don’t ask ourselves “What am I doing to attract this?” and then come up with some lengthy esoteric narrative to explain why we’re getting eaten by mosquitos. Part of the reality of being in South Asia is that we end up getting a lots of mosquito bites unless we’re doused with repellent, shielded with nets or have some kind of blood chemistry that repels the little airborne bloodsuckers. The disappearing act is a standard operating procedure for many people residing here in New York City. And that’s something we’ve likely to experience firsthand as we make ourselves vulnerable by being open and attempting to form attachments with other people.

Priya: I was offering Stephane a safe friendship where we could explore feelings. What happened in the end is a loss for both of us. Stephane and I could have helped each other. I could have gone further in the process of healing the grief of my husband’s loss. He could have processed the residual grief of losing his mother and dealt with his intimacy issues. We could have learned and grown in the process of sharing our experiences given the fact that he’s a psychotherapist and I’m so process oriented. That’s what attracted me to him and why I had continued to text him. Of course I stopped when I got to the point to where I was not honoring myself. While I will progress further in my healing, he will continue to operate at that same level of dysfunction.

Ben: Relationships challenge us, but in doing so they provide us with one of the greatest opportunities for personal growth. People with avoidant tendencies are driven by their fears and are therefore very unlikely to ever grasp these opportunities. We may see the woundedness of the other person and think to ourselves “If they would just… The problem is that we cannot fix another person. We need to put the focus on ourselves. And we do that by taking the steps we need to do to facilitate own healing.

I encounter so many people who are frustrated, hurt and sometimes devastated because one potential love after another has disappeared. It’s not that we have bad relationship karma or that we are necessarily doing anything wrong. We’re not damaged or defective. This is just the way in which many people here operate.

It’s important for us to work with the feelings of hurt, loss abandonment or disappointment that arise when someone disappears on us. The way we do that is to bring the person or situation to the forefront of our awareness and then notice what feelings arise in response to their disappearance. We take note of where these feelings are situated within our bodies and then we breathe softly and deeply while focusing our attention in the middle of these feelings and sensations.

Working with powerful healers and going through the vision quests has also helped me to process the feelings of hurt, loss and disappointment that arose when other people have disappeared. And some will reappear from every now and then. It’s just seems to be a part of everyday life here in the city. The losses are not so devastating as they were in the past. I experience feelings of sadness, disappointment and loss at times, but I’m much better equipped to work through any feelings that surface. I stopped personalizing other people’s lack of congruence and interpersonal integrity. It also brought me to a place where I feel a much greater sense of connectedness within myself.

Becoming more intuitive has also helped by giving me a better sense of the people I’m dealing with. I’m also more cognizant of the fact that the words coming out of a lot of people’s mouths don’t have a whole lot of meaning or significance. I’ve learned to step back to allow the people I interact with to show me through their words and actions if they have the capacity to show up fully present and to sustain the connection. And with this understanding I’m able to make a wiser investment of my time and energy.

©Copyright 2014 Ben Oofana. All Rights Reserved. This content may be copied in full, with copyright, creation and contact information intact, without specific permission.

Ben Oofana is a healer who began his training with Horace Daukei, one of the last surviving traditional doctors among the Kiowa Indian tribe. Call (913) 927-4281 to learn more or to schedule an individual session.

Show Up, Pay Attention and Participate

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Jemez Dancers
Flakiness has become so commonplace in our society that many of us have come to accept it as the norm. At times it seems to pervade nearly every aspect of our lives. The sad thing about flakiness is that it breaks down the underlying sense of cohesion that holds us together as a society. All we have to do is look around to see examples everywhere we turn.

Flakiness is evident in the way we make promises and break them or we tell another person that we will do something and then don’t. We talk about getting together with friends or acquaintances and then never follow through. We make plans and then break them if something better comes along. We make a date and then call up with some excuse as to why we cannot make it. We walk out on relationships when the tough issues arise. Some of us abuse, abandon and fail to care for the needs of the children we bring into the world. We live off the hard earned money of other people rather than support ourselves. We slack off when there’s work to be done by allowing others to carry our share of the load. We spend money that we do not have to spend by running up credit card debt and then we declare bankruptcy. We sign up for classes and workshops and yet we never bother to show up. We schedule appointments with therapists or healers to help us to heal and sort through the mess we have made of ourselves and then call to cancel because we don’t want to go to those places inside where we hold all the feelings and issues that we have been avoiding for so long.

Flaking out is incredibly rude and disrespectful. It shows a serious lack of consideration for other people and their needs. People who fall into a pattern of flakiness create massive inconvenience. They waste our time, deplete our energy and create all kinds of unnecessary hardship.

Being on the receiving end of other people’s flakiness can evoke feelings of frustration, resentment, anxiety and sadness. Hurts and disappointments held on the inside have a very desensitizing effect. After a while we grow so numb that we no longer feel the emotions held within our bodies, but they diminish our capacity to love and be loved or to be present in our interactions with others.

We sometimes find ourselves in a position where we are forced to interact with or depend upon people who flake out on us. Having to deal with them can be wearing because they bring that much more stress into our lives. At some level we may enjoy the connection. We may like or even love the person, but their dishonesty and unreliability precludes the possibility of any kind of meaningful relationship or productive interchange.

Our propensity for flakiness has a lot to do with fact that we have become so disconnected from our feelings and physical bodies. Disconnecting on a feeling level shuts down the empathetic capacity that makes it possible for us to form attachments and to truly love and care for other another person. The loss of our empathetic feeling capacity can cause us to become grossly insensitive to the needs and considerations of others.

Flakiness denotes an ambiguous approach to life. It demonstrates a lack of courage and an unwillingness to embrace life with all its challenges. Our feelings help us to gain an understanding of our needs. The sense of ambiguity we experience when we lose touch with our feelings can make it very difficult for us to know what we truly want and that’s why we become so incongruent in our words and actions and give off so many mixed signals.

Our inability to commit ourselves to anything has a very ungrounding effect. It causes some of us come across as being very flighty, airheaded or dishonest. What often happens is that we make promises and then we experience all kinds of conflicted feelings about keeping those promises. We end up breaking our promises and then we blame the other person or our circumstances. We’re not being honest with ourselves or anyone else about what’s going on. We may feel guilty because at some level we know that we’re hurting and disappointing others, but in many instances we keep on repeating the cycle.

Speaking with a forked tongue

Native Americas who first encountered people of European descent often said that the white man speaks with a forked tongue. Treaties made by the United States Government with the American Indian tribes were seldom honored. Traditional homelands were continually being stolen and the native people were killed en masse.

Native elders that I spent time with placed a great deal of emphasis on being truthful and honoring one’s commitments. Native people who lived by the traditional values operated from a place of integrity in that they did what they said and said what they did. I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to live among the Kiowa Indian tribe and to have trained with their last surviving traditional doctor. My mentor Horace expected me to demonstrate commitment to receiving the gifts of healing that had been passed down through the centuries. I could have never gotten away with the kind of flakiness that I encounter among people within our present day culture.

There’s an old saying that goes “A man is only as good as his word.” Many of us have lost all concept of honoring one’s word. Lying has become a convenience for so many people. Our words cease to have significance or meaning. We often say whatever we think the other person wants to hear without any concern for the impact of our words or actions upon others.

Our words become inconsistent with our actions when we say we’re going to do something and then don’t follow through. The subconscious mind recognizes the incongruence when our words cease to have meaning and then stops taking the conscious waking self seriously. That exacerbates the split between our conscious and subconscious minds.

The loss of trust

A person who gives us their word creates a sense of expectation within us. We count on that person to do what they say they will do. We have no sense of where we stand with people whose words do not hold true or reflect their actions.

Flakiness is responsible for the underlying cynicism that pervades so much of our interaction with others. Trust is the underlying basis for any kind of healthy and meaningful relationship. Lies and incongruencies make it very difficult for us to trust people. The hurts, disappointments and frustrations we experience when people flake out on us accumulate within our bodies over time and that destroys our trust. After a while we begin to feel that we can’t believe what people say or count on them to do what they say they will do. This inability to trust or depend upon people destroys our faith in others and that precludes the possibility of real intimacy or any kind of significant or meaningful exchange.

Cutting our losses

A friend of mine became involved with a man who turned out to be very emotionally abusive. She confronted him on his behavior, but he responded by telling her that she had no right to hold expectations of him. My friend suffered horribly as a result of her involvement. At one point she confided in her friend, American Indian activist John Trudell. John responded by saying “People within the tribes have always depended upon one another. Without expectation, the tribe wound not have survived.”

It’s critically important for us to consider the implications of our actions upon other people. We have a responsibility to show kindness and consideration to those with whom we become involved. We also have a right to expect the same in return. Self-centered people who are not willing to be accountable do not care about the impact of their words and actions upon others. One can never change such a person. It is sometimes best to cut our losses and move on.

Flakiness subtracts from or diminishes the quality of human interaction and of life itself. People who consistently flake out on us can be an incredible pain. I’ve let go of friends and romantic partners because it wasn’t worth the headaches and heartaches. I walked away from my own father because he wasn’t making an effort to keep in touch. I have cut off people who came to me for assistance because they were either unwilling or unable to honor their commitment to their own healing by keeping their appointments. It’s better to let go of people who continually hurt and disappoint or that cannot be counted on so that we can create an opening for people who can love, nurture and support us and who value us and what we have to offer.

The games we play

Forming deep and loving attachments with other human beings is one of our most basic human needs. But men and women often act in ways that are very hurtful, insensitive and even cruel to one another. We often do so by playing with each other’s emotions. We sometimes initiate conversation and then later act standoffish. Or we act as if we are interested when we meet someone new and yet we do not bother to respond to a text, email or phone call. We often tell each other that we will call and then we don’t. Or we make plans to go out on a date and then call with some excuse as to why we cannot make it. And in some instances we don’t even bother to show up.

Cultural expectations that discourage us from being vulnerable or experiencing our true feelings are very damaging. Many of us have failed to grow or mature and that leaves us stunted developmentally. We’re so out of touch with ourselves that we don’t have a clear sense of what we want or know how we truly feel. That’s why we’re often unaware of our partner’s emotional needs. Our tendency to hurt and abuse stems from the fact many of us are so deeply wounded that it prevents us from developing the capacity to form deep and loving attachments or to truly care for another human being.

The fears that keep us apart

We have become a very fear based society. We’re giving our fears way too much power by allowing them to have so much control over our lives. Many of us are afraid of love, fearful of intimacy or commitment and terrified to feel our feelings. Our society’s fearful mindset has a lot to do with the deeply ingrained cultural conditioning that teaches us to disconnect from our feelings, our bodies and the realities of our daily lives. Unprocessed fears held in the body make it difficult for us to participate in life as fully functional adults. To make matters worse, our fears are also fed by the ratings and profit driven media that sensationalizes violence and social-political pundits who seek to polarize people for their own personal gain.

One of the nicest things about living in Oklahoma, Missouri, Colorado and New Mexico is that the pace is slower. People that I encountered tended to be open, friendly and engaging. I was socially inhibited during that part of my life, but in many ways I found it much easier to connect with people. Women in these parts of the country were much more approachable. Those who liked or found me attractive would engage me in conversation and have on occasion expressed romantic interest or pursued me.

I encountered a whole different mindset when I started spending time in New York City and Boston. I could sense a guardedness in many of the people I encountered and found it much more difficult to develop any kind of meaningful connection. People living in the city are more likely to connect through their circle of friends or online, but they often lack the kind of openness that would allow them to spontaneously meet and get to know people they encounter along the way. It has always been difficult for me to get used to the fact that many do not make eye contact or engage with strangers. Some will engage and yet they operate with a rule that says any conversation that takes place in a public setting with a stranger will go no further.

One of the greatest challenges of living in a place like New York City is that it’s humanly impossible to process the massive amount of input flooding our senses. We can easily become so overwhelmed by everything that’s going on around us and that impairs our ability to process our fears, frustrations and the stresses of daily life. We start to lose touch with our feelings and physical bodies. The resulting disconnect makes it very difficult for us to access the intuitive knowing that tells us whether we are safe and that the person we’re engaging with is trustworthy.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that many of the women living in the city were operating with a fearful and guarded mindset. Those who lose touch with their intuition have greater difficulty differentiating between individual men and are more likely to project their fears along with the hurt of past relationships on the other half of the human species.

Many of the women I have gotten to know while living in the city complain about the fact that they don’t have a man in their lives and that they don’t seem to be meeting anyone. And yet many of these same women automatically assume that any man who attempts to engage with them is either a player just looking to pick up or some form of predator. In many instances men who attempt to connect with women are given fake phone numbers or email addresses.

Approaching and engaging those we find ourselves attracted to, exchanging contact information, following up with an email or phone call and then meeting again are all normal parts of the process of finding love that takes place all over the world. Sadly, the early stages of getting to know one another are interrupted when we allow ourselves to be so controlled by our fears that we can’t allow the process to happen. We are in many respects like children whose parents are still telling us “Now don’t be talking to strangers.”

Wounded

Men have a greater capacity to engage in sexual experiences that are devoid of any relationship or personal connection. Those who are not being completely honest about their intentions sometimes lie and take advantage of women or use them sexually. Women that have been lied to, cheated on and taken advantage of sexually tend to close their hearts and become guarded, fearful and suspicious of men. Women who have been hurt or that operate from a fearful mindset can sometimes be very cruel in their response to men. Men often feel deeply hurt when women react in a harsh or negative way in response to their sincere expression of romantic interest.

A friend recently told me about how her sister would mislead guys who showed interest in her by flirting even when she had no desire to be with them. Guys with good intentions often ended up getting hurt by the sister who was using them to fulfill her needs for attention or to feel important and desirable.

Men and women who lose touch with their capacity for empathy either fail to see or don’t care about the fact that the people they become involved with romantically are also human beings who have feelings that can be hurt. In many instances men and women give up or stop trying because they have been hurt so many times.

It’s so important for us to keep in mind that nearly everyone has been wounded somewhere along the way and that can make them vulnerable. Acting in ways that are hurtful or jerking people around emotionally can be very damaging to their already fragile self-esteem. It often leaves them feeling very anxious, fearful and insecure. Life is hard enough as it is. There is absolutely no excuse for adding to people’s suffering.

Those of us who have been hurt repeatedly have a tendency to close our hearts. We’re afraid to say what we truly feel or make ourselves vulnerable by opening to another out of fear that we will be hurt again. The consequence of closing our hearts individually and collectively is that it decreases our capacity to love and care for one another. Our inability to open our hearts also decreases the likelihood that we will ever find the love we truly need and desire. We become more isolated and that only adds to our unbearable sense of aloneness. Many of us end up suffering through our lives in silence. The resulting state of disconnect and the pain we hold within also feeds into the collective suffering of humanity and the planet.

The Screens that come between us

A friend of mine was telling me about how disappointed she was when a guy she was interested in didn’t respond to her text. I asked her why she was sending text messages if she was truly interested in the guy. Why not just pick up the phone and call? She responded by saying that no one seems to want to talk on the phone anymore.

Texting, tweeting and messaging on Facebook has become the primary means of communication for many. Some of us prefer to text and tweet rather than talk over the phone or meet in person because of our unwillingness to show up and be fully present. The problem here is that it’s so easy to misconstrue what’s being said in our little snippets of communication because we’re no longer physically present in our interactions.

Our unwillingness to address the issues or engage directly with one another contributes to our confusion and misunderstanding. Lack of communication prohibits us from forming healthy attachments. That only adds to our sense of distress by feeding into our separation anxieties, fears of abandonment and our sense of isolation. Our inability to gain understanding and bring issues to resolution prevents us from learning, growing and getting to a better place individually and collectively.

Abandon ship

Relationships have a way of bringing all of our core issues to the forefront. That’s a good thing because it provides us with an amazing opportunity to learn and grow. Addressing the issues as they arise enables us heal and to deepen the connection. Sad thing is that many people are not processed oriented. They want the nice home, car, clothes, smart phone and man or woman. They may exercise, eat the right foods and take all kinds of supplements to stay in shape. But they have no real desire or motivation to learn about themselves, grow as an individual or heal.

Relationships often fail because of one or both partner’s unwillingness or inability to experience their own feelings and address relevant issues. Rather than learning from our experience and using it as a means of growth, we tend to blame each other for the painful feelings that arise. We often withdrawal in conflict or shut down emotionally. We sometimes ignore or distance from our partners, hold on to anger or say and do other things that cause more hurt. Many of us also turn to various addictions such as food, alcohol and other drugs, work and shopping to avoid our feelings.

Some of us abandon ship by bailing out of the relationship as soon as the underlying issues make their way to the surface. In some instances we never see or speak with our former partners again. All that pain, stress and confusion gets bottled up inside of us when we cut and run. Those who of us fail to resolve the issues end up dragging the emotional baggage of the past into subsequent relationships.

Forming healthy and loving attachments provides us with one of the greatest opportunities for personal and spiritual development. We cannot learn about ourselves or each other in relationship by shrinking way from, avoiding or side stepping relevant issues. Connection requires real presence with the use of our senses. We can only heal the wounds, resolve our issues and bridge the gaps between men and women when we fully commit ourselves to learning to work constructively with our feelings. Honesty and transparency can be unpleasant at times, but it is the only road to personal integrity and genuine intimacy. Fully opening to our feelings and engaging in open and honest communication with our partners helps us to gain understanding, strengthen bonds while facilitating healing of the deep emotional wounds.

Working through our feelings facilitates the healing of the emotional wounds and that enables us to deepen the connection to our authentic internal core self. The growth that takes place as we develop a healthier relationship with ourselves enables us to be more fully present in our relationships. Making a consistent effort to listen to and understand our partners, supporting their needs and showing affection will then strengthen the connection by helping us to grow individually and as a couple.

Commitment to doing whatever it takes to heal

People often tell me how they want to heal and get their lives on track. In essence they are looking for someone to come along and magically remove all of their pain and suffering. The presence working through me takes people right to the source of the problem in order to facilitate healing of the body and mind. I have watched so many people who were initially very enthusiastic about healing disappear as soon as the underlying feelings and issues make their way to the surface. Native American elders told me on numerous occasions that people who are not honest and that fail to honor their commitments cannot heal or receive the blessing of the higher power.

Many of us have scheduled appointments with healers or therapists and then canceled because of our unwillingness to face the issues or experience our true feelings. Those of us who are truly committed to doing what it takes to heal may have to reschedule on occasion, but we don’t just cancel or blow off appointments.

Allowing our fears to take over when there are issues that need to be addressed attaches a lot of fear, resistance and confusion to the healing process. Those of us who fail to address the issues and take the steps that are necessary to heal will in many instances have to live with the pain, stress, fear, confusion and sickness in our bodies. This toxicity will eventually spill over into other parts of our lives. Some of us may eventually find our way back, but we risk creating so much obstruction or becoming so lost in our attempt to escape from ourselves and the realities we’ve created and that may prevent us from ever healing.

The harm we’re doing to ourselves

Flakiness is one of the most disempowering and self-destructive forms of behavior we can possibly engage in. We’re flaking out on ourselves when we run from or avoid our feelings and issues. Facing the issues and experiencing our true feelings isn’t always easy, but that’s what makes us stronger.

We all avoid people, issues and situations somewhere along the way because they evoke fears, insecurities and feelings of overwhelm. It’s important for us to understand that avoiding people, situations, issues or feelings that we rather not deal with erodes the foundation upon which we stand.

Feelings and issues that we resist or escape from continue to grow in magnitude as we attempt to push them out of our awareness. Conflicted feelings pushed down on the inside create a tangle of confusion that makes it difficult for us to clearly see ourselves or gain an understanding of the relevant issues that need to be dealt with. Avoidance prevents us from fully developing the capability, competency and other resources we need to fully realize our true potential and to be effective in all areas of our lives.

Cleaning up our act

Our propensity for flakiness has a lot to do with our tendency to avoid feelings and realities that we find uncomfortable or intimidating. It also stems from the fact that we haven’t fully developed the resources that would enable us to cope effectively with the realities of our daily lives. Flakiness is also reinforced by a culture that tells us “Don’t go there” and that doesn’t hold us accountable for our actions.

Many of us have good intentions, but have way too much on our plate and are so overwhelmed by all the things we have to do in order to survive. Balancing the demands and responsibilities of our daily lives with our own individual needs can pose a significant challenge. We may truly want to be there for friends and family or to support a cause we believe in, but in doing so we are sometimes over committing ourselves. Paying attention to how we feel within our bodies when we commit ourselves to people, projects and causes will give us a more realistic sense of our limitations.

One of the women I work with recently told me how she often flaked out on friends and family saying. “The trauma that I had gone through had such an adverse impact on my brain function and that made it very difficult for me to make decisions. I felt paralyzed by the pervasive fears, anxieties and feelings of depression. I just kept backing out of things because I couldn’t handle being around other people and just wanted to keep to myself. But I’ve become so much more open and outgoing as a result of the healing that has taken place over the past few years.”

I have dropped the ball on numerous occasions because I either felt overwhelmed or just didn’t know how to deal with a person or situation. Flaking out on others left me feeling horrible on the inside. I knew at some level that what I was doing wasn’t right. I would often ask myself how I could do things better. In many instances I would go back to the person and apologize and then do whatever I felt was necessary to make things right. From there I’ve gone forward in life with a resolve to live from a place of integrity.

Showing up and paying attention as an active participant in life is one of the most important aspects of becoming a fully functional adult. Some of the people, issues or situations we have to contend with can be intimidating at times. We may lack some of the skills or resources we need to cope effectively. But that doesn’t mean we have to settle for our limitations. None of us are perfect. We will invariably make mistakes along with way and yet we can resolve to learn from experience and do better with each passing day. Learning to show up fully present is an ongoing process. With discipline and perseverance we can develop the resources that will enable us to increase our effectiveness in all areas of life.

We contribute value to the lives of others and to society as a whole through our words and actions when we make a conscientious effort to live from a place of integrity. Our willingness to go the extra mile when the situation calls for demonstrates that we truly care. Making a consistent effort to be real and straightforward in our interactions with others by doing what we say and saying what we do brings about greater alignment within our body-mind consciousness by helping us to become more congruent.

Making the commitment on a daily basis to show up fully present initiates an amazing process of self-discovery and personal growth. We do our part to facilitate the process by facing the issues as they arise to the best of our ability and by fully opening ourselves to any subsequent feelings that emerge.

Choosing to fully embracing life requires tremendous courage. Staying connected to our feelings and physical bodies while being present to the realities of our daily lives enables us to develop greater understanding and insight. We learn to live by a deeper instinctual knowing that guides along a path that leads us to the realization of our potential and the fulfillment of our true purpose.

©Copyright 2012 Ben Oofana. All Rights Reserved. This content may be copied in full, with copyright, creation and contact information intact, without specific permission.