Learning to Feel Comfortable in Our Social Interactions

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edited social
A young Korean man showed up in one of my classes not too long ago. Hwan shared with us during the introduction that he was having great difficulty expressing himself and was not able to convey his feelings for a woman that he found himself attracted to. I had Hwan bring the woman to the forefront of his awareness by picturing her immediately in front of him while breathing softly and deeply. Before long Hwan complained that he was becoming very dizzy and asked if he could stop. I had Hwan shift the focus by focusing his attention on the feelings and sensations throughout his body. Hwan told me that the dizziness had subsided when I checked in to see how he was doing a few minutes later.

Hwan spoke after completing the practice saying “I was feeling very dizzy when you had me focus my attention on the woman. It felt as though I were spinning. I became much calmer once you had me redirect my attention by having me focus on the physical sensations. I’m feeling more stable, comfortable and peaceful.

I spoke with Hwan after the class and he was receptive when I offered to look into his aura. It was quite apparent that he wasn’t fully inhabiting his body. The solar plexus and navel chakras were very underdeveloped. Hwan told me that he had been subjected to a lot of physical and emotional abuse by his overly controlling parents. He had internalized much of the trauma and that had apparently stunted his development.

The chakras serve as a form of bio-electrical circuitry that support the functions of the various internal organs and systems. In this case they were also reflecting developmental deficits that were making it difficult for Hwan to function. Hwan doesn’t have the faculties needed to remain fully grounded and to work constructively with his feelings. Consequently he is easily overwhelmed and that prevents him from expressing himself.

I told Hwan about my own personal experience of healing from similar traumas and about the success I’ve had working with others struggling with the same kinds of issues. Sadly, people don’t always recognize or make use of the opportunities being presented to them. Much of that has to do with the fact that most people are not familiar with the traditional Indigenous healing practices and their ability to facilitate healing that would not otherwise be possible. Hwan doesn’t possess the resources that would enable him to process his feelings, heal the deep emotional wounds and express himself as a fully functioning adult. He will most likely continue to struggle with the same sets of limitations indefinitely.

I’m very familiar with the difficulties Hwan is experiencing after having suffered similar abuse during my own childhood and adolescence. I was painfully shy for the longest time and that made it very difficult for me to function in various social interactions.

What’s preventing me from functioning?

Many of us feel awkward, shy or become anxious in our attempts to interact with others. Those of us who suffered abuse at some point in our lives may even feel that something is wrong with us or that we are unlovable. We often try to fight or resist these feelings, but in doing so we only feed the emotional forces that are working against us. I started making a practice of paying attention to all the things that were preventing me from expressing myself or functioning in different areas of my life.

I initially began to do this practice while sitting down in a quiet place with my eyes closed. I would bring the person, situation or issue concerning me to the forefront of my awareness then breathe softly and deeply while centering my awareness in the middle of any feelings or bodily sensations that arose. I would also breathe into places where I felt constricted or inhibited. Working with this practice helped me relax and feel more natural and flow more comfortably in my interactions. I continue to do this and other practices on a daily basis.

I’ve learned so much about being present by experimenting and I encourage others to do the same. I realized after some time that I needed to be applying this practice in my daily life. I started making a conscientious effort to be fully present with the feelings and sensations that I was experiencing within my body while in the midst of various interactions with people. After some time I found that I was able to maintain the connection with my feelings and bodily sensations while conversing with others and looking into their eyes. I found that it actually deepened the quality of the interaction.

Range of motion

I would intentionally put myself in all kinds of challenging social situations to further expand my range of motion. I would seek out the kinds of people I admire and do the things I had always wanted to do. The whole process of showing up present on a daily basis helped me to feel more alive. It also left me feeling quite vulnerable at times. Some of the more difficult or challenging situations brought up all kinds of uncomfortable feelings. Fears, anxieties, feelings of shyness, intimidation and inadequacy softened and became more diffuse as I continued to breathe into them. Digesting these feelings helped me to feel more at ease and to move through the world more freely.

I usually vary my focus in accordance with what I’m feeling at any given moment. I will often focus my attention in the chest, abdomen or any other part of the body where the feelings arise. At other times I experience a whole range of feelings and sensations simultaneously in different parts of the body. I will then maintain a more diffuse focus with my attention on the feelings and sensations throughout my body.

Moving into the spotlight

I had to become a public person in order to build a practice as a healer and that has forced me to stretch far beyond my comfort zone. I used to be painfully shy and found public speaking to be especially intimidating. My mind would often go blank while I was giving classes or workshops and then I would sit there frozen and not be able to think of anything to say. It usually took me about an hour to relax enough so that I could feel comfortable. The fear and anxiety has diminished as I’ve continued to work with the practice of breathing into any inhibiting feelings that arose. Now I’m offering classes on a weekly basis. Working in a group format can be very demanding, but I actually enjoy the process when I have people that are open and responsive.

Feelings of intimidation would often surface whenever I went to speak with radio show hosts or the program directors of various healing centers about giving an interview or workshop. I’ve grown to feel more comfortable in these kinds of interactions. I gradually became more cognizant of the fact that I have a great deal of knowledge to share about healing that is not readily available to the general public. I also more appreciative of the fact that I’m a conduit for a very powerful healing presence that is much needed by people in today’s world.

Asserting healthy boundaries

People who are unable to establish healthy boundaries and assert their needs are more likely to get stepped on or taken advantage of. I had suffered abuses for far too long and something inside me was unwilling to tolerate it any longer. I have on numerous occasions breathed into the fear and anger I was experiencing while confronting people that had overstepped their boundaries or were trying to take advantage of me.

The fears and anxieties were so strong in some instances that I would be physically shaking. Making a concerted effort to be fully present while asserting myself helped me to work through my fears and insecurities. It has also enabled me to become more embodied and establish healthier boundaries. It has become much easier for me to assert myself in these kinds of situations. I find the whole process to be very empowering.

Finding that special someone

Many people want more than anything to have someone to love and be loved by, but are afraid to approach or express their feelings for someone they feel attracted to for fear of being rejected. This is one of the main reasons why so many people do not have a love in their life. It also accounts for the fact that many people are settling for someone who is not the best match. They would rather settle than end up being alone.

I was really serious someone in my life, so I began to engage with women I found myself attracted to whenever the opportunity presented itself. I encountered a lot of fear and guardedness and sometimes found myself in awkward and embarrassing situations. I felt hurt or disappointed at times when things didn’t work out quite the way I wanted them to. Breathing through the uncomfortable feelings that surfaced helped me to work through the hurts, disappointments, fears and sense of awkwardness. I stopped personalizing a woman’s lack of response or interest as I came to realize that it had to do more with where she was at.

Many good things came of these interactions. I have gained a much better understanding of women and people in general. I gained a much greater sense of the qualities I truly desire in a friend and companion. I’ve developed the communicative skills that have enabled me to become more socially adept. A lot of these encounters turned into spontaneous dates. A number of the women I met became friends. Some of these encounters have been the start of a relationship. I would have missed out had I not taken action.

I would often breathe into any feelings of attraction or desire at times or the enjoyment of connecting with another human being during these encounters. Teaching myself to become more fully present in this way has helped me to feel more comfortable and flow naturally in my interactions.

Divine intervention

Many of us experience a painful sense of inadequacy or inferiority when we encounter people that we perceive to be smarter, more attractive, powerful or together in some way. Breathing into the underlying sense of inadequacy or any other feelings that arise activates the healing intelligence that resides within our body and mind. We gradually come to a place of greater self-love, appreciation and acceptance as the uncomfortable feelings dissipate.

Those of us who suffered from childhood abuse are more likely to feel damaged or defective. These wounds become so much a part of our makeup. I made a daily practice of being fully present in my body as I went about whatever it is I was doing. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get past some of the debilitating emotional wounds on my own. I would often come up against the limits of my own operating system. I was in many ways dissociated from body and was very cognizant of the fact that I didn’t possess many of the resources I need to do the things that truly mattered to me in life.

I realized that I needed some form of outside intervention in order to heal the deep emotional wounds. I worked with a number of exceptionally powerful healers and went on numerous vision quests, which are a traditional Native American healing practice that involves going out alone into the mountains for four days and nights without food or water. It was during the healing sessions and vision quest that I began to heal the debilitating emotional wounds and develop the resources that have made it possible to become more fully functional in my professional and personal life. I became much more connected to my feelings, my physical body and the world in which I live as a result of these interventions.

We all need to be making a concerted effort to show up, pay attention and participate on a daily basis. We also need to be realistic in understanding that we cannot do it all on our own. It is critically important for us to be making use of the tools and resources to help facilitate the healing and initiate the growth which we are not fully capable of doing on our own.

The never ending process of becoming more fully present

We cannot fully live our lives when we allow ourselves to be controlled by our fears and inhibitions. We need to be confronting our fears head on. Moving beyond our comfort zone by engaging with people and placing ourselves in situations that challenge us facilitates growth. We need to keep in mind that developing the ability to feel comfortable in the various kinds of social interactions is a gradual process. There will always be challenges along the way. Many of the same kinds of feelings and vulnerabilities will resurface in response to the people and circumstances we encounter as we go about our lives. The emotional discomforts that inhibit us will gradually become more diffuse as we continue to work with this practice. And with continued practice we will gradually find ourselves navigating a wider range of social situations with greater comfort and ease and move more freely through the world.

©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.

Finding Love on the Subway

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met on a bus“We’ve been married 31 years.”
“How’d you meet?”
“I saw her on a bus, put my watch in my pocket, sat down next to her, and asked her for the time.” – Humans of New York

The thriving music scene happening in Manhattan’s Lower East Side was one of the initial attractions that drew me to New York City. I went to so many concerts after moving to the city, but the music scene began to wind down after a few years. I still went out to various events whenever the opportunity presented itself, but it seemed that I rarely found the opportunity to meet the kind of women I was interested in. I was so busy with my work anyway. I seldom met or talked with women unless I spoke with those I encountered on the subway during my daily commutes. I was quite serious about having someone in my life, so I made a point of speaking to at least two women a day as I commuted to and from appointments.

Rules of the public transit system

I would often see women I found attractive during my daily commutes and felt a sense of frustration over not having an opportunity to meet or get to know them. I began to ask the women knew and those I encountered along the way if they had any suggestions as to how I could go about engaging a woman I found myself attracted to.

Some responded by telling me “Approaching women on the subway is harassment, so don’t do it. You need to understand that minimal social contact is the unwritten rule of the public transit systems of New York City.”

One encounters different sets of rules wherever they go. These arbitrary sets of rules were all made up by people at some point along the way. Some rules do serve a useful purpose. And yet many were conceived out of people’s ignorance, fear, confusion, superstition and in some instances stupidity. Rules often serve as a convenient excuse for those who are either unwilling or unable take responsibility for their own lives by thinking for themselves or relying upon their own intuition.

Restrictive sets of rules greatly hinder our ability to show up fully present as active participants in life. And in doing so, they prevent us from living our lives as fully functional human beings. Rigid sets of rules are also unnecessarily stifling. They shut down the natural flow of interaction in such a way that they prevent lots of people from meeting their normal and healthy needs for love and companionship. Consequently, many people end up being alone.

As Tom Robbins said in his book Jitterbug Perfume “What limits people is that they don’t have the fucking nerve or imagination to star in their own movie, let alone direct it.” We all have a choice. We can throw our youth away by allowing fearful and contracted people to define the terms and conditions of our lives or we can chose to think for ourselves and show up fully present. There are exceptions to all man and woman made rules and this “minimal social contact while riding on the transit system or moving about the city” is no different. It’s an exception that will lead to friendships, dates or even the possibility of a healthy and loving long term relationship.

Attractive women get hit on all the time

Many of the women I have spoken with have told me that they don’t appreciate being stopped on the street or approached on the subways. And that they find the level of harassment and attempts to engage with them that they are forced to endure to be exhausting.

I spend tremendous amounts of time on the subways commuting to and from work and running errands and I can’t help but pay attention to what’s going on around me. I see occasional panhandlers begging for money. I also see some very talented musicians and break dancers performing on the trains. Most of the people who are not with friends or family sit or stand engulfed in their own little protective bubble. Most of the women I see riding alone on the subways spend their time texting or surfing the net on their smart phone, reading a book or staring off into space. Rarely do I ever see men attempting to approach women or trying to engage them in conversation.

Too much time on our smartphones

People used to chat more on the subways before they became so dependent upon their gadgets. These days no one really looks, smiles or talks unless they happen to be riding with someone they already know. As our smartphones and the net have become more interactive many are becoming less willing to engage with people in their immediate proximity. Engaging with the people around us has lost its sense of normality and is in some instances perceived as threating because we’ve become so accustomed to talking to people at a distance through our smartphones.

One of the primary reasons many of us spend so much time on our smartphones and surfing the net is that we crave interaction. People who are guarded or that allow themselves to be controlled by their fears are usually not very interactive.

Weirded out by the fact that some guy finds me attractive

A number of the women I spoke with would say things like “As a woman, I feel incredibly weirded out that some guy on the subway finds me attractive and wants to go out with me. He’s only approach me because he thinks I’m physically attractive. He doesn’t know anything about who I am as an individual.”

I responded by saying “You’re absolutely right about the fact that the guy doesn’t know you. It’s a normal and healthy response for men and women to become curious and want to check each other out. How about operating from a more receptive mindset that says who is this person? There’s absolutely no harm in becoming curious about getting to know another person. And if it turns out that you share common interests and enjoy talking with them, then why not spend some time getting to know each other.

Our first sense of an individual we find ourselves attracted to us is usually visual. Approaching and expressing an interest in the people we find ourselves attracted to is all part of the normal and healthy process of mate selection that has gone on for thousands of years. Everyone has their preference for a certain features. Men and women are naturally drawn to those individuals they find physically attractive and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. If looks were not so important to women, then why is it that the more handsome men have considerably more dates and are more likely to be in a relationship? In fact, many women automatically reject a man who doesn’t appear to be her type.

Give her an easy exit

Standing directly in front of or towering over another person can be perceived as threatening. Women are more likely to feel at ease when we stand at an angle and give them some room to breathe. It’s also important for us to be mindful that any person we engage on public transportation is in an enclosed space where they cannot easily get away. Therefore we need to be gracious by giving them an easy out if we see indications that they are not a willing participant.

She’s just not interested

Men can be incredibly tone deaf. It’s important for men to pay attention to subtle cues such as a woman’s tone of voice, body language and the vibe she’s giving off whenever we attempt to engage. Short one or two word answers like “Yes” or “No, sorry,” an unemotional tone or scowling face, purposely turning away or going back to her book or music are often indications that she just wants to be left alone. It’s best to just get the hint, say “thank you” and then move on.

We also need to take into consideration that any woman who captures our attention has a life of her own. She may be struggling with various work related, financial or personal issues. She may already have someone in her life. A wedding or engagement ring is, in most instances, an indication that she’s already taken.

Many women have learned to maintain a level of friendliness because men have either caused a scene or insulted them when they haven’t. Men who have lost touch with their feelings may also lose their capacity for empathy. Many are not able to tell when a woman is attempting to brush them off. They often make the mistake of assuming that any woman who smiles at them is interested because of their inability to distinguish between a polite response and genuine interest.

I can tell when the woman I’m speaking with is not really putting any effort into the conversation by the vibe she’s giving off. It’s obvious that she’s not a willing participant if I have to do all the work. I’ll stop talking if I get a sense that the woman I’m engaging with is not receptive.

I will sometimes test the waters. There have been many occasions where I could sense an initial discomfort from women that I have engaged with on the subway or in other public spaces. I always set the intention that I want any interaction to be mutually comfortable. I’ve learned over time to feel a person’s boundary or comfort zone and that gives me a sense of how close or far away I should sit or stand. I will sometimes back off for a while and at other times I would completely disengage. Many have gradually relaxed and let their guard down. Women who were initially fearful or hesitant often became much more open and engaging at some point once they realized that they were safe.

Places where women go to meet men

A number of woman I’ve spoken with said things like “I cannot even fathom why you would even consider approaching women in the subway. There are so many places you can go to where women actually want to meet and talk to men. Go to a bar or create a profile on match.com. Just leave us the fuck alone on the train.”

Many of us have spent inordinate amounts of time going to events in hopes of meeting someone. Going to events related to our own specific areas of interests can increase our likelihood of meeting people who share similar interests. Many of the men I have spoken with in the city talk about how that same sense of fear and guardedness they encounter on the public transit system carries over into these so called safe environments where women go to meet men.

Going to all these classes, workshops, concerts, museums and wherever else we can think of to go can also become very expensive and time consuming. People who are working long hours, commuting great distances and saddled with tremendous responsibility just don’t have the time or energy.

I hear so many people expressing their frustration over the fact that they never seem to meet the kind of person they want to connect with despite the fact that they’re going to all kinds of events. Limiting ourselves to the small pool of individuals who our friends introduce us to or that happen to show up at the events we attend severely limits our likelihood of finding the love and companionship we truly desire. Why not just engage with the people in our immediate proximity that we encounter as we go about our day?

I know a few couples who have met in bars. But there are lots of problems associated with meeting in bars. Bars are full of intoxicated people who are not in their right state of mind. And they tend to attract lots of people who are looking for a means of escape from the realities of their lives. Many people go to bars with the purpose of hooking up with someone for the night.

Bars also tend to be very noisy. The music is often so loud that one can barely hear what the other person is saying. They’re definitely not the kind of environment that’s conducive for reflective thought or really getting to know a person. Women that go out to bars to spend the evening with their girlfriends often do not want to be approached. Their friend’s lack of social approval can easily torpedo any possibility of making a connection.

Lots of women have told me they think it’s creepy for men to engage them on the subway and said that I should be looking to meet someone online. I have asked a number of these women to tell me the difference between a man who approaches them in a public space and one who contacts them through their profile on mismatch.com. Creating internet profiles to advertise ourselves online is so sadly pathetic. But many of us do it because we’re too socially retarded to engage with the people we encounter over the course of our everyday lives.

We don’t really know the person who engages us online. They can easily create the kind of image they wish to portray. We cannot see their real personality because that person is not physically present right here in front of us. Many lie about their age, weight, height, marital status and other important personal details in their online profiles.

There are a number of advantages to meeting someone in the subways. Those of us who are in touch with our intuition can get a better sense of the person standing in front of us and that makes it easier for us to determine if we have something in common. We get a sense of their level of intelligence and their overall outlook on life. We can also pick up on potential red flags that let us know to be careful or to not get involved.

The newer trains are fairly quiet and brightly lit. The subways are full of all kinds of interesting, intelligent, well-educated and creative people who share similar interests and passions. One encounters lots of well-dressed professionals on their way to or from work. There’s less pretention involved when meeting someone on the subway and that gives us a more realistic sense of the person we’re interacting with. The people we meet on the subway are usually not under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. All one has to do is open their eyes to see that there are more potential partners on the subway and other forms of public transit than any other venue.

The truth is that there is no universally acceptable setting for men and women to meet. The world we live in becomes an incredibly lonely and boring place when we allow small minded people controlled by their fears to cause us to contract in ways that prevent us from engaging with the people we encounter during the course of our everyday lives. Teaching ourselves to remain present in our bodies while tuning into our intuition will give us a clear sense of who is trustworthy. With this knowing we can determine who we want to open up to and allow into our lives.

Making the approach

Approaching someone on public transportation we find ourselves attracted to is taking a risk and that requires a lot of courage. We have to accept the fact that we will be viewed by some as a creep or predator. We may encounter a lot of rejection. Those individuals we find ourselves interested in may not necessarily be rejecting us. People that haven’t learned to truly think for themselves and tune to their own intuition and tend to operate on autopilot. I have found that centering our awareness in the middle of the feelings while breathing softly and deeply will soften and diffuse the sting of rejection so that I can bounce back and move on.

The window of opportunity

One of the most challenging and sometimes frustrating aspects of meeting on the subway is not knowing how much time we have to engage with an attractive stranger. It can be very difficult to connect with someone who is getting off at the next stop. I’m always thankful for the thirty minute to an hour windows of opportunity to talk and get to know someone provided by the long commutes to or from the Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx. I have in some instances acted as though I had intended to get off at the same subway stop. That has on occasion made it possible to continue the conversation.

Some women I spoke with recommended that I start by making eye contact and only approach those who show some indication of being responsive. The problem with using this approach in New York City is that lots of women on the subway and in other public spaces make a concerted effort to avoid eye contact. Making eye contact can work in some instances and yet it may also be perceived as a threat. It’s not that uncommon for women and men in the city to visibly tense up if they notice an unfamiliar person making eye contact or checking them out.

It’s difficult to engage with someone who catches our attention at the other end of the subway car. If at all possible, I’ll find a way to stand or sit next to a woman that captures my attention. I will often initiate by commenting on something a woman is wearing or a book she’s reading. I’ve had women pull the ear buds out of their ears to ask them about the music they’re listening to. I’ve actually said things like “I really like what I’m hearing there. Can I check out what you’re listening to for a minute?” In many instances that has gotten women to engage me in conversation. I have asked for directions at times when I couldn’t think of anything else to say.

Revealing any kind of romantic interest or feelings of attraction is more likely to scare the woman being approached. It also creates a lot of unnecessary pressure by putting her in a position of having to decide if I’m someone that she wants to be involved with romantically. Keeping the interaction light and friendly creates a more neutral setting to get to know one another. It also gives her more of an opportunity to determine if she feels comfortable with me and if she wants to continue the interaction.

I’m only romantically interested in women that I can relate to as a friend. Being genuinely curious to learn more about the woman I’m speaking to as a person encourages her to open up and become more engaging. Introducing myself at some point in the conversation helps to put her at ease and moves the conversation smoothly from strangers to mildly acquainted. Instead of asking for an email or phone number I will usually say “What steps can we take to continue this conversation?” Many have offered me their email or phone number. Some have suggested that we continue the conversation over coffee.

Opening ourselves to possibility

A number of the women I spoke with have said something to the effect “I cannot possibly imagine a conversation that takes place on public transit would turn into anything else. I’ve met interesting people along the way and enjoyed the conversation, but they always ended as soon as I got off at my stop.”

One of the greatest impediments to finding love in cities like New York and Boston is the pervasive sense of fear that causes so many people to contract and put up walls around themselves. Fear is a protective mechanism that serves a useful purpose when it mobilizes us to respond to a legitimate threat. Conversely, inappropriate or disproportionate fears can have a negative impact upon ourselves and others. We all have legitimate reason to exercise caution. However, the baseline state of fear that many of us operate from that predisposes us to be fearful and suspicious of those we are not familiar with is what prevents so many of us from finding the love we truly need and desire.

Many of us spend inordinate amounts of time traveling to and from wherever it is we’re going in trains filled with all kinds of interesting people. If we were to truly open ourselves to possibility we would clearly see that we encounter more potential partners on the subway and other forms of public transit than any other place.

Closing ourselves off to the possibility of meeting in public spaces severely limits our likelihood of meeting the kind of person we truly want to be with. Moving through the world with a sense of openness and willingness to meet people wherever we go gives us a much wider selection of potential partners to choose from and greatly increases our likelihood of finding the love and companionship we truly need and desire.

Showing up fully present

There are so many people residing in New York City that feel they have to schedule their lives minute by minute filling every waking moment of the day. They’re up at six-forty-five, on the subway by eight, beginning their work day at nine, taking their thirty to sixty minute lunch break at one and then continuing to work until five-thirty. They’re back on the subway as soon as they leave the office, attending yoga class at six, dinner with their friends immediately thereafter and then they spend the remainder of their evening online.

Many New Yorkers become so stressed out because they lack the resources and understanding that would enable them to process the realities of their daily lives. They’re constantly doing and doing to avoid their fears, insecurities, hurts and the profound sense of emptiness that resides within. They’re never fully present in the moment because their mind is always caught up in the past or busy thinking about the next thing they’re doing. If they’re not thinking about their upcoming activities, they find something to distract themselves such as television, their smartphones, a game, alcohol, etc. They cannot be present with themselves, therefore they cannot be present for anyone else. Many are incredibly lonely. They want so much to meet someone they can love and be loved by. But many are so scared of other people, rejection, the world around them and their own feelings that they end up shutting down and that’s why people in the city become so isolated from one another.

New Yorkers have so many fears associated with the transit system. They have a tendency to go into this collective state of disconnect as soon as they embark on the subway. But the transit system is now about as safe as any other place we would find ourselves in the city. And we will discover some truly amazing things when we get out of our heads long enough to be present to what’s happening around and about us.

One can experience the wonderment of life anytime and anywhere. It’s important for us to slow ourselves down enough so that we can actually enjoy the journey. We do that by making a conscientious effort to become fully present in the moment wherever we happen to find ourselves. We take in our immediate surroundings while opening ourselves to the possibility that there may be something of benefit for us here in this time and space. And we remember to ground ourselves within our bodies by breathing softly and deeply while maintaining a state of openness to whatever good life brings our way.

Can you find love in public spaces?

Going through one rejection after another and dealing with so much flakiness takes its toll. I would sometimes give up for periods of time. I felt that I had no choice but to keep approaching and brave the rejections if I was ever going to find the love I needed and desired. After some time I began to realize that many of these women were only operating according to their socially programmed autopilot responses.

I’ve made friends and have gone out on lots of dates. I went out with an Egyptian woman for some time that I met one night when I was stranded in a subway station because I forgot to bring my umbrella. I was in a relationship for a year with a woman I met on a flight to Sri Lanka. Nearly all of the relationship I’ve been in began as a result of my talking with women I met in public spaces. All kinds of amazing things can happen when we open ourselves to possibility.

I fell in love on the subway

Robin wasn’t in the habit of noticing men on the subway. But one day she had a feeling that someone looking at her. She looked up to see a tall attractive man who stood out among the crowd. Robin would see her “subway crush” on occasion while commuting to work. She sunk into a depression at one point when he seemed to disappear for weeks on end, fearing that she would never see him again. But Robin’s subway crush materialized next to her on the subway platform one cold January morning. She discovered that they had lots in common as they began to chat. Robin shoved her business card into his hand before getting off at her stop. Josh emailed the following Monday to ask her out. Robin and Josh moved in together ten months later. They had a model subway train positioned on top of their wedding cake when they later married.

Love can happen anywhere

Daniel sensed a woman standing behind him on the platform as he stood waiting for the downtown 6 train at 33rd St. He turned and asked her if she knew of a good place to have a drink. Daniel listened politely as Rebecca began to go through a list of possible establishments and then asked her if she would like to join him. Rebecca was hesitant at first, but then agreed to go along. Daniel and Rebecca got off at 14th street and walked a couple of blocks to a bar. Something about their conversation felt so natural. They began spending weekends together. Daniel moved in with Rebecca four months later and they married soon thereafter.

We need to feel safe and comfortable and be encouraged to engage with one another

Healthy and loving relationships can only develop when we actually take the opportunity to get to know one another. That cannot possibly happen until we begin to engage each other in conversation. Having a reciprocal interchange with other human beings on an interpersonal level is a critically important part of our personal growth. Men and women need to feel safe, comfortable and feel supported and encouraged in their interaction with one another. It’s important for us to follow up whenever we do make a connection by answering emails and phone calls and meeting again in a neutral place where we have the opportunity to actually get to know one another.

I’ve said to people on many occasions “How do you know that person sitting next to you on the subway or that engages you in conversation isn’t the best match you will ever come across in your entire life? You really don’t know until you at least give yourself the opportunity to get to know this person.”

Love can happen anytime and anywhere when we open ourselves to the opportunities being presented to us. New York City’s mass transit system brings anywhere from four to seven million people together a day. Surely we can find the one we’ve been waiting for when we just open ourselves to possibility.

And be sure to check out this amazing story about how another couple found love on the subway 🙂

©Copyright 2013 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. To learn more or to schedule a private session call (913) 927-4281

Mismatch.com: Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

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mismatch dot com
The thought of meeting someone online always felt very strange to me, but I ended up posting profiles on a few different websites after moving to New York because I found it much more difficult to connect with the women I encountered in the city.

I have always wanted to travel and spend time in different countries and thought posting a profile on line might provide an opportunity to meet women from other cultures. I posted profiles on a few different websites and got very mixed results. Women whose profile I responded to usually didn’t respond to me. After a while, I stopped responding to women’s profiles and left mine up for a year or two so women who were interested could contact me.

Many of the encounters felt very awkward. Either there was no chemistry or attraction and in some instances it was obvious that neither of us felt very comfortable. There were a number of occasions where I felt I just wanted to eject myself from the whole situation.

Online dating seemed to work better in India. Indian matchmaking sites are geared primarily towards marriage. I wasn’t really attracted to anyone that I met online, but I ended up meeting and becoming friends with a number of the women who responded to my profile. In many instances I also got to know their friends and families.

Something about the whole experience of meeting online felt very artificial to me. After a while I decided that I wasn’t going to deal with online matchmaking any longer and took my profiles down.

I was telling my friend Natasha that I feel much more comfortable meeting women face to face. I rather engage with the women I encounter wherever I happen to find myself. We all have physical preferences and I prefer to see what a woman actually looks like. I can feel the emotions that women are holding within their bodies, the issues they are dealing with and get a better sense of their outlook on life. I can feel the limitations that hold them back and the resources that enable them to excel in other areas of their lives. I see and feel a woman’s level of intelligence and can pick up on other traits, attributes and subtle nuances. I can also recognize the red flags that forewarn me of potential dangers and let me know that I need to be careful or to not get involved.

I like to hear and feel the sound of a woman’s voice. I listen to her words and tonality of her voice and I can get a better feeling of where she’s are coming from. I can also sense whether the women I meet are being honest or if they’re hiding something. This gives me a much more realistic sense of the woman I’m interacting with rather than anything she could ever write in an online profile.

Natasha looked at me and said that not everyone is that in touch with their feelings and intuition.

I responded by saying “People tend to lose touch with their feelings and physical bodies when they shut down emotionally and that can make it especially difficult for them to access their intuition. Either they cannot get an intuitive sense of the person in front of them or they have never learned to trust and rely upon their own senses.”

People in many parts of the world rely upon their intuition on a daily basis to make important decisions. They are able to tune into their intuition whenever they meet or interact with other people. I’ve lived on American Indian reservations and have spent lots of time in other parts of the world where I was forced to rely upon my intuition as a matter of personal survival.

We all can and need to develop the sensitivity that will enable us to sense what other people are about. Working with the practice of breathing into my feelings and sensations and all the other healing practices I have done has enabled me to develop and refine my own sensitivity.

Personals ads used to be relegated to the classified ads section of our local newspapers in years past. People generally met one another through introduction by friends or family members or they would approach and then engage the men or women they found themselves attracted to in conversation.

Online matchmaking has become a huge moneymaking business. The people who operate eHarmony, match.com, and shaadi.com and thousands of other matchmaking sites are capitalizing off of our fear, isolation, loneliness and social ineptitude which are bi-products of the cultural trance many of us are living in that tells us we are not safe getting to know and interact with people we encounter as we move through the world.

I’m not against online dating. I know people who have had wonderful success with online dating and have gone out on lots of dates with all kinds of interesting people. I know others who have found the love of their lives through online matchmaking sites. I encourage people to be open to any means of meeting potential partners. I just feel that it’s very unhealthy for people become so reliant upon online dating that it prevents them from developing important social skills or interacting directly with one another.

People living in rural areas often contend with the reality of having a very limited selection of perspective mates to chose from. Those of us who live in places like New York City and Boston are surrounded by thousands of available men and women. It’s unfortunate that many of us have become so fearful of one another that we cannot start a conversation, exchange contact information, email and talk on the phone and then meet again.

Online matchmaking often sets the stage for duplicity. People who post profiles on line can easily create the kind of image they want to portray to prospective suitors. The problem is that we cannot see the real personality of the individual whose profile we are viewing because that person is not right here in front of us.

People often lie about their age, weight, height and other important personal details in their online profiles. Some even lie about their marital status. Many lie because they are afraid that they won’t attract the kind of person they desire to meet if they are truthful and others are just downright dishonest.

We often respond to the profiles of people whose photo’s appeal to us. But many people do not really look like the pictures they post online. Sometimes we see someone face to face and they turn out to be a completely different person than we expected to meet.

On line matchmaking has transformed the process of finding love into an application for our computers and smart phones. People searching through profiles quickly evaluate the profiles of prospective matches according to their age, photo, social status, profession, hobbies and various other factors. Those who do not meet specific criteria are quickly eliminated.

Many people rather send text messages or interact with other people online because of their own insecurities and unwillingness to show up and be present in a relationship or deal with the realities of our physical day to day existence. We cannot directly participate in our own lives when we are hiding behind the screen of a computer. For this reason we are going backwards in terms of our own growth and development.

My friend Natasha commented to me the other day that people often turn and look away if she makes eye contact or smiles at them. It’s very sad to see how so many people are cocooning themselves.

We are becoming more and more isolated. Our isolation is largely a result of our fears of other people, our unwillingness to experience our true feelings and face our issues and our over reliance upon computers, smart phones and other technology. The technology that was designed to serve us is now enslaving us. We go about our day to day existence living in a bubble because we are so hooked into our on line social networks that we cease to participate in life by directly engaging with those around us.

We are now living in a culture where people assume that it is normal to meet total strangers online, but we are not open to approaching or being approached by that same individual during the course of our day. Either we are afraid to approach or we become fearful and put up a wall just because someone starts talking to us. It’s tragic that many people cannot even recognize how dysfunctional we have become.

People often hide behind computers screens because they have never really develop the social skills that are necessary to approach others or to respond appropriately while being approached. In many ways online matchmaking is making it harder and harder for people to directly engage with one another because it is reinforcing our lack of social skills and the fears that are keeping us isolated.

Are you part of the problem or part of the solution?

Shut down your computer and turn off your smart phone. Get off your ass, go out there and start participating in life. Start making eye contact and engage with the people around you. Keep yourself open to being approached by other interesting people.

Tune into senses by noticing how you feel within your body as you interact with people. Disengage if you feel uncomfortable with someone. Exchange contact info if you get a good feeling about the person you are connecting to. Email or talk on the phone …and meet again …and again …and again! Take time to get to know the people you feel drawn to. Proceed from there when it feels right.

©Copyright 2013 Ben Oofana. All Rights Reserved. This content may be copied in full, with copyright, contact, creation and information intact, without specific permission.

Yin-Yang Balance: Why it’s So Important for Men and Women to Have Platonic Friends of the Opposite Gender

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The feelings of attraction that begin to emerge during our adolescence can be all consuming. I wanted so much to have a love in my life as I grew into adulthood, but I was so painfully shy that I had to force myself to talk to women. My attempts to approach and engage with women were sometimes very awkward. I would often trip over my words or go completely blank. My social anxieties gradually abated as I continued to engage with women. I began to realize after some time that I really enjoyed women and that I felt much more comfortable relating to them.

Men and women have a tendency to exist within their own subcultures. A friend of mine who used to work as a bartender talked about how women came to the bar with their circle of girlfriends. Men usually came to the bars wanting to hook up, but those who tried to approach were often shot down. Most of the guys I know hang out with their guy friends. And women usually spend time with their girlfriends. Men and women complain about not having a love in their lives and that they don’t seem to be meeting anyone, and yet many are not doing anything constructive to change their situation.

I like to meet and spend time with interesting people. I talk with women I encounter along the way whenever the opportunity presents itself. Engaging with women in New York City can be difficult because many regard any man who approaches them in a public setting as a potential predator. There have been so many instances where I’ve met women and I could tell that they really liked me. Some have even spent hours meeting with me over coffee, but the underlying fears and sense of guardedness or the fact that they were too busy precluded the possibility of any kind of meaningful connection. It became quite obvious as I had the opportunity to get to know more women in the city that many have been deeply hurt. The stresses of living in the city make it that much more difficult for them to work through their fears, heal the hurts or tune in to their intuition.

Women that I encounter in other cities across the United States and countries in other parts of the world tend to be more open and engaging. I found women in Japan and China to be incredibly friendly and easy to talk with. Sri Lankan women often make eye contact and smile at me. India tends to be more conservative. A number of the women that I’ve approached while in India were initially standoffish, but would often let their guard down once they realized that I wasn’t a threat.

I’m intrigued by strong, intelligent and creative women. I’ll talk with any woman I encounter if I feel a sense of resonance. Many of the women that I’ve engaged with automatically assumed that I was romantically interested in them. It took a while for some of the women I met in India and Sri Lanka to get used to the fact that I was only interested in platonic friendship. A number of friendships have developed out of these connections.

Other women that I spent time with became very angry when I didn’t reciprocate their romantic interest. In some instances they completely stopped talking to me. Men and women who cut a person of the opposite gender off just because he or she doesn’t reciprocate their feelings are incredibly short sighted. Some of the women who didn’t reciprocate my love interest have turned out to be valuable friends. I have often realized sometime down the road that we were better off as friends anyway. Other relationships that had started out as friendships eventually led to romance. I’m also cognizant of the fact that my platonic girlfriends have friends that they can introduce me to.

South Asian societies have traditionally been very segregated. Men in much of India have very limited interaction with women outside of their own immediate families. The lack of normal healthy male to female interaction contributes to the misogynistic mindset, domestic and sexual violence, perversion and other forms of dysfunction that are so prevalent in present day Indian society. A large percentage of the Indian men that I’ve met have absolutely no sense of how to relate to women. Arranged marriages are still fairly common in this part of the world. Many of the single men and women I’ve gotten to know along the way were still waiting for their parents to select a life partner for them.

All men and women have both masculine and feminine attributes. Men who fail to develop their inner feminine are often lacking in sensitivity and that may prevent them from developing their capacity for compassion, empathy and intuition. Women who are not in touch with their inner masculine are less likely to develop the strength needed to fully assert themselves and stand on their own. Men who fail to develop their inner feminine and women who lack their inner masculine attributes are seriously out of balance. Spending time with friends of the opposite gender helps us to develop a healthy balance of internal masculine and feminine attributes.

Single men and women sometimes fall into a state of desperation in their search for love. Our state of desperation throws us way out of balance and that decreases our chances of finding the love that we truly need and desire.

I went through some very difficult periods of time when I wasn’t connecting with anyone on a romantic level. Having platonic girlfriends to spend time with made such a huge difference. Having these women in my life helped to alleviate the painful feelings of aloneness. The nurturance I received through our friendship helped to balance me energetically and emotionally. Having a grounded presence made it much easier for me to connect when I did meet someone that I truly resonated with.

There’s a huge disconnect between men and women. We’ve learned from a very early age to disconnect from our feelings and physical bodies and that causes us to shut down or disconnect from parts of ourselves. The disconnect between the genders is a reflection of how disconnected we have become from ourselves.

We have all heard the adage that says love is blind. Highly charged feelings and the accompanying projections experienced when we fall in love blind us in such a way that it that prevent us from seeing the object of our desire for who they truly are. Most of us have been hurt or taken advantage of somewhere along the way. We’ve become angry, frustrated, and fearful and feel suspicious of one other. Pain and trauma held within keeps us locked into a holding pattern that causes us to attract similar partners and reenact the same kinds of dramas.

We barely understand ourselves, let alone another human being. Men and women often feel as though they were relating to someone from a different species or another planet all together when they attempt to relate to a person from the opposite gender. Platonic friendships help to bridge the gender gap by creating a more neutral environment that can at times be more conducive for learning to relate to the other half of the human species. Being connected to people of the opposite gender will then begin to feel more like a normal and natural everyday occurrence.

Men often fall into the trap of getting hung up on a woman’s physical appearance and that prevents them from seeing a woman for who she truly is as an individual. Spending time with platonic women friends has helped me to get a better sense of the women I encounter along the way. I have a better sense of when a woman is being genuine. I can tell if she’s caring and compassionate, honest, sincere and if she comes from a place of integrity.

We all need to learn how to be a friend before we can ever become a good companion. My platonic girlfriends often open up to share what’s going on in their lives. I emphasize with their hurts, fears and disappointments. Gaining an understanding of what my friends have gone through in their lives and how they feel helps me avoid some of the pitfalls and mistakes that guys often make that damage relationships. It also helps me to develop the understanding and empathy that enables me to be a more caring and compassionate friend, romantic partner and possibly future husband.

©Copyright 2013 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. To learn more or to schedule a private session call (913) 927-4281