Author Archives: Tara

Listening to understand not to dispute.

One of the most prevalent forms of listening is done with the hopes to fortify our own preexisting opinion. One could say that it is, in fact, not listening at all. This lack of listening keeps us in the dark with the company of our own limited point-of-view.


If what someone is saying lines up with a belief we already have we consider them to be brilliant. If their opinions vary from ours we either checkout, consider the other to be foolish and/or try to convert their view all together. What is often over looked is that we don’t need to defend our point of view on something.


Lao Tzu is quoted saying, “Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.”  There is great wisdom in this saying. To have a deeper experience with this saying consider for a moment the following question: “Do you know what an orange tastes like?”.


When I ask this question to people in my practice it has always been met with the same response: “Yes, of course I know what an orange tastes like.”


The next task that is presented is much trickier. “Tell me what an orange tastes like”.  People do their best to describe the experience of tasting an orange.


-“It’s sweet and tangy.”5038357

-“It’s citrus-y and juicy.”

-“It’s tart and smooth.”



When asked how well they believe these descriptions cover they taste of an orange the answer is unanimous that the words fall short. When we know the flavor of something words do not describe it. When we know the smell of something no words will cover it. The same is true with anything we experience.


How do you explain an orgasm, falling in love, the loss of a loved one, or the feeling of betrayal? Words do not come close to illuminating what one experiences. While we can see it clearly in these examples, it gets much harder for us to come to terms that this is the same thing we do when we fight about being right in our relationships.


We forget that we do not have possession of the truth and misunderstand that our words will never encompass it. Just like the finger pointing at the moon is not the moon, so too our words are only pointers to what we are experiencing from our particular point of view.


When we begin to understand how limited our singular view on something is the need to be right becomes less important.  We being to understand that the words we use to point out our stance in an argument is just as limited as the words use to describe the taste of an orange.


We can then begin to take a deeper, more encompassing look at the situation. We begin to take in others view points as not opposing sides but another angle on the same situation.  No one who has tasted an orange would argue with any of the above descriptions, but they would also not be fooled by their personal attachment to the words they used to describe the fruit.


No words will ever encompass the truth, only point to it. Next time that you find yourself arguing with your partner, friend, family or whomever remember that taste of an orange and the words of Lao Tzu.


“Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.” -Lao Tzu


The Art Of Giving

The truly given gift will never result in loss. When the gift or acts we share in our relationship are truly gifts they cannot result in resentment.


What happens in many relationship is that we give something, not as a gift, but as a loan that is meant to accrue interest. We give something away to our partner hoping it will give us back something better. These interactions are subtle but have a very serious impact on the relationship.


The interaction might look like: I’ll make you dinner, if you thank me. It may appear as: I’ll work very hard and give money to you and our family but I need you to act in a particular manner (i.e. more sex, you must appreciate me). OR I’ll be patient but you must change.


We have the ability to give from two different sources: fear or love. When we give from a place of fear, we give from a place of seeing ourselves as incomplete or lacking something. We give a gift thinking that the other person has something of value that we need to obtain. This something of value may be something as simple as getting a thank you in return or having that person acknowledge you for your effort. Either way you are looking for something particular to come out of it.


When we give from a place of love we experience a very different interaction in the giving of a gift or performing of an action.


When we give from a place of love we give from a place of knowing our true complete nature. When we give from a place of love, we give and do not require a particular behavior. Love needs nothing. Love is whole and complete on it’s own. When we give from a place of love we are reminded of our own complete loving nature.


When love is the source of the giving we welcome any response without the slightest irritation. Giving from a place of love we are reminded of our wholeness.



Something helpful to remember:


If you are about to give something and you are not ok with every response that could come out of your choice to give it is sign that you are giving from fear and not love.  Giving from fear equates to giving with the hopes of getting something back or giving with the hopes to fill a void that you perceive in yourself. Giving from fear is one of the surest ways to build resentment.


Letting Go To Keep: Letting go of control in the marriage

Go back to the moment in your memory that you can recall falling in love with your beloved.  You may or may not currently be with that beloved at this moment but it makes no difference for this.


Something incredible happens when we first fall in love. When we first fall in love we have this incredible ability to see that person as they really are, our sight cuts through their childhood conditioning, their ego defenses and we can see their divine nature. When we get this glimpse of another’s light or their innocence beneath the conditioning of their form we are reminded of our own innocence and experience this incredible, marvelous lightness that we call love.


This love feeling is always coming from us. Its our own light that we recognize in another but we can be easily tricked into believing that the other person has the good stuff that we crave. This is when that old rascal fear begins to creep in again. This is exactly when we begin to experience the deliciousness of love sifting out of our relationship.


We become so afraid of losing this treasure that we have found that we squeeze on to it, trying to control so much that we crush the life out of it.



Allen Watts, in one of his lectures, talks about a little girl to whom someone gave a bunny rabbit. This little girl was so delighted with the bunny and so afraid of losing it that in the car ride home she crushed the bunny rabbit to death with love.  So often we too do this same thing to the people we love.


One can hang on too hard to someone and so choke the breath of love and wild excitement right out of the relationship.


This is a technique people fall into with the best intentions. “I want my husband to look at me as if he could eat every bit of me.” “Want my wife to desire me in the most hopelessly breath-taking way.” So they begin to monitor and push and give “suggestions”, and threaten or remind the other of potential consequences if they don’t change their behavior.


They will do everything humanly possible to force this response they are looking for not knowing that they are slowly pressing the wildness, freedom, luscious desire and joy out of their connection.



Pleasure in its fullness cannot be experienced when one is grasping it. One must open their hands and give it space to flow in its own accord. By this it does not mean checking out of life and going through it like a robot. Rather, you are fully engaged without trying to control or determine the outcome.


You enjoy the caress of the wind, song of the bird and perfume of grass but never once did you ever have to tell them how to move, sing or smell.  You must be fully engaged to experience wind, bird and grass but at the same time the experience is with an open hand, never grasping. You let go to experience pleasure. You let it go to keep it.



Finding Your Marital North Star

premarital counseling charleston scOften times when I work with premarital couples I ask them what characteristics they would like to see in their marriage. I encourage these couples to take time to think about what is important to them in a relationship, write it down and look back on in frequently.  I then talked to couples about using this list as their North Star that will guide their behavior in their marriage.


During the good times we don’t need this list as a guide. We can easily see the good in our partner and are open and loving. But when things become difficult we quickly lose sight of what is important to us and we get pulled off course.


In difficult times many people will begin to use their partner’s behavior as a guide for their own behavior (i.e. you hurt me so I will hurt you back, you are disrespectful to me so I will be disrespectful back, you withhold from me so I will withhold from you). One can see how this would become a vicious cycle for disaster.


We get pulled away from what we really want in our relationship if we base our behavior on someone else’s behavior.  This is because behavior is not a constant in any relationship. Additionally, our perception of behavior is not constant so all it would take is our perception being off for us to be pulled off course.



I was having brunch with an unmarried pregnant friend recently. During the course of brunch she was telling me that she was in a difficult position about what last name to give her baby who was soon to be born. She was no longer with the baby’s father in the romantic sense and she was not happy with all of his life choices.


On the one hand she was not particularly attached to her last name and she did not feel compelled to give the baby her name for any personal reason.  But, on the other hand she was not sure if she wanted to give her baby the father’s last name because she felt as if she was rewarding him with that honor.


We talked about it a little and I asked her if she wanted a friend answer or a therapist answer. She said she would like to hear both. As her friend I told her, “F- him” we laughed and than I told her about what I talked about above.


I asked her to think about what kind of relationship she would ideally like to have. What characteristics would it have? I encouraged her to use these as a guide during these difficult times so she did not get pulled away from what she really wanted in her relationship.


There is one mistake that people commonly make with this exercise. They make their list and then expect their partner to do it. Or, they give these things only if they feel their partner is doing the same thing.


What ever you want in your relationship give it to your partner, but give it freely with no expectation of getting it back or needing it back. When we need to get the behavior back in order to give it we fall into the trap of using our partner’s behavior as our guide. This will lead us off course.



There is one phrase that helps me when making difficult decisions in my life and I use this as my guide in all my relationships, whether personal or professional. My go-to phrase that helps me is “Is it loving?”


This phrase helps me when I get off course and even though I am not behaviorally perfect and forget this phrase, it is always there to help when I am ready and open to accept its strength and wisdom.


The phrase, “Is it loving?” does not mean I become a doormat in every situation. It might be more loving to leave a situation then it would be to stay. If I am married to someone who hits me and my children the most loving thing might be to leave. This person hitting me cannot see that there is a better way to live. As long as I stay I may be holding them back from seeing another way to manage their anger.


It might be more loving to stop giving financial support to my child so they can learn how strong they really are. It might be more loving to let my child struggle with the consequences of poor decisions. Being expelled from school and grounded for drinking at school helps the child learn appropriate behavior. It may also keep them from progressing their behavior of drinking that later develops into driving under the influence and killing someone else.



“Is it loving” can also be applied to the thoughts I think about other people. Thinking unloving thoughts about any one has a direct effect on me. I don’t like the way I feel when I think of someone else being the “bad guy”. When we can see the innocence in another it has a different effect. When I can see the person as doing the best they can in that circumstance the emotional pressure is released.



Examples of Characteristics People Report Using as Their North Star in Their Marriage:



  • Respect
  • Listen to understand not to dispute
  • Kindness
  • Forgiveness
  • Understanding
  • Not nitpicking faults
  • Open to suggestions
  • Giving partner space to be exactly the way they are
  • Taking responsibility for behavior
  • Willing to admit when they make a mistake