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Week of February 10th, 2022

Relationships Need Artful Imagination


Gertrude Stein defined love as "the skillful audacity required to share an inner life." It suggests that expressing the truth about who you are is not something that amateurs do very well. Practice and ingenuity are required.

It also implies that courage is an essential element of successful intimacy. You've got to be adventurous if you want to weave your life together with another's.

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For a relationship to stay alive, love alone is not enough. Without imagination, love stales into sentiment, duty, boredom. Relationships fail not because we have stopped loving but because we first stopped imagining.

—James Hillman

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"Why is it so hard to find a soulmate?" asks psychologist Carolyn Godschild Miller in her book Soulmates: Following Inner Guidance to the Relationship of Your Dreams.

Her answer: "Because most of us are actually searching for egomates instead. We place the most limited and unloving aspect of our minds in charge of our search for love, and then wonder why we aren't succeeding.

"To the degree that we identify with this false sense of self, and operate on the basis of its limited point of view, we aren't looking for someone to love so much as recruiting fellow actors to take on supporting roles in a favorite melodrama."

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I invite you to act like a person who's in love.

Even if you're not currently in the throes of passion for a special someone, pretend you are.

Everywhere you go, exude that charismatic blend of shell-shocked contentment and blissful turmoil that comes over you when you're infatuated.

Let everyone you meet soak up the delicious wisdom you exude.

Dispense free blessings and extra slack like a rich saint high on natural endorphins.

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Imagine that the merger of you and your best ally has created a third thing that hovers near you, protecting and guiding the two of you.

Call this third thing an angel.

Or call it the soul of your connection or the inspirational force of your relationship.

Or call it the special work the two of you can accomplish together.

And let this magical presence be the third point of your love triangle.

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Whenever I write about romance and togetherness, I attract a storm of complaints from readers who are solitary. "How dare you imply that everyone has or should have a partner!?" is a typical protest. "I'm quite content being alone!" is another.

Let it be known that I do not believe your happiness depends on having a spouse or lover. What I do suspect, though, is that your soul needs some sacred relationship in order to thrive, whether it's with a good friend, a beloved animal, a beautiful patch of earth, the Divine Wow, or anything that's not you.

Whenever I invite you to seek deeper, wilder communion, feel free to interpret it as a call to explore any kind of intimacy that draws you closer to the secret heart of the world.

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"The Orgasmic Roots of Pronoia" is one of the few NC-17-rated pieces in my book. For those of you over 18, here's the link: here's the link.

PROCEED WITH CAUTION! This material has graphic references to love, lust, tenderness, bliss, and rapture.

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"Everyone carries with them at least one piece to someone else's puzzle." So wrote Lawrence Kushner in his book, *Honey from the Rock*.

In other words, you have in your possession certain clues to your loved ones' destinies -- secrets they haven't discovered themselves.

Wouldn't you love to hand over those clues -- to make a gift of the puzzle pieces that are most needed by the people you care about?

Search your depths for insights you've never communicated. Tell truths you haven't found a way to express before now. More than you know, you have the power to mobilize your companions' dreams.

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Are you in quest of a Soul Friend or a Freaky Consort? A Wild Confidante? A Master of Curiosity who listens better than anyone ever or a Lucid Dreamer with whom you can practice the Art of Liberation?

The Beauty and Truth Lab's rapturists have formulated a batch of personal ads for you to borrow. They have been designed to attract allies who are committed to the art of compassionate lust and blasphemous reverence.

If you're a Crafty Optimist or Mystical Activist or Ceremonial Teaser who aspires to put the elation back in relationship, you're invited to plagiarize any part of them for your own use.

Here's the link.

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You understand that you can never own love, right? No matter how much someone adores you today, no matter how much you adore someone, you can't force that unique state of grace to keep its shape forever.

It will inevitably evolve or mutate, perhaps into a different version of tender caring, but maybe not.

From there it will continue to change, into either yet another version of interesting affection, or who knows what else?

Are you making any progress in getting the hang of this tricky wisdom?

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You are my inspiration and my folly. You are my light across the sea, my million nameless joys, and my day's wage. You are my divinity, my madness, my selfishness, my transfiguration and purification. You are my rapscallionly fellow vagabond, my tempter and star. I want you.

—George Bernard Shaw

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In Joseph Campbell's vision of myth, the hero is typically a solitary male who renounces intimate companionship to pursue his glorious, arduous quest. Along the way, sporadic help may arrive from an ineffable muse or deity.

There are alternative scenarios for the hero's journey, but Campbell underplayed them. In the tantric tradition, for instance, a seeker's connection with a beloved human companion is essential to his or her spiritual inquiry.

Some early Christians described Jesus and Mary Magdalene as equal collaborators. Sufi mystic poet Rumi may not have actually made love with his teacher Shams (then again, he might have), but it's clear the two men sought divine communion together, not through lonely solo work.

Some modern teachers have broken from Campbell's narrow perspective. The quest for illumination, they say, can thrive on the challenges of loving and living with an actual person. In John Welwood's Love and Awakening, the author re­imagines relationship as an "alliance of warriors" devoted to awakening each other's "holy longing."

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Early in his career, Robert Bly rarely wrote love poetry, though he studied the work of others who did.

As he aged, he stopped reading the angst-ridden ruminations of modern poets and sought out the ecstatic love poetry of mystics like Rumi and Kabir. Increasingly, forgiveness and compassion became central aspects of Bly's emotional repertoire.

His rage about his own past romantic disappointments dissipated. In his mid­40s, he wrote Loving a Woman in Two Worlds, his first collection of love poetry.

Critiquing it for The New York Times Book Review, Fred Chappell said it wasn't a real book of love poems, because there wasn't enough hatred and anger in it.

On Bly's behalf, we offer a response to Mr. Chappell: We love you, goddamnit.

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"The psychic health of an individual resides in the capacity to recognize and welcome the 'Other,'" writes poet and translator Rosanna Warren in The Art of Translation.

"Our word 'idiot' comes from the Greek idiotes, whose primary sense is of privacy or isolation."

With this warning, Warren builds her case for the virtues of reading literature that has been translated from its native tongue.

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by Steve Penny

"Why is sex the most fun people have without laughing or smiling? Think about it. When enjoying most other physical pleasures, you smile and laugh.

"It may be because we have millions of years of evolutionary history with sex being closely linked to aggression and dominance—especially for men, who feel a big push to beat out their competitors and get their genes into the next generation.

"Another reason most people don't smile or laugh during sex is that desire has an edge to it. You know how hard it is to tell sometimes if animals are fighting or mating?

"Many human relationships have a similar quality. It's hard to tell if the couple is actually in love or strangely addicted to tormenting each other.

"This difference in how we experience sexual pleasure compared to other types of joy may be one reason so many people end up in relationships where the sex is fantastic but everything else is screwed.

"Biologists classify all living things by their reproductive habits because, from an evolutionary standpoint, it's the slowest behavior to change.

"Laughter, on the other hand, is fairly recent in an evolutionary sense. While several primates smile (although not necessarily from joy), and chimpanzees and gorillas chuckle and tickle, humans are the only species that truly laughs from joy.

"Maybe sex is the most fun people have without laughing because our slow-to-change reproductive behavior hasn't caught up with the more recent development in evolution—laughter."

—Steve Penny, How to Have Great Laughing Sex,

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A pig's orgasm can last for 30 minutes.

Orangutans and macaques masturbate with sex toys made of leaves and twigs.

The ladybird beetle can copulate for up to nine hours at a time, and males are capable of three orgasms in one session, each an hour and a half long.

The male members of the fruit fly species Drosophila bifurca are one-eighth of an inch long, but their sperm can be up to 2.3 inches long.

About eight percent of domestic rams prefer other males as sexual partners.

As soon as the male praying mantis begins coitus with the female, she bites off his head and eats it.

An adult female elephant's clitoris is between six and twelve inches long, and the spotted hyena female has such a large clitoris that she is frequently mistaken for a male.

An oyster is usually ambisexual; it begins life as a male, then becomes a female, then changes back to being a male, then back to being female.

A whale's penis is called a dork.

Some dolphins try to have intercourse with turtles, sharks, and seals.

Slugs are hermaphrodites with penises on their heads. Asian stick insects sometimes indulge in coitus for ten weeks straight.

The slime mold comes in 500 genders, and at least 13 of these have to collaborate in order to reproduce.

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To achieve what the Zen Buddhists call “beginner’s mind,” you dispense with all preconceptions and enter each situation as if seeing it for the first time. “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities,” wrote Shunryu Suzuki. “but in the expert’s there are few.”

As much as I love beginner’s mind, though, I advocate an additional discipline: cultivating a beginner’s heart. That means approaching every encounter imbued with a freshly invoked wave of love that is as pure as if you’re feeling it for the first time.

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In her book Women Who Run with the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estés suggests that we all need to periodically go cheerfully and enthusiastically out of our minds.

Make sure, she says, that at least one part of you always remains untamed, uncategorizable, and unsubjugated by routine. Be adamant in your determination to stay intimately connected to all that's inexplicable and mysterious about your life.

At the same time, though, Estés believes you need to keep your unusual urges clear and ordered. Discipline your wildness, in other words, and don't let it degenerate into careless disorder.

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Wabi-¬sabi is a Japanese term that refers to a captivating work of art with a distinctive flaw that embodies the idiosyncratic humanity of its creator. An aqua groove in an otherwise perfectly green ceramic pot may give it wabi-sabi. A skilled blues singer who intentionally wails out of pitch for a moment may be expressing wabi¬-sabi.

Wabi-sabi is rooted in the idea that perfection is a kind of death.

"The essence of wabi-¬sabi is that true beauty, whether it comes from an object, architecture, or visual art, doesn't reveal itself until the winds of time have had their say. Beauty is in the cracks, the worn spots, and the imperfect lines."

—Todd Dominey

Wabi-sabi is a kind of beauty that's imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete, says Leonard Koren in his book Wabi-¬Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers. It differs from Western notions that beauty resides in the "monumental, spectacular, and enduring." It's about "the minor and the hidden, the tentative and the ephemeral: things so subtle and evanescent they are almost invisible at first glance."


"When bread is baked, some parts are split at the surface, and these parts which thus open, and have a certain fashion contrary to the purpose of the baker's art, are beautiful, and in a peculiar way excite a desire for eating.

“Again, figs, when they are quite ripe, gape open; and in the ripe olives the very circumstance of their being near to rottenness adds a peculiar beauty to the fruit.

“And the ears of corn bending down, and the lion's eyebrows, and the foam which flows from the mouth of wild boars, though they are far from being beautiful, please the mind."

—Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, translated by George Long

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"Irregularity and unpredictability are important features of health. On the other hand, decreased variability and accentuated periodicities are associated with disease. Healthy systems don't want homeostasis. They want chaos."

—John R. Van Eenwyk, "The Chaotic Dynamics of Everyday Life"


"One must have chaos within oneself if one is to be a dancing star."

—Friedrich Nietzsche


"We are too sincere, too productive, and too realistic. We need to enter more fully and more willingly into that realm under the rocks and behind the mirror."

—Thomas Moore


"There is nothing stable in the world; uproar's your only music."

—John Keats


"Half of what you know today will be obsolete in five years. That prospect should fill you with excitement."

—Vimala Blavatsky


"In teaching my students, I try to figure out what questions I can ask that have no right answer. I seek to frame paradoxes, to force students to develop original thought."

—Meg Gorman, teacher

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Meditation teacher Jack Kornfield espouses an interesting method for dealing with negative and unwanted thoughts. Don't let them possess you, he says, and don't assume you have to act them out.

On the other hand, don't struggle mightily to suppress them, either. Instead, try this: Bow to the offending idea. Acknowledge and admire its power. Express your gratitude and respect to it for galvanizing so much of your psychic energy.

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Most people associate innocence with naiveté. Conventional wisdom regards it as belonging to children and fools and rookies who lack the sophistication or experience to know the tough truths about life.

But the Beauty and Truth Lab recognizes a different kind of innocence. It's based on an understanding that the world is always changing, and therefore deserves to be seen fresh every day. This alternative brand of innocence is fueled by an aggressive determination to keep clearing one's imagination of all preconceptions.

"Ignorance is not knowing anything and being attracted to the good," wrote Clarissa Pinkola Estés in *Women Who Run with the Wolves*. "Innocence is knowing everything and still being attracted to the good.

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