Modern Science and Ancient Wisdom for Living the Good Life

  • Featured Post

    9 Reasons Why Men Lose Interest — and What You Can Do About It

    Here’s a most excellent letter about a question that every woman has asked at some point in her life:

    “Why is it that a guy fiercely pursues a woman at first, and then when he finds out she is actually interested he is not so sure if he is interested anymore? And then his interest wanes and he starts treating her like an option instead of a priority? When can you let a guy know you are interested! At what stage? Is dating just one big game? How do you get a guy to treat you like priority instead of an option? For background, I’m 29, live in Australia, and I’ve been on 5 dates with this guy so far but we haven’t kissed yet.” — Sheila

    Well well. An excellent question that has been posed by women since time immemorial. There he was, totally interested, looking dapper in his buffalo skin while nonchalantly swinging his club at the cave entrance, offering you some freshly killed mastodon meat. There he was, showing up outside your castle window every day in his mostly shiny but frankly also a little rusty armor, strumming his lute and warbling his troubadour songs. There he was at the opera house, his head low and eyes up giving him that simultaneously worshipful and conspiratorial look, passing you a note saying, “Meet me at the fountain when the clock tower strikes nine.” There he was, texting you right back when you texted him, even asking you out on actual grown-up dates to actual grown-up places like concerts and lectures, and then… poof.

    What is up with that?! Why do men lose interest? What, if anything, could you have done differently? (more…)

  • How can I best serve you? (+ My podcast interview on raising your spirits)

    Greetings from sunny Los Angeles! Hope you’re doing exceptionally well wherever you are.

    So I had a little bit of a motivational slump myself these past few weeks, and now feel like I’m on an upward trend. Of course, of all the challenges one could have, this is a pretty high-quality one — vs say “can’t get a ventilator in the ICU.” To paraphrase the old Buddhist story: Thanks for everything. I have no complaints whatsoever.

    One of the ways I raise my own energies is by making myself useful to the world. So my very important question to you is this:

    How can I best serve you?

    Here are some potential options:

    • More articles on dating and relationships. Have been putting these on the backburner because the topic seems to have dropped in priority, but valid topic nonetheless. And I do have some new stuff for you, e.g. The Pipeline System.
    • More seminars and workshops on happiness and well-being. Did 10 of those and happy to do more.
    • Brain Yoga sessions. Exactly what it sounds like: a yoga class for your brain to make it stronger and more flexible.
    • Drop-in video office hours on Facebook or Zoom. These can be fun and interactive.
    • One-on-one coaching sessions, or long-term coaching programs. If you feel like this is what you need to get you to the next level, I’m all for it.
    • Tune Up Your Life Happiness Engineering group course. 3 months with a bunch of your peers to slowly, radically redesign your life.
    • Write the update to The Tao of Dating. Not sure if that’s what the world needs right now, but if you tell me otherwise, I could be convinced. Working title: Grown-Ass Dating: The Modern Woman’s Guide to Love & Romance

    So please drop me a line, and let your presence and thoughts be known! There are a lot of directions I could go in, so it’s crucial that I find out what YOU find the most beneficial.

    In the meantime, I just did an interview with my old friend & colleague Rebecca Whitman on her Balanced, Beautiful and Abundant show for smart accomplished women like yourself. And you know what? It came out purty good! For once, I listened to it myself (at 2x speed, of course), and I’m happy to report it did not bore me silly. It’s about the 5 Pillars of Human Thriving (Robust Relationships, Meaningful Work, Sound Sleep, Mental Fitness, Physical Fitness), how to apply them now and in the future, and what’s love got to do with it all. 22min at 2x speed, 44min if you’re the more patient type. Listen to it and let me know what you think!

    And if you’re wondering what I have been doing: reading even more than before. All nonfiction as usual. Some terrific ones of the 87 books of 2020 so far:

    Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs, by Michael T Osterholm PhD MPH (and Mark Olshaker). Osterholm is one of the world’s foremost public health professionals, having served for 40 years on the frontlines of such diseases as Ebola, SARS, MERS, Zika and everything else. This book will rapidly bring you up to speed on epidemiology and pandemic management. He also devotes a whole chapter to a “tabletop scenario” that’s basically a play-by-play description of the unfolding of the coronavirus epidemic. Insanely prescient, exceptionally timely.

    The Dreamt Land: Chasing Water and Dust Across California, by Mark Arax. Just came out. A deeply reported look from a native son into the history of water, irrigation, and farming in California, that desert turned into the world’s breadbasket and the US’s most populous state. How? And how sustainable is it? This elegiac, poetic, and unflinching book will tell you. Longish and totally worth it.

    Talk to me,

    Dr Ali

  • Staying Sane in Trying Times Seminars, Apr 22-25

    By popular request, I’m holding another series of Staying Sane Seminars this week.

    Now, attendance at the seminars has been robust, but not exactly internet-breaking. I myself just took an online seminar on marketing, and my instructor would tell me that I need to do a better job of letting you know what these seminars are and who they’re for.

    To that end, I will be sharing with you today a little bit more about my background and thinking:

    • Why these seminars are necessary
    • What qualifies me to teach you this stuff
    • Why this stuff is worthwhile
    • Who it’s for
    • What’s in these seminars anyway

    1. WHY THESE SEMINARS ARE NECESSARY, PANDEMIC OR NOT

    Here’s the deal: the universe was kind enough to drop the most complex machine in the entire cosmos into your cranium. It’s called your brain.

    Unfortunately, the universe forgot to include an owner’s manual. So most people — and by “most” I mean 99.964% — are running around feeling feelings and thinking thoughts that don’t necessarily serve them all the time. Stuff like fear, doubt, worry, self-loathing, shame, loneliness, and various flavors of self-inflicted misery.

    What makes things worse is that evolution designed our magnificent brains for survival on the African savanna 300,000 years ago. This is before the era of gridlock traffic, report deadlines, “Real Housewives”, and competitive kindergarten admissions. So there’s a lot of evolutionary mismatch between what our brains are optimized for and the challenges we encounter in 2020 C.E.

    That means all of us have these ancient brains that aren’t adapted to modern environments. So we don’t necessarily feel so good all the time. That’s where I come in.

    2. WHAT I HAVE TO TEACH YOU (a.k.a. who the hell is this guy anyway)

    Hi there! Dr Ali here. I have been studying how the mind works for over 20 years now. As an undergraduate physics and biology major at Harvard, I performed research in neuroscience. After that, I studied medicine and workings of the body-mind at UC San Diego School of Medicine.

    One day I sat in on a class on clinical hypnotherapy to heckle it. I found that hypnotherapy was effective beyond all reason for many conditions — and massively underused. Subsequently I got certified in it not once but twice, and have been practicing clinical hypnotherapy since.

    I also got twice certified in another mind-healing modality called Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). Like an antibiotic, it was very effective for treating specific things. And when it worked, it was mind-bendingly effective. It could do in 20 minutes what 3 months of therapy couldn’t accomplish. Like magic.

    Since 1999, I have been studying and practicing yoga. Yoga is a supremely powerful way to train the mind, and fortunately, it has become more popular in recent years. These days, people think of yoga as mostly just aerobics in Sanskrit. Although doing yoga booty ballet is still better than not doing it, it’s a far cry from what the likes of Paramahansa Yogananda taught. The truly transformative aspects of yoga are in meditation and breathwork.

    I’ve also attended dozens of personal development workshops and lectures, from the mainstream (e.g. Tony Robbins), to the offbeat (e.g. Wim Hof ice baths), to the esoteric (inner fire Tibetan tummo tantra taught by a reincarnated lama). And I read 160 nonfiction books a year, mostly on psychology and personal development.

    I’m telling you all this because you need to know that these Staying Sane Seminars aren’t just any old seminar. They’re a collection of THE best, most effective practices I’ve gathered over the past 20-some years. Stuff that works astonishingly well to transform the way you feel and think.

    I call it Creative Repatterning: you’re using the creativity of your own mind to change its patterns. Think of it as personal training for your brain.

    You know how you feel after watching a Cirque du Soleil performance? How you say “wooow” a few times, and feel like a different person? Senses elevated. Mind expanded. Think of this as the Cirque du Soleil of personal development seminars.

    Definitely not ordinary.

    And for the time being, they’re free. Come on down.

    3. WHO THESE SEMINARS ARE FOR

    Who is this for? Anyone with a mind. Especially one that experiences occasional disquietude and suffering.

    Access greater equanimity. Diminish stress, anxiety & worry. Build a happier you no matter what’s happening. Join me, Dr Ali Binazir, as I share with you Creative Repatterning techniques for altering your body-mind that are quite literally life-changing.

    Click on the link to register via Zoom:
    Wednesday, 22 April 2020, 1pm PT/4pm ET/9pm London/6am Sydney
    (+1)
    Thursday, 23 April 2020, 1pm PT/4pm ET/9pm London/6am Sydney
    (+1)
    Friday, 24 April 2020, 5pm PT/8pm ET/1am London/10am Sydney
    (+1)
    Saturday, 25 April 2020, 11am PT/2pm ET/7pm London/stay sleeping Sydney

    4. WHAT’S IN THESE SEMINARS

    So far some of the topics we have covered:

    Meditation:

    • Focus and calm the mind and clear it of thoughts (hum-sau)
    • Becoming more compassionate towards others and self (metta or loving-kindness meditation)
    • Re-processing and transforming uncomfortable emotions (Tibetan tonglen)
    • Practicing integration of the full self (Dr Dan Siegel’s Wheel of Awareness)

    Emotional self-regulation:

    • Byron Katie’s “The Work”: a crazy-effective process for dealing with challenging people and situations
    • Whack-the-Ball: diminish painful emotions instantly
    • The Volume Dial: diminish suffering or physical pain on demand
    • Breathing techniques
    • Re-framing with modal operators

    Useful concepts and stories to shift your energy:

    • Spanda: the technique from Kashmiri Shaivic tantra to feel the vibration of the universe
    • Embodied cognition and the pen technique: the body leading the mind in feeling
    • Name it to tame it: Naming emotions as a way to make them more manageable
    • Meta-cognition: how to have thoughts about your thoughts  
    • How to generate and move energy through your body to change how you feel
    • Create your own happiness playlist on Spotify, or just use Dr Ali’s Moodlifter

    5. INTEGRATING THIS STUFF INTO YOUR LIFE

    If you’d like to get better at regulating your own feelings and developing an unshakable foundation of happiness, I’ve been working on a course that I’ll be starting soon for 20 people. If you’d like to be part of this first cohort, fill out the application here.

    I have time slots for 3-4 one-on-one coaching sessions per week. They are $200/hr, or $100 for 30min. If you’d like to book one of those, click here.

    Additionally, I have for you recordings of the first 6 seminars. Each one is different, with at least 80% new material:

    Happiness Engineering in Trying Times 1

    Staying Sane in Trying Times 2

    Staying Sane in Trying Times 3

    Staying Sane in Trying Times 4

    Staying Sane in Trying Times 5

    Staying Sane in Trying Times 6

    That’s all for now! Let me know:

    1. How this material is helpful to you,
    2. How you’re putting the material to use.
    3. The specific challenges you’re experiencing, and how I could help solve them.

    Email: ali (at) happinessengineering.com

  • The 5 Magic Questions recap & replay

    Ladies –

    Thanks for your enthusiastic response to the “5 Magic Questions” workshop! An unusually large number of you signed up (and paid!) for the livestream, so if that was you, I hope you’ve had a chance to listen/watch in the last week.

    The response of the live audience was very enthusiastic. I’ve already done 2 podcast interviews as a result, so I’ll take that as a vote of confidence.

    I went through a lot of material in the 90min. Some highlights:

    1) Am I enough?
    Wrong question, yo. Might as well ask “Am I a horrible person?” Questions direct the function of your brain, so ask good ones. Some better options: How can I make others feel like a million bucks? How can I serve? How can I be someone’s answered prayer today? THAT’s the kind of power that cannot be taken away from you.

    2) Am I buying or selling?
    Who has more power in a job interview, the interviewer or the interviewee? Then be the interviewer. Since a date is basically an evening-length job interview that costs you money, I find this analogy particularly apt.

    3) What do you really want?
    This is complicated. We went through an exercise that will really clarify this for you, using the 5Ks framework and another neat hack involving looking back on all your breakups (fun!).

    4) Do I feel safe?
    There’s faux safety, which basically duplicates the environment you grew up in. And there’s real psychological safety, which allows your full flourishing and the giving of your gift to the world. Know the difference.

    5) Who am I really?
    I did 3 visualizations and meditations to radically reconfigure your mind around this one, so yeah, you just may have to listen to it :)

    You can download the workshop for free, then decide how much you want to pay. In an election year, this is about as democratic as it gets. And I get to receive some extremely honest feedback from you, in the form of how much you’re willing to plunk down (recommended minimum: $5; maximum: none :-) Fair enough? You can zap the dough via Venmo (@abinazir) or Paypal (payments@taoofdating.com).

    Audio download (65.3Mb, 90min)

    Video download (1.21 Gb)

    Go forth and conquer, AB

  • WED FEB 19: The 5 Magic Questions – What 5000 Women’s Letters Reveal About Love & Dating

    Are you enough?
    Are you buying or selling?
    What do you want?
    Do you feel safe?
    Who are you, really?

    Here’s a quick story for you:

    On this day about 11 years ago, I published The Tao of Dating for women.

    I had already written the version for men, which took me 3 months to write. The book for women, on the other hand, took me over 3 years. Partly because at the time I didn’t really believe I was qualified to comment on the topic. What could a guy possibly know about such things?

    But since then, I’ve gotten over 5000 letters from my readers about their love lives. And certain patterns have revealed themselves from those letters, from which emerge The 5 Magic Questions.

    How you answer these questions determines not just the quality of your love life, but the quality of your whole existence.

    I’m not totally exaggerating here, m’dear. Questions like “Am I enough?” are always operating in the background, whether you’re dealing with a boss, a lover, a family member, a classroom of people, or just friends. It affects your salary, your health, your happiness.

    Science shows that the answer to the question “Do I feel safe?” determines the range of your existence: how far you’re willing to go beyond your comfort zone, how much risk you’re willing to take, and thus how much you can flourish as a human being.

    And, what DO you want? Ain’t that the perennial dilemma.

    Next Wednesday, Feb 19, 7.15pm-8.45pm PT/10.15pm-11.45pm ET via live workshop in LA and via Zoom livestream elsewhere, I will go through The 5 Magic Questions and their vast implications on your love life and beyond.

    For those of you who are in LA, the live workshop is $25. If you’re far away (like in Paris, Moscow, or Glendale), you can attend via livestream (or get the video and audio recording later) for just $10.

    Your time is the most precious commodity you have — the one thing that is completely irreplaceable.

    My job is to change people’s lives for the better in the time I have with them, whether through lecture, coaching or therapy. So when you choose to spend your time with me, I’ll do my darndest to deliver information that can transform you.

    I hope you can join us next Wednesday so you can stand taller, grow faster, and feel better in your life. Prepare to be moved. Sign up here. Full Eventbrite description below.

    All the best, Dr Ali

    THE 5 MAGIC QUESTIONS: WHAT 5000 WOMEN’S LETTERS REVEAL ABOUT LOVE & DATING

    Since I published The Tao of Dating 11 years ago, it has been the #1-rated dating book on Amazon for 7 years, as well as its most-highlighted title (what? seriously?). Tens of thousands of smart, strong professional women like yourself have enriched their love lives with its precepts.

    Over those 10 years, I’ve noticed a pattern from the 5000+ readers’ letters I’ve received: they all seem to contain the same 5 questions!

    I call these The 5 Magic Questions. Answer them right, and your love life will go spectacularly well. Get them wrong, and fulfillment will prove elusive.

    In this 75min workshop, we will examine who you really are, what truly fulfills you, how to find it, and how to keep it in your life. Some topics we’ll cover:

    • The perils and opportunities of online dating. Used incorrectly, tools like Tinder, Bumble, Match and OKcupid can make you miserable. Find out how to use them right.
    • The one question to ask to make sure a guy’s not a sociopath/psychopath
    • Lance, Biff and Victor: the three archetypes of men and how to spot them
    • How to tell the difference between Good Guys and Bad Boys, and avoid the latter like the plague
    • Subtle ways you may be sabotaging your own love life right now
    • Insights on how men think, from an actual guy :)

    I’ll be giving you tools from both the scientific and spiritual perspectives that my readers found useful for finding and keeping love in their lives. Are you ready to graduate from app swiping and superficial interactions to deep fulfillment and happiness? Then this workshop’s for you. Regardless of your age and whatever your dating situation is, these are the tools that can give you power that cannot be taken away. Sign up now and join the tens of thousands of women who have found more warmth and joy in their lives with The Tao of Dating.

    PS: I’ll talk for about 60min and take questions for the last 15min. There will be signed copies of The Tao of Dating paperback available for purchase for $20.

  • Dating Danger in the Digital Age: “Nobody’s Victim” by Carrie Goldberg

    ***Reminder: Webinar CHARISMA KILLERS: THE 7 DEADLY SINS OF PUBLIC SPEAKING is TOMORROW 13 DEC, 12pm PT/3pm ET/5pm São Paulo/8pm London. Sign up here.***

    A couple of months ago, I was wandering in one of my favorite spots in the world, The Strand Bookstore in New York City, when a book with an unusual cover caught my eye: Nobody’s Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalkers, Pervs, and Trolls by Carrie Goldberg (ebook & print).

    What is this all about? I requested the ebook from my local library via the insanely great Libby app (which you should all get, by the way). A few weeks later, I had the book in my paws for freeeee, wheeee. Aren’t libraries incredible? For a man with a 160 book-a-year habit, yes they are

    Halfway through the book, which I read in two sittings, I bought the book anyway because it’s scary good. As in both scary and good. So scary that I don’t think I ever want to have a daughter, jeebus.

    Carrie Goldberg is a lawyer whose law firm helps people who have been targeted by “psychos, assholes, trolls, and pervs.” These are terms of art that I’ll let Carrie herself describe:

    My staff and I have even developed a shorthand to describe the shitheads we see most often: psychos, who obsessively stalk, threaten, and intimidate their prey; assholes, who exploit or mistreat victims out of willful ignorance or arrogance or for their own financial gain; trolls, who terrorize victims under the cloak of internet anonymity; and pervs, who get off on overpowering victims into sex acts against their will.

    The stories of Carrie’s clients are harrowing to read. It’s remarkable how awful humans can be to each other. Well, actually, in this book, it’s men being awful to women, and sometimes to other men. (more…)

  • How to Get Guys: The 6.5 Dating Phases of Men

    Have you ever played poker?

    If so, one of the first things you learn is that the strength of your own hand depends on the strength of your adversary’s hand. In other words, it’s not enough to know what your hand is. You also need to know what kind of hand your adversary is holding.

    Now let’s say you’re thinking about dating a guy. What’s his hand, metaphorically speaking? This would entail asking yourself questions like: How many relationships has he had? How long did they last? Is he any good in the sack? Is he any good with women, or is he a 40-year old virgin? Is he needy or independent? Player or homebody?

    It’s important to know how much skill and experience a man has in the dating arena so you can know how the two of you match up. If he’s coming off a divorce and has not been out on his own in 20 years, your Mata Hari seductress routine might scare him off. And if he’s a youngish guy who goes on 15 app-enabled dates a week, you may want to bring your A-game. 

    That’s why you need to do some Dude Diligence (sic) and figure out what dating phase your guy is in. Beginner? Intermediate? Advanced? Burned? To that end, I present to you the 6.5 Dating Phases of Men, informed by how I went through most of them myself. 

    Phase 1: Blissful Cluelessness

    UNCLE ED: What do you think about girls, Ali?
    ME, AGE 7: I don’t really care about girls, Uncle Ed. They’re kinda icky.
    UNCLE: Yeah, that’s gonna change, buddy. 

    In this phase, corresponding roughly to early boyhood, the guy — okay, the kid — is mostly unaware of the existence of a separate gender known as female. Everyone, boy or girl, is a potential playmate. If anything, sometimes there’s even an aversion to the other sex (see dialog above). In the learning trade, you would call this the phase of unconscious incompetence. You’re bad at something (e.g. girls), you don’t even know you’re bad at that something (e.g. girls), and frankly you don’t give a damn, because it’s not even on the radar (girls?). Yet.

    Alas, this phase of blissful cluelessness does not last. Although this was definitely me up to age 7, in that year I developed a raging crush on an impossibly cute classmate named Leila (as chronicled in the last chapter of The Tao of Dating and my second TEDx talk, “Love and the Empowered Woman”). There went my peace eternal. She sporadically stayed on my mind for years

    Even that “crush”, though, was entirely (more…)

  • The 3 Big Questions to Turn Your Dating Life Around (10th Anniversary Post)

    It’s been about 10 years since I published The Tao of Dating: The Smart Woman’s Guide to Being Absolutely Irresistible (ebook, print, audiobook). Although most of the stuff I wrote that long ago has become too cringeworthy for me to read, this book is mostly okay. And thanks to the support of readers like you, it’s once again Amazon’s highest-rated dating book for women (4.5/5 stars). So I’m starting to think it’s useful to people.

    In the meantime, I’ve had a decade’s worth of personal experience, 5000 letters from readers, and countless talks and seminars to reshape my thinking about dating and love for the modern woman. From that mass of data, three big principles have emerged that I’d like to share with you today.

    1. Are you buying or selling?

    When I was in Helsinki last summer, going to the farmer’s market was one of the most enjoyable things I did. Finland is big on berries, and has an abundance of wild blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cloudberries, lingonberries, hinkleberries and floinkenberries. Okay, so maybe I made up the last two, but the rest are real and tasty. And at the farmer’s market, you’ve got all these vendors with acres of the stuff selling it for cheap.

    So there I was, armed with my all-powerful berry-buying euros, thinking, “Hmm, which vendor should I buy from?” Here, let’s make it a multiple-choice quiz so you can help me out:

    Vendor A: pretty solid berries but starting to look a little tired, 4 euros
    Vendor B: big juicy bright superfresh berries, 3 euros
    Vendor C: big juicy bright superfresh berries, 5 euros

    So—which one should Dr Ali choose? If you said “B, duh”, then you understand the idea of being a buyer with money in your pocket and options to choose from. You know what you want, and you pick the best option.

    Now, let’s switch the scenario around a little bit and pretend this is what happens instead:

    You arrive at Vendor A. Hey, look, berries! They look a little worse for wear, but overall not bad. Oh, you’re willing to sell to me? No way! It must be my lucky day! I’ll take ‘em all. Will you pleeeez take my money?

    What, you won’t even look at the other vendors, even though you’ve got money in your pocket? Do you see how much nonsense that makes? And yet, that is exactly how most people approach the relationship market. They act like they’re selling when they should be buying.

    You’re selling whenever you try to persuade people how wonderful you are. I’m a great cook! I make mad money! I give body-melting massages with hot chestnut oil! I’m great in the sack! I’m pretty! Choose meeee!

    And it’s possible that you’re all of those things and an excellent salesperson, and thus get all kinds of attention.

    But in the end, the best salesperson in the world has less power than even the least skilled buyer. The science of game theory guarantees it. Because the buyer has choice. And choice in the marketplace is power.

    How do you practice being the buyer in the dating world? By being playfully discriminating. The attitude is something like, “Hey, you seem pretty interesting. Let’s find out what you have going for you and whether there’s a potential match here.”

    This would be in contradistinction to “Omigod you are so amazing and beautiful and great please give me a smidgen of attention pretty please I promise I’ll make it worth your while even though deep down inside I’m not worthy but give me a chance anyway? Pretty pleez?”

    Yeah, that may not work so well.

    And yet, in spite of the inherent weakness of the seller stance, it’s the one most people in the relationship marketplace assume by default. So if you are that rare person who has the presence of mind to adopt the subtle shift in perspective to become the buyer, you will win more often.

    It does not cost anything to assume the buyer stance. You don’t have to lose weight, get a new hairdo, go to the gym, go on a diet, or get cosmetic treatments to assume it. And yet, it will make you more attractive than all of those external interventions.

    In The Tao of Dating, I call this the picky buyer stance. And while I want you to be picky, I also want you to remain compassionate and kind. It’s very easy to lapse from picky to hardass to jerk. But you will never do that, because you will remain your playful, fun, kind self. Right? Right. The point is to keep your heart and mind open while conveying that you have standards.

    The picky buyer stance is especially important to remember when meeting people online. This is because an online profile is basically an advertisement, which is by definition what people utilize to sell things. So when you go online, there’s no way around going into sell mode initially. Once you receive some messages from interested parties, then you can go back to being the picky buyer.

    Being the buyer vs the seller feeds directly into the next principle, which may not only be the most important principle for dating, but also for lifelong happiness and fulfillment.

    2. Are you enough?

    One of the two things that struck me about the 5000 or so readers’ letters I’ve received in the past 10 years is that they all basically contained the same question even though on the surface, they looked different:

    • “I’m a 37yr old divorced mother of two. Will any guy want to go out with a woman with young children?”

    • “We had a great first date, and I texted him the next day to thank him. It’s been two days and he hasn’t responded yet. Has he lost interest?”

    • “We’ve been dating for three years and I thought we were headed towards marriage. But now he’s saying he wants some space. What should I do?”

    • “Does my butt look good in these pants?”

    But deep down, they were all variations on the same question:

    “Am I enough?”

    The problem: it’s the wrong question. Merely attempting to answer it puts you in a seller position that’s impossible to escape from. Also: Enough for what? The changing whims of culture and fashion? The unfathomable desires of millions of different potential partners, most of whom don’t even consciously know what they want? Your own pointlessly harsh standards?

    Some of you reading this right now are probably thinking, “Omigod, he’s right! I’ve been am-I-enoughing myself forever! How terrible!”

    And that would be funny, ‘cause there you go doing it again. But it’s okay: everybody does it. There are multi-billion dollar industries arrayed to make us feel terrible about ourselves: TV, movies, cosmetics, advertising, exercise, diet. Making us feel bad about ourselves is how people sell us stuff.

    Luckily, there are remedies. You can re-read The Tao of Dating and Marianne Williamson’s A Woman’s Worth. Then, for a permanent solution, do these three things:

    (a) Instead of asking “Am I enough?,” ask “How can I be of service?”

    Even if you do happen to think you’re enough for one brief shining moment, that moment will pass. The hair will have a bad day. The outfit will go out of style. The culture’s ideal butt will go from Reubens to Marilyn to Twiggy and back, while yours stays attached to you mostly unchanged. And there’s no escaping self-criticism (except for the solution in (c) below).

    Trying to be enough is a game you cannot win. It is temporary power at best, because it can be taken away from you.

    The good news is that on any given day, wherever you are, you have the opportunity to be someone’s answered prayer. You have the power to elevate those around you, appreciate them genuinely, and make them feel like a billion bucks:

    “Love how you’ve put together that outfit!”

    “Really enjoyed your presentation. So uplifting!”

    “Thank you for a fantastic dinner! So wonderful of you to bring us together!”

    The power to elevate others is power that cannot be taken away from you. You can do it anytime, anywhere. And because of the hypersocial human brain, when you make other people feel good, you feel good. And when you feel good, you glow, and people want to be around you. You’ll feel great, and you won’t ever be lonely again.

    To implement this into your life, start by setting a goal of giving one more compliment per day than you were before. For most of us, that adds up to one compliment per day. The bus driver, the receptionist, an old friend, your partner—everyone is eligible. Let’s make a habit out of this.

    Another interesting thing happens when you make being of service a part of your identity. Potential partners will go from wondering if you’re good enough for them to thinking if they’re good enough for you. Your mere presence will want them to be a better man! How’s that for a shift from “Am I enough?”

    (b) Practice self-compassion

    Self-compassion would be the opposite of the voice inside your head saying stuff like “I can’t believe I left the food on the stove overnight again what a bonehead just shoot me now.” Prof Kristin Neff of the University of Texas suggests three things you can do to replace the habitual self-harshness with some self-compassion:

    1. Self-kindness. Imagine your 7-year old nephew breaks a plate. Would you crash down on him like a titanium anvil, or say something like, “Oh, careful now but don’t worry about it too much”? Self-kindness means being as nice to yourself as you would be to the 7yr old nephew.

    2. Recognize our common humanity. Everyone screws up. Everyone has issues like Kleenex has tissues, and they’re all the same issues, no matter how exotic and unique you think yours are. As the recipient of all of your letters, I have proof that whatever problem you’re having, hundreds of others have it, too.

    3. Mindfulness. According to Prof Neff, “Mindfulness is a non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which one observes thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them. We cannot ignore our pain and feel compassion for it at the same time.” This is about allowing yourself to feel whatever emotion you’re experiencing without over-identifying with it. Acknowledge it, feel it, and let it pass.

    (c) Get rid of your small self.

    One of the foundational tenets of Buddhist philosophy (and all mystical traditions) is to get rid of your sense of self entirely. If there is no you, then nobody can belittle you, insult you, betray you, or break your heart. No self, no problem!

    The problem is that getting to no-self ain’t so simple. One path is to meditate. A lot. And while you meditate, you take one step back from your own thoughts and feelings so you can stop identifying with them. Instead, you identify with the pure consciousness behind those thoughts or feelings. Think of your consciousness as the TV screen, with your thoughts the programs showing on it. You are the TV screen, not the programs.

    Eventually, the state of dis-identifying from your thoughts goes from being a state to becoming a trait. That’s what the sages call samadhi, or satori, or awakening.

    As a regular meditator, I’ve come to appreciate the slight impracticality of telling folks to solve their relationship problems by practicing no-self (anatta). It’s like telling an out-of-shape person to take up ultramarathons. That said, you can begin the practice of dis-identification by meditating.

    Meditation is by far the single most beneficial practice I’ve taken up. And you can begin with just 2 minutes a day. Who doesn’t have time to sit and do nothing for 2 minutes? Apps like Calm, Headspace, and Waking Up are excellent ways to ease yourself into it.

    3. What do you want?

    The second thing that struck me about the 5000 letters was that they almost never contained a real question. I’d get a novella about how they met, the minute-by-minute unfolding of the first three dates, his lingering attachment to his ex, and then: “What do you think I should do, Doc?”

    And that’s when I would say with total certainty, “Buy Tesla stock! It’s, like, totally undervalued.”

    Well, actually, I don’t really know about that. I also don’t know about what you want. And until you tell me what you want—some kind of desirable outcome—I have no basis to dispense advice, dubious or sage.

    There are some general guidelines, of course. Hang out with people who bring out your best self and catalyze your growth. Don’t chase bright, shiny objects without regard for whether there’s an actual fit between you. Only date people who are actually single and available. “Separated”, “divorcing”, and “like totally separated but ex still lives in the house” are not the same as single and available.

    So. You need to ask yourself, “If I could wave a magic wand here and get exactly what I want, what would that look like?” You’d be shocked and amazed how much clarity this simple mental exercise will give you.

    For example, sometimes what you really want is not a relationship with a hotshot who has repeatedly signaled his unavailability with poor communication and a busy schedule, but something simple and more reliable. Sometimes you just want a fun fling, not something serious. Sometimes you don’t actually want the long-distance relationship to work out, but rather to handle your latent tendency to avoid real intimacy. Sometimes you want the bad boy you’re dating to propose to you, and you know he’ll never do that, which means you’re free to look elsewhere.

    Sometimes it’s okay not to know exactly what you want. Last thing you want is to spend lots of time and effort attaining a lofty but ultimately wrong goal. On the other hand, things like growth and fulfillment are directional goals. So long as you’re on the path to greater growth and fulfillment, you know you’re going in the right direction.

    And sometimes, it’s okay to just go into the silence and practice solitude. Work on yourself. If you can’t stand your own company, how can you expect anyone else to stand you? Learning to be alone without being lonely is one of the cornerstone skills of relationship.

    Conclusion

    The principles I just described are simple to grasp. They may not be trivial to implement them into your life, especially if you’ve been practicing their opposites for years. But it’s certainly possible to change. One of the most hopeful aspects of human existence is neuroplasticity. The brain can change and grow no matter how long you’ve been alive. You can learn new ways of doing things.

    So if you’ve been playing the seller your entire life, go ahead and try playing the buyer for a while and see what happens. Experiment! Make a game out of it. If you’ve been acting as if you’re not enough, shift to practicing self-compassion and being of service, and notice the results. If you haven’t been a meditator, start with 2 min a day. And if you’re having a difficult time figuring out what you really want, start with a list of things you really don’t want. That should help clarify the values you hold dear, which is a signpost to what you want in your life.

    I hope you find a way to implement these principles into your life. I’m interested in hearing about your thoughts and experiences. There are thousands of you and only one of me, so there’s a lot more collective wisdom in your midst than in my noggin. Either comment on the article below, or write to me directly at DrAliB (at) TaoOfDating.com. If you have a question, keep it under 250 words and make sure you include a question :) And if you’d like me to do more consultations and office hours, let me know so I can make time for it in the schedule.

    All the best, Dr Ali

    Additional resources

    To further explore some of the principles I discuss in the article, here are some useful resources:

    Prof Kristen Neff’s Self-Compassion website

    Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha by Tara Brach (ebook & print). One of the best books ever written on meditation and living at peace with oneself. Just might be the best $11 you’ll ever spend.

    A Woman’s Worth by Marianne Williamson. Great antidote to feelings of not-enoughness.

    • Meditation apps: Calm, Headspace, and Waking Up.

    The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science, by Norman Doidge, M.D. (ebook & print). Neuroplasticity is real and applies to everyone, including you right now. Some tremendously inspiring stories in here. Probably the most hopeful book I’ve ever read.

    The Tao of Dating: The Smart Woman’s Guide to Being Absolutely Irresistible by Ali Binazir, M.D., M.Phil. (ebook, print, potentially free audiobook). Just in case you haven’t read it yet.

  • Tao of Dating 2018 Workshop, Helsinki Edition (audio)

    Over the weekend of 3-5 August 2018, I presented some workshops at the Magnesia Festival in Helsinki. One of them was entitled “The Tao of Dating: The Modern Woman’s Guide to Loving and Being Loved.” Some things have changed to modern romance since I first published The Tao of Dating book (ebook and print). I’ve also learned a lot from the 5000+ letters readers like you have sent me, so think of this talk as an update and supplement to the book that incorporates the new stuff.

    The talk has 5 themes:

    1. How to get better at selecting men: Avoiding psychopaths and sociopaths. The heart-spine selection criteria. Avoiding Bad Boys in favor of selecting Good Guys.
    2. How to present the best possible version of you.
    3. How to find him at his best: the importance of venue and context.
    4. Set up dating so you win.
    5. How to avoid unforced errors: on communication habits, giving love a chance, overdependence on devices, and the cure for negative self-talk.

    Download link for The Tao of Dating: The Modern Woman’s Guide to Loving and Being Loved (Sun 5 Aug)
    Download link for Saturday version of same talk (Sunday one was better)

    If you are a fan of yoga, meditation and dance and can free your schedule for the first week of August, I highly recommend the Magnesia Festival. It’s set on a beautiful island in Helsinki harbor, with healthy food, fun classes, and serious sauna. Many thanks to Mari Rasimus, Kaisa Kärkkäinen, Asaf Peled and Oded Peled for inviting me and taking such good care of the speakers!

  • Tao of Dating 2018 Workshop recap + recording + Mindful Living

    Thanks to all of you who made it to the “Tao of Dating 2018” workshop last week in Santa Monica! When you spend months on end like me staring at a computer screen, it’s a real treat to see some of you face-to-face and answer your questions in real time.

    We covered a lot of ground during the workshop. More specifically, I talked about six themes:

    1) The fallacy of the Western Romantic Narrative and how it can cause more pain than joy
    2) Guy selection.
    3) How to present the best possible version of you, and how online dating apps can hinder that.
    4) How to find him at his best
    5) Benefits of prolonging the courtship: patience pays!
    6) How stop inadvertently shooting yourself in the foot in the dating arena.

    It’s this last one that I want to touch upon briefly. Dating can be plenty challenging as it is without committing unforced errors. Here are some simple ways you can get out of the way of your own success:

    Minimize negative self-talk: Do you ever find yourself saying things to yourself like, “Omigod you’re such an idiot!” Or “You screwed that one up again because you don’t really deserve to be happy anyway.” Or worse?

    Everyone has a little negative soundtrack running in their heads, and scientists have noticed that it’s particularly prevalent amongst women. Nobody knows exactly why, but I’m pretty sure that all the advertising imagery emphasizing women’s inadequacy is probably not helping.

    What’s the solution? Two ideas: First, limit the amount of (more…)