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 advertiser-supported media you consume. TV and magazines are big culprits here. And the second is to practice self-compassion instead of self-flagellation.
I’ve written about the power of self-compassion practices several times on the blog. It has three components:
a) Self-kindness. Let’s say your 8-year old niece dropped a bowl of candy on the floor. What would you say to her? Would you yell at her and chide her in a harsh tone? Or would you be gentle and say something like, “Oh, it’s okay, sweetie. Let’s clean it up together. And next time, we’ll be more careful around priceless Ming bowls, okay?” Well, why not be just as courteous and kind when you talk to yourself? Makes sense, right? Say good things to you, even when no one else can hear it.
b) Common humanity. Everybody makes mistakes, and from all the letters I’ve gotten from folks over the years, seems like everyone is making the same mistakes over and over again. That means if you’re making a mistake, you’re not alone! So go easy on yourself. Acknowledge, learn the lesson, move along.
c) Mindfulness. This means actually acknowledging and feeling your emotions no matter how unpleasant they are. Otherwise, unacknowledged emotions have a funny way of sticking around only to burst to the surface in highly inconvenient, destructive form. Acknowledge, feel fully, let the emotion pass, move along.
Prof Kristin Neff of UT Austin is the originator of the idea of self-compassion, and her website has a ton of great resources for integrating more of it into your life.
• Have excellent communication habits. These days it seems to me that timely communication – texts, phone calls, emails – has become entirely optional. This undermines trust, which is the foundation of all relationship. That’s no way to live, and certainly no way to maintain deep human connection.
So promise to yourself that you will respond to all communication in a manner that is timely, clear, and respectful of the other person’s time and feelings. Y’know, the way you’d like them to respond to you. No leaving people hanging indefinitely after they invite you out. A simple “Thanks so much for thinking of me but I’m busy that night!”, even if a fib, is infinitely better than not responding at all. And obviously no ghosting, but you already knew that.
Also, talking on the phone is always better than texting. The latter is an error-prone medium that’s basically designed to create not-always-hilarious misunderstandings. Talk to each other like grownups. I know – why have a 2-min conversation when a 7-hour inconclusive text-a-thon interrupting your whole life will do? But try the phone feature on your phone anyway.
• Reduce overdependence on devices. Remember when people used to have stories of how they met their future spouse in a chance meeting at a store, the zoo, or on the boardwalk? Well, if we’re constantly staring down at a gizmo, those chance meetings don’t have a chance to occur. Not only are you blocking serendipity, but you’re also disconnecting from local community.
So put the smartphone away in public. Look up, make eye contact, take in your surroundings, and have situational awareness. You have no idea what surprising abundance the world has in store for you unless you put your head up and become ready to receive it. Of course it goes without saying that during a date, the smartphone is stashed away out of sight the entire time, so you can pay full attention to the extraordinary human miracle that’s right in front of you.
• Give love a chance. Can you think of the last time you were on a first date, and you were fully yourself, without any jitters, weird mannerisms or awkwardness? Well I can’t, and I’m pretty sure nobody in the history of dating has been fully herself or himself on a first date. So if you are even remotely interested in a guy, give him (and yourself) the benefit of the doubt, because you really don’t know him at all after one meeting. And he doesn’t know you either!
Getting to know people takes time – sometimes even more than the 300-millisecond swipe on a dating app. Aim for 3 meetings at the very minimum, and do your best to have them in a casual, low-pressure setting like a hike, a walk, a barbecue – the less contrived and date-y, the better.
Hope you find these ideas useful! Many of you asked if the workshop would be recorded. By popular request, I’m making the recording of Tao of Dating 2018 workshop available at no charge. You can also listen to it here:
Mindful Living Week : A Free Online Summit, May 14-20
A big theme in the Tao of Dating 2018 workshop was the important of mindfulness and meditation, and how it’s like a superpower when it comes to dating and relationships. Lucky for us, there is a free training coming up right around the corner, with yours truly as one of the featured teachers.
I’m happy to report that the other teachers are world-class, so I’m thrilled to partner with the folks at the Awake Network and Shambhala Mountain Center. Teachers like Joseph Goldstein and Sharon Salzberg were instrumental in bringing the teachings of mindfulness and Buddhism to the West in the sixties. And all the folks with “Acharya”, “Roshi” and “Rinpoche” in their names have spent a lifetime practicing and teaching mindfulness. This is a solid group! Oh, and Roshi Joan Halifax is extraordinary. An anthropologist, humanitarian and Zen monk, she is a truly wise being. Her latest book that just came out, Standing at the Edge: Finding Freedom Where Fear & Courage Meet (ebook & print), rocked my world.
Here’s the full description of the online seminar series. Register here.
MINDFUL LIVING WEEK
Commit a week to what matters most in your life.
Mindful Living Week will include seven days of daily practices and inspiring talks from over 25 world-renowned teachers including Sharon Salzberg, Susan Piver, Dr. Rick Hanson, Roshi Joan Halifax, Dr. Ali Binazir, Acharya Gaylon Ferguson, Lodro Rinzler, Acharya Judith Simmer-Brown, Dr. Elisha Goldstein, Professor Rhonda Magee, Joseph Goldstein, Dr. Kelly McGonigal, and many others!
Each day the teachers will guide us in a new area of focus in our lives. We’ll start by cultivating the inner areas of our mind, body and heart. We’ll then move into the outer areas of our our homes, relationships, work and wider world.
Over the course of a week, we’ll explore practices to encourage focus, calm, resilience, and connection to support us in living with intention and integrity.
Click here to register for free now and get access to all 30+ summit sessions and guided meditations from May 14-20.