Episode 23: Gay Hendricks: Conscious Loving
Gay Hendricks: Conscious Loving
Announcer: This program is intended for mature audiences only.
Chip August: Welcome to Sex, Love and Intimacy. I’m your host Chip August and on today’s show we’re going to be talking about conscious loving, we’re going to be talking about spirituality and the role of spirituality in relationships and something that I like to call relationship harmony. We’re talking to Dr. Gay Hendricks, doctor of the Hendricks Institute in, I think in Colorado yes?
Dr. Gay Hendricks: We’re down in Ojai California.
Chip August: Ojai, California, thank you. Alright, the Hendricks Institute in Ojai California and Dr. Hendricks, Gay Hendricks has served for more than 30 years as one of the major contributors to the fields of relationships transformation and body/mind therapies and we’re going to talk a little bit about that. Along with his wife Dr. Kathelyn Hendricks, Gay is the author of many bestsellers including ‘Conscious Loving’, ‘Spirit Centered Relationships’ and ‘A Corporate Mystic’. Dr. Hendricks received his PhD in counseling psychology from Stanford in 1974, and after a 21 year career as a professor at the University of Colorado, he founded the Hendricks Institute, which offers seminars in North America, Asia and Europe. I must admit that Dr. Hendricks is one of my personal heroes and a book he wrote years and years and years ago called ‘Centering and the Art of Intimacy’ totally changed my life, and we were just talking before and like me he has also gone through the process of losing a great deal of weight. He lost 120 pounds, I lost about 110 under similar circumstances.
Dr. Gay Hendricks: One of the things that I think is most important about spirituality is that, for me anyway, it’s a feeling of connection. It’s the feeling of being connected to another person, a feeling of being connected to the cosmos, a feeling of being home here in the universe. And so I think you can almost draw a linear relationship there between something that cannot be measured is the most important thing in life. What the mistaken assumption is about love, that you’ve got projected onto love and to let go of those other dramas that we put on it and just feel the real essence of genuine love is one of the most delicious things that’s available to human beings. Conscious loving first and foremost is realizing that you can create the kind of love experience you want by shifting your unconscious intentions to conscious intentions that you have chosen.
Chip August: Welcome to the Dr., welcome to the show Gay.
Dr. Gay Hendricks: Thanks a lot Chip. I appreciate having, you having me on.
Chip August: Well, it’s my pleasure actually, it’s my pleasure. Listen I, what I think you’re known for in the world is this, this marriage of spirituality, consciousness and relationships, and I think you write about it and talk about it and teach about it maybe better than anybody in the world, so that’s what I’d like to talk about today, is that all right?
Dr. Gay Hendricks: Sounds good.
Chip August: Terrific! So, I just want to start with, I, here I live in the Silicon Valley, I work with about a thousand people a year in workshops and the thing I hear from sort of engineers and tech people and scientists is that just the concept of spirituality starts to throw them, you know? What are we talking about here? You know, I can’t see it in the lab, I don’t know how to measure it, so I kind of want to start there. Can you talk to me a little bit about spirituality, what it is, what you think it is, where it lives?
Dr. Gay Hendricks: Yes. One of the things that I think is most important about spirituality is that, for me anyway, it’s a feeling of connection. It’s the feeling of being connected to another person, the feeling of being connected to the cosmos, the feeling of being home here in the universe that, that we’re all in this together, we’re all home here and we’re all one thing. Many of the big spiritual experiences I’ve had in my life over the years even starting when I was a kid are feelings of connection or oneness. I remember even one time when I was a little boy playing in the side yard I was playing by myself and I happened to look up at the sky, and I don’t know what made me think of it, but I suddenly realized that everything in the universe was made out of the same thing, and I don’t know why that idea popped into my mind but I remember even trying to talk about it at dinner with my brother and my mother and didn’t actually get a very warm reception, they though I was babbling on, which I probably was, but they probably weren’t quite ready to hear mysticism coming out of the mouth of a 7 year old, but even to this day I feel like, for me, spirituality lives in the moment and the feeling of connection. It’s not about some theological principle. It’s not about, you know, a concept in a book or anything like that, but it has to do with the actual feeling of being one with another person. And so I find in relationships particularly that’s very helpful because a lot of people get into big arguments and fight about things on the conceptual level, you know, people get very attached to being right in their opinions and beliefs and that kind of thing, but the closer you get to spirit inside yourself, the less things there are to fight about, and when you really can connect up with that feeling of oneness with yourself and other people, you kind of lose the urge to fight with other people because you realize that you’re fighting with the other end of yourself, you know, it’s all one connected thing.
Chip August: And do you think that without that sense of connectedness is love even possible?
Dr. Gay Hendricks: I, that’s a wonderful question, thank you for asking a question like that. I think that it’s probably all one and the same, so I don’t think that it really would be possible because I think they are very intrinsically woven together.
Chip August: So it may be that, and this is actually something that I believe, it may be that someone’s actual spirituality is best, you know, we use the word spirituality but if I just said to the person, “Just notice the times when you love. That’s your spirit”, that that might be the answer for some of these people, yeah?
Dr. Gay Hendricks: Yes and I think that, I’ve worked a lot with engineers myself and my wife certainly has, all of her, all of the men in her family are engineers, her two brothers and her dad have all been engineers all their lives, and she ended up being a movement therapist, and so she really learned how to communicate with engineers at an early age, and one of the things that I admire about the engineering mind are people who can think logically and clearly about things, they’re really useful, wonderful people to have in the world, and the limitation there of course is that most of the really, really wonderful things about life cannot actually be measured or found really, you know, like if I think of the feeling of love I feel toward my wife or my kids or friends, I don’t think that that would be very easy to measure that, and yet it means everything.
Chip August: Yeah.
Dr. Gay Hendricks: And so I think you can almost draw a linear relationship there between something that cannot be measured is the most important thing in life.
Chip August: Yeah. Although I must admit there’s some great new books out right now about actually that, psychologists trying to figure out how to measure these things so we can research them, you know.
Dr. Gay Hendricks: Yeah, it could very well be that we’ll come up with instrumentation that allows that to happen and I’ll, I’ll really enjoy reading those studies too…
Chip August: Yeah.
Dr. Gay Hendricks: because I, I’m a sort of a scientist at heart as much as I am a mystic and I love to, when they find ways of measuring things and determining things with, from the scientific end of things. I, you know, when I got my doctorate at Stanford many years ago it was in the heyday of biofeedback…
Chip August: Mm hmm.
Dr. Gay Hendricks: revolution, when people were just beginning to know how to use biofeedback machinery and I can remember being connected up to big pieces of biofeedback machinery that were the size of a refrigerator…
Chip August: Yeah.
Dr. Gay Hendricks: and now are the size of an iPod.
Chip August: Yeah.
Dr. Gay Hendricks: So I really have a great respect for that.
Chip August: Yeah, now you can download them as programs on the internet.
Dr. Gay Hendricks: Yeah.
Chip August: You talk about genuine love. I notice like on the website and in some of your books you talk about attracting genuine love into your life. Is there a distinction here, is there a genuine versus, what, I don’t know, insincere love, I don’t, you know, what do you mean…
Dr. Gay Hendricks: Yeah.
Chip August: by genuine love?
Dr. Gay Hendricks: In relationship counseling my wife and I probably worked with a little over 4000 couples over the years and maybe 20,000 single people who were looking to get into relationships, both in our seminars and in our private practice, and one thing that I’ve found is that it’s very easy to mistake genuine love for other things that are not genuine love. Like, for example, the need for approval. Often times people can get confused between what’s love and what’s approval. So they may think they’re in love with another person, but what they really are in is a relationship or an entanglement in which they need the other persons approval. A lot of people also, especially if they’ve grown up in a family where there’s a lot of conflict, make a connection, a false connection between love and adrenaline.
Chip August: Yeah.
Dr. Gay Hendricks: And they then create dramas in their life over and over again, needless dramas in the mistaken assumption that that’s going to create love in their lives, and so I think that, yes, there’s definitely, you know, it’s very helpful for people to look at the unhealthy pattern that they’ve created in their love relationships, they will always, by just looking at the patterns and looking at the result you’ve created, you can always tell what the mistaken assumption is about love that you’ve got projected onto love, and to let go of those other dramas that we put on it and just feel the real essence of genuine love is one of the most delicious things that’s available to human beings.
Chip August: Now you just said something that I’m not sure is so obvious to me. I think you said if you really look carefully you can actually see what’s genuine love, what’s not. You can see your pattern.
Dr. Gay Hendricks: Yes.
Chip August: Is there a trick to looking to see your pattern, ‘cause God knows I’ve been stuck in my pattern sometimes and it actually seems really challenging to see.
Dr. Gay Hendricks: Well there’s a trick to it and I’m not going to say it’s, it’s easy but it’s effortless actually.
Chip August: Okay.
Dr. Gay Hendricks: And the trick to it is to notice carefully the results that you’re creating in your life that you complain about. Because if you look carefully at the results you’re creating in your life that you complain about, that will unerringly tell you what your unconscious commitments are. For example, I, when I first discovered this I remember exactly I was walking down the street in San Francisco and I was turning over in my mind, “Why is it I end up being with women who criticize me all the time?” And I was with, the woman I was with at the time, I was walking down the street with her and she was busily criticizing me about something and I was, I realized that all my relationships with women had been like that and I, I was about maybe 28 years old at the time, and I’d broken up with one before her, and one before her and they all had that similar quality and suddenly I realized, “Hmm, that’s more than just bad luck here or a coincidence. What could that be about?” And then I realized, “Oh, that very result is telling me what my unconscious commitment is. I’m unconsciously committed to drawing women to my life who criticize me. Now why would I do a thing like that?” And once I asked myself that question the answer was extremely, I mean it was just blindingly obvious and it was that I started out my whole existence in a state of criticism in the sense that my mothers pregnancy with me was, you know, a very life altering negative event for her and she was very ashamed of it, and you know, the whole experience of it was being the recipient of criticism, so naturally I would take a picture of that and say, “Okay, that’s how life has to be”, and then later on when I began to create relationships of my own, naturally that unconscious intention would cause me to draw one relationship after another into my life with a person who criticized me. And once I realized that I said, “Well, I think I’m going to change that”, and sure enough, you know, my wife and I, I don’t think anybody has said a critical word to the other person in our house in, gosh, at least 10 or 15 years, and you know, it took us a few years to, of being together to kind of work the kinks out so we weren’t criticizing each other, but since then, you know, there’s been basically years of blame-free living, very delicious state of affairs.
Chip August: Well, I think that’s brilliant to just look at your complaint, I think it’s just brilliant. Look at the things you complain about and, and then from that you should have insight into the thing you’re committed to, I just think that’s a brilliant approach.
Chip August: We’re back. Welcome back to Sex, Love and Intimacy. My guest Gay Hendricks of the Hendricks Institute has for years and years and years, decades now been a best selling author, teaching about, and also a workshop leader, and a teacher and a trainer, worldwide renowned, talking mostly about conscious loving, consciousness and relationship harmony. And when we left we were talking a little bit about love and how you can see your own patterns. It feels like I want to move into this whole thing of conscious relationships. What, what is a conscious relationship, what is conscious loving?
Dr. Gay Hendricks: Conscious loving is realizing first and foremost that you can create the kind of love experience you want by shifting your unconscious intentions to conscious intentions that you have chosen, and once you create the kind of relationship you want, you can keep the intimacy growing and flowing by taking full healthy responsibility for the issues that come up so that you don’t do any blaming back and forth, you can keep the intimacy flowing and growing by speaking honestly, speaking authentically about whatever is going on, speaking honestly about your feelings, speaking honestly about your actions so that you don’t have secrets, and speaking honestly about what your goals and wishes and dreams are with the other person. So to the extent that you can be absolutely honest with yourself and another person, and to the extent that you can find a way to shift off of the blames and projections you have onto another person to taking healthy responsibility for it, the relationship becomes one of conscious loving where the intimacy grows and flows more and more all of the time, and the, the relationship between the two of you becomes one of creative expression rather than frittering away your energy in power struggles.
Chip August: This absolute honesty thing, it often, I must admit it puzzles me a little bit. I love the idea of it conceptually, and then I start thinking about, well, so I’ve been with a partner for 10 years and I’m starting to notice that I’m looking at other women, I’m bored, I’m, I’m, do I tell my partner this, do I say, you know, I’m kind of bored with our sex life, do I, do I say, “I don’t think you’re as beautiful as you once were”, do I, I mean, you know, I get worried that honesty masquerades as just criticism.
Dr. Gay Hendricks: Boy, that’s a very good point, and it, actual honesty never blames in any way the other person or criticizes the other person, and the distinction there is between being honest about your feelings and dumping your projections onto another person in the mistaken belief that that’s honesty. Like if I say to you, “Gosh, you don’t look as good anymore because your hair is gray”, well that’s just an opinion, you know, that’s a, that’s a, that would be dumping my opinion on the other person and that’s not at all what honesty is really all about. Honesty can never be argued about. You know, if you say to another person, “I fell afraid. I don’t know, I don’t feel as close to you as I used to, and I’m afraid, I don’t know what to do about that.” When people say that kind of thing to each other it does not engender arguments and I can tell you from being privy to thousands of those kind of conversations, that kind of communication stops arguments, when people can be absolutely honest about things that are unarguable. What gets people into arguments are casting opinions onto each other or blame that the other person is taking responsibility for, and if I say to, If I said to my wife, you know, “You’re no longer as attractive as you used to be; therefore I’m bored”, well, that’s an, that’s a lie, that’s not being honest at all because the fact of the matter is that most of the time we have no idea why exactly we’re upset. You know, when I was 50 years old, I started having some attractions to other women, and my wife and I had been married I guess about 15 years at that time, and I, at first I thought it was her fault because she was not as pretty as she used to be or something like that, but after we kind of discussed it for a while and went back and forth about it, it became really clear that the issue didn’t have anything to do with her. It had to do with the fact that I felt bored in my own life with myself, I was bored with what I was doing, I’d, you know, been writing books and giving talks and stuff like that for ages and I could kind of do them in my sleep, and I realized that I had fallen out of love with my own creative potential and then I was busily projecting it onto my wife as if it were all her fault.
Chip August: Yeah.
Dr. Gay Hendricks: And, that was one of the huge wakeup times of my entire life though was to realize that it really didn’t have anything to do with her.
Chip August: I have a theory just parenthetically. This is, I just noticed this bears out with my clients and it bears out in my workshops that pretty much all the time when somebody says boredom I think there’s some suppressed emotions.
Dr. Gay Hendricks: Yeah.
Chip August: Life is intrinsically interesting. When you’re excited about life you can stare at a leash, you can lie, you know, you can lie on a lawn and look at how the wind is moving a blade of grass and be interested. What creates boredom is we’re pushing down feelings and then we wind up pushing down all our feelings.
Dr. Gay Hendricks: I totally agree. I’ve seen that to be the case in my own life, as well as with thousands of people.
Chip August: Yeah. Now, I notice for me, I need, and I saw this on your site and I know this is true for you also, honesty without a constant stream of appreciation doesn’t work for me. Like I notice for me, I want honesty, but I also want to hear pretty regularly and I want to be saying pretty regularly what I appreciate about my partner.
Dr. Gay Hendricks: Yeah, I think that appreciation is one of the main, certainly one of the main practices that Kathlyn and I do around the house and we teach it in our seminars too. You probably seen the studies by John Gottman at the University of Washington where he found that relationships that are thriving have a 5 to 1 ratio of appreciation to any kind of negative commentary, and I think that’s, that’s a good place to start, I don’t think you ought to stop at 5 to 1, I think we ought to start at, I mean, start at 5 to 1, but aim for 500 to 1.
Chip August: Yeah.
Dr. Gay Hendricks: And, ‘cause that really can then, appreciation has a life of its own in a sense that once you start looking for what’s right to appreciate, looking for what’s good that’s going on, it has a life of its own, it begins to build because the more you look at those things, the more there is to look at.
Chip August: Yeah, exactly so. What, when you, and what you’re looking for is what you usually find.
Dr. Gay Hendricks: Yes. You know I can go, and I have gone on dozens of occasions when I’m in New York, I love to go to the Metropolitan Museum because there’s a particular Rembrandt there that they have that in my opinion is the best Rembrandt I’ve ever seen in the world, and it’s a self portrait of him in his later years, and I think I, I’ve seen most of Rembrandt self portraits around the world in different museums but this particular one is the absolute prima one, and I can go there year after year and just stand there and look at that painting ‘cause each time I see something more in it to appreciate.
Chip August: Right.
Dr. Gay Hendricks: And relationships are even deeper of course than a, a two dimensional work of art.
Chip August: Right.
Dr. Gay Hendricks: A living organism that there’s no end to what can be appreciated in them.
Chip August: Now, I notice also you talk about keeping agreements and accountability. So, what I notice is that I like to believe that I’m a hundred percent accountable and I like to believe that I keep my agreements, and then sometimes I don’t. It’s not, it’s pretty rare, it’s not, certainly not typical of me, and then something will happen and, at least from my partners point of view it didn’t feel like I kept my agreement or it didn’t really feel like I was being accountable for my actions. How do you find your way out of those, you know, how do you get back into love?
Dr. Gay Hendricks: Well first of all it’s important to expect the drift. We say that the real art is what we call drift and shift, that you know you’re going to drift, you know you’re going to drift off of keeping your agreements and you just expect that because impeccability creates so much powerful energy that most people wouldn’t be able to stand that awesome amount of energy flowing through them and so, you know, they’ll get it for a little while and then drift off it. The important thing is to know how to make the shift back into it, that all you have to do is to start keeping your agreements again, and all you have to do is one agreements successfully kept and there you go and you’re back in the groove again. You know, you have to remember that if a plane takes off from San Francisco and goes to Honolulu, it’s being run by an automatic pilot that drifts off course a thousand times maybe between San Francisco and Honolulu, and each time it drifts off course it know how to shift back on, and so it gets to Honolulu by being wrong most of the time.
Chip August: Right.
Dr. Gay Hendricks: It just gets there, it doesn’t have to be perfect all the time.
Chip August: Right, our commitments become sort of our navigational aid, there the thing we steer for.
Dr. Gay Hendricks: Yes.
Chip August: Yeah.
Chip August: We’re back. You’re listening to Sex, Love and Intimacy. I’m Chip August. My host, Gay Hendricks, the, one of the founders of the Hendricks Institute in Ojai California, and if people are liking what they’re hearing and they want to learn more about you or do some of your work or read some of your books how can they, how can they get in touch with you?
Dr. Gay Hendricks: The easiest way is to go to one of our main websites which is Hendricks.com, our home website, and that’s h-e-n-d-r-i-c-k-s dot com, and there you’ll find a huge array of resources including a calendar for all of the places we’re doing our seminars. We do a lot of them in California, we do them in Europe, Canada, East Coast of the USA, Japan, all across Europe, and so we have a lot of different three day seminars and five day seminars for people that want to dive deeply into how to create conscious relationships. Also my new book ‘Five Wishes’ is available and it has its own special website, Five Wishes, the subtitle of it is called ‘How One Simple Question Can Make All of Your Dream Come True’, and if you go to the special Five Wishes website, which is 5wishesbook.com, and that’s the number 5, 5wishesbook.com, there’s a lot of resources there on the new book including the trailer for a 17 minute movie that goes along with the book, when you buy the book you can, there’s a way that you’re shown to get the movie free, and so by reading this book and watching the movie you’ll get a real essence of our teaching, and it’s a very easy to access way, it’s a very brief book, and it’s one that was written specifically for people to be able to read on an airplane between San Francisco and Los Angeles, be able to finish it before they get to Los Angeles, so you can read it in that hour, but I can promise you it has life changing power to it.
Chip August: I also want to encourage people to go to the website because there’s a worksheet there that I actually downloaded and did and I thought, you know, like in five minutes I sort of had some insights into some of, some of my own wishes and how to make them come true, so yeah, I encourage you go, go look at that website and find out more about the wishes and wishing. I also, my, my listeners have learned to expect from me that guests will offer them an exercise, something they can do at home to tune up their relationship or to have more sex or more love or more intimacy in their relationship and I’m hoping you have one for them.
Dr. Gay Hendricks: Yes, I have a number, but let me give you one that I can promise you from many experiences myself as well as in our seminars provides not only an awakening of positive energy in yourself, but also when you do it in relationship it creates a beautiful magnificent flow of love and positive energy there. So, it’s based on feelings. Feelings are one of those things that I don’t think we can ever get too much training about because we, most of us didn’t get any training about how to communicate our feelings growing up and if you ask the typical person that comes in for relationship counseling what the problems are they will almost always talk about difficulty with communicating feelings. So here’s the basic thing, it’ll take you ten seconds but it can really produce a powerful result. What you do is whenever you’re feeling stuck in a relationship or stuck in your personal life where you’re not quite feeling the flow, do a quick body scan of three areas of your body, and there are three areas of your body that tend to be the areas that get tightened up or clouded over when you have feelings there you haven’t communicated. The first part I’d like you to scan is the area in the back of your neck and the upper shoulders. So back of the neck and upper shoulders, everywhere from the mid-shoulder blade area up to your shoulders and the back of your neck. If that area feels tight or sore, my experience is that there, it’s there because you haven’t expressed some anger that you’re feeling. You might even not have acknowledged that you are angry. In fact expect when you first begin to do this that you’re first thought was, “I don’t feel anything there”, but if you tune in a little bit more you may find that it’s sore or tight and that’s, that’s in the anger zone of people’s bodies, and so think of what kind of anger you need to express or acknowledge. The second zone is in the sadness zone, and if you will scan in your chest and feel in your chest, if you feel kind of a cloudy feeling or a heavy feeling or a pressured feeling in your chest, many times that’s because you’re feeling some sadness or grief that hasn’t been expressed or maybe even acknowledged to yourself. The third area is in your belly, your stomach area and that area if you feel a butterfly sensation in there or kind of a racy queasy feeling in your belly, that’s telling you that you’re afraid about something, and if you’re walking around feeling that in some situation where there isn’t anything obviously scary going on in the environment around you, chances are you’ve awakened some fear there about something in your life that needs to be certainly acknowledged to yourself and perhaps expressed to the people that you’re close to. I find that it’s very difficult for many people to say, “I’m scared about something.” Some people it’s difficult to say, “I feel sad”, or “I feel hurt.” Some people it’s difficult for them to say, “I feel angry.” But we need to get good at saying those kinds of things because if you, the only reason we don’t, aren’t good at expressing those kinds of things is because we haven’t had any practice in it. Like nobody has difficulty knowing whether they have to go to the bathroom or not because we’ve had a lot of practice at that growing up. But most of us didn’t get enough practice at expressing sadness or fear or anger. So, if there were one thing I’d really like everybody on earth to be able to do, that would be the one.
Chip August: Now I’m, when I work with clients I often make a distinction between feelings and thoughts, that there’s a, you know, “I feel confused. I feel perplexed”, are useful things to say, but I think the, I think you’re inviting people to really look at their anger, their fear, their sadness, their shame, their joy, their ecstasy, their peace, their contentment. Is that, yeah?
Dr. Gay Hendricks: Yes, I’m inviting people particularly to do that on the body level, the level of sensation, rather than the level of thought because the body is exquisitely wired to let us know when we’re scared or angry or sad or joyful or shamed, it’s just that we haven’t learned to pay attention…
Chip August: Yeah.
Dr. Gay Hendricks: to those signals very much.
Chip August: I think that’s a terrific exercise. What a great idea. Thank, thank you so much and thank you so much for coming on the show, I really appreciate you.
Dr. Gay Hendricks: Well thank you, my pleasure. Blessing to you.
Chip August: Thank you. If you have comments or feedback that you’d like to send to me, you can reach me at [email protected]. I do read all of the mail and really appreciate your comments and suggestions. If you have ideas for upcoming shows I’d like to here that too. Also if you would like texts and transcripts of this show or any other show on the Personal Life Media Network, please just visit our website, personallifemedia.com, that’s all one word, personallifemedia.com. Thanks for listening to the show and I hope you tune in again next time. Thank you very much. You’ve been listening to Sex, Love and Intimacy.
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