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How to Love Consciously
“When you are in love you can’t fall asleep because reality is better than your dreams.”
– Dr. Seuss

© Alex Blackwell, 2010 Read Alex’s blog, The BridgeMaker for twice-weekly articles about faith, inspiration and stories of change eBook design by Charfish Design

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Contents
Introduction Foreword 4 5 7 12 17 22 25 28 35 39 45 Chapter One: Loving Consciously Chapter Two: What Makes a Relationship Great? Chapter Three: The Power of First Love Chapter Four: Improving Intimacy

Chapter Five: One Dozen Out-of-the-Box Ideas to Inspire Romance Chapter Six: How to Bring More Love into Your Life Chapter Seven: Can Love Last a Lifetime? Chapter Eight: 100 ways to Love Closing

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Introduction
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ove is instinctual, but to love consciously takes deliberate intent. You and I get to choose who we love, and more important, how we love. We decide if we want to meet the needs of another, or ignore them. We choose the level of passion we contribute to a relationship and we decide if we our hearts are given freely or held in reserve. Mary Beth and I married over 25 years ago. And while I don’t’ have all the answers about love, I do know this: I want love in my life – love is what matters most. The purpose of this book is to share what I have learned about love, and what I am still learning. Love allows me to connect and share. Love gives me the opportunity to touch the heart of someone very special. This book explores the power and joy of my love. It attempts to provide some experience, proven ideas for cultivating romance and how love can continue to grow and change for the better. Please share this book with anyone in your life who wants to make the commitment to love consciously.

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Foreword
By Tess Marshall | The Bold Life Blog

Photo by Cristiano Betta

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t a very young age we are taught to look for love in all the wrong people and places. After years of pain, frustration and drama many people give up on love. Many blame

others for their loss. We are responsible for the love in our relationships. Each day we have the power and opportunity to be more loving human beings. In order to love anyone we need to learn to love ourselves first. My marriage of 38 plus years has not only survived but thrived is because I’ve learned to do just that. The love we offer ourselves is in direct proportion to the love we experience today, tomorrow, next month, next year … our future.

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Like a car has a gas tank we have a love tank that needs filling daily. When I am cranky, bossy or act out of fear instead of love towards my husband I need to fill up my love tank. I may need time alone, to exercise or to meditate. It’s impossible to love another on an empty tank. Love is about taking 100 % responsibility for everything that happens. Conflict is about me first. If I over react about an issue, it’s my reaction that is causing the problem not what happened. We project our feelings and emotions onto our lovers. When we are happy with our significant other it’s because we are happy with ourselves. When we are unhappy it’s because we are unhappy with ourselves. We often mistake love for a feeling. The feeling is an illusion, infatuation or a fantasy. Love is a verb, it’s about taking action. You will get what you give in a relationship. If you want to be understood, be empathetic, if you want praise, give praise, if you want forgiveness, forgive. Learn to give what you want to receive. Relationships are imperfect because humans are imperfect. We withhold our love out of fear. When a relationship is failing it’s important to seek help immediately. There are therapists, workshops, couples retreats, today the opportunities to grow are endless. If you’re spouse or partner refuses help, get it anyway. You deserve the best life has to offer. My husband and I have belonged to a support group for the last 20 years. We attend as needed. My husband has allowed me the freedom and the space I needed to grow inside and out. He has believed in me, and has listened to years of my dreams and goals. He has given me a life time of support. In my eyes he is the best father in the world. I appreciate his love for me. My life is dedicated to giving him the same. Nothing else is more important to me. ~ Tess Marshall, The Bold Life Blog

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Chapter One:

Loving Consciously

Photo by Sean McGrath

“The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost.” – Gilbert Chesterton

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nowing how someone wants to be loved and then providing that love are two separate things.

Sometimes marriages and other relationships end because either one person does not understand how to love or meet the needs of the other; or one partner refuses to meet the needs of the other. To love consciously is a choice. My wife, Mary Beth, and I often say being married is very similar to having another full-time job – you get out of it what you put into it. www.thebridgemaker.com

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Our marriage is like a savings account. My wife and I make deposits into it never expecting we may need to make a withdrawal. However, when we do request a withdrawal there are no associated penalties. Yes, we argue over the temperature in the car or who really forgot to feed the dog, but when it really matters; when it really counts, we make the conscious choice to give each other the love that is requested and needed. With over 25 years of marriage under our belts, we have found the following strategies work best to love intentionally; to love authentically and to love consciously.

Show Appreciation
A simple “thank you” in response to a trivial or ordinary item can make a significant difference. It only takes a few short moments to utter these two words, but the impact can be felt for a very long time. Showing gratitude is also the best strategy for ensuring the things you are most grateful for continue to happen. When we stop and tell our partners what we are grateful for, we are also telling the Universe.

To love consciously is a choice. My wife, Mary Beth, and I often say being married is very similar to having another full-time job – you get out of it what you put into it.

By making the effort, the conscious decision, to express our thanks we are in a better position of receiving more of it in the future.” If you want your partner to be grateful, it starts by you showing gratitude, first.

Be Happy, Not Right
Here’s a question for you, “Would you rather be right, or happy?” Too often our pride and egos can keep us from enjoying intimate relationships. We stew over what we think are www.thebridgemaker.com

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injustices, but are perhaps only misunderstandings. We carry grudges and do not show enough grace, passion or forgiveness to the person we care most about. Our need to be right can overshadow our need to receive, and give, love. Take a look at what your pride is costing you. If intimacy is strained and the relationship is off track you may want to reconsider the value of your anger or self righteousness. Here’s the thing: You may be right in the argument although you partner thinks otherwise, but you will never be wrong when you put your partner first. Happiness always feels better than vindication.

No Day but Today
What would you say to your partner if you knew this was the last day you would be together? Would you complain about the television being too loud, or would you remind your partner of their value and significance? Life does have an expiration date. This isn’t meant to be a downer – just a reality we all share. It’s what you do with this information that will make the difference. While it’s very difficult to sustain a high-level of connection and passion on a day-to-day basis, there are some simple things you can do to convey your partner’s importance to let them know they are important today:

» » » » » » » »

Kiss your mate at least twice a day Leave a quick note just to say “hi,” or “I love you” Never do anything you wouldn’t want your partner to know Be fully present when they need to talk or share something important Make the effort to spend some time together each day Give a compliment Make your partner feel important Smile www.thebridgemaker.com

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No Judgments
Judgments are often times rooted in perception, not reality. Judgments are also a piece of how you see the world, not the way the world, or in this case your partner, actually exists. The harm with judgments is resentment and anger are typically the outcomes – not the change that is expected. When a judgment is made, there is an implied belief the behavior or trait being judged should be corrected. However, the person receiving the judgment does not always share the same expectation. As a result, communication is impaired, connection is deteriorated and conflict ensues. To love deliberately and consciously requires loving your partner with a different filter – a cleaner filter that does not have the residue of past contaminants.

Here’s a question for you, “Would you rather be right, or happy?”

Be Aware of Your Own Thoughts & Feelings
Loving authentically is dependent on loving yourself, first. Before you share love, and share yourself with someone, it is important to beware of what you want. Reality suggests, however, we fall in love and begin relationships before we have a clear idea of our own true feelings. When this happens, there is still plenty of time to discover your needs – this is called growth. Give yourself opportunities outside of the relationship. Build friendships and pursue interests on your own. A good relationship exists when both people can live without the other, but choose to be together. A relationship built on a foundation of sharing different interests cultivates more life and depth into it. You own your thoughts and feelings. These make you unique and keep you grounded with who you really are or growing to become. By doing so, you are in a much better position to love freely and honestly. www.thebridgemaker.com

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Nature has a way of taking care of those things we put the most energy in and want to grow even stronger.

Loving Consciously
The power of love extends its reach when we will love intentionally. Real love, authentic love, springs to life and is sustained when we make the choice to feed it with our deliberate passion. Our souls are nourished when our partners realize we know how to love them. There will be a day when I no longer share this life with my wife. When that day arrives, my hope is she will know my intent was to discover exactly what she wanted and my conscious choice was to give her more of that.

Real love, authentic love, springs to life and is sustained when we make the choice to feed it with our deliberate passion.

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Chapter Two:

What Makes a Relationship Great?

Photo by The Welsh Poppy

“Assumptions are the termites of relationships.” – Henry Winkler

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hy are some couples happier than others? What is the “secret” of a great relationship? With certain couples, it is clear there is something about the way they

interact that makes it obvious they have a unique and genuine connection. Even if you’re in a good relationship, you can’t help but wonder: “What do they know that I don’t?” And if you’re single, you might look at these couples and attribute it all to chemistry or destiny. But it turns out that people in great relationships live by a few basic rules and they make these rules a priority in their day-to-day lives together. www.thebridgemaker.com

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Consider these habits that can help create a strong, nurturing relationship: 1. Great relationships are based on realistic expectations 2. Great relationships take work and thoughtfulness everyday 3. Great relationships need communication know-how 4. Great relationships turn negatives into positives

Great relationships are based on realistic expectations.
Forget what you see in the movies or on television. In other words, real relationships aren’t anything like what you see in the movies full of non-stop romance, candlelight dinners and whirlwind trips to exotic locations. Real relationships take effort, time and commitment. Great relationships don’t just happen because two people love each other very much; great relationships happen because not only do two people love each other very much, but they also value one another and are willing to make an investment of time into the relationship – day after day. Couples in healthy and positive relationships have a fundamental understanding of the proper and appropriate expectations for a stable and long-lasting relationship. They understand that not all days will be full of passion and romance. Similarly, they understand that rough spots in a relationship may only be temporary if good communication is present to work through these times. A good way to look at this is to consider not getting too excited with the very high “highs” or too concerned with the very low “lows.” Both are momentary at best and will not define the true nature and scope of the relationship over a long period of time. By re-framing these extremes, you will be left with the right measure of balance and the right set of expectations to build a quality and sustainable relationship for many years to come.

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Great relationships take work and thoughtfulness every day.
People who are in successful relationships work on their partnerships regularly. They don’t just set their life on cruise control expecting things to be great all of the time. Ask yourself, “What can I do today to make my partner’s life better?” Little bits of effort every day will accumulate over time and make a big difference. Think of small, specific ways to make your relationship better, whether it’s picking up your loved one’s dry cleaning, telling your partner that you’re proud of him/her or taking over a task he/she really doesn’t like to do. You should make an effort every day to deposit at least one act of thoughtfulness into your relationship’s bank account. Your goal, however, should not be to make a huge withdrawal at the end of the week. Your only goal should be to keep giving the things your mate wants – both his/her expressed and unexpressed wants. If there are actions you can take to make your partner’s day more convenient and less stressful, then do them. But, again, don’t do them for what you could gain by providing them.

Great relationships need communication know-how.
It may look as if people in great relationships intuitively know what their partners need. But the truth is, no one is a mind-reader so don’t expect your partner to be able to figure out how you’re feeling. When things aren’t perfectly in sync, couples in this kind of relationship know how to communicate. They know that instead of giving their partner a laundry list of what he or she is doing wrong, they can be specific about what it is that they want. They also make an effort to discover what their partner’s needs are. The best way for most people to do this is talk about it. Ask your partner what things are really important to him/her. Does he want to know you’re proud of him? Does she need to be able to express her sadness over a family or workwww.thebridgemaker.com

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related situation without hearing how she ought to handle it? Too often we get into the habit of coaching and not listening. The best way to let your partner know you are listening is to ask how she/he “feels” about the situation. Once they begin sharing, your job is simply to shut-up and listen. Offer acknowledgments and affirmations from time-to-time to demonstrate you are engaged with what is being said. Only give your opinion or advice if asked. Great relationships turn negatives into positives. You may have heard the expression: “When you are given lemons – make lemonade.” Overtime, relationships are handed several lemons. The sources for negative feelings and unbalance are numerous. Some are directly caused between both people, because of poor or missing communication. Indirect sources of anxiety in a relationship can be work-related or financially based. When the interpersonal aspect of the relationship is creating the negativity, consider this simple exercise: First, you and your partner must be open to honest feedback. Next, ask your partner this question: “On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate our relationship (keep in mind the word ‘relationship’ can be substituted for intimacy; support of one another, etc.)?” Allow your partner time to reflect and provide an honest reply. If the answer is “seven,” ask this follow-up question: “What are three things I can do to get our relationship to a ‘ten’ (if the answer is ‘six,’ you would ask for four things, etc.)?” Again, give your partner time to consider their response. It may be hard to listen, because the answers may sound critical and negative. But really, the answers are solutions to turn the negatives into positives. There is one more critical part of this exercise. After your partner is finished and you have taken in and acknowledged the areas for improvement, ask this question: “What are three (or whatever the number needs to be) things you can do to get our relationship to a ‘ten’?” By asking this follow-up question, it’s putting the relationship back on equal footing and back into the spirit of a true partnership. Except for certain extreme and unfortunate www.thebridgemaker.com

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examples, most relationships are successful or not successful, because of the contributions and efforts of both. Take an honest look at how you are contributing to any negative circumstances, but also be aware it does take two to make it work and to create a more positive and healthy relationship. When lemons drop from the trees, but you and your partner were expecting apples, begin to make lemonade by creating an action list of what you both can do to get apples the next time.

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Chapter Three:

The Power of First Love

Photo by Brandon Christopher Warren

“First love is dangerous only when it is also the last.” – Branislav Nusic

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y first love recently found me on Facebook. When I saw her friend request I left the present and went back to 1979. 31 years ago, I was a junior in high school driving

my ’69 Volkswagen Beatle while listening to the Bee Gees on the AM-only band radio and not realizing the power love would have in my life. It also never occurred to me there would come a day when I would be in my late 40s forgetting what it was like to be young. At 16-years-old, there was a whole life in front of me www.thebridgemaker.com

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and with no need to rush. Like most, when I was a child I had several childhood crushes. I had crushes on teachers, girls I saw on television, and I had a huge crush on a young lady in Kindergarten

I experienced my first love almost a lifetime ago, but the named Sonya who always wore plaid jumpers. These crushes eventually lead me lessons learned are still with to my first intimate relationship and to my me today.
first love. It was in this relationship when I first considered what it would be like to share a life with someone else and what I wanted from love. It was an awakening, an awareness, that I was worthy to give and receive love unconditionally. I experienced my first love almost a lifetime ago, but the lessons learned are still with me today.

The power of first love
Before falling in love, I didn’t realize I get to choose who to love. We may naturally love our parents and siblings without even thinking about it. The power of our first romantic love extends our view of the world and provides the awareness we are free to experience the pleasure of love and not just the presence of love. When we become teenagers, the separation from our family of origin begins to widen and

The power of first love tells us we are becoming adults. We now have the right equipment to love another person, even though we may have skipped over a few important pages from the user’s manual.

our focus is turned inside-out. The temptation of a world we can now reach in our cars and, once we get there, enjoy the touch and kiss of another becomes too great to resist. The power of first love tells us we are becoming adults. We now have the right equipment to love another person, even though we may have skipped over a few important pages from the user’s manual. Nevertheless, we fall into love fast and we can fall very hard. The power of first love is never repeated in subsequent relationships; nor should it be. www.thebridgemaker.com

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I guess in a perfect world, we would wake up and find ourselves in our second relationship, but we would miss out on an experience filled with so much euphoria that our appetite to want to be in love and experience the joy it can bring might be diminished to the point it could keep us from ever sharing our hearts in the first place.

The power of our actions
Falling in love for the first time showed me the power my actions can have. It was in the spring of 1979 when my girlfriend and I found ourselves in love and committed to one another exclusively. Months of passing notes in class, flirting and finding the courage to act on an exciting curiosity lead to our first date and to the awareness our feelings ran deep. It was this way throughout the rest of the spring and into the summer. During the summer of 1979 I worked as a lifeguard. When school started later in the fall, I noticed other girls were interested in me, too. I felt confident with my lifeguard’s tan and broad-shouldered build that I initiated the break-up to make myself available for those interests. Without warning and without good cause, I abruptly ended the relationship. It never occurred to me the pain my actions would cause. When I asked for forgiveness and reconciliation, it was not granted. At that moment, now as a 17-year-old, my awareness of life and love shifted from a selfish mindset to one that showed me the power my actions have to bring happiness and sadness alike into the life of another. The world was no longer all about me – my actions affected the lives of others. My first love created the force necessary for the final push. My fall from adolescence was now complete. I had become an adult whether I was ready or not.

My first love created the force necessary for the final push. My fall from adolescence was now complete. I had become an adult whether I was ready or not. 19

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The power of passion and intensity
The emotions experienced in first love can be very intense. Most free time is spent together and those seemingly endless moments turn into long, passionate kisses when it’s time to say goodbye. After the final kiss is over and both find themselves alone, the phone will ring when one cannot stand time away from the other any longer. First love tells us the type of partner we want and it demonstrates the kind of partner we can be. First love also teaches us the value of passion and how it can be used to provide the inspiration to live passionately and with great faith in the other parts of our life. Our hearts come alive with our newfound ability to share what’s inside. Before we fall in love for the first time, our hearts beat to the familiar. We may love those in our life, but we haven’t quite recognized the enormous amount of hope we have to find someone special; someone just for us and with whom we can make a heart connection. It’s take courage to hold your heart in the palm of your hand while someone else takes your fingers and, one-by-one, peels them back to reveal the gift that is waiting. Sometimes the gift is cherished and sometimes it is not. Either way, we learn to surrender to passion because of the promise of what it can deliver.

Lessons learned
I accepted her friend request and thought for a moment about what type of comment I should write. The first thing that came to mind was to ask, once again, for some forgiveness. She provided that in her reply. Time may not cause us to forget, but it does provide some space for some healing. After exchanging a few more messages which attempted to cover the past 30 years, I logged out and went on with my day although the feelings that were churned up stayed with me. Somewhere along the way, I had forgotten that teenager who had a whole life in front of him. Like most 16-year-olds, I felt invincible and incapable of aging. The world was mine to shape into anything I wanted it to be. Dreams of medical school and experiencing fantastic www.thebridgemaker.com

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adventures filled my mind with great anticipation. And then, I found love and someone who made my heart beat differently than it had ever had before. Falling in love for the first time didn’t cause me to stop dreaming. Just the opposite. My first love helped me to realize a life with meaning is intended to be enjoyed together. We have the ability to accomplish whatever we set our minds to achieving, but having someone to share our life with makes all the difference. My first love taught me the lessons of passion and the power my actions can have on another. It taught me I was worthy to be loved unconditionally. My first love prepared me to be a better lover next time.

My first love taught me the lessons of passion and the power my actions can have on another. It taught me I was worthy to be loved unconditionally. My first love prepared me to be a better lover next time.

My 48-year-old heart now knows the power of love and hope. There is still plenty of life left in front of me and there is no need to rush. I learned these things from my first love.

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Chapter Four:

Improving Intimacy

Photo by Grafik Mekanik

“Among men, sex sometimes results in intimacy; among women, intimacy sometimes results in sex.” – Barbara Cartland

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ow often do you want to make love with your partner? How often does your partner want to make love? Many times the answers to both questions are not in sync. The

best answer for your relationship may be found somewhere in between. When most relationships first begin there is high degree of passion and sexual frequency. The newness of discovering one another as well as the newness of the relationship is the www.thebridgemaker.com

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primary contributor. Over time this new-found excitement and intrigue begins to wane and a more realistic pace develops. When both partners begin to settle into this pace, and are comfortable with the adjusted frequency, their shared passion and love for one another continues to be cultivated and refined. However, if one partner becomes disappointed or even resentful of the diminished frequency, then conflict can develop in the relationship. If you and your partner disagree on the amount of intimacy in your relationship, consider the following: 1. Discuss and determine, together, why the frequency in your relationship has declined. Look at what is happening outside of the bedroom first. Usually it’s the dayto-day activities of work or attending to the needs of the children that leaves one, or both, emotionally drained at the end of the day. 2. Provide assurance. If you are the one who is sometimes left exhausted after the day’s work is done, assure your partner it’s not your lack of interest or love in him or her – you’re just tired and need to recover. 3. Share expectations. Ask your partner how often he or she would like to be intimate. When they would like to be intimate – do they prefer making love in the morning when they are more rested or at the end of the day? Next, share your expectations. You both might be closer to a common set of expectations than you may think. If there are wide gaps in these expectations, make a plan to reach out and accommodate one another in ways that will not violate your personal boundaries. 4. Realize you are responsible for your own needs. Making love is the ultimate expression of love, connection and commitment. Both need to be in the moment in order for the experience to be mutually enjoyable. If there are times when you want to make love for other reasons, pursue individual ways to take care of this while www.thebridgemaker.com

When both partners begin to settle into this pace, and are comfortable with the adjusted frequency, their shared passion and love for one another continues to be cultivated and refined.

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honoring the commitments you have made with your loved one. 5. Trust and Surrender. In times when your partner is not in the state of mind to make love, trust this is a temporary situation and trust your partner will want to receive you again in due time. Surrender the temptation to promote your needs over the needs of your partner. Surrender to the belief that your focus must be on your partner’s needs without expecting anything in return. By trusting and surrendering, your needs will begin to be met by a more willing partner. Couples who talk about the intimacy in their relationships are in a much better position to deal with any potential conflict or pot-holes that will partner to take a rain check. As relationships mature and grow stronger, frequency is no longer gauged by “how many times.” It becomes measured by the trust and respect one has for the other and the willingness to make the time to give and receive meaningful intimacy.

Surrender to the belief that your focus must be on your partner’s needs without expecting anything in return.

develop from time-to-time. It’s OK to ask your partner to make love and it’s also OK for your

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Chapter Five:

One Dozen Out-ofthe-Box Ideas to Inspire Romance

Photo by bigbirdz

“My heart is ever at your service.” – William Shakespeare

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ften the times the gifts we give from the heart are the ones cherished the most. Mary Beth and I made a pact several years ago not to exchange token or cliché gifts

on special days like birthdays, our wedding anniversary or Mother’s and Father’s Day. Gifts www.thebridgemaker.com

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like a dozen of roses (although I do surprise her from time-to-time with flowers on days that have no particular meaning), after-shave or a box of candy are considered bad form. Instead we attempt to provide gifts that will touch the other’s heart and soul. We try to go a little deeper to let the other know how much we cherish their presence in our life. Here are one dozen out-of-the-box gift ideas to help you think differently about what to give on the days your want to inspire romance and let your partner know how much they mean to you: 1. Take her car for the day. Have it washed and vacuumed. Get the oil changed and take care of any other needed repairs or maintenance. Deliver it back both cleaner and safer – this will remind her that you do value her safety, security and comfort. 2. Use your design skills to create a “Take a Day for You” certificate on the computer. Print this and give it to your wife or girlfriend. Explain to her the certificate can be redeemed on any day that is most convenient for her to do whatever she chooses. 3. Ask her out for a date. Really ask her just like you did in the beginning. Call her and say the words. Let her know you don’t take her, or the time you share together for granted. 4. Get tickets to an upcoming concert of show. Take a look at who is coming to your area and surprise her with tickets. For even more fun, invite a few other couples to go, too, and rent a limo to keep the partying safe. 5. Coordinate a girl’s night out. Call some of her best friends and arrange for them to pick her up and take her out. 6. Arrange a movie night. Grab a couple of classics or current releases she may have missed, but would like to watch. Pick up a bottle of wine, some of her favorite hors d’oeuvres and get the fireplace going. 7. Surprise her by bringing lunch to her work. Show-up, unannounced, with lunch www.thebridgemaker.com

Instead we attempt to provide gifts that will touch the other’s heart and soul. We try to go a little deeper to let the other know how much we cherish their presence in our life.

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for two. This is the time to bring a bouquet of flowers. The flowers will remind her of your visit, and to be honest, she will enjoy showing them to her co-workers as testament to having such a thoughtful man in her life who loves her very much. 8. If she lives away from her parents or relatives, buy her an airline ticket (round-trip, of course). She will appreciate your recognition of the importance for her to continue developing and enjoying these relationships, too. 9. Make her something with your hands. It can be a Valentine’s Day card, a piece of pottery, or something from your workbench in the garage. The point is to put yourself into the gift – something unique from your heart to hers. 10. Plan a weekend get-a-way. It doesn’t have to be far away, only far enough to provide for some new scenery and a change-of-pace. 11. Take her back to the place of your first date. Let her know if you had to do it all over again, you would. 12. Put her needs before your needs. Tell her how much you love her and then live it by giving her the space to grow. Keep your jealously in-check, and let her live a life that is uniquely her own. Live the spirit of Valentine’s Day on the other days too. When you hold onto something too tightly it doesn’t have the room to grow. Find the courage to release it. When it comes back, you will know it is yours to keep, forever.

When you hold onto something too tightly it doesn’t have the room to grow. Find the courage to release it. When it comes back, you will know it is yours to keep, forever.

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Chapter Six:

How to Bring More Love inTo Your Life

Photo by Coolm36

“The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in.” – Morrie Schwartz

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ove lives at your core. It defines how you see the world, how you see others and more important love defines how you see yourself and how you measure happiness. Love is

the compass that points to your true North. However, love’s true North can sometimes appear beyond your reach and too hard to find even when you are holding the map in your hands. The way to love can feel nebulous, complex and even treacherous at times. Love is also the great paradox in life: You want to www.thebridgemaker.com

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find more of it but sometimes you are afraid of discovering its increasingly amazing power. Love’s capacity to fill the gaps in your life is always changing and expanding based on the attention you place on it. To bring more love into your life you must be willing to understand its true meaning and then be willing to recognize the meaning you bring to love.

What would you do with more love?
Begin by asking what you would do with more love in your life. Is it to fill a place of emptiness? It is a gift you want to give yourself? Or is it to strengthen and improve certain relationships? Love is best experienced when its purpose is clear. Love is not a drug to make you feel better or a temporary state of mind – it is a commitment to something bigger than anyone of us. When we ask for more love we are also assuming the responsibility to care for it, nurture it and to respect it. We are vowing to put love in a better place than where we found it. When this commitment is established, love begins its work. It brings clarity and focus to our lives. Love helps us to see what is truly important compared to what is only trivial. Love empowers us to help others find its healing grace while we are showered with love’s grace along the way. “I want more to bring more love into my life so I can continue to be a person of dignity, confidence and be the light for my wife and children.” – Alex Blackwell

To bring more love into your life you must be willing to understand its true meaning and then be willing to recognize the meaning you bring to love.

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Simple ways to bring more love into your life
To bring more love into your life, you may need to draw a new map or shake your compass a little if it’s stuck. Finding new ways to let more love in your life can be simple to do when your heart is ready for the journey:

Acknowledge the walls holding love back.
Often what keeps you from bringing more love into your life is you. Step back and notice the barriers that are holding love back. Are you withholding love from others because of jealously, spite or a lack of emotion? Do you see love as a burden or something unimportant? Do you allow self-love to flow through you? Bringing more love into your life takes action and consciousness awareness. Begin by knocking down the walls that are keeping love away. When you do, love will not come in drips, it will come all at once.

Change and grow.
Love is not static. People change; relationships change and you change, too. Becoming aware of the changing needs of the people in your life and then changing how you extend love to meet these needs will allow love to grow.

Determine what you are willing to release to experience more love.
Consider what it would feel like to let go of past expectations, rules or experiences of love. In the place where regret once lived, fill this space with hope and imagine what your life could look like from this point forward. Let go of the past and take hold of love.

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Stop controlling love.
Love knows no boundaries and is limitless in its potential. The idea of controlling love is temporary at best. To bring more love into your life you must be willing to surrender to it. Put down your anxiety and allow love to fill your life on its schedule; not yours.

Imagine what love looks like to you.
Close your eyes and feel love spread over you. What does it look like to you? Is it peace, security and wonder? Does it look like loving your partner or child unconditionally? Does it look like repairing a part of your past? Or does it look like having the confidence to love you a little more each day? No matter what love looks like to you, keep this picture in front of you and refer to it often when it feels like love is slipping away.

Recognize your expectations of love.
Love often disappoints when your expectations are unrealistic. Love can be the bridge that brings two people together, but the bridge looks different each day. Some days it is paved with passion and on other days it is filled with a simple, subtle knowing. Celebrate each day for what it brings and understand that to realize intense intimacy a baseline has to be established. The “baseline days” of sharing gentle tenderness can be just as passionate when your expectations are appropriately calibrated.

Practice giving.
Love grows in abundance by how much you are willing to give – so practice giving. Donate to the disadvantaged, find ways to help someone in need and give your time and attention to worthwhile causes. Find ways to make your partner’s day a little easier and be fully www.thebridgemaker.com

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present for your children. Practice giving more of yourself. With practice, love will grow in strength.

Know what’s temporary.
Shortcuts in love may feel good, but they don’t last. Instant gratification isn’t really love at all. Commit to the journey of learning how you can bring more love to others. Resist the temptation of doing what feels good at the moment and replace it with what you really want for the long term.

Choose Love.
There is a difference between love, the feeling and love the choice. Throughout life, we often have the opportunity to fall in love. Feelings of excitement are often associated with love when it is first experienced. It can feel very good to fall in love and it can feel very empty when the love is taken away. However, in order to live a happy and purposeful life it is important to choose to become a loving person. Even though we can’t always control or predict when we may feel love, we do have the power to choose to become love. We get to choose when and how to act with love. Opportunities exist every day to choose love.

Love yourself, first.
Before you can share love, you must first have love for yourself. Otherwise, how can you share what you don’t have? However, it may be difficult to find happiness and peace if you don’t think of yourself as worthy of receiving love. Self love is the most important element of becoming a spiritually healthy person. Love for self gives you balance, it centers you, and it keeps you on track when circumstances in life attempt to derail you. www.thebridgemaker.com

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Give yourself love.
The challenge to giving yourself love becomes when you have never learned how to love yourself in the first place. Some may find it difficult to self love, not because of their feelings of worthiness, but because they don’t know how. Because of childhood events, or other life experiences, some don’t even understand they are allowed to self love. If you have difficulty with the idea of self love, consider imagining you are holding the smaller you; the younger you. What would you say? Would you show love? Chances are you would. Extend that same love to yourself today.

Make time for love.
What’s more important to you, watching television or providing your attention to the person standing in front of you requesting your time and attention? Often times when we think we are too busy to give some of our time, some of our love, we are really just making the choice to do something else. The five minutes it might take to be fully present for someone or to return the telephone phone call to a friend who needs to talk, or to give and receive a hug can be the best time invested all day – and this investment will come back to you with more meaningful returns than perhaps anything else you may do.

Try to see the best in others, not the worst.
When you expect good things to happen, good usually does happen. When you expect the best in someone, you often receive that, too. Bottom line: You usually get what you asked for in life. Begin learning how to experience those in your life (co-workers, friends, and family) as essentially good, worthy and full of incredible value. Look for ways they please you, surprise you, and make your life better. They will feel your admiration, confidence and love for them.

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Do your best to do your best, never try to do your worst.
Becoming love takes effort. Becoming love is a commitment to show grace and compassion to others no matter how upset or discouraged you may feel. Becoming love has no margin for short-cuts or intentional ill-will. When you set out to try to do your best, no matter the circumstance, it will come back to you 20-fold or more.

Celebrate the love in your life.
Love is a miracle. When you are able to share your love and become love you have something worth treasuring and celebrating. We should never take love for granted – it can be snatched away quickly and without mercy. Celebrate your loving heart and celebrate how blessed your life is becoming as you become love to more and more people. Celebrate the “one thing” in your life with passion and enthusiasm.

Finding true North
Love helps you find your way. The more love you bring into your life the clearer the path becomes. You can surround yourself with possessions, excuses or by clinging to the past, but in the end, nothing trumps love. Love is the healer; the giver of abundance and the creator of peace. Love comes from a place not of this world and will be with you forever. You are equipped with an especially-prepared device that allows more love to flow in your life – your heart.

Love is the healer; the giver of abundance and the creator of peace. Love comes from a place not of this world and will be with you forever.

When you invite someone to peel back the clenched fingers protecting your heart and trust this person will love it with tenderness and compassion then you are sharing the best part of yourself. By sharing, giving and then receiving love, more of it will come into your life and will continue pointing to your true North. www.thebridgemaker.com

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Chapter Seven:

Can Love Last a Lifetime?

Photo by Candida.Performa

“It is difficult to know at what moment love begins; it is less difficult to know that it has begun.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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wrote the following article, Love as Grace as Rain, to commemorate, and celebrate, our 25th wedding anniversary. While 25 years is a long time, we are still learning how to

meet each other needs and what makes the other feel special. Some days the answers are clear. Other days the answers seem encrypted in a code that neither person can seem to decipher. But the questions remain the same: Can there still be love left for someone who you have loved for 25 years? Can love last a lifetime? www.thebridgemaker.com

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No matter how we choose to answer on any given day, Mary Beth and I don’t give up and we don’t give in to the temptation to stop trying. We try to give back by being a witness to the power of love and its healing grace. It is my pleasure to share this article with you.

Love as Graceful as Rain
Rain seems so far away when the dry cracked ground is starved for a little attention. Our faith is stretched as we wait for the healing relief to fall. But the rain will come. It can gather momentum quickly and surprise us with its sudden bursts of power. When the rain arrives, we are comforted by its rhythm. We breathe in its sweet smell and find pleasure in the sensory replenishment. A soaking rain can feel like love pouring over us. The sensation is a reminder that love, like rain, comes for us all.

Extraordinary love
Rain fell on me 25 years ago when I married Mary Beth. We celebrate our anniversary tomorrow. In some ways it will be just another Tuesday. We will wake early and prepare for work. There may be a quick telephone call or text message over lunch. Dinner plans will revolve around Andrew’s baseball game. After arriving home we will sort the mail, feed the dogs and remind Emily to take a bath. It may seem like another Tuesday, but living underneath the ordinary is an extraordinary love that continues to fall every day. 25 years of Tuesdays just like this one has provided the nourishment to keep our love alive. Our marriage has also seen the extremes. From sharing heartfelt passion to inching close to the brink of divorce, Mary Beth and I have endured the storms and we have danced in the rain. We continue to figure each other out as we search for the things that live inside of us www.thebridgemaker.com

From sharing heartfelt passion to inching close to the brink of divorce, Mary Beth and I have endured the storms and we have danced in the rain.

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as one man and one woman who make the choice to share a life together.

Watching it rain
My wife and I provide a properly-sized window so our children can look in and see the beautiful things love teaches. We hope Brandon, Caitlin, Andrew and Emily take these lessons to heart:

» » » » » » » » »

Knowing how someone wants to be loved and then providing that love are two separate things. To love consciously is a choice. Sincerity is the bridge to intimacy. It opens and closes based on how the honesty travels. Saying nothing can sometimes speak the loudest. Real love is sustained when we make the choice to feed it with our deliberate passion. Forgiveness is love’s beautiful child. It is conceived, nurtured and then delivered all from love. Kindness isn’t an act; it’s a constant connection that never tires. When we love we accept the responsibility to lift the other person up no matter how far they have fallen. Never do anything you wouldn’t want your partner to discover. Don’t wait until tomorrow to say, “I love you.” Say it today; say it right now.

Let it rain
The day I met Mary Beth I felt something come to life inside of me. The connection was powerful and took me by surprise. The summer of 1984 was a happy time. From the beginning, we seemed to know what the other needed. Sweet, simple and sensual feelings www.thebridgemaker.com

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dripped over us. Love found us that summer and we were exhilarated by its powerful bursts. By the next June we were married. Poor and needing to live with her parents, Mary Beth and I were determined to start building our new life regardless of the circumstances. The early weeks and months created the foundation that still exists today. This foundation was built on trust. We shared stories complete with pain, shame and regret. We revealed our souls to each other and no one blinked. Because of what we know, there is a trust that is just as strong as our love. Today we continue to hold each other accountable while providing comfort and unconditional love when it is needed. Eight years ago our marriage was about to end. My focus had become too much on me and on what I needed. My wife and children were somewhere in the background. It took the shock of seeing what I loved becoming so unhappy that startled me into changing.

We revealed our souls to each other and no one blinked. Because of what we know, there is a trust that is just as strong as our love.

But somehow Mary Beth’s heart was touched and she gave me a second chance. Through her grace and forgiveness, she saw the change too. Today it feels like it did during the summer of 1984 and my daily intent is to be man I promised to be. After 25 years, love continues to pour over us. We are comforted by its familiar rhythm and we still find pleasure in love’s sweet smell. Our love has matured and we now understand there will be some days when we get distracted by the busyness of our lives and on other days we will fall into each other and enjoy the tender connection. On all these days the question remains the same: Can there still be love left for someone who you have loved for 25 years? My answer is yes. I say yes because I have received love when my dry cracked heart was starved for a little attention. I say yes because I have experienced love on the ordinary Tuesdays and felt the amazing power in the extraordinary. I say yes because I have felt love as graceful as rain. www.thebridgemaker.com

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Chapter Eight:

100 ways to Love

Photo by aussiegall

“I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart so long. If we’re in each other’s dreams, we can be together all the time.” – Calvin & Hobbes

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xpressing love to our partners, children, family and friends not only strengthens communication it also improves connection and intimacy. Too often we get distracted

by the trivial and forget how important it is to nurture our relationships.

Finding simple, but heartfelt ways to love other is a source of encouragement for the giver and the receiver. By loving consciously, we discover each other is a source of Love is the force that puts the world back together encouragement for the when it feels like it’s coming apart. It provides giver and the receiver.
Finding simple, but heartfelt ways to love each www.thebridgemaker.com

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a sense of contentment and gratitude deep in our hearts and is the voice that tells us, “Everything will be okay.”

Consider these ways to love each other and help create a world where beauty and grace can fill the hearts of everyone willing to give and then receive Love’s gentle power:
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. Don’t wait to say, “I love you.” Tell someone today, right now. Tell your child you believe in her or him. When you ask a question, listen to the answer. Leave an unexpected note. Admit when you are wrong. Do what you say you’re going to do. Be generous with compliments and judicious with complaints. Forgive, let go and move on. Smile when someone touches your heart.

10. Prepare and share a meal together. 11. Tell your parent one thing he or she did that inspired you. 12. Treat a friend to lunch. 13. Seek to understand first, before asking to be understood. 14. Hold onto a hug one moment longer than expected. 15. Be an encourager. 16. Show patience, even in your busiest moment. 17. Help a friend find something that has been lost. 18. When someone is on your mind, pick up the phone and let them know. www.thebridgemaker.com

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19. Tell your wife how much you love her every night. 20. Tell your husband you are proud of him every day. 21. Be faithful to your partner even when you think Temptation has made its case. 22. Pray together. 23. Turn on a light to interrupt the darkness. 24. When asked for feedback; give it honestly, but with compassion. 25. Never forget the love you have been given; treasure it; respect it and hold onto it. 26. Put your child’s needs ahead of your own. 27. Show respect and expect respect in return. 28. Be comfortable in the silence. 29. Grab a work-out together. 30. Let your wife know you would marry her again. 31. Read to your child. 32. Extend a hand when there is a need. 33. Make time to just play! 34. Don’t gloat when you are right. 35. Let them see you being vulnerable; it will validate their own vulnerability. 36. Call your mom or dad often and offer some real insight into your life. 37. Climb the mountain and then enjoy the view together. 38. Never use love, or the threat of withholding love, as a weapon. 39. Be the rock in the storm. 40. Remember the words you use can encourage and they can hurt, too. www.thebridgemaker.com

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41. Do the right thing, always. 42. Be the first to stand up for your child. 43. Look for opportunities to make a loved one’s day a little easier. 44. Say, “Thank you.” 45. Open your heart to receive a loved one’s best effort. 46. Carry your friend; but know when it’s time to put him down. 47. When angry, think about how your words will be received ten minutes into the future. 48. Linger at the dinner table after the meal has been eaten. 49. Know when to offer space and respect boundaries. 50. Remember that everyone deserves a second chance. 51. Go for a walk and leave the iPods at home. 52. Diffuse embarrassment with laughter. 53. Be willing to fall in love with your partner over and over. 54. Leave work at work. 55. Receive the compliment – it’s a gift created especially for you. 56. Your children hear everything; give them something worth repeating. 57. Speak your mind, but with a tender heart. 58. Share. Honor. Trust. Love and then repeat. 59. Provide a safe place to rest. 60. Notice the small things and recognize them. 61. Cover your partner with more of what they want. 62. Trust a friend. 63. Don’t offer or try to fix a loved one. www.thebridgemaker.com

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64. Place your partner’s hand inside of yours. 65. Laugh together. 66. Call when you are running late. 67. Watch home videos or look through family photo albums together. 68. Take the good with the bad. 69. Ask your child for his opinion. 70. Save enough energy for a good-night kiss. 71. Compliment your partner in front of others. 72. Become the loudest cheerleader. 73. Live in the here and now with those closest to your heart. 74. Tell your loved ones what they mean to you. 75. Be a model for healthy living. 76. When your partner comes home stop what you are doing and greet her. 77. Demonstrate self-acceptance and self-love. 78. Wait for the “rest of the story” before coming to an opinion. 79. Make the relationship a priority. 80. Show your gratitude. 81. Refrain from expecting perfection. 82. Be generous with your most valuable resource – your time. 83. Help a loved one to feel special on their birthday. 84. Love each one for who they are today. 85. Solve problems together. 86. Let them see the real you.

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87. Cry together. 88. Let a loved one know that he or she is making your life better. 89. Do the unexpected. 90. Choose true connection over mediocrity. 91. Never insult your spouse, child and friend. 92. Plan a family night. 93. Know when to disconnect from the computer and re-connect. 94. Give gifts from your heart. 95. Acknowledge your partner’s worth. 96. Stop trying so hard to be the perfect parent and just be who you are. 97. Lift up your friend. 98. Let your parents know you will continue the positive family traditions. 99. Remember the art of patience. 100. Simply love and love simply

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Closing
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hank you for reading How to Love Consciously. Every week new articles are published on The BridgeMaker about the importance of faith, inspiration and change. Thousands of people read these articles where they find encouragement and support. If you are not already a subscriber, subscribe here to receive free, twice-weekly articles delivered to your inbox. You are also invited to join The BridgeMaker community on Facebook where you will be inspired everyday with thought provoking questions, quotes and by like-minded people who also want to make a difference in this world. All my best, Alex Blackwell

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