Dec 292010
 

Recent research has shown that we use scent to assess compatibility in finding a partner. Claus Wedekind, a biologist at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, conducted a study where he gave 44 men T-shirts to wear for two nights in a row. The men refrained from using any scent-based products, so that only their natural scent stayed with the T-shirts (they used scent-free soap and aftershave during this period). Then 49 women sniffed the shirts, and more often than chance, women preferred the shirts of men who were immunologically dissimilar. These women also reported that the scents of their favorite T-shirts reminded them of past and current boyfriends, suggesting that they are consistently choosing partners with the same immunological profile.

So how does immunology affect a person’s scent? Well, there are more than 100 immune system genes known as MHC (major histocompatibility complex). These genes code for proteins that help the immune system recognize pathogens, and they seem to create a certain smell in an individual.

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Dec 212010
 

I had a major epiphany a few years after I began studying yoga. It was about how we women tend to find ourselves in unhealthy patterns where we are completely attached to unavailable men–and it’s our fault! I discovered that this state of being is the state of Samsara.

What is Samsara?

Let me start with a little background. When I began studying yoga and Eastern philosophies, I was introduced to the concept of Samsara. My basic understanding is that Samsara is the state of suffering here on Earth for human beings that come back again and again through reincarnation. That is the “religious” explanation. But if we investigate this concept further apart from any “religious” inclinations, I think we will find that there is much truth at the core of this idea regardless of what one’s spiritual beliefs are.

Samsara is also a state of being attached to things that can be lost or desiring things that we do not have. Being attached to things that can be lost is really only a problem when we lose them–and everything can be lost! Desiring things we do not have is never really productive. It creates a state of hoping versus having, that keeps us further removed from attaining the very things we desire.

To get a formal definition of Samsara apart from what I already know, I went to the Wikipedia page for Samsara and found these descriptions: continuous flow, continuous pursuit, continuous stream of consciousness, continuous but random drift of patterns, desires, emotions, and experiences, to flow on, perpetually wander, and mundane existence full of suffering and misery.

It is interesting to see how a common theme here is continuous drifting, which is a great parallel to the state of our minds under normal circumstances. This is what those who study Eastern philosophy often call the “monkey mind”, a mind that is not focused and constantly drifting. In fact, a recent study has shown that people are happiest when their minds are focused. Meditation, a central practice of Eastern philosophy, is about strengthening the mind’s ability to focus and keep from drifting aimlessly from one random thought (or worry) to the next. This drifting is a part of Samsara and becoming conscious of it is the first step to moving past moving past suffering in life and in relationships.

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Dec 212010
 
3 Ways to Free Yourself from Samsara in Love

1) Choose Pleasure

When I first recognized this pattern in myself, I dealt with it by choosing pleasure. In a state of Samsara, you are suffering. And it’s easier to suffer. You could say this is even the default human condition. It takes more work, more refinement to be truly happy. If you are suffering, because things are not the way you want them to be with “insert guy’s name here”, recognize that you are in a state of Samsara and choose something to take pleasure in.

When I began doing this, I started to really enjoy spending time with people in my life other than The Guy. I allowed myself to settle in and really appreciate moments that had nothing to do with him. I relished time with family and friends, found ways to enjoy work, and set goals for myself that I was excited about. During this period where I had great success with this (you will have more success with this at certain times in your life than others depending on your lesson), I remember enjoying museums, shopping, travelling, eating out, dancing, listening to music, and going to the theater–all of it I enjoyed very vividly.

When you choose pleasure and truly embrace it, you notice that it feels so good. You wonder why you would ever choose to wallow in Samsara. But the truth is that choosing happiness and pleasure (even though it feels so good) is a skill that one must learn. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t maintain it at first. Most of us don’t find it easy to do so. Of course there are people that naturally have a happier disposition, but most of us do struggle with this.

2) Allow Yourself to Be Loved

 

When I became fully aware that I created my own suffering by attaching myself to unavailable guys, I was truly horrified. I had been thinking of myself as this strong woman who just happened to be very upset at the state of things with a particular guy. But then I realized

I chose these guys, and I also chose to suffer.

The reason I chose this was because I was afraid to really get close–I was afraid of intimacy. It turns out that women handle a fear of intimacy different from the way men do–and the difference is that women tend to handle it in a way that is NOT FUN for them.

This made me angry. I became angry that this suffering was a choice I had chosen out of fear AND, that I had chosen to handle it by suffering (a choice typical for women). That anger gave me the motivation I needed to CHOOSE PLEASURE instead of suffering and to allow myself to be loved.

I started to focus on basking in the attention of the guys who were interested in me instead of pining for the unavailable ones. I consciously told myself to “allow myself to be loved”, as I flirted with them and enjoyed their attention.

I want to point out that you can know this is the right thing to do intellectually and still find it difficult, if you are hung up on a specific unavailable guy. You may have success with this at one point in your life and yet may find it more difficult with another.

Please don’t beat yourself up. Remember that life itself is a meditation, and that you will move in and out of awareness. When you notice yourself drifting away from what is best for you, simply allow yourself to come back.

Also realize that struggling with this challenge can be seen as a sign of growth. It is likely that if you have come to this awareness in the past and are struggling with it again, you may actually be struggling with the same lesson on a higher level. Lessons can come back into your life more than once, but each time be more subtle and more challenging.

Perhaps it is more difficult to detach yourself from a current guy than it was to detach from a previous one. Remember, that the deeper the relationship goes, the harder it can be to resolve this lesson. Each time you do, however, you are become stronger.

3) Recognize the Illusion for What It Is 

 

The state of Samsara is strongly associated with how our brains work naturally (often to our own detriment). Every relationship, no matter how brief or long will have both positive and negative aspects to it. We are “wired”, however, to overlook the negatives in the beginning stages of a relationship. If the relationship never really gets off the ground or gets past this stage, realize that you only have a taste of the “honeymoon” period. You have absolutely no idea of the negatives that could have been in store, to ground you and protect you from getting too caught up in the fantasy.

On the other hand, if the relationship was long-term and has now ended, it is possible that you will only be able to focus on the positive for a time. You may look back on the relationship with sentimentality and completely forget how angry or upset you felt while you were in the relationship.

Recognize that focusing on the positives and ignoring the negatives is part of how our brains work when we are caught up in a certain state of love or “crush.” The positive aspects you are focusing on are real. Just remind yourself to stay grounded in the truth of reality, the good and the bad.

Sometimes we hold to things/ideas/people that are not good for us because we are afraid. Perhaps there is some payoff?

Being able to protect yourself from getting hurt?

Believing that on some level you don’t deserve happiness?

Let it go.

Choose pleasure.

Allow yourself to be loved.

Recognize the illusion for what it is.