Relationships on the Spiritual Path

By Lissa Rankin

Guest writer for Wake Up World

One of the most common topics people who read my blog email my way is some variation of the question, “I’m on the spiritual path, and it’s affecting my closest relationships. How do I navigate this consciously?” This article is written in response to those questions.

Comfort, Soul Growth & Judgment

For most of my life, I valued relationships that are easy. You know the ones, where someone finishes your sentences for you, anticipates and meets your needs before you have them, sits with you peacefully and wordlessly because there’s nothing to “process,” and offers you comfort. These people rarely have conflict with you. They validate and value you. They’ve got your back. They’d do anything to avoid hurting you. They uphold your image of yourself or even uplift it. They remember your birthday and bring you soup when you’re sick. You feel like you’re resting in a nest of feathers when they walk in the room. It’s just so easy to be with them.

I still value these kinds of relationships — deeply. In fact, I’m almost becoming nostalgic for those kinds of relationships. Yet, there’s a potential shadow side to this kind of relationship. In choosing people who validate our self-image, we may be looking outside ourselves for evidence of our worthiness, wholeness, and “enough”-ness.

Yes, we are tribal beings, and we need one another. But we also need mirrors who are willing to reflect back to us the blind spots that often drive our behavior unconsciously. These limiting beliefs and self-sabotaging behaviors that we inherit in childhood may cause us to create and recreate our own suffering—over and over and over again. We need people who love us enough to say “Can you see how you’re creating yet another heartbreak with yet another lover who is likely to betray you?” Or “Can you see how your boss treats you the same way your father did—and you let him?” Those brave enough to lovingly help us see our blind spots are nuggets of gold, though those relationships may not always feel like a fuzzy pair of warm bunny slippers.

A Conscious Relationship to Judgment

Increasingly now, my relationships are mirrors that help me see that which I have trouble seeing alone. If I get triggered, there’s a good chance that it’s because I’m seeing something in the person I love that is a disavowed shadow part of myself. If I’m inclined to judge, I better be willing to point that finger right back at myself and own how I might be that very thing I would judge. Byron Katie said. “No one can hurt me. That’s my job.” She also says, “If I think you’re my problem, I’m insane.” I get the wisdom in this perspective, which invites us to own our part in any conflict, as I described here. This mindset takes us out of our victim story and invites us to go into spiritual inquiry about why we’re triggered.

But I think we can take that perspective too far. Perhaps sometimes people just do cruel or hurtful things, and it’s appropriate to feel angry and hurt. That hurt is like the pain you feel when you touch a hot stove. The hurt is saying “Be careful around this person. This person may not be trustworthy. You might need to keep your distance—or wear oven mitts.”

I don’t buy the New Age jargon that says that all triggers we experience are an out-picturing of our own shadow, and all judgment needs to be abolished. We are human. If someone takes a machete to a child, we are going to judge. If your best friend sleeps with your lover, you may understand how it happened, and you may even feel compassion for those who betrayed you, but at least for a while, you’re still likely to judge. To judge the judgment seems like a lot of wasted energy. Perhaps the invitation is to examine the judgment, be aware that you are judging, feel what you’re feeling entirely, and avoid the temptation to use the spiritual principle of non-judgment as a sort of spiritual bypass. Question the judgment, own your part in it, and make appropriate decisions about inspired actions and boundaries. Then let it go. Holding onto resentment is toxic. Forgiveness is the medicine the soul needs, but premature forgiveness is yet another form of spiritual bypassing. First, you have to feel what you feel—all the way. Genuine forgiveness arrives in its own time, when it’s ready, when love sweeps through and replaces resentment, anger, hurt, and judgment. I don’t think you can rush this process. You can just open your heart and invite it in.

Reframing the Heart’s Armor

Perhaps part of living and loving in conscious relationship is the ability to hold with gentleness the wounds of ourselves and the wounds of our beloveds. Maja Apolonia Rodé takes a compassionate and enlightened stand for the protective parts of the personality that help us survive. (She is also one of those people who I trust to both hold me when I need comfort and grow me when I need a kick in the pants.) Maja writes:

One day I had done some inner work with the help of a counselor, which was about honoring and valuing some young part of myself. The next morning as I was sitting quietly, it came to me that I was letting go of a layer of protection around my heart. And in that process of letting go it was like saying goodbye to a spirit guide who came to help me when I experienced a trauma as a child in which I didn’t receive protection or support from the adults around me. Nobody stood up for me when I needed someone to do that.

That guide had remained there to protect that innocence since I was three years old. As it left, it was like saying goodbye to an old friend who had supported and loved me my whole life—with tears and deep gratitude in parting. That guide was committed to being there until I was truly up to the task of standing up for this innocent part of me. And until that moment, I hadn’t been up to the task. I had not been able to hold my innocence and authenticity that deeply until then.

What I appreciated about the experience was a deepening awareness that what we might label as ‘ego protection’ is actually a movement of love. I saw that layer of protection as a being/guide, and while it took energy to host that guide in my body-mind, it was doing an important service for me. It was also beautiful to see that that protection could only be let go when I was truly able to honor and stand up for that part of myself. That was the loving commitment of that being, to give itself in service to me until I could do that service for myself. I got to see that whatever inner protection/defensiveness is there, that is protecting something deep and authentic that I need to accept and honor and properly care for within myself. Until I can honor and accept that part of me, it will remain unconscious.

A Definition of Love

My new definition of love includes both soul growth and refuge. “Love is having the courage to push the limits of soul growth in oneself and another while comforting the scared, triggered inner child, so she feels safe enough to let down her armor.” Let us invite our loved ones to help us grow as much as we’re ready. Let us do the same for those we love. But we must remember, as Rachel Naomi Remen says, “You can’t force a rosebud to blossom by beating it with a hammer.” If we get pushed too far into the pain of our shadows, may we blessed with comfort and nurturing. We are all doing the best we can.

Rumi writes, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

May we all be brave enough to unguard the heart with the right people, to practice discernment so we can protect the inner child who is too afraid to lie exposed, to take risks that blow the heart open wide for those who have earned entry into your most vulnerable spaces, and to invite all of our relationships—even the challenging ones—to be portals for awakening that crack us open and cleanse us from us all that is not love.

Expectations, Intimacy, Freedom & Trust

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room—expectations.

Sometimes I grow weary of being advised that if only I could release all expectations of people, I would be at peace. This sounds great, in theory, yet in practice, it only works when I’m in certain unsustainable states of heightened consciousness. Then when the spiritual high wears off, as it inevitably does, I am, once again, at risk of feeling hurt, disappointed and dismissed when my hopes and desires aren’t met. But I have to question whether we’re really supposed to eliminate all expectations. How are we to know who we can trust unless we put our hearts out there, take risks, hope that someone will show up for us, and then build trust when they do? Sure, if I expect nothing of someone, I can’t be let down. If my goal is to avoid disappointment, this might be prudent. But I also can’t rely on that person when I’m in need. Shakespeare says, “Expectation is the root of all heartache.” But when we dare to express hopes and they are met or even exceeded, isn’t this the root of all trust? Isn’t this where true intimacy lives?

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The older I get, the more I cherish the people who show up—the ones who go out of their way to demonstrate loving action, the ones who are consistent with their loyalty and love. I didn’t value these people as much when I was younger, seduced as I was by charisma, talent, intellect, beauty, or celebrity. These days, I value the quietly faithful, who never seem to either approve nor disapprove of me, who simply show up consistently to celebrate life’s triumphs, offer comfort in life’s tragedies, share tea together on a full moon, and dream with me. I want to be able to expect that of a few discerningly select inner circle people. I want others to expect that of me. Of course, we’ll never get it perfect, this love thing. We’ll fail, fail again, fail better. But isn’t it okay to expect that when you’re feeling tender, and you take a risk and ask for love, those nearest to you will at least try to hold your outstretched hand? Isn’t it okay to expect that trust will not be betrayed, that those we let closest will protect our vulnerabilities while also helping us grow beyond our triggers?

Expectations with a Capital “E”

In response to something I wrote on Facebook, Sally Wallach wrote;

I’ve got nearly twenty years on you, so I’m going to offer some thoughts. There are expectations, and then there are Expectations. You have a right to expect to be treated with respect. By that I mean, you need not allow anyone to ride roughshod over you. But, you can extend your hand with love and vulnerability without expecting that it will be taken and held loyally. Some people can, but some can’t manage that kind of loyalty. The older I get, the more aware I am of my own moments of falling short of my best self, and the more I am able to understand that everyone has times of heroism and villainy. I hope my villainous times are mostly behind me now, but one never knows. I do know that I am able—and willing—to show up without requiring reciprocation.

I love this. It’s so gentle, so compassionate, with both ourselves and others.

Maybe it’s really a matter of semantics. Maybe we’re meant to hope but not expect.

Perhaps hope keeps alive the spark of the heart, while expectation is nothing but premeditated resentment.

When we learn to express our hopes from this expansive, vulnerable, heart-centered place, we teach people what our hearts need and give them the chance to show up. Then we have the chance to offer the same gift in return. Intimacy is the byproduct.

The Anatomy of Trust

In her book Rising Strong, Brené Brown describes the anatomy of trust through the acronym “BRAVING.” I find this a useful tool when it comes to assessing how trustworthy I am being in relationship to others. It’s also a good discernment tool that helps me know who to let all the way into the sanctuary of my innermost heart.

B—Boundaries. You respect my boundaries and when you are not clear about what’s OK and what’s not OK, you ask. You are willing to say no.

R—Reliability. You do what you say you’ll do. At work this means staying aware of your competencies and limitations so that you don’t over-promise and are able to deliver on commitments and balance competing priorities.

A—Accountability. You own your mistakes, apologize, and make amends.

V—Vault. You don’t share information or experiences that are not yours to share. I need to know that my confidences are kept and that you are not sharing with me information about other people that should be confidential.

I—Integrity. You choose courage over comfort. You choose what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy. And you choose to practice your values rather than simply professing them.

N—Non-judgment. I can ask for what I need, and you can ask for what you need. We can talk about how we feel without judgment.

G—Generosity. You extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words and actions of others.

Are You Feeling Safe Enough to Be BRAVE?

When you read through BRAVING, what do you feel? If you view this with self-compassion and use it as a marker of how you’re showing up in relationships, are you demonstrating trustworthiness? When you hold it up gently as a tool of discernment and assess the people in your inner circle, are you making good choices about who you let into your circle of trust?

Sharing this tool with others can open the door for meaningful conversation. If you simply tell someone, “I don’t trust you,” you leave them on the defensive, feeling confused and helpless. But if you’re able to be specific, saying, “I don’t feel safe when you share my innermost secrets with others,” you offer your loved ones a way to build and demonstrate trust with you. Ultimately, we can trust that people will be who they are. The more we can just be with that without expecting it to be different, the more we can be in open-eyed truth in our relationships and relax into love.

The Plane of Love

For most of my life, love fit into boxes. There was “family love,” the kind of love you have for your mother or father or child. There was “romantic love,” the love of your soul mate or lover. There was love for animals, the kind of pure, devotional love you might feel for your pet. Love fit nicely into defined containers—until about 8 years ago. Then I started experiencing love in ways I couldn’t quite explain. It started with experiences in nature. I would gaze at a waterfall, and then WHAM. My heart would explode with butterflies and I would BE the waterfall and I would make love with that waterfall, as if I had just fallen in love. Tears would spill down my cheeks and I would feel so exposed I could hardly stand it. Or I would call in the Cheetah or meet a cheetah on safari in Africa and my chest would get cracked open as if I’d just had heart surgery. Love would burst out of me and through me and I would love those whales or that cheetah more than I had ever loved anything in my whole life. My whole body would be buzzing with love, a vibrating tenderness emerging from the sanctuary of my heart.

My mind didn’t know what to make of it.

Then it started happening with people I’d never met before. I would meet a stranger, gaze into his or her eyes, and BAM. My heart would get zapped and blown open, and it confused me. The mind kicks in. Am I in love with this person? Wait, but it’s a woman that just blew open my heart. Am I gay? Wait, it’s a married man who just blew open my heart. Am I a home wrecker? It’s a gay man who just blew open my heart. Am I supposed to become his first female lover? Confusing!

Spirit GUides

Then it started happening with patients of mine. We’d be in tender conversation, entering deeply personal, psycho-spiritual territory as part of the healing process, and WHAP. The heart bursts open for us both, and suddenly someone with a supposedly “incurable” illness, someone who has failed every medical treatment out there, has a “spontaneous” remission and the illness disappears. What the heck is that? Now I no longer see patients, but this phenomenon sometimes happens when I teach workshops or work one-on-one with my mentoring clients. What is happening? What does it mean?

Love Can Be Confusing

It’s only recently that I’ve realized that these experiences happen to the other people at the same time it’s happening to me. Sometimes when I feel my heart blown open, the other person is experiencing the same thing. The woman I just met is feeling her heart burst open, and she’s wondering if she’s gay. The married man and the gay man are feeling confused by this heart-opening they’re feeling with me. The patient who just had the spontaneous remission is thinking, “WTF?” The person at the workshop is flooded with question marks. This love doesn’t fit under the category of family love or romantic love or pet love. But it’s LOVE, nonetheless, a love that may be even more profound than the love one has for a parent or a lover. What is this? What do we do with it?

The Plane of Love

I was talking about this with a friend of mine, and I was using the term “evolutionary love” because I didn’t know what to call it. She asked me to explain what I meant by “evolutionary love,” so I tried pitifully to translate the ineffable into words.

Your heart bursts open and your chest is filled with butterflies and you feel this rush of tenderness so exquisite that you feel almost uncomfortably exposed and vulnerable. Love is hemorrhaging out of you but it’s not going to hurt you because even more love is flooding into you from some invisible Source, so you know you’re never going to run out of this kind of love. There’s an infinite supply and it fills you like a waterfall that spurts out of you so fast you can barely breathe. As this happens, the borders between you and the being you love start to dissolve. The membrane that separates you vanishes and you feel like you ARE that person or animal or mountain, as if there’s no boundary between you. You lose yourself in this love. Lose yourself into what? Into Oneness? It’s hard to describe. It’s simultaneously terrifying and wondrous, filling you with awe and light. The mind drops away at some point and all you feel is an indescribable beauty and openness, a sweetness that bubbles up through you and rushes through your body like warm honey. If you lean all the way into it, you feel like you’ll get lost in it, like you’ll never come back, but if you can resist the temptation to guard against it, you feel deep connection and intimacy. Every sense is heightened. Colors are technicolor. The wind on your skin gives you goosebumps. There’s erotic charge in the present moment and everything feels Alive.

My friend responded, as matter-of-factly as if she was reading the label on a soup can, said, “Oh, you mean the plane of love.” Her husband and I had experienced this together, this plane of love. She advised, “The experience is sacred and true, but it doesn’t mean what you think it means. Take it as a beautiful crystal that you put into your heart and then let it go. You’re not special. He has this experience with many people.” She went on. “Maybe this is where we’re all going, where we’re all living in the plane of love with everyone else, but we’re not there yet. So for now, just cherish this experience and don’t make up a story about it.”

Her advice rang true. It felt like it explained what I had experienced time and time again—not just with beloved family members and romantic partners, but also in nature, with friends, and with people I didn’t even know at all. I go to the plane of love often, sometimes with strangers, and it’s confusing, both for me and for other people.

Variations of the Plane of Love

The person I’ve visited the plane of love with most often and most predictably is my mystical soul twin brother Dennis. (Some say he’s my “twin flame,” though we’re not really sure what that means. Read more about my twin flame relationship with Dennis here. When we go to the plane of love together—often through ecstatic dance, meditation together out in nature, or eye gazing, we have very different experiences. The yogis say there are four paths to God, and if this is true, then Dennis experiences the “jnana” path (the path of knowledge or truth) and I experience the “bhakti” path (the path of devotion). You might also frame it as the Sacred Masculine path and the Divine Feminine path. (Read about the difference between the two paths here.)

I asked Dennis to describe his experience of the plane of love, and here’s what he wrote:

What I experience is a deep pull to go inside when I am with you—an open invitation to let go. Letting go of everything I know myself to be and dropping into the heart or the unknown, which is staring me in the eyes through your eyes. I can see It right beyond the skin of your face, right behind the gaze of your eyes. I can drop my focus a little and “see” inside you, “see” inside me and feel this pull to let go more. I let go of my emotions, body tensions, all of my senses, and I slide into deep relaxation, feeling loved, and safe, more so than I do with any other. The experience is deeper, more in sync, more in harmony, allowing a deeper dropping in. What I experience after that dropping away is like a freedom of inner dialogue, a freedom of self-reflection, an intense and loud silence, a love for all beings and everyone. I come face to face with a deep Presence in the moment. No concepts or thoughts distract me from the “now.” I experience a deep, childlike joy to play in this beautiful world, seeing the world as sparkly and new—the unknown realm beyond any thought concept, as if I’m seeing the beauty and the holiness of the world through a newborn baby’s eyes. In this plane, I realize that boundaries are not real, that I can have anyone close to me without compromising my integrity. When I’m not in the plane of love, my value system is based on thought and concepts that get in the way of unconditional love for all beings. But in the plane of love, you can even let “strangers” come all the way into your heart. You could comfortably hold them in your arms while you sleep, touching and caressing and even kissing- just seeing the essence and beauty of their being, without any doubts or thoughts of the repercussions outside the plane of love. Only the mind with all its concepts says you can’t be this intimate with strangers. In the plane of love, we’re all One and love is all there is.

To get to the plane of love, I need to feel safe. You make me feel safe. Once I’m there, I have no doubt that I’m safe and nothing can make me feel unsafe. I feel nothing but deep love, connectivity, and Oneness. My mind is quiet, so I don’t know who I am or where I am. I’m just this moment in true bliss, like a child in the garden of Eden. It’s a true gift of freedom — freedom of the mind and the conceptual world, freedom from stories of what’s right or wrong, how I like to be treated . . . bla bla bla — all the stuff that holds no true reality once you see the “truth” of it, once you see through it to the love underneath it all.

Come Off the High

The most confusing part of visiting the plane of love is that, like any high, there’s usually a crash. And this part is hard on the everyday human. When you enter that space of absolute unconditional love, whether it’s through meditation, a near death experience, a mystical experience out in nature, or through the eyes of another person, it’s easy to grasp at that feeling of utter and complete love, and it’s hard to lose it. If you access the plane of love through another human, it’s also tempting to credit them for the experience or to grow addicted to the person. But it’s not the person who took you to the plane of love. It’s Consciousness Itself, embodying a person. Easy to say. Hard to handle. To the human self, it feels like you were wrapped in these Great Arms of Love, and then the Arms of Love abandoned you. Like an addict wanting another dose of crack, you’ll mistakenly think you need the person who was the portal to the plane of love. This can lead to obsessive thoughts, disruptive dreams, even stalking behavior.

In Eastern religious traditions, if you accessed the plane of love through a guru, maybe through an experience of “shaktipat,” you would move into the ashram and the community would know how to help you ground and handle the experience. But humans are waking up! And we’re going to the plane of love without a guru or a transpersonal psychologist or anyone who can help us make sense of this experience. Coming off the high is inevitable, but we can handle it by being gentle with ourselves and one another. Perhaps we really are going through an evolution of consciousness, and we’ll all be spending most of our time in this zone in the future, but for right now, be grateful you got to visit the plane of love without attaching to keeping it as a steady state. If you find yourself struggling, consider seeing a transpersonal or depth psychologist or an experienced spiritual counselor.

The good news is that this kind of experience is no longer reserved for mystics, yogis, and gurus. If you haven’t already experienced this frequency, you’re likely to bump into it soon, and when you’re there, you’ll feel the Oneness that exists between us all right now.

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Unconditional Love, Conditional Access

I’m in love with the Alanis Morrissette song “You Owe Me Nothing in Return.” In fact, I have a girl crush on Alanis in general, especially after I heard her speak with one of my spiritual influences Adyashanti. For a long time, I used the lyrics to this song about unconditional love as a sort of sacred contract I proposed between friends, family members, and romantic partners. It was my benchmark, the ideal of perfect love that I strove to achieve.

Years later, I’d love to sit down for tea with Alanis and ask her if she still felt the same way about unconditional love as she did when she wrote this song. I still love it and resonate with a lot of it, but I feel like there might be an additional verse. Maybe I’ll have to write my own song some day . . .

The Privilege of Intimacy

It’s no small thing, this commitment to radical soul growth via relationship. It’s a privilege to be invited into someone’s most intimate heart spaces. It’s an honor to have our own heart touched and explored, with tenderness and curiosity. It also can be scary as hell, especially when your heart has been hurt, as most of ours have.

I’m an intimacy junkie. It’s part of why I went to medical school, so I could have a front row seat on the most intimate and vulnerable moments of the human experience—birth, illness, and death. I ponder what it means to be invited into these intimate spaces, not just medically, but in all the ways love shows up. I’ve come to believe that we have to be careful who we let all the way in. Taking risks is part of the journey from the head to the heart, but it doesn’t seem wise to be reckless with something as vulnerable and tender as the heart. Yet, there’s nothing stronger than the heart. Does it really need protection?

Protecting the Heart

These are the inquiries that I ponder when sitting beside waterfalls and gazing at stars. I’m curious about how we guard and protect the heart and what makes us feel safe enough to take down our armor. I’m curious how to keep the heart open when you feel like a turtle without a shell in a briar-patch world.

What happens when love has no conditions? Surely, we must still limit access to the innermost sanctuary of the heart, to invite others to earn our trust, even if love comes without needing to be earned. In other words: Don’t let anyone into your garden who stomps on your flowers.

I don’t know how these things work, but I suspect that in order for the heart to feel safe enough to open all the way, we need to be with people we really trust. As I wrote earlier, building trust with someone enables us to be brave enough to dive deeper into true intimacy, not the false intimacy of over disclosure and premature vulnerability, but the real intimacy that comes with slowly disclosing the tenderest parts of ourselves and having them met with gentleness and respect.

The Intimacy Dial: A Tool

Let me share with you a tool I learned from my spiritual counselor Ted Esser. If access to your heart, your email, your phone, and your body lives on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being complete inner circle access, those who are 10’s require what Brene Brown calls “a full jar of marbles.” In other words, they need to have earned your trust. If the jar of marbles gets half full—or plain old empty—because of betrayals of trust, access needs to go down—not necessarily all the way to 1, but maybe to 3 or 5. Maybe they don’t get to call you every day or sleep in your bed or spend Christmas morning with you. If you dial down access and trust builds again over time, you can dial someone back up. The dial becomes a sort of trust meter, governed by intuition, attention to loving action, and what feels true and resonant in the present moment, informed by past choices but always open to restoration, forgiveness, and redemption.

That way, if someone isn’t treating you with impeccable respect, you simply limit access without making up a story about it. No point becoming the exploding doormat. Your heart stays wide open. The gates into the tenderest regions of your innermost heart sanctuary close up though. Unconditional love, absolute freedom, but conditional access to your vulnerable places.

Then it’s not someone else’s job to treat you right. It’s YOUR job to treat you right with appropriate boundaries that limit access based on whether or not someone can be trusted with complete inner circle access.

An Act of Self Love

When relationships are approached in this way, those we invite into our most intimate spaces reflect our self-care. Abusive relationships fall away as a natural side effect of self-compassion, while respectful relationships built upon kindness and genuine intimacy are magnetically attracted into your field. If you keep attracting people who disrespect you, you can be sure that somewhere underneath, you’re disrespecting yourself. When you’re able to love and nurture the tender parts of yourself, you’ll be teaching others how you deserve to be treated, modeling the kind of nurturing self-care you have a right to ask from those in your inner circle. This isn’t some kind of entitled demanding of being treated well. It’s an invitation.

In Sally Kempton’s book Awakening Shakti: The Transformative Power of the Goddesses of Yoga, she discusses the goddess in terms of the fierce goddesses (think Kali) and the gentle goddesses (like Lakshmi). If you disrespect the fierce goddesses, they’ll cut off your head. But if you disrespect the gentle goddesses, they simply take their gifts and disappear, leaving the disrespecting one wondering where all the abundance and blessings and beauty went. Using the intimacy dial is like that. You don’t have to cut off anyone’s head to demonstrate what works for you and what doesn’t. When you feel respected, you bless someone with your gifts. When trust is betrayed, you simply withdraw into a nest of self-care and surround yourself with those who can hold your vulnerable hurt parts tenderly. When you recover and can implement your spiritual practices, you’re likely to find yourself bolstered, able to restore yourself with your inner work, move beyond any victim story and take any inspired action to lean in or lean out as dictated by your heart, your intuition, and your discernment.

I have been exposing some of the tenderest places in my heart publicly since I started blogging in 2009, so I’ve been playing with this idea of intimacy for a long time now. Who gets access to my innermost secrets? Where is it safe to expose what scares me and what feels vulnerable? I’m still exploring that edge. Over 100,000 people subscribe to my blog, and sometimes that feels like too many. Sometimes I wish I had a private blog for just a few people. One of my friends does that. She writes an incredible blog, but only 9 people get to read it. My roommate and I are lucky to be among the 9, alongside literary luminaries like Anne Lamott, Rachel Naomi Remen, and Wayne Muller). My friend only feels safe having a few people who know how to hold her heart read her work. I think that’s brave—and discerning. I could learn a thing or two from her.

Each of us is unique. We all have the opportunity to find our own way of practicing unconditional love and conditional access. What will it take for you to open your heart all the way?

With love and boundaries,

Recommended articles by Lissa Rankin:

About the authors:

Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician on a grass roots mission to heal healthcare, while empowering you to heal yourself. She is the founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and  healthcare providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of the books Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself (2013), The Fear Cure (2014), and The Anatomy of a Calling(2015).

Lissa blogs at and created the online community She is also the author of several other books, a speaker, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area.

Connect with Lissa on Facebook and Twitter, or visit

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