What I Learned About Love from Two Different Yoga Retreats

What I Learned About Love from Two Different Yoga Retreats

I was royally burnt out in August 2018.  My interns were witnessing me act like a crazy person and I was just feeling exhausted.  I knew that I needed to get away and just write but the timing did not allow me to take more time to travel outside of the country.  So while speaking with a colleague and a friend, she told me that I needed to find something close by that combined my two favorite things: Yoga and Wine.

I didn’t think I would be able to find anything but I gave it a try.

I sat up late on a Wednesday and googled “yoga and wine retreats.”  Next thing you know, I found the link to Yoga Wine Party with a retreat in the Catskills starting in two days.  I was floored.  It was like the weekend was designed for me! I emailed them hoping that I would hear quickly that they still had room.  Sure enough, I got two emails from Yoga Wine Party and Dina Ivas, the amazing yoga teacher running the retreat.  There was room and all I had to do was pay.  The process was so easy and I went to work completely excited Thursday morning that I was going to do something both fun and healthy (well at least partly).  It was another experience of the Universe providing the perfect opportunity for growth.

I had no idea what to expect and quite frankly I was so exhausted that I simply threw some clothes in a bag and left NYC Thursday afternoon to relax before showing up for a retreat.  I’m glad I took a day of self-care before arriving but even with a massage and some sleep, I quickly realized I was exhausted and forgetful. Part of the last minute disorganization was forgetting to bring my vitamins and some wine.

yoga wine party dr. jennifer rhodesFear not, I found the best wine store I’ve ever been in on my drive to Heathen Hill Yoga. I literally made a wrong turn and there it was – a super cute small boutique in the middle of a small town in the Catskills.  Wild Common Wine was opened in December 2017 by a creative formerly in the film industry who used to live in Brooklyn.  Not only was the owner warm and welcoming, she was highly knowledgeable and helpful in the bottle selection process.  She and her husband live in their vacation home full time and opening Wild Common was a return to her original roots in the wine industry.  Like so many of us, she didn’t imagine that she would be living in the Mountains but is glad to call the Catskills her home.

Armed with some wine (mostly so I didn’t feel like an idiot), I arrived at Heathen Hill Yoga and was immediately greeted with warmth and lots of hospitality by both Dina and her partner Liz Howng.  Wine tasting commenced before dinner and I immediately knew that I was in front of a real wine educator – I actually learned more in that one tasting than I’ve ever have hanging out with a sommelier friend of mine.   Liz is a Level 3 WSET wine educator and a phenomenal teacher.  It was so much fun to actually get a real wine education – an added bonus I did not anticipate.

The real magic of the weekend was not just three amazing yoga classes or three different proper wine tastings, it was in the community that Dina, Liz, and the owners of Heathen Hill cultivated without trying.  Meals were set at a long communal dining table that encouraged connection, the blossoming of friendships, and real intimacy. Around the dining room table we learned more of how we were alike than different.  We learned that some of us were happily married, divorced or single.  We learned that some of us were parents and some of us never wanted children.  We learned some of us were in our twenties and some of us had children in their 40s.  We learned that we all loved good food and wine.   Yet, the biggest lesson for me was to watch how incredibly generous, caring, and loving everyone was toward each other.  People shared their gifts of massage, listened with a compassionate ear, and told heartfelt stories.  They bought bottles of wine for everyone and truly connected. This was a group of 12 strangers and it was a privilege and an honor to be a part of such an amazing experience.  It fueled the beginning of my recovery and I am grateful to each and every one of the people who I had the pleasure of interacting with. I left the weekend on a high and wished it had been one more night longer.

Following this weekend, I went to visit my family and to sit and work on my book.  While it is always a good time to see them, I felt that I needed to take some time for myself over the labor day weekend to really focus.  I knew I needed complete quiet in natue.  Still on my high from Yoga Wine Party, I found another yoga retreat center and booked a yoga vacation. Well actually, it was more of an ashram and I figured the structure and focus on just yoga would be good for me.  I arrived and immediately felt like something was off with the energy of the people, not necessarily the center itself.  Little did I know, I arrived on the day of a major Hindu holiday and the evening meditation sessions were scheduled to be four hours of chanting. I’m not opposed to kirtan or spirituality but I realized that this would not be a yoga vacation – it was going to be me avoiding a cult-like atmosphere just to find some peace to do my work.

Despite my initial judgments, I encouraged myself to ride things out for a couple of days just to explore.  I made a deal with myself that if I could do work and write, I would stay.  During the days, that is exactly what I did but during the meals, the negativity of the people working at this ashram seeped into the experience.  Rather than being warm, welcoming and open, they were judgmental and closed off.  They fostered an “us” versus “them” climate and made several attempts to guilt trip people into helping them in the kitchen as “karma yoga”  when most of us were quietly doing karma yoga on our own.  For a center whose purpose is to promote love, kindness, and compassion, I found it completely devoid of all three. Connections need to be mindfully cultivated and they were not – a detriment to the entire community.

Yoga is as much fitness as it is a spiritual practice with a very long history.  Experiencing both of these retreats in such close proximity highlighted an immense learning lesson:  It will never just be the yoga that makes for an amazing experience alone.  It will be in the people your heart connects to during yoga that makes the difference.

I believe the founders of Yoga Wine Party have found a winning formula for making that possible for all of us.  They are amazing teachers and I feel grateful to have had the opportunity to spend time with them.

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes

Licensed Psychologist and Founder of Rapport Relationships

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes is a relationship expert and licensed psychologist.  She provides dating strategy, consultation, and date coaching services to clients all over the world.  Dr. Rhodes is a frequently sought media expert on the topics of seduction, sensuality,  dating, divorce, and relationships.  In addition to Rapport Relationships, Dr. Rhodes is the founder of Visual Arts Reimagined (VAR) where she provides services to visual artists interested in entrepreneurship and leadership.

Why you Attract Toxic People

Why you Attract Toxic People

You’ve heard it before – you attract what you are.  Yet, sometimes you have been working so hard on yourself that you believe there is something wrong with someone else!

Many women attract narcissistic men for a reason (and vice versa).  These individuals have charming persistence, drive, ambition, and can be a lot of fun in the beginning.  We are often attracted to them because they make us feel whole.  Their “confidence” makes us feel stronger and safe.  As the process of disillusionment starts, however, the tables turn and you find yourself in front of a man who blames you for waking up in the morning.

Yes, these people lack empathy and are challenging.  Yes, they have their own work to do.  The problem is that if we simply judge and blame the narcissist or the toxic person, we miss the bigger picture.

The Universe has sent them to you as an opportunity for you to learn to say no, set proper boundaries or to stop giving too much of yourself.

But we often don’t see it that way.  Instead, we blame ourselves, call ourselves a failure, believe the abuse and can’t see how messed up the other person may be.  Yet, the toxic person knows, perhaps unconciously, that if you ever figure out what was really going on, you would leave and demand more for yourself.

So in the meantime, they will feed off of your energy.  They start showing up at work, in your personal life, and even walking down the street.  You try to get rid of them one at a time but a new one finds you!

WTF is going on?!  It’s a sign to dig deeper and do some serious self-growth work.  At our core, those of us who attract these types of personalities may feel empty, lonely, and abandoned.  We may have childhood wounds that were never fully healed or we are simply looking for distractions to keep going.

In these moments, it is best to take a step back and commit to your own self-care.  It may mean you need to go to therapy, find an energy healer, or make some lifestyle changes.  Whatever it is, there is probably things from your past that are making you vulnerable.

Doing your healing work is not easy.  The journey may be a long one but warriors never had it easy.  A journey means over-coming adversary to be stronger.  If we start thinking about these toxic personalities as simply opportunities for growth, their behavior is less personal.  We can let go of judgment of our self and surrender to the lessons that need to be learned.

And yes, narcissists love empathic people.  Empaths often run away from anger but anger on their part is often a sign to you that you are not being controlled by them.  Let them be angry and you step away to heal.

You are not alone.  So many of us have worked through these challenges.  If you need support, reach out!

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes

Licensed Psychologist and Founder of Rapport Relationships

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes is a relationship expert and licensed psychologist.  She provides dating strategy, consultation, and date coaching services to clients all over the world.  Dr. Rhodes is a frequently sought media expert on the topics of seduction, sensuality,  dating, divorce, and relationships.  In addition to Rapport Relationships, Dr. Rhodes is the founder of Visual Arts Reimagined (VAR) where she provides services to visual artists interested in entrepreneurship and leadership.

Why you Should Care about Core Values

Why you Should Care about Core Values

Healing is not an easy or inexpensive process.  It is the process of undoing one’s cultural conditioning and trusting that what is left, is worth the time and effort.  It truly is a leap of faith.  I believe that we are all here for a reason but we often don’t get to discover that reason without having our a$* handed to us and choosing to be brave enough to go through the pain and the darkness.  It is not a journey everyone wishes to embark.

How do you define your self-worth?

For the longest time, my self-worth was attached to academic achievements and the title of Doctor.   Or it was attached to my physical appearance or sexuality.  It took me years to discover who I really am, love who I am and own who I am.

My hope and dreams for the future are to either prevent the development of the false self through education and preventive interventions and in helping young adults step into a more mindful process of self-discovery at a younger age.  I don’t think we need to wait to 35 before we realize that we may be on the wrong path or a path that is not truly aligned with our true purpose.

What are core values?  What are yours?

Every experience we have creates our life story.  Our thoughts about those experiences make the difference between co-creating with the Universe and living in fear.

Years ago when I started my healing journey, my therapist asked me what my values were.  I was 31 and realized I wasn’t sure how to answer the question.  Our personal values are the guiding principles behind who we really are.  Knowing them and understanding we all have them will not only guide your life and decision making, it will clue you in to why people piss you off.

Fear of narcissists

Now more than ever we live in fear of being taken advantage of by narcissistic people.  Many women have had the experience of not being believed when the “amazing” man in front of them treats them like crap behind closed doors.  Like these women, it would take me a long time to realize that the man I thought I was going to marry at age 28 was indeed one of these dreaded narcissists.

What helped me through the beginning part of my healing process was to discover that one of my top values is love.  It has guided my career and helped with my decision making in my personal life.  When I look back on that relationship, I realized I could either blame him for not meeting my needs or come to terms that my core value of love was not something shared.  He was looking for a socialite and interested in his own status more than in being himself and creating a truly happy life.

Core values as life lessons and empowerment

I also have learned to not blame him.  We met at a time when I was deeply hurt and grieving the loss of my grandfather, moving across the country and facing an impending lawsuit related to my grandfather’s estate.  Everything was falling apart around me and my last memory of my grandfather was when he told me to marry a Jewish doctor. Six months after his death, that’s exactly who I found and boy would it be the wrong fit for me but I also was living my false self, trying to fit in and be what I was not born to be.

FInd out your core values

Today I live by my own values.  I learn from the lessons the Universe provides and I am happier than ever (even if I am single).  I encourage you to take the time to care about your values, learn about your core strengths, and sign up for a free mini consultation with me so we can help you figure out a path to your happiness.

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes

Licensed Psychologist and Founder of Rapport Relationships

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes is a relationship expert and licensed psychologist.  She provides dating strategy, consultation, and date coaching services to clients all over the world.  Dr. Rhodes is a frequently sought media expert on the topics of seduction, sensuality,  dating, divorce, and relationships.  In addition to Rapport Relationships, Dr. Rhodes is the founder of Visual Arts Reimagined (VAR) where she provides services to visual artists interested in entrepreneurship and leadership.

Ghosting: Why Keeping it Classy is Good for your Business

Ghosting: Why Keeping it Classy is Good for your Business

Dating in my 20s…

Was not fun and learning about ghosting was a rude awakening.  I was in a relationship from the age of 18-23.  This man was a wonderful person and in so many ways, an amazing fit for me.  He was ambitious, attractive, emotionally secure and financially stable.  Yet, when  I was 23 and he was 27, he started to discuss marriage and suggested I forgo graduate school and get a job.  It was a conversation that angered me at the time.  Shortly after, I broke up with him and moved to Manhattan.  I simply could not see myself married with 4 children by the age of 30.

Up until this point, my relationship history was, for the most part, pretty drama free.  There was one exception of a high school boyfriend who was a hot mess but most of the young men I interacted with, including my long-term relationship were great guys.  I didn’t appreciate these great guys (aka emotionally secure) until many years later.  When I moved to NYC, I started dating again around the age of 25.  The crap my girlfriends and I dealt with at the dawn of the online dating age is not what I hear my clients talk about now.  We didn’t have terms for the “bad’ behavior but we all certainly experienced “ghosting.”

“The real magic in relationships is the absence of judgment in others” – Wayne Dyer

An Early Experience with “Ghosting”

When our dates simply seemed to vanish out of thin air, we just referred to them as an a**hole.  We didn’t have a term for their behavior but it didn’t mean we were any less pissed off than people are in the present moment.  I remember meeting a somewhat sexy international gentleman around this time who was traveling back and forth between NYC and another city.  I believe he was originally from Canada and was working in something related to luxury sales.  To this day, I honestly do not remember how many dates we had been on but it wasn’t more than 6 weeks worth of dating but he was one of the first to pull this ghosting nonsense.

What I DO remember is that at the time, I really liked him.  Yet, I was naive and coming out of a 5.5-year relationship at such a young age did not prepare me to handle difficulties in communication.  One of the few things I do remember is talking to my roommate in my kitchen after making him dinner, indicating how much I liked him (we must have been on a number of dates if he met my roommate!)  He stayed over that night, and while it was not the first time we slept together, it was completely awkward and not super enjoyable for me.  I assumed that we would have a conversation about it sometime soon but instead, I simply never heard from him again…well until…

He Reappeared Multiple Times over a Span of Years

I remember moving to the west coast and receiving a LinkedIn message asking how I was doing. At that time, I don’t think I even remembered who he was and I ignored the request to re-connect.  This happened a couple of more times.  After the third time, I politely responded to the message.  He wished me luck and I thought nothing about it until I moved back to New York.

He Messaged Me For my Book Launch

As part of any book launch or getting a new project off the ground, you are always pooling your contacts.  I pooled my LinkedIn contacts and of course, an announcement message was sent to this man.   What I received back was nothing short of a warm, adult and polite email wishing me the best of luck.  Could it be that he feels bad all these years or that his memory of what happened was completely different than mine?  Or could it be with age we all mature and learn to communicate better?  Or is it now that I am achieving some success in my career he is interested again making his intentions less about me and more about him and his own business development?

What I’ve learned so far from this experience is that I am proud that I have rarely, if ever, retaliated against men who did stupid things or dropped off the face of the earth.  I am proud that I have always been able to walk away and NOT CHASE THEM.  I am pleased that the image or impression that I am projecting to the world is of a strong, successful woman.  Had I made the choice to enact my anger and send a crazy slew of text messages, we certainly wouldn’t be in a situation where it was possible to reconnect.

Why I Said Yes to a Glass of Wine

That’s right.  I made the choice to reconnect instead of telling him to f*ck off.  I’m choosing to be more Gabby Bernstein and see this situation as an opportunity to heal, to learn, and to listen.  It is also the RIGHT BUSINESS MOVE to always be connecting and reconnecting with people and see where they are in their own life, their own business, and to reassess what type of contact they are at this moment in time.  I’m not saying I would be so open if he did things back then to maliciously hurt me but I think I’ve learned from my own personal life and from my clients how much poor communication there is in the dating scene.  It is wise to reassess rather than avoid.  Does this mean that I ignore my intuition? NO.  If my gut told me to run the other way, I would listen but it told me to accept the offer to reconnect.

Lessons Learned: What to Do When you are Ghosted

You may follow up once but if the person is not communicating with you, move on as a classy person.  Do whatever you need to heal yourself but do not expect others to give you closure.  You are in control of how to respond to negative events and I do believe that the Universe forces situations (often over and over again if you’re stubborn) to force you to grow and heal.  Sometimes the person is blowing hot and cold and driving you crazy, but this could be a sign most ignore that a ghosting is coming.  People who ghost can range from simply being anxious and stuck in their head to being rampant narcissist’s who are simply looking to use your contacts.  Or sometimes that person is not in a place to give you what you want and they think the classy thing to do is disappear.  It is often a gift that you are not ready to receive.

Many men default to ghosting because they realize they cannot make you happy and simply do not know how to handle those emotions.  

If you take care of yourself and do not retaliate, you have the opportunity years later to reconnect and grow your business.  In this situation I was able to sell a book but who knows what other opportunities there may be if it is a good time for us to be in touch.  Forgiveness and your self-healing will help you assess all of these situations in a healthier manner and possibly help you grow your brand or your business faster with more support.

What Happens Next?

When you are the one who has remained classy, you are in control.  I’ll update you on what happens after we reconnect.  I am guessing that this gentleman is married or in a relationship and is simply reaching out in a business context – but according to John Gray, you never know what you’re old dates are up to and who may help you find the person you are meant to be with.  It is also a wonderful way to keep your seductive energy going while you are building a business or your love life.

#RelationshipsMatterMost

“I am willing to see things differently. I am willing to see love.” – Gabby Bernstein

The Aftermath

I have to say that making the choice to listen to my intuition and meet with this man was a good one.  Not only did he want to reconnect, we discussed what happened and he apologized for not being more available.  We discussed our lives and overall it was a pleasant experience.  It was also interesting simply seeing how one’s body reacts when it remembers a connection with someone in the past.  It was a wonderful reminder of why we all need to pay attention more to our intuition and our bodies.  He’s an overall great man who did some ridiculous things when he was younger and took responsibility for them.  I am grateful that I allowed myself to have such a wonderful opportunity.

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes

Licensed Psychologist and Founder of Rapport Relationships

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes is a relationship expert and licensed psychologist.  She provides dating strategy, consultation, and date coaching services to clients all over the world.  Dr. Rhodes is a frequently sought media expert on the topics of seduction, sensuality,  dating, divorce, and relationships.  In addition to Rapport Relationships, Dr. Rhodes is the founder of Visual Arts Reimagined (VAR) where she provides services to visual artists interested in entrepreneurship and leadership.

What Aziz Ansari can Teach us about Dating and Seduction

What Aziz Ansari can Teach us about Dating and Seduction

In the past week, allegations of sexual misconduct were released by a website called Babe.  According to the allegations, Mr. Ansari asked a 23-year-old out on a date that, in her opinion, turned into a nightmare and led her to conclude that she had been sexually assaulted.

My Background Working with Sexual Assault Survivors

I want to be clear that I consider myself an advocate for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.  In the past two weeks, I have walked 3 personal friends through reporting very significant date rapes.  All three of them made the choice to report it to police, to have a rape kit completed and go through the process of getting a restraining order.  All three women were scared and told themselves that maybe it was a “hookup that went bad.”  In their cases, there was nothing that put them at fault.  These situations were clear abuses of power and caused physical and emotional harm.   Judges did not stall in giving these women their restraining orders.  One of them has been harassed by his family members and wishes that she didn’t report the incident just so the re-traumatization would stop.  Date rape happens more often than we think.  I routinely deal with this in my professional career as a psychologist and have special training in the assessment of domestic violence and abuse (including sexual abuse).

The Ansari Allegations Raise Other Issues: What Does it Mean to be a Man?

I, however, do not see the Ansari allegations in the same manner. Rather, the allegations bring to light a huge problem we have with American dating and hook up culture: None of us really have a clue on how to communicate about dating, relationships, and sex. We are too afraid to just be honest about what it is we really want.  Every woman in New York has had a version of this dating story but with differing outcomes.

It is hard for women, let alone young women to really understand what it is like to be a man in the United States. I’m obviously not one but I do work extensively with men who struggle with their personal definition of masculinity.  They worry that if they don’t make a move that women will think they are not interested.  They now worry that if they do make a move, they will be at risk for sexually harassing their date.  What most women don’t know is how much men’s masculinity is tied to their ability to get women to like them and ultimately sleep with them.  Most of my coaching conversations with men under 40 revolve around how to increase the number of women they sleep with.  It often becomes my job to dig a little deeper as to why they are not yet ready for a serious relationship.  The response is almost always related to previous rejection and pain associated with a bad experience with a woman.  Women simply do not understand the power they have to make or break a man’s ego at a young age. Eventually many grow up to use women as a form of validation that they are indeed “a real man.”  Tinder becomes a tool to recieve the self-esteem boost he lack on the inside.

Why We Can’t Always Simply Blame Men

To further complicate things, we can’t blame all men for this point of view.  We essentially train them to be this way as teens and young adults.  We teach them that women like assertive and confident men.  We teach them that persistence is the key to getting a woman to sleep with you.  We teach them that if they want something, they need to go get it.  We mistakenly tell them to “man up” when they are struggling to express their emotions.  The documentary The Mask you Live In beautifully discusses the toxic culture of masculinity we have cultivated in this country.

We DON’T teach young men how to read body language or read the state of mind of their date.  We don’t teach them that they are more likely to misinterpret a woman’s interest in sex. We don’t teach them how to calibrate their approaches to fit the woman sitting in front of him rather than memorizing a list of universal rules.  We don’t teach them that the REAL definition of seduction is about being selfless and socially calibrated so she feels safe enough to pursue sex, a hookup or a relationship. The real definition of seduction is more about sensuality and respect – the very things women need biologically to feel comfortable with having sex with any man.

Rather than learning these skills young men, who were not good with women at a young age, focus on achieving high levels of financial success and/or status.  While women may be more likely to make more careful determinations of whom they share their bed with as they become more successful, most men do not think that way. Success and wealth can become a tool of manipulative seduction whose aim is to get a beautiful young woman into bed as quickly as possible.  These men truly believe that being seductive means using explicitly sexual language and acting sexual. They simply do not understand that the real definition of seduction requires an understanding of the other person as a human being and selflessly providing what she needs to feel comfortable enough to consent to sex.

Most Women Want to Have Sex Way More than our Culture Allows us to Believe

What is funny about this viewpoint is that most young women today would be more than happy to sleep with a man quickly if he treated her like a gentleman, made his intentions known, and asked for her opinion or allowed her to lead. There is no shortage of one night stands in NYC. Many men and women happily hookup without a problem and the men that are successful with women do not have to work so hard – their behavior makes her feel safe enough to consent in the affirmative.  It is a healthy interaction where both parties feel happy with the outcome.

So here is what I think went wrong in the Ansari situation:  She expected to be courted and respected because that what she needs to be turned on.  He failed by this account.  She gave him complete control of the date. He thought he was on a roll and that it was time to seduce her into bed.  Had his approach been completely different, one in which made her feel taken care of and respected, I doubt that this would have been the outcome.  Had he made his intentions known from the start by telling her he was not interested in anything more than a night of fun, it would have given her the opportunity to consent or not. The problem may have been sidestepped all together.

What Now?

For everyone to move forward, we really need to be mindful to deal with the lack of respect we have toward each other in general. Online dating has commoditized women and women are tired of feeling like an object.  Women also need to communicate with men when they do things we do not like.  Simply stopping communication and disappearing does not help to resolve the issues that transpire.  We as a culture can put a stop to these types of behaviors if we are simply brave enough to communicate and behaviorally match our actions to our words. 

We are all going to have problems in the dating department – I just hope this story encourages women to assert themselves without anger or defensiveness so that men can learn how to treat women appropriately and women can learn to simply walk away from experiences that make them uncomfortable sooner.  I also hope that men can begin to simply be upfront and honest about what they want to avoid this type of mismatch. If you just want sex, find the woman who just wants sex.  Be open, honest, and direct.  You may be surprised how many people are willing to share your vision and how happy that relationship oriented women will be if you stay away from attempting to seduce them with overly sexual behavior on a first date!

If all else fails, keep it classy – in today’s world, you can’t risk ruining your reputation over a bad sexual experience.

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes

Licensed Psychologist and Founder of Rapport Relationships

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes is a relationship expert and licensed psychologist.  She provides dating strategy, consultation, and date coaching services to clients all over the world.  Dr. Rhodes is a frequently sought out media expert on the topics of seduction, sensuality,  dating, divorce, and relationships.