Some of you, my astute readers, already noticed that the dating challenges enumerated in the last article - focusing on careers instead of relationships, expecting to be loved for the wrong reasons, not acting like a sexual being, self-sabotaging and ego identity - are not just specific to smart people. They're specific to people. Smart, successful folks simply get a little extra wallop of them.
Well, that's nice, you say. Now what are we going to do about it, doc?
So glad you asked. Let's take them one-by-one:
1) Make meaningful connection to other human beings a priority.
In Tolstoy's novella 'The Death of Ivan Ilyich', a rich Russian judge finds himself on his deathbed at age 45. He's spent his whole life doing the 'right' things - the right education, job, marriage, neighborhood, social circles. Yet, on the brink of death, he realizes that his life has been utterly devoid of meaning because of a lack of real human connection.
Sure, we've all got careers. But realize that when you're on *your* deathbed, you're not going to wish that you spent more time at the office or on term papers. Your memories will be composed of moments of meaning, and those moments are often created with people you care about.
Luckily, it's fully within your power to create those meaningful memories *now* so as to forestall an unpleasant deathbed review. Just like you schedule gym time, salon time, and aimlessly-noodle-on-Facebook time, you can schedule in connection time. As Kahlil Gibran put it, seek your friends with time to live, not time to kill.
By virtue of being more achievement-oriented when growing up, some of us didn't develop social skills for connecting meaningfully with people. Now being a late bloomer is okay. What's less okay is staying stuck when there are so many resources out there for getting unstuck. There are multitudes of online resources, and as a place to start, my books for women and men do not suck.
As for dating, work on getting to know people well. As Kant would say, treat them as ends in themselves, not as means to satisfy your own needs. This brings us to the next principle.
2) Make other people feel great around you.
More often than not, our achievements don't make others feel good around us. So we just may have to cultivate new skills that do make others feel good.
The simplest of those is charm - the ability to make someone else feel like a million bucks. It's remarkably accessible to all of us, and - good news in these times of recession - it's free.
One simple way to be charming is to be relentlessly complimentary. Not a toady, mind you, but genuinely appreciative. Notice people's efforts, and praise them for it.
The paradigm shift that I want you to have is to go from the realm of 'they should like me for who I am' to the realm of 'how am I bringing more joy to the lives of those around me' - the realm of service. Instead of 'what have you done for me lately', think 'what can I do for you.' Serve first instead of waiting to be served.
It's scientifically proven that engaging in service makes *you* feel good. And when you brighten other people's days on a regular basis, you start to glow, and believe me, people will notice. There are also service-oriented skills that specifically make you a better dating prospect, like cooking, massage, and being exceptionally good in the sack.
Which brings us to...
3) Embrace your sexuality.
Unappetizing fact of the day: you came into being as a result of your mom and dad getting it on. This is the union of yin and yang that the Taoists talk about, and by virtue of it, you're a sexual being.
After you've made your peace with your own sexuality, here are two thing you can do to cultivate it. First, get curious about it. Read all the books you can about sexual technique - how that was less important to learn in college than organic chemistry I can't fathom - and get good at it.
Sex is like driving: everyone thinks they're great at it in spite of receiving zero training in it. So set aside the ego and start from the top - Zen mind, beginner's mind.
Once you're better-informed sexually, it will permeate the rest of your life and naturally move you towards cultivation principle #2: to have more of a sexual presence.
This means more playful banter instead of being so damn serious. It means looking people directly in the eye when they speak. It's conveying a hint of unpredictability and danger instead of playing it safe. It's going after what you want with playful enthusiasm instead of shying away from it in fear.
4) Get out of your own way.
Buddhists have this neat little idea called 'no-self', or anatta, which some scholars say contains the essence of all Buddhism. It says that nothing in the universe has a fixed identity, especially you.
As you are sitting there, reading this article, you just took a breath. Trillions of air molecules exchanged with your blood, millions of neurons fired as you read that last sentence, and you are in essence not the same person you were ten seconds ago.
Embracing no-self can be tremendously liberating. You're less likely to feel rejected, hurt or abandoned if there's no self to be rejected, hurt or abandoned. And you may be more likely to go ask that cutie for his or her phone number.
Practicing 'no-self' also removes a lot of imaginary barriers to real intimacy - titles, nationalities, creeds, prejudices. If, as in the Hindu tradition, you were to recognize the divine in each person you meet, you would significantly expand the possibilities for experiencing love in this life.
Again, nobody's asking you to marry the first hillbilly who turns the corner. Rather, this is about practicing openness. And when you embody openness regularly, you're more likely to capture the attention of Mr or Ms Right when they come sauntering along.
5) Practice wealth-consciousness instead of poverty-consciousness.
Neediness is unattractive. Self-sufficiency and wealth-consciousness are better bets. So even if you haven't had a date in decades, act as if the world is your giant dating supermarket and you've got unlimited cash in your pocket.
Why? Because it's true. The days of 150-person tribes when your genes wouldn't make it to the next generation unless you married your snaggletoothed cousin are over. In today's urban habitats, there are thousands if not millions of potential partners.
That's the giant supermarket. The money in your pocket is your attractiveness as a person - all the ways in which you can bring more joy and fulfillment to your companion. And if you're practicing no-self, healthy sexuality, an attitude of service and deep connection, who's going to resist?
There is nothing in the five suggestions above that you can't start doing right now. As the old Persian proverb goes, "From you action; from the heavens, blessings." So go forth and create your own blessings already. The power's been yours all along.
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