Friday, February 25, 2011

Igniting the Spark After Becoming Parents with Dr. Cheryl Joy Bratman

Sometimes when parents get overloaded with taking care of their lil ones, running errands, working fulltime (or part-time),  bringing the kids to their game or recital, getting food on the table, getting the kids ready for bed and cleaning the house – they tend to become so exhausted that they lose sight of themselves and their partners.  Sometimes a quick peck on the lips is all that we have energy to give to our significant other or sometimes we even neglect ourselves with our own self-love and care.  Before these precious lil souls entered our lives, we were able to have more opportunities to take care of our own needs and share loving and connecting moments with our partners.  So the question is, how can we ignite that spark back into our lives with ourselves and our partners and create a balance between being a parent and a spouse, as well as getting our own needs met? 

In order for children to learn about self-love and how to create a healthy relationship with a significant other, this could be shown by the parents modeling this type of healthy interaction.  Dr. Cheryl Joy Bratman who was our guest speaker for February has been a very integral part of my own family's journey and I was extremely excited to share her abundance of wisdom to the village. 
Dr Bratman and myself.  I LOVE this woman - she is a shining light of love energy!

Dr. Cheryl Joy Bratman is a masterful healer, teacher and writer. She has been in private practice as a Chiropractor for 27 years and as a licensed Spiritual Practitioner since 1999. She works with individuals, couples and families doing body/mind/spirit healing which includes physical modalities as well as emotional and spiritual counseling.  Formerly a trial attorney, her passion is public speaking and facilitation of groups on healing energy, spirituality and sexuality.  She has been a Lead Facilitator for many accredited classes at the Agape International Spiritual Center in Culver City, California where she teaches Science of Mind principles and has been a monthly contributor to Agape's "Inner Visions" publication for over ten years.  Dr. Bratman lives in Los Angeles, California and is the mother of two young adult sons. 

This gathering was by far, me and Dalmacio's favorite one!  Dr. Bratman really created a sacred space for all of us that night! She began with a 15 minute guided meditation by Esther Hicks "Getting Into the Vortex" which grounded all of us and really set the tone for the rest of the evening.

It was truly such a special workshop.  It wasn't a lecture on how to get our needs met, she actually created a more dynamic environment for us to actually engage with one another.   I was actually very excited that everyone was able to open up and let go of any uncomfortable fears of sharing in this sacred space because it was about honing in on what you really wanted, really needed in order to get your needs met. I think everyone that was present at this gathering should give themselves a big loving hug for being able to step out of their comfort zone and step into their awareness! And the only way that this was going to happen was if couples played...and boy did everyone play! It was definitely a fun, hilarious, exhilarating, emotional, uplifting, comforting and releasing (just to name a few adjectives) workshop!

Crystal and Cory
Jarreau, Lauren & Isaiah

One topic that kept coming up throughout the night between all the couples was intimacy and sex (or shall I say, the lack of).  We hear it all the time - about couples not having as much sex after having kids.  Whether we're too tired and drained or have our own "brain diarrhea" (as Dr. Bratman likes to put it) or stress that overrides our desire to want anything that feels good to us - it was in some ways, very comforting to know that we are not alone with feeling this way.  Whether married for 12 years or 2, the issue is there.  And it wasn't only just about the physical aspect of it - it is the intimacy, the connection that is missing, the misunderstood body language or the miscommunication or no communication, in some cases.  Or perhaps for some, it was all of the above.  Either way, every relationship has most likely come across the topic of the lack of sex after having kids.  The question is how can you re-create that connection, to bring that spark back to life?

Dr. Bratman shared some insightful tools to help the couples communicate their desires to one another.  One of the tools was called "active listening".  She guided each couple through the following steps for each couple's situation:

  1. When sharing your feelings or requests, take the time, when you're not tired, so that no matter what issue is coming up for you, you can look each other in the eye, maybe even touch each other so that you feel the tenderness between the two of you.  That way it's not adversarial or blaming/shaming each other because this doesn't get either of you anywhere. 
  2. When speaking to your loved one, you want to use the "I" terminology about what it is you're thinking or feeling.  For example, instead of saying "you make me feel...", you would say "I am feeling..."
  3. If there is a direct request about something you would like, then you want to say that there is a direct request that you would like to share.
  4. After you have shared your request, the partner then looks you in the eyes and repeats what your request is.  This is to confirm that they heard your request correctly (i.e. "I hear that you would like to connect at a deeper level with our sexuality..." or "I hear that you would like to go out on a date more often which means finding someone to watch the kids so that we can spend loving, quality time together.")
  5. Once both have been able to state their requests and actively listen by repeating what the other partner has requested, this then opens the door to a more loving, respectful way to communicate with one another.
Dr. Bratman stated that when we practice this tool of active listening, it truly helps with clear communication of what you want or need.   She used the analogy of someone learning how to play the piano and practicing the scales.  Once they get good enough, they can learn to play songs.  Just like the pianist has trained himself to express his art, when you exercise this technique over and over again with your partner, it can then become easier to share your needs and desires in a healthy way.  This tool is a framework with an intentionality so the more that we can practice active listening, the more we can flow and dance with it (and with your partner)!  ;o)

In this intimate setting, the families were able to really connect with their partners and express what they truly wanted for themselves and from their spouses.  Whether it was wanting more intimate moments to share with one another by making decisions (as a couple) on setting healthy boundaries with their children in order to create more time with one another or it was expressing what you want by actually communicating your desires and making it clear about your loving intentions - it was clear across the board that what the underlying challenge between the couples is creating that spark back into your relationship.  Ya know, that giddy butterfly feeling you used to get in your tummy; that fiery passion that you both felt when you first fell in love!
(L to R): Corey, Kyle, Renee, Dana, Clif, Sonia & Sean
(L to R): Dana, Clif, Sonia, Sean, Jen & Todd (the owners of the Yogi Tree, FLV's new home) and my beautiful hubby, Dalmacio

Again I was so very grateful for everyone not only actively listening but actively participating.  Whether it was about the relationship or the parenting, we all truly gained something from what every one shared that evening.

Out of respect of the couples and to continue to keep the space as sacred, I will not go into detail with the events of this evening.  However, the following are a few tips that Dr. Bratman gave to the couples during our "love sessions" which I wanted to share because I felt anyone reading this could gain insight from:

  1. There is a difference in what each person might need to understand what's being communicated.  And when you really love someone, you not only are faced with what it is you might need or want, but you are tuning in to what your partner might need or want too so that you can give back AND ask for what you need so that it can be a win-win.
  2.  Always "check in" with one another.  Inquire vs. assume what the other is feeling or thinking.  One of things that is most challenging for all of us humanoids is that we tend to make assumptions.  One of the agreements from the book "The Four Agreements" is 'Don't Make Assumptions'.  So if you have the courage to inquire, it is so much more beneficial in any relationship (whether it be your partner, your children, your boss or a friend, etc) because the assumptions we might be making may not be appropriate for what's really going on inside of somebody else.  
  3. You can't make anyone else feel anything.  That is an inside job for you.  Your beauty is an inner glow.   Unless you do the inner work for yourself, regardless of where your partner is at so that you begin to sense and connect to your own beauty (your spiritual beauty as well as your physical beauty), then nothing your partner does or says (i.e. "your beautiful", "you look amazing") will seem true because you yourself don't believe it.  Part of cultivating your sexuality can be done through the inner work (whether it's through meditation, journaling, or some kind of processing for yourself in your private time) so that you can really appreciate your own inner beauty and feel beautiful.
  4. To add to tip # 3: on the reverse side - if you are feeling stressed out and you state that your partner is making you stressed out - this is not true either.  No one is "making" you feel stressed out.  You are choosing to feel this way and need to take responsibility on your behalf vs. blaming anyone outside of yourself for how you are feeling. 
  5.  When you go through each chapter of your child's life, there will be new issues to face. When approaching these challenges, if the parents can come together with love without judging, and can say "I feel and I would like," it makes it alot easier on both of you to brainstorm together on healthy boundaries for your children that you both can agree upon. 
  6.  Guilt is a waste of creative energy.  It's an avoidance of taking responsibility for our choices. Let go of the guilt (i.e. "not spending enough time with my husband" or "not spending enough time with my baby", etc) and just be clear of what your decisions will be.  When we let go of the guilt and just let our children know what we're doing (i.e. going to dance class or taking time to meditate), we are role modeling to them that we love ourselves by taking care of ourselves.  And just the same, when couples express tenderness and "active listening" in front of our children, we are role modeling healthy communication.
  7. When we carry around our "stories", this is just what it is - a story, a racket (highly recommended to click on this definition) that we are holding onto that isn't benefiting ourselves, our spouses or our children.  Let's use the following statement as an example:
  • "I can never go to the gym to workout because my daughter needs me to be the one to put her to sleep at night".  This is a racket that you are making up for yourself to believe.  A story made up in your head that your baby won't be able to sleep without you, therefore the end result is you not being able to get your needs met.  If you just let go of your racket and trust that everything will be fine with daddy being able to handle it - this once again allows your baby to witness you taking care of yourself and allows for daddy to have the confidence in himself that he can do the job just as good. 
As conscious parents, part of our goal with being conscious and unconditionally loving to our children is role modeling a loving connection with our partners.  This is how our children learn firsthand about love for themselves and between other humans.  But if parents are too exhausted and get irritable with one another when their children are present (or towards the children) then the kids are not able to see the tenderness and even touchy feelingness between their parents and are missing out on an entire part of role modeling they can learn for when they are adults in a relationship.   Being able to see the love energy between parents is a really important aspect in coupledom.

Again, I was truly in deep gratitude for our beautiful spiritual practitioner and friend taking the time to be a guest speaker for our village.  It was a blessing to have Dr. Bratman play with us that evening in such a way that I know each couple received much insight from this amazing woman.

Dr. Bratman and my 2 boys in the Lil Munchkin Room (a.k.a. the Healing Room)

On that note, I wanted to end this post with one more loving message that Dr. Bratman wanted to share to our village:

"I offer the February Family Love Village session to you as an opportunity to learn about and utilize various tools and techniques to further enhance your ability to express yourself clearly with your partner and get your own needs met.  My intention is to inspire and assist you on your path of consciousness evolution, as a parent and spouse, by helping you develop excellent communication skills of compassionate listening and respectful speaking. I invite you to become a witness to your own experiences and to share your thoughts and feelings with integrity and honesty. By consciously choosing to open up more profoundly, you will be able to observe the transformational power of the Universal Source at work in your life.   May your journey be blessed with love, joy and peace."


  1. Yes! Dr. Bratman is quite the amazing and inspiring soul that is for sure! That is why I was soo excited to have her with us. Who knows - perhaps if more people request her presence, maybe she'll do another guest appearance and share her loving energy and insightful wisdom with us again. :o) Here's to conscious coupledom which ultimately leads to role modeling conscious parenting and conscious living! :o)