Raederle on the Radio — With Footage!

Raederle on Life, Spirituality, & Polyamory

Live radio episode where Eric interviews Raederle Phoenix on April 30th 2017. Raederle discusses her life in general talking about her hobbies, her day to day life, her belief systems, her two husbands, and her work.
Photos, font, artwork and video overlay are Raederle's creations (with a few photos taken by Lytenian, Greg or Raederle's parents) unless otherwise stated. (There are a few photos by photographers that are Raederle's friends – they're cited on the photos they took.)
WRFI Community Radio for Ithaca and Watkins Glen.

Raederle on Business, Nutrition & Health

Feb 17, 2013. Andrea Todaro and Dale Martin interview Raederle Phoenix about her business in Western New York in the field of health, nutrition and raw food.

How to tell the difference between intuition and cravings

One person may be craving almonds while another person may be getting intuitive guidance to eat almonds. Let's look at how these two different people will behave:

Eating Really Fast – A Sign of Cravings

If you're craving almonds, you'll feel inclined to eat them quickly, and now. If you're getting an intuitive feeling from your body, you won't feel in a rush. If you're craving almonds, you'll find it hard to chew them all the way before putting more in your mouth. If you're intuitively guided to eat almonds, you'll find it easy and relaxing to chew them thoroughly.
Cravings give a false sense of urgency. Your intuition knows you have plenty of time.

Eating Lightly – A Sign of Intuitive Connection

When you're in touch with your body, you'll find you don't need to eat as much. You'll feel inclined to eat more slowly and chew more thoroughly, which will allow you to absorb more from what you eat. Also, you'll eat exactly what you need, making your body more efficient. Being in touch will also result in less stress, causing you to burn less calories and nutrients in the metabolic processes of stress itself. All of this will result in a much lighter load.
Cravings are easily identified by their need for large volumes. When you feel inclined to eat an entire jar of cashew butter or an entire carton of coconut yogurt in one sitting, that's a sign that you're experiencing a craving.

Cravings versus Intuition

Cravings, at their root, come from emotional destitution. The sense of 'I'm lacking something,' at an emotional level quickly translates to lacking something on the physical level. One simple example of this is how stress burns up nutrients and creates metabolic waste. So when you're feeling like you're not getting enough support (i.e. experiencing a sense of lack, also known as taṇhā), and this causes you stress, you start to burn through your reserves of vitamin B12 and other nutrients. This, in turn, causes you to intensely crave whatever foods you've eaten most recently which contain some amount of the nutrients you're burning through.
You can go indulge in your craving for a quick fix, but the chances are that your cravings will jerk you around in very inefficient ways. It may be that you need omega-3, sodium, an array of minerals, and vitamin B12, and so you have French fries with cheese and extra salt. You'll get a little of all of those things, but in the long run, you'll be depleting even more resources. You'll run out of your limited supply of lipase enzyme which you use to digest fat, for example, and so if after the French fries you eat some lean fish or flax oil which contain a more useful supply of fat, you'll not yet have restored the lipase supply and miss out on a better source of nutrition.
The cheese will also add to your overall toxin load, creating further need for antioxidants in your body. The table salt will not have appropriately balanced minerals, causing you to need even more minerals. And the amount of B12 will be so minimal as to not be enough to compensate for severe stress.
So as you can see, your craving makes sense, but it is overall not helpful to indulge in. A analytical, left-brained approach to this issue is to learn the root need at the physical level and address that. If you analyze your craving for French fries with cheese and realize that, indeed, you're lacking in healthy fats, an array of minerals including sodium, and vitamin B12, you might to instead choose to have a salad with flax oil, Hawai'ian sea salt (which is red) or Himalayan salt (which is pink), and a sprinkle of B12-enriched nutritional yeast.
If you make this logical choice in response to your cravings, you may notice that you still have an emotional need that was not met by the salad. Perhaps you wanted the feeling of your teeth sinking into hot, oily fries because that sensation you associate with safety and being loved, which is precisely what is missing and making you feel stressed out in your day-to-day life right now. This is where consciousness alchemy comes in – tools to help get you more in touch with your body, your feelings, your repressed desires, your needs, and your intuition.
Intuitive choices arise from feeling your deepest truth about your needs. The more choices you make from an intuitive place, the more your life seems to flow naturally and easily from one good thing to the next. Intuition brings a sense of zen to your work and a sense of meaning to your life. Intuitive choices feel so good because they are born out of an integrated view of yourself.
Cravings come from small, isolated parts of you without the benefit of input from your whole committee of self. This is why you feel stupid when you look back at what you ate yesterday. You think to yourself, "I knew if I ate that I would feel terrible today, so why did I do it?" You did it because you were selectively identified with a small part of you, and not hearing the whole of yourself; you were not hearing the part of you that was saying, "Oh no, please don't do that. It'll hurt tomorrow!" This is what happens when you are not on speaking terms with yourself.
Intuition becomes stronger as you integrate yourself and as you listen to it. It is like a muscle that gets stronger with use. Every time you listen to your intuition, it becomes more clear, more strong. Every time you ignore it, it dies back and becomes more faint. This is why most people can barely hear anything at all from their intuition. If you're someone who feels taht you don't get intuitive messages from your body or emotions, you want to start out with the procedure I outline below.

Listening to your Intuition – A Beginner's Method

When you're out of touch with your intuition it takes effort to get back in touch. The 'voice' will be very faint and easily drowned out by the smallest stimuli. Even the sound of a keyboard will be enough to drown it out. Even your night-light may be too much. This is why I recommend full sensory deprivation for getting in touch with yourself. (If you get migraines, it may be because you desperately want to get in touch with your intuition, and so you're causing yourself to experience pain from all sensory input in order to force you to spend time without any sensory input.)
Here is how to meditate without sensory distraction:
  • Blindfold yourself or rest a shirt or blanket over your eyes in a dark room. (The blindfold, shirt or blanket is to make sure the darkness is complete. Your pineal gland is remarkably good at picking up light even through your eyelids – even the little LED lights on your computer.)
  • Make sure all your windows are closed and all noise-making devices in your home are off. If you can hear neighbors whatsoever, turn on an air-filter or other white-noise machine until you can't. Another option is to play a recording of ocean waves that has no abrupt sounds in the recording.
  • Lay flat on your back or sitting up as perfectly straight as you can manage so that your spine is straight from the crown of your head to the tip of your tail-bone. On your back, lay with your arms flat on the bed, preferably with your palms facing upward, but they can be downward if that is more comfortable. Keep your legs somewhat apart. The most important aspects of your posture is that you're symmetrical, comfortable and completely still.
  • Breathe deeply and focus on everything you feel from head to toe. Do not let yourself fall asleep. Focus intently on your feelings. You are expecting a series of messages from your body in the form of sensations and emotions. Stay awake and listen.
  • Even with the best intentions, some people will still fall asleep. Try to stay awake and make notes to yourself in your mind about your experience. Narrate to yourself: "I feel warmer in my right foot than in my left food. I notice pain in my lower back. I am getting chills on my arms. I've been feeling cold all day except while I was running. I felt good while I was running. I am remembering running and enjoying that feeling. I think my body is telling me that it wishes I went for a run more regularly." You can narrate in your mind, or you can do so aloud. If you have a habit of falling asleep while meditating, then doing so aloud may be your best bet. Try to stay entirely still other than the movement required for speaking.
    Do this process for at least ten minutes at a time. Ideally, do it every day. You can do it right before sleeping at night, and before you let yourself go to sleep you can take out a notebook and write down your messages to yourself so that you won't lose them overnight. If you do this before bed it is important that you use some method to ensure you maintain the integrative benefits by remembering the process consciously. This can be writing, recording, or talking with a partner.
    For a crash-course in life itself and what it means to be you, do this process for three whole days. Your entire life will change. Mine sure did.

    Intuitive Grocery Shopping

    Once you've done the process outlined above for getting in touch with your intuition a few times, you can start using your intuition at the grocery store. For every thing your eyes land on, notice how you feel about the food. Try to ignore your judgments about whether or not the food tastes good or whether it is good for you or the planet. Just feel. Let yourself put everything that feels good in the cart. Then, before checking out, let your logic come back in and go back over your cart and try to feel and think simultaneously. This is what integration is about – your logic working together with your comprehensive, intuitive understanding of yourself.
    Notice how you feel if you choose to put some things back. Do you feel highly disappointed? Do you feel betrayed or let down? Or do you feel relieved? Trust the emotion you feel when putting something back. Relief means that part of you knew that was a really bad idea, and so go ahead and leave those things at the grocery store. Resentment or disappointment indicates that you really had your heart set on it. Maybe it is a bit expensive, maybe it isn't always the best thing for you, but right now part of you is calling out for it.
    If you have a conflict of logic and emotion, try not to bulldoze over one or the other. Instead, let yourself process. Yes, right there in the grocery store! Why not? What's the worst that will happen? Someone might see you crying and feel concerned? You'll be okay. Trust yourself to be capable of figuring it out right then and there. Ask yourself questions like, "If I get this item this time, will I feel good about myself tomorrow?" "Why do I want to eat this?" "Am I buying this for an emotional need or for a physical need?" "What is creating my need for this food?" "Where in my body am I desiring this food?" "What pain or consequence will I get as a result of eating this food, if any?"
    Remember that your body will primarily respond with feelings. So if you ask why you want something, the response might be tingling feet. You have to be tuned-in enough to notice that your feet are tingling and then feel into that as deeply as you can. It might bring you to a memory of another time your feet were tingling, and how you were feeling at that time, for example.
    As you can probably tell, intuitive grocery shopping is not something you want to do with a deadline. Give yourself hours to be in the store. It may only take you as long as usual. You may find yourself bursting through the store with child-like delight and awe as you let yourself be drawn to what feels right and good to you and you might not have to put anything back when you check in with yourself before checking out. Or, it might be a long, long process where you feel doubt and concern and waffle with yourself for a long time. Both processes are a success. Even trying to listen to yourself helps build trust and moves you close to an integrated, whole self.

    Using Food To Escape

    Another tell-tale sign of cravings is the need to escape from something you're experiencing. Intuition is always focused on moving toward something that you want. Cravings are often about moving away from an experience you don't want. You may experience cravings for food, for example, when you've been at your computer too long and your body is trying to tell you to get up, right now!
    You might also be interested in reading:

    Ask Raederle: Emotional Safety in Polyamory

    "How do you handle emotional safety and managing your two simultaneous relationships? Isn't it challenging? Why do you feel like you can handle a third relationship?"
    Emotional safety is a subject of much personal interest and struggle for me, so I'll start there.
    I find my two relationships highly complimentary.
    I've been with Lytenian since December 2009, so our relationship has a lot of history. We're both introspective and committed to a non-fluff sort of relationship. We're actually better at crying together and tackling tough emotional conversations than we are at being light-hearted.
    Hence, Greg coming into my life in 2015 being such a relief – we have fun together and do the fluffy things.
    Greg has become Lyth's best friend, and the three of us living together has more advantages than disadvantages.
    I practice something called conscious, material love. This means that, like most people today, I am subject to the pit-falls of material love – possessiveness, attachment, insecurity, jealousy, envy, and all the other manifestations of taṇhā (a chronic, underlying sense that one is lacking something causing a thirst that is unquenchable/insatiable) – but that I am also a conscious lover, and thereby communicative of my feelings, pitfalls, reasons, desires, needs, and willing to do what it takes to make the relationship feel rewarding to all parties involved.
    I am fortunate that both Lyth and Greg are actually better at spiritual love than I am – the kind of love that is more about essence and less about possession. Yet both of them have learned (and continue to learn) from me how to be more conscious lovers – how to self-examine from both a left-brained/analytical/thinking state and a right-brained/feeling/intuitive state. The former being Greg's natural inclination and the later being Lytenian's natural inclination.
    Non-conscious material-love relationships are the most common, and they thrive only when there is strict adherence to agreed upon roles in the relationship. Because of the deterioration of established gender roles, these kinds of relationships are becoming increasingly short-lived.
    With this overview, you may find it fairly deducible that I find my two husbands add to my emotional safety rather than detracting from it. While they are both free to seek other women – emotionally, sexually, physically, intellectually, spiritually – and to create other commitments if they wish to, neither expresses much of an interest in doing so. Whenever they do find occasion to flirt with or kiss another woman, I do experience jealousy and I am challenged by it. We talk about it a lot after the fact, and have learned a lot about ourselves and each other through these experiences.
    I've found that most of my jealousy stems from a belief that if I were to have a metamour (a partner of one of my partners), then she would not care adequately about my feelings and would trample my emotional security. I've yet to actually have the experience of having a metamour, so I suspect that once I do have the experience, it will dispel this fear.

    How can it be safe for me to pursue a third relationship?

    When polyamorous, and involved in existing, stable relationships absent of resentment, I believe adding new relationships is no more complicated or risky than adding a relationship when single.
    I believe I'm coming from a place of genuinely wanting to give my husbands more alone time (which they both feel is beneficial – I've asked), which is a place of compassion, not resentment. And also from a place of wanting to grow my own perspective, which is a form of self-love. So it seems that my seeking of a third is coming from a healthy place. I say "seems" because I am always open to uncovering further subconscious motives as I continue my consciousness alchemy.
    Another aspect of why it is safe for me to seek a third relationship is because both of my existing partners enjoy a lot of time to work on their own projects and introspect. I tend to be attracted to people who are intelligent, introspective and passionate – which leads me to workaholic, introverted geeks. A third such person in my life would also have limited available time for me, and thereby would fit nicely into my own available time.
    This is something worth considering when venturing into polyamory. How much time do you want to spend with each partner? How much time does each partner want to spend with you?
    In my case, I want to spend a lot of time with each partner, especially in the beginning as we're getting to know each other. And I keep my life flexible enough to actually spend that time with my partners. But the people I want to connect with tend to be specifically the sort of people who need a lot of time to themselves. This makes me a perfect fit for polyamory – so long as I continue to attract non-jealous, spiritually loving individuals.
    Further reading that may interest you:
    — Raederle
    The Consciousness Alchemist
    Have a question for Raederle? Visit my contact page.

    Are you too selfish?

    Selfish. Self-centered. Self-absorbed. These are three terms that we've got absolutely wrong.
    What these terms imply with their words is not aligned with the connotation. The word "selfish" implies that someone is of themselves. The term "self-centered" implies that someone is centered within themselves. The term "self-absorbed" implies that someone is absorbed in themselves.
    Yet the connotation that we apply to these three terms is not at all what the words themselves imply.
    Consider the behavior of a so-called selfish, self-centered, self-absorbed person. They do things that hurt other people. They are blind to the pain of others. They run rough-shod over other people's feelings, dreams and hard-work. They don't seem able to really listen, really understand, really empathize or grok anyone at all. They are unkind, uncaring, and inconsiderate. They are highly preoccupied with showing off and collecting praise, but don't pay attention when others show-off and they don't praise others.
    They seem to have nothing but self-interest, but the fact is, a so-called selfish person has yet to take any real interest in themselves. A person who is truly interested in themselves will take time that is just for themselves. They will feel what it means to be human, deeply. A person who is truly centered in themselves will be highly compassionate, because to be inside oneself is to have an open heart that recognizes the hearts and hurts of others. To be embodied in yourself in a positive, complete way means following your own bliss.
    A person who is living a life of their own personal bliss is not concerned with showing-off, collecting praise, being defensive, arguing other people down, or taking roughly from others; on the contrary, a person who is living their own bliss is so full of their own joy, excitement and enthusiasm that everyone around them is uplifted, inspired and feels deeply seen.
    A person who has absorbed their own truths will be able to understand and empathize with others much more deeply. Such a person knows what deep grief feels like – because they have been present with themselves and their own pain. This self-knowing is the most critical knowing to enable deep compassion of others.
    This is a very personal frustration for me because I grew up hearing that I was being selfish, self-centered, self-absorbed and even full of myself. I tried to "stop" being those things by looking outside myself. I tried to care more about what other people said. I forced myself to listen to others to be polite even when I didn't want to. I didn't understand that the reason it was so hard to listen to others was because I was not listening to myself, and so listening to others felt like a betrayal. I was jealous of my own attention going outward when it wouldn't come inward. I didn't understand that external focus was only going to worsen the condition I was being accused of.
    The next time someone is being "selfish" – i.e. blind to their own real best interests, feelings, dreams and internal reality – see if you can get them to actually pay attention to their own heart. Ask them kindly, "What are you really feeling right now?" or "What do you feel in your heart right now?" or "What did you really want to get out of that?" And then, after they answer, lead them deeper by asking them "Why?"
    By leading someone who is being blind into themselves, you will start to open their eyes. Someone who is chronically repressing their feelings will not be able to see the outer world clearly until they can see their internal conflicts, hopes, motives and beliefs clearly.
    Try leading a narcissist into themselves. If they're a complete narcissist, they won't be able to do it. They'll be terrified of the possibility and have to escape the situation or deflect it. If they have a lot of narcissistic behaviors, but some openness, you'll watch them go through an incredible transformation as you get them to actually look within.
    Remember: If you do not go within, you go without.
    — Raederle
    The Consciousness Alchemist

    Addictions versus Needs

    Raederle's Art for Raederle.com

    What is the difference between something you're addicted to and something you need?

    The only difference between an addiction and a need is the perception that the addiction is something we don't actually need.
    The things we need and the things we're addicted to function in the same way:
    • We feel compelled to ensure that we can reliably secure them.
    • We do everything we can do ensure that we get them.
    • We feel real suffering when we fail to get them.
    The ironic thing is that there actually is no difference between a perceived need and a real need. So the "addictions" are just as real because the person with the addiction is perceiving a real need. Even when they intellectually can say, "I don't actually need this," they still emotionally feel that they do. If they didn't feel they still needed it, they would give it up.
    This means that your "real" needs become addictions the moment that you intellectually realize that you don't actually need them. Food becomes an addiction the moment you realize that you don't actually need it.
    A person who has mastered breatharianism is someone who no longer emotionally needs food (and thereby doesn't need it physically either). An aspiring breatharian is someone who intellectually knows they don't need food, but feels a painful emotional attachment that they call an addiction.
    Someone who never perceives food as a false-need lives in a reality where food is not an addiction, but simply a real need. So you see, the difference between needs and addictions is our attitude – our perception.
    Think of an alcoholic. They have a real emotional need for their alcohol, but the moment they realize they don't actually need the alcohol – because, actually, they need deep connection with other human beings and a sense of belonging – then they realize they have an addiction. It remains an addiction up until the point that they no longer have an emotional need for alcohol.
    Click here to return to the Consciousness Alchemy Glossary. Also, please sign up for my e-letters below and check out my books.

    Intuitive Eating

    What does an intuitive diet look like?

    Following my intuition has led me to make an endless series of shifts in my diet.
    I'm honoring young aspects of myself that still miss fried foods by incorporating all-organic, home-fried foods that are gluten-free and sweetener-free and taking digestive enzymes with the meal to compensate for the difficulty in digestion.
    I'm honoring my body with days where I rest primarily and consume nothing but water.
    I'm honoring my ambition with days where I eat for energy; every morsel of food is delivered to give me maximum benefits. On days like that, I consume a mostly frutarian diet with perhaps a little cashew yogurt or a little home-rolled oats.
    I'm honoring the nutritionist in me that studied plant composition for years by including greens in every day that I'm not strictly fasting, whether in the form of a giant salad, or a fresh vegetable juice. On days where I'm short on time, I have several scoops of green powder combined with coconut water for a delicious, refreshing, replenishing meal.
    When I listen to myself and get the whole message and carry out the full directions from my supraconscious and subconscious needs and desires, I find that my results are better than any one limited set of rules could ever be. Although, I have to be careful to be sure I'm hearing my intuition and not just giving in to cravings. This is an important distinction, which you can read more about here: Intuition versus Cravings.
    In the past, I've been a strict raw foodist, a strict vegan, a strict raw vegetarian, and so on. I find that anything we go so far as to identify with later becomes a problem. Identification with something creates a strong attachment that is hard to break. Later, when you need to adapt in order to survive or thrive, it hurts tremendously to change because it literally breaks our identity which feels like a death.
    How I moved from being strictly identified with being a raw foodie to being an intuitive being is an incredible story which I will be sharing over time. One of the most pivotal points in this story happens in October 2016 where I had what I now call a "fever awakening." Much of my awakening had to do with why I've been constipated my entire life, so that's where this story begins: I've been really anal retentive . . . Curing Chronic Constipation.

    New Threat To Our Freedom of Speech

    I find it hard to talk to anybody about any of the strong opinions I've come to over the years about black culture versus white culture. I grew up in a ghetto that was part black and part Puerto Rican. I experienced a lot of racism against white people, and against myself in particular. I was harassed and threatened. Many of the white people I associated were beaten up by local gangs. One such person showed up on my doorstep severely bleeding when I was fourteen.
    Are you offended yet? Should I say "African American" instead of "black" even though the black people I grew up around called themselves black? Should I call it simply a neighborhood and not a ghetto even though the people in my neighborhood called it a ghetto?
    I was starting to like this girl who organized events for people in their early twenties in Buffalo. It was a "after you leave youth group" group. She found my ways of speech so offensive that she unfriended me on facebook and said she didn't want to see me again. She was very concerned with being politically correct and making sure that people didn't use 'hate speech' or participate in 'rape culture' or make racist statements.
    Look, I know as well as any gay person how hard it is to constantly be bombarded by hurtful statements. I feel hurt every time someone invites me to a bonfire. I can't attend a barbecue or a bonfire or a sage smudging because of my severe sensitivity to smoke. I'm hurt when people invite me to dinners and potlucks because I know I won't be able to eat anything there.
    I'm blocked from normal communion with other human beings through my chemical and food sensitivities. Even hugging people is scary because if I inhale while I hug someone, the chances are I'll come away from the hug with a migraine due to their shampoo or antiperspirant.
    My sensitivities give me a life of isolation, too. It isn't just gay people, trans people, black people, or people who live in extreme poverty who experience pain. There are people with invisible illnesses. There are people with such severe developmental trauma that they become manic narcissists who never get to experience real love in their life.
    Is this really any good reason to block our freedom of speech? Does it make any sense to increase censorship in response to people's pain? Much of the pain stems from our closed-mouth culture in the first place! Trying to silence everyone for their "hate speech" is not going to help. It will make things worse.
    Emotion has a natural progression. It goes like this:
    1. Venom: anger, resentment
    2. Grief, sadness
    3. Anxiety, fear, worry, old woundings
    4. Apologetic, remorse, understanding
    5. Love, foregiveness, creativity, awe, relief, peace and joy
    Considering this progression, what do you think happens when you cut off everyone's outlet for their venom?
    Before you want to shut someone up who is hurting you, think about that.
    — Raederle Phoenix
    The Consciousness Alchemist

    Am I addicted to shadow work?

    July 12th 2017

    Blog Post / Journal Entry

    In 2013 I met a woman who taught me to go into my pain. This technique of going into the eye of the storm led me to being better-able to follow my joy. It seems that what Teal calls spirituality 2.0 is the best way to achieve spirituality 101. Or at least, I realize that is what I've been doing for years.
    I experience joy only after going through a period of intense venom, grief, fear and regrets. The more deeply I go into these emotions, and the more I let them wash over me and consume me, the more complete the peace and joy is at the end of it. Teal talks about this natural progression of emotion in her video How to Express Emotion as well as in her second book.
    But in her video Spirituality 2.0 – where she so beautifully shows us her tears – she talks about 2.0 coming only after we give up on reaching joy through external means and we begin to look inward. I feel like I'm trying to look everywhere for joy, desperately, inward and outward. I seek pain out within my internal world in response to the smallest things in my outer world because I'd rather have something real than feel empty. I feel so alive when I'm in the center of my suffering, when I'm on the wave of grief.
    What's concerning me is that I seem to be addicted at times to shadow work. I can't tell if I'm healing myself or wallowing sometimes. I'm getting better at seeing the difference between genuine presence with my pain (which is followed, eventually, by joy) and simply moping/complaining/wallowing (which is endlessly followed by more of the same, with no joy following unless I can get to that real place at the center of it).
    I can understand, intellectually, that we're here to feel pain in every form. After all, we've chosen to be material beings to see what it is like to not be source consciousness, to not be perfect beings of unconditionally love. Anything that isn't unconditional love will be some form of pain, right?
    But while that makes sense to me, and sometimes I can glory in the beauty of this masterful design and feel its truth coursing through me . . . Most of the time I feel uneasy about the ratio of suffering to joy. Am I really so resistant that I must suffer so much at the hands of my self-inflicted pain? Why? Why suffer when I've manifested myself such a beautiful life, where so many of my old dreams are now fulfilled? Am I really doing this just so that I won't get bored? What would be so bad about being bored?
    Perhaps I'm such an expansion junkie that I choose this suffering by way of growing pains.
    — Raederle

    Eliminating Menstrual Cramps, PMS, Bloating & Excessive Bleeding – For Good!

    How I converted my menstruation from frustration to vacation . . .

    My Period Ritual; A Refined System for an Enjoyable Menstruation

    Two days before I expect my period I begin to drink more water. I eat grapefruits, apples, oranges, smoothies and salads. Everything is geared toward hydration and consuming more minerals.
    The day before my period I pull the cream-colored sheets off my bed and put on black sheets and pillow cases. I switch out my tan-colored coyuchi towel for an old black towel in the bathroom. When showering, I make sure the bathtub is clean and ready for me to get into it should I decide to use it.
    When I go grocery shopping the week before my period I make sure to purchase organic frozen raspberries and oranges – two of the most effective foods I've found for combating menstrual cramps.
    These days, the ritual is a fine-tuned, easily flowing system. But that wasn't always the case for me.

    The Typical, Modern Experience of Menstruation

    I used to be one of those women who was subject to the curse of monthly moon-time. My period would come as a surprise to me in the middle of a long drive or in the midst of a class or at work.
    It would come to me with sudden pain, heavy bleeding, and bloating. It would be preceded by a week of pessimistic PMSing, and yet I still never managed to plan for it. For over a decade I dealt with cyclical, surprise suffering.
    Now, having been menstruating for eighteen years, I can finally say that I have a system that has brought me from endless menstrual frustration to feeling like I get a special monthly vacation as a woman.
    This shift didn't happen overnight. Years of trial and error has gone into developing a system that works. Most importantly, much presence has gone into it. I started listening to my body.
    If you're interested in the full details of what my period used to be like, why it was so bad, and some of my journey from there to here, click here to read more about it. This article will primarily focus on the solutions I've found.
    My body isn't the same as yours, but it is similar enough as a fellow human being that I believe you will benefit from my discoveries greatly. So I will now innumerate for you the many findings and discovered solutions of my journey.

    Plan Accordingly For Your Period

    If you use birth control such as the pill, you might not have to worry about your period coming at unexpected times. However, if you're on the pill and you suffer from any unpleasant symptoms such as breast soreness, bloating, vaginal dryness, recurring headaches, etc, then you might want to consider alternatives to putting unnatural hormones in your body.
    I benefited tremendously from going off the pill after using it for eight years. I was astonished to watch myself lose ten pounds, have more mental stability, significantly decreased breast pain, and significantly increased sexual pleasure.
    For those of you who don't have any external method that determines your cycle, I highly recommend using google calendar. I tried many other systems, but they have not offered me the benefits of google calendar:
    1. I can create separate calendars. Some shared, some just for me. I've created a separate calendar which I've titled "Raederle's Period." Unlike my regular calendars which I share with everyone, my period calendar is just for me and a couple of the people closest to me.
    2. I can color-code my different calendars. I've made my period calendar red, my "possibilities" calendar gray (so that it doesn't stick out as overtly, since they're just possibilities), and my actual plans and commitments purple.
    3. I can hide or display whichever calendars I want, including the calendars of my friends and family. This allows me to see how my period overlaps with my plans as well as the plans of people close to me.
    4. I can access my calendar on any device where I can log-in to my google account, which is also connected to my e-mail, youtube, etc, making calendar access incredibly easy – even when I travel without a cellphone or laptop (which I do regularly).
    This calendar system, in short, allows me to see when my last period was, when I expect my next period to be, and to plan my life around my period.
    I plan to "do nothing" for three days when my period is expected, and I create buffer around it. If you don't create your own hours at your work life, you may find it extreme to take off work for your period every month (or impossible), but you can at least ensure that you don't have commitments outside of work on those days.
    When I get my period, I switch my calendar event that says "Period Estimation" to just say "Period."
    In the 'event details' section I log anything I want to note about my experiences. I always note anything down which was particularly helpful to any symptoms such as oranges, cucumbers, specific essential oils, a particular massage technique, and so on. I'll get into these as the article goes on.
    I create my "Period Estimation" event based on 28 days from the start of my last period. So after creating my "Period" event, I look at the next two months, and if they don't already have "Period Estimation" events on them, I create them. If they do, I may adjust their timing depending on when this period came. If my period came at day 30 instead of day 28, then I shift the other "Period Estimations" back so that they stay 28 days after the start of the last period.

    Cut Stress While Menstruating

    I find that everything I'm sensitive to, I'm more sensitive to when I'm on the rag. So I ensure that any possible stress-inducing factors are eliminated or minimized during my flow. For me, this includes avoiding leaving the house, social situations, bright lights, fumes, cars, and loud noises. All of these things can increase the severity of menstrual cramps.
    I now think of menstruation as a spiritual practice that is given to women in our bodies. We have a built-in monthly time for introspection, contemplation, relaxation and self-focus. The more we actually embrace this and make it a time for self-love, the less the negative symptoms crop up.
    The symptoms are only there to guide us inward. Pain draws focus to oneself. If you're already focused deeply on yourself, then there is no need for the pain to arise.
    But watch out! You might think you're focused on yourself when you're actually denying large swaths of your own feelings and thoughts. I've fallen into this trap many times, and the severity of my menstrual cramps will inform me of where I'm at with that.

    Get Extra Minerals While Menstruating

    Not getting enough minerals is shown to increase the severity of menstrual cramps and the amount of bleeding. I take Naturally Calm in water, which is essentially magnesium when I'm expecting my period within a day or two, and continue to take it throughout my menstruation.
    I've also found that taking calcium noticeably helps. Be sure that if you take calcium supplements to take a calcium-citrate which is more readily absorbed and utilized by your body. Read the ingredients and avoid calcium-carbonate in supplements.
    If you want to take the food approach, rather than the supplement approach (or better yet, combine supplements with the right foods), then dramatically increase your intake of greens. Leafy greens are very, very rich in minerals, especially magnesium and calcium. There are absolutely no other foods as rich per calorie in minerals as green leaves.

    Hydrate Before, During and After Your Menstruation

    Most people drink less than half as much water as they need to function optimally. To compound this, you lose a lot of water when you menstruate.
    If muscle tension is common for you and you have severe menstrual cramps, then not getting enough water may be a part of the general cause for both. Aim for at least a half gallon of water a day on the days preceding your period as well as on your period.

    Avoid Dehydrating Foods Around Your Period

    Dried fruits, refined sweeteners, nuts, seeds, chips, crackers and animal products are highly dehydrating. These foods tend to not only rob your body of water, but also minerals. Thus, they lead to much more intense menstrual symptoms.
    These same foods also tend to contribute to general bloating, breast soreness (due to lymphatic overload), flora imbalance (and thereby irritable bowels and candida), excess weight, fatigue and troubled skin. Caffeine and alcohol are also highly dehydrating. I recommend limiting caffeine to green tea, and scheduling your caffeine-containing coffee as a rare treat consumed only a few times a year, well away from your menstruation.
    I've personally found, even as a raw foodist, that it is very possible to bring on rough menstrual cramps through dehydrating foods. Some of the worst cramps I ever had in my life came in 2012 when I was staying in a beach house in Florida and teaching a family how to eat a raw diet.
    I had just made them a very fancy dinner the previous night which had concluded with a coconut cream pie made up of dried coconut, dates, fresh coconut, banana, vanilla powder, and a light dusting of fresh strawberries and cacao powder. The pie tasted and looked incredible.
    I use a photo of that very same pie on my business cards. And every time I see one of my business cards, I'm reminded what not to eat the day before my period! It really was a very delightful meal:
    The following morning was very tough. I only managed to pull through the fancy-fun meal preparations of the next day at all by keeping up a steady supply of celery-kale-lemon-spinach-cucumber juice, lots of rest, and lots of declining of potential tourism.

    Eliminating Menstrual Cramps

    Menstrual cramps are dramatically worsened by stuff stuck in your colon. Consider that the skin between your vagina and your colon is just a thin layer of skin. There is a lot of condition-sharing between your reproductive organs and your digestive organs.
    This is why it is common to find constipation, candida, vaginal yeast infections, kidney problems, adrenal problems and urinary tract infections all in the same individual. They're all highly linked, and any of these will increase your likelihood of having bad menstrual cramps.

    Enemas for Menstrual Cramps

    To improve your odds, get your colon clean before your period! You can do this the quick-and-easy-don't-have-eat-differently way with daily enemas. While an enema is uncomfortable for a short time (like, five minutes), it is much less uncomfortable than menstrual cramps.
    I've had migraines, menstrual cramps and severe stomach cramps easily relieved with a simple process that only takes twenty minutes from start to finish, including all cleaning up. Most of that time is spent pooping. Hurray!
    If you're not keen on enemas (which most people aren't, so don't feel bad), you can still clean out your colon by eliminating dehydrating foods from your diet (as described above) and consuming a diet rich in fiber, antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and water content. For extra colon-cleaning kick you can drink psyllium husk in water, chia seeds in water, aloe juice, rehydrated and blended prunes, and magnesium-citrate in water.

    Foods for Menstrual Cramps

    Besides cleaning your colon, you can add foods rich in antioxidants that specifically combat menstrual cramps. The most effective foods I've found are as follows (from most effective to partially helpful):
    • Raspberries, thawed from frozen or fresh
    • Oranges, with pith (not orange juice)
    • Raspberry-leaf tea with a pinch of licorice
    • Cucumber-celery-kale-lemon juice, freshly made at home
    • Pomegranate arils, whole (not store-bought pomegranate juice)
    • Blueberries, thawed from frozen or fresh
    • Cucumber sliced, peeled, with organic, unsweetened mustard
    • Celery ribs and peeled carrots
    • Romaine lettuce, plain, washed thoroughly to remove natural latex coating
    • Grapefruit and other whole citrus (not store-bought juices)
    • Kiwi, pineapple, mango and other water-rich fruits excepting pears and apples
    Some people may find it difficult to eat only the above foods, but I recommend trying it if you have severe menstrual cramps. If you feel the need to include other foods you might try adding a little flax oil to a salad of mostly lettuce, apple and celery. You might have some rolled oats with hot water and raspberries. You might have a little rice (very thoroughly chewed!) with dinner.
    You'll find recipes below to give you more ideas.

    Essential Oils for Menstrual Cramps

    I've also found aroma therapy to be a quite useful tool for going into the menstrual cramps and healing them from within through conscious focus on sensory input and bodily feelings.
    In particular, these are the most helpful essential oils for menstrual cramps, listed from most effective to marginally helpful. You can use these to massage the area, or to simply inhale and focus inward. Using oils as a gateway to internal presence is a powerfully helpful form of consciousness alchemy.
    • Helichrysum
    • Wintergreen
    • Marjoram
    • Ginger
    • Rose
    • Chamomile
    • Peppermint
    • Cinnamon
    • Lavender
    • Clove
    • Eucalyptus globulus
    • Ylang-ylang
    • Clary sage
    • Geranium
    • Yarrow
    • Motherwort
    Use the above oils before and during your period for less menstrual cramping, increased circulation, decreased stress, and improved hormonal balance. A blend including some combination of the following is very helpful to smell while you're experiencing cramps: helichrysum, wintergreen, rose, chamomile, peppermint, cinnamon, and clove.
    While experiencing pre-menstruation symptoms such as anxiety, a blend including some of the following is particularly helpful: rose, chamomile, peppermint, lavender, eucalyptus globulus, ylang-ylang, and clary sage.
    All month you may find balancing, soothing help from marjoram, clary sage, geranium, rose, ylang-ylang, yarrow, motherwort, and ginger. These can be massaged onto your abdomen and thighs as well as being breathed in through "tented" hands for aroma therapy.

    Your Delighted & Delightful Period Protocol

    So here's a review of what to do to make your period go smoothly:
    • Treat your menstruation as a time of introspection and relaxation.
    • Avoid commons stress-inducing factors in your life.
    • Drink at least a half-gallon of water per day, starting on day 26 of your cycle.
    • Switch to sheets, towels, underwear, pants, etc, that are either black or that you're unconcerned about staining.
    • Consume no dehydrating foods (nuts, seeds, meat, dairy, eggs, sweeteners, coffee, alcohol, etc).
    • Three days prior to your period begin eating recipes made up of nothing but fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, cold-pressed flax oil (or hemp or chia oil), sprouts, spices, vinegar and sea salt. Recipes below.
    • Fresh ginger before your period, but not during.
    • Include at least one vegetable juice in the day prior to your period and one the first day of your period. Emphasize celery and cucumber in this juice.
    • Lay down and cover your eyes while you're experiencing menstrual cramps, then begin breathing in essential oils (as listed above) and focusing on your bodily experience.
    • Do an enema the night before you expect your period to arrive.
    • Drink a shot of aloe juice every morning and night starting two days before you expect your period to help clean out your intestines.
    • Stock your kitchen with foods that are going to make you feel uplifted, energized, hydrated and balanced. (See below for details on this.)

    Stock Your Refrigerator & Kitchen Appropriately

    The week you're expecting your period, change your grocery-shopping habits. Your body is going on a cleanse whether or not you want to. Resisting the cleanse will make it a painful experience. Going into the cleanse with your feelings, your diet, your environment, your behaviors and your thoughts will make it flow smoothly and easily – as it is meant to!
    There is a lot in this article about what not to eat and what to eat. Here are some photos I've taken of my various kitchens are various times over the past few years to give you an idea what your counters and refrigerator might look like while you're cleansing.

    Refrigerator door – notice the aloe juice!


    Raspberries for Inward Focus
    • 10 ounces raspberries, thawed from frozen
    • ½ cup hot rolled oats or unsweetened cashew yogurt or unsweetened coconut yogurt or chia seeds hydrated in water
    • 1 pinch cardamom, ceylon cinnamon or allspice
    Stir cool, thawed raspberries with your other chosen ingredients. Consume as many as thirty ounces of raspberries on the first day of your period for increased clarity of mind and relaxed abdominal muscles.
    Apple Slices Delight
    Put all ingredients as evenly over the apple slices as you can. Enjoy.

    Carob pudding garnished with a cacao bean*
    Carob Pudding
    Mash bananas with a fork. Add carob and vanilla and fold into the bananas. Continue to mash for about a minute. Then eat and savor.
    Often I make banana carob-cacao pudding. *Cacao tends to make menstrual cramps worse, so leave this out when on your period!
    Pear-Ginger Medley
    • 2 pears, ripe, cubed
    • ½-inch ginger root, peeled, minced
    • ¼ cup dried mulberries or 1 tablespoon raw honey
    • 1-2 dashes cinnamon
    • 1 pinch cloves and/or cardamom and/or turmeric and/or allspice
    • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (optional)
    • 1 dash vanilla powder (optional)
    If using honey, combine honey with minced ginger and spices first, then stir with pear cubes. If using mulberries, simply add all ingredients to the bowl and stir. While stirring, allow the pears to be somewhat mashed, lending their juices to the ginger, spices and mulberries.

    Chia Pudding (center), Banana-Carob Pudding (in the glasses)
    Orange-Chia Pudding
    • 3 orange's juice
    • 1 lemon's juice (optional)
    • 1 teaspoon raw honey or 2 tablespoons dried mulberries (optional)
    • 1 pinch vanilla powder (optional)
    • ½ cup chia seeds
    Juice oranges and lemon with hand-juicer or citrus juicer. Stir in honey, mulberries and vanilla powder. Add chia seeds and stir. Let set in fridge for at least two hours. Enjoy!
    Probiotic Salad
    • 10 ounces chopped romaine lettuce, or 1 head, chopped
    • 5-10 ounces spring mix, baby kale or spinach
    • 2 apples, diced or 1 cup cherry tomatoes cut in half
    • 2 scoops Akea powder or other probiotic powder
    • 1 teaspoon adobo (optional)
    • 3 tablespoons flax oil
    • 1 lemon's juice or 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (optional)
    • 5 sheets nori, torn into little pieces
    • 1½ tablespoons dill seeds (optional)
    Put greens and apples or tomatoes into a large salad bowl. Sprinkle all powders over the top. Add flax oil so that it combines with most of the powders. Add vinegar or lemon juice. Add dill seeds, nori and other desired toppings (such as chopped dried apricot).
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    Why is it so hard to make friends?

    May 20th 2014, I wrote: "I have a ton of associates, and acquaintances, in my life, but for years I've wondered: How does one move from acquaintance to deep friendship?"
    Now, July 4th 2017, I understand the reasons why I don't have deep friendships quite keenly. I understand it so well that I begin to wonder if I'll ever bother to form deep friendships. Confused yet? Give me a minute – or twenty – to explain.

    Raederle's high-school friend, and Raederle
    It took me a long time to see it, but most people that I've ever met don't know how to form functional relationships. I thought everyone was making more friends that I was, but over time I've come to see that few adults ever make new friendships that are deep and lasting.
    Consider when you were a child. You were emotionally vulnerable before you accumulated filters from your parents and society. Over time you began to internalize the judgments you heard from others:
    • "Don't go outside without a coat – you'll get pneumonia!"
    • "You ask too many questions. Nobody likes somebody so nosy."
    • "Those colors clash horribly! You're hurting my eyes!"
    • "Don't spin! You're making me dizzy."
    You tell children, "Shut up!" because they are too loud.
    You tell adults, "Speak up!" because they are too quiet.
    As toddlers we're working on developing our identity and our personal boundaries. Read: Developmental Trauma. Unfortunately, most of us are taught by mother culture to reject our highest truths – our identities, our boundaries – in favor of societal norms.
    As small children we're floundering in a sea of what we're not allowed to be. Parents, school teachers, guidance counselors and even the law tell us all about what we're not supposed to do – don't flunk out of school, don't kill people, don't lie, don't cheat on your spouse – but rarely do these figures of authority really teach us what to do.
    Classmates will troll somebody for bad hygiene but unless the parents teach good hygiene, who is going to teach you how to wipe yourself properly? School is silent on this subject, and it isn't exactly a subject friends usually discuss. In the case of a child who is getting teased for smelling bad, he may internalize himself as a yucky person. Later, no matter how my good hygiene he learns, he's stuck with this negative belief about himself. Short of some serious consciousness alchemy, most people acquire dozens of negative beliefs about themselves as children that sabotage their adult goals and ideals.
    We're given lots of general, impractical advice – "Just be yourself!" That is good advice, but good luck following it without a handbook! First of all, how do you identify your true self among all the bullshit programming that mother culture stuck you with, and the multitudes of conflicting opinions inside yourself? Read: I Am Multitudes, Not Monolith.
    Noticed the growing number of introverted people?
    More people are choosing to be themselves . . . in the privacy of their own homes! Read: "Just Be Yourself!" and Why that Doesn't Work for Introverts.

    Raederle, 2016
    Most people relegate all of these conflicting beliefs to their subconscious and adopt the same mentality as the dominant culture they grew up around. This is how psychological patterns pass from one generation to the next; as we mature, we learn to identify more with how our parents felt toward us as children than toward how we ourselves felt as children. So much for believing the masses aren't empathic – on the contrary, we're so chronically empathetic with others that we forget to believe our own personal experience!
    As adults, we do the same things adults did to us and tell children:
    • "Don't [things I – the parent – judge as bad]"
    • "Do [generic advice without any actual tools for looking inside oneself for answers]"
    Did your parents teach you how to have deep, connected, loving relationships? Did your parents demonstrate a deep, loving relationship?
    In my observation, few parents demonstrate anything remotely close. Even romantic movies rarely demonstrate something enviable.
    I grew up with such a keen sense of longing and loneliness that I spent the majority of my teen years learning from both books and personal experience what a deep, romantic, loving relationship was made up of.

    Raederle (age 19) and her third love, 2008
    Mostly, I learned what it wasn't in those first six years of my experience. Fortunately for me, I wasn't afraid of commitment, and because of this, each of my relationships limped along to their final conclusions with no avenues of reconciliation left untried. Dedication (or desperation) combined with fervent reading on the topic made me a local expert on romantic relationships by the time I was twenty.
    Finally, after over a decade of seeking the answer to what a deep, loving relationship meant, I found answers. Although, that's another story. For a detailed treatise on love, read: What is love?

    What makes friendships last?

    Why do so many of us (like myself) have such lasting romantic relationships, but no deep, lasting friendships?
    Well, think about this, most relationships are borne of convenience: you work together, you live in the same area, you go to the same places, you share hobbies. But once the convenience is gone – you move away, they move away, you change careers, they change careers, etc – so is the relationship.
    So what was different in childhood? Back before we learned to school our faces to neutrality we talked with abandon about the things we liked with open joy on our faces and we talked about the things we didn't like with open horror. We didn't worry about whether the other person might be repulsed by our likes or dislikes, and thereby our relationships were more honest. We scared away the people who couldn't handle our authentic selves. Those who liked us when we were children liked us for who we were.
    This is why many people's deepest, truest friends are the people they befriended in childhood. And this is why so many people who didn't make friends in childhood still remain without deep friendships in adulthood.

    Façade, Meet Façade

    Moral judgment and political correctness replaces authenticity and nobody can befriend anybody because nobody can actually meet anybody else! It is as if you've sent your secretary to talk to someone else's secretary every time you encounter someone.
    And thus, your friendships are based on surface-stuff – convenience and commonalities. Common cultural associations – shared favorite movies, shared sports, shared ethnic background – are something we know how to look for. But this isn't the stuff of deep, lasting relationships – friendships or romances. Lasting relationships are about necessities – that is, needs being met.
    So how do we identify people who we can have a relationship of mutual need-meeting?
    When it comes to hormonal attraction, our bodies know how to identify such people. We read it in their posture, their word choice, their facial expressions, their choice of clothing and in their subtle behaviors. Our subconscious is very good at selecting people who can meet our deepest needs. (There is a lot more to say here, but this is worthy of its own essay by itself.)
    Consciously, we tend to suck at selecting people who can meet our needs.

    Options versus Essentials

    Meeting needs is the basis for a relationship that is functional. That is, a relationship that functions. You know you have a relationship that meets a need of yours when the person goes away and you deeply miss them. People who make your life "a little more fun" or "a little more interesting" are rarely missed when they're gone.

    Playing Raederle's game, Heir to the Phoenix Crown at Queen City Conquest Convention, 2015
    Relationships formed around commonalities creates options. Options are great. But options are optional. Optional relationships don't last because they are not essential relationships so you have no incentive to make them last. They create a false sense of belonging for a while, but deep down, you know that belonging is a thin veneer.
    Is that actually a bad thing? Is it important to make relationships last? Why do we think it is?
    We preach so much about avoiding co-dependency and yet we simultaneously put "until death do us part" on a pedestal. Which is really superior? A relationship that lasts forever or a relationship that serves a purpose for a time and then fades away when it no longer serves a function?
    Well, I don't rationally believe that a life-long relationship is better than a short, sweet, useful-at-the-time relationship, but my heart believes so. Why is that? Is it just cultural programming, or is there really something desirable about this life-long attachment?
    When we look at children and how vital the parent-child attachment is for the survival of the child, it makes sense that we're wired to seek a permanent connection with our parents. Likewise, when it comes to raising children, it makes sense to form bonds with people who you can rely on to be there for you and your child as a parent-partnership or as a community. Considering how many of us are still trying to compensate for the turmoil we felt as infants who were left to cry in cribs, it isn't surprising that this driving need for a permanent companion is rampant among our most fervent desires.
    So why are permanent friends so illusive?
    The primary people in my life are not people I can label my bosom friends, but rather, people who have titles of necessity: husband, parent, neighbor, in-law, and client. I can't change my neighbors without moving. My clients came to me because they have needs. My in-laws are my in-laws unless I un-do the commitment with either of my husbands, and whether or not I spend time with my parents, they're still my parents. But friends?

    Raederle, Lytenian, Raederle's parents
    We throw around the word "friend" a lot – just think of facebook – but rarely are any of these people we label our "friends" actually close to our hearts. Are these people whose opinion we would let sway our day-to-day habits? Probably not. But we may go through large changes in our daily lives – even uncomfortable ones – for a spouse (or a parent).
    Because we're with our spouses because they meet needs.
    I've met people at potlucks, yoga, dances, and festivals. Sometimes I see these people again in my own home for a retreat or workshop I'm hosting. Yet these people rarely remain potent figures in my life day to day, week to week, or even month to month. On lucky occasion it has turned into a several-month affair of exchanging knowledge, belongings, and favors – but these too fade away in time.

    What is a friend?

    Our language doesn't have a way to differentiate between the friends that are actively a part of our lives and people we've met who we still respect, care about and think of occasionally. The later sort of person is something I have buckets of. There are lots of incredible people who were actively part of my lives for a short time who I still have contact with on occasion. I call those people my friends, and according to the rules of our common vernacular, I'm entirely correct to do so.
    The simple definition of a friend is thus: "A person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations." How broad! That could include virtually everyone you've ever hugged in your life – depending on what sort of person you are. For some social butterflies, that would entail thousands of friends.
    But this essay isn't talking about those kinds of friends. I'm talking about the sort of friend who is actively in your thoughts, your considerations, your activities – and most especially – your heart. We sometimes call these people "best friends" or "bosom friends" or "close friends."

    Why do friendships fade away?

    It is because you're not meeting their real needs and they're not meeting yours. Not in a sustainable, meaningful way. Part of the issue here is lack of open communication about needs. How often do you talk to your friends about your unmet needs? It isn't exactly casual conversation: "Oh, yeah, by the way, I feel this gnawing emptiness inside because I feel misunderstood by everyone. I have this vision for how I want my life, and my world, but I'm too afraid to share it with anyone, so I never pursue it because I don't believe I can do it alone. I just thought I'd mention it. What are you unmet needs, by the way?"
    The people you can discuss your unmet needs with and who will strive to meet them are the most essential people in your life. If you don't have any such people, the lack of them is (usually) profoundly felt. When you lose someone so essential in your life, it feels like a death or a limb amputation – these people are what support your sense of completion, direction, and often even your self-image.
    Every action we take – from brushing our teeth, to eating, to going out and singing karaoke – is an action specifically designed to meet a need of ours. We don't have to consciously be aware of the motive for it to exist. In fact, most of the motives that people are aware of are rationalizations that have little to do with the real motive. For example, it is common for someone to be terribly overweight and believe their motive is that they like food. In reality, the motives at the subconscious level have to do with feeling protected (by a layer of fat and by the distance that eating can create at a social event), feeling unappealing and thereby safe from unwanted sexual attention, feeling safe through feeling large enough to be an unappealing target for violence, and so on.
    Another example is smoking. The subconscious positive intention behind smoking is often a social motive – smokers are automatically in a clan with other smokers; smokers take breaks together and bond either silently through mutual communion or through conversation or both. Smokers often use smoking as a way to force themselves to have regular breaks from work that they would otherwise overwork themselves with. Smoking can also have the motive of being a food-habit replacement in order to stay thin and thereby more appealing to the opposite sex (for anyone not offended by their smoking habit, of course).
    You see, being fat isn't about food. It is about feeling safe and comforted. Smoking isn't about nicotine. It is about companionship and feeling at ease. Yes, food and nicotine have addictive components, but these components are easily overcome when the real need is addressed through another means.

    What are needs?

    If needs are the key to lasting relationships, what are needs? And what makes them needs?
    A need is something that makes or breaks your experience of life – with the need met, you feel you're living life the way you're meant to live it, and without the need being met, you feel emotionally destitute in that area of your life.
    Our foundational needs are universal – feeling appreciated, feeling safe, being nourished, etc. Once they're understood, you can create a deep relationship with most any other willing person because you and they have the same needs. It is simply the strategies for meeting those needs that vary so much. Read: Universal Human Needs.
    It is said that the best way to have friends is to be a friend, and perhaps what is meant by that is thus: The best way to have friends is to meet the needs of other people. It is certainly the best way to make money: meet the needs of others in a way that they can pay you for it. Whether it is a service or a product, people pay money when they foresee the exchange somehow meeting one of their needs.
    I've spent my life unsure how to start being someone's friend. I think to myself, it would be so easy to be their friend if they decided they wanted to be mine. But why should they take the risk of investing their time and energy into being my friend when I have yet to prove to them that I would actually make a good friend?

    Why bother making friends?

    As I started this essay, I'm no longer sure there is any reason for me to bother trying to create lasting friendships. If our entire life is about meeting our needs – first our most basic ones, and then our higher needs – then our relationships are about meeting those needs too.
    What needs can a friendship provide to me?
    What can a friendship provide for you?
    For me, I have yet to encounter people in situations where they consistently meet my needs as friends. In fact, people often hinder my ability to meet my needs. For example, I often have found that hiking with other people makes it impossible for me to connect with my body and with nature. Instead of getting the connection I want, I often feel frustrated with the people hiking with me. Connecting with nature is something I usually do best when I'm on my own.

    Raederle's Garden, June 2017
    For further illustration, here is a short list of my strongest needs – the ones I feel most often go unmet and thereby drive me to seek out further satisfaction:
    • I have a strong need for significance which I meet through teaching, writing, giving lectures, organizing retreats, creating board games, and creating art. I don't need friends for this need to be met. I only need fans, followers, clients, or apprentices. The relationships I have with these people are much more satisfying than the people who chit-chat with me and don't take what I have to offer seriously.
    • I have a penetrating, ever-present need for being understood – to be seen deeply, to be felt deeply, to be heard truly, and to grok another person in the fullest way. This is a natural part of a consciously loving, committed, sexual relationship for me. This does not seem to be a natural part of platonic friendships in the pervasive culture I'm enveloped by. I have repeatedly try to bring a relationship to the "consciously loving" level without commitment and without sex and have yet to succeed. In my surveying of others, it seems that only a small fraction of people actually do succeed at this.
    • I have a driving need to express myself which is highly tied in with the above two needs. It helps create intimacy through feeling seen, and it helps create significance and recognition through giving other people something to appreciate. Expressing myself in art and writing is best done alone (for me, personally). Expressing myself in dance or in spoken word is best done with an audience but once again, they need not be my friends. On the contrary, strangers seem to appreciate my work much more profoundly than the people who take my existence for granted.
    • I have a need to be touched – to be caressed, to be massaged, to be stroked, to be cradled. This intimate need is not something I want fulfilled outside of a consciously loving relationship. Sure, I enjoy a massage from a stranger, but to have this need met in its entirety, I need full nudity, complete comfortability with the other person's body, complete trust in their intentions, and an atmosphere of feeling grokked by the person who is caressing me. This is definitely not something I've found in platonic friendship, or even in friends-with-benefits situations.

    My Best Friend

    All of the above said, I did have a friendship with a woman forty years older than myself who met a lot of my deep emotional needs. I called her my best friend for three years. Our connection only fizzled out due to her moving thousands of miles away to be with her grandchildren. So what made her my best friend?
    I met her at a raw food potluck. She and I were outliers – actual full-time raw foodists. It was a lifestyle for us, and it was our lifestyle for the same reasons.

    Raw Vegan Potluck at Raederle's place, 2014
    We had the same health problems and we'd both turned to raw foods as our solution. We shared an immense amount of physical commonalities than neither of us had shared with anyone else. She was the only person who could prepare me a gourmet meal I could eat. Nobody had made me food in years, and here she was delighted to do so!
    I came over to her place for brunches that she would prepare. I met her needs to feel important, needed, appreciated and nurturing. She met my needs to feel loved, nurtured, and understood. She couldn't understand all of me, which is something I crave from my husbands, but she could understand an aspect of me that nobody else could – my struggle with my body and my journey with my diet. She and I shared a communion of food and words that we could not share with the rest of society. We knew intimately what it was like to be isolated from meals and mainstream events.

    Raederle's best friend, Raederle & Lytenian, 2014
    We were genuinely useful to one another because we provided each other with implementable, practical tips. We thrived on each other's insights and observations. We lent each other eye-opening books. It was she who lent me The Continuum Concept, the book she credited with turning her "into a thinking person."
    Since she moved away in 2014 I have definitely felt her absence in my life.

    Needs Met By Friend Groups

    Most friend-groups I've been a part of have lasted less than six months. The fragile tethers that hold little groups of four or seven people together are easily broken by a single person moving or changing their priorities. All it takes is a disillusioned organizer or one inspired entrepreneur going in a new direction to break up the habitual friend gatherings.
    I've experienced one exception – a writer's group where the core members attended for a solid three years every two weeks. What kept nine people together for seventy-two regular gatherings?
    Our commonality was writing, but I believe that writing is a need-meeting strategy that indicated we all had a profound underlying need to feel heard through our written words, and perhaps many of us also shared the strong need to be significant through our writing.
    The writers varied in their styles – poetry, fantasy, science-fiction, non-fiction, essays – but we all enjoyed listening, sharing, receiving and giving feedback. It was during these three years that I built my reputation as an insightful editor. I was in good company that was always demonstrating to me how best to edit – as well as giving me a number of examples of how not to.
    We bonded so much that we had additional excursions together – Halloween parties, picnics, plays, hiking, and gaming gatherings. We were a group of writers who'd turned into a group of friends. I was the youngest, being in my early twenties, and we spanned across all the ages in between going up to a couple of members in their late sixties. We had a pretty even balance of men and women. We lived in very different parts of the city and led entirely different lifestyles. And yet none of those differences mattered – we'd formed friendship out of meeting needs.
    So why did it end? Why didn't we continue on forever?
    Two members moved away. One stopped writing, absorbed in a career unrelated to it. One of the published authors in the group became too busy with their events, travels and other priorities. One member adopted children from another country and became very busy with other obligations. All of these happened over the course of what would have been our fourth year, but attendance was down and we eventually officially closed the group.
    I was sad that ended, but looking back on it, our three years together was a wild success. I find that I'm making peace with the reality that all friend-groups are temporary parts of life.

    Raederle with friends & husbands playing her game, A Voice of Conscience, 2017
    I no longer believe in the fiction that only permanent things are worthwhile investments. As all chefs know, your masterpiece creation is destined for digestion!

    Cravings for Commitment

    I'm a commitment junkie when it comes to relationships, which is why I found a merely "open relationship" unsatisfying and unhelpful, but found polyamory – multiple, committed, loving relationships – to be a profound solution. Read: How We Became Polyamorous.
    My husbands and I don't have to worry about the longevity our relationships. We're firmly planted in nourishing need-meeting soil. We give of ourselves willingly and happily to one another. We've committed to meet each other's needs – for life.
    Could friends have that kind of commitment too? I've wanted it to be possible. I've wanted to build my own family out of people that would never drift away, never drift apart.

    Raederle & Husbands
    For my husbands and I, our core vow is to fall back in love every time we fall out of it. But friends don't make that vow. Friends have a tacit agreement to respect each other, but not to belong to one another. And maybe that actually makes sense. After all, individuals would have a hard time finding new, expanding experiences if they only stuck with the same people indefinitely!
    When reading The Celestine Prophesy I noticed there was a message beneath the messages: keep exploring, keep meeting new people. The book contained the overt message that each person we encounter we have a message for, and they have a message for us. But there was a backdrop message in the format of the book – the way the main character flowed through relationships with people like a droplet of water flowing through other droplets of water in a river. When we flow through encounters with people, we open up to all the possibilities in the universe – we blow open our own potential.
    So perhaps all this seeking of solid companionship is actually masking a fear I have about flowing freely into everything I could be. In other words, I'm deeply attached to my sense of identity.

    Understanding Your Unmet Relationship Needs – An Activity

    Ready for an activity? Take out a sheet of paper and draw shapes in different colors, each shape representing a need of yours that you have in relationships. You could have a red star for "affection" and a blue square for "appreciation" and a green triangle for "a sense of communion." You choose the colors, shapes and need-titles based on whatever impulses or inclinations you have.

    Raederle, June 2017
    Then, after you have four to seven needs represented on your sheet of paper, select one need and focus on the shape you've outlined. Focus on its empty space and imagine it filling up. Take the color you outlined that shape in and begin to slowly color the shape in. The entire time you're coloring, focus intently on that need. What does it feel like? What does it look like? Who meets that need for you? When do they meet it? Are you getting enough?
    Notice how the shape is filling up with color and stop coloring when the shape is as full as you are. You can try to calculate this with your analytical mind: "Oh, I think I get this need met about 30% of the time, and I think this is now about 30% colored," and that has value. But I believe you'll find more value in letting yourself color the shapes intuitively. Stop coloring when it feels like it matches the level of "fullness" to the corresponding shape within you.
    Go forward with all of the shapes on your paper until each one feels like a reflection of your internal condition. Date the paper in the corner with one of your pencils so that you can later reflect on how things have changed over time. This snapshot of where you are now will inform you where you want to go from here.
    What need is most neglected, i.e. has the most white space inside it? What need was represented by the shape you colored the most fully? Overall, how does the portrait look to you? How are you feeling about your level of needs-being-met?
    This is a great exercise to do with an intimate partner or with your family. Imagine if your entire household deeply understood what needs were going unfulfilled for everyone else in the household. This is one of the key beginnings to fostering conscious love.
    I trust that you've found this article illuminating. If you want more on these subjects, please visit the other links you'll find all over this page, and subscribe below.
    — Raederle, The Consciousness Alchemist
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