Let Your Inner Love Shine

It’s February and love is in the air.

I’ve decided to focus on love this month – in my communications and in my thoughts and meditations and inspirations!

Won’t you join me?? Let’s have a LOVE IN!

“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection.” – Brené Brown

I had an experience recently during a meditation class I was taking where the leader led us through a guided meditation on love.

She got us in the right frame of mind – grounded and centered and relaxed. Then she asked us to imagine someone or something that we truly loved. To bring the person or animal or place to mind and focus there for 5 minutes, taking in every detail-and experiencing fully the feeling of love and appreciation we had inside us.

Then she asked us to remember a time when we felt fully loved and appreciated by someone.

It could have been a friend or a parent or a partner or a child. She asked us to focus in on that experience, taking in the full measure of that feeling and focusing there for the next 5 minutes.

Pure. Bliss.

I realized in that moment that I could feel love and loved all by myself.

I didn’t need anyone in the here and now to offer me that. I could conjure that up all on my own! Like magic.

Valentine’s Day can be a hard one for many people who don’t have a special someone in their lives right now…

But what if we focused on love all month?

What if we allowed ourselves to give in to that delicious feeling in the various forms and places that we find it? Sort of like gratitude but with a bit more juicy-ness.

There are so many times where I have experienced loving moments both big and small. I hold in my heart the times I looked into my husband’s sweet brown eyes and shared the love we had for our newborn baby. I remember the love I felt as I sat with my lifelong friends as we grieved the loss of our dear sister to cancer. I remember the love I felt for my loyal and faithful doggie as she gave me her wet-nosed, tail-wagging lip slurping welcome each morning.

I think back to the love I have always felt from my Mom as she tended us all in such sacrificial ways. I savor the unconditional love I experience as I sit in my pew at church and the words and hymns pour down their full measure of grace on my sometimes weary soul.

I’m going to be sharing on my Instagram and my Pinterest account this month the things and people and experiences I love with you. I invite you to do the same.

Share with me what brings that full- bodied experience of love in your life. Share with me your peeps, your pups, and the places that bring you joy!

Here’s to love in all it’s many forms and splendors!

Looking for a little more self-love skills, to quiet that inner critic a bit so you can let your own inner shine? Join me for the Rising Strong Island Retreat on Whidbey Island in April. Get all the details here »

It’s Not Happy People that are Thankful… Cultivating Happiness for Real People

It’s my favorite time of year as we anticipate the holidays and start off with the best one- Thanksgiving.

It’s a time to gather with loved ones, enjoy the bounty of the earth and open our hearts to all the gifts we have been given!

Developing an attitude and practice of gratitude has been such an important part of my own healing journey and also a crucial component of my work with individuals and couples.  Being able to focus on the good in our world and in each other changes everything.

Studies show we are happier, healthier (less heart disease, stress related disorders) and heartier (we actually live longer) and are more resilient when we focus on the plusses not the negatives in life.

But here’s the real kicker:

So if we experience so many benefits from a positive outlook then…

Why is it so hard to develop one??

We are actually hardwired to see the negative. Its’ a survival mechanism.

In the dark ages we had to be looking for any and all dangers that could be life threatening. Form a survival perspective, the positive registers in a more neutral way than the negative.

But here’s the good news:

We can train our brain to see the positive.

Sue Lundquist of The Gratitude Cafe invited my on a panel on gratitude. Listen in to the whole discussion here by clicking on the play arrow below. And to hear more be sure head over and subscribe to her show.

What we know from brain science is that whatever we focus on and draw our attention to effects our mood, our behavior and even what happens to us.

Gratitude is a practice that can be cultivated.

Modern science has shown what many have proven over the years–it is good to give thanks. It is a healing balm. In his book, Authentic Happiness, Martin Seligman describes a study he conducted where he taught severely depressed patients to write down one thing each day they were grateful for. Within 15 days, 94% of them reported feeling better.

One of my favorite quotes from my guru and mentor Dr. Brené Brown is this…

“Comparison is the thief of joy”
-Dr. Brené Brown

I love that!

I think the opposite of gratitude is envy. When I start down that path of thinking everyone else’s life looks better than mine (or I don’t have all I dreamed or hoped for) I remind myself of all the good in my world and focus there.

As you can see, I didn’t start off happy here. Envy is a seed of unhappiness.

Instead, I chose to be thankful so I can get to happiness.

Cultivating Your Gratitude

Whether its’ a daily practice you start or end your day with, or if it’s an “in the moment” kind of attitude adjustment, make your gratitude list broad and varied. Try to come up with as many things as you can to be thankful for.

As you are making your list, take a moment to really savor each item. Really focus on the gifts that particular item brings into your life. So if it’s family you are grateful for, take time to remember an especially fun or loving experience you had with each member. Get in touch with the feelings and take the time to relive the moment.

Offering gratitude to others is another way to “live into this powerful practice.

Gratitude comes in many shapes and sizes:

  • It can be as small as a smile given to the store clerk
  • It can be a generous tip given to the newspaper boy
  • It can be as big as a grant given to help world hunger or bring clean water to a small village
  • It can come in a note to a teacher or a warm meal for a friend

Gratitude wells up as a thankful surge when we remember our blessings and we delight in our families and our friendships and work that is meaningful.

My hope for you this holiday is that your list is long and deep and wide- and that your cup runs over in gratitude for what you are given so you can share that love with the world.

Talking Sex: Building a Lifelong, Passionate Marriage

According to Sue Johnson in her latest book, Love Sense, the number one complaint that couples report when seeking therapeutic help from a couples therapist is problems in their sexual relationship.

So what does it take to build a lifelong passionate marriage??

It takes a quality of emotional safety and intimacy to create a lifelong passionate love affair.

“Problems in the bedroom don’t stem from sex at all, but rather from the lack of emotional intimacy…

It is emotion- the quality of our connection to another person that defines the type of sex we have, the satisfaction we drive from it and the impact it has on our romantic relationships”

– Sue Johnson

There are a number of current cultural myths perpetuated by the media…

  • We have to be beautiful or strong and sexy to have great sex – We all pale by comparison to the Brad Pitt’s and Jolie’s of the world… but that doesn’t create great sex.
  • Good sex doesn’t take practice or conversation… it’s supposed to just happen – Think of the image of the ice skaters in the Olympics – the synchronisity, the exquisite way they match each other’s moves. That took A LOT of practice, and failed attempts, and conversation.
  • Satisfying sexual encounters always lead to an amazing orgasmic experience – We need to broaden our definition of a sexual experience to include just skin on skin holding and exploration and pleasure.

Bonus tip: Instead of asking your partner, “Do you want to have sex?” ask them, “Would you like to be close and feel pleasured?” Now that’s a great invitation!

Many behavioral sex therapists will focus on behaviors… but here’s the kicker:

The sexual experience is an emotional connector, NOT just a sensation driven opportunity for orgasm. Therefore it takes 3 things…

Ready to hear what they are? Then listen in below as Joseph Losi and I are interviewed on Sue Lundquist’s show, The Gratitude Cafe:

Need some help making it happen in your marriage? Check out our Hold Me Tight Seattle couples workshops where we dive deep into putting these principles into practice in your relationship in a deeply experiential weekend.

Click here to learn more »

A return to hope

solstice benge blog title

As the Winter Solstice has arrived, it is a time to consider yin and yang, darkness and light – and the exquisite balance that exists between all things. After weeks of shortening days, we have been affected in a number of ways by the scarcity of light and the growing darkness. Though we may have experienced sadness or slowness as a result of this winter season, we must also remember that the darkness is necessary in order to experience light.

Many of us gather with our friends, family and loved ones, and no matter what tradition we observe for this holiday season, we begin to create our own light – the light of the love we feel for those we care the most about. It’s also a time for remembering those we love that are not with us- those who are separated from us by miles or death or simply the loss of relationship.


There can be no growth without the journey – it is in the darkness of winter that the seeds, resting deep within the earth, are summoning their strength to emerge in the spring. The Winter Solstice is a time to celebrate the beauty of the dark, as well as a renewed hope for the future.

“The Solstice is a time of quietude, of firelight, and dreaming, when seeds germinate in the cold earth, and the cold notes of church bells mingle with the chimes of icicles. Rivers are stilled and the land lies waiting beneath a coverlet of snow. We watch the cold sunlight and the bright stars, maybe go for walks in the quiet land. . . . All around us the season seems to reach a standstill — a point of repose.”

–John Matthews

Joyce Rupp and Macrina Wiederkehr give voice to the feelings of Solstice in The Circle of Life:

“There is a tendency to want to hurry from autumn to spring, to avoid the long dark days that winter brings. Many people do not like constant days bereft of light and months filled with colder temperatures. They struggle with the bleakness of land and the emptiness of trees. Their eyes and hearts seek color. Their spirits tire of tasting the endless gray skies. There is great rejoicing in the thought that light and warmth will soon be filling more and more of each new day.


“But winter darkness has a positive side to it. As we gather to celebrate the first turn from winter to spring, we are invited to recognize and honor the beauty in the often unwanted season of winter. Let us invite our hearts to be glad for the courage winter proclaims. Let us be grateful for the wisdom winter brings in teaching us about the need for withdrawal as an essential part of renewal. Let us also encourage our spirits as Earth prepares to come forth from this time of withdrawal into a season filled with light.


“The winter solstice celebrates the return of hope to our land as our planet experiences the first slow turn toward greater daylight. Soon we will welcome the return of the sun and the coming of springtime. As we do so, let us remember and embrace the positive, enriching aspects of winter’s darkness. Pause now to sit in silence in the darkness of this space. Let this space be a safe enclosure of creative gestation for you.”

Here are some practices and activities that may facilitate celebration of this time of darkness and light:

Letting go, deeply

Sometimes we struggle with hanging on to anger, fear, sadness – darkness – from day to day, so it can be helpful to establish a ritual of release to take place at the closing of each day. This gives us the opportunity to have a fresh start with each morning light, uncluttered by the events and emotions of the past (though we give our deepest gratitude to everything in our lives, good and bad). Here’s how:

Choose two containers – these may be small or large, glass or plastic or wood. Gather a pile of small objects – pebbles, grains of rice, marbles – again, whatever resonates with you. Place them in one of the containers.

Each night, you will take one of the objects from your full jar.

The object represents your day. Imbue it with your day that you just lived. What happened today? How do you feel? Think about the hours and minutes you’ve been given, and the intention you’ve set for them.

Then, say aloud, with the object on your palm:

This is my day.
It was perfect in its imperfection.
I thank this day for being.
And I let go of it, fully, and release it to rest for what tomorrow will bring


Forest Bath

Trees are healers. A walk in the winter forest is a wonderful way to quiet your soul and connect to your deepest truth. A walk in the forest is recognized by the Japanese government as a means of improving quality of life. It is called “shinrin-yoku”, which means forest bathing.

How to take a forest bath: Find a forest. Walk. Breathe. Listen to the silence and cleanse your thoughts from worry and despair. Then listen for that still quiet voice that is your inner wisdom- let that guide you.


–adapted from Lucia Journal, issue #1 (Inspiration)

Morning Pages

Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages*– they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.

–from Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

What are the practices you use to bring clarity and calm to your winter storms and to prepare for what the future will bring?


Gratitude as a Practice for Healing Transformation

Empty-Hands-e1356726073191Today is a day all over America that we count our blessings and give thanks. We live in a world that is imperfect, a country that is divided, a world full of war and tragedy. There are those among us who are hungry and without shelter and yet we are a people who survive, who go on, who rise up and believe that things can get better–we hope–we give thanks.

Gratitude is a practice that can be cultivated. Modern science has shown what many have proven over the years–it is good to give thanks. It is a healing balm. In his book, Authentic Happiness, Martin Seligman describes a study he conducted where he taught severely depressed patients to write down one thing each day they were grateful for. Within 15 days 94% of them reported feeling better.

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Meet Cynthia Benge

A therapist for over 20 years, I guide people from their own “stuck” places to a life full of adventure, meaning and satisfying relationships.

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