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February 2013 Publisher Letter

When I was younger, it seemed easier to open my heart to others. I could sit up all night with a girlfriend discussing the most intimate emotional details of my life. Yet through the years, I have found that I’ve become increasingly protective of my inner self; many friends seem to have followed a similar trajectory. It makes me wonder.

Perhaps as adults, we are more wary of being hurt or misunderstood. Perhaps our problems seem greater now, with consequences that are more serious. Perhaps we fear judgment and criticism; failures at 20 may be regarded more lightly than missteps at 40. So, I often find myself sharing coffee, smiles and chit-chat with friends—discussing everything from kids and work to necessary home improvements—then parting feeling somewhat unsatisfied and alone. How much better it would be to engage the gift of true sharing in ways that thoughtfully and kindly nurture our authentic selves, not just the roles we play.

Because I desire more deeply genuine relationships these days, I have been working on being a more loving, patient and compassionate friend to others. It starts with being a better listener. As Margret Aldrich states in this month’s article, “The Gift of Empathy: How to Be a Healing Presence,” the first rule of empathy is listening in silence. Learning to both give and receive love is equally essential, as is the understanding that we can receive kindness only when we open our hearts and allow ourselves to be vulnerable.

In line with this lesson, during a recent dinner, I was telling my dear friend Elizabeth about some personally difficult experiences. For the first time in many years, rather than glossing over the situation with the usual clichés, I allowed myself to open up and share my true feelings. It was comforting to be heard, yet the greatest surprise was Elizabeth’s reaction; the next day she left me a warm and enthusiastic phone message about how grateful she was that I had chosen to open up to her and share everything with such honesty and trust in our relationship. Rather than feeling burdened by my troubles, she felt as if I had given her a gift. Together we had forged a beautiful bridge to a deeper friendship.

During this month of love we might try this beautiful approach, as we honor all the people in our lives with the gifts of giving and receiving love in its infinite expressions.

In peace, happiness and love,

Gabrielle Buchnik Natural Awakenings Milwaukee

Gabriella Buchnik, Publisher

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