When the curator of the longest-running study on human flourishing, the Grant Study, was asked if there was any one factor that most contributed to a life well-lived, his answer was clear – love, full stop. In no small way, love makes a life. And, we’re not just talking romantic love, we’re also talking the love you have for family or chosen family, for those kinds of friends who make you feel seen, heard, and held, for those you’re in community with, who share a set of common bonds, and, less obviously, for those you don’t even know but somehow find a place of compassion for, that changes both them and you, often in ways you never saw coming.
But, in this day and age, these different kinds of love feel more complicated, and for many, less available. So, today, we’re bringing you a very special episode drawing upon the deep wisdom of five past guests, each experts in the space of love, relationships, and self-discovery, to share provocative, unique, and valuable insights about how to love and be loved, how to hold relationships with curiosity and allow room for growth, how to create a society-wide container of compassion, then invite everyone in, even those you struggle to like, or be in the same room with, let alone love.
You’ll hear from Julie and John Gottman, who’ve been married and also researching love and relationships, both clinically and in the lab for over 4 decades together, and writing mega-bestselling books on the topic. You’ll hear from Diego Perez, who most know from his online moniker Young Pueblo, on creating the space for growth. Rev. angel Kyodo williams will share an expansive lens on love and its connection to compassion, holding the space for difference, and liberation. And, our friend, spoken-world artist, IN-Q, shared a beautiful spoken-word piece, framed by his own experience of falling in love, wrapping with an invitation for us all to find moments to create magic.
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Digeo Perez (Yung Pueblo): [00:00:00] I think your connection only really can get super deep when you are able to open up those layers of yourself by getting to know yourself, and then you can share them with another person and see how you can better harmonize together.
Jonathan Fields: [00:00:16] So when the curator of the longest-running study on human flourishing, the grant study was asked if there was any one factor that most contributed to a life well-lived. His answer was clear love. Full stop. In no small way. Love makes a life. And we’re not talking romantic love only. We’re also talking about the love you have for family or chosen family, or for those kind of friends who make you feel seen and heard and held. Or for those you’re in community with, who share a set of common bonds, and maybe less obviously for those you don’t even know, but somehow find a place of compassion for that changes both them and you, often in ways you never saw coming. But in this day and age, these different kinds of love, they tend to feel more complicated, maybe less available, and for many, less accessible and easy to actually embrace. So today we’re bringing you a very special episode, drawing upon the deep wisdom of five past guests, each experts in the space of love and relationships and self-discovery to share sometimes provocative, unique and valuable insights about how to love and be loved. How to hold relationships with curiosity and allow room for growth. How to create a society wide container for compassion and then invite people in, even those you struggle to like or be in the same room with, let alone love.
Jonathan Fields: [00:01:37] You’ll hear from Julie and John Gottman, who’ve been married and also researching love and relationships, both clinically and in the lab for over four decades together, and writing mega bestselling books on the topic. You’ll hear from Diego Perez, who most of you might know from his online moniker Yung Pueblo, on creating this space for growth. Rev. angel Kyodo williams will share an expansive lens on love and its connection to compassion, holding the space for difference and liberation. And our friend, iconic spoken word artist IN-Q, shares a beautiful spoken word piece and really a frame based on his own experience of falling in love, wrapped with an invitation for us all to find moments to create magic. So excited to share this special episode with you! I’m Jonathan Fields and this is Good Life project. So first up, we have partners in life and work. Julie and John Gottman, who have been collaborating for decades to bring Julie’s deep clinical insights, working with couples to John’s academic research, together with what’s become known as their work in the Love Lab, training thousands of professionals and couples on how to do love better. They help us explore the critical topics that both anchor and unaddressed can trip up loving relationships. Built into a series of dates and opportunities to rekindle curiosity about each other. Even if you’ve been together a long time. Here is Julie and John.
John Gottman: [00:03:11] One of the reasons that we wrote this book, Eight Dates, was because. Many long term relationships. People get so busy in their lives they get so absorbed with the minutia of career and children that their lives turn into this infinite to do list, and they’re not making time for one another. And so we wanted to write a book that would create eight dates in which people could connect with one another, and we could rekindle curiosity in one another. And that’s what these dates are for. They’re for really talking about, you know, what do you need in terms of play, adventure, fun? You know, what’s intimate? Connection? Sexuality. What about money? What do you feel about money? What’s enough money? Why is money so important? What’s the history of your family with money and your own life? With money? So these eight dates are designed to reconnect people. And some of that is about nature. It’s about sense of meaning, about life, dreams, shared purpose, children, community, family, all those kinds of things.
Jonathan Fields: [00:04:21] Yeah. And what’s interesting to me about I mean, the book is fabulous, by the way. It’s called Eight Dates. And we’ll certainly we’ll mention it in the show notes as well. It was interesting to me that you wrote this book. Also, initially, it sounds like for people who are looking to find love, like, here are eight days that you can go on and eight really important things to talk about and explore with a sense of openness and curiosity to find out. Are you with somebody who may be compatible long term, but it also seems like along the way, you know, you both realize, oh, this isn’t just for exploring new love. This is for people who have been together for, for potentially decades to go back in and not only revisit conversations, but maybe have conversations that you’ve never had, even though you may be together for, you know, like a very long time, which I thought was really interesting.
John Gottman: [00:05:19] So we feel tested these dates with 300 couples, you know, we we like to be empirical. These these couples or gay couples, lesbian couples, heterosexual couples. And they agreed to to audiotape their dates so we could listen to the dates and make sure they worked.
Julie Gottman: [00:05:37] Right. So, you know, what we saw was also coming from a lot of our clinical work, which is that couples can be together for decades, just like you’re pointing out. And because their lives are so busy, as John was mentioning, they haven’t stayed in tune with each other. Right? So each individual is evolving over time, over the years, but they’re not staying in tune with how that other person is changing, how they’re evolving, how their values may have changed, how their experiences are turning them in different directions. So with each chapter, we focused on something that is really important in relationships. That’s what we’ve learned from our research. And each date is constructed so that you prepare for the date by thinking about this particular topic and addressing some questions individually, then coming together. And we describe some fun activities you can do on each date and discuss particular questions we’ve laid out that really take a deeper path into understanding each other. So questions like for example, the chapter on money. How did your parents show that you either had enough money or not enough money? What did money mean in your family? Did it mean freedom? Did it mean power? Did it mean security? And what do you want it to mean in this relationship? How much money is enough? What are your values around money? How much money do you want that would leave you feeling what? Secure.
Julie Gottman: [00:07:34] Powerful. Et cetera. Why is money meaningful to you? So we have chapters on money, family, sex and intimacy. What do you really like sexually? How did you learn about sex when you were a kid? That’s a hilarious part of the conversation. Most people didn’t. Or they learned through pornography or something. Who the heck knows? Also, chapters on dreams. What are your dreams? Did your family when you were growing up honor your dreams? Did you even get to voice them? And what are your dreams now? And how can I support you with those living those dreams? Your underlying purpose for being on this planet as well as spirituality? Some people have developed spirituality. Some people have lost it. Some people are not interested in it. So who are you? Regarding that topic. So the conversations are all very deepening of the relationship. We even have one on conflict. But it’s not about, okay, let’s have a fight. It’s not that at all. Instead, what it is, is so what’s the style in which you feel most comfortable discussing a problem? How did your family handle conflicts and how do you want to? It’s more like that.
Jonathan Fields: [00:09:03] Yeah. I mean, it’s really interesting. Also, as I mentioned in the opening of our conversation, my wife and I are about to become empty nesters. Woo. And so it’s fascinating.
Julie Gottman: [00:09:14] You’re not old enough for that, Jonathan.
Jonathan Fields: [00:09:16] You’re like, you know, 30. My hairline clearly reveals I’m old now. So it’s interesting to me because when I think about even if you’ve had these conversations or some variation of them very early in the relationship, so many people, when they become parents, then all of a sudden all the focus goes to the children, the family, the family unit becomes the center of everything. Everything happens on behalf of the family, very often the kids, what’s best for the kids. And then you go about life. And then if you’re fortunate and and, you know, the kids grow up and at some point they move out and you find yourself in this place of, oh, it’s just us again. You know, but it’s been probably decades since it’s been just us. This is such a fascinating set of exercises to revisit and sort of it’s almost like saying, and who who are we now? You know. Exactly. Yeah.
John Gottman: [00:10:14] So, you know, we wrote the book to be an experience. I mean, how often is a book an experience other than reading it? But you go and have the experience of rekindling curiosity in your partner. None of the dates are confrontational. They’re all fun and exploratory. Yeah, that’s the idea.
Jonathan Fields: [00:10:34] One, you brought up a bunch of different topics that the dates are about. One of them kind of jumps out that I want to explore a little bit more, and that’s the date around sex and sexuality, especially because very often that that and money are like the two huge sources of both tremendous joy and connection and tremendous pain and separation. So if we talk about potentially just quickly about each one of them, but sex, you know, it feels like a topic that even more than money can be the source of great unhappiness, and people just don’t want to talk about or address how how important is sex, really over the long term success of a relationship? Can it actually stay alive and healthy for decades and decades and decades? And how does that conversation unfold? To a certain extent.
John Gottman: [00:11:25] Yeah, it’s really interesting. I think Helen Fisher at Rutgers University has written a lot about this. She studied this idea of being in love, and a lot of people have said, well, being in love has a shelf life of about 18 months. Beyond that, you can’t sustain it. It’s too exhausting, you know? And then you love your partner, but you’re not in love with your partner. That turns out to be a myth. You can stay in love with your partner forever. There’s no shelf life to being in love. And again, science has helped us understand what’s involved in that. And the answer is it’s not very complicated. It’s not rocket science. A study of 70,000 people in 24 countries, recently done found that couples who have a great sex life are really different from couples who say their sex life is not alive anymore, and they’re different in very simple ways. They say, I love you every day and mean it. They’re affectionate, even in public. They give compliments to their partner. They cuddle. They found, find time to cuddle. They have a weekly romantic date. They they pay attention to their partner. They continue to play and have fun together. And that’s really vital. So our data play, fun and adventure is very important. And analyzing 40,000 couples about to start couples therapy that I’ve done, 80% of those couples say that fun has come to die in their relationship. And that’s so sad. So fun. Play adventure, touch, affection, sexuality, emotional connection. They’re all one fabric and they can stay alive forever.
Julie Gottman: [00:13:08] One of the other things that is really important. In couples sexually. To keep that passion alive is being able to talk about sex. You know, a lot of times when we listen to couples clinically talk about sex, you have no idea what they’re talking about. You know, they’ll say things like, well, you know, when you did that thing, that thing last night, it was really great. But, you know, it wasn’t quite right. And so I would like something else. And it’s really hard to put into words, you know, they’ll say things like that and you have no idea what they’re talking about. They may be talking about what they had for dinner. Right. So people need to learn how to talk about what their sexual needs are. They need to also be able to refuse sex if they need to, if they want to, without crushing the other person’s ego. You know, a lot of times when people bring up what their sexual preferences are, the other person hears it as criticism. Somehow that other person believes they should read the person’s mind and body and know exactly what kind of touch they want, what where they want to be touched, how hard they want to be touched, what’s going to feel right for them, what the tempo of the sex should be? Well, how can they know all of that without really being able to talk about it? So in this chapter, you know, it starts with kind of those fun questions of how did you learn about it? But then it goes into, well, what is it that you would prefer? What do you like sexually? What kind of intimacy do you really prefer? Where do you like to have sex? How often? When do you like to have sex? What’s your favorite time for it? In what ways would you like to be touched? What would you like for foreplay? Things like that, so that people can be really clear and on the same page and feel comfortable having sex. Feeling safe enough because they know what their other partner likes, too. Simple as that.
Jonathan Fields: [00:15:27] I think it’s really interesting also to to do this as an exercise, because in this particular date, you lay out a set of questions that serve as prompts that don’t come from either partner. So it’s almost like somebody else is telling us that these are the questions, these are the things that we have to talk to each other about. And it almost says, well, I’m just I’m, I’m just following the instructions of this particular exercise rather than the uncomfortable thing of like, here’s my checklist of things that, you know, like in a weird way, I think that probably feels more comfortable to people. Right?
John Gottman: [00:16:04] Are there cultural differences in America, too, that are really important? And a lot of times people don’t have access to the subcultures in America that actually do sex very well and do romance very well. So in a very large study that we did with the Reader’s Digest, where the Gallup poll did all the work, we were able to ask about sexuality. I learned that in Hispanic and Latino cultures in the United States, actually, you don’t feel like a man unless you know what turns your woman on. You don’t feel like a woman unless you know what turns your man on. So inquiry is a very important part. And when children come, it becomes even more important in Hispanic and Latino cultures to really emphasize sexuality. It’s not the last item of a long to do list. And with gay and lesbian couples we studied in our laboratory, they’re much more comfortable talking about sex in a non-defensive way, using humor and really listening to one another and being able to talk about it comfortably. Compared to the European cultures, the African cultures in the United States that really are much more uncomfortable talking about sex and where it’s seen as a test of your masculinity or femininity.
Jonathan Fields: [00:17:22] Yeah. And I never really even thought about the the idea that there is a cultural overlay to all of this. So I want to start to come full circle with us, but I thought I’d share a comment. What what our listeners can’t see is, as we’ve been sitting here, we’re in a little triangle. And as you’ve both been talking, I’m watching a dance happen between you, which is which is fascinating and beautiful. It’s this I mean, literally, what our listeners can’t see is you’re you’re sort of like, you keep tossing the ball to each other, there’s a knowing glance like this is you, and then like, and you and you and there’s this, like, really graceful dance that’s been going on at the same time. So is that natural or have you guys been practicing all of these things for a lot of years?
Julie Gottman: [00:18:11] Ah, well. Let’s see. I you know, I think it has evolved over time. So yes, we have practiced, we have practiced and reached agreements. And we also because we know each other so well, we know who’s strong in what topic. And so we’ve now got signals eye signals to each other. But that’s kind of evolved over time to more naturally as to, okay, that’s your topic. I have no idea of how to answer that. Right.
John Gottman: [00:18:58] And I have to learn not to interrupt. You know, there are times when I get real enthusiastic about something Julie is saying, and I want to add something to it. And I have to learn how to be quiet and just wait for her to finish. And I make mistakes.
Julie Gottman: [00:19:14] We both do. But, you know, part of the thing is that’s funny. Speaking of cultures, is that John is from New York, so he’ll talk fast. And, you know, I’m from Oregon, where we talk really slowly. And so poor John is stuck, you know, having to wait and wait and wait, being a New Yorker. And also the other thing, you know, that is so true, both of us are Jewish is that, you know, interruption in argument is Jewish love. So, you know, we like to slow things down a little bit.
Jonathan Fields: [00:19:51] That’s too funny. That’s funny. Yeah, I’m in Portland at least a few times a year. And oh, neat. It never it never stops to amaze me that wherever I go to get a cup of coffee, I’ll step up to the counter and the person behind the counter just look at me and say, hey, so, so what are you up to today? And I’m like, we don’t do that anymore. We don’t ask, we don’t answer, we don’t want to know. And it’s like it’s this perfect or like just that one moment really demonstrates the difference in the way that we exist from the two different coasts. This is true. So as we come full circle here, the name of this is Good Life Project. If I offer out the phrase to live a good life, what comes up?
John Gottman: [00:20:32] Well, for me, I think one of the really big realizations is that a really good love relationship is your best guarantee of health, longevity, happiness, success in life. And the emphasis is always so much in love relationships on getting the love you want, but I think what you really gain in a love relationship is you gain the ability to love. The joy is the opportunity to love fully, and that emphasis is what makes for good living. I think that ability to love your children well, to love your partner well, and that’s what you get.
Julie Gottman: [00:21:17] Can I just modify that phrase to fit what you’re saying, which is give the love you want, right?
Jonathan Fields: [00:21:27] Thank you both.
Julie Gottman: [00:21:29] Thank you.
Jonathan Fields: [00:21:32] So I love the powerful blend of both research and lived insights, along with the fun and loving dynamic that Julie and John share through the way they interact. Next up we have Diego Perez, who you may well know from his wildly popular writings on Instagram under the handle Yung Pueblo, or from his New York Times best-selling books. His lens on the role of creating the space for individual growth, and then zooming the lens out to explore what he calls structural compassion, is just so expansive and empowering. Here’s Diego.
Digeo Perez (Yung Pueblo): [00:22:03] You know, to me, when I think about love, I mean, love is something that can hold space for multiple perspectives. And and it’s something that can allow for complexity. And I think that’s something that is not just growing in the, like, activist organizing world, but all over the world. You know, that we can be able to still function harmoniously without having to, like, hate each other or demonize each other in certain ways, because at the end of the day, like everybody makes mistakes, like, you know, we’re we’re all incredibly imperfect human beings. And what matters is, like, are we open to to changing and being better?
Jonathan Fields: [00:22:40] Yeah. It’s such an important question, especially in this moment in time. Right. Because we’re all dropped into this space where there’s so much disenfranchisement, but there’s also so much isolation and separatism and dehumanization. It’s sort of like, you know, there’s an installation of beliefs and values that rise to the level of identity. And once that becomes that, it becomes brutally hard to back away from that, even when you’re presented with really strong evidence that it’s not right. And I feel like, yeah, I mean, I hope you’re right in sort of like, you know, I feel like we have been dropped into this sea of pain, of isolation and dehumanization. And, you know, I’m waiting for that pendulum to swing back towards openness and realizing that we’re sort of like, all part of, like, the same fiber of humanity. It sounds like you may you may be a little bit further along in seeing and stepping into that space than I am at this point.
Digeo Perez (Yung Pueblo): [00:23:36] Yeah. I mean, it’s a struggle. It’s a struggle to have people who, you know, that that there are people who exist in the world who don’t like you because of different facets of your identity. And then it’s also a struggle to be attached to different parts of your identity, when in reality you’re there’s nothing static about you, you know, a piece of your identity that may have been so important to you seven years ago may mean nothing to you today because you’ve just grown in so many different ways. And if you were to attach yourself and stick to that part of your identity, you would actually be limiting your own flourishing. So I think even within the work that I do within myself, I’ve really tried to sort of shift the way I see identity to just to think about it as a flowing river, because it just it just keeps moving and it’ll move and. Sort of switch itself up in a way that can meet the moment, as opposed to just like trying to make the moment fit you, if that makes sense.
Jonathan Fields: [00:24:35] Yeah, no, it definitely does. You know, the Buddhist path was is always fascinated me because they’ve carved out two paths, you know, the householder approach and the monastic path. Yeah, yeah. And there’s this really fascinating acknowledgment of the fact that some people are going to go and spend a lot of time in solitude or remove themselves from society, and others are actually going to stay completely immersed in civil life around them, and that they’re you don’t actually have to step out if you make that choice, if it’s right for you, there’s a way to do it. But if you also choose to be completely immersed in life as it happens and swirls around you all day, there’s also a way to do it. That way. You can be present in that life and also present in your own unfolding, in your own process of liberation and collective liberation, without having to extract yourself from it. And I always, I always thought that was so prescient, the way that, you know, that it was so clearly identified. And there was like, almost like a permission given to live and also do the work.
Digeo Perez (Yung Pueblo): [00:25:33] Yeah, I think it’s quite beautiful. If you if you look back to the, the really like, you know, the sutras of that sort of encode the Buddhist teaching rather the earliest sources of the Buddhist teaching. There are a lot of different householders that become very enlightened, you know, from Anathapindika to Chitta, there’s just different people that the Buddha talks about men and women who just sort of take that next level leap and they’re still householders, you know, they don’t necessarily take robes and become monks. And there’s nothing, you know, the work that I’m putting out, there is nothing against being a monk, if that’s what you so desire. That’s actually a beautiful thing to be able to give your life, you know, because what do monks do? They’re sort of like donating their lives in service of the dharma, which is beautiful. But if that’s not for you, that’s great. You know, it’s also not for me. I like having, you know, I like being married, and I like, you know, being able to move about my life in my own way. But that does not stop you from making serious progress on the path of liberation.
Jonathan Fields: [00:26:40] Yeah. Which also brings up really actually the next thing that you focus on, which is the fact that so often, you know, we’re actually not doing this in isolation, that we’re doing this in relationship with ourselves and with other people, with those that we love, with intimate partners. You. Right. It’s not about finding a partner who has flawless emotional maturity. It’s about finding someone who can match your level of commitment not just to the relationship, but commitment to heal themselves so they can love better, see more clearly, and have more presence. Tell me more.
Digeo Perez (Yung Pueblo): [00:27:12] Yeah. Mean. And that’s that’s the slow learning that that I’ve been doing from just being with my wife, you know, because we, I think a lot of these pieces that I wrote about partnership, they emerge pretty directly from the experiences that I’ve had with my wife and how we’ve moved into just like a whole different phase in our relationship now where like the first part of our relationship when we were young, right, I, I was 19 and she was 18 when we first got together. But that first part of our relationship was really tumultuous and turbulent. We didn’t know ourselves, we didn’t know how to treat each other well. We kind of sort of stumbled through those years, you know, there was a lot of like a connection was was real, but it wasn’t yet deep. And it had no emotional maturity because I think your connection only really can get super deep when you are able to open up those layers of yourself by getting to know yourself, and then you can share them with another person and see how you can better harmonize together. But ever since we both started meditating, she’s a serious meditator too. She’s gone through these same transitions as well, and we’ve have found that a lot of times when we used to fall into arguments, fall into conflict, a lot of that intensity has been removed so that when we have, you know, what? We used to have arguments. Now they’re more like discussions or they’re disagreements so that there’s more sharing and more of us trying to understand each other’s perspectives as opposed to trying to win over each other or, you know, like trying to one up each other in different ways. A lot of that, and in no ways is our relationship perfect or anything like that. You know, we still have our struggles, but we have more tools with which to properly like, process our struggle. And our primary tool is our own personal inner work that helps us just be more compassionate, be more aware and be more, you know, just just stop projecting onto each other all the time.
Jonathan Fields: [00:29:23] Yeah. And I feel like those same tools allow us to. Maybe grasp our own past selves a little bit less and past selves may be meaning. Five minutes ago, you know the position that we argued fiercely for last week. You know, I think the practice sometimes allows you to zoom the lens out a little bit and kind of like when somebody counters that position and you believe it strongly, rather than just say, okay, it’s time to put the shields up and defend like crazy, you’re kind of like, okay, that’s, you know, like identified strongly with this set of beliefs or this, this thought. And maybe I still do, but let me at least hold myself open to the possibility that there is a different point of view here. And it’s, you know, so it’s not that we’re just completely surrendering ourselves to being remade on a daily basis, but maybe we hold on a little bit less lightly along the way. But, you know, one of the things that I’m curious about is what happens when two people are in a committed relationship and one is deep into a process of growth, and one either isn’t at all, or they’re on a much different path, or the pace and the commitment is profoundly different. Because that also can create its own sense of friction.
Digeo Perez (Yung Pueblo): [00:30:39] Yeah, that’s a great question. I think I’ve seen a lot of examples in my life of people being in really profound, deep relationships and also walking different paths. You know, some people taking the path of therapy really seriously and getting a lot of benefit from that, but then they’re not so much into meditating. And I’ve seen relationships really sort of blossom. I do see the challenges. I remember the one challenge in particular in my relationship was when, like, I felt this very big aspiration to start meditating two hours a day because I was getting so much from meditating, I was like, I got to keep this going, you know, on a daily basis, really spend time on it to keep this experiment going. And I started doing that before my wife, and there was a bit of a sort of an odd moment where, you know, she had started meditating as well, doing the ten-day courses, but she wasn’t quite ready to start meditating two hours a day. So I think for a number of months, I’d say for about five, six months, I just, you know, just just felt really committed to it. And, and I kept going and eventually, you know, she was moving at her own speed. She also wanted to do this, but she didn’t feel quite ready. And I tried my best to not push her or anything like that. And I made sure that she, you know, she was okay with my decision to to take time from, from our time together so that I could spend it on myself.
Digeo Perez (Yung Pueblo): [00:32:08] And she was really supportive of that. And eventually things sort of clicked for her and she felt like she was ready and she started. But it was interesting seeing the opposite of that. Where, when. So she was done smoking marijuana before I was she just was, you know, it wasn’t really serving her. And then for me, I felt like I needed a little more time with it. And there was this period where she had totally stopped, and I kind of kept smoking for a few more months, and she gave me the gift of her patience, right where she was just like, you know, do your thing. Like, I know you want to stop and just like, you know, find your time, move at your own speed. And that really helps me because I was able to feel like I didn’t have a lot of pressure hanging over me, and that was really able to work out things within myself and really see that, you know, this really is not serving me anymore. And it’s actually like limiting the depth of my meditation. So I, you know, I felt really committed to going deeper. So I ended up letting it go. And and that was also really beautiful. But even realizing that we really do move at our own speeds, it’s a hard thing, but an important thing to to embrace and long-lasting, committed relationships. Because, yeah, you’re just you’re not going to heal at the same speeds. You’re not going to rest at the same speeds. You’re going to you’re really your own individual person.
Jonathan Fields: [00:33:33] Yeah. Which brings communication really front and center and openness and vulnerability, which I know are topics that are dear to our heart also. And it also really points to the very title of this book, Clarity and Connection. You know, at the end of the day, it all circles back to that. And it’s almost like, you know, connection is, to a certain extent, the byproduct of a devotion to seeing more clearly in the first place and then communicating what you see and also being open to that being communicated back to you. I want to ask you about one other thing before we start to wrap our conversation. And it’s something that I know I’ve heard bubbling up in your conversations more and more recently, but I’m guessing it’s something that you’ve been noodling on for a long time, which is the notion of what you term structural compassion.
Digeo Perez (Yung Pueblo): [00:34:19] Yeah, yeah, that’s. It’s funny, I have been like that term. It’s a term that hasn’t been fully developed yet. I don’t think anybody and nobody really owns it, but. To me. I see a lot of structural harm in the world, where a lot of different systems kind of crash upon each other. And a lot of people end up getting hurt for different. Like if you take economic inequality right all around the world, that there are just so many people who just struggle to make their material ends meet. And it’s not like, you know, they’re not like lazy or anything like that. They’re just like they’re just stuck in a poverty trap. Because and I know from firsthand, like, I know how hard my parents worked and how they literally were not able to leave that poverty trap until my brother and I became older and started adding funds to the family. You know, these, these, these structures that we exist in. And you can take that to not just from economic inequality, but, you know, racism. You can even look at climate change or, you know, patriarchy. You can just see how these different loose and direct structures of harm, if we are able to sort of turn them upside down and intentionally inject compassion into the situation, I hope that we can create something that we can call structural compassion and be able to recognize that in different areas where people are being either oppressed or hurt in some manner or another, we keep our eyes open to that, and we stay active in trying to just uplift all people.
Digeo Perez (Yung Pueblo): [00:36:00] Because I really I see a transition happening in this century, hopefully, where we expand our idea of human rights to include that people are no longer suffering in this intense way, in a material way, so that they’re, you know, can be educated, have health care, have these sort of simple basic rights fully met globally around the world so that we can all live well, because and I think a lot of people fear that because immediately they think like, oh, this is like some strict form of communism. But it’s like, no, it’s just we’re just humanizing the world. We’re just trying to, you know, help all people live well. And that doesn’t mean that some people aren’t going to be wealthy. You know, people can still benefit from the things that they create. But we do want to sort of remove that intense struggle that a lot of people go through. Like, you know, there’s still people dying from hunger, people dying from simple diseases that could be fixed and people suffering from different forms of racism. And, you know, this, this like onslaught of climate change that’s about to befall us, like, how are we going to be able to interact compassionately with each other so that we can support all of us flourishing and living well?
Jonathan Fields: [00:37:14] Mmm. Yeah. That is the big question. But the notion of structural compassion, I just like that. Yeah, it.
Digeo Perez (Yung Pueblo): [00:37:22] Paints it like sort of like paints an image, you know, because we know that there’s a lot of structural harm. But let’s move towards structural compassion, right?
Jonathan Fields: [00:37:30] Yeah. It’s like, what would the systems of compassion to operationalize it at scale, scale it up. It’s a really interesting question. Yeah. It feels like a good place for us to come full circle as well. So hanging out in this container of a good life project, if I offer up the phrase to live a good life, what comes up?
Digeo Perez (Yung Pueblo): [00:37:47] Ahhh, to live a good life, I think. I mean, for me it’s to develop as much equanimity as possible. I think equanimity has been the the real, the treasure that I’ve found in this life. And I think it means, you know, spending time meditating like I go to courses really often, but I would like to, as I get older, to go to more and more because I get so much from that, and because I get so much from that, I’m able to give more.
Jonathan Fields: [00:38:18] Mm. Thank you. I love how Diego comes at love from a place of such openness and curiosity. Next up, we have a good friend and sometimes collaborator, Rev. angel Kyodo williams, who helps create a really powerful and inclusive frame for love at scale, exploring the notion of holding ourselves and others in the space of love, of wanting something for but not from them, and also acknowledging the work that may need to be done. Is there work to do and not yours? Rev. angel offers a way to create a space of love, even for those who see the world very differently, with the ultimate goal of liberation for all. Here’s Rev Angel. So I’ve heard you talk in different areas and different domains to different audiences, and one of the things I’ve always marveled at is that you’re so you are so intentional with language, and you have this capacity to be stunningly frank and honest and direct and yet at the same time expansive and inclusive. You know, you can be in a room full of hundreds of white people you know and have and facilitate a conversation, a retreat, a day that is very direct and very honest and, you know, loaded with hard truths and at the same time, the way that you. It’s not just the language, it’s your presence. It’s your physical, emotional, spiritual presence in a space combined with the way that you’re so intentional about language that somehow creates this moment where hard truths seem to land. They seem to to bypass defenses that I’ve seen so often go up. And I wonder if you’ve I’ve been in rooms where I’ve felt that where you’re sharing. And I wonder if you while you’re sharing, feel that same thing.
Rev. angel Kyodo williams: [00:40:15] Well, you know, I, I feel. The people I am embracing, you know, individual people that I am so certain are as trapped in something that is not. Our essential nature. And so I want them to be liberated from that. And I hold them in that space of like like I want this. For you. And this is your own work. Right. And so this like for me, it feels like I’m embracing and I hold the intention to embrace. I think I benefit from. And this is, you know, has all kind of complex layers to it, of course. But I also I don’t want to think from them. I want something for them. And that shift in the power dynamic. Is really critical. It’s a combination of allowing myself to unfold and mature and create enough of a mixed up kind of, you know, economic viability that doesn’t rely on anything. I’m very intentional about, you know, I don’t hold like a job. I haven’t held a job, you know, since I was 22. I walked out of a out of an office. I worked for Essence magazine, and I walked in and I was like, I will never work for someone again. And so I organized myself to not be which which has, you know, that quality of loneliness.
Rev. angel Kyodo williams: [00:41:55] Right. Like an aloneness to not be dependent on any soul, institution or individual for my livelihood, which is has its precariousness, of course, as well, and lack of security in ways. And so all of this then, you know, develops more practice. It’s like, okay, I have to shift my notion of what security is. It’s like this. It’s this movement of things together. So I have to rethink what security is. If I want to be free to say what I need to say and to create the space that I need to, to create and to step into a conversation with people in which I don’t want something from them. And that allows me to be able to speak frankly and clearly and directly and also to to hold them, you know, really from love and I and I say that and people might say like, oh, it’s like I don’t, I don’t mean like because there’s plenty of like, don’t particularly like you but love. Right. That, that real expansive, universal sense of you are caught. We are caught and I get it. And I get that this is challenging and I and I can’t imagine how painful it is, but I can sit with you here while you walk through it.
Jonathan Fields: [00:43:14] Mm. The ability to access that. I’m curious about it. I’ve heard it described especially in spiritual traditions, from people who do work around social justice as being resourced. And and that may be through spiritual practice, that may be through like contemplative practice, that may be through study. Does it feel like when I think about the word resourced, I feel like it’s, you know, to me it’s like, okay, I am equipped with a tool belt, you know, for my heart to be okay as I move through something but also resourced in what you just described in. In the capacity to actually hold love at that level. I have to imagine there’s got to be a well of something that allows you to do that, that I wonder if many people have. Mm.
Rev. angel Kyodo williams: [00:44:11] Think we all have it. Whether we are tapped into it and can get out of the way. Do the do the do the labor of getting out of the way sufficiently to allow it to flow. And that you said, well, is exactly like resource that way, right? We sort of live in a commodified society where resources go to kind of our financial. And I mean, you can even say the word resources and people can feel a sense of scarcity. I invite folks to take a moment right now and see, you know, if that word, even right, brings up scarcity. And so I think of resource or resourcing. Right. It’s like I’m resourcing. And that for me connotes a channeling, a tapping into right. The well of the the love of the whole universe. It’s not it’s not my love. It’s not personal love. It’s not like I’m having like I love you, Jonathan. Right. And and there’s a personal love to it, but that kind of space is a bigger love. I’m surprised by it. Believe me. I have moments of being like, whoa, that’s that’s wild. Um, but it’s being able to be tapped in.
Rev. angel Kyodo williams: [00:45:22] And when I feel if I, if I feel when and if I feel myself. Getting in the way, right? Like Angel getting in the way of that channel of resourcing. Might that flow, that movement, that energy, that current? I have to have sufficient practice to, first of all, to recognize, like, oh, you’re slipping in there and getting in the way and to know what that feels like, right? In order to see all the signals of it and then to move, have to be able to do both, both to recognize it and also to take action and to do that again and again and again and again, that that critical practice is what I think makes the difference. What I know makes the difference for me. And I think because we, many of us inhabit a society of ends, right? Like we get to the end of it, that that’s one of the the things that challenge people because it’s like we want to get spiritual, right. And now that we’re spiritual, we think we can just ride the little spiritual horse into the sunset, right?
Jonathan Fields: [00:46:27] It’s like, check that box.
Rev. angel Kyodo williams: [00:46:28] Yeah, check that box. And so and then our stuff creeps up on us, you know, and some, you know, some white dude says something, you know, cranky and, you know, am I going to keep riding that same spiritual horse, you know, or have I tripped on myself and gotten in the way and got my back up right? And now I’m ready to draw my sword. And that sword is not it’s not a liberatory sword, you know, it’s like you. You hurt me. You wounded me. And I want to. I want to hurt you back sword. And if you don’t know the difference of what you’re wielding. Because spiritual power is a power, it is a power. And, you know, like with great power comes great responsibility. And for me, the responsibility is to be really, really attentive to what it is I’m wielding and for what purpose? Towards what end. And there’s only ever one end for me.
Jonathan Fields: [00:47:20] Which is?
Rev. angel Kyodo williams: [00:47:21] Liberation.
Jonathan Fields: [00:47:23] That feels like a good place for us to come full circle as well. I asked you this question a long time ago, but I’m going to ask it to you again, because apparently I’ve heard people change.
Rev. angel Kyodo williams: [00:47:37] Once in a while.
Jonathan Fields: [00:47:39] As we sit together in this cross-country container of a good life project, if I offer up the phrase to live a good life, what comes up?
Rev. angel Kyodo williams: [00:47:47] For me to live a good life really means to. Be able to return to myself with grace, with ease, with consistency. And allow for the whole of who I am to unfold.
Jonathan Fields: [00:48:09] Hmm. Thank you. Thank you. So I’m always so moved and inspired to question my assumptions about who is and isn’t welcome into my own expression of love. When I speak with Rev. angel and finally bringing us home today, another friend, writer, poet, songwriter, producer and legendary spoken word artist IN-Q Shares a deeply personal moment how he proposed by poem. And he then shares this really beautiful, moving, spoken word offering with all of us and takes us all home with an invitation to find moments of magic and love, even when they’re hard to see and embrace. Here’s IN-Q:
IN-Q: [00:48:47] So my name is IN-Q and I’m a poet, but my real name is Adam Schmalholz. And as with anyone else who has a real name, I also have a real life. And I decided to ask my girlfriend to marry me recently, and I told her we were meeting friends for dinner in this outdoor space. And so I let her out to this giant field that she had never been in before. And I turned her around and I said, hey, you know, before we meet our friends, can I read you this poem that I wrote about you? And she said, now, like before dinner. And I said, yeah. And she said, well, is it going to make me cry? And I said, yeah, probably. And she said, now, like before dinner. And I said, yeah. And I grabbed her hands and I read her this poem. Every love poem I ever wrote was about you. You are every dream I’ve ever had. And now they’ve come true. You are. Every dream I’ve never had. Somehow they’ve come true. I gaze into your eyes and know they’ll never be a better view. I see heaven in your face. I see children in your smile. I see our future and our present. Will you stay with me a while? Will you dance without the music? Will you laugh without the jokes? Will you cry without a reason? Will you play with all the notes? I’ve come to love you in a way that is impossible to quote.
IN-Q: [00:50:26] Forever and a day is not enough. Forever is a joke. Any moment we’re together is forever now or never. Whether I am in your presence or too far away to measure. I respect you and the pain. I accept you in the pleasure. I’ll be your shelter in the rains. You can shine in any weather. Every love poem I wrote was an invisible letter. Reaching out beyond my time and space. To what I would discover. From a place that was unknown. To a home inside each other. I am floating on a cloud. I am singing in the gutter. Our relationship is sailing and we do not need a rudder. I don’t care where we go from here if here is with each other. Your soul is like a mirror. You’re a goddess and a lover. You’re a sister and a brother. You’re a father and a mother. You’re a son and you’re a daughter. You’re a stranger and a friend. Even when I end. Our love’s not something I can transcend. You’re more than just a perfect ten. Your beauty lies behind your skin. It’s the way you taste. Reminding me of everywhere I’ve been. It’s the way you smell. Reminding me of everyone I’ve been. Your sweetness overwhelms me. Can we end where we begin? I’ll only come back to write. Our stories intertwined again. You’re the greatest poem I’ve ever read. You make me find my pen. You inspire me. It’ll take me lifetimes to comprehend.
IN-Q: [00:52:03] You’re my who, what, where and when. You’re my why I even try I vow to have you. And to hold you. Till the day I say goodbye. I vow, for better or for worse. As long as you are by my side I vow to cherish you in sickness and in health. Until I die. On our first date, you asked me why I hadn’t settled down. I refuse to give an answer. But I have your answer now. I was always waiting for you. You’re the reason that you asked. My words have never done you justice. But I searched for them at last. I’ve asked myself a thousand questions about who I want to be. I’ve asked myself a thousand questions to reflect on you and me. I’ve asked myself a thousand questions. But your loves would set them free. There’s only one question left. So I’ll ask it on one knee. Just to keep you in real time. That’s when I got down on one knee. Andriana, I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I promise I’ll do right by you. Morning, noon and night by you. I promise I’ll be nice to you even when I fight with you. I promise I will fight for you. I’d even give my life for you. I promise I will write for you. My art is now my life for you. My heart is yours. So on your darkest day I’ll be the light for you. And when you’re out past midnight, I promise I’ll leave a light for you.
IN-Q: [00:53:43] To guide you home and to my open arms. If that’s all right with you. They say that love is blind. But you’re the one that made me see. I’ve asked myself a thousand questions that have brought you here to me. I’ve asked myself a thousand questions. But our loves would set them free. There’s only one question left. Will you marry me? And that’s when she said yes. And we kissed and we hugged. And the guy that I had hired to take pictures, who was hiding in the bushes, jumped out. It was quite a scene. And then I’d set up this picnic like 30 yards away. And so we walked over there and had like a vegan feast that was all set up and enjoyed the sunset. And it was a really beautiful moment. And guess the reason that I wanted to tell you this story is because I think we’re all responsible for creating beautiful moments right now. I mean, there is an enormous amount of pain and suffering in the world, but we will never get this time back. And so I think it’s up to us to change the narrative, either in big ways or in small ways. And we did that. So when we look back on this summer, we have this beautiful memory. And so I leave you with that. Find a way to change the narrative in your life and know that I’m sending you love.
Jonathan Fields: [00:55:16] Hey. So I hope you found this week’s How to Love and Be Loved special compilation episode, both moving and valuable. We’re all in a moment where we need more love in our lives, but also more broadly. We need to find ways to see, to reconnect with, and find ways to love others, even those who don’t necessarily see the world the same way that we do. Because if we don’t, we’ll find ourselves living in a world that keeps shrinking, bounded by some illusion of safety, yet perpetually constrained by an inability to be and feel fully seen, held, embraced and loved, and by the incapacity to offer that same grace and space to others. Wishing you a little bit more space in your heart to find, to give, to receive, and to be loved. This episode of Good Life Project was produced by executive producers Lindsey Fox and me. Jonathan Fields. Kristoffer Carter crafted our theme music. Good Life Project is part of the Acast Creator Network. And of course, if you haven’t already done so, please go ahead and follow Good Life Project in your favorite listening app. And if you found this conversation interesting or inspiring or valuable, and chances are you did. Since you’re still listening here, would you do me a personal favor, a seven second favor, and share it? Maybe on social or by text or by email? Even just with one person? Just copy the link from the app you’re using and tell those you know, those you love, those you want to help navigate this thing called life a little better so we can all do it better together with more ease and more joy. Tell them to listen, then even invite them to talk about what you’ve both discovered. Because when podcasts become conversations and conversations become action, that’s how we all come alive together. Until next time, I’m Jonathan Fields signing off for Good Life Project.