by Lisa Kramer, 2008
Living With Intention
In May 2003, my husband Eric and I participated in a weekend couples’ workshop called Cherishment, led by an extraordinary duo, Hedy and Yumi Schleifer. Hedy is a gifted couples’ therapist, and she and her husband, Yumi, lead workshops for singles and couples around the world based in part on the work of Dr. Harville Hendrix, the creator of Imago Relationship Therapy.
According to the Schleifers, Cherishment is defined as “the warm, tender, affectionate, indulgent, adoring love that babies expect before they can speak of it, and that we all desire our whole life long. Cherishment is fundamentally about safety. It is telepathic, paralinguistic and does not need the medium of language. It is communicated directly heart to heart.”
As the name Cherishment suggests, the focus of the weekend was on appreciation---for each other and for the relationship that each couple had co-created. Eric and I had decided to participate in the workshop to shift our attention from what wasn’t working in our relationship to what was. We could not have picked a better environment to achieve that goal! To set the stage for the weekend, Hedy asked the group to brainstorm what needed to be placed ‘on the shelf’ so that each person could be fully present for the workshop. The list included anger, fear, disappointment, the past, the future. We then did a similar exercise, brainstorming everything that would be included in the workshop such as risk-taking, compassion, appreciation, and vulnerability. We were now ready for the first experiential exercise.
Hedy began by explaining that cherishment is linked to the limbic brain, the seat of loving emotion. The limbic connection established between parent and child sets the pattern for loving connections throughout one’s life. Because the limbic connection is paralinguistic, for each exercise we were instructed to sit face-to-face with our partners, gazing into each other’s eyes. The purpose of maintaining eye contact throughout the exercises was to allow each couple to experience a limbic connection with their partners, one that would create new patterns to replace the imprinted ones from our past that no longer served us.
While it sounded great in theory, the intimacy of gazing into my partner’s eyes for an extended period of time felt very uncomfortable for me. With Hedy’s loving coaching, Eric and I agreed to set our ‘stuff’ aside and to be open to what the workshop had to offer. By focusing our attention from what wasn’t working to what we appreciated about each other, an amazing shift occurred. We opened our hearts to the other with the lovingkindness of a Buddha. As we engaged in each exercise, peering deeply into each other’s eyes from a place of lovingkindness, new images began to form in our limbic brains to replace the old, less-than-optimal ones. By the workshop’s end, we had renewed optimism and commitment to our marriage.
About the Author: Lisa Kramer, MSW, PCC, president of LIVING WITH INTENTION LLC, specializes in relationship coaching, coach training, and mentor-coaching. Lisa believes that the greatest opportunity for full engagement in life is in relationship with another human being. She coaches individuals and couples to intentionally create the relationships they desire at work, in love and in life! Lisa is a Certified Professional Coach (PCC) and a graduate of the Coaches Training Institute.
Lisa is the author of Loving with Intention: A Guide for Relationship Coaching. For more information, visit Lisa on the web at www.livingwithintention.com.