Don & Martha Rosenthal
Relationship as Spiritual Path
Letting go of blame and Judgement
Open Hearted Listening
Boundaries from love, not fear
Don and Martha began their 40-year journey together in Alaska, where they lived in a remote cabin and explored a quiet, contemplative life together. After a few years, they moved to the coast of California, where, confronted with the stresses of "the real world," their relationship began to suffer.
Determined not to lose each other, they committed to learning how to navigate their differences and develop lasting harmony. Eventually they set out on what has now become a 25 year career of counseling couples and individuals. Don received training in psychotherapy and began a career as a counselor. Martha studied mind/body/spirit connection with various teachers and developed a private healing practice. They raised a son, now grown, whom they home-schooled.
In 1989 Don and Martha moved to rural northern Vermont, and shortly thereafter began offering weekend workshops for couples. Through word-of-mouth these soon expanded to a wide circle, becoming the core of their work.
In addition, Martha leads meditation retreats for women and works with couples and individuals privately; Don offers consulting to individuals and couples, fundamentally as a form of spiritual guidance. Don and Martha view their own relationship, with all its trials and wonders, as the testing ground and measure of their teaching.
Don Rosenthal on Joining the Mind and the Heart
Don: "When I speak of relationship as a spiritual path, I like people to know just what that means to me. Since I've always been something of a skeptic, I avoid dogma. I don't believe in accepting authority unless I've tested it for myself. When I was younger I used to worship the intellect in a rather blind way (I sometimes call myself a recovering intellectual). Later I went through a stage of downplaying the intellect altogether. Now I enjoy finding creative ways to use the mind in service of the heart.
"I've always felt the purpose of pain and difficulty in relationship is to inspire us to investigate and challenge our false beliefs and attitudes. This investigation can only proceed in a climate of emotional safety. Therefore I treat all human imperfections—however uncomfortable or painful—as acceptable. In the couples weekends I want people to feel safe and supported, whatever their issues. I also try to show them how to extend that feeling of acceptance into their life together. This doesn't mean they rest complacent in their current state; but it does mean they can have their most difficult feelings accepted without being judged. Once partners have established this harbor of emotional safety, they can embark on a journey together to all sorts of enticing places they could never have imagined.
"I find this work most rewarding when it seems most impossible. I've worked with couples who've gone round and round on the same issues for years, who've sought help from many professionals and concluded the whole thing is hopeless. Yet I've seen a surprising number of these same couples change everything in an instant. Even when the issues are complex, a true resolution is always possible in the moment—you might say my work is helping people cut through to that resolution. However "incompatible" a couple may seem, if the partners can embrace a common vision, their hearts can open. When this occurs, the illusion that we are enemies is exposed in its falseness, and the journey as true allies can begin. Martha and I are very different as people; yet by sharing a common vision we have found a deep harmony together. We often say if we can make it, anyone can. I am convinced that getting older together can be a graceful and harmonious unfolding."
Martha Rosenthal on Making the Vision Live
Martha: "In my work I try to impart a vision that is both deeply spiritual and immensely practical. Most people, when caught up in the stresses of ordinary life, lose touch with what they truly want, the things that are mostly deeply important to them. They have this knowledge buried deep inside, but they have forgotten it. There is a place we can go to that connects us with a higher purpose, a place of the Spirit. It is a real place, not a figment of the imagination. Once there we can connect with our partner in a wholly new way, a way that makes us truly allies instead of antagonists. When we do this, we align ourselves with our true purpose; we gain energy, clarity, and strength in the smallest details of our everyday existence. We bring Heaven down to earth. It is truly hard to imagine how much richer and more rewarding our lives can become."
"What I really try to teach is a way of loving unconditionally. It's not some lofty, unattainable ideal. Rather it's a way of being that anyone can connect with at any moment. It doesn't matter what's happening, what our partner is doing, what our circumstances are. We don't need to be clever or articulate or exceptional in any way. We just need to feel that the universe is a safe place—which in my view it truly is. That's why in the workshops, I always try to hold that sacred space, where there is room for all our imperfections, and virtually no limit to the joy we can experience."
"In the work itself, my style tends to be intuitive. I place a lot of emphasis on listening. I especially try to be attuned to what people are manifesting, not through their words, but in the feelings and deeper rhythms underneath, which are often the key. It's important to me to be absolutely, totally, one thousand per cent present for everyone who comes to a workshop, no matter what they're going through. I also try to see the strength and beauty in each person. This is frankly not hard for me, because in the struggles that people go through in a workshop, in their honest efforts to come to grips with their darkest demons, I see their most wonderful qualities revealed. I have always felt inspired and blessed by witnessing this; it's a privilege I treasure."