If podcasts and social media accounts are any sort of barometer, then a renaissance of love and healing has been building over the last decade, as the work of love and intimacy coaches, healthy relationship experts, and sex-obsessed PhDs becomes increasingly visible.
Many believe the pandemic has pushed this to the next stage, including Lisa Nicks-Balthasar, a Santa Cruz-based soul-purpose love and intimacy coach, inspirational speaker and author.
“I feel that Earth and humanity, especially through Covid, are going through a rebirth in understanding true human connection, because it’s been taken away from us. We’re slowing down enough to realize that we miss it, and maybe we’ll be more open to putting ourselves out there for love,” says Nicks-Balthasar.
Her book, Believe!: A Woman’s Odyssey from Tragic to Magic, which was published in January, couldn’t be better timed. The memoir follows her trajectory from the grief of her husband’s death at 42 to brain cancer, through the trials and tribulations of a four-year toxic relationship, and finally, to Burning Man, where she goes to honor her late husband—as well as her new identity as a stronger, wiser, more independent woman with the Playa name “Shooting Star.” It is here that she meets her current husband of almost a decade, Chris Balthasar, a former attorney and current Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt and love coach in his own right, who came to Burning Man for much different reasons: he was dragged there by a friend. “So here I am, I really just wanted to stay home and organize my filing cabinet,” he tells her, with a beard full of blue glitter, in their very first conversation.
As a reformed love and healthy-relationship nerd myself, I devoured the book, which spares no honesty in its depiction of the raw and all-consuming experience of grief, the familiar-sounding ugliness of crazy-making toxic relationships, and titillating accounts of sexual healing, including a full-body orgasm and female ejaculation scene that left me staring off into the distance, stunned by a newfound wonder at the potential spiritual frontiers of sex.
I spoke to Nicks-Balthasar about Believe!, opening up to soul mates, and the ongoing search for self-love.
The term “soul mate” can be traced back to a story by Aristophanes, a contemporary of Plato, in which two-headed hermaphroditic giants were cleaved apart by an angry and jealous Zeus (was that guy ever not angry and jealous?), and thereafter fated to seek their other halves for eternity. Do you really think we have just one soul mate out there?
LISA NICKS-BALTHASAR: Wow. I love this. Fated to find their other halves forever! But no, I firmly believe and I have experienced firsthand that you can have many soul mates. What I’ve experienced, through my coaching and through my own personal journey, is that we all come into this world with our own soul journey—with its own lessons and our own heart expansion to, really, love ourselves first and foremost, to just embrace who we are completely, and be the most of who we can be. As for the seeking of a soul mate, often you have to go through, I feel, challenging, difficult relationships, where you think it’s your soul mate, but they’re not really your soul mate. To me these are people that come into your life that if you can go inward and learn from them instead of putting all of the blame on the other person—because you can always learn something about yourself—then you can do the work and emerge with more wisdom, more love for yourself, a deeper appreciation and gratitude for love and more openness to love, and a clear vision of what you’re looking for.
You also use the term “heart-aligned” relationship when you talk about soul mates. What is this?
Sometimes I also use the term “mirror soul mates.” One of the things I tell people when I coach them is that at the core of it, the relationship is easy. That doesn’t mean that there are no challenges, because there are always challenges with any relationship. We all have what I refer to as a “pilot light” inside of us—even though we’ve done the work, and we’re not as easily triggered by our pain, it’s always, like grief, a part of you. If that pilot light is revved up in a relationship that is heart-aligned, you’re able to communicate to that partner your deepest vulnerability—you’re able to open yourself up raw and say “this is what I’m feeling,” “this is what I fear.” And then you can heal, and you can grow, and you can feel safe. In unhealthy relationships that are not heart-aligned, the other person may come back and use it against you. And that’s toxic. You coil in, and you’re afraid to be vulnerable, afraid to be open, and you think something is wrong with you, and the relationship goes through a roller coaster of easy-hard-easy-hard, and it’s fucking insane. Too many people are stuck in that. I’m in a marriage now where Chris loves the way I love. We’re committed to a relationship, to growth, to holding each other safe in this safe container. We don’t necessarily like exactly the same things, but we grow because of it. It really comes down to safety. I believe in a heart-aligned relationship, you can step into becoming your highest self.
From your description I can say that I am in a heart-aligned relationship now for the first time in my life, and feeling “safe” to be totally open with my heart is such a good way to put it. Do you think people in toxic relationships need to hit their own bottom before they can see the light and break from the addiction of it, or can they be helped out of these situations from outside?
Yes, they have to go through the pain, and yes, they have to see it themselves first, but yes, I have helped people in toxic relationships with my coaching. One of the most surprising things to me in regards to being in a toxic relationship and being isolated is you start to question yourself; you start to feel shame, you start to feel like, ‘Why am I allowing myself to do something that is so bad for me? What is wrong with me?’ Ultimately you start to question your own worth. That maybe you are all of those mean things, and maybe you are not worthy of a great relationship. Most commonly, the other person is so deeply wounded that they sabotage the relationship by putting those wounds on you, so that they don’t have to face it themselves.
Self-love seems like one of the biggest clichés of the day, but do you think a person can find healthy love if they don’t love themselves?
No, I do not believe so. You may pull in a healthy love, but if the relationship starts to feel the weight of you needing a person to complete you, I believe it will push a healthy partner away. However, I do believe you can fall deeper in love with yourself and uncover your ultimate potential through a healthy relationship.
One of the things I loved about your book was the element of magic, of stranger-than-fiction things happening; like the white doves flying over the highway while you were on your way to the hospital with your first husband—just after you told him about your sister’s vision of him with angel wings and white doves flying all around him; or the times when you felt the warm, comforting presence of your departed husband’s spirit; right up to meeting your current husband at Burning Man and finding out that he was the one who made the “Discovery of a Soul mate” candle that you bought in Big Sur and that had brought you comfort and hope through your darkest hours. It reminded me of magical realism—a genre of literature and cinema that depicts the real world as having an undercurrent of magic. Have you always been a person who believes in signs, miracles and spiritual guidance?
My sister Susi is a professional psychic, and she started tapping into that feeling of spirituality before I did. As a child I would not say that my mother or father were what some would call the “woo woo” type. But my grandmother would tell us about my great-grandmother, “Goggin,” who had this little ice cream and candy shop in Carmel, back when the streets were still dirt. The word was “counsel”—she had a back room curtained off where she would do her “counseling.” My grandmother was strictly forbidden to bother her mother when she was in there with people of the village. When Keith got sick, I tapped into this part of me that sought to find any signs whatsoever of hope. And the more I opened to seeing the signs, the more they came. Some people would say “Oh, it’s just coincidence,” but I didn’t let that stop me. So Keith’s progression into his ultimate death birthed in me something I believe is in my heritage with my great-grandmother and my sister, and to this day I still look for signs, and they happen to me all the time. I truly believe that there are miracles and signs all over the place, and society and humanity, including myself, are so locked in to connecting on our little screens in our hands, that half the time we get from point A to point B without even seeing where we’re going. So, I feel like fewer and fewer people are actually seeing the potential for miracles, because they’re not opening up and looking for it. It’s the same thing with love—if you’re really open, and you go through that hard part where it is scary to connect, and give an opportunity to a relationship, it’s going to get deeper if it’s the right one.
When you first met Chris, everyone in his group was giving each other kisses in greeting, and you describe how this profound calm washed over you when you kissed him. But you also say that he was not your type. Is having a “type” a common block for finding a soul mate?
Yes. Absolutely. I have had people admit to me, and I have done this myself, too, that they’d enter a room while single and do a quick scan and instantly decide there was nobody there for them. Chris was not the husky football type that I’d always been attracted to. But the energy of it—I’ll never forget the peace that washed over me. It’s not always what you picture. A relationship is a lifelong thing—put some energy into really feeling if there’s that energy there, because you might be surprised that your true soul mate is someone completely different than who you thought you’d be with. Chris too, thought he wanted a younger, more exotic woman. I didn’t fit what he was looking for—and he didn’t even want a relationship at the time. But then he couldn’t stay away from me.
At the same time, one of the tools you offer in coaching is for people—whether in a relationship or seeking one—to write a list of 100 things they want in a soul mate. What is the value in this, and can you share any other tools?
If you have people write just 10 things they’re looking for in a partner, the things you’ll get are pretty across-the-board—trust, safety, attraction, etc. But once you search yourself for 100, you can start going into experiences, intimacy, situations. Things like, “I want to feel like he gets along with all kinds of people just like I do.” A lot of people end up in a relationship not realizing that they’re settling. The 100-thing list is a way of expanding a deeper understanding of what you’re looking for, and, I believe, energetically putting out there the door that is going to open up to it. Other tips: if you’re in a relationship, sleep naked together! And this is really important—have intimacy date nights. Take 24 hours, and I don’t care where it is, you don’t have to spend a bunch of money, even if it’s a tent in your backyard. Get away if you can, and get back to where that connection was. I’ve coached way too many couples that are questioning the relationship, but they love each other, and they say, “We haven’t done that in three or four years!” And they go away, they hold hands, make love, they remember why they are together. And it’s so powerful. In some cases, the relationships don’t make it after that, but at least they gave it that shot.
You’re working on a TEDx Talk that brings in studies from the Heartmath Institute. Can you tell me about that?
They’ve found that the heart is about 100,000 times stronger electrically and up to 5,000 times stronger magnetically than the brain. So, when you are tapped into your subconscious blocks—from living life, from your pain—and not into the heart, you miss opportunity for connection in deep love, and you miss opportunity to see miracles and magic. I teach people to really tap into “listening” to their hearts.
One of my favorite definitions of love I found in a book by bell hooks called ‘All About Love’: “Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth. Love is an act of will—We do not have to love. We choose to love.” – M. Scott Peck. And more recently, Dr. Nan Wise said on the Shameless Sex podcast: “If you support your partner’s growth, rather than the status quo of a relationship, anything is possible.” How do you define love?
It’s a cliché of course, but I always go back to: Love is the greatest gift of all. I totally believe in that. To me, love is experiencing the highest vibrational energy that you can experience as a human, and love is where the most spiritual growth and healing lives and takes place.
‘Believe!: A Woman’s Odyssey from Tragic to Magic’ is available at Bookshop Santa Cruz, as well as booksellers everywhere, and at sacredsoulmates.com.