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NL: Hi everyone! My name is Natalie Ledwell and this is the Inspiration Show. Today on the show I actually have a very good friend of mine joining me. He is an amazing photographer. He has been doing this for many, many years now. It’s his life’s passion and he’s photographed people like Sir Paul McCartney and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. And today we’re going to be talking about his latest book, it’s called “The Evolution of Loving” which has been I think, a 25-year Odyssey into really capturing what love is and what that looks like. But before I introduce my special guest, I just want to remind you that after the show is over, if you are watching this show live on Facebook or on our YouTube channel, afterwards make sure you click the link below the video so you can take my 30-second quiz, so we can figure out what’s holding you back from success. So please let me introduce my very good friend Carl Studna. How are you, Carl?
CS: I’m doing great Natalie. It’s so great to be with you today.
NL: Yeah, I am. Carl and I were actually together a few weeks ago in Hawaii at a conference of transformational leaders and he was telling me about this project, and I’m like we have to share this with the world and with our community because it is such a beautiful loving capture of what love can really be and what the potential of love that we can create for ourselves. But before we get into talking about the book and your little project, why don't we talk about you a little bit. So what's your story, like how or what led you up to the work that you do now?
CS: Well I could spend all day talking about that. Well, photography has been my passion since I was in high school and from that point forward I’ve always used it as a vehicle to share greater dimensions of what I see in life and as I’ve grown and matured, I have used photography as a vehicle for really reflecting light both in nature and with people, with everything that I see. So it’s the greatest gift that I could give and I couldn’t be more thrilled. It’s almost been a 40-year career and having this as a way to share and so people can really catch the fullness of their light, their inner light, the beauty of light around us.
NL: Yeah, absolutely. So “The Evolution of Loving,” tell us a little bit about how you got the idea and what this book is all about.
CS: Okay, well actually there are two answers. And I’ll give you the obvious one first. The obvious one was that I was sitting in a hot tub with Kenny Loggins and he had the idea. So he presented me with the idea, it was years ago and he was in this love zone and he thought it would be a great idea and I slept on it and said yes, I got out of that vision. The other answer, I think is also accurate, is that I had been out of a hateful marriage for many years. I was not having success with the relationships and something in me I think stirred when he mentioned this project and I think I caught on a deeper level without even knowing it consciously. I thought that if I do this project and fully immerse myself in and I’m gonna learn a lot from these couples and it’s gonna help me to bring in the relationship of my dreams, which came forward about two years after starting the project.
NL: Right. So tell me about the book itself. I know that a lot of your photography is included in the book but not just that. You actually have included a lot of the stories of the couples. So how did that come about?
CS: Hmmm. Well, the initial thought was mainly focused on photographing the couples and their deep love for each other, through their eyes and their connection. And the pictures are very intimate. They're very real and intimate photographs. And these couples let me into the sanctuary of their homes, into their bedrooms, in order to really capture the authenticity of all the passion, the openness, the tenderness everything about their love and then it became clear in being with the couples, I wanted to bring in greater dimensions. So I started initially asking them certain questions like what’s the greatest gift you could give and receive from your partner. How do you deepen in trust, questions like that. And then the questions got deeper and then some of the couples I ended up checking back with two, three, five years later and some of them had given birth. I was at the birth of one of the couples, so I really followed a real art, from their young love to her being pregnant and giving birth. One of the older couples, he passed away and I went to do another interview with Carla once he had passed and how she was managing having a whole lifetime with Walter and how she was moving forward from there and the lessons that she was learning. So every couple, I started to recognize, really have their own very, very unique story. But there were certain commonalities about all of them that were sort of jewels, you know gems that we could pull on that I think all of us could really learn from, to grow and strengthen in partnership.
NL: Right. I was about to say, was there a common thread with the stories. Can you share one or two of those gems?
CS: Mmm-hmmm, well the greatest I say commonality that all the couples talk about and share in one form or another is how they deepen in their trust for each other and I know personally from my own relationship. I've been together with my wife Cynthia for 23 years and I'm always seeing how I can go deeper into trusting. Always, you know. I think that it’s easy to have this illusion that well, you know, when it’s right, when you’re soul mates, you just know each other and it’s always like this and everything’s always, you know perfect, from that point forward, which is such an illusion and that what I continue to learn and what I learned from all the couples, is that love is ever-evolving and the trust that anchors to love is ever-evolving. So each couple would share in their own way practices that they learned how to deepen in their trust, how to deepen in their surrender with each other, to fully open and to listen to each other and to grow in their intimacy with each other.
NL: Yeah. Well, that's it. When I've always said from a very young age, I've always said that without trust you can't have love because they seem to be so completely connected. So what was one of the biggest things that you learned that you thought was like, wow, that kind of blew my mind or I didn't expect that? What's one of those experiences you had from this journey?
CS: Yeah, with the eldest couple, Carla and Walter that I was talking about before, one of the things I learned from them was because I’d be with them and they’d be bickering at times you know, I mean they had this deep love for each other but you know, they’d be “rrrrrrr” you know, going back and forth at times and I think you’re working that out in some way, you know, and they wrote about that actually in the book, that it’s okay to have differences in it. It’s okay with them, they don’t feel threatened, they don’t feel like something’s wrong if they don’t see things in the same way or sometimes they react. But that said, they’d always deal with the consciousness if there was anything that was ever said that is unkind or unthoughtful, to take the responsibility to clean that up. So it gave me, I think, a greater sense of freedom to know that you know, it’s okay when I get reactive and it’s okay when I respond sometimes from you know, a frustrated place or a place where I don’t feel like I’m being heard and all that’s okay as long as I continue to stay in there and be open and then have dialogue about something if I’m holding on to.
NL: And I mean, in the commonalities in the threads and the stories, do you find that young love seems to be fairly common and then it evolves into something different?
CS: Yes, yeah. In fact one of the couples in the book, Shinzo and Manon, they sort of represented young love when I photographed their… my time with them and they were just, it this but it was true, it was authentic but they were in such a love zone - ahhh you know, gazing into each other’s eyes and you know - and being so open and so trusting and so giving and receiving with each other and they were practicing the art of Tantra together. And so fast forward like three-four years later, I interview with them and they were no longer together. They’re the one couple in the book that represents conscious uncoupling and they grew a lot because at the time that I photographed them I think he had just moved in with her or was just about to, on the island of Maui. And so in the course of two, three, four years when I saw them next, they had lived together, gone through the day-to-day things of him being with, living with her, all the responsibilities that takes having two young children and they recognized that it wasn’t a fit for them and they eventually grew apart but maintain the love and the connection and the friendship. And when I saw them the second time and did the second interview after this time has passed, it was very clear, I could see a greater wisdom with both of them, individually as far as how they’ve grown from the experience and a greater wisdom of the depth of love that they had for the other even though they weren’t together anymore. So I do believe that if we stay open and this is the thing that I, another jewel I got from the couples that it has to be mutual you know. If you’ve got a goal of growing and having a conscious partnership, it’s gotta be mutual because if it’s not, you know, when you’re gonna be going like this you know, with the other partner and you keep trying and it has to be, it has to be like that. So the mutuality is necessary and I’m not sure the thread I was on there but I was hey, I was on a certain thread and then it went off. Anyway, they really represented that depth of connection and dimension that it takes when you grow over time. I came back, I just followed over like that. So over time, if it’s mutual and we have the mutual willingness to stay open and be devoted and stay in there in the scary times and we’re both going in the same direction, then you can grow independently and individually. I mean sorry, independently and as a couple, you can grow and I think that's another key thing is learning how to really recognize and honor our individuality but also honor the merging of the relationship and because they're both their own entities.
NL: Yeah and for me I mean, I’m not sure if you know my personal story but you know, my husband and I were married for 18 years and we separated about four and a half years ago. We’re still business partners, we’re still best of friends and we have as much love and respect for each other than we’ve ever had. We’re just not meant to be together anymore and we recognize that, you know, and it was a mutual decision. So we were able to get to that place and then transition into something different, which is awesome. But everything that you were saying there about, you know, being able to change together and I think, what my personal experience was, I kind of lost myself. I mean, I think it’s not an issue. We’d be respecting the individuality of our partner but I think we need to maintain that but sometimes you become this unit where it’s just the two of you and it’s then you kind of don’t know who you are anymore. And I think women especially, we sort of fall into these roles of being wives and mothers and you know career and whatever, that we kind of lose the touch of who we really are and the individuality.
CS: Absolutely and it’s such a dance, you know. Such a dance in doing that because my wife is, she’s a very strong independent woman and so.
NL: Got it. I love your wife.
CS: So and I, you know, and I love that about her. So it’s that dance of being independent and honoring that independence, honoring each of us doing our own thing and then, so cherishing those times when we’re together and the things that we can offer together as well.
NL: Yeah, absolutely. I wholeheartedly agree and you know with your book “The Evolution of Loving,” I think there’s so many it’s not just, you know, the stories and the insights and things that you can get from that, but I think that you’ve covered all types of couples. So it doesn’t matter who you are, you will identify with at least one or a few of the couples in the book. Yeah…
NL: Yes, so you have like young people, you got tell us the range of couples that you’ve interviewed.
CS: Yeah. I've got young blossoming love. I've got a couple that has been together over 50 years, a couple that was together probably a total of 47 years but after 27 years decided to completely redefine their relationship so that they could continue to grow together and expand. Got two same-sex couples, a male and female couple. Got a couple where the woman was significantly older and she was pregnant going through a birth. Another couple I follow up through their birthing process from a very young love to motherhood, well to pregnancy, and then following the birth of their child. I did my best to get as much diversity and ethnicity as possible just to show, so people, so as many people as possible could relate to this because I just feel like when you pick this book up, you can feel the energy, you can feel the heart and the love and the juice, it's got a lot of juice to it and it has the potential to really open our hearts and to heal I think in deep, very deep ways.
NL: Yeah, I know I agree. I agree and it’s just stunning and it’s like I said, it’s just a testament to what, I mean, love is infinite but this shows the many faces that love has and of all ages these days, which is fantastic. So Carl, where can we send people if they want to connect with you, if they want to get their hands on the book.
CS: Yes. You can go to the URL evolutionofloving.com, so that’s evolutionofloving.com and there’s a landing page there that has everything you’d want to know and then a click for clicky gone to Amazon and so you can buy the book right now pre-sales and then after that, the launch date is March 6th.
NL: Wonderful. Awesome. Well, Carl thank you so much for joining me today and sharing your love with me and our community. It's been an absolute pleasure as always to chat with you.
CS: I’ve loved our time Natalie, it’s been very connected.
NL: Wonderful and guys I encourage you to share this video. Please let’s get the word out. You can do that by clicking the Facebook and the Twitter share buttons on the page. I also encourage you to click either on the banner to the side or the link underneath the video so you go directly through to Carl’s website so you can learn all about the book and this amazing project. And don’t forget that after the show is over the link underneath that, take my 30-second quiz so we can figure out what’s holding you back from success. So until next time, remember to live large, choose courageously and love without limits. We’ll see you soon.