SEATTLE (AP) _ This Valentine's Day, forget the flowers and chocolate. Cherie Byrd has a better idea: Learn to pucker up. Byrd, a psychotherapist who teaches kissing, thinks Americans should use their lips to speak to their sweethearts instead of their wallets.
``We're so money-oriented, so consumer-oriented that our relationships get drawn into that quality as well,'' she said. ``This is one day when we might want to step back from this sense of possession and ask ourselves: What is the real gift we want to offer our beloved?''
For Byrd, the answer is clear: A smooch. And with this gift, it's definitely the thought that counts.
``A lot of people say, 'Am I putting too much tongue? Is there too much nibbling? Is there too much mashing of lips? Well, all of those things can get in the way. More importantly what gets in the way is there's no connection. It's kind of a dead fish kiss that's the real bummer,'' she said.
Byrd, author of ``Kissing School: Seven Lessons on Love, Lips and Lifeforce,'' has instructed 400 couples in one-day ``playshops.'' Her advice? Breathe, concentrate and engage ``the electricity in your body.''
Or more precisely: ``Cultivate the art of the merging of the lips and the merging of the heart and the merging of the connection with your partner.''
Sound a little advanced? Step one: Relax.
``Slowing way down is really helpful, getting really focused, really feeling into your own heart,'' she said.
Step two: Make eye contact and deliver a message _ perhaps of love or tenderness.
``Whatever that message is, it needs to be carried into the quality of the kiss,'' she said.
Step three: Forget multitasking; pay attention.
``Focusing is essential and it means all of you, right down to the curling of your toes needs to be engaged in this,'' she said.
If after all that, the kiss fails to deliver, maybe you should find another Valentine. A bad kiss, Byrd said, ``foretells the kind of disconnect that might be happening should the relationship continue.''