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Why is Being Present in Your Relationships So Powerful?

Father and son togetherEnlightenment is usually described as a great epiphany. Adyashanti wrote: “people seem to be having moments where they awaken out of their familiar senses of self, and out of their familiar senses of what the world is, into a much greater reality,” and Eckhart Tolle said: “I got up and walked around the room. I recognized the room, and yet I knew that I had never truly seen it before.”

Being present is an essential aspect of enlightenment, and so it is easy to assume that being present is a similarly rare event that happens by grace. Not so. Usually, our mind chatters endlessly about the events of the past: what we should have said or done; how we were wronged or humiliated; the pleasures and people we loved. We plan for the future, too: what to say at the upcoming meeting; what to watch tonight; how to manage money.

When we set these aside, we are left with the inputs of our senses, both external and somatic, and usually, we name these, too. But that diminishes the experience because we discard everything for which we do not have words. You can counter that in two ways. By examining closely what is happening and describing it, you can increase your vocabulary and awareness.

There is a non-verbal approach, too. The experience of our senses is how we understand the world. Certainly we can label it and add it to our understanding that we have built up, but our entire body has its own sensory experience that is not the same and for which we don’t have words, for if we did, we’d be back in the thinking realm.

Exploring in these ways is what it means to be present. Meditation and bodywork are helpful, and the breath is a useful anchor point. With practice it becomes easier to return to a state of presence and awareness.

The reason for describing all this is to apply it to relationships. In grammar, they only exist in the present; you don’t say “I was in a relationship” or “I will be in a relationship”; when you are in a relationship, you use the present tense: “I am in a relationship.”

Anchor your relationships in reality by experiencing them in the present, in the moment-to-moment interactions. When you focus on that, rather than what happened or what might happen, look at what is happening, let it in, give voice to it. This is especially useful when struggling. Stay in your body by saying “I,” and stay in the present by speaking in the present tense. Try not saying “you” at all. “I feel ignored” is so much stronger than “I felt that you ignored me” and gives you the best chance of finding the roots of the discord.

If a relationship is not happening in the present, then it is only the memory of a relationship or the projection of one. Through sharing experiences, thoughts and feelings, relationships establish a sense of connection. This sense can exist in memory: “We went to Scotts Valley for our anniversary.” “We have been friends for a lifetime.” It can exist in projections of the future: “We are going to the Cliff House in November.” “We are hosting a zoom meeting on Friday.” “We are giving a pilot course early next year.”

If the relationship has only a remembered past or a projected future then the sense of it exists only in your thoughts. It can be important, it can be sweet or painful or both. However, it is not something that exists outside of your mind.

Bring your relationships into reality by experiencing them in the present. A relationship is an interaction between two people at many levels. Tune into the interplay of your relationships – and that means all of them, not just romantic ones – and enjoy the unique texture of every one.

Photo credit: Maude Mayes
Photo note: Father’s day.

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Successful Relationship Reading Corner

Books on shelfThis week, we wrote about why being present in your relationships is so powerful. We think we've taken a different approach from the way most people write about this. Here are some other authors on how to be present.

9 Ways To Feel More Present With Your Partner, According To Experts "If you've been with your partner for a while, or have simply become overwhelmed by the busyness that is life, you may start to notice a divide forming in your relationship. Maybe you spend a lot of time on your phone, or your partner is always checking their email. And as a result of all the distractions, neither of you ever feels fully present."

Three Ways to Be More Present in Relationships "As human beings we all long to be seen and heard by another. Yet often, when we are with others, our minds are distracted. We might be half listening while we think about something we have to do, or something we want to say in the conversation; we might be partially caught in our own thought stream, or our own agenda."

Are You Fully Present in Your Relationship or Marriage? "You know that feeling you get when you're talking to your partner or spouse and they don't seem to be "there there?" By that, I mean, a part of them is somewhere else, and it's not with you. You might wonder where their mind is, or feel insulted or hurt that they're not being fully present in your company."

Spreading peace one relationship at a time
Phil and Maude
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