Unfortunately, it sometimes takes a shock or disturbance to awaken us from scurrying around with our heads full of the supposed future; what we have to do or what we want to do, what we fear will happen or what we want to happen. Our minds are often filled with what isn’t actually here in the present, filled with things we have basically created rather than what we are directly experiencing.
MAUDE: For the last two months, I’ve been jolted by just such an experience. A close friend of mine, someone who led a basically healthy life, was diagnosed out of the blue with fourth stage liver cancer and passed 7 weeks later to the day. It was shocking, fast and hardly fathomable.
This immediately pushed me into an even greater awareness of appreciating every moment, of smelling the smells, seeing the trees, hugging my dear ones, and speaking my love as often as possible to all and sundry.
I believe I live with a greater awareness of the transitory nature of life than many. Both my parents died young, and suddenly. Yet, even with this extra reminder, I can still slip into blissful unconsciousness, running around with my busyness. I also see that as I get older, I have again become more aware of the call to be present with everything as fully as I can.
We can all benefit from finding ways to stay in the actual here and now. Most of the practices that we outline for a peaceful and successful relationship are predicated on being present, both with yourself and with your partner. This applies to all relationships.
You cannot totally accept someone if you are not present. If you enter an interaction with a mind full of preconceptions and predetermined outcomes you cannot actually hear your partner or create together with them mutual decisions and solutions. Co-creating requires presence, as does active listening. A favorite quote of ours from Thich Nhat Hanh is “When you love someone, the best thing you can offer is your presence. How can you love if you are not there?”
And from our book, How Two, Have a Successful Relationship, “Presence is a matter of the degree to which you are focused on and experiencing the events in front of you. Being present is responding to what is actually happening, rather than reacting according to your previous experiences, fears, or future concerns; you are neither coloring what is with occurrences from the past, nor looking for a specific future outcome…Being in presence allows you to create rather than repeat; it allows a free flow of ideas and exchanges that encourage intimacy. The present is the world we actually live in. The past and the future are merely aids we have devised to manage it; don’t mistake the utensils for the meal.”
Be Here Now! Most practices for a successful relationship are predicated on being present #presence Click To TweetA relationship is a connection. A partnership means you’re part of something – look at the front of the word – and you can’t be a part of something if you’re not attached to it in some way. Just as a molecule requires the atoms to exist at the same place and time, so do you need to be present, because only then can your partner know that you’re there. If they speak and get no response, if they rage and you are unmoved, how can there be any connection?
Being present is about attention. It does two things. It helps you understand your partner: their thoughts, their feelings, how they respond and react, and through that understanding lies empathy. It also helps your partner feel heard. They can tell the difference between full attention and when you’re elsewhere, thinking about last night’s Netflix episode or what to cook for dinner. It’s body language inherited from all our ancestors over millions of years. Cultivate it. Listen for it. One of the things you have to do is lay down your ego. When you’re paying attention to someone else, it’s about them, not you. Focus on them the way you would watch a hummingbird at a flower.
There are a number of practices that help to remain in this state, like meditation and mindfulness. Others find that the experience of being in nature pulls them right into the present, and some of us work with our partners and intimates to remind each other of this important truth. Recently we have both been working with “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. One of the parts of this course is to write what is called morning pages, every morning. This involves writing three pages of stream of consciousness, and we are both finding that this is a deeply rewarding practice for being present, as well as one for stirring creativity. No matter what methods you utilize to keep yourself awake and to keep your relationships in the now, make sure that you pay attention and don’t put this off to another day. Those days often never arrive!