Why the Essence of Connection in Your Relationships is Being Present
MAUDE: One of the elements that permeates our relationship is that when we are together we are present with each other. We are not only there in the physical sense, but also mentally and emotionally. I’ve been thinking about how important it is to practice presence in all relating, and how this gets lost so very often in the way people interact with each other.
What does this feel like when it is there and when it is missing?
I have a good friend who seems almost to have disappeared from view. When we are together, I do not feel she is actually there. She seems to be on her way somewhere else: mentally, emotionally, and even physically a bit. The flavor of my friend is still there, but the feeling of her essence being present with me, with “us”, is not.
I mention “us” because this is an important component of presence in relationship. When I sit here on the couch discussing the blog topic and content with Phil, we are both acutely involved in this moment. We are here with each other and also with the “we”, the “us” as well. As we have been doing this for decades, the mutual self is quite recognizable and is present along with each of our individual selves.
This kind of presence has many aspects to it. It involves awareness, intention, purpose, willingness, peace, stillness, availability, openness. It is associated with not having a pre-planned agenda. We may have an outer description of what we are doing; writing, walking, eating, traveling, but once we are together it is an adventure into the unknown.
Feeling connected to another is dependent on them being there, not necessarily physically, but with their core self. Physical presence and contact adds much to the sense of connection, but Covid has taught us that we can truly have deep relationships at a distance if we practice presence. I was in a Zoom class with a mid-size group this weekend and felt deeply connected to them all. It gave me quite a jolt to notice how much we felt together even though people were attending from around the world. Someone pointed this out and everyone agreed that after meeting for several weeks in both the larger group and in smaller breakout sessions, there was a noticeable sense of being connected – of being present with each other.
It can be easy to lose this precious way of being together and to presume on the past for an ongoing sense of intimacy. The activities and stress of life often preoccupy the mind and the sense of awareness of a partner or friend can fade.
Doing things together that are outside of the routine can create new shared experiences and push the present moment to the forefront. It is this freshness of experience that keeps relationships alive and growing, and keeps each of us individually growing as well. As with most things, the practice of presence starts inside yourself and spreads outward.Feeling connected to another depends on each being present with their core self #quote #relationship Click To Tweet
PHIL: A good way to describe our relationship is that we are present with each other. When we are together, I pay full attention to Maude. I set aside thoughts about the climate crisis, what I have to do today, and how I am going to find beta testers, and pay full attention to what is going on. In today’s case, it was the blog we are writing, but it might be house decisions, travel plans or just spending time together.
I don’t want to suggest that being present is an all-or-nothing experience; it is a matter of degree, yet it is definitely a recognizable experience. It feels like an attitude, a posture, a position I take.
Those words make it sound vaguely confrontational, yet it is the opposite; it is a position of not having an agenda, of being open to whatever arises, of paying attention to what is going on, and what is going on is the experience of being with Maude, with another person; it is notably different from being by myself. There is an “us”, an interaction that is neither Maude nor me. This is hard for my rational Western mind to take in – the idea that two things can be true simultaneously. Instead, I have to trust in how it feels – that there is at the same time a sense of me and a sense of us. Perhaps it is emergent – something that is greater than the sum of its parts, like a snowflake or an ant colony.
Openness like this creates new and fresh experiences all the time, or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that there is no Groundhog Day, that there is always something different. Being mathematically inclined, it reminds me of the Mandelbrot Set where you can zoom in and in, and the patterns have similarities but are never the same.
Being present like this isn’t something that only happens in the context of a committed relationship. It can happen with friends; it can happen with anyone. When two people are both open, present and paying attention (and perhaps those are just different ways to say the same thing), a connection will happen. It is not limited to two people; in a music group, a sports team, or a group of friends, the self can soften and melt into a larger identity. We are at the same time, both individuals and part of a larger whole.
Photo credit: Maude Mayes
Photo note: Two brothers
Read some of our favorite blogs on how we are together.
Get our free weekly newsletter about how to have a harmonious relationship.