The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers. Thich Nhat Hanh
A New Paradigm for RelatingEmergent & Non Emergent Relationships
What are we really saying when we say, “my relationship” or, “I really want to be in a relationship”? As a speech act, relationship is a noun, which means we have objectified the person or idea of a relationship and made them, or it, into a “thing”. This idea is based on a fantasy we put together as a child, mostly from what we didn’t want or wanted from observing our parents. A thing is something we possess or have that we believe will bring us happiness, safety, security, or perhaps whatever was missing in our childhood. This idea of relationship emanates from our past experiences, traumas, and memories and blinds us to the presence and possibility of a truly alive and vibrant connection with a sacred other.
On the other hand, relating is a verb and although it can come from a static, past-based clinging to some idea we formulated out of deep longing, emptiness, or lack we feel, it can also become a sacred and transformational act of presencing and mindfulness. Authentic connection comes from emergence, what’s happening in my body, emotions, and mind in this moment with this person. Relating comes from connecting with what’s alive in you, me, and the space between us. To truly relate means we become curious, let go of what we know, and awaken to what could be and is being birthed between us in this moment. In this way, relating becomes fresh, immediate, alive, and generous. Relating takes us beyond individualism and gives us a vibrant experience of interdependence…
Life doesn't make any sense without interdependence. We need each other, and the sooner we learn that, the better for us all. Erik H. Erikson
Photo by Mohamed Nohassi
We have become lost to the interdependent nature of all existence and the cost is the chaotic and fragmented world we see unfolding before our very eyes. Our ancestral, cultural, and collective history of unintegrated trauma and incomplete past experiences has normalized a world of chaos, separation, blame, and right/wrong thinking. Every major issue we are currently dealing with, climate change, economic collapse, war, famine, and poverty can be addressed and healed through right relating. But, what does that mean?
Right relating starts with mindfulness! Can I be in my body when I am attending to another, track my emotions, be present to my thoughts, and am I able to feel into the others’ thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Healthy, emergent relating is characterized by authenticity, openness, respect, reverence, honesty, and kindness. It requires us to let go of the “already always knowing” about another and cultivate a sense of curiosity, wonder, and awe. What if we entered each moment of relating as if it were the most important conversation or meeting we have ever had? Are we willing to let go of what we know, for what we could become together?
That we find freedom, aliveness and power not from what contains, locates, or protects us but from what dissolves, reveals and expands us. Eve Ensler
Photo by Natasha Tirtabrata
Our barriers, fear, shame, self-doubt, insecurity, and feeling unsafe seem to be in the way of authentic communication and connection with others. But, what if we looked at them, not as in the way, but actually as the way to deepening and expanding our sense of self. If we genuinely relate from where we are in the moment and share our discomfort, our limiting beliefs, and our awkward feelings with another, we will come face to face with our adaptive child self. This is the shadow self we put together to protect ourselves as a child. Every time we meet an overwhelming feeling, fear, or trauma our nervous system, in its vast intelligence, shuts down and we create stories, habits, and patterns to protect ourselves… These patterns were instrumental in forming our personality, our identity, and our personal narrative.
Perhaps we don’t verbally do this with every encounter we have with others, but we can still slow down and really look inward when we are triggered, or have difficult interactions or challenging experiences. Ask yourself, what am I feeling in my body right now, what emotions are present, and what’s my mental state? Rather than hurrying to the next thing on my to-do list, can we stop and notice what’s triggered and what’s triggering me in this moment. In this way, we can transform and release limitations and habitual patterns that don’t support our health, happiness, and full self-expression.
With awareness there comes choice. And so you are able to say: "I allow this moment to be as it is". And then, suddenly, where before there was irritation, there is now a sense of aliveness and peace. And out of that comes right action. Eckhart Tolle
When we are in our adaptive child self we react unconsciously rather than respond with freedom, insight, and creativity. The more we can presence what’s happening in our inner world, the more effective we become in the outer world. Presence is emergent, creative, alive, and evolutionary. When we step into the unknown and go beyond the limits of our personal story or narrative, the greater the possibility of an evolving, interconnected, life-affirming humanity. From this place of not knowing, creation can burst forth and heal thousands of years of ancestral baggage. We reclaim the power of choice in presence and our relationships become more fluid, creative, and open to what the Buddhists call interdependent co-arising. Relating is presencing, discovering what’s so in the moment, whereas relationships become weighted down and die from carrying the weight of unexperienced and undigested events from the past. We will be exploring the nature of relating and relationships in our upcoming free master class on Relating & Relationships and our May workshop on Relational Intimacy. We hope you will join us… With love and gratitude, Michael & The Well of Light Team
I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding. John O’Donohue