“But people are oceans,” she shrugged, “You cannot know them by their surface.” ~ Beau Taplin
Over the next six months or so my friend and “ink brother” don Miguel Ruiz Jr. and I are collaborating on a book on intimacy. (Interested in being with us on the journey? Join Miguel Jr. and I in a three-part teleconference August 8, 15, and 22: http://insighteventsusa.com/art-of-relationship-teleclass/)
Miguel is in a long-term marriage with two kids; I’m single, with occasional lovers.
What is a divorced, single woman doing co-writing a book on relationships?
Intimacy is a skill we cultivate starting with our relationship with ourselves and expanding out from that sacred core.
I loved being married, and I love being single. I just moved to my own studio apartment where I get to sleep, work, and have personal dance parties whenever I want to, my fridge only contains foods I love and eat regularly, and the state of messiness or cleanliness is entirely up to me. I do sometimes miss having a steady partner, and I also feel so immensely blessed to be a woman who can choose to live alone and deeply relish the experience.
Sometimes we fall into the erroneous belief that we are doing something “right” if we are in a long-term relationships and “wrong” if we are not. The truth is ALL of our relationships, from intimate partnerships to co-workers to family to even the cashier at the grocery store are opportunities for powerful self-development and depth.
I’ve had an abundance of practice being in relationship, from intimate partnership to family to my relationship with myself, which after some hard work is loving, supportive, and kind.
For me intimacy is about sharing your depths — your vulnerability, needs, and dreams — with yourself and those close to you.
Shallow or deep?
We can choose to live a shallow life or one of depth. In a shallow life we avoid intimacy — we don’t share our needs, or listen to our desires, or learn from our experiences. We stay on the surface, just trying to get by without being hurt or uncomfortable.
When we are willing to dive into our fears, go beneath the familiar, and challenge ourselves we discover the beauty of the ocean that we are. We are all complicated, unique, fragile ecosystems, and we are also so much stronger than we know. We are also all so incredibly simple: we want to be loved. We want to love. We want to be seen.
Whether you are in a committed, long-term marriage or you are single; whether you are happily partnered or struggling in your intimate relationship; whether you are at ease with your family or in heated battle, every experience of relating can be a gift.
Erwin Raphael McManus writes “our souls crave intimacy.” Intimacy, or closeness and rapport, is a warm cuddly blanket in a sometimes overwhelming world. Intimacy is also scary, raw, and tender. So while our innermost being yearns for intimate connection, often our personality is fearful of intimacy — terrified of being vulnerable, armored against the pain of rejection, and fixated on not getting hurt.
No wonder we often stay on the surface of the ocean in our little boats of safety, well-padded with our life-vests of protection.
Befriending the ocean of you
The first step to intimacy is your willingness to commit to befriending the vast ocean of you.
To do this you must bring your full attention to yourself, and stop blaming, trying to control, or wanting to fix others. Turning the light of your attention inward is not about shining the searchlight of your self-judgment to seek out your faults and flaws. Instead, turn on the warming glow of your curiosity, presence, and patience to dive beneath who you think you should be and explore the depths of your own truth.
Simple, but not easy.
While you may want yourself and the beloveds around you to be different, the work starts with acceptance. Begin by asking yourself these simple question:
“How do I want to feel?”
“What do I need to let go of to be intimate with myself?”
“What do I need to risk in order to be vulnerable with others?”
“Who would I be if I connected with my ocean-self?”
I see this process as the beautiful work of learning to no longer abandon yourself. This means learning to stop comparing and criticizing yourself and listening for what you need from yourself.
It also means being gentle with yourself. Living in the intimate depths with self and others is a journey that invites us to slowly and lovingly adjust to swimming in deeper waters.
Next blog post: Relationship #2 – The Heart of Vulnerability