How to find a relationship: Be awake in the present moment

By Kathrin Seitz and Marc Felix | Aug 30, 2010
Marc Felix and Kathrin Seitz

Marc's perspective

Perhaps the greatest enemy of intimacy is the sense of familiarity. We often have the idea that we know who someone is. This can happen after 20 years or 20 minutes.

When we think we know someone, we don't really look at them or really listen to them. We fall into automatic behaviors like the "how are you?" that doesn't really want an answer or the perfunctory kiss on the cheek that's without any real feeling, or the unconscious hug done out of habit. These habitual gestures are like poison to true intimacy.

We must cultivate an energized presence with each other. We must realize that like the ocean, our partner or potential partner is always changing. Can you ever say that you know the ocean? The ocean is too deep and too much in flux to know. People are at least as deep as the ocean and just as mysterious.

Physicists say that the whole universe blinks on and off millions of times a minute. The quantum perspective is that the universe is literally born anew every micro-second. Nothing is ever the same. Your partner is never the same. They are always changing. Who they were in the past is not who they are now.

I suggest that you approach everyone, especially your partner, with the attitude that you don't know them. Approach them like you're seeing them for the first time. Learn who they are. Really see them. Look longer than you ordinarily would. Ask yourself "who is this person?" Allow yourself to form a whole new fresh impression of them.

Maybe this sounds like treason in this age of information. We are so eager to know so much. We want to stuff ourselves with facts; yet, many of the most beautiful ancient wisdom traditions value the empty mind. Zen calls this "beginner's mind" and points out that a beginner's mind is the most open.

When your mind is empty, you're available to the present moment. You're open to inspiration. The muse can visit you. You can let your partner in.

I believe that every one of us has a spark of the divine inside us. I believe it's our job to see that spark in each other. That spark is always a mystery, always indescribable and beyond our knowing. Seeing each other through the lens of our past history is like driving by only looking in the rear-view mirror. You're likely to have a collision.

Look at who is in front of you. See the spark of the divine in them. Feel deep into their heart. Do this whether you've known them for 30 years or just met them an hour ago. It is the only road to real relationship.


Kathrin's perspective

I love what Marc says. Beginner's mind is well known to me; I teach my writing clients to access their beginner's mind before they start to write. But there are many barriers to returning to beginner's mind. One, in particular, is onerous but widespread. And this is our need to judge one another.

I think for many of us, judgment is the default position in our brains. When we feel threatened or overwhelmed by a partner or friend, we tend to fall back on judgment. Oh, he's being judgmental (!), or he's such a jerk, or she is such a coarse and angry person.

Rather than slowing down, exhaling and taking a close look, or, as Marc says, cultivating an energized presence with our partner, we go to judgment.

Truth is, it's easier to go to judgment than it is to slow down and be present. Especially in this wild texting/apping/abbreviating universe we inhabit. Some experts say that we have lost the habit of being present and becoming aware of the moment because our brains are set to think in short bites and pauses. We are addicted to the immediate rush of checking texts, e-mails, and answering the ringing phone, so how would we have time to be here now. And where is the now in all of that?

At times when I feel judgmental, I cannot slow down or stop judging. So, I repeat the Metta Prayer. I put the person about whom I feel judgmental in front of my mind and picture him or her and say this: May you live with ease; may your heart remain open; may you discover the light of your own true nature; may you be healed and may you be the source of healing for others. I have been known to recite that prayer to myself in the midst of an argument with my partner. I hate wasting energy on arguments that go nowhere. Life is too short and too precious for that.

In the desire to change the energy around our encounters, I will pull out all my tricks; for example, I will call forth my spiritual teachers: "Angels, archangels, masters and friends, come to me now and help me over this ditch." Crazy? Not if it works. I recapture my joie de vivre and my partner lets go of his rage.

Imagine if we all looked at each other and repeated to ourselves: "May you live with ease. May your heart remain open." And so forth.

Try it next time you're angry with your partner. In fact, try it while waiting in a grocery line. Repeat it, especially when you are judging someone's behavior. Do what Christ invites us to do: Turn the other cheek. Then, as if through a glass darkly, will shine the divine spark. Shine yours back!


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