I’m doing an intensive with a client this week – a wonderful way to kick off life in Maine. I was concerned when I made the decision to move 4 hours north of Boston that work might slow down, but so far it seems to be increasing if anything.My client, whom I shall call Tom, struggles with his marriage, because he spends most of his time in his analytical brain. As I started working with him, I was describing what it’s like to live in the present, and use the analytical parts of our minds when appropriate, rather than trying to live there. I found myself saying: “We’re basically floating creatures,” meaning that when its not necessary to use the analytical part of the brain, we float. We allow the present moment to carry us.
For Tom, this is a completely foreign concept. He’s used to being in analysis almost all of his waking hours. His job calls for him to use his analytical skills constantly. He wonders why he gets bored at work, and has trouble listening to people. And he wonders why he has so much trouble with personal relationships and intimacy.
What’s it like to be a floating creature? It means when we don’t need to use our brains, we don’t. Our minds are designed that way – to relax when they’re not called upon to be in use. It’s what Linda Pransky described to me as ‘being stupid about life’ when I did my intensive with her some 20 years ago. That was her way of encouraging me to stop intellectualizing everything, to let go and relax. I tried it, and was amazed at the results. Rather than being lost and aimless, I found that the more stupid I got about life, the more intelligent my life became. Another way of saying that is that when I began to let thought drop on a regular basis, wisdom and common sense had much more room to find me.
The benefits of being a ‘floating creature’ – of living in the present – are endless. But in this article I want to focus on how it benefits relationships.
Relationships are much easier and simpler than we make them out to be. People enjoy each other when they’re present to each other. Shared experiences of any kind, when people are present together, create a sense of bonding, of closeness and intimacy. This is why war veterans love to reminisce about the war they fought, in spite of its horrors. War, like any crisis, brings us right into the present moment, and when we’re in the present, we experience life with more richness and depth.
This is also why connection and intimacy are so easy when you first fall in love. The other person has really got your attention, and when you’re around them, you let thought drop and open to the experience, to the present, to what may unfold between you. In fact you can’t wait to see what will happen next, so you are deeply present, curious, expectant, hopeful.
Whenever we let thought drop, we experiences varying degrees of presence. This is the basis for experiencing love and connection with another human being. We experience life through a wide angle lens.
Alternately, when we get into our personal world of thought, we experience life through a telescopic lens. You may be in the proximity of another person, half hear what they’re saying, and respond, but they won’t feel that you’re with them; there won’t be an experience of connection.
It’s been gratifying to watch Tom learn to stop analyzing and start living in the present. He’s becoming more light-hearted and youthful; he’s beginning to experience the deeper feelings that life has to offer. And he’s really looking forward to seeing what happens when he gets back with his wife. And so am I.