What lives within us that moves us irresistibly toward partnerships? Are we driven only by survival and reproductive programming? Are we driven by social expectations—wanting to feel accepted and respected by our family, friends, and society? Or, are we moved by something deeper, richer, and more lusciously mysterious?
No doubt, we want a partnership where we get along well, share common interests, and enjoy emotional satisfaction and sexual fulfilment. Perhaps there is a deeper spiritual quality of intimacy that we sense is possible, but are not sure how to nourish.
Spirituality and meditation are usually seen as an individual practice—a path toward inner peace or enlightenment. But how deep is our spiritual attainment if it doesn’t embody how we relate to one another? What needs to happen within ourselves and between us as a couple in order to actualise our longing for a deeper spiritual connection?
A spiritually-oriented partnership offers an opportunity to open our heart, deepen our compassion, and expand our connection with life through the vehicle of intimate partnership.
These are a few ways that can help you develop spiritual intimacy with your beloved
1. Seeing our partner with fresh eyes
We want to be recognised for the precious, radiant beings that we are. To ‘see’ our partner means glimpsing their beautiful essence; it means to appreciate the blessing of engaging with the sacred life force that flows through them. Viewing our partner with fresh and engaging eyes draws our loved one towards us.
Seeing another also means dealing with their humanity—attending to their feelings and needs. When our intention is to understand and accept our partner, he or she can sense our interest and caring. But love is more than good intentions; it thrives in a climate of non-judgmental attention. Love fosters a deeper intimacy as we extend our compassionate attention toward another’s world just as it is.
What you can do
One way to put your good intentions into practice is by making gentle inquiries, such as, “Please help me understand more how you are feeling about that. What do you need or want? Tell me more about what is happening inside you. I really want to understand you better.” Asking sincere questions with a tender tone of voice means putting aside your own judgments or ideas about your loved one. Empty yourself of preconceptions and remain open to surprises. Inquiring with wonder and curiosity creates a sacred space for a deeper intimacy to unfold.
2. Allowing ourselves to be seen
We allow ourselves to be seen; we take intelligent risks to reveal what’s in our heart. This means tenderly sharing our feelings when we are hurt, sad, lonely, or afraid. Building a relationship based on a sacred trust means feeling free to reveal what is vulnerably alive inside us. Trust means that we don’t need to hide.
Most people realise that good communication is the lifeblood of a healthy relationship; but effective communication is possible only if we are self-aware. This implies that we courageously reveal what we’re experiencing inside without blaming, shaming or attacking.
What you can do
Instead of an angry, critical comment such as, “Why do you always come home late? I never see you anymore,” take the time to pause, go inside, and mindfully uncover what you’re really feeling: “I’m missing you; I feel sad that we haven’t had much time together; I need more relaxed time with you.” This self-revealing communication is more likely to draw our partner toward us.
3. Living with an accessible, authentic heart
Seeing another person and letting ourselves to be seen require that we live with an open and accessible heart. This means getting out of our head and staying connected with our body.
A meditation or spiritual practice can help us build our relationships by making us feel more centred in our spiritual depths. Once we find inner stillness, we have more attention available for sacred listening—attuning to what our partner is experiencing. Rather than using meditation to withdraw from intimacy, we find a rhythm between attending to ourselves, which allows us to feel more peaceful, and attending to our partner from a calm and balanced place.
Resting in our quiet depths and undefended heart, we’re more able to be present with another person. Deep mutual presence opens the door to a deeply abiding and nourishing intimacy. Being together and breathing together opens us to share the sacred mystery of being alive.
What you can do
One way to connect more deeply with yourself is through a method called Focusing. This is a type of mindfulness practice developed through Dr Eugene Gendlin’s research at the University of Chicago in the 1970s. Similar to Vipassana, the essence of Focusing is being gently present with all your emotions. Make room for the full range of your feelings and longings just as they are—free of self-judgment. Accepting and honouring yourself as you are creates a foundation for accepting your partner ’as they are’. It helps you to honour your differences and cherish each other.
4. Letting in love
Many of us have blocks to receiving deeply. We may think we’re being selfish if we allow ourselves to receive love. Or, we might feel shame to relish intimate contact because we think we don’t deserve it or we’re simply not accustomed to it.
What you can do
It’s a gift to your partner to receive what he or she offers. They feel valued when their attention, love, and eye contact is received graciously. When you relish a sacred moment of giving and receiving, the line between the giver and receiver disappears. A new spiritual depth opens as giving and receiving flows simultaneously through you and your beloved.
It takes courage to uncover and reveal our deepest longings and authentic feelings. As two people practise this path with a patient and sincere heart, a sweet and tender spiritual intimacy unfolds. As an added bonus, as we develop the awareness and skills to connect with each other, we help build a world that is more peaceful and responsive to each other’s tender hearts.
Focussing on our longing for a deeper intimacy
Here is an intimacy-building exercise from my book, Dancing with Fire: A Mindful Way to Loving Relationships [Quest Books, 2013].
The next time you feel angry or frustrated with a loved one, take some time to sit quietly with yourself. Notice what you are feeling beneath your frustration or disappointment. Is there some longing that is painfully unmet— perhaps a yearning for kindness, closeness, or caring? If so, take some time to hold this tender longing within yourself. See what happens as you sense it inside your body. Where do you feel it? What does it feel like? Is there a tight place in your chest, a squirmy feeling in your stomach, or a sweet ache in your heart? Can you let it be there without doing anything about it right now?
By embracing it, you may find that the intensity of your need or longing begins to settle. As you feel calmer and more connected to yourself, you might consider approaching your partner and speaking from the tender place of longing, rather than a place of blame. Instead of attacking your partner with the blunt edge of your longing—without even knowing that the longing is the real thing that is brewing inside you—simply reveal the longing itself. Voice how you miss connecting, how you love being together, how you feel sad about the recent conflicts.
This was first published in the November 2014 issue of Complete Wellbeing.
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