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In This Moment

As I promised, the next 3 articles will be sample chapters from my relationships book, The. Best. Relationship. Ever. Enjoy!

If you’re look­ing for a part­ner that “fits you,” you owe it to your­self to read my re-issued book. Find Your Perfect Partner It’s avail­able as a Kindle book here, for $2.99 US. Two of my other books, This Endless Moment and Half Asleep in the Buddha Hall, are also avail­able as Kindle books, same price. Those two are also avail­able from Amazon as paper­backs.

The easi­est way to check out all of the books is to go to our publish­ing site, The Phoenix Centre Press.


Last week, I described my new book, The. Best. Relationship. Ever.

I wanted to give you a few samples. As I promised, here’s The Chapter, "Tools For Relating." This chapter will give you a good idea of the "meat" of the book.

Chapter Four: Tools for Relating

Elegant, Intimate Relating (EIR)

EIR is a struc­ture for living deeply and fully with others

With EIR, noth­ing is taken for granted. Elegant, Intimate Relating requires the active partic­i­pa­tion of two sepa­rate and distinct beings, both of whom are dedi­cated to rigor­ous self-exploration. Each is using the rela­tion­ship to gain depth and breadth of knowl­edge about the only thing each can know: them­selves.

Elegant, Intimate Relating is enacted at the direct meet­ing of two whole persons. I call this “meet­ing at the bound­ary” — I am still I, you are still you, and we meet to explore, to reveal, to be open and vulner­a­ble through honest reve­la­tion.

The reve­la­tion has to be authen­tic

In EIR, you are choos­ing to be trans­par­ent with your part­ner. EIR is not about saying nice things, not about manip­u­lat­ing your part­ner to see or do things your way. Nor is it about hiding the fact that you have a range of feel­ings and emotions “in there.” Transparent authen­tic­ity is choos­ing to let your­self be seen — as you are, and how you are.

Elegant, Intimate Relating happens only in the Here and Now

It’s not about your stories. Stories, at best, serve as a frame­work for true vulner­a­bil­ity.

Vulnerability is expressed by letting out what is going on for you, right now, with no excuses. This is me, right now. And part of “me, right now,” is the emotion that is happen­ing inside of me. Not descrip­tions of the emotions, not blam­ing some­one for the emotions, but rather the emotions them­selves.

Once you “get this,” you’ll also notice that emotions are fleet­ing. I can be sad, then bored, then weepy, then laugh-filled, then have the feel­ing of “noth­ing much,” but only if I do not cling to my story, a.k.a. think­ing too much.

Being unguarded

Un-guarding your­self means being will­ing to own and share your in-the-moment real­ity, with­out filter­ing. Being un-guarded means speak­ing your truth — the truth that comes from “Here is what is so for me”¦”

The point of Elegant, Intimate Relating is to clear the decks so that you can shift what is not work­ing. Letting go of guard­ed­ness gives us the oppor­tu­nity to see how we are struc­tur­ing our stories to stay stuck. From there, you choose to do some­thing new and refresh­ing. It’s not meant as an exer­cise in self-aggrandizement, and emphat­i­cally is not a game to stay stuck, while pretend­ing to “get it.”

Un-guarding means loos­en­ing the filters, and express­ing your­self as you are, with focus and clar­ity.

The Beginning of Elegant, Intimate Relating

The Tools section of the book describes the “how” of an EIR. Here’s the “what.”

Engaged Intimacy, first of all, requires a dialogue agree­ment

Let me whip out my crys­tal ball and declare that your past rela­tion­ship fail­ures were caused by poor, faulty, or non-existent verbal commu­ni­ca­tion. Other prob­lems were: non-verbal commu­ni­ca­tion, magi­cal think­ing, lack of phys­i­cal inti­macy, and lack of self-responsibility.

We are going to estab­lish a dialogue agree­ment, and then discuss how to enact it.

The Dialogue Agreement

“I have decided to commit myself to open, honest, and vulner­a­ble commu­ni­ca­tion. I will use a Communication Model, self-responsible language, and will keep my bound­aries open and flex­i­ble. I will be in dialogue with you for no less than 30 minutes per day, and when issues cannot be resolved within that time-frame, I agree to make as much time as neces­sary to resolve the issue, with no compro­mise. I commit to keep you totally informed about what is going on for me: my stories, my games, my evasions. I will keep you completely informed about my feel­ings, my attrac­tions, and my other rela­tion­ships. I do so not for permis­sion, but to facil­i­tate clar­ity.”

The Physical Contact Agreement

Given that we’re discussing your Primary Relationship, phys­i­cal contact is a given. We’ve noted that Engaged Intimacy is also avail­able for other rela­tion­ships. I think it’s impor­tant to estab­lish phys­i­cal para­me­ters, even within the Primary Relationship. Thus:

“I commit to using phys­i­cal contact as another way of explor­ing my emotions, block­ages, and my connec­tion with you. I accept that phys­i­cal contact is an end unto itself — that it is not primar­ily a means to having sex. I will be open and honest about my need for emotional expres­sion, and will use safe meth­ods of express­ing my emotions thor­oughly. I will ask for what I want as regards phys­i­cal contact, recog­niz­ing that what I want “now,” may not be what I want “later.” I will invite Bodywork pres­sure on “stuck” parts of my body, and offer to do the same for you. I am open to express­ing what­ever feel­ings arise through phys­i­cal contact, will stay focussed on myself, and will feel my feel­ings fully.”

This becomes the frame­work for Engaged Intimacy

From this base­line, which you are free to add to, but not reduce, we begin the process of build­ing inti­macy and pres­ence. I would suggest that you look care­fully at the above Agreements, and then read through the “Tools” chap­ters to follow. Once you have a grasp on how this all fits together, sit with your part­ner, begin right here with the Agreements, and struc­ture your own agree­ments.

You will want to write out what you are agree­ing to, and then sign it. Remember: all you can agree to is what you will do. This is not a condi­tional, “If you do this, then I’ll do that” kind of agree­ment. You are making the commit­ment to your­self to act in a certain way, while in your partner’s pres­ence. I’ll be remind­ing you of that as we go along.

The 9 Tools

The Structure

It is our belief that self-knowing happens best in your Primary Relationship. This rela­tion­ship has as its keys: elegant commu­ni­ca­tion, vulner­a­bil­ity, (the will­ing­ness to open up) open­ness, (the will­ing­ness to take in) and inti­macy (making full, honest contact.)

Through dialogue, base­line para­me­ters are set, in the follow­ing two areas:

Engaged Communication — this is the mini­mum require­ment — that there be open, honest, and inti­mate dialogue. We propose follow­ing the basic Communication Model described below — using it to dig deeply, and learn more of both “self” and “part­ner.”

Engaged Contact — after the above is estab­lished, the couple creates levels of phys­i­cal contact. It’s essen­tial to create flex­i­ble bound­aries in this area, and to imme­di­ately discuss areas of confu­sion / discom­fort.

Within the “safe hands” of Engaged Intimate, Relating anything is possi­ble. We have the oppor­tu­nity to trust, to open, to be vulner­a­ble, and espe­cially, to explore our own dark­ness, in the pres­ence of a part­ner who is a curi­ous, active partic­i­pant.

The follow­ing 9 Tools form the basis for what is to follow — we believe that this is the only way to achieve personal and rela­tional content­ment!

As I noted earlier, this book is seem­ingly about rela­tion­ships, but it’s actu­ally a self-development book. Self-work is the only way to engage with life, with others, and with our way of being. Our rela­tion­ships shift precisely as much as we, as indi­vid­u­als, shift.

What follows are brief descrip­tions of the 9 Tools

I’ll flesh them out in later chap­ters of this book. For now, let me suggest some under­stand­ings for each of these points, and how each applies to personal living and Elegant, Intimate Relating.

1. Total Honesty

It’s impos­si­ble to have a rich and mean­ing­ful rela­tion­ship while keep­ing secrets (“The flaw of omis­sion,”) or while lying (“The flaw of commis­sion.”)

Many are the excuses for dishon­esty:

“¢ “I’m an adult and I have a right to privacy.”

“¢ “(S)he might get mad if I was honest about every­thing.”

“¢ “I just want to be me — no need to talk about it.”

“¢ “White lies aren’t harm­ful.”

Being dishon­est is a mini-betrayal. It’s an indi­ca­tor that you don’t trust your part­ner enough to share what’s up for you, and are embar­rassed about your actions.

We advo­cate Total Honesty. And yes, some­times being totally honest is scary, or might lead to a protracted discus­sion. But the truth is this: almost every­one who lies gets caught.

Personal: “It is my inten­tion to tell the truth, all the time. I recog­nize that how “deeply I go” depends on who I’m inter­act­ing with, but I will answer truth­fully, and be direct and clear with every­one.”

Relational: “From this point on, my policy with you is Total Honesty. I’ll let you know what I am think­ing, how I am decid­ing, and what I am doing. I am not doing this for permis­sion, but rather to foster inti­macy and deepen our rela­tion­ship.”

2. Being Present

Presence is about 2 things:

“¢ being in the moment, the Now, and

“¢ being focussed on what you are doing.

Most of us live our lives either in our heads (story-telling), or detached from our selves (numb.) Sort of ghosts, walk­ing.

Being in the Now helps us to stay focussed on the imme­di­ate situ­a­tion, while adding little or no drama through story­telling or future projec­tions. This kind of pres­ence allows us to deal with each situ­a­tion as it occurs.

Personal: “I just tuned out and ended up imag­in­ing all kinds of stories that have noth­ing to do with the situ­a­tion before me. I’ll just have a breath and come back to the present moment.”

Relational: “As I listened to you, I caught myself telling myself famil­iar stories about how hard-done-by I am. I recog­nize that my stories have noth­ing to do with you or the situ­a­tion, so I’m fill­ing you in as a way to come back to the Here and Now.”

3. Being self-responsible

Self-responsibility is not about self-blame. Rather, it’s about claim­ing owner­ship of our lives.

It is ‘normal’ to push respon­si­bil­ity away. Most are will­ing to take credit for success, and want to point a finger else­where when confronted with things judged ‘wrong’ or ‘bad.’

Self-responsibility is simple — “I am the author of all of my life, as I view it right now.” This is not a denial that ‘bad’ things happen,” and that others may even intend us harm. It’s to say that noth­ing compels us to act in ways that are non-helpful.

Personal: “This is going on right now, and I am making myself uncom­fort­able. Nevertheless, I am in this situ­a­tion because of my choices. I can, at any time, choose differ­ently.”

Relational: “I am upset­ting myself over the way I perceive our rela­tion­ship. Therefore, I will own my respon­si­bil­ity for having gotten myself into the state I am in, and I will decide what I will do next.”

4. Speaking clearly – Use dialogue to know yourself

We teach a specific Communication Model, and do so because most people are lousy commu­ni­ca­tors. Rather than use commu­ni­ca­tion to deepen their self-understanding, they use it to justify their “hard­ened” behav­iour and think­ing, while prov­ing others wrong. Or, they use commu­ni­ca­tion to blame.

As soon as you harden a thought into a belief, you become “unteach­able.”

Dialogue, on the other hand, is about explor­ing our personal beliefs as we listen to feed­back. It is essen­tial to bear in mind that this explo­ration is only possi­ble if you choose to hold your beliefs and “demands” loosely.

Personal: “Here is what I see, here is what I feel in my body, and here are the stories I am telling myself.”

Relational: “I want to share with you my provi­sional guesses about what I see happen­ing right now. I’m wonder­ing about your perspec­tives on my stories.”

5. Being Curious — and NODing

When we live our lives up in our heads, dwelling on the past and fear­ing the future, we think that our version of misery is real­ity. We get locked into thought-loops. We exit the moment, shut down by tight­en­ing our bodies, and dwell in “Never-Never Land.” The “Never” part is actu­ally, “My life will never be differ­ent, and I’ll never be able to change.”

Curiosity is the oppo­site of self-righteousness and blame. If you pay atten­tion, you’ll notice that you are often confused about your own moti­va­tions and actions. How then, could you ever think you had a clue about what’s up for others?

Personal: “I am drift­ing into past and future again. What is actu­ally happen­ing right now? Is anything required of me, right now? What does my body want to do? What would happen if I stopped telling myself stores, sat down, and had a breath?”

Relational: “When I confront situ­a­tions like this one, I get caught in a mind loop… I’m wonder­ing if you would have time to listen to my descrip­tion, and then I’d like to hear about how you get your­self out of your mind-loops.”

6. Letting go of Drama and Storytelling

Obviously, we have a story about ourselves — one we are anxious to tell others, and one we believe is ‘true.’ The story contains frag­ments of our biog­ra­phy, and mostly consists of exam­ples that support our victim-story. One of the great leaps of self-responsibility is the under­stand­ing that our stories are “just stories.”

We have much invested in our life-story, and also give much energy to defend­ing every­thing that props it up. We move past this by allow­ing ourselves to ques­tion both the accu­racy and valid­ity of the stories we are telling.

Letting go of drama is simi­lar. Because we spend so much time talk­ing to ourselves, about ourselves, we have a tendency to see ourselves as the centre of every­thing. Now, certainly, we are the centre of our own universe and expe­ri­ence — we’re just not the centre of anything else. Despite our desire, no one is going to make us the centre of their universe. And the stuff that happens is the stuff that happens. It’s not happen­ing to you person­ally.

Personal: “Here is what is actu­ally happen­ing right now. I notice the story I’m strug­gling to tell, where I’m a poor, help­less victim, and I choose, this time, in this moment, to let that story go. In this moment, I’ll be present and aware, and see what, if anything, is required of me.”

Relational: “So, I notice that I’m hear­ing you speak, and I’m seeing what you’re doing, and I’m telling myself all kinds of stories about how you are punish­ing me, or trying to manip­u­late me. I notice that I am creat­ing these stories out of my thought-loops, and I want to acknowl­edge that I’m doing this. I will now let go, and return to being open and curi­ous.”

7. Being Flexible

The lynch-pin for Elegant, Intimate Relating is flex­i­bil­ity.

I may have spent years devel­op­ing my relat­ing style, but I also have the power, each time, to change what I am doing.

Integrity plays a big part here

While I know that I have complete free­dom of expres­sion, I also begin to look at the conse­quences (results) of my actions. I eval­u­ate the result I am getting against what I have commit­ted to — Elegant, Intimate Relating — and only do what deep­ens my relat­ing.

This is flex­i­bil­ity

Personal: “Here I go again, doing the very things that endlessly land me in the soup. This is who I am, but right now, I can trans­form this pattern by stop­ping, having a breath, and making another choice.”

Relational: “Wow, there I go again, blam­ing you for how I am feel­ing. I accept that I do this, and am pleas­ing myself that I caught myself this time. Give me a second to have a breath, and then I’ll shift back to dialogue.”

8. Feeling Your Feelings

Feelings have a bad repu­ta­tion. People resist their ‘nega­tive’ feel­ings — are caught in judge­ment — endlessly assign­ing “good / bad, right / wrong” cate­gories to every­thing.

Essential to Elegant, Intimate Relating is total accep­tance of each and every feel­ing

As we medi­tate, for exam­ple, what becomes clear is that thoughts and feel­ings flow through us like clouds cross­ing the sky. If we latch on to the feel­ing / thought, we create suffer­ing for ourselves. If we express the thought or feel­ing, we can let it go.

There are no ‘bad’ feel­ings — there are, however, non-useful ways to express them. So, we accept and trans­form each feel­ing by express­ing it with aware­ness.

Personal: “I am aware of my anger, my bore­dom, my sexu­al­ity and sensu­al­ity, my tight­ness, my shut­ting down — all of my feel­ings. I accept that these feel­ings pass through me — they are not me, but rather expres­sions of my moment-by-moment expe­ri­ence. I there­fore choose to express them safely and thor­oughly.”

Relational: “I’m notic­ing that [the current feel­ings] are coming up for me, and I’m wonder­ing if you’d be inter­ested in help­ing me to fully expe­ri­ence and express them, so that I can learn their lesson and then move on to what­ever is next.”

9. Exploring Sensuality and Sexuality

Most adults have “issues” around open, honest, and deep reve­la­tion and expres­sion of matters sexual. The discom­fort is deep-seated — stretch­ing back to child­hood.

Because of our discom­fort, we talk in euphemisms and hints. We tend to only get part of what we are look­ing for, and might be unclear about what we want.

We also have desires and attrac­tions for others, and are uncom­fort­able both with the feel­ings them­selves, and with shar­ing them. We avoid conver­sions about our “turn-ons,” out of confu­sion, fear, and to avoid jeal­ousy. We end up more confused, blocked, and wary.

Personal: “I am doing some seri­ous work explor­ing my sensual and sexual nature. I am going to use clear language to describe who I am and what I want sexu­ally, and I am going to create “Vulnerability Projects” to explore areas I am curi­ous about / scare myself over.”

Relational: “I am notic­ing that I have some issues as regards my sensu­al­ity / sexu­al­ity. I am explor­ing these issues, and I will keep you informed about what I am discov­er­ing, as well as invite you to work on some of this with me. I also commit to keep­ing you updated on people I am relat­ing with, and letting you know who I find attrac­tive, chargy, etc.”

Let’s see how this all plays out.


Make Contact!

So, how does this week’s arti­cle sit with you? What ques­tions do you have? Leave a comment or ques­tion!

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