“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”- Buddha
Out of all the tools that can improve a relationship, practicing to be in the now (present) is probably one of the most underestimated and/or oversimplified. Think about it: we’re so swamped by deadlines, media, worries, noise, and stress from everyday life that it makes it hard to be fully present with one another. Ever feel like there isn’t enough time in the day? Well friends, when you’re living in the moment, that worry goes away and is replaced by bliss. Let’s apply this concept to Relationship Zen. First, we want to illustrate two causes of not being present by sharing two experiences that we feel you could relate to:
“We are always getting ready to live but never living.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Can anyone relate to this quote? Future-oriented people can. David continues to learn the essence of this quote from experience. He is one of those typical busybodies who is always trying to be as productive as he can at any given moment (see also: he lives too fast). The problem with his old tendency to plan, multitask, and accomplish 24/7 (besides eventual burnout) is that he couldn’t enjoy the moment. He wasn’t living. He would converse, laugh, and seem present, but his mind was always racing. Many people suffer from this. IE: He would often check his cell phone in the middle of a conversation, a dinner, a walk in the park, probably even in his sleep…
Learning to slow things down and to be present helped him achieve a more balanced state of mind and to connect better with himself and the people close to him. Practicing to slow things down beyond the cell phone issue greatly enhances the relationship, too.
“Forgiveness is letting go of the past.” -Gerald Jampolsky
Can anyone relate to this quote? People who frequently orient themselves on past trauma can relate. We feel that when you forgive or let go of judgments, your sense of wellbeing increases. Lindsey learned the essence of this quote from experience. Without forgiveness, you have no room for love or an open mind because you carry the weight of past trauma into the present in the form of emotional baggage. IE: Lindsey had experienced slight difficulty being in the present when she thought of how David “used” to appear to ignore her for his phone. So she would react a little more harshly if he used his phone even after he became more mindful – because she had not yet let go, she was blind to the fact that he was improving.
Learning to treat each moment for what it is (new) helped her to become more immune to negative thoughts and to connect better with herself. Practicing to let go of the past beyond the cell phone issue greatly enhances the relationship, too.
Therefore, being present is more than just directing your undivided attention and more than being physically present. You literally feel more alive and connected to everything around you when you’re present. For us, it’s like being in the zone. It’s when you’re doing something and nothing else matters except for what you’re doing at that instant – not the past, not future, and no judgements. Some people experience it while baking, others while jogging, and others while writing. Everyone has an activity they do that gets them feeling alive, in the now, and in the zone. In other words, when you’re in the now (present), nothing is separating you from the moment.
Imagine you could feel that every time you were with your partner. Pretty awesome eh? Being present is like linking your heart and soul with each other like in the movie Avatar – that’s what it feels like! Being present is the greatest gift you can give to yourself and others.
Here are some Relationship Zen tips that we try to use on a daily basis to be present. Start small with ground rules (IE: no cell phones at the dinner table) and practice, practice, practice.
9 Tips for Relationship Zen Presence:
- Sharpen your sense of respect and politeness: keep the cell phone away during time spent with your partner, look them in the eye when they are speaking, face them, have open body language, and don’t multitask during conversation. Respect is a foundation for love.
- On a moment-to-moment basis, notice the small things about your partner (twinkle in the eye, outfit, stance, the way they smile, the way they look,) and you will feel moreappreciative, and thus avoid taking special moments and facets for granted.
- Focus on the good in people, you will appreciate them more and do less unnecessary judging. Encourage them instead of criticizing when they are falling and improve your relationship.
- While your partner is talking, avoid thinking of a response and instead, just notice the feelings, expressions, and emotions behind what your partner is saying to you and you will feel more connected.
- After your partner finishes talking, ask them a question based on what they have just finished saying to uncover the deeper aspects of their “self” IE: When they say, “Oh, I had a busy day,” ask, “Oh, what was so busy about it?” When they respond: “I have a couple work deadlines,” ask, “Interesting, what kind of projects are you working on?” This can lead into deep conversations instead of the typical “how was your day?” conversations. This will help to avoid feeling stuck in a routine and will promote intellectual and emotional stimulation.
- During an argument or discussion, get in the habit of paraphrasing, rephrasing, and asking open-ended questions because your job when they’re speaking is to really try to understand THEIR perspective before responding. By doing this you will avoid poisoning each other’s emotions and instead develop active listening skills.
- Literally start your relationship over when you wake up everyday to keep things interesting and creative by opening your mind to possibilities to explore together: IE:
“Live each day as if your life had just begun.” -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
This is awesome, try it!
- When your partner seems distracted, say: “Knock, knock, who’s there… YOU I hope!” as a gentle reminder of these tips – ask them to do the same to you. Why not?
- What other suggestions do you have? Share them with us on our Facebook group.
It all comes down to quality VS quantity. Instead of trying to spend more time together, we try to be really aware of being present with the little time that we are together. We know we’re doing it right when our conversations are exciting and/or deep and when we’re constantly learning about each other and exploring life together. And it’s OK that we’re not feeling those things all the time… but we constantly work on it. Our take on it is that relationships are always more exciting when you’re planning for the future, learning from the past, but living in the moment.
“The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness.” – Abraham Maslow