According to Pia Mellody, “Intimacy means sharing and receiving reality from another person without judgment. We can share three forms of reality: our body (physical/sexual), thoughts (intellectual), and feelings (emotional).”
Intimacy is about knowing. If our main goal in relationship is deep intimacy with another person, the only way to get there is through a deep knowing of self.
One of the promises of a committed yoga practice is this deep knowing of self through a cultivation of awareness and compassion for wherever we are. Yoga can act as windex on our windshield, allowing us to see more clearly. It is from this place of seeing and living in truth that intimacy can occur, but don’t confuse truth and intimacy with comfort.
Intimacy and Full Transparency is Uncomfortable
Intimacy is about sharing truth, even when it is hard. Julia talks about her practice of telling the truth in her relationship to Marco and how it can make her feel like an idiot, but paradoxically those painful moments are the base for their amazing relationship. There is risk involved when it comes to intimacy, it is much safer to stay on a service level and not dig deep. Really opening your heart is scary.
Practicing Awareness – Noticing the Small Stuff
Have you noticed how frequently yoga teachers cue students to “notice sensation,” or “notice the difference between your left side and your right side” or “notice how you feel different at the end of class versus the beginning of class.” This kind of noticing is phenomenal practice, and useful in relationship. We can get in the habit of noticing and then sharing what we notice with our partners. This can sound like, “I notice _________ feels really good to me” or “I notice how much I relax when you do ________” or “I notice _____ is triggering to me.” That kind of ownership and sharing of our own experience is one of the keys in sharing intimacy and sharing our own reality with another person.
Knowing Ourselves Takes Practice
It’s not surprising that intimacy with another person is challenging since simply knowing what we want is not an easy task. It takes practice to stay in tune with our own needs and then it takes even greater skill to be able and willing to communicate those needs. Our own ability to compassionately acknowledge what we need in any given moment can take a lifetime of practice, but can begin with knowing when to eat, when to socialize, when to get exercise, or when to rest. The simple practice of continuously answering, “What do I need right now,” can help us show up to our partner.
Intimacy Isn’t Always Sexy
We think of intimacy as the positive stuff, but in reality it’s about being with everything, both the good and the bad. Pardon the analogy, but if intimacy were underwear, it’s not just the lacy panties, it includes the grandma underwear.
What tends to happen is that we polarize and push away the perceived negative stuff that isn’t sexy, attractive or easy, and we try to keep the nice feelings and things close. Here is the catch: it’s only when we accept ALL of it that we have a chance at true intimacy. Holding space and compassion for our own negative “stuff” is a prerequisite for doing that for our partner. This is one of the gifts of yoga, learning to hold it all, even when it’s uncomfortable. If we can resist the urge to condemn the things we don’t like about ourselves, we stand a better chance of doing the same for our partner.
Carrying Our Own Baggage
When we are intimate with another, it is tempting to lean on them completely and rely on them to carry our baggage for us. It’s vital that we own our own feelings and reactions. Sharing intimacy from this place of wholeness and deep knowing of self makes for healthier relationships. Most of the time all we want is to be acknowledged, and we have the ability to give this to ourselves. Try to practice by talking to yourself the way you would to a small child, and simply put your hand on your chest and say to yourself, “Oh, I see you are tired, lonely, or sad right now.” This simple practice has changed my life.
Intimacy is built on trust. We all want to feel love and accepted, and trust is built when we feel accepted for all of who we are. I know it is cliché, but that begins within each of us, and yoga and meditation are amazing tools to cultivate this. It is through compassion and acknowledgment that we create more intimacy. It is all about acceptance of our own reality without needing to change, fix or hide anything.