True Intimacy: Being Present WIth Life

I’ve had the experience many times of losing track of myself or of chasing my own tail without realizing I’m doing it. Like anyone, I can get swept up in checking my phone, trolling social media, and doing what needs to be done to keep the ‘hamster wheel’ going. Then, spontaneously, often when I’m alone in ritual space or out in the woods, I start to come back to myself. Often it’s only then that I realize I was ‘gone’, ‘checked-out’, or not fully ‘here’.

I come home to myself incrementally and then all at once landing back in the spacious presence of my essence—an experience that's usually accompanied by gentle tears and wafting feelings of gratitude. I arrive back in my heart. I reconnect with my soul. I land back in center—a place of total alignment, the intrinsic space of presence and heart that resides at the center of each of us.

When I am in this sacred here-ness and now-ness I am intimately and effortlessly connected to myself and to all of life.

"To be enlightened is to be intimate with all things,” said Master Dogen founder of the Soto school of Zen. Intimacy, often defined as familiarity or closeness, is characterized by togetherness, friendliness, or rapport. I believe that we all crave intimacy. True intimacy leads to a sense of belonging and even a sense oneness with all life.

The thing about intimacy is that we have to actually show up to the moment fully with all that we are—senses awake, heart online, soul present—to experience intimacy. Only when we show up can we fully connect—with others, the world around us, and even ourselves.

Intimacy, then, relies on presence.

In a world of distraction, busyness, and pretense true intimacy can seem like a rare gem—and it is. Presence itself has become an increasingly precious resource. Many have lost the ability to be present with something other than their smart phone or the next item on their to-do list.

Sometimes in the hustle, we lose touch with heart.

It takes serious guts to be present. In the piercing light of presence truth has a way of bubbling up and making itself known. It’s very difficult to be in denial—about anything—when we're fully present. Busyness and distraction can be numbing agents that keep us from meeting the painful (but necessary) truths of life.

Our busyness unfortunately can also keep us from experiencing the intimacy that our souls need to thrive.

Intimacy requires not just presence but also spaciousness to thrive. When we open wide and leave space it’s an invitation for our own soul and life itself to ‘come out, come out, wherever you are.’ Interestingly, something nearly always arises in the space that we hold…an idea, a deep sigh, a phone call.

It is in this space that we come home to our own hearts and to ourselves.

It is in this precious spaciousness that we can truly listen to another human being and allow them to reveal their inner world. In the moments that we pause we can connect with the miraculous existence—ours and everyone else's. When we ‘hold space’ for life our eyes open to the crow flying overhead, the subtle scent on the breeze, the daisy at our feet, and the smile of a child passing by.

It is a daring act to ‘hold space’ as opposed to filling it up or busying it away.

Blaise Pascal said, “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” The truth is that if we can’t sit with ourselves we won’t be able to sit with anyone else either. If we’re avoiding our own penetrating gaze we will not be able to look another in the eye.

Our inability to be intimate with ourselves translates into an inability to be intimate with others and with life itself.

Have you ever been lonely in the presence of another? Felt that you were more alone in their company than in your own? This is often due to a lack of presence. The person is ‘there’ but they're actually not there. There is no one home to connect with or to forge intimacy with. Sometimes grievances get in the way of intimacy—those things that we hold against one another. Other times it’s our armoring that gets in the way—we’ve gotten so good at protecting ourselves from life that nothing gets through our fortress.

To feel deeply connected to another is to meet in the spaciousness of presence. When two people show up with all that they are in a space of shared presence, magic can happen, and it usually does.

In the intimate communion of belonging hearts sing and healing happens.

At any given moment we are operating from various degrees of presence or ‘checked-outedness’. We are more or less connected to our surroundings and ourselves. We are more or less present. We are more or less able to show up fully and access our inner resources. We live in various degrees of integrity and alignment, presence and spaciousness.

I’m learning that the goal, for me, is not necessarily to be hyper-connected or present all the time but to allow for the coming and going, the fluctuations that are built into this human experience.

I’m leaving room for my tender humanness and my messy stumbles.

Landing back in center—coming home to myself—is inevitable and I’m usually better off somehow for the so-called ‘detours’ and off-kilter journeys. My capacity to hold steady and to be in intimate communion with others, life, and myself is steadily growing nonetheless.

The more intimate I can be with my humanity—both my beauty and my mess—the more able I am to share deep intimacy with others—with their beauty and their mess. The more I receive myself, the more I am able to receive others, and the more I attract people to be present with. It’s beautiful.

Intimacy requires, not that we be perfect spiritual beings, but that we meet what arises. Even our greatest challenges are calls to attention summoning our curiosity and beckoning us to open fully with all that we are to attend to what’s here.

Intimacy leans in to whatever is arising instead of pushing it away.

In its gentle gaze intimacy notices raindrops on windowpanes. It savors a lovers laugh lines that crinkle in celebration at the corners of his eyes. It sees and hears and has a heart-alive to receive it all with reverence.

Intimacy can’t help but be filled deep and abiding reverence for all that it sees, hears, and experiences.

Intimacy is tender medicine, linked both to the light of consciousness—spacious awareness and presence, and to the light of the heart—the love that we carry and that we are. When we marry presence and heart we live in intimate communion with life.



The next time you are tempted to turn away—from your reflection in the mirror, from a person asking for change on the street, from the grief in a loved ones face—look closer and lean in instead. What's the worst thing that could happen? Take a chance on yourself, on others, and on life. Open your eyes, your ears, and your heart. Lead with curiosity. The next time a window of time arises, whether you're waiting for the bus, or while a friend is running late, consciously 'hold space' instead of zoning into your phone. It's an experiment in intimacy. Be a field of 'open attention', noticing, sensing, feeling...anything could happen!


Copyright © 2015 Marie-Ève Bonneau