If you are not filled with projections of how things should or could be, thoughts of the past or the future, then you are finally dealing with the present. This act of being present brings many miracles. It leads to new and exciting experiences. It imbues shared experiences with a quality of creativity and co-creativity. Presence is a matter of the degree to which you focus on what is happening in front of you. Being present means reacting to what is actually happening, rather than reacting to your past experiences or future concerns. When you are present, you are not concerned with achieving a specific future outcome.
Being present is not always the most desirable state. Sometimes the future needs attention too, so you try to control the world to make your imaginary future come true. Sometimes that’s appropriate, but often it’s like ordering the next meal while you’re eating the current one.
Being fully present in a relationship is transformative. By giving your full attention to what is there at the moment, you can see your partner more clearly and hear what they are saying more clearly. By giving up the need to control the future, you by definition also give up attempts to control the other person. By not dealing with the past or the future, a vast pool of possible conflicts is defused. “You didn’t call me” or “I want a white wedding” disappear. Dealing with the present is almost always the right way. Mentally screaming, “No, I don’t want that spilled milk in my life” doesn’t help. You’ll have to wipe it up at some point before you can continue.
A barrier to being fully present is when there are aspects of your partner that bother you. The first step to deal with this is the language. By speaking in the present tense, the focus remains on what is present rather than provoking conflict about the past or future. Speak also of the “I”, not of the “you”. Say “I’m embarrassed if you complain about the service” instead of “You shouldn’t talk to the waiter like that.” The statement “I feel…” is personal and relates to the present; “You should…” is an attempt to control the other person. By removing criticism from the conversation, you make room for more openness and honesty from your partner, and by expressing your feelings, you create a situation where your partner can change because he or she knows your reactions.
The second step is to look at your own reactions. Do they arise out of habit: “I always put the cutlery handles in the dishwasher.” What is the source of your irritation? Often it is simply an assumption of how things should be. Sometimes it’s an issue like honesty, financial behavior, or the desire to have children that is so fundamental to you that acceptance isn’t possible. But if it’s not a deal breaker, take a good look at your reaction and what’s behind it. In the end, you can’t change your partner; you can only change yourself.
Another aspect of being present is the experience of novelty that it brings. Nothing is ever the same, and it’s very mysterious and counterintuitive. You would think that familiarity would make settling down for a movie or walking around the park monotonous. However, they don’t. They are fundamentally different – there is no groundhog day. In other words, when you are not constrained by your past, it gives you an extraordinary sense of potential and growth. Change is not suppressed in favor of what has been or rejected out of fear of what might happen. The result is a feeling that you always have more to do and more to discover.
Practicing presence adds great richness to your life; Problems fall away and you experience a wonderful sense of joy. The power of this practice within a relationship has no limits.
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