“The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time….” James Taylor’s voice crooned in my head. This is a chorus that I am thankful to hear over and over again. In fact the older I get, the more that this simple truth has meaning. There really is no where that we are getting to and no arriving at a destination that defines us. Our lives are like arrows on a trajectory of our intentions and learning to savor the moments that make up our daily experience is the foundation for loving yourself and others.
It is a relief to realize that relaxing into life is really how to succeed at it. It is probably also the best advice for how to treat our most intimate relationships.
The biggest life changing relaxation method you can cultivate is letting things be as they are. When we embrace ourselves with all of our imperfections, we have an internal barometer and capacity to offer that to the people we love. Probably the single most consistent destroyer of relationships is the tension that builds by demanding it to be what you think it should be, rather than learning to love what it is. There are millions of ways that this non-acceptance plays itself out in every relationship. It often begins within us.
We allow the wounded parts of ourselves to take our relationships hostage every time we expect that our partner or our relationship can fix what is hurt inside of us. Most of the striving and over achieving we push ourselves towards is motivated by this same internal damage. Try this for one day- relax with the broken places inside of you. Give the hurt permission to breathe, stop hating these places in yourself or your lover because they won’t change on your command. Loving someone in a relaxed way lets them be who they are. We change and grow best under conditions that allow us to be relaxed.
Focus on the joy and fun in your life. Filter your calendar decisions by whether you will have a laugh or not. Many recent studies show that increasing the number of sweet moments of fun and celebration in your loving relationships actually creates more connection and intimacy over time than showing up in the hard times. The deepest rut that most relationships suffer from is when we place more attention on getting things done rather than enjoying a moment together.
Again, as disarmingly simple as this seems to be on the surface, most relationships these days rarely have a moment of enjoyment to themselves. It is impossible to be really present with someone when you are texting three other people at the same time. Our technological capabilities have far exceeded our fledgling ability to relate. Often we don’t even see the damage that our constantly shifting attention wreaks on our relationships. Leave the phone at home and spend an hour uninterrupted listening to someone you love, or to yourself. Experience how deeply relaxing it can be to be fully present and how it feeds your feeling of being loved.
Giving yourself permission to rest, physically and mentally is a prerequisite for relaxing into your relationship. Without beating a dead drum it is worth repeating what most of us already know: We are one of the most exhausted cultures of all time- so much for all the leisure time that our new information age/economy was going to provide. Celebrate the gift of rest and how incredible it feels to wake up refreshed. The world really does look different through fresh eyes and so does your relationship. Although I have never been very good at the art of doing nothing, I am now devoted to practicing the art of leisure. Relating to someone you love in nature’s time- lying together in the summer’s tall grass, listening to birds or water moving or watching a cloud float across the sky may just breathe some space into your relationship that was there all along, but just needed a little reminder.
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