Resting in Connection
~disarming the ways in which we hold back from love and intimacy
A married couple I know and love shared with me last week one of the greatest resources they discovered last winter, as they were passing through a very difficult time: it was a practice they called ‘Resting in Connection.’
I was deeply inspired by the beauty and simplicity of this way of naming a very powerful resource. ‘Resting in Connection,’ if we take it up as a practice, will connect us with a deep source of nourishment and healing, and also with the challenges, wounds and difficulties that we bring to our relationships. How does this work? ‘Resting in Connection’ is the foundational experience that every baby and young child needs to have with its caretakers — a feeling of being safely held, supported and befriended, exactly as we are. Engaging in this simple practice helps us to understand, in a visceral way, our early attachment patterns, and the strategies we have developed in order to deal with the holding, caring and nourishing that was not there in our early life. Shedding light on all of this is essential, if we want to mature and develop beyond our early and unconscious ways of relating to other human beings.
If I explore my early history, I can shine a lot of light on my relationships with my family of origin, which are often filled with conflict, distress, and trauma. Then comes the question: now that I know what I did not receive, and how I have been coping with that, sometimes for most of my life, what is the actual medicine? What will help me to heal, to reorganize my basic psychic structures in relationship? How can I transform this circuitry that got encoded right into my nervous system, that profoundly impacts how I experience myself and the world?
This is a big question, and there are hundreds and thousands of answers, in the world of therapy, counselling, coaching and healing. I believe that ‘Resting in Connection’ is one of the most elegant, basic and most effective answers to this question. The beauty of this practice is that we can adapt it to align with what is possible for us in any given moment. This makes it something I can practice right in the midst of my busy, demanding, sometimes overwhelming life. I have a strong preference for this kind of practice, even though an hour of meditation or chi-gung or prayer each day can be very powerful. A practice that penetrates into the heart of my daily life has much more power to interrupt and transform the momentum of my ancient and habitual patterning.
There are two essential components to this practice: your intention, and another human you feel pretty good with. Finding that person might feel like an insurmountable obstacle. Knowing this, I am offering this practice to those of you who are already part of a network that is not deeply troubled or dysfunctional. This other person could be an intimate partner, a friend you see regularly, a colleague whom you share some mutual respect and affection with, or someone you are participating in a class or training with.
Whenever you are ready to begin, you simply ask that person if they want to do this practice with you, called ‘Resting in Connection’. Have no doubt about it — this is a radical practice. It has nothing to do with how we usually relate in our social networks. Some of the people you approach and invite may want nothing to do with this practice. So before you begin, gather your courage and clarify your intention.
Once you have found someone, both of you get to create your own specific container for this practice. If you are a couple, you could decide to lie down and hold each other for 10 minutes or 20 minutes. If you are practicing with a friend or a colleague or a fellow student, you could simply sit together, side by side, for 3 minutes, or 6 minutes at a time. You might have your shoulders or legs or feet touching. It’s good to have the bodies touching in some way, but it is not essential. Just being close together is enough. Your environment needs to be quiet, especially in the beginning. Not perfectly quiet, just quiet enough so that you can both relax.
Now you just close your eyes and relax, together. As you relax, allow your connection with the other person to slowly, gently, deepen. You are not just relaxing inside yourself, which is what we often do. You are softening and letting go into a space of shared connection. As you relax, you can invite your body to connect with the other person’s body, energetically. You notice what this feels like, and if you have resistance to this kind of connection. Now you can, just through a simple intention, allow your heart to connect with the heart of the other person, as you relax. You don’t have to already know how to do this — you just hold an intention, and trust that the deep intelligence of your body will find a way. Now you allow your mind to connect with the mind of the other person, as you both continue to relax, sink down, and let go.
You might hit a wall, right at the beginning, and find it difficult to continue relaxing when you are so closely connected with another. You could discover hidden feelings and fears you have about your relationship with this person. This is all part of the practice-it doesn’t mean that something is wrong. By staying present, and allowing whatever arises in your body and mind to be welcomed and included, both you and your practice partner are able to dissolve, slowly and gradually over time, some of the ways in which you have been holding yourself separate, putting walls between yourself and this person, and perhaps many others.
Now we come to the second part of the practice. After relaxing together in silence, you and your partner both share with each other what happened for you. Be very specific and concrete as you describe your experience, and be sure to include the ways in which you felt yourself withholding from a deeper intimacy with the other person.
You never know what will happen each time you come together with this shared intention. Some days you may feel washed over by a blissful feeling of intimate connection. On other days you may be immersed in waves of resistance, contraction, numbness and withholding. It doesn’t matter what your experience is; it will always keep changing. After each period of practice is over, just take a few minutes to share with your partner verbally about what you experienced, and what you were holding back. Let them know precisely how and where you were not able to relax and let go into a deeper space of connection with them. Sharing your experience verbally is an essential part of the practice. Be sure to lead with your own experience, without asking your partner to take responsibility for whatever arose for you. Your partner is not responsible for the difficulties you have in letting go into a space of intimacy.
One thing is for sure: if you persist with this practice, you’ll discover a lot about yourself and the patterns you bring into the field of your relationships. And you’ll find ways to help you re-organize your nervous system and become more present, more vulnerable, and more available for true connection, which is a primal need for anyone in a human body.
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