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The Practice of Mindful Intimacy

“Intimacy is not purely physical. It's the act of connecting with someone so deeply, you feel like you can see into their soul.” Reshall Varsos

When you read the word "intimacy," what feelings come up for you? Stop reading for a moment and take a deep breath. And another. When was the last time you felt intimacy with your life partner? With yourself? What was happening? Were you deep in conversation? Were you touching? Was it sexual or not? What emotions accompanied the experience of intimacy?

For most people, intimacy is a primal experience of deep connectivity with another (and one's own self), in which all involved are emotionally open and present and where self-revelation is met with acceptance. At its best, intimacy softens us, helps us to let our guard down, to breathe more freely and gives us a sense of ease and belonging. And while intimacy need not involve sex (think of a long conversation over tea with a good friend), sex without intimacy can be unsatisfying, leaving participants feeling lonely, disconnected and insecure. In contrast, where sex and intimacy meet, hearts open and we feel expansive, loved, and a profound sense of belonging.

And yet as relationships lengthen, the easy intimacy we share in the heady days of new relationships often gives way to...something else: with busy schedules dominating our lives, we talk less openly, touch less, and sex, often an exquisite pathway to intimacy, can become formulaic and unsatisfying. Thus how do we maintain intimacy in our relationships when it is so common for intimacy to fade?

Many years ago, my husband and soulmate Ed and I were experiencing this typical drift from intimacy and neither of us found it satisfying. Ed (bless him!) proposed a few simple suggestions that I'll share with you that helped us restore and practice intimacy daily. I'll add a few others I've learned along the way. If you and your partner are willing, adopting these simple practices can go a long way to fostering deep intimacy in relationships.

  • Agree to touch every day: hug in the morning upon waking or better yet, cuddle up for at least five minutes. Hug again at the door before anyone leaves the house. Hug and kiss at night before bed even if, and especially if, you are at odds with one another. Touch has a way of softening our rough edges, diffusing anger and irritation and keeping us aligned with our hearts. We are then more open to problem-solving.

  • Greet your partner when he/she/they return home with a hearty, "Hey, Love, welcome home!" Then stop what you're doing and physically greet your partner at the door. The effect of actively greeting your partner is simply wonderful. It lets them know you care and re-establishes connectedness after you've been circulating in the world separately. Compare this to how it feels when you arrive home and your partner does not acknowledge your arrival.

  • If you watch TV together at night, sit together, hold hands or cuddle. Try this, and compare it to the disconnect of sitting on different chairs or sofas! Leave your cell phones in a different room.

  • Agree that at least once each week, you will share appreciations. In this ritual practice, you will sit facing one another, holding hands and looking into one another's eyes. Setting a timer for two minutes, one person will go first and will tell their partner what they appreciate about them. The person receiving appreciations simply takes them in without responding verbally. After two minutes, switch places. This lovely practice reminds partners what they love and appreciate about the other and allows both to feel their importance in each others lives. It is oft said that they eyes are the windows into the soul; it is hard to be disconnected when you regularly gaze into your partner's soul.

In a busy world, embracing intimacy mindfully will go a long way to creating a deep connectivity that passes the test of time. Couples that touch regularly express greater relationship satisfaction, have sex more regularly and communicate more effectively. What's not to love about that?

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