How to be the Best Lover, Friend, or Parent

Do you want to know the secret to being the best lover, friend or parent? 

It’s the same for all three... 

Simply show up. 

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Now here’s the trick, you can’t just show up with your body.  We’ve all been with a person who’s body is in the room with us, but who’s mind is elsewhere.  This is even more prevalent now that we spend so much time with our noses buried in our mobile devices. 

Have you ever seen a person completely enraptured by their grandchild?  You can see through their interaction that time is standing still. The earth ceases traveling around the sun, and instead the entire universe alters its trajectory to revolve around the beloved child.  The grandparent listens as if every word the child utters is a song delivered from the stage at Carnegie Hall and they absorb every gesture or expression as if it’s the first and last time they’ll see it. Through radiant eyes, the grandparent and child touch each other’s souls.

They have shown up completely.

So what gets in the way of us showing up completely?  We may think that it’s because we don’t have the love, or the patience, or the time to do so.  But that is not true.

Here are some things that tend to get in the way...

Expectations.  Often, when we are with another person we have expectations about how the interaction will go.  Sometimes these expectations are explicit, but more often they’re carried in our minds and never expressed.  We expect conversations with our teenager to be intense, or date night will be the same as always, we expect our friend to only talk about herself, or our parents to be judgmental.  When we enter into an interaction with expectations then we have already limited the possibilities.  If something happens outside of our expectations we will often not be able to see it.

Distractions.  It’s easy to see that sneaking a peak at your text messages during a lunch date is distracting. But there are distractions that might not be so obvious.  You might be thinking of tomorrow’s schedule while your child talks to you about their new video game, or be thinking of that altercation you had with your boss last year while your spouse is trying to show you the new flowers they planted.  Even now, as you read this, you are not soaking up everything that is written.  Your mind is bouncing back and forth between absorbing what you’re reading and your thoughts about what you’re reading. Which brings us to number three…

Judgements.  It can be difficult to have an interaction in which we are not judging.  Whether we’re judging the other person, judging the interaction as a whole, or judging ourselves, we are constantly forming opinions about what we’re taking in.  Often these opinions can get so loud that all of the sudden we’re not experiencing anything that’s happening in the room except our own judgmental voices.

Once we’re aware that all of these things are happening while we’re spending time with someone, it may seem like a good idea to work on being present, or mindful during our interactions.  The fallacy here is that as soon as you’re making an effort to be present, you’ve simply created another mental distraction. 

Let’s imagine for a moment that we’re listening to a friend talk about their new car.  Our internal dialogue might be something like this:

"Hmmm, I wonder why they chose red?  Don’t they know that you’re more likely to get a ticket with a red car?
I’d never choose red.  I had a red car once - only car I’ve ever gotten a speeding ticket in. 
Guess I won’t mention it.  Too late now anyway, it’s a done deal.
Wonder when our takeout’s going to get here?  Seems like its been forty-five minutes already. {check watch}
Yeah, heated seats are nice. I’ve got to remember to tell the story about the time I left mine turned on and melted a pound of Christmas chocolates.  What a mess!
That was a fun party though.  Sylvia was a hoot, and Jason, now he’s a party animal.
Oh crap, I missed what he said.  OK, let’s focus.  Stay present. 
What was that my meditation book said about staying in the moment?  Shoot, I can’t remember. 
Oh well, I’ll pay attention to my breathing, that will bring me back to center.

{breath in, breath out}
Ok, I'm ready to listen now.  What, why is he talking about ladders?"

Can you see and hear how we get distracted by our thinking and trying to remember to be present can also just get in the way of actually being present?

Now imagine that every thought is like a cloud passing through the sky.  We notice the clouds when we’re outside, but seldom do we give them much attention.  We can treat our thinking the same way.  

We can let any number of thoughts pass through our heads by recognizing that the nature of thought is like a sky with an endless supply of clouds.  Sometimes there are many clouds, sometimes there are few, and it doesn't matter...they will come and go without us doing anything and the supply is infinite. 

The power comes from realizing that this is how it always is with our thoughts, for everyone.  When this realization settles in, when we get it at a gut level, we can quite easily let our thoughts float peacefully by and be fully present with the person who’s in the room with us.

Once we relax into our experience of truly being with someone, it creates the space for discovery.  We get to hear the person we’re with in a fresh way, we get to be open to being surprised, we gain insight into their perspectives and desires. It is so powerful that we ourselves are transformed.  Instead of simply being spectators with a running commentary, we become engaged and connected - we experience intimacy at a whole new level.

And that is it.... the secret to being the best lover, friend, or parent. The secret to showing up so completely that it is possible to touch the soul of another.