Here are a few touchstones for noticing what’s gone missing, or what you’d like to see in your primary intimate relationship(s). Use this guide to consider the quality markers most important to you and treat it as a conversation starter —there’s plenty left unnamed.
Awhile go, as I celebrated my 20th wedding anniversary, a few co-workers asked me what the most important ingredients for a lasting, happy partnership were. I fumbled for words —recalling happiest moments and what I regarded as critical features (physical connection, creativity, and adult play), yet I couldn’t name the top five ingredients for a vibrant partnership …and, perhaps, that’s alright —one size does not fit all.
This guide, my attempt to answer that elusive question —what’s essential for a happy marriage— is offered with the humility of knowing I won’t get it right for all, and the hope that it may spark a juicier vision for others. I look forward to comparing recipes.
PLAY …Explorations into the wild frontier of different and unusual sensibilities.
Sex: Finding the sensory dials (tactile, olfactory, visual, auditory, kinesthetic, staged fantasy) that ignite your pleasure receptors and deepen connection. Practicing the give and take of being adored.
Flow: Creativity and fun in another’s company —finding balance points in joy and grief.
Eroticism: Adventure seeking and risk-taking for curiosity sake; tolerating uncertainty.
LOVE …A visceral connection to the essential spark of another being.
Intimacy: Sharing a sensual language of beauty, shared understanding, and cherished rituals that evoke peacefulness and feeling at home, apart and together.
Loyalty: Consistently showing up in the physical landscape (time/space) of the relationship; bringing unique richness and aliveness to the table.
Autonomy: Merging with another while holding boundaries of self, intact. Asserting power while staying soft; no need for bracing to protect one’s interests.
SPIRITUAL SCAFFOLDING …Resourcing the flow of forces bigger than oneself.
Wonderment. Awe and respect for life and natural resources; naming what is precious.
Generosity: Giving without receiving or prompting; uncensored, joy-filled receiving. Suspending expectations of gift giving; cherishing felt support.
Witness: Mirroring the essence of another without interpretation; holding presence; deep noticing.
EASE in Self …Comfort in the sensual language of one’s body, emotional center, and psyche.
Solitude: appreciating aloneness in the heart of relationship; discerning one’s truth apart from another.
Safety: showing up with authenticity and wholesome regard for oneself, while opening to another; exploring common ground essential for connection.
Flexibility: the ability to forgive and forget less desirable attributes in oneself and another while finding new ways to balance and reconnect.
Copyright 2018 Elanah D. Naftali FeelingEase.com
You are your thoughts, as new brain research informs us. Our bodies turn into the essential stuff we imagine by creating structural and functional changes at a cellular level. This process is explained by the plasticity, or ever-changing nature of our brains. This is both frightening and fascinating as we can kickstart dreams in our imagination while halting negativity. The imaginal realm has crossed into many forms of therapy (EMDR, Internal Family Systems, Somatic Experiencing, etc.), though their focus is less about empowering clients to image at will. A virtual playground awaits your curiosity and exploration. Let me know if this is an area that interests you, too!
Flash your attention, for just a moment, on the amazing colors of fall foliage in the Wissahickon. Do you give a sigh of contentment and inhale deeply over this amazing reminder of beauty in your backyard? That’s how a powerful image can transport you to a different time and place without a word spoken. Whether it’s a picture of fall hues or the savor of your favorite food, imagining something positive evokes positive feelings and brightens our mood. In other words, our minds hold the power to enhance our physical and emotional wellbeing.
The power of imagining is something that athletes understand implicitly. When a violinist imagines himself before his audience in preparation for performance, or a high jumper imagines vaulting higher than ever before as she prepares to launch, that’s “mental stimulation of movement,” or MSM, in action. MSM involves rehearsing a desired movement and outcome in your mind before taking the leap; bringing ease and fluidity to your movements while enhancing efficiency. Researchers found an increase in muscle tone as a result of visualizations without actual movement. MSM, which I call “imaging,” isn’t just for performers. Imaging may improve mobility in Parkinson’s patients and recovery of stroke victims. There is also growing evidence for improved pain management through this technique. Those of us struggling with anxiety can customize imagery intended for a desired outcome, whether it’s scoring a stellar job interview, achieving new heights with an artistic pursuit, or simply feeling better.
For a glimpse of imaging to relieve shoulder tension, try this MSM exercise (Adapted from, Beautiful Body, Beautiful Mind, by Eric Franklin, pp. 5-7.).
Releasing the shoulders. Place your left hand on your right shoulder, near your neck and make small circles with your shoulder. Image a waterfall flowing to its highest point before dropping to a bottom pool; continually recycling the water as it climbs to the top of the falls. Reverse the flow of the falls as you circle in the opposite direction; notice if your breathing slows down.
Next, with the left hand still on the right shoulder, squeeze the nearby neck muscles as if squeezing a sponge. Imagine all tension in the shoulder being squeezed up by the sponge. Repeat the squeezing action on the same shoulder three more times, releasing your hand with each repetition to feel the sponge bounce back to its full volume. After the final repetition, release your hand and shake out any remaining tension through your right fingertips. Notice if you feel a difference? Do you feel greater ease of movement in your right arm, compared with your unrehearsed arm?
In the above exercise, imaging can enhance physical well-being and ease the body’s hold on stress and anxiety. As a cornerstone of successful weight loss and smoking cessation efforts, or as a companion in psychotherapy for resolving deeper, chronic life challenges, the dynamic use of neurocognitive imagery is an untapped frontier of possibility. Tuning inward with freedom and curiosity restores our inherent wholeness, awe, and capacity for change.
[Note: This post was originally written by Elanah D. Naftali for the Weavers Way Coop Health and Wellness Column and appeared in October 2017 edition of The Shuttle as, “Thinking Your Way to Change? Research says Yes.” References are provided here for further reading.]