Presence: The Essence of Intimacy
from "Slowing Down to the Speed of Life"

Human beings are born with the ability to relate to one another and experience unconditional love, and most people would agree that loving and being loved is one of the most extraordinary of all human experiences. Nevertheless, unconditional love seems to be an elusive dream and a difficult challenge for all too many of us.

Advertisements, movies, soap operas, and novels are overflowing with star-crossed romances, crushing disappointments, and aching loneliness. The self-help shelves of most bookstores are crammed with books on relationships--how to get one, how to behave when you're in one, and how to end one. If we are so intent on finding love, then why does it seem that, like a butterfly, the more we reach for it, the more it seems to evade our grasp?
Much of the answer lies in understanding the true nature of intimacy.


We cannot be intimate unless we are present in the moment. Until we are here, in this moment, unencumbered by thoughts of the future, the past, or even of what our lover is thinking right now, we are unable to experience real love. When we are in the free flowing mode of thought, we are in the moment. Then and only then can we experience intimacy.

Have you ever been so quiet with another--no matter what the setting--that you felt their presence? Time seems to stand still, your senses awaken, and deep feelings of peace, warmth, and contentment well up in your heart. Have you ever, on the other hand, had all the "right" ingredients for closeness--a special dinner or a romantic setting--and felt distant nonetheless? The difference between these two scenarios is the degree of presence of the two people involved.

Presence is a state of mind where our thoughts are flowing, quiet, and responsive to the now. Like a radio receiver when the signal is perfectly tuned to the station, when you are present you experience this moment without interference or static. When we are present--in free flowing mode--we are aware of all the sounds, tones, and subtleties of our senses. But when our minds are busy, we are distracted by expectations, needs, fears, self-doubt, self-consciousness, or "shoulds." We are already too full of the static of thinking to experience the now. To be present, we must clear our minds and listen. Then we can experience intimacy.

No matter how busy our minds might be right now, we are all capable of opening ourselves to deep listening. As you will discover, deep listening is natural when we return to our natural state of mind--mental health.


Deep listening is more than just hearing. Hearing is a
physiological phenomenon, while listening is a psychological state. To deeply listen is to perceive beyond the mere words and gestures. Without analyzing, we sense the underlying feelings and meanings; we understand the subtler level of communication. When we are listening, we are affected and touched by the other person. And for the moment, we are changed. This kind of listening--deep listening--is what occurs in a heart to heart relationship when the mind is open, unimpeded by the chaos of our personal thoughts.

Here is an example of how deep listening can work in a heart to heart relationship:

Travis and Mary have both had a long and demanding day at work, she as an engineer and he as an architect. Their lives are full, and they face many challenges in balancing their work and personal lives.

After Mary picks up their two young children at daycare,
they arrive home at about the same time that evening. Todd, the oldest child, has had a difficult day--his teacher was out sick, and he didn't like the substitute. He is cranky and irritable. Although Mary is exhausted, she clears her mind in order to be present for her children during this time of reentry to the home. She senses Todd's distress, fixes him a snack, and asks him if he'd like to go for a walk with her. Although Todd is still whining, he senses his mother's compassion and understanding. Travis really wants to connect with Mary, but sees it's important for Todd and Mary to be alone together. So he offers to take Lindsey to the park to play on the swings.

By being present with Todd, Mary is able to listen patiently and compassionately to him as he tells her about his day. Within half an hour, Todd is in better spirits, singing a song he learned in school. And Mary feels refreshed and energized from her walk with him.

Travis and Mary's capacity to listen deeply to Todd helped turn around a potentially disastrous evening. With the children's needs met and their moods in a positive state, Travis and Mary were able to spend some time alone together and truly connected at the end of their long day. They didn't have to do anything extraordinary--they simply were present with their children and each other.

Travis and Mary may seem unusually adept at tapping into their ability to listen deeply, but this capacity exists in all of us. Every human being can be present when we quiet our busy minds and access our innate mental health. And being present through deep listening creates intimacy and heart to heart relationships.

Author's Bio: 

Joe Bailey’s life purpose is to help people find true happiness and peace of mind. Towards this end, he studied psychology at the undergraduate and graduate levels, eventually becoming a licensed psychologist. For the past thirty years, Joe’s desire to understand the connection between the psychological, physical and spiritual facets of human beings has pulled him into a deeper understanding of the whole person and away from the current fragmented view. His search led to a health-based approach to counseling, prevention programs, workplace wellness and the attainment of a personal life of peace, joy and fulfillment for all people. Find out more about Joe on his EXPERT page at