“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.” -Mary Oliver
A good friend of mine recently told me that her resolution for this year was to become more human. She laughed as she shared the story with me, of how some of her friends from Silicon Valley didn’t quite understand the meaning of her pronouncement. “I am serious,” she said. “I want to feel more.” We all need to feel more, to become more human. As our lives are becoming increasingly dominated by digital gadgets that offer a superficial connectivity at best, we lose the face to face and heart to heart contact that in fact makes us human. Science bears this out, as more and more research is confirming how the combination of voyeurism and narcissism through Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are drastically reducing the amount of real relating time we engage in. Worse still, we are losing the primary skills required to do the messy and gratifying work of truly showing up, communicating and committing to the loving relationships that give life its purpose and meaning.
So here is s Good Clean Love challenge for the new year- take one of the following intimacy resolutions and make it your own. Track it the way you would your hygiene or exercise routines and be sure to share your intention with a friend as all resolutions are more likely to succeed with public recognition. Each of these practices will combat the erosion of your humanity and provide more real opportunities for the kind of intimacy that will turn you into a better version of yourself.
1. Count your attention as you do your money.
Our attention is, in fact, an even more limited resource than our money, and treating it with the same reverence and respect as we do the financial currency in our lives will help you both quantify where you squander it and make choices about spending your focus on what matters. The truth about most social media is that, at best, it is a distraction, and at worst, it is killing your brain’s capacity to fully attend to your life. Choose a specific time each day, or even once a week, when you put away your devices and choose a task that requires all of your attention. It could be cleaning out a closet or organizing a meal with friends, or spending some solitary time on a walk. Just do it wholly, without interruption or distractions.
Notice what happens with your thoughts when your attention is undivided. Even more gratifying, notice how other people respond when you give them the gift of your full attention.
2. Take more true emotional risks
Most of us are risk averse when it comes to matters of the heart. This is why so many things that need to be shared are never uttered. It also explains how so many relationships expire long before their work is done. Staying connected is only possible through the work of taking emotional risks, of having your heart out there on your sleeve. Other people, even those we are most intimate with, don’t know what is in your heart unless you show it. Hooking up is oddly less risky than asking someone out. Defying the possibility that you might be rejected, or that someone might not understand what you are trying to say and extending yourself anyway is how we know who we are as our most basic human selves. So resolve to try this bold and daring act once a week. Take a risk with your heart and see what happens. I guarantee it will surprise you.
3. Cultivate Dialogues
We are losing the art of conversation, the very basic human capacity to express ourselves and listen face to face. The exchange of meaning that happens in an intimate conversation- everything from the other person’s facial expression, tone of voice, and even the light in their eyes teaches us how to feel and how to respond. Replacing this with a cursory text, chat, or email message eliminates the contact that cultivates our capacity to empathize. Commit to at least one real conversation, face to face a day, or at least in a week. Stretch your ability to listen and see what you can hear behind the words. Gaze on the face speaking to you, notice the blinking or twitching that might happen when someone reveals themselves.