The First Relationship Skill


Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response.

Woman with glasses with reflection

How we occupy that space, I have come to call beingwithness.

Beingwithness is the art, science, and quality of how we show up in each moment. When we put our attention to how we bewith, we activate our Inner Witness.

This doesn't necessarily come naturally. It's an earmark of maturity. It can be learned, cultivated, and elevated to an exquisite art, science, and quality.

The larger our space of beingwithness, the more we can become aware of whether we're responding from presence or pattern:

Presence versus pattern chart

Once we're aware of what's happening within us, we can exercise greater choice about how we show up.

When two or more people come into presence with one another, we unveil the richest possibilities, the most joy, the fastest dissolution of conflict.

And it starts with beingwithness--the art, a science, and quality of how we show up with each other.

Regarding the art piece:

" every incident of business, in every accident of life, the poet sees something divine, and carefully scales off all that encumbers that divinity, and permits it to be revealed in all its transcendent loveliness."1

This reminds me of the Rumi quote "Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

Two pink daisies

In scaling off all that encumbers divinity, or seeking and finding all the barriers to love, this is where the science comes in. How do we know which non-divine things to scale off? And what constitutes a barrier, exactly?

Beingwithness is the first relationship skill: To slow down, breathe, choose not to react, but instead to notice what arises in us...tension in the throat, stomach or spine? Breathe awareness into that. Racing thoughts? Be with them, too. As we practice beingwith, we strengthen our inner witness, the nonreactive entity that lives inside us, always.

Over time, we may learn which patterns in particular we default to under stress, and how to move ourselves out of them. We may also learn what kinds of thoughts hijack our minds, and how to notice those, and choose more liberating thoughts.

But beingwithness remains the first skill, and the best skill. If you were stuck on an island with someone and had only one skill, beingwithness would be a good one. It's a quality of showing up that enables presence, and all of the fancier skills, like identifying which pattern you're running, and what mythology hijacked our brain this time.

Most of the time, it takes only one person coming into presence to make an interaction go well. Unfortunately, most of tend to look to the other person to do that. When we learn how to come out of pattern into presence, we have more power to create exactly the interactions we want.

With individuals, couples, and now organizations, I help people come out of pattern into presence, using body, mind, spirit, and emotion approaches, starting with beingwithness. That forms a foundation on which we build all other skills.

1. 1858 January, The Methodist Quarterly Review, Whittier’s Poems, (Book Review of “The Poems of John Greenleaf Whittier), Start Page 72, Quote Page 78, Published by Carlton & Porter, New York.

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