The Art of Relationship: Presence Counts

Unless you are a hermit living in a mountain cave or a secluded island, you have to interact with other humans.

In this modern age of digital communication, information-overload is growing, while our actual connection to others is becoming more difficult, complicated and elusive. We must make the conscious decision to address our disconnection and commit to authentic relationship. I have been facilitating partner work through AcroYoga for over 10 years and though my practice have personally overcome many stumbling blocks in communication, trust, and romance. I have observed many people encounter the same stumbling blocks, researched those obstacles, and discovered techniques that work.

When I first found AcroYoga I was recovering from trauma. It was a safe place that I could find connection, and enjoy intimate/affectionate touch. It was exactly what I needed to create a container for healing. It also provided support so that I could hold out and patiently wait for the right romantic relationship without compromising in half-assed, unsatisfying ones. To practice Acro is to explore the edge of vulnerability, trust and discomfort in real life. But you don't need to practice Acro to benefit from its lessons: Here are some of the best ones I've learned. 

Communication is mostly not words.

According to Albert Mehrabian in Silent Messages, 93 percent of communication is non-verbal. We can only communicate 7 percent of what we mean to say through digital channels—we annihilate 93 percent of the complexity of human communication when we reduce it to words, grammar (or the lack thereof), and maybe a few choice images. The subtly of body language or non-verbal communication (55 percent of communication) and the richness of verbal tone (38 percent of communication) can be entirely lost when we resort exclusively to email, text, Twitter, or a messenger.

When we leave nuance and emotional innuendo by the wayside, we lay the strong foundation for misunderstanding, objectification, miscommunication, and manipulation. Adding salt to injury, Americans spend approximately 2.8 hours each day and currently spend an additional 50 minutes each day on Facebook, let alone other social media channels. This doesn’t really sound like much, until we examine that there are 24 hours in each day, most of us sleep for approximately eight hours, read for 19 minutes, spend one hour eating and 38 minutes in conversation or socializing. How do we manage the dilemma of the current cultural climate and get reconnected so we can refine our ability to be in relationship?

Turn the devices off.

Commit one hour everyday unplugging completely. Work up to dedicating one full day a week to living device free. Observe your reaction to boredom, frustration, and a desire to be distracted. If your knee jerk response to this request is “I can’t possibly do that!” ask yourself why, and who you really want to be. Invite your friends to join you and do the same. My parnter and I have made it a “rule” that no devices are allowed at our dinner table during meals, and we eat at least two together each day—my partner keeps it real and calls me out when I let this slide. It is so simple and satisfying to eat together without distraction of television or phones! If it is really difficult with your group of friends to turn your phone off for an entire meal, play this game: Stack all the phones in the middle of the table. The first person to touch his or her phone and remove it from the stack has cover the bill for the group.

Make eye contact. 

Our collective ability to be able to walk down the street while looking at a phone while talking or texting has increased, while our ability to look others in the eye and maintain a conversation has not. Who do you look in the eye, and when does this happen? Start by looking yourself in the mirror if you find this particularly difficult. During a beginner AcroYoga class we start with explicit verbal communication before we mount into a pose, “are you ready?” “yes”, “let’s go”. Eventually, we can shift from verbal communication to non-verbal communication and eye contact to communicate the same phrase. This is the progression that supports professional Cirque du Soleil acrobats and creates a graceful sense of connection between two people while the audience looks on in awe. If we are not consciously making eye contact it can be incredibly uncomfortable and bring up vulnerability. One of my favorite yoga teachers Seane Corn shared that she used to put people directly into downward facing dog so as to avoid that initial contact as she was so nervous as an early teacher. 

“Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” 
― Brené Brown

Listen. 

Use your ears, your eyes, your hands. Notice what you see. Observe through listening. Can you listen to the full phrase, every single word during your next conversation, before you think about what you want to say? When you touch someone else, can you listen to the connection in your handshake, a hug? This is the first step in exploring compassionate communication and being mindfully present in relationship. When we release the need to be completely in control of a conversation, and become more present to the potential of the moment our authentic self can blossom in beautiful and unexpected ways. Practicing a meditation technique like Tonglen or Vipassana can cultivate an ability to become more quiet, if it feels elusive for you.

Every day we have the opportunity to choose trust and love over fear, whether that be by allowing someone else to balance us in AcroYoga, or by making eye contact during conversation. 


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Deven Sisler, will empower your yoga practice on and off your mat. A senior certified AcroYoga instructor she is known for her joyful, playful approach to partnership and collaboration, and her articulate teaching. An E-RYT 200 & CRYT yoga teacher she has trained with international master teachers for the past ten years in yoga, thai massage and acrobatics. An outdoor enthusiast she weav...READ MORE