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A look into the anatomy of deeper intimacy

Saturday August 18, 2018 Written by Published in Virtues in Paradise

As I navigate this season of elderhood, one of its lovely surprises is that intimacy has become more central in my life. 

Intimacy is defined not only as a physical and emotional bond between a husband and wife but as closeness, togetherness, affinity, confidentiality, close relationship, close friendship, affection. warmth, and companionship. 

Now that my husband and I are free of the intense pace of work demanded by global travel for The Virtues Project, we have developed a deeper, gentler intimacy with one another. We chat more, trust our love more, have less need for drama or conflict. We luxuriate in ample time for silence, prayer and contemplation, which brings a deeper intimacy with Spirit and with myself.

 Such a gift to have time for unhurried, unharried communion. New passions have arisen - for service, for friendship, for time with children, and for solitude. Daily beauty is abundant, whether walking the beach at sunset as Dan takes his nightly photos, or floating in a turquoise lagoon. Migrating to the paradise of Aitutaki was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. 

When so many friends and family are departing this world, life takes on an immediacy. Every day, gratitude wells up for even the simplest things. I use a walking stick on the beach to support my back. The other evening, after walking with our seven-year-old island granddaughter, I put my stick back in the car, when we decided to visit a neighbour’s child. As we walked off, she said with some concern, “Mama, you don’t have your stick!” She put her arm around my waist as if to support me. I said, “Darling, you can be my stick.” She smiled proudly. 

The bliss of intimacy requires some sacrifices. First, it demands release from constant, compulsive busyness by creating islands of peace – times to be with someone who sees us and accepts us, enjoys us just as we are. Coffee with a friend, story time with a child, silence in the presence of Spirit. We need regular doses of soul food. Mother Theresa says, “God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer.” 

Intimacy with others can only come when we take down our walls, such as judgment and criticism that distance us from others. 

“Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3-4) We have to see others through eyes of appreciation and tolerance. “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.” (Matthew 6:22)  

If you are in the habit of negativity – fussing, fuming, easily irritated, ask yourself what you are longing for in your heart of hearts. In my view, the urge to backbite often comes from loneliness. Friendship is a cure for loneliness. Love heals unhappiness. Dare to reach out to someone you recognise as a familiar. I recognised one of my closest friends the moment I saw her. I boldly went up to her and said, “I’m new here. You seem like someone I’d like to know. Will you go for coffee sometime?” 

She looked pretty gobsmacked but accepted my phone number. It took a few weeks, but finally we got together and have been intimate companions ever since. Another woman I’d often noticed said out of the blue, “I need to come and see you.” She and I have been sister friends for years now.  

“Love gives life to the lifeless. Love lights a flame in the heart that is cold. Love brings hope to the hopeless and gladdens the hearts of the sorrowful. In the world of existence there is indeed no greater power than the power of love.”  (Abdu’l Baha, Baha’i Writings). 

Detaching from busyness, negativity, backbiting, and judging is a small price to pay for the boundless joys of intimacy based on tolerance, appreciation, tenderness, and trust. 

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