Meeting Other Mind-Bodies
I'm supposed to meet the woman of my dreams soon, so I thought I would give myself a little bit of dating advice. I'm proposing a simplified model of human interaction, in the hopes that we can meet better. While it discusses how we relate to Miss Actual, it's relevant to how we meet anyone, love interest to business counterpart.
We pack a lot of baggage for our date with Miss Actual. Our baggage helps us sort her into predefined categories of attractiveness or intellectual compatibility. We idealize her into Miss Desired with a template created from our parents, exes, movies, and even past hurt we seek to repeat, avoid, or resolve. We rationalize her into Miss Perceived with an identity accumulated over years from home, family, and education. We have no choice but to disregard whole parts of her like Miss Ignored we can't categorize. When our categorizing mind quiets down, we can witness Miss Experienced with our intuiting heart. This is what our date with Miss Actual actually looks like:
Too Many Misses
So our date with one person (Miss Actual) is actually better described as a relationship to four different Misses. Here's how we interact with them:
contempt predicts divorce, by the way.)
losing ourselves while connected to our body and the present. Incomprehensible and mysterious, Miss Experienced has that “je ne sais quoi.”
How do you simplify the madness, and avoid projecting your neuroticism onto her? How do you honor the beautiful, unprecedented human being in front of you, using both your categorizing mind and intuiting heart? Here's a radical idea. Imagine the person sitting in front of you is your soul mate, someone you will be spending the rest of your life with. How would you treat them if they were actually *the one*? What kind of attention would you give them? Would you be listening so well that you might even mirror their body language, posture, and tone quality? Research has shown the mirroring puts your partner at ease, is a potential basis for empathy, and promotes connection. It's also a great way to bring yourself back to the moment, if categorizing mind has taken you on a fieldtrip. Think of your date as meditation, a medAtation, if you will.
Don't worry, you won't lose your analytical mind. You will have plenty of judgments about her personality, beauty, ambition and everything else. In addition to categorizing her, can you stare directly into her eyes and lose track of time? In addition to your perception, can you also have a feeling of what's going on in your body, the blood in your veins, the pace of your breath, the smell of your meeting? Can you act and respond from your body wisdom as well as your mind? You will continue to wonder what she's like in the sack, or if she completes your fairy tale. You will continue to remember how your ex used to squint like her, or how awesome it is she also studied sociology. The present is your periodic refuge from the neurotic past and fantastic future.
To be clear, I'm not advocating you drool or grin like an idiot. Just be ruthlessly present, habitually attentive. On one of my dates, I stared, quietly, for a few minutes into the eyes of another. It's terrifying, it's freeing, it's calming, and it's totally mindless. If you are already attracted, it gives you a clever rationale to allow your attraction to show. If you aren't attracted, well wouldn't it be great if you could make this person feel beautiful? And isn't this the kind of attention you would want for yourself anyway? What if they have a glimpse of something that you will see again in Miss Perfect? Sometimes I wonder if the smile on her, the sheen of that hair, these piercing eyes, this gait, those eyebrows are actually things I will see again…
For those of you fearing commitment, it can be scary to let your inhibitions go for even a second. But it will give you a risk-free chance to practice, like running a mile to prepare for a marathon. Can you manage to give 100% commitment even for a split-second, without feeling any obligation? You can still duck out later if you get bored. But if you have given all of your heart for even an instant, and you didn't glimpse beauty, you can rest assured you weren't with the Miss Right.
What if you make the wrong impression? What if you act too vulnerable or too interested? What if you "play your hand" too early and you lose the game? Well, here's where you've got to make some choices, gumshoe. If you want to score with someone who's playing hard to get, go read The Game. If you want to win the game of life, find yourself someone who you enjoy staring at for the rest of your life.
Love as presence
We could even define love simply as complete attention in the now. Doing so neatly avoids some of the common pitfalls of love. If you are completely in the moment, there is no fear, as there is no fearful self. There is no obligation or expectation or consequence or commitment or disappointment, because there are no future moments. There is no emotional baggage to contend with, as there is no past. How is this different than your definition of love?
Rumi would tell you, “Your task is not to seek love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
I don't mind
So far, I've distinguished "mind" vs. "heart" and "reason" vs. "intuition" in an oversimplified manner, given what we know about neuroscience. Clearly emotions are felt in the mind as well as heart, and reason and intuition are deeply intertwined. In fact, scientific experiments on awareness, presence and meditation are often called "mindfulness" research. But still, I think you understand when I contrast the "categorizing" and "rational" parts of the mind with a more present, body-based intuitive quality. I'm claiming that we have developed our rational skills plenty, and practicing our intuition will help us actualize into wholer beings. In dating, as in life, perhaps we will get closer to being mindful by trying out the mindless.