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The Pleasure Principle

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The Biological Basis of Relational Presence

By Lee Glickstein

Many perspectives are available on the alchemy of Relational Presence from the realms of creativity, philosophy, and science.

     I believe that every human mind presents a unique landscape, an essentially foreign universe to every other mind. (To survive and fit in we've learned to act a lot more alike than we are.) From this perspective, one may choose to see every other being as a creative masterpiece--albeit often with some pieces unassembled.
     Seeing every person we meet as in the process of coming into creative wholeness would alone make life much more gratifying. For one who does not cultivate this perspective, peace in the company of others is difficult to achieve, and impossible when addressing a group of others.
     In providing a safe container for individuals to experience each other as a work of art, Relational Presence practice heightens our capacity to effortlessly listen to and speak with others from our own creativity.

     In his landmark book I and Thou (1923) philosopher Martin Buber wrote that our relationship doesn't live in me or in you, or even in the dialog between the two of us. Rather, it lives in the space between us.
     If we do not know this sacred space or do not take responsibility for it, we will unconsciously pollute it, whether with a word, a look, a reaction, a withdrawal, or a judgment. This makes the space uncomfortable, and we react to the discomfort in ways that make the space more uncomfortable, until soon the space becomes dangerous.
     According to Buber, we "cross the bridge" into that space by breathing deep with our feet on the ground and "listening with our eyes" as if learning a new language describing the landscape of another world.
     This is a perfectly apt description of Relational Presence practice!

     Giving scientific credence to Buber's ideas is the new field of Relational Neurobiology that refers to the resonance between two minds as "the brain bridge." When two limbic systems resonate together, both central nervous systems calm down.
     The brain is the only organ inside us that doesn't regulate from within. It regulates through another brain; we need each other's eyes for self-definition. "Mirror neurons" in the brain become very alive during relational encounters and form new neural pathways that give us the capacity to become more relationally intelligent. The brain has enormous plasticity, constantly capable of new experience at any age.
     The meeting of two human presences beyond personality is the quintessential human experience, and now even science knows that only in being with each other is our essence revealed.


May you find the time to intentionally cultivate Relational Presence for nourishing relationships both professionally and personally!

© 2011, Lee Glickstein. All rights reserved.



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