The Pleasure Principle
[Note: This article was written a year before the September 2013 article "Relational Stillness: Somatic Way in to Relational Presence," and used the term "relational stillness" in a slightly different context.]
Relational Stillness: Key to Olympian Excellence
By Lee Glickstein
Dr. Ruben Perczek coaches individuals and teams willing to break new ground and redefine the cutting edge in their field. He has been working with Brittany Viola, an athlete on the U.S. diving team at the 2012 London Olympics.
Qualifying for the team required Brittany's personal best, the key to which, Ruben told me, was her capacity to stand in pure stillness on the platform in the moment of truth, "and let the dive come through her."
As a keynote speaker, Ruben has refined a capacity for Relational Presence that allows him to stand on the platform in stillness and allow the talk to flow through him.
Ruben uses the word "stillness" to point to a state beyond personality from where optimal creative flow arises naturally, akin to being "in the zone."
Now, while inner stillness may be commonly thought of as a state of empty mind, nothing happening, it may alternatively be seen as a state of dynamism where everything is happening.
Just as scientists are telling us that so-called "empty space" is "a boiling, bubbling brew of virtual particles popping in and out of existence" (from A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing, by Lawrence M. Krauss), inner stillness can be seen as abuzz with vital energy, from where anything can pop into existence. To get to that state before a leap, or in the moments of truth before and during a talk, we need not empty our mind but rather allow it to buzz like it does, without identifying with or entertaining the content.
To avoid confusion, I am referring to this scintillating state as relational stillness since it is marked by equanimous relationship with all there is. This is clearly germane to public speaking where we ideally invite our listeners into a shared stillness where we all can breathe, listen, and learn in pleasure.
To see how relational stillness applies to the calm before the storm of an athletic performance, let's go back to our Olympic diver. In this 4-minute excerpt from my audio album, Your Million Dollar Voice, you'll hear Cheryl Haley reflect on "the unitive state" and performance, then Ruben takes us onto the diving platform with Brittany, and then Cheryl follows up.
Whether you call it the unitive state, relational stillness, or something else, the frame of mind (or mindlessness or mindfulness) it points to is the foundation of Relational Presence practice, and more recently, Relational Voice training.
Relational Stillness and Speaking Anxiety
The most common issue for people who find their way to Speaking Circles around the world is some degree of anxiety in front of groups. When the Facilitator guides them towards Relational Presence--being only and always with one person at a time as the highest priority without even having to speak--they often assume that to do this they first need to calm the anxiety and "get out of their head."
But the idea is to fully experience the anxiety and the headiness while remaining present to another human. When participants first get the knack for this, they say things like "I'm still anxious but I'm also calm at the same time. How weird is that?" This co-existence of the two seeming opposites is actually the dawning of relational stillness, where everything is happening and nothing is devalued or rejected. After that seminal experience, anxiety can come and go without effecting performance.
In our extended interview, Ruben told me that most high performing athletes experience a lot of fear. But it's the full experience of the fear, rather than its repression, that allows them to excel.
© Copyright 2012, Lee Glickstein. All rights reserved.