Dear Neil: Would you discuss the question of spiritual intimacy. What is it? How do you attain it? Why don’t more people have it? We are two friends with a bet. One of us says that, although rare, it’s attainable. The other says it doesn’t exist. Your answer will decide who buys dinner.
Dear Questioning: Intimacy is about sharing the deepest aspect of ourselves with others: our innermost thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, fears, pains. For me to be intimate is for me to share my innermost self with you. I treat you as if I can trust you with what is most valued and important in my life, and it provides you with knowledge and information about my deepest vulnerabilities and sensitivities.
To share myself this way is indeed spiritual. It occurs whenever I treat you as sacred, or whenever I trust you with something that’s sacred to me. If you respond in kind, we gain a sense of communion with each other, a deep emotional or spiritual joining, a linkage of souls. Most of us long for such communion, for the trust, connection and closeness the linking our souls together gives us the opportunity to experience.
So what stops us from having this intimate communion more often? Mostly it’s because we are afraid. Afraid of being rejected, found inadequate, undesirable, lacking. That makes us afraid to love, afraid to give ourselves whole-heartedly, afraid of feeling too exposed and vulnerable, afraid of being hurt and rejected, afraid of being judged inadequate and lacking.
Another way we block intimate communion relates to believing we’re not worthy of being loved and cared about. That, in essence, I’m unlovable. That you can do better with someone else.
Such blocks lead people to become loners, or to get very judgmental or controlling, or to get way too absorbed in their work, or to erect walls or put obstacles in the way of us being close and connected, or to get involved in shallow relationships where we search for fun and companionship, but avoid the deeper emotions. But ultimately, avoiding a deeper intimacy leads us to miss the feeling that we belong to something greater than ourselves. Thus we may care about, like and enjoy each other, but we won’t feel a spiritual connection between us.
If you wish spiritual intimacy, you might try reflecting on the following questions, discussed by Ron Potter-Efron in “Being, Becoming, Doing” (New Harbinger): When do you sense sacredness in others? What about others fills you with curiosity, wonder and awe? How are you most deeply disconnected from others, especially those close to you? When and how do you let yourself feel most deeply connected with your intimate partner? What do you do in order to create a greater sense of belonging, connection and communion? What else could you do?
Most of us are capable of these deeper intimate experiences—and this is how people do it who eventually become soul mates with each other. It’s a choice, and all serious couples would do well to ask themselves how often they’re making this choice.