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Intimacy—and What it Really Means

by Dr. Habib Sadeghi

At a certain point along our spiritual path, my wife, Sherry, and I made the decision to become ordained ministers. As word got out, friends and colleagues asked us to perform their wedding ceremonies. We usually perform them together and when we do, one of the spiritual gifts we focus on is intimacy. It’s said that we live, move, and have our being in God, and what is God but unity and wholeness in unconditional love where, spiritually speaking, there is no distinction between one another. True intimacy is the closest we can come in this existence to being in the presence of God. Marriage is the formal commitment to achieving that state of being.

One of the greatest examples of intimacy is the story of renowned architect and philosopher, Buckminster Fuller. The bond between Fuller and his wife, Anne, was strong, so much so that many people commented on how in love they seemed to be. In 1983, after 66 years of marriage, Fuller sat at his wife’s bedside holding her hand with head bowed as she lay dying in a coma. After being left alone for some time with his wife, his children re-entered the room to find Fuller in the same position. Fuller had passed away, and within hours, Anne would join him.

“In 1983, after 66 years of marriage, Fuller sat at his wife’s bedside holding her hand with head bowed as she lay dying in a coma. After being left alone for some time with his wife, his children re-entered the room to find Fuller in the same position.”

The idea that two people, who have loved each other for more than half a century, could transition from this life at the same time (especially when one of them is perfectly healthy), is not a coincidence. There are many of these stories. To me, they are the truest and most beautiful examples of intimacy, where two people really have become one.

Coalescing & Craving

There is a wonderful scientific principle that demonstrates this idea perfectly. It’s called critical proximity. Automaker, Henry Ford, was looking to create a new method to document the measurements for the manufacture of auto parts in a way that was far more precise than anything available in the late 19th century. Swedish machinist, Carl Edvard Johansson, was the hired contractor and created what’s known today as gauge blocks. These ceramic or metal measuring blocks are precision-ground to such a fine degree that there are absolutely no irregularities on their perfectly straight surfaces. Because of this, they can detect length differences as small as one ten-thousandth of an inch. To measure various lengths, the blocks cannot simply be placed one on top of the other. They have to be slid together. When this happens, there is less than one molecule of atmosphere between their ultra-flat, perfectly smooth surfaces! Because of this, it’s impossible to pull them apart. They are two and yet one at the same time. Measurements with gauge blocks need to be made quickly because the atoms within them are now in critical proximity. That means in a very short period of time, they will coalesce into one single piece of metal or ceramic.

“It seemed strange to me that in the enormous lexicon of the English language, the state of being in the kind of relationship we’re all pursuing in this life has no additional adequate descriptors.”

This is intimacy. This is what it means to grind off all our misunderstandings, misidentifications and misinterpretations, and coalesce with God by returning to our essence. If we are to achieve this kind of intimacy in our relationships and have less than a molecule of atmosphere between our spirits, we must be able to achieve that on our own first. You see, intimacy doesn’t require two people. Because God is everywhere and in all things, you can choose to coalesce with God consciousness in many ways. We often lose ourselves in a beautiful walk in nature, during meditation, while dancing, or listening to music. As the ancient poet, Rumi said, it is in these moments that we remove all that is not loving about ourselves and converge with God, which is only love. The spiritual work we do on ourselves is the polish we place on the surface of our souls that will allow us to coalesce back into our loving essence, back into God and into the divinely satisfying intimate relationship with each other that we all crave.

Defining the Indefinable

So why doesn’t this happen more often? Why do these amazing stories about couples like Buckminster Fuller and his wife, Anne, always seem like the exception rather than the rule when it comes to relationships? Perhaps it’s because we’ve never really known how to define the indefinable state of intimacy.

“Relationships fall apart not because of a lack of physical stimulation. A person can get that almost anywhere. It’s the lack of deep connection that causes someone to seek unity elsewhere.”

While writing this article, I was looking through a thesaurus for synonyms for the word intimacy. I found words like understanding, closeness, caring, affection, tenderness, and warmth. We can have friendships with closeness and caring but to me, that’s not intimacy. We often show affection, tenderness, and warmth to our pets, but that’s not intimacy either. It seemed strange to me that in the enormous lexicon of the English language, the state of being in the kind of relationship we’re all pursuing in this life has no additional adequate descriptors. Perhaps this lack of defining terms and misunderstanding explains why so many relationships fail. It may also be the reason why we go from partner to partner searching for the ineffable essence that we can’t quite describe or identify, but know intuitively is essential to our being.

Intimacy as Consciousness

Intimacy is an almost ethereal concept like God. While we can’t say specifically what it is, we know it’s real when we feel it. That’s because like God, intimacy resides within us and isn’t something we get from another person, but a state of consciousness we choose to inhabit.

“Intimacy isn’t the ability to express emotion. Many relationships have lots of emotion flying around, and we call it drama. Real intimacy is grounded in oneness, a merging of two entities into one.”

God consciousness is a term that’s used quite a bit in spiritual circles. But what does it really mean? To me, it’s living from the understanding that God resides in everyone and everything. Science has clearly shown that everything in existence, from you to a supernova 100 light years away is made of exactly the same thing: Energy. It is God that directs this energy into becoming a planet or a person. God consciousness is recognizing, living within, and operating from the perspective that we are all one. I mean that literally. You are an individualization of God energy expressing itself as you through your life to grow and learn from experiences as you create them. The same goes for me and everyone who has ever lived or will live. When we realize that our names are just temporary masks that we wear and our life stories are just scripts that we’re writing and playing out for a short 80-90 years, we can detach from the world of duality (me/you, us/them) and live in a state of unity where all there is, is I. There’s a simple Sanskrit mantra called So Hum. It means So (I am) Hum (that). It’s a reminder that you are everything and everyone you see. This gives real and literal meaning to the phrase, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Choose your words and actions wisely because the only recipient of your deeds is you.

Intimacy Errors

Defining and experiencing real intimacy begins with understanding God consciousness. Without this realization, the best we can achieve in a relationship is the temporary satiation of our physical needs and emotional deficiencies. Far too many people think intimacy is sexual intimacy. Yes, deep levels of intimacy can be achieved during sex, but the act itself is completely unnecessary to experiencing intimacy. Elderly couples who haven’t had sex in years often experience a level of intimacy that is completely foreign to couples decades younger. Likewise, there is a lot of meaningless sex going on in the world with zero spiritual substance underneath. The idea that sex = intimacy comes from the assumption that sexual intercourse is the closest we can ever get to another human being or the closest two human beings can ever come to merging into one entity. While this may be true from a physical standpoint, the body isn’t who we are. If the consciousness of the participants isn’t merging at the same time, then all you’re left with is physical stimulation and not divine unification. Relationships fall apart not because of a lack of physical stimulation. A person can get that almost anywhere. It’s the lack of deep connection that causes someone to seek unity elsewhere.

“When we can put ourselves in the place of someone else and feel what they are going through as if it were our own experience, our spirits are merging in a deeply intimate way. We are residing in God consciousness and living in oneness. That is intimacy.”

We also make the mistake of assuming intimacy is emotion. Lots of women complain that their husband or boyfriend isn’t emotionally available. Intimacy isn’t the ability to express emotion. Many relationships have lots of emotion flying around, and we call it drama. Real intimacy is grounded in oneness, a merging of two entities into one. That requires putting away the ego and the false identification with separateness. Because of this, intimacy requires empathy, not emotion. When we can put ourselves in the place of someone else and feel what they are going through as if it were our own experience, our spirits are merging in a deeply intimate way. We are residing in God consciousness and living in oneness. That is intimacy.

People who have near-death experiences often describe their intense feelings of intimacy and an almost uncontrollable desire to merge with the light that’s drawing them forward. As spiritual beings having a temporary human experience, we unconsciously seek the same kind of connection in our relationships. Our ravenous spiritual hunger drives us to merge with God, our source, through uniting with the God essence in each other. That’s what we’re really yearning for, the undeniable realization that we have come home in the presence of a spirit that understands us completely and loves us unconditionally because we are a part of and yet, all of it at the same time.

Two Become One

Most of us have heard the phrase two becoming one so many times that it either passes through our minds completely unnoticed or we view it as an unattainable cliché. The truth is, if any long-term relationship is to survive and thrive, real intimacy attained by becoming one is the next step. It’s essential to human evolution and the real reason people couple off. It’s not to have children. The entire animal kingdom procreates just fine and with a few rare exceptions, does not practice monogamy. Human beings are drawn together in pairs and seek lifetime unions because we have a higher mandate, to expand God consciousness on earth through spiritual union and intimacy.

“A drop of sea water returned back into the ocean immediately recognizes itself as part of the whole and merges joyfully and completely. A drop of oil that is entirely different in the make up of its consciousness remains separate on the surface and never assimilates for a deeper experience. Both parties in a relationship must recognize themselves within the other in order for intimacy to be achieved.”

Intimacy requires each person to relinquish the ego and merge into something greater than themselves. The ego can falsely perceive this as a death and so fight vehemently to maintain its separateness. It takes great courage to be vulnerable and let go. Unfortunately in most cases, one partner and sometimes both aren’t willing or able to make this transition. A drop of sea water returned back into the ocean immediately recognizes itself as part of the whole and merges joyfully and completely. A drop of oil that is entirely different in the make up of its consciousness remains separate on the surface and never assimilates for a deeper experience. Both parties in a relationship must recognize themselves within the other in order for intimacy to be achieved.

For those struggling with intimacy issues, the best thing to do is to cultivate God consciousness through meditation or any activity that requires letting go, releasing the self, and surrendering into a force greater than themselves. To commune with another in the presence of God, as is the case in intimacy, we must be able to create our own intimate relationship with God first. Then, we will be able to commune with God as it exists in others and no longer need to define the indefinable because we will have experienced it for ourselves.

—For more inspirational insights from Dr. Sadeghi, sign up for his monthly newsletter, or receive his annual health and wellbeing journal, MegaZEN. For daily messages of encouragement, follow him on Twitter.

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