Having Your Experience

Having Your Experience can also be known as being present, truly present. I would like to impress upon you the core importance of Having Your Experience in living a good life, relationship repair and rekindling your relationship.

What do I mean by Having Your Experience?

All the time you are in your head you are not in your life.  We perceive our world through our five senses, our body and our mind.  We cannot directly know the world. We cannot directly know our partner.


Take this optical illusion, for example. What you are looking at is not changing and yet the image shifts from two people facing each other to a vase. 

Optical illusion

Your experience of viewing this optical illusion illustrates the influence and power of our minds. 


Being conscious of our direct experience through our senses and body enables us to live spontaneously and in connection with our world and loved ones.  The world in its immediate form is vibrant and sensual and outshines any thoughts we have about it. 


Have you ever had an experience of setting off on a familiar journey and on arrival at your destination realise you have not taken in the experience of getting there?  How much of your time do you spend in automatic? Essentially having your experience is waking up.


Check it out the next time you go out for a walk in nature.  Open your senses to the sights, sounds, smells, taste and touch of your surroundings.   How is it to hear the birdsong and feel the air on your skin?  As you walk can you notice drifting into thinking?  What is this like?  My experience has been that as I enter my thoughts the richness of the world around me disappears.


Our reality is shaped through our beliefs and frames of reference.  We can forget that what we perceive is only our perception and is not THE reality. 


It’s human nature to superimpose your version of reality onto what is happening. We all do this.  Without even knowing we are doing this we make assumptions or jump to conclusions and this is a major cause of relationship ruptures and dangerous dynamics. 

“I misconstrue things: like entering the pottery shed in the yard to discover a snake in one corner. My heart accelerates and I am frozen with fear. Only when my eyes get used to the light do I realise it is a coil of hose.”

Stress, trauma, loss and difficult events activate our nervous system to narrow in on potential danger and pattern match what we see to previous threats. We can habituate to see the world through a fearful or critical mind even when the danger has past.  Our worlds seem bleak and negative. 

Growing the facility to have your experience, opening to what IS in real time can be supportive and instrumental in living more fully.  Wendell Berry’s poem illustrates this.

Having Your Experience is a tool to get closer to what is truly happening and an antidote to replaying old and painful patterns.  We gain psychological flexibility.

Having Your Experience will help you be more self-aware.  Having your experience will help you rewrite the stories that you have acquired, been fed and misled.  Find through your experience the true stories of the present and the past.  Through your experience can you repair relationships and build a better future. 

When despair grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting for their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.


Wendell Berry

Also called mindfulness, having your experience is a skill that takes effort to grow. 


Through the work of Dan Siegal we can visualise a wheel.  The centre of the wheel represents the hub of knowing, a deep knowing that goes beyond judgements, assumptions or opinions. At the centre we are present, open, aware and within a wider consciousness.  Here we find our observing self where we can just be.


Beyond the rim of the wheel is the reality that we can only grasp through our five senses, body, heart, mind and our relational sense.  This sensing is represented by the rim of the wheel and called the knowns.

Practising the Wheel of Awareness meditation strengthens the person’s ability to become more aware and more able to have your experience. 


Check out Dan Siegal’s work by clicking on the image of the Wheel of Awareness.

We can grow the skill of having our experience through applying more consciousness to activities we already do.  Encourage yourself to notice through your five senses the world around you.  Immediately you are strengthening your observing self and creating a closer encounter with the world you are in.  Other activities include physical exercise, yoga, being in water and listening to music.  Enquire about your mental activities and acknowledge to yourself when you notice yourself deep in thought or caught in a cloud of painful feelings.

As a relationship skill you can practice having your experience by taking time and consciously connecting with your partner. 

In the video clip here Thomas Hubl, in conversation with Terry Real, speaks about the difference between relating in real time which requires directly sensing and feeling into what is happening in the moment and a non relating which is working with an out of date version based on what our minds have stored from our past.  He likens this to the difference between data streaming or watching a previously downloaded programme.

The entire talk provides insights into how trauma affects relationships and helpful thoughts about how to work with this to create loving and safe relationships.


Each day take a moment to truly look at your loved one.  Be curious and observe through all your senses.  If you are in a co-operative place hold a kiss or embrace for longer to feel the contact between you and perhaps feel their heart beating.  


Couples counselling provides a facilitated space to drop down into the moment to moment experience and discover both the up to date relating and the many down loaded memories or raw stored relational traumas that get perpetually activated.  All of this is material for understanding, healing and growth so that you can relate more in the present and create the future that you want.


Having your experience seems so fundamental and yet we hardly engage fully.  This skill forms one of my 4 essential relationship skills including listening deeply, speaking your truth and acting ethically.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *