A Day of Togetherness – Intimacy Isn’t Just for Couples

A Day of Togetherness – Intimacy Isn’t Just for Couples
Ann Liu

There’s been this assumption amongst many, when they hear the word “intimacy”, most think “sex”. But that’s not really what it is. I’ve been searching for the meaning of this for some time. I didn’t realize I was until I became aware of the word… which either is trending right now because of the world’s need for it, or maybe I’m just waking up to the concept because I’ve come of age where intimacy is an actual “thing”. Connection and intimacy to me, are intertwined with the idea of being present with each other. Going deep. Feeling physical and emotional affection, acknowledgment, an “unconditional love,” truly seeing someone for who they are, constantly discovering the truth of who we are to each other. Vulnerability expressed while strengthening the muscle to share just a little bit more, go a little bit deeper.

I’ve been on this adventure in the past year, traveling the world.  As of today I’ve almost gone completely around the planet 360 degrees. In the past 3 months I’ve hopped from San Francisco, to London, and through Asia. A couple months back in London, Dazz and I planned to go  – together to Togetherness, a day-long mini-festival of human connection.

We were going to experience it for ourselves, as partners, but also as researchers, to discover perhaps the next expert to participate in our Pillow Episodes, or discover more about ourselves. On this day, in his own way, Dazz felt a desire to be intimate with himself, and chose to go inwards instead of out, to London’s Shoreditch district, where the event was held. I was having to make a choice to go play it safe, or put myself out there, in the open to this event. I’ve been hesitant to play these workshops, afraid to share too much of the madness I’ve gone through in understanding how to relate, connect, open up. I’ve often felt the need to protect myself, afraid of getting hurt lately… so this was a challenge. There was a time when attending some of these events or workshops were challenging but not scary for me. This time, I was feeling awkward, introverted… quiet. But, I also felt independent knowing I could come and go as I pleased. I could, chose who to talk to or not talk to if I really wanted.

Shoreditch from what I’ve heard is filled with a growing tech community comparable to Silicon Valley or in my former life, the Mission or SOMA district of San Francisco – home of so many of the start-ups that the rest of the world refer to, connect to, and use on their smartphones every single day. Even for a place like San Francisco, one of the most open and liberal communities in the world, with a crazy combo of tech, mindfulness and startup culture, we still tend to look down. We look down into our screens, or we stare down into our laptops, to work – to compress ourselves with unconscious doing and hurrying. The need to connect and become intimate again (get to know ourselves deeper) started a movement of connection retreats and workshops all over the world. Some areas of the world much more concentrated with such intentions. Some areas of the world more explicitly promoting it as intimacy. Places like San Francisco and London, and many more, have these popping up more frequently in response to the detriments of tech. I’ve been in London for about 2 weeks now, already feeling the isolating effects of the city culture here. The strangely familiar gray climate I experienced in SF sticks to me like fog clinging to the rolling hills of the Bay Area. Some lucky days it burns off and I stand in the sun like I’ve been starving for light.

On the morning of, we both opted to do things separately for the Day of Togetherness. I went. He didn’t. Looking back I’m grateful we did this way, sometimes a conscious separation strengthens the conscious connection. Done with awareness, allowing that choice to happen for the love we have for ourselves, it allows space for the love to grow for the other simultaneously. I couldn’t help but feel closer to him during the day I spent connecting with myself deeper, learning about my ability to navigate other “relationships” during the workshops. Connecting with oneself, feeling togetherness with oneself, is a powerful thing you can do for your relationship with others. I stubbornly learn this and it takes some time to integrate this idea.

Already feeling alone on the journey, disconnected from my “date” for the workshop, I walked into the cold gray day and clung onto my coat. I was already feeling closed up as I crossed my arms in defense against the weather. Pulling open my phone and walking with my eyes down at the screen and earpods in to tune out anything that brought presence to my surroundings, I walked blindly, following my phone as I navigated to the bus stop. I get on and I find a seat, alone. Not next to anyone. By myself, as I looked down the bus aisles, everyone was sitting alone and on their headphones… or on their phones.  So I joined the collective isolation. Hopped off the red bus and started to walk briskly to Kachette in Shoreditch. I walked past startups, past WeWork (amused… another WeWork).. I held my breath and sighed in a bit of reluctance to go into the venue, and looked around. Cacao chocolates sold at one table, massage chairs in the center, a tea corner, an area for mingling. I panicked. I don’t want to fucking mingle! I walked past the main area, and into the main room for the opening welcome by Adam Wilder, the founder and CEO of Togetherness.

Adam Wilder, Founder of Togetherness.
Image by Togetherness

We started with connection activities, games, or exercises… whatever you want to call it, they were there. At Togetherness, it was called an Activation Kickoff. I’ve been in these before, and I knew what was coming. The first of them was a gentle warm up. We all walked around the room like fish in a fishbowl, just making eye contact. This brought attention to the fact that the world today, all over the world, look down, or look away, purposely avoiding eye contact, or in a trance with their phone. I myself find myself a culprit of the same crime. It’s time for people to look up and see each other.

The activity proceeded on to different upgrades from eye contact, to “hello,” to hand shaking, to two-hands shaking.  Next up sweet air kisses with everyone, hands holding in pairs, to trios, to a set of two couples. We stopped our game with groups of four, holding hands. Sweaty palms, staring vulnerably awkward and at each other, giggling with nervous energy. Adam gave us the go-ahead… that we’ve found our tribe. As we stared at each other and smiled, I knew, yes – I’ve found my tribe. Shortly thereafter we sat down in tight circles, knees overlapping knees, on the concrete floor of the Kachette in London. We’re then prompted to share openly why we were there, and what reservations we have (what we might be fearing). Everyone openly shared they were there because they feel the need to connect, understand how to be more present with themselves and with others. How to tap into that part of their lives. Yes, we all nodded in unison for each sharing. Yes, we felt the same. Fearing vulnerability, wanting to stay within and not share. Yes- we all nodded in unison. Yes, we felt the same. How fascinating and not surprising that we are here to go deeper with our selves? When from the marketing and the promotions, you would assume it was a day of workshops with couples, or seeking coupling. But in reality, we all wanted to get closer to ourselves.

Activation Kickoff at Togetherness. Image by Togetherness

The next workshop I beelined to Authentic Relating, described as seeing, connecting and appreciating others and oneself at a deeper level. In this session we went beyond the small talk, we asked real questions. As the event guide described, to share “this is who I am right now”. Within an hour and a half, I discovered more truth from 6 people than I have with the people I see on a daily basis. I shared more of who I was than I have with some of my family members. And, from it I got closer deeper, faster. The feeling of aloneness dissipated. We were together on this. I cried tears of gratitude as my circle shared one by one what they see in me. To be seen, what a rush of love.

So many other experiences in different formats followed this session… from one workshop to another…. Through the body, through dance, through screaming, through a simple sentence… intimacy came alive.

I walked out of the event and back into the cold, warmer, brighter, eager to go home to reconnect with Dazz, not because I needed to or was starving for it. I wanted to rush back because I was topped up with love and overflowing with inspiration for how to be a better me, and how to further Pillow’s vision.

The reality of all this though, these events: retreats and workshops, 1 on 1 sessions, can be a lot of money. All the resources taken to get there, including the emotional piece of perhaps wanting a gentle introduction, can feel like a lot. For the rest of the world, there are those who have a tougher time accessing it. Perhaps in many cases, they need this education and experience the most. Human connection is a luxury but it shouldn’t be. I feel blessed, I feel honored to have such access. It is a privilege but it should be a right.

So this is my “Why”. Well, it’s one of them. I believe Pillow can give more of this feeling of connection, and togetherness to the rest of the world, where some of these beautiful experts and event organizers can’t reach out to because they themselves don’t have all the resources to touch them. And so we are here to bridge these islands. This platform is a way to not only support our beautiful couples, but also support the powerful teachers and experts who deserve to have their work reach the rest of the world.

I am grateful I am a part of Pillow, it’s blessed me in many ways that I cannot even describe because I have yet to see them inside me. I am grateful for the teachers and founders of such events like Adam and Togetherness, because I believe in this new movement to acknowledge that we all have such a powerful love within ourselves. So far it’s helped me exponentially become a better human just in the process of exploring ways to improve Pillow, and therefore help me better open myself to others and most importantly to myself.

For more events on human connection, check out Togetherness the next time you’re in London.