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Authentic Relating: Revealing your truth on the first date with Ryel Kestano


The promise of online social platforms was access to an infinite pool of new friends and possible mates.  However, rather than making the search for love easier, the apps have trained our brains to select connections  based on the shallowest metrics. For anyone with a heartfelt desire to find love the daily grind of swiping left and right can feel soul destroying. Authenticity and real intimacy requires letting go of our curated online personas and masks to reveal the truth of our inner experience at every stage of relationship.

In this episode of Awake In Relationship I speak to the cofounder and lead coach of Authentic Relating Training International Ryel Kestano about using the tools and practice of Authentic Relating in the murky realms of dating. We also discuss the role of curiosity and following the thread of aliveness in conversations to quickly build trust and connection on the first date. 

Show Notes

If you enjoyed this episode on Authentic Relating you might also enjoy episode 032 Ditch the dating apps: Finding love in the real world with Camille Virginia


Episode Transcripts


intro  0:09
You’re listening to Awake In Relationship, a podcast about intimacy, community and culture in a time of great change with Silas Rose.
Silas Rose  0:39
Greetings and welcome. My name is Silas Rose and you are tuned into Awake In  Relationship. It is the first day of spring and it really feels like love is in the air. It’s been a tough winter and a tough couple years for many people  finally, as COVID restrictions dropping everywhere, there’s a possibility of maybe, just maybe we can let our guard down a bit. And being to open to connection again, The pandemic response really has created what I might call a love deficit. So much of our needs for connection have gone online. I think this has been helpful for maintaining existing relationships, but not particularly great for forming new ones. This is especially true when it comes to dating. For anyone with a heartfelt desire to find a lover or a long term partner, the daily grind of swiping left or right on the dating apps really feel soul sucking. Rather than make the process easier, the apps have trained our brains to sellect love interests based on the most shallow of metrics. There’s also something quite agregious about an algorithm being the gatekeeper to love. As many of us have spent the last two years essentially in our own little bubbles, the whole process of how we create connection can seem somewhat mystifying, which is why I invite my next guest Ryel Kestano, onto the show. Ryel is the co founder and a coach at Authentic Relating Training International. In this conversation Ryel and I talk about using the tools of authentic relating to let go of our curated online personas and masks to get to a deeper intimacy and connection with others.  This happens by tracking and revealing our inner truth in relationship, even with complete strangers. We also discussed the role of curiosity and falling the thread of aliveness and conversation as a roadmap to building trust and connection and even resolving conflict. If you’re seeking more intimacy, and agency in your social and dating world this episode for you.
Ryel welcome to Awake In Relationship.
Ryel Kestano  2:49
Thank you.
Silas Rose  2:50
Yeah, so I’m a recent convert to Authentic Relating practice. There’s a group here in Victoria, that’s been meeting, and it just seems like kind of the perfect medicine for our time, after two years of social distancing, and various lock downs,. It fills a void. How did you first connect with this practice?
Ryel Kestano  3:12
I was a student when I first encountered it, I was, you know, pretty much asleep at the wheel, as far as any capacity for emotional intelligence or connection with my embodied experience for most of my life, and then started to be confronted with some challenges in my marriage at the time. That sort of pulled the rug out from under my feet, and was the catalyst for me to really start to explore why I was feeling, how I was feeling, why I was reacting the way I was the beliefs and stories that were coming up in response to those circumstances. So that’s what launched me into this world of personal development and spiritual seeking that I had no experience with at all prior to them. And I just tried everything that occurred as useful and valuable recommendations that people sent my way. I worked with a number of therapists, teachers modalities, went on retreat, sacred medicine, ceremonies, everything that I could get my hands on. And in the midst of that, surveying the personal development landscape, I was invited to a circling slash authentic relating introductory weekend at the universe center in Boulder. And I would say it’s nearly instantly, I felt something really impactful and deep and profound. I would describe it as the experience of feeling completely welcome in all parts of me into the space not only welcome but worthy of other people’s curiosity of me and of the parts of me, and I’d never felt that before in a space He was really healing in some way. And I vowed and in that moment to study everything I could about this practice. And so that that’s what launched me into deep study that I’ve been on ever since I would say
Silas Rose  5:16
how long has it been,  10 years or more?
Ryel Kestano  5:19
That was in 2013. That was my initial experience with it.
Silas Rose  5:27
What problems do you think authentic relating solves right now?
Ryel Kestano  5:31
Disconnection, isolation, all the psychological ramifications of disconnection and isolation, anxiety, depression, suicide, suicidal ideation, imprisonment, I mean, we, you know, started a nonprofit, to bring this work into prisons and jails, and to support the inmate population in developing the skills to cultivate healthy relationship. And we’ve now proven directly how authentic relating prevents recidivism among that population, because of how it empowers people to create and participate in these qualities, this quality of relationship. So I think, and because it’s so grounded in the relational space, it really promotes people to come into connection and community, and to participate in those meaningfully and with their whole selves. And to unlock the vast depths of nourishment that live in conscious relationships and community. And I’ll just add to I think, also, it speaks, I think it offers the most effective framework for conflict and conflict resolution, from, you know, a married couple all the way I believe, to, you know, governments and at the largest and highest scale we can think of, I think it really promotes a kind of dialogue that leads to people feeling seen and heard, and leads to the exploration of a synthesis of people’s different values and perspectives into, you know, common solution that can hold everyone,
Silas Rose  7:08
You’re really involved in this sort of training element of authentic relating,
Ryel Kestano  7:19
Yes, I mean, the very beginning seed and vision was to make authentic relating as available and accessible and easily adaptable, and applied to the mainstream audience as possible. And that really had never been done before, it was always kind of constrained to more of the personal development communities, and communities that you know, are attuned to the workshop world. So we really wanted to reconstruct it in a way that could resonate with an appeal to your neighbor, your boss, your co worker, your your parents, you know, people who would never otherwise would participate in a transformational workshop that’s really, really geared toward. And you know, that that’s what we’ve leveraged in bringing this work around the world to 1000s of people and every culture and country and, you know, value system you can imagine. And then as I said, you know, early on, I set up a co founded a nonprofit to bring this work to inmates, then we have our work, corporate division, where we bring this work into companies, and organizations really support them in transforming the workplace culture, to one that really values the whole human being.
Silas Rose  8:31
So when I’ve gone to these gatherings, you know, they’re very fun, it starts off usually pretty light with some sort of game. But it can very quickly progress towards, I won’t call it serious, but more intimate. When you get into dyad the questions become more meaningful. It really seems like there’s kind of elements of other forms of group process work here. Is authentic relating a kind of a therapy?
Ryel Kestano  8:58
Well, I mean, we’re not explicitly or overtly trying to conduct any kind of therapy or, or group therapy and they were distinctly not therapists are trained as therapists. It certainly can be that in being in the practice and relating with these skills and tools, that there is a therapeutic component to the experience that arises naturally from the application of the of the tools and skills, but I’m careful to not veer into a context in which people expect or or are inside of a space in which, you know, therapy might be being, you know, applied because I, you know, I want to make sure that that’s the domain of trained professionals. But for sure, there’s no question I think, I mean, why do we go to therapists it’s to be deeply listened to to really receive unconditional attention to be with someone who gonna notice and pay attention to how we’re showing up to identify the patterns that we manifest in our subconscious. All of these things are embedded in the authentic relational space, the listening, the curiosity, the reflection, the ability to see the deeper layers to illuminate our subconscious. So, you know, there’s a lot of overlap there, in which there can be a therapeutic experience.
Silas Rose  10:30
So you’re essentially applying the principles of authentic relating to dating. And you actually have a course coming up called authentic dating. How is it different?
Ryel Kestano  10:42
It’s called The ART of Authentic Dating. Yeah, I mean, there’s no question that there’s an enormous overlap and, you know, just training to be a conscious human being and to participate in conscious relationships, and then how you show up in the dating world, I mean, a date is essentially a precursor to potential relationship. And so how you show up in the date, you know, is indicative of how you’ll show up in a relationship. And so to the degree that you have any value for being a whole human being in a relationship, to bring all of you to the relationship, to showing up fully, you know, conducting yourself with integrity and honesty, to being a trustable person will, if that’s the case, in how you view relationships, and all of those should also be, you know, alive and, and practiced and applied in the dating space as well. So while people are coming to the dating course here, to learn how to apply the skills and tools of authentic relating in a dating context, they’re also learning how to be conscious human beings in the world. You know, so I’m not saying like, Oh, you know, how you show up in the dating world, is a is compartmentalize from how you show up anywhere else, right, it’s like you are the common denominator. And so if you’re showing up as the whole human being that you are, you know, everywhere will, then you’ll show up like that in the dating world. So the dating course really is, is is about that. But it’s also specifically addressing a lot of the, you know, fears, anxieties, issues, challenges, obstacles that often arise in the dating space. But what I think is so unique and exciting about the context of dating is that there’s already a value for exploring intimacy with this person, right. It’s not just some random person you met at a party, or sitting next to on the bus. It’s like, we’re coming in to explore if there is an aliveness and how we connect intimately. And so you know, given that that’s already part of the energetic landscape, you know, it, it’s so conducive to being in the practice of authentic relating, because authentic relating itself, is a practice of exploring and cultivating intimacy with other people. And so, you know, one of the things that I, you know, teach people at the dating course, is to not be so concerned or fixated on the future outcome of this time together, to just let that go and be dissolved and really land here in the present moment. Here’s a unique container for you to be with another person in the exploration of intimacy. Where is it that you can do your part so that you and the other person leave that space, feeling nourished and seen and uplifted no matter what happens? Whether you see this person, again, or you never see them again, there’s still this, you know, rich opportunity, precious opportunity to drop in with another human being, and be nourished by that connection.
Silas Rose  13:57
Most people listening to this podcast, like myself, and you probably grew up in a materialistic society where a mask is very much encouraged or even required. And so when it comes to the whole dating realm, the grandmothers wisdom around ‘just be yourself’, just doesn’t really seem to kind of work in the digital age, what are your thoughts on that?.
Ryel Kestano  14:21
I think that there’s an asterix to ‘just being yourself’ that, you know, I think people might misinterpret that as meaning like, well, you know, I can’t I have to just reveal my most vulnerable self. You know, I have to do all this work on my own to figure out who I even am. You know, so I would say that it’s if you being yourself is in fact, constructing some version or facade of yourself or if you are, in any way, enacting a strategy to get some shadow needs met. Well, that is also being yourself and that is all worthy of being revealed and named and shared and offered. I mean, I’ve often said, you know, I notice I’m feeling insecure right now, and I’m trying to control how you perceive me. You know, that is totally being myself, you know, if I really take that mantra, at its spirit at it sort of spiritual suggestion. So I do think it’s sound advice, I just think that, you know, it’s useful to frame it in a way that has this really welcome all the parts of ourselves, you know, including, and especially the parts of ourselves that in any way are trying to manage how we are being perceived by other people. It’s so relieving, I think, in the connective space to name that, and reveal that, to the degree that it’s happening. So
Silas Rose  15:48
Central to the practice is really developing that kind of vulnerability, and you specify kind of three main practices, or ways of being,
Ryel Kestano  15:58
You know, I would say, often people are bringing all kinds of, you know, for one of a better word baggage into a dating space, what’s this person gonna think of me? Or they’re gonna like me, or they’re gonna judge me, I think to be attracted to me. You know, where is it that I’m, you know, using this relationship to get some need met, maybe I’m just craving physical contact, I don’t even really care about having a relationship. So to be really rigorously honest with oneself, what is the why that is fueling the the desire impulse to be to go out on a date, or be in the dating world? Getting really clear about that beforehand. So you know, we spent a lot of time emphasizing, cultivating a relationship and connection with self, so that I know myself well and deeply enough to know, what are my motivations and intentions by interacting with someone? And so, you know, I would say, one is getting really clear about that prior, like, what is my why for participating in the state, or in the dating world, and then being really honest and transparent about that, you know, coming into date, and not trying to, you know, manipulate the direction of the date in some particular direction, but to be really transparent and open and clear. Yeah, you know, I’m here, because I’m looking for a long term partnership with someone, or I’m here, because I’m just going to casually exploring this space, I’m not ready to commit anything yet. So establishing the motivation and the why up front with oneself, and then with the other person, I think creates a kind of orientation to the space that relaxes and relieves and supports people and being their authentic selves. You know, to the degree that someone is coming into a day with something to prove, you know, I need to prove myself to be worthy enough of this person’s attention or attraction, that can manifest as a kind of sort of overemphasis on self reference, like, I’m just making it about me. So I would say, dissolve that and really pay attention and listen to the other person. You know, almost making that attention, a meditative practice like this, the object of my meditation is this other person and the relational space that I’m sharing with them. So really tune in, and I don’t mean just listening to what this person is saying. But watching them, how are they? What are you noticing about how they are? What’s their energy? What’s their, their posture? Do they seem relaxed? Do they seem tense, that they seem nervous, you know, paying attention to these cues? And and then being able to speak to them? Hey, you know, I noticed you were started to speak quickly. I’m curious if that might mean, you’re nervous in any way. You know, so I think paying attention and really listening also means that I’m having to set aside any script that I might have loaded up in my mind, you know, and it may mean that I come to you know, the other person stops sharing, and I nothing pre loaded to say, and maybe that means it’s awkward, beautiful, let it be awkward. That’s, that’s a commitment to the present moment, without just playing out some script that, you know, usually it’s quite lifeless, and flat, to let that go. And really just surrender to the unknown present moment. That the listening can infuse, and allowing yourself to go on this ride into uncharted territory. So that quality of listening, and then genuine curiosity. I don’t mean curiosity, like going through the motions, you know, where do you work and what did you do last weekend? Or do you like to go on holiday? Now those are fine if they’re coming from a really genuinely curious place. But to actually tap into what am I really curious about seeing where it is that my curiosity can sort of deconstruct this notion of what’s appropriate and appropriate, what’s acceptable, not acceptable, what’s potentially offensive or safe? And really trusting the spark of that genuine curiosity? You know, it’s like I can say, I feel nervous to ask you this. Because I, I’m afraid it might offend you, or have you feeling uncomfortable? And yet I noticed like how alive the curiosity is in me, how might that be for you? And there’s just even that alone is so enlivening, and novel and off script. And almost always, when I’ve posed that question, the other person is like excited. Yeah. Like, what is it? And then I have permission in some way of buy in and consent to bring these more edgy lines or threads of curiosity. So we have this sort of mantra and the practice, which is follow the aliveness. Follow the aliveness almost at any expense. Like where does this relational aliveness want to lead us? Right, and, and letting it carry us on a journey? So especially on a day, yeah, follow the aliveness wherever it may lead you.
Silas Rose  21:10
So revealing your experience, in the moment, it’s very much the practice. And as you’re saying that it just occurs to me, that probably men have a harder time adopting this kind of view? Because as men we often want to have a goal.
Ryel Kestano  21:28
Yeah, generally speaking, you know, women are, I think, more oriented to community to connection to the relational space, to revealing to being vulnerable, you know, somewhere in the sort of male masculine lineage is this sort of value for stoicism and just, you know, suck it up and be a man, which somehow means suppress your emotional experience?  I don’t think in any way, men are having a less rich, or less complex or less fascinating emotional experience than than women are. I think, yeah, in some cases, we are subjected to this cultural indoctrination, that to be emotionally vulnerable, is somehow to be weak. And, you know, I don’t think that’s the case at all, I think it’s the opposite to be courageous enough to invite someone into my relation and into my emotional, internal world, I think is, is very notable and worthy of respect and appreciation.
Silas Rose  22:39
How is revealing your inner experience different from saying radical honesty, which sometimes can come off sort of rude or improper?  I’m thinking of, you know, Kramer from Seinfeld?
Ryel Kestano  22:54
Well, so that’s why it’s called authentic relating. It’s not just called authentic, right, the practice is not going around and blasting my true authentic experience at people. And then moving on, the releasing part is such a critical and essential and vital aspect of this practice. And it has to be mated to authentic expression. So where is where I say, you know, I’m feeling angry at you. You know, I’m upset at you. Yeah, well, that’s the authentic part that’s being revealed. But then the relating part is, how does that land for you? What’s it like for you to hear what’s happening for you? What’s going on over there, this is the critical piece that links my experience to your experience, and us being in a collaborative relational space. And when there is this value for the relational part of it, then I get to say, we both get to say, you know, I can’t stand you, I’m so upset of you, I’m angry at you. And whatever it is, because it’s being offered into the relational space, where we’re constantly checking for impact, and collaborating on exploring and, you know, kind of diving into and excavating the, the sort of psychic space that we’re both experiencing.
Silas Rose  24:22
Earlier on, you’re mentioning how these tools can be applied to conflict, and certainly in the whole dating world, and ghosting in is kind of an unfortunate phenomenon, that many of us really don’t know how to handle rejection, either giving it or receiving it. So the easiest thing to do is just kind of cut and run. Is there kind of authentic realting code for either ending a date early if it’s not going well, or perhaps breaking up?
Ryel Kestano  24:56
I would say it’s true that there is a surge of ghosting occurring online, particularly online connections, and I, you know, I think it’s easy for, for someone who has been on the receiving end of another person, sort of just disappearing, it can be easy to slip into judgments about the other person, you know, like, they don’t, you know, screw them, they don’t care, you know, whatever, they’re just a bad person for just dropping me or dropping this, but I think it’s useful to sort of step back a bit. And look at how the landscape of connections has changed in the space of technology and online, you know, digital, social media and means of meeting people. What it’s done is, while it has, I think, made connection more immediate, and available, it’s also inundated us with this almost superficial kind of tidal wave of, of, you know, meeting people and initial interactions, and multiple threads, and they’re all happening in a disembodied way. It’s just words on a screen or pixels on a screen. So we’re have we’ve lost, you know, that sort of three dimensionality and depth of what it is to meet someone in real life in a physical shared space. So I just, I honestly think that, you know, people are really, you know, showing up in the digital realm, in connection dating apps or whatever, I think there’s just an overall, there’s a experience of being overwhelmed by all the multiple threads and trying to feel a sense of humanity, you know, in these very superficial two dimensional flat means of communication. So I think that’s a huge contributing factor. And I would encourage anyone, you know, who’s on the receiving end to not take it personally. And if it is that you do take it personally, well, then that’s a useful window into looking at your own patterns, which, you know, would show up everywhere in your life, when we have this whole teaching around what we call the hologram, which is how you show up or how you react, how you experience a single moment, is how you show up, react and experience many moments, if not all moments, which is, you know, an indication of the patterns that run us underneath the surface. So, you know, I think it’s useful just to recognize, you know, from a sort of bird’s eye view, what is happening in the connected landscape, as it shows up in the digital age. But, you know, I, to the degree that you’re you are in any connection with someone, just if you’re not interested in communicating anymore. Yeah, just to drop a quick note, you know, I mean, something like, Hey, you know, I noticed you don’t want kids and I want kids. And so, you know, I’m gonna just end this here, because we don’t have shared values, like that is so considerate, you know, and it’s like, it’s honoring, it’s, to me, that’s a practice of honoring, it’s like, yeah, we, you know, even though we’re meeting via pixels, and, you know, things flying around the site, flying around the cyber cyberspace. It’s like I, you’re a human being on the other end of this, you know, and I still get to be honest and straight and transparent and honoring of you in that space. So you know, for sure I personally hold the value that I’m not going to just drop the mic and walk away from anyone. And if I do want to disengage, I will say, the reason why as a practice of honoring the other person,
Silas Rose  28:41
Sharing in such a deep way with a complete stranger, really kind of feels risky, but I really believe in a good way. There is a real electricity to authenticity, and aliveness. What’s the promise if we follow that thread of aliveness?
Ryel Kestano  29:03
I mean, I think just deep down almost everyone, there’s a yearning to be seen, heard, and welcomed for who we authentically are all of our wounds and insecurities and failings and flaws, to be fully loved and accepted and welcomed with all of those as as a part of who we are. And so, you know, for me, the natural trajectory of an authentic conversation, relationship interaction, leads those people to that experience of being truly deeply seen and welcomed, honored, appreciated, for who they inherently are, deep down at the deepest level. And there’s something I think really well nourishing for sure, but Some kind of relief like, I, it’s okay for me to be here, it’s okay for me to be in the world I feel safe here, I belong here. I would say for sure there’s an experience of belonging that awaits, you know, that that journey. And then it’s it’s also the experience of flow state, you know, for anyone who’s in a sport or plays a musical instrument with with, you know, real competence. Yeah, this experience of, of your ego dissolving into the experience itself, which can be just a profound spiritual experience, it’s almost like contacting the divine in some way. And that’s also a common experience of being in this practice, where there’s almost like a flow state that occurs in relationship and in the conversation, where we aren’t discreet, egocentric beings. But in some way, we’re just energy moving in this really liberated way. And, you know, I’ve had those experiences, you know, like, say, out in the wilderness, or was sacred medicine, but where I’ve experienced the most readily and consistently has been in authentic relationships and conversations.
Silas Rose  31:21
So this is probably a good place to end our conversation. Do you want to talk a little bit about the training? And how people can find out more about you?
Ryel Kestano  31:33
Yeah, sure. I mean, I, you know, our mission is to share and bring this work to as many people around the world as possible. So, you know, we offer in person courses, all around the world, in, we’ve been in more than 50 locations on five continents, and also online, so anybody that can make it to an in person course, we have really amazing, rich, deep, transformational, equivalent training courses online. So the first step, for sure is the level one. And that’s, you know, catered to people who have, you know, maybe tons and years of experience in different modalities, and for people who have never been to workshop, you know, have maybe have a lot of resistance or anxiety, and coming to something like this, like, we’re here to really, you know, kind of on ramp people in a really gentle, and, you know, sort of willing were collaborative, co creative way. And then beyond the level one, you know, people we want to support people as far as they want to go right up to where they are willing to ready to dedicate their lives to facilitating authentic relating in the world. So we have, you know, beyond level one, level two, advanced course level three, so week long residential leadership training, and then level four is a certification program for aspiring facilitators. So yeah, I mean, that’s, you know, available year round, you can go to the website authenticrelating.co, for tons of information there, we offer twice weekly free community calls for anyone who just wants to come get a taste and just check it out. So yeah, we want to make it as accessible, easy and available for people anywhere they might be geographically and just sort of in their life trajectory.
Awesome. Thanks again.
thank you appreciate it.

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