Relationship as Spiritual Practice

hand holding shadow imageModern-day relationships are challenging and full of opportunities for increased personal awareness and growth. As our society enters a time of transition from the ego and the thinking mind to body/heart connection and personal enlightenment, we are experiencing and experimenting with different ways of being with our and each others pain. “Being” with our (and the others) discomfort/pain can bring up all kinds of conflict, such as defensiveness, blaming, and even shaming the other for how we are feeling instead of owning our own experience.

A deep, loving and intimate relationship brings up, as a matter of course, all of our love wounds from the past. There is no surprise when some of us who claim to be “spiritual” use our sense of spirituality to try to remain above the pain and discomfort that these deep relationships bring up, so we don’t have to deal with the relational woundings of our past. When these woundings of the past are not dealt with directly, however, they have a tendency to show up as “shadow” and we continue to behave and act in our old protective states to keep us from re-experiencing the pain.

Relationships will never evolve without dealing with these wounds, and there is nothing more perfect to heal those wounds than being in a loving relationship. It is important to realize these woundings are relational in nature and that the only way to be free of them is to feel them completely and have a full-on conscious experience.

When your partner behaves in a way that expresses anger or disappointment or even any kind of unconscious behavior, I would invite you to take a look at how you may be receiving this information. Can you relinquish the desire to “fix-it”, let go of any perception/judgment you may have about their experience, not get defensive, and simply receive the information knowing your partner is showing you a place where they have been hurt?

People are either loving us fully or showing us where they have been hurt.

The only way to gain access to the bountiful fruit that an intimate relationship can bear, is to get rid of our conditioned defensive patterns. By staying in old patterns of defensiveness, we limit the depth of intimacy that can be experienced in our relationships. As our protective ego lets go of our defensive nature in the face of wanting to love well, we can experience the desire of raw human connection and intimacy.

favorite hello and hardest goodbyeWe need to allow all of our old constructs and our ego’s defensive frameworks to come apart. It’s not until then that we begin to find our most perfect imperfection at the core of our being. In order to grow as spiritual beings, we need to welcome these dirty/messy parts of ourselves to the surface. Their presence is not the ego making some bad or some unnecessary, horrible mistake. Rather, they are providing the invaluable “grist for the mill” that makes our transformation possible and even probable.

What does it take to have a relationship as spiritual practice? All it asks is for you to become involved in some sort of engagement with people, whether at work, in a support group, with a friend or in a love relationship. Be aware when you feel the need to argue or take hold of a position of being “right”. It is at that moment you are operating from ego, from a sense of small self and letting go of the relationship. You need to have a default position but that position can’t be blocking you off from other, even higher and more expansive possibilities.

You can only be what you are willing to become. You can only become if you are willing to shift positions and perspectives — to be able to hold a position and be able to give up that position in order to be open to possibility. You cannot hold a firm position of being right and at the same time find a spiritual path to connection and intimacy in relationship.

In conclusion, the path to loving well necessitates dropping all of our egoic, self-centered agendas, old stories, and fears, so that we may see the other with “fresh eyes” and see “the raw, perfectly imperfect other, the sacred other,” just as he or she is. It is only then, when we embrace everything that stands between us, that we can enter the realness of our relationship and the realm of unimaginable possibilities.