Monday, September 30, 2013

Developing Conscious Relationships

I know that I haven't talked too much about relationships on this blog. Part of it has to do with the fact that most of us know so little about ourselves that that area must be the focus of our attention before we worry about what type of external relationships we want in our lives. The internal relationship with ourselves--how we live and treat ourselves--must be repaired first if we want to be able to genuinely and sincerely bring consciousness and love into our external relationships. Along the way, I've written about some of the ways that our current relationships can teach us things about ourselves. "Spiritual Growth Through Embracing Karmic Relationships" is a good post about how we can view relationships as mirrors for inner work. However, for this post, I will go into some the details about what it means to develop a conscious relationship and how this is more than any romantic ideal or platonic ideal. It's still a messy, human space, but a conscious relationships just has a lot more room and space to fail and to grow.

It Takes Two Babe


So let's be clear that any relationship is a two-way street. Both parties have their parts to hold up and to honor. This is the truth for any partnership, working situation, friendship, or romantic relationship. This also includes family relationships, although those tend to be the most unconscious. The point is that you are not going to drag anyone down this spiritual path. Because of the popularization of self improvement, you can co-opt some of that terminology if it is helpful for whomever you'd like to create a conscious relationship. But they still must agree to creating a conscious relationship all the self-work that requires. If the other person is not interested in changing the relationship, growing as a person, and learning to relate in a new way, then that set of choices must be accepted and honored, which may mean the end of the relationship in many instances.

Building Up Slowly and Defining Things Clearly

I encourage you to take things slowly. A lot of people haven't seen many conscious relationships if any, and you are unlikely to have a friend, business partner, or lover who has either. So you're going to have to spend a lot of time defining what you mean, starting with what it means to be in a conscious relationship. Here's my current definition (which will likely evolve for me as I grow and change in this life):

  • You will hold space for each other. Essentially, this means learning to listen without judgment and allow the other to have difficult moments without trying to fix or change them.
  • You will communicate with each other regularly.
  • You both acknowledge that you don't know everything about yourselves.
  • You commit to continually learning and growing.
  • You accept that this relationship won't last forever.
  • You accept that life is messy and that includes conscious relationships.
  • You will set aside time to help each other work through specific issues.
  • You will listen to constructive feedback and find what feels true to you to work on.

Even with a business partnership, this can be extremely helpful because money issues hit all kinds of triggers in people. If you aren't learning about yourself and your business, your business may not last. So even in business, there is space for growth and for supporting each other in a conscious way.

Breaking Down Your Triggers for the Other Person

Along with all of that stuff above, it is really important to help the other person know what your triggers and hot buttons are. This isn't meant to be a warning sign, but rather, it becomes an invitation for your friend, lover, or whomever to say, "Hey, you're triggered right now. You may want to take a breath and re-think what you are doing/saying." In old unconscious relationships, the ego would be affronted and try to attack the other person. Or, the victim identity thinks it is even more worthless in someway and shuts down. So those two simple sentences would reinforce unhealthy patterns in unconscious relationships while offering greater freedom in a conscious relationship. Do you see how this is working now? In many respects, there's a deepening of self responsibility. As we deepen in our responsibility for knowing ourselves, we can learn more from the other and offer them even deeper insights into themselves in virtually any life situation. I can't tell you how much I've learned from relationships in general, so as one other sidebar thought, if you ever thought that the spiritual path is a solo one, I beg to differ.

The Fun Stuff Gets Funner

As two people release old issues and karmas, more space is made within them and within the relationship. Another way to look at this spacious freedom is that you won't feel trapped. A lot of people find relationships as a kind of ball and chain strapped to their ankles. Part of that is the person's own issues. The other part is their partner's issues. Now there is no perfect or idyllic relationship out there that doesn't have issues. That's why I outlined one of the aspects of conscious relationships as being expectations that things will get get messy from time to time. However, as that inner space gets cleaned up, we actually can get closer to each other. In romantic relationships, that allows for amazing new depths of intimacy that can be felt. It's more than pleasure; it's freedom and love within the circle of another's arms.

And intimacy grows in friendships and other relationships. Most people haven't even touched the tip of the iceberg of love and intimacy in platonic relationships, so once again, I encourage you to think broadly about relationships and the many ways that acting honestly and consciously can enhance them.

Releasing Relationship Ideals

You may notice that the words "soulmate" or "twin flames" rarely cross these posts. I don't think most people understand what those are, and I don't think most people want to know. I think they're just the new new-agey code words for the next perfect romantic relationship. But perfect relationships don't exist, so it's best to let that go. In a conscious relationship, you are not driving it towards a perfect point. You aren't trying to whip your partner into shape. If your partner isn't dedicated to their own self-growth, it's best to let them go. No one takes anyone down the spiritual path--not I, nor you, nor anybody else. It must be sincerely pursued from within. There is no other way.

But still, many people will try to fix their partner or change them, and to you, all I can say is that you're locked up in a lot of karma. It's best to see what it is within you that want to fix or manipulate others. This is a subtle or not so subtle dance of control, and control always comes from the ego. Even when it purportedly has good intentions, this is the surest road to more misery, exhaustion within the relationship, and unmitigated frustration. Just let those relationships go that don't want to move into a conscious sphere. I encourage you to trust that there are other people out there who do want to have a conscious relationship, and I encourage you to be vulnerable and open about your interests in that regard. No one ever got what they truly wanted by telling no one.

Starting With Close Friends

Before you jump into the bed with your next romantic partner and try to do this whole conscious relationship, I encourage you to start with close friends or develop some spiritual friends. However, spirituality doesn't mean that spiritual friends will be interested in conscious relationships. You may find a great deal of unconsciousness and general avoidance of difficulty in so-called "spiritual" people. As I said, there are those of us out there who are interested in a different type of relationship where love and removing inner darkness are both embraced, so have heart. If you are sincere, you can start creating these new friendships more easily than you may imagine. I think a lot of people are yearning for something healthier and kinder in relationships, so it may be that you are the answer to another's prayers in this way.

Letting Things Fail

Now obviously, I'm not speaking from the place of higher truth where there is no such thing as failure. In this world, things succeed and fail. If a relationships fails or ends, that is not necessarily a failure though. A lot of times the best relationships take the least amount of energy even though work and energy are put into them. It's like you get more back than you put in. It seems miraculous. This effect can show up in any thing where you are co-creating with the universe and the divine plan. Consequently, when a relationship is getting worked on a lot and both people are committed and honest, but it doesn't seem to be working; let it fail. Just let it fall apart. Something else will arise in its place. This last part may be one of the most important aspects of conscious relationships because it honors the truth that all of life is temporary. Don't fight to hold onto something that is ending. In letting go, you can honor it for what it is now and appreciate the sweetness of the past without souring it with desperation and denial of what is going on. In this way, a relationship can come to a natural completion, making fertile soil for new relationships and new lessons to arise.

New Lessons Arise

I don't think we ever really stop learning, although the spiritual path itself isn't about gathering information. The truth of the spiritual path is that we are already perfect as we are. From that deeper knowing, however, it becomes so much easier to learn helpful lessons as they arise and as we notice them in the relationships we have. As these lessons arise, conscious relationships allow people to share their discoveries--both dark and light. Because there is an intention to allow the person to go through whatever it is they are going through, there is also a greater freedom to be heard without judgment. Of course, a partner can always ask if the other person needs a reflection (a response about what they see going on in someone or a reflection of blindspots) because that is how we help each other along. But if the person says, no, that's okay too. Do you feel the spaciousness here? Do you feel the lack of any guilt-tripping, shaming, obligation, and other elements of control? That's all part of developing conscious relationships, and while I can't say if it'll be hard or easy, creating a conscious relationship certainly can be much more loving.

Today's flowers photo comes from my friend and reader, Becky Stiller. Feel free to check out her beautiful work on this flickr link.
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