You may wonder how this can happen, but I can only say that you need to do your self-work to discover these truths for yourself. For the purpose of this blog though, I'm going to talk about making it a practice to connect to people you don't like and how we learn to do so not by grinding our teeth and tolerating, but by stepping back from the space that is judging.
Holding Space With Those You Don't LikeIn 2011, I wrote a blog about How to Hold Space. It's one of those terms with all kinds of baggage to it, so I wanted to help clarify what that means. At it's simplest, you learn to listen without judgment. That's one of the first and most important aspects of holding space, and it'll be a profoundly useful tool in connecting with people you don't like. Because let's be honest, in life, you have to connect with people you don't like. Even as you let go of more and more ego preferences, there are going to be some people with whom you just don't click. It's not a big deal. And for most people, you have co-workers, neighbors, or family members that you don't like, so you have plenty of space to practice. In practicing connecting with people you don't like (and most likely have to deal with), you have the chance to gain new insights and perspectives from people whom you'd normally try to get away from or shut out in some way or another. That's where some of the rewards can be in connecting with people you don't like. More importantly, you're learning how to simply be and be in the world, not hiding at home in a quiet corner meditating and waiting for nirvana to find you.
The Big Step BackThe main difference from simply tolerating someone (and a lot of people can sense this by the way) is that you are letting go of as much of your preferences for the person and interaction as possible. In so doing, you naturally become more engaged with the present moment. Additionally, you are practicing truly listening to what this person has to say. It doesn't mean you say nothing. It doesn't mean that you let the person verbally abuse you or talk endlessly. But it does mean that you are fully focused on what the person is saying and are not simply waiting to have your turn to talk or are rehearsing what you want to say in retort.
Most likely, the step back from all your ego judgments won't feel easy or natural, but if you can start to notice what your ego is doing, then you can develop that space and distance from your unconscious ego. When the thoughts running around in your mind start to feel more like something that is just spinning around and is not about you, you are creating separation from the madness. This is an important step. Doing spiritual this work of this nature can also be particularly rewarding in this situation because the ego is more activated and therefore more exposed. It is not, however, necessarily comfortable. But as my regular reader know, "Facing Discomfort on the Spiritual Path" is just part of the journey.
Continuing to Breathe Into the MomentTo further build upon this practice, it is important to stay relaxed. A lot of people have the tendency to tighten up when things that they don't like are going on. It's kind of this old fight-or-flight reflex that we all have, but which has been going haywire for some time. Breathe into the moment. Remember to relax when you're talking to someone you don't like. If you're have a particularly difficult conversation (an argument with a partner, criticism for a co-worker, etc.), practicing breathing and relaxing while in this connection can help you more clearly think and reply as needed. Once again, this isn't necessarily a fun practice, but it can be immensely rewarding. If you can hear the criticism you are getting without reacting, you can find new ways for improving at work. If you can hear the concerns of your partner more clearly, you can resolve the misunderstanding more easily and create the foundations for greater intimacy (and hopefully your partner isn't someone you dislike, but let's also be honest that a lot of partnership contain a lot of like and dislike between two people).
Bring Your Findings to Your JournalAs always, I encourage people to write in their private journal about what they are discovering. Don't just try and get through the difficult moment with a person you don't like. See what's going on. What is it you really don't like in this person anyway? Why was the moment difficult? A lot of times the ego will try to use the defense mechanism of "I know all this already" if you've already done some self-introspection, but I encourage you to look again. See if you can go deeper. So long as you feel reactive to someone in some way, there's something still going on.
The journal, as always, is a great way to be completely open and honest, and as you really get into what you don't like about someone, you often find the aspects of yourself you don't like. That's part of what can make this work so transformative. If someone's gossiping is always getting on your nerves and you realize how much you do the same, suddenly it's not such a big deal when you no longer have the same vice. These people we don't like are often powerful mirrors, which is why connecting to them can be so important. In some case, these people can even become friends once our own blindspots and issues are no longer in the way.
Falling Into Love With EverybodyAs you continue to step back and make this space for people to be as they are, you are in effect falling into love. True love is complete and total acceptance of everything as it is. Love doesn't need to change anything, although love also knows that everything is change. If you don't like something, wait a little while, and things will be different. Thus, falling in love with people we don't like is fully possible. As I mentioned earlier, some people we may never like, but we can be in love with them. Most people only know this truth in the context of family, but on the spiritual path, we learn to bring love into everything and with everyone. So if you have gotten practiced in holding space and being fully engaged with someone you don't like, see if you can fall into love with them. See if you can see them as they are and appreciate their divinity as part of the consciousness of this world. This is a profound practice, but it is not putting on the rose-colored glasses. In that scenario, you are projecting your love on to them to make them appear shinier than they are. True love does not need to do this; this is usually another game of the more subtle aspects of the ego, which wants everything and everyone to look at certain way.
No, true love simply is loving someone who may still be carrying a lot of pain, who may still be difficult to be around, and who may never accept you in any way shape of form. Of course, in true love, we also know when to step out of connections with people we don't like, and that's okay too.