Building the “Sacred Vessel” of Relationship
Part 3 of 3
This is the last installment of the series on making our relationships our spiritual practice. It explores the last five ideas I have. I’m sure you have thought of many others. Let me know what you think.
I remember one couple I worked with who said the only thing they really shared was their nightly ritual of getting drunk together and passing out. I noticed that when they were telling the story was the only time they laughed together and seemed to like one another. I thought this was amazing so I pursued it with them. Come to find out, they each had memories of childhood where the only time they really felt free to play without their parents yelling at them was when the parents were drinking and passed out. They were both shocked by these memories. This actually started our being able to do deeper work in the therapy as they began to empathize, like, and support one another at other times.
11. Honor separate as well as shared interests, friends, and practices. We need times of separation and times of union to realize our wholeness. Paradoxically, we can only become one people, one planet, by becoming whole and free within ourselves.
In order to make our relationships a spiritual practice, we need to learn to support growth and freedom in others. Here I’m talking about the real freedom of not being so attached to another that we try to control them or allow them to control us. I have talked about this before, saying that relationships can mature from being based on enmeshment and need, to becoming growth based where those involved actually support the highest aspirations of the “other.” This means having times of separation and enjoying separate interests as well as times together.
For an example of one practice, check into your primary relationships to see where you feel jealous or scared when the person pursues an interest or friendship outside of the boundaries of your relationship. How do you feel? Do you talk about it, deal with your own feelings, or do you try to control the other person or try to make them feel guilty for the interest? Do you try to make the other person feel less confident in trying new things, or do you support the exploration – both inner and outer?
12. Explore the relationship of sexuality to spirituality. We need to look carefully at our attitudes toward sexuality. Do we use it to become more aware of our wholeness? Or do we use it to control each other out of fear and insecurity? Are we consciously choosing to use our sexual energy, our life energy, for spiritual growth? As we turn our relationships into sacred vessels, all the energy generated there can be used to fuel the process of transformation.
I worked with a man a while back who had attained quite an advanced level of consciousness in his meditation practice but who came to me because he felt very lonely in his sexual relationship life. He felt the only way he knew how to relate to women was through “conquering” them sexually and then felt bored and left the relationship. We were able to work with a very deep fear of intimacy related to childhood wounding. He finally saw that he had used his meditation practice as a tool simply to deny the deeper wounding. He kept himself “safe” by both the sexual conquering behavior and then the distancing through feeling superior.
In time, this man was able to find someone with whom he felt he was able to integrate his spirituality with his sexuality. His changes in his “inner” life became reflected in his “outer” relationship with a woman who shared his beliefs.
13. Get outside help when needed. Many of us tend to idealize our spiritual practice and so do not seek outside help when problems arise in our intimate relationships. But outside input, especially from one who does not share our own spiritual biases and beliefs, can help us cut through unconscious and unhealthy patterns and attitudes. This help can come from friends or professionals, within or outside of our own chosen traditions, giving us a fresh new look at ourselves.
I suggest to people that every couple have another “buddy” couple with whom they can share the challenges and joys of relationship. If not another couple, then workshops, books, and counseling can help support, nurture, and challenge the relationship.
14. Personal relationships reflect global relationships. Together we create the collective consciousness of this planet. What happens to one of us happens, at some level, to us all. By recognizing and sharing our experiences as we attempt to make of our relationships a spiritual path, we can increase our shared awareness of the ways in which we are responsible to ourselves, each other, and the whole of the collective consciousness.
Using these guiding principles, we can begin to make of our intimate relationships a spiritual practice. Day by day, we can learn to be more supportive of each other, more compassionate, more loving, and more authentic. The personal, the global, and the transpersonal realms are no longer separate, and the work we do in our personal lives has a significant impact on the lives of billions of people we will never meet.
We all want the same things for ourselves — to love and be loved, to accept and be accepted, to forgive and be forgiven, to serve and to create. We are one people, nourished by one planet, sustained by one spirit — and the more we can remember this, the more we can “remember home” together and make of this world a sanctuary and a vessel of peace. When this happens, we have transformed our relationships into our spiritual practice.