As the famous line goes “the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is to love and be loved in return”. Love, the essential food for the soul, is felt and expressed in countless ways. While intensity of mutually intimate affection and companionship are sought after, the high’s pass and change. Self-validation and inner-identification must come from within ourselves, with shared love and friendship an expansion of inner beauty.
Contemporary culture puts much emphasis on sexual or romantic fulfilment when it comes to relationships. Nonetheless, life is full of an authentic diversity of relationships that touch us all. As we mature, long-term relationships take on complexity charged with the investment placed in each others lives. Challenges successfully traversed and trust built over the course of time contribute to depth and growth of love more than the less frequent magic highs.
So what is the key to keeping love alive, happy and fulfilling in relationships? We have to dig a little into the mud to find the seeds and roots of the beautiful lotus flower above. Likewise a bit of digging within ourselves is needed to find what really drives and fulfils us in relationships.
Two certainties are that we cannot determine someone else’s personal experience of reality or of a relationship, and we can only take responsibility for our own personal experience. Being fully responsible for ourselves is a key element of personal sovereignty, personal freedom from dependencies and knowing ourselves. It is part of the equation that brings needed space into ourselves and intimate relationships to maintain the spark.
We are always challenged with facing a mirror when it comes to engagement with other human minds and ego’s. The relationships we cultivate and how we deal with them say much about ourselves. There is only one effective way to cut through the complexities, and to engage with a loved one or anyone else in a way that consistently feels like you are on track, no matter what goes down. The key is learning to practice ‘presence’ within oneself and with others through the ‘Art of Being’ and the ‘Art of Listening’. Both arts are closely connected and both start within ourselves.
Drama and issues arise from conditioned programming of the mind rather than who we really are soul to soul. When identity is locked into our stream of thinking with its well entrenched opinions and personal stories, it becomes very hard to tell the difference between present awareness and perception conditioned from the past.
Our mind is a beautiful servant but a disastrous master, as many increasing modern issues of mental health, suicide, divorce and so forth indicate. Dominance and identification with mind is reinforced by our pre-occupation with thoughts, worries, concerns, and desires which are all to do with past or future. It is impossible to be and come from authentic love when we are barely in the present moment, with past pain and decisions infiltrating the present along with underlying hopes and expectations of the future. Are you consciously present and reading here and now or partially on to the next thing?
We can process specific things in therapy, but the way to break egocentric habits at the root is to be fully present in the timeless now with an awareness not dominated by thought or semi-conscious labels used to define everything. From the still and alert space between thought, we can observe thought and feeling as they arise, without being drawn in. The light of fully present consciousness, deep in us all, dissolves reactions and ‘reactions to reactions’ , like sunlight dispersing clouds of mind-forms obscuring ‘what is’. With practice we can observe our mental and emotional bodies without them defining and driving us. Conscious spaciousness can be found amidst the stream of experiences and challenges.
Mind and body are beautiful tools for self expression when we stay in the drivers seat. Ceaseless mundane and habitual thoughts and feelings become creative expressions amidst peace and stillness of mind.
Defining and interpreting things is of course necessary – writing this article for example and any purposeful mental effort. Like words themselves, mind can only point to or objectify what truly is. Once you are locked into justifying, defining and proving reality via the conceptual mind, it becomes your sense of self. Fearfulness then arises around letting go of the conceptual mind that defines you – thoughts of self, the world, likes and dislikes, what’s important and what’s not. Trouble stilling the mind is often fear of releasing this mental grip, like having to consciously release a fist you did not know was clenched. The release is as beautiful as an unfolding flower, for the stillness of being it reveals.
While it is good to stand by noble values, identifying with opinions, thoughts or feelings, can trigger conflict. Identification can lead to consciously or unconsciously manipulating or demanding validation from someone else for our mental/emotional stances, as if survival of a relationship or imagined serious outcome is at stake. While positive passion and conviction show character, this type of attachment and mental positioning is not very conscious.
The true “I” within is untouched by suffering, division and concepts. True self is not made happy or unhappy by someone else. Deep down we are indestructible and absolute, without need of “I am this” or “I am that”, we are complete as “I AM”. Past and future lose their grip when real fulfilment occurs here and now, where true self resides in the gift and outpouring of life and being.
Eckhart Tolle says that harmony is present in relationships to the degree that there is inner space in the relationship. He suggests full presence, without any agenda, be practiced with brief encounters we have with ‘strangers’ such as the ‘invisible’ shop or bank clerk, fellow shopping isle customer, or parking attendant. Tolle observes how brief seconds of presence during these connections accumulate in life to bring much richness that many of us miss out on. Being present in such encounters prepares us to bring presence to more intense and challenging engagements with loved ones we have history with.
Responding out of the stillness of mind and heart, with inner body awareness, is a gifts all involved. Holding no opinionated position while true to presence can diminish mental positioning in others without diminishing who they are. This impact of presence arises from the ability to be the space and witness of whatever is happening within ourselves as well as around us. It is not easy, and the mind can be clever by making this an ‘enlightened’ ‘superior’ mental position so it loses authenticity. This is where depth of practice in dealing with our own ego comes in.
Real life can pass by while we spend much time and energy in our role paying, navigating mental positions, fears and power games. Lao Tzu says “Do not seek the truth, only cease cherishing your opinions”. When we learn not to react to our own pain and not take stances, we can do the same listening to and beyond other peoples pain and mental positions to their true essence.
From the depth and space of absolute consciousness, relativity becomes a loving journey of adaptation, flowing the absolute presence of being into every moment and experience. Separated from the absolute, relativity sooner or later becomes suffering.
We can have sacred love and relationships with each other when we live, express and share essence of being. Relative details and content are impermanent vehicles for mastering diversity in unity, unity in diversity – they don’t define us. Loving spacious awareness is a basis for sacred love and relationships where shared living presence lies within and in our midst.
5 Day Fast of Identification with Thought and Feelings:
- Daily affirm “I am not my thoughts, I am not my feelings, I am not my body and I am not my actions”. Write this out and display it where you can see it, remember and affirm it day and evening.
- Note your level of mental activity through the day and emotional up, downs or neutrality. It can be interesting noting this in a journal for the five-days.
- Take 5 minutes four times a day – morning, lunch time, arriving home end of day, before bed – for this 2 part exercise:
- Observing: to simply sit or stand alert but relaxed – observe what you physically see, hear and feel and what you mentally see, hear and feel within as objects in the space of consciousness. All experience is occurring in the mind – no real inner or outer.
- Grounding Your Sense of Being: include complete inner body awareness to your observing. Check in with different body parts – your feet, abdomen, spine, hands, jaw, arms, legs, heart, etc., little quick scans of non-judgemental attention only, to maintain grounding of being while you observe everything going on. If anywhere feels tight or contracted instead of relaxed and expanded, physically tighten and breath into that spot for 3 seconds then release it and breath into it again before going back to whole inner body awareness and relaxed conscious breathing.
- Through the five days, also practice the affirmation, the observing and grounding while doing simple things and being with people at times when you can create the space for it.
I would love to hear any feedback from anyone who does this 5-Day Fast!
Photo on VisualHunt (modified & quote added)