Relationship as a Practice

photo by Joshua Levin

When I look around the world, and I see the intense change and tragedy, pain, conflict, it all seem to be created by us humans. We are a funny breed and most of us have never been formally taught “how” to do relationship. And the first relationship we never learned how to do is the relationship to ourselves. So, how could we possibly really know how to do relationship with “other?”

So, war is not surprising to me. When we are this disconnected from our own beings, we will likely “act out.” This includes, being mean to people in traffic, ignoring someone who waves hello to us, a flare up with a friend, a challenging work relationship, neglect of the earth, of our own backyard, and our own selves. Then, we also have more severe relational hurts such as rape, murder, killing, and other violent acts.

In my world, relationship is a practice. Moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day.

I spent years meditating, spending time alone in the vast wilderness, and in a few different “conscious” spiritual communities. I had many different teachers, guides, and mentors along the way. However, all but one, walked his talk when it came to teachings of relationship and intimacy. Very common dicey ground for teachers and students.

Relationship is at the heart of EVERYTHING. We are in relationship to everything and everyone. We might become an advanced meditator, but experience the same habitual patterns in relationship. Taking your relationship challenges to the yoga mat, or into nature is fine, but it will only take you so far. To really heal your relationship issues, you must do so in-relationship.

This is where the “practice” of relationship comes in. If we treat relationship as a process, and more importantly a practice, rather than a destination, we will have a more realistic attitude that can then help us deepen our relationships AND move us toward wholeness. Herein lies the hidden gem. That through working on all our relationships, we transform ourselves and begin to awaken.

And, the practice works from the inside out, not the outside in. In other words, to truly change your relationship life, you must change yourself. Historically I did that in isolation. I “worked on myself” diligently in solitude–on the mediation cushion and by going on long solo trips in the wilderness. Because relationships were so painful, I thought I had to deal with them by myself. As a result, I missed amazing opportunities that were right in front of me, everyday.

Of course, not everyone in your life will be on board with this “practice.” No problem, you don’t need their buy-in to use them to grow yourself. At the same time, to go farther, faster, it will help you to have like-minded practioners to walk along side you. People who agree to call you out, to care enough to give you loving feedback when you need it, or to celebrate your progress along the way.

If we practice often we begin to “see” others more clearly and compassionately, and we allow ourselves to be seen as we really are. Seeing and being seen are incredible feelings if you have spent your whole life feeling like no one understands you or even knows you.

So, If you want more amazing, fulfilling relationships, working on yourself using relationships will be the quickest way to progress.

You have two main choices…

You can A) Keep doing what you are doing and you’ll likely see the same results, or B) Work on YOU and start getting some feedback on how you do relationship by engaging in The Practice.

But how and where to start?

I recommend 3 main ways.

1. Get connected to yourself. Before you dive into relationship as a practice, it is VERY helpful if you are able to connect to yourself and the present moment. If  you are unable to connect to yourself, your relationships will only reach a certain level of intimacy. The good news? If you struggle connecting to yourself or even have a hard time knowing what that means, you can use relationship to get there.

2. The Ability to feel discomfort. Most people go their entire lives numb to their pain. To begin to change your relationship life and change yourself, it’s best to learn how to “sit in the fire” of strong emotion or sensation.

For example, if you are a parent and you can only tolerate your child’s emotions for a small window of time, you will likely shut your kid down your because you are not able to tolerate their upset. Having a mindfulness practice, a spiritual practice, or another way you connect to yourself. Meditation, yoga, walking, time in nature, art, dance, music, etc all can be ways you “drop in” and connect to yourself. This is key on the relationship path.

3. Choose Relationship as a Practice. Engage in formal relationship practice with someone more experienced than you. Working formally as an individual, couple, or in a group over a period of time can be critical to gaining more self-awareness about how you do relationship. You might hire us wanting to discuss your relationship patterns and then receive a reflection in the moment about how you are repeating “your thing” with the facilitator. To be seen in your pattern and having it brought to your attention it is the first step in changing it.

Find other people who also want to Practice in this way. Join this community!

I think you get the idea. It’s time we use all of our relationships as the vehicle to transform ourselves and awaken.

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