/RELATIONSHIPS: The ultimate spiritual practice?

RELATIONSHIPS: The ultimate spiritual practice?


The idea of a perfect relationship is as flawed as the idea of a perfect man or woman, yet so many of us entertain this idea, consciously or not. Often, when we enter into a new relationship, things are perfect at first. We feel so in love that we see everything through those ‘love goggles.’ Colours are brighter, we want to dance to music, everything tastes great and sex is amazing.

Then, one day, our new partner might say or do something we’re uncomfortable with, but we let it go because the feeling of being ‘in love’ is still so strong. This happens over and over again. Nothing major, but enough for us to feel a twinge of discomfort.

We let those feelings go, over and over again. What we don’t realize is that those feelings build up over time, until they become so strong that we lose the sense of being in love. We start to notice more and more things about our partner that irritate us.

Our partner hasn’t changed, but our perception of them has. They are still the person we fell in love with. They still have all those qualities we loved so much, but negativity clouds our perception.

If left unchecked, these feelings build to a point at which we start to attack our partner. We feel hostile towards them and we withdraw affection. Unfortunately, in today’s world, this is considered the normal course of a relationship. However, this is likely an outcome of ego attachment and clinging onto the flawed concept of a perfect relationship or a perfect partner.

Be fully present with your true self


two people sitting on a beachtwo people sitting on a beach

When we are not fully present with our true self, our deep spirit, we feel unfulfilled. We then seek to find fulfillment through external experiences: money, food, sex. At the beginning of a new relationship, we feel that our needs are being met through our partner.

However, because true fulfillment happens deep within us, these external experiences act as a kind of temporary bandage (at best), distracting us from our internal longings. In time, though, those deep feelings re-emerge.

We feel unfulfilled yet again, because we have not addressed our deeper needs. We have not nurtured our deeper spirit. When the ‘love’ drug is available, we are on a high, but when the drug no longer works, we experience pain, even more strongly than before.

Without understanding this, all we know is that our partner once made us happy and they no longer do so. Our strong feelings about this are projected outwards onto the person or people we are closest to, such as our partner, our parents or our children.

What makes things even more challenging is that our attack on our partner can awaken our partner’s own pain, so they fight back. But just like all addictions, this arises from an unconscious misunderstanding and the refusal to accept and make peace with our own pain.

Usually, the relationship is not the cause of the pain, but it brings out and intensifies the pain that is already there. And because we are used to turning away from our pain, it is just as easy to walk away from the relationship. However, there are certain relationships that actually should be walked away from, especially if both partners are unwilling to look inside themselves.

We cannot truly love somebody at one point in time and then not love them some time later. As Eckhart Tolle puts it,

“If our ‘love’ has an opposite, then it is not love but a strong ego-need for a more complete and deeper sense of self, a need that the other person temporarily meets. It is the ego’s substitute for salvation, and for a short time it almost does feel like salvation.”

Avoiding relationships is not the answer, either. That underlying feeling of being unfulfilled will still be there. In fact, if we don’t run away, a difficult relationship can push us into dealing with our feelings more intensely, especially if we can remain committed to the relationship.

Break your identification with your pain


man in despair with head in armsman in despair with head in arms

So how do we turn our addictive relationship into an enlightened relationship? One way is to be totally mindful of the present by tuning our attention more and more deeply into the present moment. We need to experience and know ourselves as the Being that is behind the thoughts, behind the feelings, behind the pain.

Knowing ourselves as the deeper Being means we loosen the hold that the thinker—the pain—has had over us for such a long time. Breaking the identification we have with our pain, with our suffering, will transmute that pain and suffering.

The moment the judgment of pain, of suffering, of others’ actions and (most importantly) ourselves, stops through the acceptance of what is, resistance in all forms stops and we have made room for love, peace, joy and true healing. This takes us beyond ego.

Meditation helps us achieve this state. In the midst of external chaos, meditation will help us experience the true nature of who we are. Perfect. Still. Peaceful. Joyous. Loving and Loved. There are many ways to meditate and many tools to help us meditate, such as incense, statues, bells, mantras and music.

Relationships will inevitably intensify unresolved feelings and magnify egoic mind patterns. If we accept this, we can use this as an opportunity to face our deeper feelings of being unfulfilled.

“Whenever a relationship is not working, whether it brings out the ‘madness’ in you and in your partner, be glad. What was unconscious is being brought up to the light. It is an opportunity for salvation.”

– Eckhart Tolle

Fully experience whatever feelings are coming up for you. Accept them, bring understanding and light into them, and then let them go. Be kind to yourself, be kind to your partner. If, in a state of surrender, acceptance, peace and understanding of your inner world, you still don’t want to be with your partner, then so be it. Go your separate ways as good friends.

But again, let me emphasize, there are some circumstances when violent and abusive relationships should not be tolerated, and you should leave immediately for your own safety.

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