The Potential of Relationship

 We are most affected by what we do to ourselves -- and not what others do to us. By our thoughts and beliefs we establish the nature of our experience. The primary suffering in life, therefore, results from negative and limiting assumptions that block and distort our self expression.

Although we each experience much growth and learning through the many different relationships in our lives, we often don't fully appreciate the potential of relationship as a developmental and spiritual path. To fully utilize this potential we need to change some of our assumptions of what relationship is for -- particularly those with whom we feel most connected.

Our experience is an expression of our beliefs and values and thus allows us to evaluate the worth of those ideas that we -- consciously or unconsciously -- base our lives on. Suffering or painful experiences reflect negative and limiting assumptions, attitudes and behaviors that are out of accord with our spirit and the deepest truth of our self. Such experiences allow us to become aware of what we need to change in order to realize our intrinsic potential for happiness and fulfillment.

Our closest relationships, in particular, offer us a limitless opportunity for joy, beauty, love and expansion. However, to the extent that we still see others in terms of getting something that we feel we lack, we will not realize relationship's potential. Nor will it happen when feelings of fear, pride or selfishness impair our ability to be open, honest and spontaneous. The key to the relationship doorway leading to an ever-expanding experience, is to see relationships as opportunities to make our unconscious conscious by being open to what we become aware of within each moment.

It is by giving -- by sharing, extending and expressing that we come to realize who we are and what we are about. Often, a relationship will stop growing because one of the individuals involved will have blocks to facing what is going on within them. Often there is not sufficient interest or sensitivity. Sometimes one's thoughts or feelings are painful or threaten one's self image or one's security in the relationship. When communication is blocked stagnation sets in to one degree or other and the total aliveness of the relationship suffers. The potential of the relationship is not realized.

A relationship can stay vital in the deepest sense not only when there is an outward compatibility but when each individual continues to open up, to share, to explore and to embrace the moment and what is going on within. When there is a deep level of intimacy, one also invariably moves beyond a personal focus to larger and collective issues of meaning and purpose. We see how our personal concerns are related to something more.

On the deepest level, we each have certain intrinsic interests, concerns, values, outlooks and approaches to life, and purposes that relate to these. This inner constellation may be different from the one we consciously hold. By bringing these soul attributes to awareness, we may begin to realize our real self. In the process we will connect with others who resonate with us and who are involved in related concerns in the world. Our relationships may then become cooperative endeavors to manifest inner qualities and intentions to the greater enrichment of both our individual and our collective lives.

Our needs cannot be satisfied on a personal level only. To realize and fulfill ourselves we must ultimately go beyond a personal focus to embrace the larger life that on the subjective side, is the ground of our being, and on the outer level provides the context of our lives. As a result of being honest, true to ourselves and open to our actual experience, the spirit progressively unfolds. In this process we include and express more and more universal aspects of the self. The manifest associations and endeavors in the world are outer reflections of inner intentions and concerns. Our self-realization is therefore linked to the good of the whole. Service to self and society are connected.

Given this overview, we may then reassess some aspects of relationship. Love itself is an expression of the oneness and unity underlying everything. Sex is creative force that may be manifested on different levels. Desire itself reflects the soul's urge for integration and unity. Although we may project desire on things outside ourselves, it is basically the force of attraction that works to connect the various aspects of our self. In the erotic attraction we feel the incompleteness of ourselves as personalities polarized in one sex and desire union with what we feel apart from -- that is actually within us. This attempt at outer union is essentially a projection of the inner process of personality and soul fusion.

What are some ways that we might foster this awareness? When we have special feelings or attractions for particular people it means that there is something that needs to be made conscious, and often, communicated. When we feel a romantic attraction it would be helpful to worry less about what we want from the other and more about what is going on within ourselves. Relationships allow us to get in touch with parts of ourselves that we do not normally experience. By sharing and expressing our thoughts and feelings we can integrate these aspects. When we feel blocked or stuck in relationship, it is usually because we are afraid of facing ourselves and what is there within us. Denying or avoiding ourselves must invariably lead to a painful sense of loss and lack of fulfillment.

It would also be helpful for us to clarify our conscious purpose for each relationship. To the extent that this purpose does not allow or facilitate a complete self-expression, to that extent will the potential of the relationship be unrealized. The denied aspects of our selves contain life and life energy that will reveal deeper and broader areas of fulfillment. As separate personalities we are incomplete -- we need to realize the connections we have to a larger holistic life wherein we may realize our being.

Just as physical life is characterized by a sexual duality which is a metaphor for the separation we each experience from the spiritual unity that is our goal, so we may use the sexual relationship to facilitate an integration of our unconscious self with our conscious personality. When we know that the desire for outer union reflects our need for inner union, we may stop trying to complete ourselves by adding the other to us, but rather by making the unconscious "other" within conscious and embracing it. By sharing ourselves we claim ourselves and come to understand and be ourselves. By staying open to the experiential moment in relationship, we enter a doorway leading to the infinite treasures of life.

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