“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” -- Rumi
As a practitioner of meditation and inquiry for four decades, one of the things that I have found challenging in my spiritual understanding has been how to be in a healthy relationship; that is, how to share in a deep loving connection with another human being. Of course, I am not alone in this. From my experience, this is one of the most difficult challenges of our lives as human beings.
I think of myself as a “curable romantic.” I believe relationships are our best opportunity to experience “heaven on earth.” So I’d like to do a little inquiry here into what gets in the way of our having a truly loving relationship, and also what it takes to have one. Many books have been written about this, so I can only suggest pointers to what we can look at/for in our relationships to create what we really want.
First, because ego (the identities, self-images, and beliefs we cherish and feel we need to protect at all costs) creates a gap between ourselves and others, it is helpful to bring into consciousness and to continually be aware of whom we are taking ourselves and the other to be – what our self-image is, and whom we project onto the other person which prevents us from seeing them for who they are-in-the-moment.
Secondly, we have all been hurt in relationships, and we all carry some fear of being hurt again. If this fear is not made conscious and dealt with, it will sabotage the relationship. For there to be real intimacy in relationship, we need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable. We have this one choice to make: to be willing to be open to being hurt and thereby open to love, or to stay emotionally closed to hurt and love alike. The only way to be truly invulnerable is to be totally vulnerable.
The problem with this – and the main reason why most people choose not to take this path – is that to get from where one is to 100% vulnerable, one has to go through 80%, 90%, 95%, 99%, 99.5%, and 99.9%.... With each increased degree of vulnerability, one feels that increased degree of pain. And we don’t really like pain!
Being vulnerable means being open to feeling not only pain, but also fear, anger, sadness, joy (yes, joy!), desire, need, etc. In the current culture, many people have been taught to deny these feelings, and so cannot have a truly intimate emotional connection. Feelings need to be allowed to flow freely, but this doesn’t mean one needs to become an emotional mess. It just means one needs to feel what one feels. In this emotionally suppressive culture, we need to go from suppression to expression to what I call impression – to simply being with intense emotions without needing to express them. In this way, the feeling can be assimilated and metabolized, which opens the possibility of real compassion and understanding.