Build Your Leaders

Postcard from Asheville

June 2011

A while back, my editor suggested that I write a book on relationships. I had to laugh. Me write a book on relationships? Since my divorce fourteen years ago, the longest I've been in a relationship is three years! As crazy as her suggestion sounded at the time, it haunted me.

At the beginning of this year, I began writing a book on breakups. (Breakups-now, that's something I do know about.) The book is now complete, and I'm in the process of publishing it. I'll release it in the fall.  

Already, I'm hard at work on another book; this one is on longing, another subject I know a great deal about. As a part of my research, I've been thinking a lot about relationships and what makes a great one. I've come to the conclusion that the best relationship-and what I long for-is one that becomes spiritual practice.  

The overriding objectives of a relationship treated as spiritual practice are authenticity, growth, and ultimately transformation. The primary focus is not so much who but how. At the heart of such a relationship is the commitment to stay present to our lives, our partner, and the relationship.  

Because we are present, we remain constantly curious about our partner. We realize that me, you, and we are in a constant state of becoming. We do our best to refrain from making assumptions or creating stories because we know that the other is changing from moment to moment.  

Both partners understand that three entities are at place: me, you, and us. In a relationship that is spiritual practice, the "us" transcends you and me.  

In a relationship treated as spiritual practice, both partners are strongly committed to creating a "safe container." Built on trust, a safe container is created when both partners commit to helping the other feel totally seen, heard, and understood. The relationship becomes a space in which both partners can be totally vulnerable without fear of reprisal. When we're totally vulnerable, we invite the other to see our essence free of ego and persona. This essence is what we love-or should love-most about our partners.    

When relationship becomes spiritual practice, we understand that we act as mirrors and foils for our partners-and our partners for us. Projection, shadow work, and self giving become our curriculum. We embrace this classroom and are grateful for the opportunity to learn more about ourselves.  

We are focused on our own work, realizing that we cannot control our partner's behavior. At the same time, we are fully dedicated to our partner's growth.  

We hold space for our partner's best or highest self. We focus on the positive aspects of our partner while seeking compassion and acceptance of those less-than-positive attributes. We strive to build him up, rather than tear him down. We do all within our power to love unconditionally.  

We are each other's comforter and confronter. We give compassion and empathy freely. At the same time, we gently call each other on his or her "stuff."  

Courage, honesty, and communication are critical elements of a relationship that is experienced as spiritual practice. Both partners find the courage to speak their truth and express their feelings even when doing so might result in the partner's disapproval or anger. In a conscious relationship, expressing the truth almost always results in increased intimacy.    

To be in a conscious relationship-to see relationship as spiritual practice-we strive to be:

  1. Dedicated/Committed
  2. Present/Conscious
  3. Curious
  4. Authentic
  5. Vulnerable
  6. Courageous
  7. Honest
  8. Forthcoming/Self-disclosing
  9. Loving
  10. Empathetic
  11. Generous
  12. Grateful

Above all, we embrace our imperfection. We're going to fail from time to time. When we do, we pick ourselves up, and recommit to our self, our partner, and the relationship, and we go about the task of creating the safe container.  

What do you think? I'd love to hear from you.  

Also, do you have-or do you know-someone who has a relationship that is spiritual practice? If so, I'd love to talk to you/them.