In Part 1 of Relationships on the Spiritual Path, we explored issues of comfort, soul growth and judgment—and how the tender parts of us need to feel safe in order for the heart to open to its full capacity. In today’s blog, we’ll dive into some juicy territory and talk about expectations, the interface between intimacy and freedom, and the anatomy of trust. Let’s start with the elephant in the room—expectations.
One of the most common email topics people who read my blog send my way is some variation of the question “I’m on the spiritual path, and it’s affecting my closest relationships. How do I navigate this consciously?” In response to these questions, I’ll be posting a series of blogs on the topic of Relationships on the Spiritual Path.
For most of my life, I valued relationships that are easy. You know the ones, where someone finishes your sentences for you, anticipates and meets your needs before you have them, sits with you peacefully and wordlessly because there's nothing to "process," and offers you comfort. These people rarely have conflict with you. They validate and value you. They’ve got your back. They’d do anything to avoid hurting you. They uphold your image of yourself or even uplift it. They remember your birthday and bring you soup when you're sick. You feel like you're resting in a nest of feathers when they walk in the room. It's just so easy to be with them.
I still value these kinds of relationships—deeply. In fact, I'm almost becoming nostalgic for those kinds of relationships. Yet, there’s a potential shadow side to this kind of relationship. In choosing people who validate our self-image, we may be looking outside ourselves for evidence of our worthiness, wholeness, and “enough”-ness.
Yes, we are tribal beings, and we need one another. But we also need mirrors who are willing to reflect back to us the blind spots that often drive our behavior unconsciously. These limiting beliefs and self-sabotaging behaviors that we inherit in childhood may cause us to create and recreate our own suffering—over and over and over again. We need people who love us enough to say “Can you see how you’re creating yet another heartbreak with yet another lover who is likely to betray you?” Or “Can you see how your boss treats you the same way your father did—and you let him?” Those brave enough to lovingly help us see our blind spots are nuggets of gold, though those relationships may not always feel like a fuzzy pair of warm bunny slippers.
There’s a lot of buzz about the benefits of tuning into your intuition. We know that intuition helps us make spiritually aligned decisions, protects us from danger, acts as our inner doctor, gives us the heads up when we are needed by our loved ones, and serves as the unseen world’s secret gateway to the human world, helping us live our best lives. But how do you know if you’re tuned in or not? We all have the capacity to listen to our intuition, but sometimes we’re at the mercy of forces that block our ability to interpret our intuition clearly. Here are eight signs that your intuition may be blocked.
I have two friends who are trying to do beautiful things in the world. One is an ardent environmentalist who really passionately yearns to save the biosphere and protect the planet. The other is a social worker serving abused, abandoned, neglected, traumatized children in a community where most people are hooked on meth. Both carry so much pain in their deeply empathic hearts that their own bodies are suffering. I worry that these two are killing themselves with those broken open, bleeding, service-oriented hearts. Yet, I see in them a painful pattern that leads to unnecessary suffering, one I recognize because I’m still in the process of breaking this pattern myself. Been there can tell going there how to get there. But it’s not easy. Breaking this kind of pattern is like trying to put an octopus to bed. The minute you get two arms tucked quietly under the covers, six more arms of the pattern sneak out!
What does it take to become more tender, open-hearted, and compassionate human beings in a world that trains us to judge, criticize, compare, blame, and shame? How does this evolutionary initiation happen, when one makes the journey from the head to the heart and the heart swells into actions that ease the suffering of others? What does it even mean to be compassionate?
Compassion and its compatriots—empathy, kindness, benevolence, gentleness, tenderness—they have a bad rap, suggesting weakness, passivity, becoming a doormat that other people can take advantage of. And yet, nothing is stronger—simultaneously fierce and feather gentle—than the open heart. Just look what a mother can call upon to protect her child when the child is in danger. Don’t mess with Mama Bear, and don’t mistake unconditional love for weakness. The ultimate strength lies in trusting that the heart can lay bare without getting trampled upon, not because there aren’t unkind people who can stomp across the raw, vulnerable parts of your heart with their dirty boots, but because YOU can become the fierce protector of your own heart without closing it or armoring it off. Because you’ve got your own back, love can flow through you unhindered as you bless the world simply with your presence.