Many of us are weary of outward-looking religion and don’t feel nourished by psychotherapies that neglect our spiritual potential. We may linger in an inexplicable emptiness until we attend to spiritual growth and awakening.
But the word “spiritual” is so overused that it may lose its meaning.
Here are three things that spirituality means to me…
- Connecting with life’s sacredness
- Surrendering to something beyond our limited self
- Seeing things clearly
The word “spiritual” may become less obscure as we realize that these directions are precisely what intimate relationships ask of us. The very growth that we call “spiritual” parallels what it takes to have healthy, fulfilling connections in our lives.
1. Connecting with life’s sacredness.
Being alive is a sacred gift. It’s a wonderful present when someone shares themselves with us — opening their heart and inviting us into their world.
When people honor us by sharing their feelings and longings, or whatever they’re authentically living in this precious moment, they’re taking a leap of faith. They’re trusting that we’ll tenderly hold what they expose about themselves without judging or shaming them — or betraying their confidences.
Intimate relationships involve a sacred trust, grounded in a tender sharing of our inner worlds. A safe climate for intimacy is created through our courageous mutual openness and a capacity for deep listening.
As I explain in Dancing with Fire: A Mindful Way to Loving Relationships:
Like life itself, intimacy cannot be commanded or engineered, which explains why relationships can be so maddening. But although we cannot control the flow of a wonder-filled intimacy, we have the power to create conditions in which a luminous intimacy is more likely to spring into being. We can learn to rest in ourselves in a way in which people feel comfortable approaching us. … Our availability for intimacy is a sacred aspect of who we are.
2. Surrendering to something beyond our limited sense of self.
Spirituality is about connecting. We’re invited to be open to a possibility greater than anything we can imagine. Opening our soul to life’s mystery and grandeur liberates us from a prison of our ego-centered isolation. We recognize that we participate in a reality much larger than ourselves.
Loving relationships ask something similar from us. We’re invited to open ourselves to another’s “otherness” — respecting that they’re not us. Instead of clinging tightly to ourselves, holding onto fixed positions, opinions, and judgments, we’re asked to broaden our perspective. We’re invited to let go of our hankering to manipulate people and control life, and allow connections to arise through a mysterious something that’s beyond our control. As Jewish theologian Martin Buber put it, “The Thou encounters me through grace—it cannot be found by seeking.”
3. Seeing things clearly.
Mindfulness (or vipassana) meditation encourages us to see things as they are rather than cling to how we’d like them to be. Vipassana means “seeing clearly” or “seeing deeply.” We gently direct attention toward whatever we happen to be experiencing in the moment. Being with “what is” allows our experience to settle and unfold.
Similarly, if we want healthy, vibrant relationships, we’re invited to see others as they are, including their fears, hurt, and hopes. Intimacy arises between two people who see each other clearly rather than try to control, change, or manipulate each other.
A meditation or mindfulness practice can help quiet our mind in a way where we become more present and available. As our turbulent mind stills, we can see others more clearly. We can more readily notice what we’re experiencing inside. We’re then well-positioned to share that experience, however vulnerable it might be, rather than cling to our fixed judgments and perceptions of others, which pushes people away.
Authentic spirituality is about connecting with life, not being detached from it. Relationships are a spiritual path insofar as we mindfully connect with what is. Fulfilling friendships and partnerships unfold more naturally as we open to the life that flows within us and outside us.
Enjoy this free video on creating more intimacy in our lives (an interview at Adolfo Ibáñez University in Chile)