Relationship as a Spiritual Journey

by Deborah Knighton Tallarico

There is no denying the reality that relationship is perhaps one of the most potent of life’s teachers. At its best, it brings us to the heights of love, passion, pleasure, union, ecstasy and joy; at its most challenging, to the depths of uncertainty, disappointment, loneliness and despair. Relationship most often brings us face to face with all of our deepest hopes, fears, wounds, childhood hurts, dreams and challenges.

It is a powerful process that has the potential to help us become more whole as individuals, but the journey can often be challenging and full of soul trials and tribulations. Relationship is a purification by fire. The deeper the relationship, the more "issues" will be brought to the surface to be healed and transformed as "grist for the mill".

"The deeper our longing for love, the more light floods our being,
and the dark shadows of fear, doubt, pride, anger, jealousy and greed
emerge for their last stand."

~~ Barry and Joyce Vissell, The Shared Heart ~~

If viewed from a spiritual perspective, relationship can be an incredible process of self-discovery, soul growth, deep inner healing and transformation, a path of initiation. When held in this light, it can be one of the most profound spiritual paths there is to walk upon.

" In former times, if people wanted to explore the deeper mysteries of life,
they would often enter the seclusion of a monastery or hermitage.
For many of us today, however, intimate relationships have become
the new wilderness that brings us face to face with all our gods and demons."

~~ John Welwood, Journey of the Heart ~~

Let us explore some of the important components of a spiritual relationship. First and foremost: Is each partner holding a spiritual perspective, and a spiritual vision for their union together? This can be quite challenging at times in the heat of a conflict; but like any spiritual practice it takes consciousness, compassion and effort to bring yourself back to the spiritual core of your relationship, just like you bring your wandering mind back during meditation. It is a spiritual practice in daily life, moment to moment. It is not a goal but a process.

It is of course important to share a common vision for your relationship, to have a spiritual foundation and a base of understanding between you, and to see your relationship as a spiritual and sacred journey. You may want to ask yourselves: What is the Higher purpose (sacred intention) of our being together in this life? What are our Spiritual Ideals for our relationship – for our lives individually and together? What are we learning from each other? What are each of our strengths that we bring to the relationship? It is important to stay connected to these things when everyday life gets the best of you, and to remember to continually return to the Sacred Intention of your Union.

Another aspect of holding a spiritual perspective is to acknowledge the Universal Truth of: As Above, So Below... As Within, So Without. Your partner is your greatest mirror and your greatest teacher if you can allow him/her to be. This can be frightening at times, but holding this perspective can be incredibly transformative and enlightening, and can take away any blame you may have for each other. To withdraw projections and to be willing to honestly look at your Self takes tremendous courage. To see how you create in your relationship the very dynamics you have within your own soul is profound. Whatever you deeply believe about life, your Self and relationship, whatever internal conflicts you have inside your deepest self, will eventually get played out between you and you partner.

This is why relationship is a trial by fire – it is there to purify and transform the very depths of our souls... if we dare take the journey. This is why it is crucial to remain conscious or at least to hold this truth, and this is exactly why relationship is such a profound spiritual journey. To have to look at your deepest fears, hurts, vulnerabilities, expectations, beliefs and wounded places right in the face is Soulwork!!!

In order to do this Soulwork... you must be willing to shed layers of your Ego and be ruthlessly honest with your Self. This requires tremendous humility and a willingness to live aligned with what you know deep down to be the Highest Truth, even in the presence of another. To admit your vulnerabilities and weaknesses, to own your own shortcomings in any given situation takes great courage. To open up and let your partner into your heart and soul in this way can be scary. To see how your partner is a mirror for YOU takes guts and a willingness to move beyond the walls, defenses and images of your Ego. This takes tremendous strength and willingness to be humble. Of course, first one must have a deep trust... and a feeling of safety with their partner. Since we are all so wounded in our hearts, this is not always so easy to do.

"Your mind will naturally seek the easiest person to be with –
one with whom it is easy and comfortable.
But your heart, the voice of the soul, will seek the person
who can best help you climb toward God.
The mind seeks an easy relationship.
The heart seeks a spiritual partner."

~~ Barry and Joyce Vissell, The Shared Heart ~~

In a spiritual relationship it is also important to realize that your outer relationship with your partner is a mirror of the inner relationship you have with your Self, and it reflects the union or disharmony of your own masculine and feminine sides. Your partner is a reflection of your own inner sexual counterpart – in Jungian psychological terms, one’s anima or animus. Whatever we see in our partner...those aspects we are attracted to or repulsed by... are aspects of ourselves we perhaps do not yet realize, and through our partnership with our Beloved, we have the opportunity to open to these realms of our Self needing to be acknowledged. Perhaps it is some aspect of our shadow side or a glorious aspect of ourselves we do not yet know.

This is why it is so important to be doing our own inner work and exploring the depths of our own soul, as well as our masculine and feminine sides while in relationship. To intimately know our own inner feminine or masculine, and to have them balanced and conscious can greatly help our relationships. One can only have a harmonious and loving "outer" relationship if the "inner" relationship is that first.

We must not forget one of the most important spiritual qualities in a relationship – one of the deepest things we all long for – LOVE. Being committed to making Love (and Truth) the foundation of your relationship is crucial. This means being committed to going back to the softness, tenderness and love within your own heart as often as you can with your partner – learning to have a very real and profound compassion and understanding for your mate, and deeply respecting and honoring WHO they are even when they are human!!! It means learning to love all the imperfections, human frailties and vulnerabilities in your partner (and thus within yourself).

“For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult task of all...
the work for which all other work is but preparation.”

~~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~~

Spiritual Relationship like any spiritual path requires us to shed layers of outmoded beliefs and ways of seeing life. It requires us to courageously open our hearts and our souls, to be willing to hold the Highest Good for our relationship and our partner, to see the Divine within them and to be devotional with our love as we would be to God/Goddess. Namaste’.... "I bow to the Divine within you", is an important saying to remember when in relationship.

Ultimately, relationship is a journey into the unknown – and a sacred journey of the heart. It stretches us to the boundaries of our soul. It challenges us to ground, test and practice all of our spiritual ideals, beliefs and values.

On Love

".... When love beckons to you, follow him,
though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you, yield to him,
though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you...
and when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams
as the north wind lays waste the garden.
For even as love crowns you, so shall he crucify you.
Even as he is for your growth, so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses
Your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them
In their clinging to the earth........
All these things shall love do unto you that you may know
The secrets of your heart,
And in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.
But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness
And pass out of love’s threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laugher,
And weep, but not all of your tears.”

~~ Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet ~~