I have battled this question from the first moment I realized that I was in a monogamous relationship that was probably going to go on for a long time.
That was almost two decades ago, and still I wonder: is it possible to have both spiritual growth and a fulfilling monogamous relationship?
The need to look inside ourselves, ask what we need and spend time pursuing it can get lost in the need to be an item, a couple, two people who look out for each other. Somehow it can be easy to forget about what we need to do with our time on earth when we become committed to another person.
One thing I have observed in many women who are spiritual leaders is that so many of them have stories of needing to embrace their desire for separation and divorce from their present partners in order to pursue their successful career and spiritual path. The re-telling of these stories can make it hard for the rest of us to know if staying in our relationships is a sign of cowardice or if leaving is just running away.
Last year, while watching a talk by Carolyn Myss, the highly respected Medical Intuitive and author of Anatomy of the Spirit, I felt internally shaken when I heard her say the words, “Our third chakra partner is not our seventh chakra partner.”
I took this to mean that the person who helps us develop our worldly ways in an intimate relationship might not be the same person we need in our lives to develop our spiritual ways.
And of course, when spiritual development is important to us, whether we are with the right partner really matters.
But before we get all worked up and convinced that we’re in the wrong relationship, it’s important to remember that this process of making choices is one of the most spiritual things we can do.
It can be very easy to blame other people for our lack of development. But the most spiritual of beliefs we can embrace is the reality that we are responsible for our own choices and reactions.
Spirituality isn’t chanting, lighting incense and going to yoga, although of course it can include all of these things; spirituality is everything.
Spirituality is the nature of reality and how we choose to interact with the nature of reality.
This is why washing the dishes, picking up the mail and fighting it out with our spouse is all our spiritual practice.
While at Spirit Rock Meditation Center on retreat I heard the following story:
A man tells his wife and children he needs to leave them to pursue his own spiritual development with a guru. He then takes leave from his family and travels far and wide until he finds the teacher he wants to work with. When the man finally finds the monastery he wants to study at, he knocks on the door and explains to the assistant that he has come to learn spiritual ways from the guru. The assistant welcomes the man and guides him to a small room and tells him to wait and meditate. The assistance explains to the man that if he meditates properly, the exact teacher he needs for his development will come to receive him for his teachings.
So the man starts to meditate patiently for the first hour, positive that he is meditating exactly right and the guru he needs will be there soon to meet him.
But in the second hour the man starts to have doubt. He meditates impatiently, wondering if he is worthy enough and if the guru will ever come.
By the third hour the man feels completely confused and wonders why he has come to find the guru at all, positive that he is not worthy enough.
Just before then man falls into despair, the assistant comes to the door and says that the guru, exactly right for what the man needs for his spiritual development, is ready to show himself and that all the man has to do is open the door.
The man is so happy he runs and opens the door and sees his perfect spiritual teacher waiting for him.
It is his wife and kids.
You see, as long as we think what we need for spiritual development is somewhere else, beyond where we are right now, we are missing out on our biggest options for spiritual development.
Eckhart Tolle explains it this way:
“The ego says: Maybe at some point in the future, I can be at peace—if this, that or the other happens, or I obtain this or become that. Or it says: I can never be at peace because of something that happened in the past. Listen to people’s stories and they could all be entitled, “Why I Cannot Be at Peace Now.” The ego doesn’t know that your only opportunity for being at peace is now. Or maybe it does know, and it is afraid that you may find this out. Peace, after all, is the end of ego.
How to be at peace now? By making peace with the present moment. The present moment is the field on which the game of life happens. It cannot happen anywhere else.”
It is very possible that the relationship you are in is not conducive to where you need to go on your human path.
It is very possible that what you need is to be brave and courageous because you have a decision to make about who you need to be and that you need to look at the environment around you and make some hard choices about who you want to be today versus who you were last year, last month, last week or even in the last five minutes.
But in my opinion, there is no inherent reason that relationships and spiritual development are not able to go hand-in-hand. They have for centuries, and if we take care of this planet right and humans continue to thrive, then we can continue for centuries more to make human relationships the center piece for our own evolution and growth.
It all comes back to choice.
The choice is not to blame our situation for holding us back, but instead to take personal responsibility for what we need to do with our time on earth and get on with it. The factors of our human relationships that might seem to be holding us back might in fact be the fertile ground that we need to grow and bloom.
We don’t know unless we try.
Author: Ruth Lera
Editor: Caroline Beaton