Five years ago, I stumbled upon The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.
Two pivotal events were taking place at that time: I was going through a destructive break-up, and spirituality was becoming a greater part of my life.
As I aimlessly flicked through the book, I read the following:
“True love has no opposite. If your love has an “opposite,” then it is not love but a strong ego-need for a more complete and deeper sense of self, a need that the other person temporarily meets. It is the ego’s substitute for salvation, and for a short time it almost does feel like salvation.”
These words floored me.
As I reflected on my last suffocated relationship, I realized that it wasn’t a conscious relationship at all. It was an addictive relationship that constantly oscillated between love and hate—it always had an opposite.
I also realized that I had previously viewed relationships as a hindrance to an authentic spiritual practice. But I began to understand that relationships can turn into our deepest spiritual practice.
It took many “addictive relationships” to finally differentiate them from “enlightened love.”
Addictive relationships are always driven by our ego—our mind. At times we love our partner, and at other times we hate them. The relationship fluctuates between positivity and negativity. Negativity manifests in both partners as unspoken resentment, the need to be right, possessiveness, judgement, criticism, blame, fear of loss, manipulation and anger. On the opposite side, we are “in love” with our partner.
These types of relationships are unconscious. They don’t convey the true meaning of love. Rather, they stem from our attachment to the other person. Instead of realizing our individual completeness, we choose to find it through our partner. We are addicted, but not to the other person—we are addicted to the pain and response they bring out in us.
Enlightened relationships are the complete opposite of addictive ones. The love comes from someone who feels at peace with themselves and isn’t trying to find their other half in another person. When problems or issues arise in a conscious relationship, partners don’t lose themselves in the process.
To enter an enlightened relationship is abundant bliss. I’ve found the following steps crucial for transforming relationships into a spiritual practice:
1. Be present.
Fights intensify in relationships when we aren’t living in the present moment. When we are not present, thoughts take over and move us toward the negative. Whenever I feel the need to attack, fight or criticize someone else, I focus on my breath for a few minutes to ground me back to the present moment.
2. Accept your partner as he/she is.
When we enter into a relationship with someone, we indirectly tell them “I accept you as you are.” Wanting to change the other comes from an ego that’s never satisfied. I learned the hard way that people don’t change—accepting them as they are is the only peaceful step toward happiness.
3. Love is a state of being.
Love is never outside. It’s not dependent on any external object. It is not a thought or a feeling. It is two people being present with each other, and if it’s strong enough, it will prevail. Love doesn’t depend on someone else and it doesn’t begin with them either. True love starts with us and shines through to others.
4. True communication is communion.
For successful communication to take place, the mind must be at its lowest energy level. I learned from my past relationships that without communication, there is no actual relationship—only the illusion of one. When we communicate, we should put aside all mind games and emotional tricks. We must remember that we’re communicating to commune, not to win.
5. Create space.
In the past, when people spoke of “space” in relationships, I assumed they were referring to physical space. Now I understand that it goes deeper than this. Finding space in love comes from a mental and emotional place, where we allow love to enter naturally. For real transformation to take place in a relationship, and for love to flourish, partners need to create and honor that space.
6. Be glad for the good. Be glad for the bad.
I personally am always most grateful for the bad things in my life, rather than the good. Only through the bad can l learn and grow. When bad things happen in a relationship, we must take them as a chance to improve our spiritual practice with our partner. Negative experiences can be a blessing in disguise, especially in romantic relationships. If we benefit from their presence, we can transform our future.
7. A relationship will not save you.
One reason most of my relationships failed was because I was looking to find myself in someone else. I wanted “salvation” to appear in the form of a lover. But we are all complete, we are already saved. The only thing we can do is share our completeness with another.
8. Do not accuse each other of being unconscious.
When we are faced with pain in relationships, we can become unconscious to our situation and throw accusations at our partner. By doing that, we intensify the unconsciousness that is already present in us, and bring it out in our partner. I’ve learned that when one partner is caught up in pain or negativity, it is important for the other to bring them back to the surface.
9. Start with yourself.
I always thought real transformation began outside us—I was wrong. Real transformation begins within. When we are present, conscious and evolving in a relationship, we can directly mirror this to our partner.
Author: Elyane Youssef
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Editor: Nicole Cameron