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Relationships as a Spiritual Practice (Part 1)

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Spirituality is having a moment right now. From thecountless articles and research studies on the many benefits of mindfulness andmeditation, to all the people you know takingyoga classes, it’s safe to say that everyone is looking for ways to relax, take a break, and maybe even do some growing in the process.

Finding and sticking to a daily practice of yoga, mindfulness, or anything else that makes you feel spiritual is an important first step on any individual’s spiritual journey. However, we place ourselves in a trap if we believe that only while doing a few, specific activities can we be spiritual. What counts as “spiritual” is different for everyone — for you it might be slowly preparing and then savoring a meal, while for someone else, it might be sitting on a meditation cushion. No matter what spirituality looks like for you, it can easily be infused into every part of your life.

One of the biggest opportunities for spiritual practice is simply in being in relationship with other people. Victor Hugo once said, “To love another person is to see the face of God.” Whether you believe in God or not, our intimate relationships can teach us a lot about life and about ourselves. By completely immersing ourselves in the relationships around us, we quickly discover that ordinary experiences can be transformed into extraordinary spiritual experiences.

The first thing to do when beginning this new type of daily spiritual practice is to clear out anything that no longer serves you. In the case of relationships, this might mean re-evaluating your commitments to people you’re no longer close to. Not all people are made to get along with each other. If you are currently involved in relationships that do not support your growth, or are keeping you stuck in old habits, let go of them. It might feel painful at first, but initial pain makes room for better things and people to come along. Let go of anything that holds you captive and don’t look back. You’re going in a much better direction.

Of course, we can’t cut ties completely with certain people, no matter how difficult they are, like family members, co-workers, and others we unavoidably have to interact with. However, it can be helpful to acknowledge to yourself that you are no longer going to interactemotionally with some of these people.

Cutting ties, even with people whose company we do not enjoy, can leave us feeling lonely — it is difficult to move away from the familiar and into the unknown on our own. Use this time to practice being your best friend. Spend time meditating, taking walks in nature, and reconnecting with the core essence of who you are. When you’re ready to add new people to your life, keep in mind how you feel before, during, and after you spend time with them. If, in general, you feel calm and/or grounded in their presence, you’re on the right track.

As you move along your spiritual journey, take stock of the people that remain, and remember that, differences aside, they care for you and want you to succeed and be happy, just as you wish the best for them. Remember that everyone has something to teach, and be open to those lessons that you can only learn from others.

(This is the first post in a series on relationships & spirituality. Look for part 2 next week.)