by Mark Walstrom
Our longing for connection is natural to human existence. We are all tribal people and our health and happiness are intricately tied to connecting with others. It is often through relationships, especially intimate relationships, that we find meaning and purpose in our lives. Yet, for most of us, relationships are a struggle.
It has been said that relationship is the yoga of the West. An intimate relationship is a powerful mirror that constantly challenges us to take a personal inventory of our lives. It offers us tremendous opportunity for personal healing if we make a conscious choice to move in that direction.
Love is a powerful force. When we dont know how to handle its power, we slip very quickly into misguided, and often painful ways of being. Love is a force that inevitably brings to the surface the parts of ourselves that we desperately try to keep hidden. It is because of the closeness and the possibility of love in the relationship that these issues emerge. Many of us blame our relationship problems on a lack of love, but it is actually the love in the relationship that has brought forth the issues. A close relationship is a powerful light, and like any strong light it casts a large shadow. When we stand in the light of a close relationship, we must learn to deal with the shadow.
In all of our intimate relationships there is a moment when we first wake up and begin to notice our shadows. At first we feel dazed and discouraged, then when the full extent of the issues are revealed it turns to shock. Its at this point the key choice occurs, to begin a conscious relationship where we move to a higher level of intimacy, or an unconscious relationship which stagnates, or eventually withers and dies.
Typically, our ego resists the personal exploration necessary for a conscious relationship because it wants to hold onto cherished beliefs about who we are, what is right, and what we need. We move toward love and suddenly our ego throws up a wall. The ego fears surrender. Our task in relationship is to consciously break through and soften the layers of masks we have donned to protect us from hurts, losses, and loneliness. Allowing ourselves to be shaken to our roots is a source of a growing relationship.
Our core self longs for us to crack our shells. In doing so we become free to experience all that is within us. In relationship not only are we challenged to face our most primitive feelings of longing, love, loss, and fear, we are challenged to welcome feelings of power, creativity, passion and sensual pleasure. Many of us are afraid of expansive energy washing through our bodies, cracking the boundaries of our limitations, exposing us to our primal selves. We have a choice to feel this energy or close down around it. To allow ourselves free-flowing energy is to say I surrender. It means we fear nothing that is human and natural. We release ourselves from the misery of holding back and playing it safe. By contrast, the ego closes down to the free-flowing energy resulting in rigid beliefs, fear of change, and disconnection from our authentic selves and others. All authentic relationships include conflict and the challenge of staying awake.
Conscious relationship also requires an ability to both merge and be separate, to come together and be apart, creating a constant rhythm. It consists of two people, devoted to each other, being true to their individual paths as well as being intimate with each other. We need to willingly open the door for our beloved to spend time realizing his or her passions and life goals.
Being conscious in relationship is another way of saying go slowly. Staying conscious can be difficult because our survival instincts want to avoid discomfort and have things defined and settled. Crawling in love is about staying mindful and aware. It is about going slowly enough to pay attention and hear the inner voice of wisdom when our ego wants to rationalize, analyze, and defend. When we crawl in love we are more likely to deepen our bond through a variety of experiences over time.
We begin our journey of conscious loving always remembering that there is a circular relationship between our ability to know and love another and our ability to know and love ourselves. The more we commit to knowing and accepting ourselves, the more we are able to surrender to loving another person.
Mark Walstrom is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He can be contacted at (616) 222-9857.