Embracing Spiritual Relationships

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Do you believe in magic? Like the magic of the prince with the glass slipper, Sleeping Beauty, or the Frog and the Princess? “Myth and fairy tales attune us to both the psychological and the spiritual. In studying them, we can forewarn ourselves of what we are likely to encounter within both the personal realm of our own psyches and the noetic realm of greater forces.” (Borysenko, 1990:92). There is no magic. Everything we imagine, everything we dream, everything we wish is real. All we have to do is quiet our minds and enter into the world of higher consciousness, where all truths live from generation to generation. Everything we need to know about our lives, our relationships, our trials, and our tribulations is right there for our enlightenment. Most importantly, we need to remember that there is a lesson to be learned from each trial and from each relationship.

During our lifetime we form many very special relationships: mother/daughter, father/daughter, mother/son, father/son, brother/sister, sister/sister, brother/brother, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, playmates, school friends, teachers, colleagues, mentors, and so on. When you think about all the possibilities over the years, the list is endless. I would like to focus on the relationship between a man and a woman.

There are three main types of relationships between a man and a woman: friends, lovers, and spouses. Each of these relationships offers the persons involved the opportunity for personal as well as spiritual growth.

The first very important relationship between a man and a woman is as close friends. Where the relationship between a man and a woman is not joined in marriage, friendship is the catalyst for growth:

“Over a lifetime maybe only a very few become truly intimate friends—soul mates. It is as though souls recognize the hidden treasure in each other and forge the alliance, while the conscious mind goes on with its intentions, hopes, and expectations.” (Moore, 1994:96).

The second very important relationship between a man and a woman is that of lovers. However, if their relationship is limited to being lovers it is usually a tumultuous relationship, one in which both individuals need psychological help before any healing and growth can take place. In this type of abusive relationship each person feeds off the other until they are completely drained. The situation can be saved when one or both of the persons seek counseling enabling the emergence of healthy individuals. At this point the relationship either moves in a healthy direction towards marriage or disintegrates, with each of the individuals taking a new path for fulfillment. “If I am attached to another person because I cannot stand on my own feet, he or she may be a lifesaver, but the relationship is not one of love.” (Fromm, 1962:112).

Finally, the third very important relationship between a man and a woman extending from friendship and love is as husband and wife, the result of two people choosing to join in union:

“It’s enormously appealing to share life at the deepest levels with someone to whom you are more attracted than anyone else in the world. It is the sense of being in partnership with a person who likes the things you like, thinks the way you think, works as hard to make your marriage succeed as you do, and who, above all else, thoroughly loves you and contributes to your growth and self-esteem.” (Warren, 1992:5).

Marriage is not a game where two people fulfill their ego needs. It is a sacrament that should be entered upon after we, as individuals, have searched our souls and are sure that the person we are considering to marry is the person who will complete a karma with us. “Whatever you do, don’t jeopardize your life by making a decision just because you don’t want to hurt your partner; or because you think your friends might think badly of you.” (Warren, 1992:18).

Warren’s warning is applicable both before and during marriage. Yes, we must choose our mates carefully, for we have much to learn from each other. However, should we reach a crossroads, that place where we have completed our growth with our spouse and it is time to move on, we need to choose our options carefully. The crossroads is an enormously difficult place to be. There are so many options open to us for continued growth, yet our loyalty and commitment to our spouses, our children, and our families prevent us from recognizing the signs of stalemate and the need to renew.

Still, if the time should come when we need to move on, the same consideration should apply. “That conscious step is part of the eternal process of initiation. It marks the point at which inner awareness is brought into outer expression.” (Karpinski, 1990:42). We must be honest with ourselves, our partners, and the relationship.

Honesty means going within and searching for the truth. When we look closely at ourselves, we will come to realize that we have additional lessons to learn, and new challenges to face, which do not include our spouse and/or our family. Our job is so mundane we can’t think about spending another day there. And yet, we continue to do what we have been doing since the day we said, “I do.” Why? Commitment. Commitment to our spouse, commitment to our family, and commitment to our employer. But nowhere do we see commitment to ourselves. We are stifled in marriages that are no longer redeeming:

“Most people have a time-bound awareness and the reason is they have sacrificed their self for their self-image. The self-image is our social persona, the protective veneer, the mask behind which we hide. The self-image is intellectual, it calculates, it determines its behaviors in anticipation of other people’s responses. . . . . The self-image therefore is fear-based time-bound awareness.” (Chopra, 1995:Tape 1).

And we think we can’t move on because we are stuck at the impasse, which blocks us like a huge wall protecting our marriage institution. Inside the wall all is familiar, comfortable, safe, and good. Beyond the wall is the world of the unknown where danger lurks and only the “bad” venture. As long as we stay within the confines of our system we act responsibly in the eyes of society. Once we take a step outside the accepted norm we are threatened with scorn, rejection, alienation, and humiliation:

“Once you shrink your sense of self down to become this belief or that belief by identifying with it, you find yourself completely isolated inside the experience. There is no context to provide perspective or resources. Anything that you identify with is going to limit you by blocking out any other experience.” (Wolinsky, 1991:58).

Many of us can identify with Lilah Krytsick and Steven Gold in the movie, PUNCHLINE (Sletzer, 1989). Lilah has been successfully married for 15 years to John, the man she loves. Together they have three daughters, who she also loves very much. However, deep inside, Lilah Krytsick is empty because a piece of who she is, her purpose in life, is missing from this beautiful family portrait. Lilah Krytsick needs to make people laugh, to help them forget their troubles, loosen up, and enjoy themselves, but she is caught at the impasse. To make people laugh she falls behind on her “wifely” and “motherly” duties. To be a “good” wife and mother she must spend more time at home and less time in night clubs. In fact, according to John, she should give up comedy altogether.

Lilah Krytsick and Steven Gold are an example of how we need to reach out for spiritual guidance and support. It is imperative for our psychological health that we remove the notions which block our ability to hear our inner voice and act accordingly. “From this transcendent place [the Self] it is possible to break down the walls of separation and bring us into harmony with ourselves and each other.” (Jeffers, 1992:17).

To do so, we must redefine the role of marriage in our society and accept it as another discipline for spiritual growth. Then we will be able to take direction from within instead of society’s obsolete principles. “The East has recognized long ago that that which is good for man—for his body and for his soul—must also be agreeable, even though at the beginning some resistances must be overcome.” (Fromm, 1962:111). In following the teachings of Eastern philosophy we know that a man and a woman come together to complete their karma with each other. This may mean having children or it may mean remaining childless. Regardless, there is a purpose for their meeting, agreeing to spend a portion of their lives together, and establishing a union. “The persons and events in our life are the means through which we learn. They are our teachers as surely as if we sat at their feet.” (Karpinski, 1990:62).

Eastern philosophy also teaches us that there are no coincidences in life. This is particularly true of relationships, especially the relationship between a man and a woman who choose to continue their spiritual growth together. At times this could mean a short-term relationship, at other times a long-term relationship, and for some it means marriage. The length or type of relationship is not important. The learning and growing that we achieve is the critical factor, “We may honor a marriage’s soul by discovering what it wants. Some marriages characteristically ask for distance, others for closeness; some for children, some for the life of a couple. Some apparently brief, some lifelong.” (Moore, 1994:65).

Initially, the newness of marriage and the infatuation with our mate is sufficient to satisfy our needs and to elevate us to a different dimension, both within society and within ourselves. Over the years, there comes a time in marriage where we stop growing because the changes that take place revolve around our family. We begin to suffocate but we are too busy to realize that we need to slow down, take a deep breath of fresh air, and tune in to ourselves for new direction:

“When we were taught. . . that our value lies in what we do, as opposed to who we are, we automatically switched. . . to feel worthy. There seems to be no value placed on the experience of inner peace, and without it we find no room in which to rest. This leaves men as well as women feeling spiritually homeless.” (Williamson, A Woman’s Worth, Pg. 85).

We are so preoccupied with the needs of our family that our own growth is stifled. To properly and completely fulfill the needs of our family we must examine ourselves, and see what we need to do to continue evolving spiritually. “Sometimes challenge says to us, ‘Listen, this old idea of who you are has you trapped. Now is a good time to break it.’ The minute we really hear this we discover there are many systems around to help us move beyond old forms.” (Karpinski, 1990:130). Sometimes this means that we need to let go of our safety and security and start walking a different path. We can do this with our mate, alone, or with a new mate. Regardless, we need to move on.

Marriage today is very different than it has ever been. Our roles in life have changed. We no longer place our emphasis on cultivating the environment or augmenting the species. Man has come a long way since his birthplace in the East African Rift Valley four million years ago, “Each culture tries to fix its visionary moment, when it was transformed by new conception—nature or man.” (Bronowski, 1974:24). Our quest for survival on earth has been achieved. Today our quest should be spiritual growth. Therefore, our lives on earth need to reflect the changes which our present vision requires to achieve its goal. For some couples this means reassessing their commitment together and changing the course of their marriage. For others it means ending their marriage and continuing their spiritual growth either alone or with a new partner:

“When you don’t understand this principle you can misinterpret something healthy and purifying that’s happening in the relationship for something unhealthy and undesirable. You panic and say, ‘Oh, my gosh, things are falling apart between us,’ when actually, things are trying to come together.” (DeAngelis, 1995).

Once we have successfully completed our lessons with each other, it is time to seek guidance from the universe and move on to further our studies. Marriage is the graduate school from which we earn our Masters degree. Once attained, it is our choice, through the wisdom within, to remain in a safe, yet dormant relationship, or to move forward and begin our Doctoral program on earth:

“If you measure the success of your relationship in terms of how comfortable it makes you feel, you may delude yourself to believing that your stagnant relationship is good because it doesn’t challenge you, and confuse yourself by thinking that your transforming relationship is unhealthy because it’s pushing all your buttons.” (DeAngelis, 1995).

This is a very difficult concept for some of us to comprehend. We have been raised in a society which values marriage as a lifetime commitment and views any deviance from this cast as adultery. We are the ones who have to change this fallacy. We are the ones who need to create a society which reflects the needs of its inhabitants. According to Stendl-Rast, “The institution is a necessary evil, with an emphasis on both. We might as well deal with it, and deal with it lovingly. We cannot get away from it, but you change it. You are responsible for it. We can change it. Adjust them to our aliveness.” (1991). Although Brother David is referring to the religious institution, we can apply the same philosophy to the institution of marriage.

Changes to society’s values, though difficult to implement, do occur with the passage of time. The extended family, which was a practical solution to child rearing, nurturing, allocating household responsibilities, and sharing income and expenses has been replaced by the nuclear family. With industrialization, marriage became an institution, run by the guidelines of society. And society dictated that man must love woman and woman must obey man, and together they shall bring forth a family to ensure the propagation of the species. Within this family, man must maintain a roof over the clan, ensure their safety, and provide for their meals, medication, and clothing. Woman must nurture, cook, launder, nurse, teach, etc. “In an environment that conditions us to suppress our true selves and conform to the dictates of our parents, peers, religion, and society, there is little room for self-discovery and spiritual growth.” (Jeffers, 1992:31). Our institution ‘till death do us part’ became a prison for the soul searching for enlightenment and redemption.

The second wave of the Women’s Movement brought about many important changes in our society. We have arrived at a place where both men and women are capable of taking care of their own external needs, and those of their children. Relationships between men and women today have taken a spiritual turn:

“It isn’t enough to make a human marriage. In order to fulfill its need for divine coupling, the soul needs something less tangible than a happy home. It requires in the people involved a vivid sense of its own mystery and an awareness that purely human efforts to keep it alive and thriving always prove insufficient.” (Moore, 1994:51-53).

A new era of healing the feminine and the masculine through the archetypal gods and goddesses has emerged. The Age of Aquarius is upon us and we must be prepared to meet the challenges it presents.

The days of the extended family are over. One’s need to nurture generation after generation has terminated. Industrialism’s promise of a better world has been criticized by many, like Rupert Birkin in Lawrence’s Women In Love, who detest all the negative attributes that it brings man, like working at something other than that which we enjoy and by which we can express our true Self. More and more individuals are leaving industry in pursuit of a personal endeavor. So, too, capitalism is being replaced by celestial pursuits, "Anybody who is anything can just be himself and do as he likes." (1976). Regarding industry’s destruction of our soul, our ideals and our creativity, Birkin explains to Gerald, “There must arise a man who will give new values to things, give us new truths, a new attitude to life. . .” (1976:46).

There is no need for us to continue with this charade in any of our institutions. According to Major Barbara, “There are larger loves and diviner dreams than the fireside ones.” (Shaw, 1988:112). We have to make the necessary changes within our society to perpetuate our spiritual growth. It is up to us to branch out as teachers and role models of the new wave of humanity by sharing our insights and experiences:

“In the area of symbols and culture there is a space in which we can start the work of reclaiming our imaginative life, creating a new symbol language for our thoughts, dreams and fantasies. Traditionally the work of artists, it is also a project for anyone who wishes to clear away the mists of socially agreed preconceptions and see their experience with a different eye.” (Goodison, 1992:38).

With this vision in mind we can create a society focusing on the needs of the individual rather than the notion of good or bad. By tuning in to the needs of our ethereal salvation we will find that we are not fearful and we are not alone. We are an extension of each other, one with the universe.



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Bronowski, J. The Ascent of Man. Massachusetts: Little, Brown and Company, 1974.

Chopra, Deepak. The Higher Self. The Awakening of Your Inner Self. Niles: Nightingale-Conant Corporation, 1995.

DeAngelis, Barbara. Real Moments For Lovers. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio Publishing, 1995.

Fromm, Erich. The Art of Loving. New York: Harper Colophon Books, 1962.

Goodison, Lucy. Moving Heaven and Earth: Sexuality, Spirituality, and Social Change. London: Pandora Press, 1992.

Jeffers, Susan. Dare To Connect. New York: Ballantine Books, 1992.

Karpinski, Gloria D. Where Two Worlds Touch. New York: Ballantine Books, 1990.

Lawrence, D. H. Women In Love. New York: Penguin Group, 1976.

Moore, Thomas. Soul Mates. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1994.

Shaw, Bernard. Major Barbara. New York: Chelsea House, 1988.

Sletzer, David. Punchline. California: RCA/Columbia Pictures, 1989.

Stendl-Rast, Brother David. Joseph Campbell’s Spiritual Challenge. Lecture: Georgetown University Center for the Study of Liturgy, Spirituality and the Arts. Colorado: Sounds True Recordings, 1991.

Warren, Neil Clark. Finding The Love of Your Life. Texas: Word Books, 1992.

Williamson, Marianne. A Woman’s Worth. New York: Random House, 1993.

Wolinsky, Stephen. Trances People Live. Connecticut: The Bramble Company, 1991.

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