You’ll hear me say that on the awakening path, anything is your teacher. We traditionally think of a spiritual teacher as an actual person performing the function of spiritual teaching. But your teachers can include nature, your body, animals and insects, and, of course, other humans. Additionally, Wisdom can travel through any and every channel and can reveal itself to you through any and all life experiences, especially relationships.
I want to focus this article on relationships with your inner circle as your spiritual teachers. This could include parents, siblings, children, cousins, best friends, spouses, lovers, etc. These individuals are perfectly positioned to mirror back both what is radiant and true in you, and also the remaining wounds and shadow that are holding you back. In fact, these intimate relationships are often uncannily perfect in their ability to trigger and catalyze us. This is always a gift, even when it’s hard – but only if you receive it as such.
Relationships as Mirrors
We are complex creatures with a complex matrix of conditioning. All the meditation, inquiry, spiritual and healing practices in the world will likely not illuminate all the conditioning by themselves. We need mirrors to show us what we cannot see on our own. Enter in our most intimate relationships!
Our closest relationships can mirror back to us all kinds of aspects of self – insecurities, the need to be seen, our unresolved wounds of attunement and attachment, our true capacity to love, our unrealized talents and gifts, our uniqueness, habits, resistance, and much more.
Sometimes the mirroring is direct – our loved ones give us direct feedback and directly illuminate some aspect of ourselves. Sometimes the mirroring is indirect – our loved ones trigger the crap out of us and we have to figure out what’s going on inside that got so triggered. Through finding and understanding any triggered parts, and then taking every opportunity to learn from the situation, we can better embody and evolve.
Relationships as Embodiment Catalysts
Because spiritual awakening and practices on their own aren’t enough to embody, we need real life to challenge us to live awakened consciousness in all aspects of life. For example: You might understand Divine Love in a blissful meditative state. Can you maintain that connection with Divine Love when you feel incredibly frustrated by a loved one’s behavior? Challenges give us the practice to stay in love, truth, wisdom, and wholeness, while wrestling with conflict and shadow.
This isn’t easy. I find that inner circle relationships are usually the most difficult area of life for people to integrate and embody. I think this is because we have more complex conditioning around intimacy, attunement, and emotional safety – three key areas that our inner circle brings up for us.
That said, everything in life, including intimate relationships, are designed to help you awaken, embody, and evolve – not pull you backwards. You may feel like you are being pulled backwards into unresolved conditioning, but think of it this way; sometimes we have to go back to collect all the parts of us that have not yet healed, resolved, or awakened. It’s an act of love to go back and collect these aspects of ourselves!
When you bring all the parts of you along on the awakening and embodiment journey, you may just find that it deepens your experience of the Divine, Consciousness, and Infinite Love. After a series of awakenings, I honestly had no idea that rising to the challenges in my life could make my experience of Divinity even sweeter and richer, but it did. It was an unexpected gift on the path.
Unlock the Opportunities First
In times of conflict, many of my clients want to jump to “What do I do about the relationship conflict?” More often than not, I find that we can’t start there; we have to start with understanding why this situation is happening and identifying the truths, gifts, and opportunities. Once we have this level of clarity, figuring out “what to do” becomes a whole lot easier. And, most importantly, we have received the sacred gift of relationship as teacher and taken the next step on the awakening and embodiment journey.
There are many tools that you can use to harvest lessons from a challenging relationship and allow it to catalyze you in your healing. While this process is incredibly individualized and unique to each person, relationship, and circumstance, here’s a list of possible inquiries and exercises to get you started. See if any of these activates insight or a healing process.
- What is this relationship mirroring back to me? (This could include parts of you, beliefs, habits, etc.)
- How is this relationship teaching me?
- What is the pattern/belief/wound in me that’s helping to create the challenge in the relationship? How am I a part of creating this reality, consciously or unconsciously?
- What are all the things that are true about this situation, even if the truths seem to conflict? (and/or)
- What’s the first, most true thing about this relationship or situation? What’s the next most true thing? And the next?
- In meditation or out in nature, you can “walk around the relationship” – holding the relationship as outside of yourself, imagine doing a 360-degree perimeter walk around the relationship, seeing the relationship from all perspective and all sides. What do you see? What is revealed to you that you could not see before? What’s most true?
It can be incredibly gratifying to discover new truths and new paths of liberation and love in relationships. I hope this article helps you take the first steps on the journey of discovery and liberation in your relationships.
In the next article, I take a deeper dive into that complex matrix of conditioning and how it impacts our relationships: “Why Relationships Are So F*%$#d Up.”