Relationships as practice

runningStephen Levine has noted that relationship, though not the easiest method for finding peace, is certainly the most effective for discovering what blocks it. The fact that relationships often bring the most painful and unhealed aspects of our life out of the shadows makes them a potentially powerful teacher. But let’s be honest, who actually wants such a teacher? What do we really want from relationships? We want what we want! We want someone to fulfill our needs, someone who will make us feel good, give us security, appreciation, affection, and love.

As soon as a conflict arises and we feel threatened in some way, we tend to forget all about relationships as a vehicle of awakening. We tenaciously hold on to our views, judgments, and need to be right. We protect and defend our self-image. We close down or lash out. And, believing in all these reactions as the unquestioned truth, we perpetuate our suffering. As we continue to do this, the disappointment we cause ourselves and others becomes a pain we can’t ignore. That’s the beauty of relationships as spiritual practice. The pain motivates us to awaken; disappointment is often our best teacher. This is when practice can really begin.

Ezra Bayda, At Home in the Muddy Water

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