From Relationships to Divine Love
Excerpt from Spirituality For Dummies
By Sharon Janis




Though I speak with tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
— 1 Corinthians 13-1-2

Along with the inherent blessings of experiencing love, good relationships can bring great opportunities for spiritual, mental, and emotional growth. Human beings are naturally drawn to relate with other people. It is through relationships with others that we grow and discover more about the world and ourselves. Jesus has said he is present whenever two or more are gathered in his name, indicating the importance and the power inherent in joining with other souls during your journey through life.

Mutual affection soothes the heart, while intelligent conversations spark new vistas of thought. The support you feel and receive from loved ones gives you the strength to move forward courageously in whatever you are inspired to do. Even when some aspects of your relationships may be rubbing you the wrong way, a spiritual focus can help you to see blessings beneath the irritations, and the lush growth budding beneath the outer storms.

When Harry met Sally
Love, Relationships, & Potential Potholes
Seriously folks: Any corporation with a failure rate as high as today’s divorce rate — right around 50 percent in the U.S. — would have to reexamine its internal structures and would probably go out of business. This high percentage of marital breakups is an indicator that things may be changing and evolving in human-relationship land.

Most people want to find a soul mate who will love, understand, relate, respect, and live with them happily ever after. However, few people are fortunate enough to find a true soul mate in this life. Even so, many still want to have some companionship along their paths, so they settle for relationships that seem to be compatible and loving in the moment, but which may change into being not so compatible or loving in the future.

Due to cultural traditions, a couple may feel obliged to sign on the dotted line of vows that don’t necessarily carry the full depth of their souls’ conviction, such as promising to stay together “in sickness and health, until death do us part,” when these vows may not reflect their true feelings and intentions.

Even if both parties are fortunate enough to stay alive and healthy, today’s focus on individual growth may bring some to seek their future growth in different directions from their partners. Therefore, honesty, respect, and communication are paramount in any relationship. Don’t just repeat vows you don’t really mean. Either rewrite your vows, or contemplate deeply to make a true commitment to keep them.

Even with all the shifts and changes that are inevitable with two intertwined lives, you can keep your relationship vibrant, strong, and ever-deepening. With mutual respect and flexibility, you and your partner can allow and support each other in following your dreams and aspirations while maintaining your connection of love and commitment.

The key to keeping your vows without selling out your greater dreams is to understand and appreciate the preciousness of life and of each soul’s journey in this world. Without respect for each other’s growing and changing interests and inspirations, a previously promising relationship can end up crumbling into resentment, dishonesty, and anger.

Maintain good communications with your loved one about what you really commit to and how you plan to keep growing individually and together. Everyone has different beliefs and expectations when it comes to the “rules of relationships.” Discuss yours with your partner so you can both make real vows that you can honor and keep while you are together, and also if the time ever comes that you move and grow into separate directions.

I would like to give a disclaimer here and say that having lived with a monastic focus during most of my life, I haven’t had a lot of opportunities to personally explore too many relationships, although I have experienced my share of spiritual devotional love. So while I do my best to present helpful information about the topics of marriage and romantic relationships from a spiritual point of view, if you look very closely, you may find just a teeny-tiny bit of bias on my behalf toward opting for the single life.
  Marriage is a great institution, but I am not ready for an institution.                     
      — Mae West

Avoiding Mediocre Relationships
Sometimes people want to have a relationship so badly that  they will settle for a mediocre one. My parents did this and went through many years of unhappiness with one another before finally going their separate ways (and for you Freuds out there, yes, seeing and hearing their plentiful arguments probably did help inspire me to go for a monastic-style relationship with the divine).
Making insincere long-term commitments to a mediocre relationship just to please others or fulfill an expectation or desire can possibly hold you back on your greater spiritual journey, because:
* Mediocre relationships can keep you from growing past the level where you and your companion meet intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. As Henry David Thoreau
said, “The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.” If you and your partner have a deep soul level connection, then you will be able to give each other the space to grow individually as you also continue to grow together.
* Your companion may not support your spiritual efforts. Some spouses may even feel jealous if you start paying more attention to God or spirit than to them.
* Relationships can consume a lot of precious time and energy. A good relationship or marriage can give greater value to your time and efforts, but a mediocre one may leave you in the end feeling the burden of unfulfilled dreams and wasted years of useless activities and meaningless arguments and banter.
* You can’t really be too spontaneous and carefree when someone else is depending on you to always be exactly who and how you have always been. While steadiness is a great quality to develop, at some point you may be spiritually guided to make some dramatic changes in how you approach and relate to life.
You need to be your own guide as to whether having a close relationship or marriage is best for you.

Adding spirituality to your relationships with devotional love
Devotional love is much like a magical elixir that soothes and sweetens your heart and soul. Devotional love brings many good qualities, including contentment, gratitude, enthusiasm, service, humility, sacrifice, and a willingness to grow. Devotional love keeps you focused more on divine and great qualities than on limited circumstances. Devotional love brings touches of spirituality into all of your relationships, as it helps you to see the best in yourself and your loved ones.
Here are three equations to consider regarding the importance of devotional and worldly love:
* Devotional love plus worldly love = great.
* Devotional love without worldly love = still great.
* Worldly love without devotional love = not so great.

Spiritual tips for making romance work
If you want to spiritualize your romantic relationship, approach your relationship with spiritual awareness. See God in your companion, as you love and worship each other in your hearts and souls. Give each other space to grow, and be supportive of each other’s greatest dreams and aspirations.

People today are much more individualized and self-focused than their forefathers were. Carbon-copy, cookie-cutter families of the 20th century are no longer the norm. The media explosion and a lot of cultural shifts in recent decades have created some very self-focused generations who are not necessarily prepared for the sacrifices necessary to maintain a long-term monogamous marriage.

As conscious spiritually-focused beings, you and your partner need to communicate enough to know what your true feelings, hopes, and commitments are. Regardless of whether you have a legal piece of paper or not, you need to explore and create a powerful, supportive relationship that works for both partners with room for expansion and a commitment to continued positive communications and mutual respect regardless of where life’s twists and turns may lead.

Contemplation and self-inquiry can help you stop replaying the same scenarios over and over again in the ongoing situations of your life. Have you noticed how certain relationship patterns can keep arising with different people until you figure out what inside yourself is creating or allowing those events to arise?

For example, you may be very generous with others and feel betrayed when they don’t reciprocate as you think they should. The spiritual guidance from this kind of situation may be to stop giving more than you’re comfortable giving, or to keep giving enthusiastically but without having so many expectations about what should be given in return. This lesson can help you give more freely and experience less disappointment in the future.

By staying centered in your soul connection through spiritual practice and awareness, you and your partner can help one another step-by-step, healing old wounds and exploring new realizations as you move alone and together toward the eternal, absolute oneness of pure spirit. Anchored in higher understanding and purity of feeling, you grow together with love, care, and the highest mutual respect.

Sharon offers creative works including inspiring books, videos, music, and an extensive website of free multimedia spiritual resources. Her second edition of Spirituality For Dummies includes a CD of devotional music sung by herself and other artists, including Oseh Shalom, The Eternal Om, Diamond Sutra, Ave Maria, and Om Namah Shivaya. Enjoy these at www.nightlotus.com.

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