Relationships: Three Spiritual Guidelines

posted Nov 18, 2012, 5:35 PM by Interfaith WS

            Divorced three times and planning to marry again, Mame sought guidelines at my workshop on “Human Relationships and the Spiritual Way.” “When I am on my own,” she said, “life runs smoothly. As soon as I get close to someone, problems start – disappointment, disillusionment. It happens like clockwork.”

            Darshani: Why?

            M. People don’t measure up to my expectations. My last husband, for example, would forget everything that was important to me – evenings that we planned together, simple groceries, even my birthday. That was ample proof that I didn’t matter to him.

            D. Many years ago I knew a man who never forgot my birthday or the anniversary of our meeting or anything I asked him.

M. That’s the sign of sincerity that I want.

            D. That’s only the sign of a good memory. He remembered not only my birthday; he also remembered the birthdays of three other women he dated at the same time. I share this with you to show you that our expectations of others have no basis in reality.

            The first spiritual guideline to healthy relationships is to neutralize all expectations. Grasp the fact that each of us acts according to an inner blueprint. Just as you cannot act, feel, or think as others would like you to, you cannot design their behavior. As the Bhagavad Gita puts it, we are entitled to the action but not to the fruit.

            M. I don’t understand.

            D. Let’s say you cook a five-course meal. You do the best you can, and you do it with love. Your husband comes home, doesn’t say thank you, and doesn’t even feel like eating. How would you react?

            M. I would get upset and state to think, “What’s wrong. Did he take another woman out to dinner? The least he could do is acknowledge my efforts!”

            D. If you were living according to spiritual laws, your reaction would differ. You would accept his response without reading anything into it or viewing it as a judgment of your worth.

            M. But how can I deal with my thoughts?

            D. Bring God into your life. That is the second spiritual guideline. Cultivate the inner attitude, “Let happen what will. I need no pat on the back. I expect nothing. All I do is for the Divine alone. Whether others hate it, love it, or ignore it is not my business. It is theirs.”

            M. But my thoughts overwhelm me.

            D. Why should you let them? Watch them as an observer. When you hear your mind say, “Why doesn’t he act like I want him to?” refuse to identify with that. Say to your mind, “There you go again. This time I’m not buying your old tape.” Eventually, your unruly thoughts will lose their hold on you. Our problems come from our minds, not from other people. When we learn how to stand back and watch the mind’s antics, our relationships improve dramatically.

            The third spiritual guideline is to root your relationships in the Divine. Picture two couples walking along a road. The first couple, A and B, keep looking at one another for their happiness. When B lets A down, A gets angry. The second couple, C and D, walk hand in hand, but their eyes are not on one another. They are fixed on their common goal ahead – God-realization. Whatever happens – changes of mood in C or D, surprises, illness, disturbances, failures, irritations – their equanimity and peace remain intact. C and D have their roots in God, they walk towards God, and they support one another spiritually and morally in their common quest.

            Kahlil Gibran put this idea beautifully. I suggest you meditate on his words:

Love one another but make not a bond of love

Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls….

Give your hearts but not into each other’s keeping

For only the Hand of Life can contain your hearts

And stand together yet not too near together

For the pillars of the temple stand apart

And the oak tree and cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.