In any relationship, there needs to be some space that allows others to express themselves or do activities that enhance the quality of their lives. Having space is making sure you both have quality time to do the things you love without feeling compelled to please your spouse, partner, co-worker or friend.
There is a oneness in relationships, yet two individuals must find their expression or satisfaction of their own unique needs. The question is, how do we practice or live this idealistic oneness daily, yet live a two-relationship philosophy? Some very important characteristics are honesty, trust and learning to be more giving, as Eric Fromm refers to in his book "The Art of Loving," rather than living in the mode of continually expecting to receive.
While these characteristics are important, one must discover the fundamental, spiritual meaning of "let there be spaces in your relationships." First you must learn to create space in your relationship with yourself. You begin by becoming very attentive and catching yourself thinking. You are probably asking, "but am I not thinking all the time?" So, how does this really work?
Several ancient sages said that one's spiritual progress is measured by how much thinking you do each day, week, month or year. So I have learned a simple way of doing less and less thinking (providing more space) each day. I began with the simple and easily accomplished goal of catching myself thinking once a day. After a couple of weeks, I expanded these sessions of watchfulness to three or four times a day. What I noticed about these brief, no-thinking moments was there was a stillness, peacefulness or spaciousness. Moreover, there was a brief respite from my ego telling me I should or could or did not do this or that.
This alert watchfulness can be extended to one's spouse, partner, co-workers or friends. You will discover that the more intimate your relationship, the more vulnerable you are to the ego's reactions. Obviously, you have to get your partner or spouse's agreement to practice becoming very watchful as you interact. This takes some patient explanation, so you and your spouse are on the same page when the always-present ego tries to pull you into conflict.
For example, either one of you could suddenly catch the tenacious ego coming in with a judgment or an angry statement. For sure, this will take some courage to gently point out the ego's subtle attempt to pull you or both of you into reactivity and judgments. But, persevere and practice doing this only once or twice a day. As you do this in a relaxed manner and work up to three or four times a day, you will find you and your spouse will not be in that habitual ping-pong, pervasive, mutual ego reaction. Instead, you will begin to experience the miracles of a functional, sane relationship.
As you extend this to your co-workers, family and friends, what was once a reactive button suddenly becomes a peaceful stillness or space. The miracle of miracles begins to happen. Your relationships have less and less thinking or judgments. This is not to say that you will not have experiences where the ego pops up and has a temporary influence. But stay with this simple practice and you will have an increasing number of days with more space or a shared, compassionate oneness.
The before-mentioned characteristics of honesty, trust and being more giving cannot help but manifest from this peaceful spaciousness that naturally results from one's ongoing practice of less and less thinking. Remember, there will be a few bumps in the road, but hang in there and you will be amazed at how these spaces of no thinking will create significantly enhanced relationships.
Jim Hawes, a retired Medford schoolteacher, has published "Ageless Child," Balboa Press, available at Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble, and is working on his second book, "Growing Older, and Growing."
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