Spiritual Practice part G
Relationships and Happiness.
Our interactions with other people and our relationships have great influence on our moods. This includes relationships at work including clients and customers; in recreation and socialising; at home; and especially intimate relationship and marriage, married or defacto.
So an essential part of our spiritual practice is building better relationships and friendships. So they bring more happiness and less suffering for oneself and others.
We can reflect on the list of the spiritual Qualities, to help us identify what’s lacking in our relationships, and thus better direct our efforts. Do we need more tolerance and forgiveness? Or do we need more trust and willingness to share? Or do we need to be more decisive and determined, or do we need to listen and be more flexible? Do we need more worldly wisdom in assessing the unspoken urges of the other party, and perhaps be more honest to ourselves about our true needs? What needs improvement, where can we better direct our energy? What can we develop in the near future?
As our spiritual Qualities improve and thus our relationships improve, then our friendships become opportunities to practise for these beautiful Qualities, instead of a problem due to their lack.
However, not all relationships are wholesome, and some can become quite toxic. Especially ones that we really rely on, and are hard to get out of. In this, old traumas remain unhealed, and the pain they cause can lock doors and block channels of communication and co-operation. This can create tortuous and difficult paths that we have to fight our way along, just to get things done. Sometimes we just do not have the necessary endurance and patience, and tempers flare. People get destructive to each other, and the old wounds get torn open again.
There is no clear universal rule that we can follow, as to whether we should continue to endure the relationship or terminate it, in part or in whole.
But it is clear that we cannot be responsible for their defilements, no matter what pressure seems to be put on us to do so. It is their business, and we just have to endure it. For communication and co-operation is impaired in toxic relationships.
But we can take responsibility for our own defilements, and we need to. We can reflect – what defilements are active now, in our mind and heart? Is it feeling abandoned, or wrongly/unfairly judged, or betrayed and cheated? Or more feeling devalued and disrespected? Or is it more frustration, irritation? Or is it criticism, blame and resentment? Does hot anger arise, and is it fairly directed against someone we really need to exclude?
It’s easier to see the defilements in the other person. Then we can use the mirror, and look inside our own heart, and see what’s going on there. Quite likely, something similar to what is troubling the other person. And thus troubling our relationship.
The first step in solving a problem is to clearly identify it, and identify the underlying causes. Naming the defilement now active, and naming it accurately and succinctly, can be most helpful.
Then we can use the various techniques for letting go of such defilements. I discuss these elsewhere. This will build the foundations for good relationship skills. And these can only be developed when we are in contact with other people.
It is clear that meditation cannot develop social skills, because meditation requires withdrawing from social interaction. Meditation by itself, without social interaction, has limited value.