Monday, December 30, 2013

The Mirror of Our Relationships

My colleague Margaret Paul once said that "relationships are the PhD of life." We can learn many things through introspection and self-focused personal growth. But we cannot fully grow and evolve unless we actively embrace the lessons available in all of our intimate relationships: Parent/child, life partners, friends, creative collaborators, family, co-workers... Our relationships are truly relation-SHIPS. How smoothly we sail requires the efforts of both parties. When we hit obstacles, it can because of me or you or both of us...And consciously tending to the needs of me, you and the "we," is often required to get the SHIP back on track. Too often, we think of relationships as just "you" and "me," and may not be aware that there is also a "we" that needs conscious care and attention. When you and I become polarized or in conflict, we are at risk of tearing apart the "we" if we are not aware that it is part of the picture. It is too easy to "other" a loved one when we are angry or disappointed or hurt, and lose sight of the irreplaceable value they add to our life. While a role or function can be replaced (golf buddy, singing partner, colleague in the office next door), no individual person can be replaced. Making a new friend does not take the place of an old friend we may have lost. Authors Joel and Michelle Levey coach people to find more harmony and balance in relationships of all kinds. They note, "So much of the joy and sorrow in our life is related to the quality of our relationships. By learning to recognize the many invisible patterns of relationship, you may come to a wealth of valuable insights regarding how to find more harmony with the people in your life." To have more balanced relationships, they encourage us to: * "stay honest with ourselves and with others about what is really true for us * communicate what is true for us with authenticity and compassion * listen fro the heart, and for the heart, in what is being communicated * make the invisible visible by recognizing and clarifying assumptions and expectations * know our options and make conscious rather than compulsive choices * show respect by being willing to "look again" or "look more deeply" into ourselves and others * keep coming back to patience, openness with discernment and a sense of humor * have confidence in ourselves and nurture trust in our relationships * treat ourselves and others with kinds, caring and compassion, * see each relationship as a mutually supportive vehicle for realizing our highest potentials and for discovering wholeness greater than our individuality * view the relationship as serving a larger sphere of learning and development than just for ourselves * intuitively sense the common ground of being that animates and inspires you and all your relations The mirror of your relationships will relentlessly offer moment to moment feedback on the quality of harmony and balance in your life. Receive this feedback with a sincere wish to awaken even more deeply to your highest potentials, and the quality of your relationships will noticeably improve over time." This material is adapted from Living in Balance by Joel and Michelle Levey

The Courage at the Heart of Vulnerability

Why so often do we equate vulnerability with weakness or neediness or desperation? Are we so scared of opening our often armored hearts, that we are uncomfortable with those who dare to open theirs? Conscious vulnerability is not weakness at all. In fact, it is quite the opposite. It is not only courageous, but even more so. It is a divine power: the divine power of an open and touchable heart. If I live with an open, touchable, and therefore, vulnerable heart, I risk being hurt. But if I live life numb, closed and untouchable to protect my vulnerability, I disconnect myself from the flow and gifts of life. It takes strength and courage to live consciously with a vulnerable heart. Yet, to be fully alive and emotional vital, we need to take the risk of being touched by life and other people who are part of our lives. When we are brave enough to be vulnerable, we help create emotionally safe spaces that allow other people to risk being vulnerable too. The safer we make it for others to open their hearts, the safer a world we create for everyone. My colleague Jeff Brown writes, "Sensitivity is a sign of life. Better hurt than hardened. I bow to those who keep their hearts open when it is most difficult, those who refuse to keep their armor on any longer than they have to, those who recognize the courage at the heart of vulnerability. After all the malevolent warriors destroy each other, the open-hearted will inherit the earth." When we risk living with an open, vulnerable heart, we take a stand for creating an emotionally safer, more authentic, welcoming world when both we and others have the space to connect and be who we really are.