Building Healthy Relationships

Relationships with other people and creatures of the planet are essential for our unfoldment as individuals and evolution as a species.

If there is one person or creature that you hate on this planet, then you do not really have full love for anything on this planet, because to fully love one being is to love their true nature, and all life shares the same nature. If you are getting along with one person, and not someone else, then you must look deeper at the nature who they are, and who you are. Love, a human constructed word, is not the act of preferring some set of characteristics or behaviour over another. Often these preferences are not even conscious choices of ours, but conditioned in us from infancy.

Natural love has no preferences. It has nothing to do with you or them. It is not sentimental, it is not bound by time or space.

Not many can claim to live this sort of love, but by making small adjustments to our views and behaviours with others, we can start to expand our sense of love, and more wholesome and honest relationships will follow, whether they be intimate, family, friendship, professional, a passer-by, or just an idea.

Susan Jeffers, author of “Dare to Connect” speaks about how everybody wants to feel loved and cared for. Oddly enough, we gain a sense of connection and love by caring for others.

When your outlook in exchanges is “What am I going to give?” rather than “what am I going to get?” a sense of outflow and abundances is at play. We can feel more at peace in attempts to connect with others whether we are rejected or not because it is not about us. Life also becomes a lot more fulfilling and interesting because we are interested in others rather than trying to be interesting.

When we are consumed with wondering how we can get what we want, or avoid what we don’t want, we miss a lot about life. We miss how other people around us might be feeling, and what we might have to offer any given situation.

You are what you hate, while you are hating it.

The above is a popular quote from Namgyal Rinpoche. It speaks to the condition that we are in while we are self-absorbed, either in social anxiety, lost in our thoughts, or worry over our lives. In order to perceive something negative in the world, we need to feel negativity in ourselves, and thus we become it.

There is another popular saying that you create your own reality with your thoughts. Often our thoughts about the world are conditioning, however as we become aware of them, we can start to choose them, and change our world.

This is important for building relationships because we need to understand that most people are just running on habit. If someone directs unwholesomeness towards you, it is because they are feeling unwholesomeness, and it is probably conditioning for them to respond that way. They also probably aren’t conscious of the conditioning at play.

To be a Bodhisattva means that you are endeavouring to awaken for the benefit of all beings. You are not the only one who benefits when you step out of the cycle of misery and conditioning. Everyone does. There is one less person who is perpetuating defensiveness, control, and impartial views in the world.

People become objects to provide us with something we need; they do not appear to be human beings like you and me with their own insecurities and needs. We must use things, and love people. – Susan Jeffers

downloadPractice 1: Self awareness

If you want to have a healthy relationship with someone else, you need to have a healthy relationship with yourself. You have probably heard this before, but the Dharmic point of view on how to accomplish this might surprise you. The healthiest view of yourself is founded in truth.

In the relative reality, you are 1 in 7 billion people. In the absolute, you don’t really exist at all. You are something of an illusion and even then will only exist as an animated illusion for a limited period of time, and have a choice with what you will do with that period of time.

Working with the self can happen from the inside and the outside:

  1. Get in your own body. Start with breathing meditation and apply the first foundation of mindfulness. A person can become much less reactive and at the whim of their feelings by calming the mind and getting in touch with the origin of where feelings and thoughts happen: the body.
  2. Look at yourself objectively, from the outside, with these articles/exercises:

downloadPractice 2: Respecting your feelings and needs

Ask your higher self what is the loving way of doing something and then follow its instructions, no matter how much your lower self objects – Susan Jeffers

When we are mindfully aware, and able to identify clearly in the moment how we are feeling, and what we want, we can have the ability to be honest with ourselves and those in our lives.

When we are not aware, it can be easy to deceive ourselves. Read this article for practices on avoiding self deception.

Even spiritual communities sometimes deceive themselves into denying their human needs and uncomfortable feelings in the name of “spirituality” or “transcendence”. It’s hard to let other people meet their needs or to deal with conflict if you are too busy transcending everything. This is known as “spiritual bypassing”. Not a good way to build relationships, honesty, or trust.

In support of this theory, “The 5 dysfunctions of a Team” gives the first step to building a healthy team: become comfortable with conflict. This is the foundation for trust among team members; that if something uncomfortable arises, the believe they will be able to stand in together to meet it.

Get to know your needs, and recognize when they are not being met so that you can make a healthy request. The Center for Nonviolent Communication has this awesome PDF to help you recognize some basic human needs, and what feelings indicate that your needs are or are not being met. Have a look at the PDF and see if you can identify where in your life needs are or are not being met.

downloadPractice 3: Differentiation

Before we become interdependent we must first become independent – “Other Kind of Smart”

In the book “Getting the Love you Want” intimate relationships are exposed for their true nature. Often we have some healing from our childhood and relationship with your caregivers to finish, and people tend to look for intimate partners who we can play out this healing with, and restore wholeness in our being. You are probably not aware of this process taking place, because it is your primal, instinctive brain that is running this function in the background.

To be continued …

downloadPractice 4: Aikido

Aikido wisdom says “don’t fight, don’t flee, just flow”. Aikido is a practice that Doug and Catherine Sensei often suggest to their students who need to develop more body awareness, and comfort working with other people.

Aikido teaches its practitioners to use the least force necessary to render your opponent harmless, and without hurting them or yourself. We aim to do this in interactions with other people, to deal with various energies in a harmonious way, rather than butting heads or trying to force someone to do what we want. In Aikido, if your body is rigid and you are not allowing for flow and movement, you are more likely to become injured.

Getting the body to experience this harmony can help us bring it into our daily life interactions. Sign up for an Aikido class, and experience this for yourself.

downloadPractice 5: Communication, Communication, Communication 

Extracted from “Dare to Connect” on workplace communication

1) Be open to having you belief system changed

2) See other points of view as contributions to the whole point of view

3) Agree to disagree if necessary

4) Focus on discovery rather than getting yourself heard

5) Stop being defensive. Try saying: “I hear what you’re saying, lets see how we can mesh our ideas/ you came to that decision”

6) Stop criticising

7) Pretend you don’t know anything at all (Buddhist really like this one!)

-Stephen Covey (author) – relationship bank account concept

downloadPractice 6: Relationship Bank Account

From “The Other Kind of Smart”

Having a relationship with another being is an ongoing investment. It may be so natural to you to call your friend up in the morning, have lunch, tell them a secret, give them a birthday present. All of these acts are like coins put in a bank account.

Consider these tips for investing in the people important to you:

1. Pick a person at work/ social environment you’d like to know better – when you talk to them concentrate on remembering one or two things important to them. Write down it if it helps you. when you see the person again ask about these things.

2. Remember important dates/ events in the lives of people who matter to you, like birthdays and anniversaries. Keep it in a calendar. If you don;t see them on the occassion, send a card or call them.

3. Ask people questions about themselves.

4. Don’t talk more than 50% of the time. Listen also.

5. Do random acts of kindness. Mark them in a calendar until it’s second nature.

6. Call and offer help in hard times to people close to you.

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