In the previous sensory balance post we completed a two-part exploration of how the third of our four inner senses—spirituality—helps us imbue our experiences with meaning. We now turn our attention to the fourth and final inner sense with the first of two posts on our sense of belonging.
Belonging: I connect and communicate. I enjoy meaning-filled relationships with myself and others. I know and am known.
Healthy boundaries are not about separation; they are about creating an environment that fosters constructive core energy. One of the greatest gifts we give others is not choosing to love them; it is having the generosity and courage to allow them to love us.
If at this point in our exploration you’re hoping for a big dose of holding hands and singing “We Are the World,” you’re in for a disappointment. Relationships are not for the naïve or faint of heart. There’s a reason I cover this inner sense last. Relationships are the doctoral program of life lessons. Just when we think we’re starting to get the hang of living from unconditional self-love, the Universe raises the bar and sends us relationships. As challenging as you may have found this path so far, self-love is by comparison relatively easy to accomplish in isolation. It is much trickier in community with others.
Relationships offer the opportunity to recognize and transform any and all vestiges of unexamined fear within ourselves, thereby becoming even clearer channels for love and light at all times and in all situations. They are, in the words of George Frideric Handel’s Messiah, “the refiner’s fire.”
Intimate relationships are loving mirrors. The adage of opposites attracting is based in part on the idea that we seek in our companions a way to complete the underdeveloped or unappreciated parts of ourselves. Now there is a formula for friction! You can choose to walk around feeling annoyed and put upon most of the time or, like the oyster, choose to embrace the irritant and set your intention to create a pearl. It’s up to you. You are the decider; what will you do with your precious gift of life? How might you find greater joy in your relationships if you weren’t so attached to tolerating them with resentment?
Kick all thoughts of “fixing” others to the curb. Even if they let you do it, it is not kind. It robs them of their personal power and opportunity for personal growth. By forcing a situation on them that they may not be ready for, you expose them to a sense of failure and cheat them of the opportunity for authentic, organic growth that could have empowered them by unfolding in its perfect time. As with the man who thought he was making it easier for the struggling butterfly by cutting it out of the cocoon, it does not matter what you think your motivations are; the butterfly is still dead, and you’re the one holding the scissors. It is neither respectful nor realistic. You can’t make anyone change. Substantive, lasting change comes from within.
Share ideas and possibilities freely. Then completely detach from the outcome. When you find it hard to do so, your real opportunity is not to “fix” the other person’s life. It is to figure out what feeling you believe you’ll have, the one you won’t let yourself have now, once they get in alignment with your plan. Next, get curious about what fear is blocking you from allowing yourself to feel that feeling, just as things are. Finally, determine what truth and love-based reality you could substitute for your chosen fear-based lie and illusion to produce the desired feeling for yourself right now, without anyone else having to change anything else. If you are really interested in changing someone’s life for the better, focus on the only life for which you have been given both the responsibility and ability—your own. In the process, you will find that moods can be contagious. Your greater joy and fulfillment will improve the experience and opportunities of everyone and everything you encounter.
What kind of companion are you, and what type of people do you spend most of your time with? Honest, optimistic, encouraging people committed to mutual growth? Companions who share deep, meaning-filled relationships? People who lift one another up and help raise one another’s energetic frequencies when they are low? Or wet blankets, devil’s advocates, and downers?
Take great care in choosing your closest relationships. While we may have great love, respect, and compassion for others who are choosing to fuel themselves with fear, it is not necessarily optimal to expose ourselves to a constant diet of such companions. Yes, mindfulness can help you keep yourself clear, but a constant need to be on alert for attitude and mood contagion is exhausting. While challenging relationships present great learning opportunities, they are debilitating on a regular basis. Even the strongest among us needs a break now and then. Pay attention to what you are feeding your sense of belonging.
One of the reasons we become stuck in codependent, mutually destructive relationships is that we are resisting appropriate allocation of responsibility. When we choose to remain attached to the energy of regret and resentment, we entrap ourselves in a shame and blame web of our own making, unable to break free into self-responsibility and healthy detachment. Learning to bring to bear unconditional love, respect, curiosity, compassion, and gratitude produces the shift from a disempowering core energy of fear, reeking of “I don’t matter” and “I am powerless,” to an empowering core energy of love, emanating “I matter” and “I am powerful.”