A key ‘mantra’ we work on in Conscious Relationship is the inquiry, avoiding relationship? In this context, ‘relationship’ does not necessarily refer to primary relationship, but rather to our relationship with life in general. A good metaphor here is that of a closed fist. To contract inwardly, to recoil from life and from others, is to avoid forward movement, growth, and expansion (excepting those occasional times where brief periods of inward ‘hibernating’ or retreat is appropriate). To relax the fist into an open hand (to extend the metaphor) is to let go and to embrace the reality of our inter-relatedness and interdependence with life.
We are always in relationship. There is really no avoiding that reality. Even if we renounce human societies and retreat to a mountaintop hermitage in Tibet, or to a forest meditation hut in Thailand, or to the sub-artic tundra of Canada or the Outback of Australia, we are still in relationship with the cosmos around us. The air we breathe, the food we eat, the ground upon which we sleep, the life-forms that pass before our eyes and the stars over our head, all are the objects of existence that we are in perpetual relationship with no matter how disconnected we may wish to be from human beings. And inwardly, we are also always in relationship with our thoughts, feelings, memories, sensations, and so on. (Deeper stages of spiritual realization yield the understanding that dualism is an illusion—all is truly ‘one’—but we have to guard against the tendency to want to leapfrog to enlightenment, called ‘spiritual bypassing’, as this results in different shades of phony holiness. Far better is to address the reality of our interrelatedness, both inwardly, and outwardly).
Most 21st century people are not cut out for the monastic life, or the life of the renunciate, or even the life of the loner. Some very creative people can do well on their own for extended periods, absorbed in their creations, but even these people have to come to terms with their internal ‘hardware’ that, as a human being, has them wired for social interaction. Even those sincere spiritual seekers who do lengthy meditation retreats, or who commit themselves to monasticism of whatever sort, must still negotiate their relationships with their fellow travelers, and must still come to terms with the relationships of their own personal history.
People at the opposite pole of the solitary person, those highly codependent types that have great difficulty being alone for any significant length of time, are no better off when it comes to dealing with relationship, despite all their time spent with others (and often accumulate more ‘karmic entanglements’).
The era we now live in, the so-called social networking era, presents unique challenges. Online relating can be problematic because it tends to encourage wide range contacts with little depth. There is a great need to stay embodied in these times, simply because there are so many ways to be disembodied, to disconnect, retreat, recoil, and in general, avoid deeper relating.
In order to go a bit deeper into this, we need to consider an idea that is found at the heart of most wisdom-traditions on Earth, and that is the dual nature of the human being.