Most of us have a desire to connect deeply with others. We long to give and receive love and to share with each other in many ways. Often, however, we find the closeness we desire to be elusive. Relationships of all kinds may come and go, or they may change. At times, relationships can be very painful. Many of us have not had very good role models for relating to others, especially within our families or among those closest to us. We are all doing the best we can to figure out how to be the best parents, friends, partners, brothers, sisters, daughters, and sons to one another. As the old adage goes, “When we were born, they forgot to send the manual!”
Fortunately, we are living in a time of great change and discovery. We’re learning new ways of living more consciously, and one of the main ways we are learning is through our relationships. More and more people are seeking help and understanding about how relationships work – not just our intimate partnerships but all our relationships. Many people who seek help for their relationships want to improve them (although we tend to secretly think it’s the person we’re having trouble with who needs to do most of the improving!). A desire to relate to others in a healthier and more fulfilling way is a worthy goal, and learning to communicate effectively can improve all our relationships. Communication is a tool we are continually developing, especially as we grow and change and learn more about ourselves.
Countless psychologists and teachers, with a variety of perspectives and different types of wisdom, focus on helping people improve their relationships. Many of these teachers are extremely effective and very helpful to their clients, but they usually focus on the relationship itself.
There is a different approach to relationships, however. This perspective is not found in popular relationship models, and yet it is the most powerful path to increased awareness that I have ever experienced. It is the understanding that our relationships are our teachers and can guide us through our lives if we know how to use them that way. This approach shifts the focus away from the relationship itself and instead looks at what we are experiencing in the relationship and what that can teach us about ourselves and our inner process.
Regardless of whether we stay in a relationship or move on from it, every relationship is an opportunity for us to learn about ourselves and to grow. Working with my relationships in this way has been the most powerful and comprehensive path to consciousness I have experienced, and I love to pass it on to other people.
When we view relationships as a path of consciousness, we recognize that the most important relationship we have is with ourselves. Ultimately, this is our primary relationship, the one that provides the foundation for the rest of our life. All other relationships are mirrors reflecting back to us what we may or may not know about ourselves. The process of using these reflections to learn about our development and ourselves helps us to become conscious, integrated beings. And each of our relationships, when viewed in this way, can become a powerful journey into healing and wholeness.
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Shakti Gawain is the author of The Relationship Handbook. A bestselling author and pioneer in the field of personal growth and consciousness, she cofounded New World Library with Marc Allen in 1977. Visit her online at http://www.shaktigawain.com.
Excerpted from the book The Relationship Handbook Â©2014 by Shakti Gawain and Gina Vucci. Published with permission of New World Library http://www.newworldlibrary.com