People thus show up in our life for 2 reasons.
The first is to help us come to balance. To purify or complete things we may have held together. Perhaps we have an unfulfilled obligation or an unrequited love. Other people can also be a very profound mirror for ourselves, reflecting what we’ve been unwilling to see. Notice how we react to them. Strong reactions can indicate what we need to look at. They may also help us heal and find balance. We can release the nodes of holding that create an energetic mesh in our history.
These we can describe as karmic relationships. They are not necessarily bad. Often they can be quite alluring or fun, drawing us into what needs to be done. But if we instead react and push back, we actually can increase the resistance. We add to the “mountains of karma” some teachers speak of.
This doesn’t mean always being nice to what shows up, as I spoke of in To Battle and Surrender. It means not fighting the pointless battles.
One of the hallmarks of a karmic relationship is that it’s needs based. We find someone who is energetically similar with common or compatible resistance. This can be another way for them to mirror it for us – seeing it in another.
But relationships based on needs dependency are doomed to either fail or be a source of pain as they place our happiness dependent on another. When they “misbehave” or change, they may cease meeting a need, causing strife. Especially if they resolve a resistance and now mirror our shortcomings more vividly!
The tricky part is that because held karma is resistance, it creates blind spots. In fact it’s a sure sign that karma is at play when we notice we don’t see or grasp the situation clearly. This makes it harder to allow and let it go. But if we notice the symptoms, we can stop, look, and listen. With a little practice, we get to know how to feel what we’re feeling and use the signs to get under the mask.
Because we can clear our active karmic obligations with simple seeing and releasing resistance, if we do our inner work, we can increasingly avoid the big drama of hurtful relationships.
While a relationship can be a valuable vehicle for clearing, we don’t have to jump into the mud. We can step patiently and see what arises. Look at our reactions without engaging the judgments that might arise.
If we begin to develop skills with this, we may discover that the driver for the relationship dissipates or it shifts from wanting intimacy to just being friends. They brought us what we needed to see and it’s done.
This is profoundly different from stepping into a prolonged co-dependency of pain.
Because of the way the mind works, we’ll create stories about someone we meet. Or assign them an existing story – He’s one of those! We react and put our reaction on them. Blame them for how we feel. But our reactions are NEVER about them. This is probably the most important point to get.
If we can take responsibility – without blame – for how we feel and respond, we can begin to own our heart again. And that is the doorway to profound happiness and peace.
We should not confuse reactions with preferences. Everyone has preferences. The kind of people we’re comfortable with, what we enjoy doing, and so forth. The hidden value here is the preference for people who push our buttons or reinforce our drama. We can unconsciously seek our pain.
Seeing our attachments tends to happen in stages. At first, the light bulb will go off after the fact. After we’ve put our foot in it. After we need to apologize. With observation, we can begin to see the dynamic while it’s happening. Cut it off midstream. Perhaps before the damage is done. Finally we can begin to see the energy as it arises, as we first begin to react. Before action is engaged.
The trick here again is not to push back at what is arising. That’s just more resistance. Resisting the resistance in fact. The trick is in allowing it to arise but not reacting. Just looking and seeing. Not engaging the energy.
If we’re doing this kind of work, we may get the impression that all relationships are karmic. Some drama from the past coming knocking in an enticing form once again. It’s enough to make you want to become a monk!
But there is the other aspect of relationship that goes far beyond an exercise in having ones shortcomings mirrored. A dharmic relationship is one that mutually supports our journey, that supports the fulfilling of purpose. These relationship are almost unrecognizably different from karmic ones. Rather than being about playing the drama they are about mutual fulfillment. These are more likely to be long term relationships, possibly even ones that span many lifetimes. They are marked by mutual respect, deep friendship, and love.
You’ll know these relationships as they come with a deep resonance. Much deeper than physical and emotional attraction. A soul harmony. Such relationships are deeply rewarding and mutually enriching. The kind we’ll never forget.
This is not to say such relationships are easy. They are even more inclined to be mirrors for our crap. And getting the lives synchronized energetically can take some clearing of any residual obstacles to being with them. In other words, they are not without karma. In fact, they may feel like karma factories as they can push us along our path more quickly.
We may meet the disappointment of meeting them when we’re at different stages of the path, where the energizes can’t be synced. Or our karma may pull us to other experiences. The movie The Time Traveler’s Wife expresses this in a curious way. Or The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. How life dances us together in the most odd ways.
We can’t separate the dharma and karma of a relationship. But if we can pay attention to how we’re reacting to what arises and do our work on that, we clear the way for the flow of dharma and thus happiness. Life can be deeply enriched by good relationship.
We may be lucky enough to find our upaguru in our mate. A partner who serves as a vehicle of the divine in our lives, a point of devotion to flow love to. A god/goddess. Thus they not only support our dharma, they become vehicles of developing enlightenment. This is relationship divine.
Remember – we’re in this together. There is no separate person here. Relationship is thus our most direct way to recognize our unity.