What part do my old relationships play in my awakening process?
More likely than not, all your relationships could be called “old” relationships. You have a story about each one of them, from those recently formed to the ones you have had since childhood. More accurately, particularly with those bonds that are long standing, you have a multitude of stories. Within these narratives you define who that other person is to you: what they are like, what they provide for you, what you like and dislike about them, and the particular role or roles that you play in the relationship. You might be aware that you don’t seem to be the same person in each relationship. Perhaps you like the role you play with some acquaintances better than the person you find yourself to be with others, and so are more likely to seek them out so you can like yourself better.
Why do I call all relationships “old” and what does all of this have to do with awakening? Your natural state is to be awakened or absolutely in the now, taking nothing seriously as you are fully engaged with what is in front of you. In the now there are no old relationships. There is no history. If you are with another or even thinking about them, and you have any expectations based on stories or histories, you can know absolutely that you are not in the now. That means that you are asleep. You are not seeing the truth as it is. Your mind is creating scenarios about the other person and about yourself that have nothing to do with the truth of this moment. That’s what the ego mind does; it likes to create little dramas. What might it look like to be in the now with a relationship? We have talked recently about observing the observer. You have an observer who is looking at this relationship, at the other person, and at yourself, whoever this self is. It simply observes. Meanwhile your ego mind is making judgments based on what is observed. The truth of you, however, is the observer – not the analyzing mind.
It is not a question of needing to let go of old relationships that keep you stuck. Stuckness will then be created with any new relationship you attract, no matter how “spiritual” it might appear to be. It is also not a question of becoming a recluse and having no relationships, so there is nobody to create stories with. The ego mind will always find a substitute; you will find some place to project. Rather it is a question of stepping back to the observer, focusing on the noticing rather than your analysis of the noticed. As you are able to do this, you will see that every story you have about other people is false. If you are purely observing another from your true self, rather than from your analyzing mind, you will simply see their Divinity, and be absolutely in love with it.
This is a process that We invite you to play with in each and every relationship. It doesn’t matter if it is a relative or family member, a childhood friend, a longstanding friendship, an enemy, an old or present lover, a co-worker, a clerk in a store, a stranger you pass on the street, a celebrity you have never met, or a character from a movie, show, or book. This observing can be applied in the same way to every scenario. If you are in the physical presence of another person, recognize when you are doing more than just noticing. Pay attention to where there are any thoughts, expectations, judgments, likes or dislikes related to what is being observed with the other person. Just notice it. Be aware if a part of you wants the other to change in any way. Discern if you want to receive something out of the meeting. Notice that. In this awareness, the job is not to change yourself; it is not for you to stop having these thoughts. Just notice. If you have thoughts about changing your behavior, acknowledge that. Who is noticing? Your mind will likely keep active; your only job is to try to remember to recognize what you are doing.
By doing this you will, one by one, destroy every old relationship. These associations are based on stories. With them you tie yourself and the other up into specific positions and roles. The absolute freedom of the now is denied. Your behaviors and your perceptions are limited by these beliefs. In addition, your happiness likely is dependent on the other acting as you wish them to, leaving you upset much more often than you might wish. In the now there are no old fossilized relationships. Each moment is brand new. It has no history and is connected to no future. For some reason that is beyond the understanding of the mind, another person is brought into your presence. What a curiosity that is! Why? What is this all about? The only way to find out is to watch and see what happens. Whatever it is has never happened before and will never happen again. It is absolutely fresh. It is now! It matters not if this is a person you have never encountered before or a partner you have spent decades with. Let everything else go and allow yourself to experience this now.
A Course in Miracles reminds us that there is no order of difficulty in miracles. To the ego mind it feels more difficult to deal with the older relationships in the now, to hold them in a different way – particularly those with family. How do you view your parents, or your children? Most of you no longer live with your parents. One or both of them may no longer be living. With or without their physical presence, you still have a relationship with each of them. All you need do is to pull up the memory of an old story. You find yourself having a physical reaction, perhaps your heart beats faster or you are flooded with emotion, and all this with no physical presence. A parent may have done something that felt hurtful to you when you were seven years old. Now you are fifty and you pull the story up and feel hurt all over again. This certainly is not your first bout with this memory and will likely not be the last. Can you join me in appreciating the humor in the situation? Any outside witness could testify that your parent is not at the present moment doing anything to you. It’s just you doing it to you, while projecting blame on your possibly senile or dead mother. This is not living in the now. In the now you have no relationship with anybody who is not in your physical presence. But, since you already have the story pulled up, why not take a step back and watch it from your observer self. Look at it. Again, if there is any judgment or emotional response, that is not the watcher. Notice that. Who is noticing that? Keep stepping back to the watcher who sees the story, sees the child and the parent, and sees the adult replaying the whole scenario. The observer doesn’t take any of it seriously. This watcher doesn’t believe it is real or unreal. It doesn’t blame or take pity. It just notices.
For those of you who have such stories with your own children, let’s look at this from the viewpoint of your “home movies”. As they are growing up, your mind perceives all their vulnerable, fragile places. You feel a need to help them survive in the world with these deficiencies. Perhaps they are now adults, living on their own. These old stories keep being projected in your mind and you worry about them. Based on a story that was never true, but just a projection, you carry with you a constant pain. Then, just to add even more humor to the situation, your children probably react negatively toward this interference in their lives. They don’t want your story running their life. They may hide much of their life from you. The story keeps you from a now relationship with them, with another adult. As with the stories with your parents, notice all of this from the observer. A few laughs can usually be helpful in this process. Be aware of the fear, judgment, and guilt. Step back and watch from your observer self. You may be experiencing your noticer if you find yourself having feelings of absolute love for your family members. This love doesn’t worry about them and has no concern over whether you have done enough or done the wrong things. All that is experienced is a loving acceptance of what is.
This applies to every relationship. What stories are you still holding about any romantic relationship that broke off? Look at any specific groups of people. What stories do you hold about the other gender, about certain generations, about specific educational or intellectual levels, about financial status, about race or nationality, about religion or the lack thereof? The stories are endless that the mind creates. Each one locks you into a place where you are not free in the moment to truly be with others, whether in your thoughts or in their physical presence.
Having read all of this, you may still feel helpless in your ability to get to your observer self. How do you stop looking from the ego mind? You start by paying attention. If you simply stand still and accept all your mind stories, you will remain in the same cycle. Begin with a willingness to observe from your watcher self. It might sound trite, but where there is a will, there is a way.
There is a conundrum here. We are talking about a difference between Oneness and duality. You cannot hold the two simultaneously. The ego mind can only operate from duality. The truth of you can see only Oneness. How do you leap this chasm from duality to Oneness? The answer is that you can’t. The only thing you can do is to be aware when the ego mind is operating. You can notice that you are creating and operating from a story. Who is doing the noticing? That’s a good question to keep asking. You have no ability to control and change the mind that is creating stories, judging, and being overcome with emotions. Rather than futilely trying to become the noticer, you might ask yourself what qualities the noticer wouldn’t have. As you notice your mind or emotions acting in certain ways, ask if those are traits of your noticer. Ask if what you perceive is actually true. If you keep looking at these activities and are brutally honest with yourself the answer will eventually be no, these are not qualities of the observer. It is not possible for the noticer to change the noticed, nor would the noticer have any desire to do so. All that you can do is to slowly increase the frequency with which you are able to notice. At some point there may be a synaptic leap from duality to Oneness. You can’t make it happen any more than you can make a seed grow into a plant. You can nurture it through cultivation, but you can’t force it. At some point you may suddenly be fully aware of the absolute insanity and humor of the ego mind and stop using it.
Meanwhile, you have one simple job. Notice. You don’t have to change yourself, anybody around you, or the world. Just notice. There is no better place to focus this awareness than with your relationships, so that they can all become new relationships. Each meeting with another becomes like good improv theater, flowing with what presents itself, enjoying the spontaneity of the interchange, and allowing your guidance to carry you. There is no question of where it’s going, only an enjoyment of where it is.