Inner  Frontier
Cultivating Spiritual Presence

 

Inner Work


For the week of December 23, 2019


Relationship Presence

(Introduction)

From the moment of our birth until our last breath, we live in relationship with other people. Great joys and sufferings come to us through our relationships. Much of our life is built on relationships, mostly face-to-face, but also through all the various communications channels vying for our attention. Until our inner work leads us to our true identity, we take our identity in part from the way others see us. The people around us provide a context that enables and supports us in becoming who we are. Without other people, we could not survive. The process of growing from childhood to maturity is in no small part about learning to interact with others with responsibility and kindness.

For our spiritual inner work, there are numerous points of contact that concern our relationships with people. We take as a baseline the usual religious and humanistic morality, such as the Golden Rule, kindness, respect, generosity, and so on. We may engage in communal worship or group meditation. Beyond that, with the rest of our day, we can come to a set of practices we can call relationship presence, being ourselves and here with others. The domains of morality and relationship presence are linked. When we are present, we are more likely to see the right thing to do in a given situation, and we are more likely to be able and willing to do it.

In terms of our spiritual practice, relationships create both opportunities and difficulties, which are also opportunities. On the difficulty side, there are endless examples. When we are in a conversation, we tend to get lost in it, leaving us with little or no presence. Our ego tends to get roused, moving us to try to build up our image, defend it, or inwardly lament our inadequacies and failures as compared to others. Our greed and selfishness may drive us to take from others and not give. That can be something as simple as taking their time and attention by talking excessively, with little interest in them. We can be paralyzed by fear of exposing our inadequacies and say too little in conversation. We can be so wrapped up in ourselves that we ignore the needs of the people around us. We may feel we are better than or above the people we are with, or below them, rather than equal as we are in reality.

On the positive side, we have Tolstoy saying that all happy families are the same. Love, kindness, consideration, connection, and generosity are their foundation. This benefits all involved, materially, emotionally, and spiritually. Family life, even at its best, has its challenges. For parents, it requires ongoing sacrifices of their personal interests. We may like some relatives more than others, yet they are all family, with fundamental connections to us. How we treat them matters and provides opportunities to practice relationship presence. All of that also applies to friendships.

By working at relationship presence, we are not taking something away from the way we relate to people. We are not insulating or isolating ourselves. On the contrary, relationship presence brings us closer to others and helps us shed some of the destructive baggage we carry into our relationships. Relationship presence is all about really being there with and for other people.

In the coming weeks we will explore various aspects and approaches to relationship presence. For this week, please notice how you are with other people and work at being there with them. This matters. It affects us directly and immediately. It affects the people around us. And it ripples out to the wider community.

    1. Listening Presence
    2. Speaking Presence
    3. Equal Presence
    4. Kind Presence
    5. Savoring Presence
    6. Responsible Presence
    7. Open Presence
    8. Presence in Difficulty
    9. Respectful Presence
    10. Simple Presence
    11. Sacred Presence


        

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