One Soul, One Love, One Heart
The Sacred Path to Healing All Relationships
By John E. Welshons
New World Library Copyright © 2009 John E. Welshons
All rights reserved.
Spiritual Opportunities in Relationship
God is everybody....
The same blood flows through us all.
The arms, the legs, the heart, are all the same.
See no difference. See all the same.
NEEM KAROLI BABA
DO YOU SOMETIMES FEEL that what stands between you and happiness is the behavior of other people? Do you get frustrated and annoyed when people don't act or communicate the way you want them to? Are you frightened and dismayed by their beliefs and actions? Do you feel that you could be happy — or, at least "happy-er" — if only "those people" acted differently or thought differently?
If so, you are certainly not alone. We all have difficult people in our lives. We may be dealing with an uncommunicative spouse, an emotionally disconnected lover, an unappreciative child, an irascible aging parent, a jealous sibling, an abusive employer, or a fickle friend. Perhaps our entire family troubles us. Often, the relationships that cause us the most difficulty are with people who have great significance in our life, and when their behavior appears to be undermining our happiness, we can feel traumatized and powerless.
Perhaps a parent or a spouse is unwilling to interact with us in a loving manner, or someone we love is caught in a downward spiral of self-destructive behavior — addicted to alcohol, drugs, gambling, or an unhealthy relationship. Perhaps we are frustrated with ourselves — with our own inability to forgive, and to let go of judgment, because we feel our anger is justified.
We may be frustrated that we can't seem to rise above the petty irritations of daily life — rude drivers, noisy neighbors, and the person who left their cart blocking the aisle in the grocery store. Perhaps the morning news upsets us. The injustices of the world — the actions of governments, violent individuals, unscrupulous corporations, and religious and political fanatics — agitate our minds so that throughout the day we are troubled with burdensome thoughts of outrage and fear.
For some of us, the problem isn't the relationships we have as much as the relationships we don't have. We suffer because we feel alone. We long for that one special person whose love will complete us and nourish our heart. Or we long for a group of friends that feel like our "spiritual family." Sometimes we are convinced that we will never be happy until we find our "soulmate," or our community of "soulmates."
Perhaps the person we are living with doesn't measure up to our image of perfection. They don't behave the way we want them to, or respond the way we need them to. We believe in our heart that the relationship could be so much more, but we can't seem to bring that vision into reality.
Awakening Love in Challenging Relationships
Relationships offer us two precious opportunities: The opportunity to experience unparalleled love and joy, and the opportunity to see how our judging mind often blocks our ability to experience that love and joy. Our relationships can be one of the cornerstones of our spiritual path. They have a uniquely powerful capacity to awaken the Love within us. That Love exists at the core of our being — in every moment and in every circumstance. But to awaken Love fully, we have to open our hearts to the difficult lessons we sometimes encounter in relationships. Those difficult lessons are trying to show us how our own mind stops the flow of love — to ourselves and to others.
Many of the difficulties we encounter are rooted in a basic, fundamental flaw in the way we approach relationships. Quite simply, we are often looking to find — in a relationship with someone else — something we can only find within ourselves. This flaw causes us to burden relationships with unreasonable and unrealistic expectations. If we don't change this flaw, we will very likely go through life perpetually frustrated, unable to find the happiness and connectedness we seek. We can't find it because we are looking in the wrong place.
From the spiritual point of view, the difficult lessons in our relationships are as important as the joy they can bring. Valuable insights come not just in blissful moments of loving connection but also in emotionally challenging moments of disconnection. Rather than seeing these challenges as impediments to our happiness, we will begin to look at them as the perfect training ground for becoming truly happy.
The difficult moments can show us how we cling to opinions, prejudices, and judgments — to our belief that the universe and the people in it should be different than they are. Relationships can bring our resentments, fears, expectations, and insecurities to the surface, giving us the opportunity to see how those qualities of mind prevent us from knowing contentment and joy. Instead of looking at relationships as the most frustrating aspect of our lives, we will learn how to use them to help us let go of the thought patterns and emotional habits that block our ability to be happy. We will recognize that happiness is our natural state, a state of being within us ... always present ... always available. The key to happiness is acknowledging that we already have that which we seek. It lives and thrives within our own hearts. But it is often obscured by our fear. The Love within us is like a beautiful buried treasure we need to mine for on a daily basis.
Our Web of Interconnection
Throughout our lives, much of our attention is focused on a handful of relationships we consider the most important — our primary romantic relationship (or lack thereof ), our immediate family (parents, children, siblings), our close friends, and our relationships with people at work. But life also includes a variety of other relationships — including those with people we might pass on the street and call "strangers," and those who live in distant lands we may never encounter.
It is also important to recognize that our relationships are not just interpersonal. We have a relationship with our body. We have a relationship with our mind. We have a relationship with our psychological self, our emotional self, and our spiritual Self. We have a relationship with our home, a relationship with our neighborhood, our town, our country, and other nations. We have a relationship with our planet and with the universe. And we have a relationship with our Creator. For the purposes of spiritual awakening, we really can't separate one kind of relationship from all the others. Life becomes truly fulfilling only when we perceive it as an integrated, undivided whole.
For instance, our relationship with our body is intimately connected to our relationship with our planet. We can take care of our body, feed it well, exercise it properly, and honor the importance of good health in our overall quest for happiness. But our efforts to achieve good health aren't complete if we continue to pollute our environment and deplete our earth's resources. The earth is our body also and its health affects ours.
Similarly, our relationship with our children and our partner is intimately intertwined with our relationship with our neighbors and with strangers on the street. It is a wonderful thing to be kind and loving to our family. But if we are simultaneously cruel or indifferent toward our "extended" family, our fellow human beings — those who are sick, hungry, lonely, oppressed, and neglected — we are missing an important set of threads in the overall fabric of life. In a very real sense, every human being is a part of our family, and their happiness is our happiness ... their suffering is our suffering.
We may wish for our government not to wage war. But so long as our minds are full of anger, fear, and judgment, our government's actions will likely continue to be a reflection of our own inner turmoil. The vibrations we send out to the world through our thoughts and actions have a much greater influence than the way we vote.
Aligning with the Big Picture
To heal our relationships and find real happiness we have to see a bigger picture than we normally see. That bigger picture is the recognition that we are part of a much larger whole from which there is no way to ever really be separate.
Mahatma Gandhi, one of the greatest visionaries in human history, clearly understood the bigger picture. He understood the interconnection of all beings, the significance of every word we utter, and the importance of every action we take. To transform ourselves and our world requires total integrity. It isn't enough to say beautiful things or to believe in lofty ideals. Gandhi believed we must become the embodiment of those ideals.
One day, while Gandhi was mobilizing millions of Indian people to peacefully rise up and resist British rule, a man ran up to him and begged, "Gandhi-ji, please give me a message to take back to the people of my village." Gandhi tore off the corner of a brown paper bag, borrowed a pencil, and scribbled a short note: "My life is my message, M.K. Gandhi."
Since I first encountered that story nearly forty years ago, I have regularly asked myself, "What message is my life sending? What message does it give to my loved ones, to the world I live in, to my self?" The way we drive, the way we talk to tellers in the bank, the way we treat the servers in a restaurant are all our messages to the world. Each is a statement of how much mindfulness and presence we have cultivated. Each is a statement of how much love we are willing to share. Each makes a contribution to how happy and healthy all of the relationships in our lives will be. And each makes a contribution to the overall atmosphere on our planet.
In each of our relationships, are we feeding more Love into the universe or more paranoia? Are we using our relationships with others as opportunities to heal our planet or to make it worse?
The answers to these questions are immensely important. One of the greatest weaknesses in modern culture is our increasing tendency to abdicate personal responsibility — to ignore the overall influence of our thoughts, moods, words, and actions. We focus, instead, on the belief that other people and external circumstances are responsible for our moods and actions. When we act out, throw a tantrum, or behave unconsciously, we can always say, "It was their fault. They made me angry. They deserve my wrath."
But when we commit ourselves to the spiritual path, we commit ourselves to taking responsibility for our own health and happiness. We begin to employ the practices and perspectives that bring our lives into harmony — so that our thoughts, moods, words, and actions will be those that naturally lead to happiness and peace. Gandhi's most profound statement about creating meaningful change was "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." It is an absolutely revolutionary concept.
How much time and energy do we spend trying to change others, to get them to behave the way we want them to behave, to treat us the way we want them to treat us? How much time and energy do we spend trying to get others to believe what we believe, to think the way we think, to affirm that we are "right" and they are "wrong"? How much time and energy do we waste thinking that we cannot be happy until someone else changes?
But Gandhi said, so wisely, we must be the change we are looking for. He didn't say, "Go out and preach. Go convert the unconverted." He simply said, "Change yourself." That is the route to happiness. Ironically, it also turns out to be the most effective means of changing our world.
In the pages of this book you will learn how to transform your relationships into the "school curriculum" for awakening — an ongoing education in which you learn how to mine for — and discover — on a daily basis, the profound, boundless Love within you. This book will also help to free you from the uncomfortable fear of being alone. You will see how — magically — your relationships become healthier and more fulfilling when they are no longer constricted by that paralyzing fear.
It is said that the "Journey to Love" is the journey from the mind to the heart. Allow your mind to be quiet and open, and "listen" to this book with your heart.
Start learning to love God by loving those you cannot love. The more you remember others with kindness and generosity, the more you forget yourself, and when you completely forget yourself, you find God.
ONE WARM SUMMER DAY in 1972, I was sitting with my dear friend Kitty Davy on the back porch of her home in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It was one of those steamy, inexpressibly serene Southern afternoons. Spanish moss hung gracefully from the trees. The leaves gently danced in the caressing winds. Crickets and cicadas were hissing, chirping, and cackling in shrill, ringing waves of melodious sound that floated in the softly billowing breezes.
The house was perched on a beautiful wooded bluff overlooking Long Lake. In the distance, just above the green treeline on the lake's opposite shore, the resplendent blue edge of the Atlantic Ocean defined the distant horizon.
I thought how rare it was to have a view of both a lake and the ocean, and of how small the thin strip of land was that separated the two bodies of water.
Kitty went into the house and a few minutes later emerged carrying two glasses of lemonade. The ice cubes jingled softly as she walked. She handed me a frosty glass and sat down. I took a moment to enjoy the feel of the cool, wet glass in my hand. Then I took a delicious, refreshing sip.
Turning east toward the ocean, Kitty silently gazed at the wondrous view she enjoyed daily. After a few moments, her elegant British accent in full bloom, she said, "You know, John, this is a very rare phenomenon. There is no other place on earth where a freshwater lake sits so close to the ocean. It's just a few hundred feet from the eastern shore of the lake to the edge of the ocean waves at high tide."
I asked if the ocean had ever risen high enough to cross that strip of land and infiltrate the lake.
"I am only aware of one time in the 1950s during Hurricane Hazel," she said. "There was a fear that the ocean water would harm the lake's fish and flora populations, but it doesn't seem to have done any permanent damage. The fish, the lotus flowers, and the water lilies are all quite healthy, and the alligators didn't seem to mind at all."
At the time, I was twenty-one. Kitty had just celebrated her eighty-first birthday. She was one of the most vibrant, energetic, humorous, and wise human beings I had ever met. She seemed completely unperturbed by the fact that several families of alligators were living in the lake just twenty feet beneath the cliff at the edge of her backyard.
Since the 1930s, Kitty had been a follower of the great Indian spiritual master Meher Baba. For nearly twenty years, from 1933 to 1952, Kitty had lived in India with Baba and an assortment of other Western and Eastern devotees.
On this warm, precious afternoon, she told me of her first meeting with Meher Baba in London in 1931.
"Baba was so wonderful ... so lovely."
Her deep brown eyes became misty. Her love for him was so profound that it felt like he, too, was sitting with us.
Kitty told me how she and many other Westerners were deeply moved by the purity of Meher Baba's spirit and the extraordinary power of his Love. Many were inexplicably, irresistibly attracted to him, even though most had no knowledge of Eastern philosophy. Many just found that they spontaneously felt "bliss" in Meher Baba's presence, and they described a radiant joy and a precious tranquility they had never previously experienced. A couple of years later, Meher Baba invited them to come to India to spend time with him. A sizeable group gladly accepted.
"We thought we were going to India to experience heaven on earth," Kitty said. "We thought our days in that holy land with our guru would be pure joy and uninterrupted bliss." A sweetly reflective, mischievous smile spread across Kitty's face. Her dancing brown eyes sparkled as she gazed off toward the ocean. "But that turned out to be nothing but a mirage ... and an indication of our complete ignorance about what 'spiritual life' would entail. We thought that it would all be lovely and fun. None of us realized that there was profound work to be done."
She giggled slightly.
"Once the 'honeymoon' was over," she said, "Baba began to 'work' on us. And one of the ways he did that was to assign us particular roommates and to give us certain tasks to perform around the ashram. He kept giving us tasks we disliked and assigning us to live and work with the very people we each had the most difficulty living and working with." (Continues...)
Excerpted from One Soul, One Love, One Heart by John E. Welshons. Copyright © 2009 John E. Welshons. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
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