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Healing Relationship Stress With Spiritual Practice

Spiritual practices can provide comfort in times of relationship stress and pain

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spiritual practice
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Turning to a spiritual practice or the Divine of your understanding provides comfort in times of relationship stress. It can be the ultimate first aid for heartache; a clearinghouse for your resentments; pain and upset; a balm for your spirit; and the source of a renewed faith in love.

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.…And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast. —Kahlil Gibran

Love, as Gibran wrote, is designed to elevate us to the highest peaks and plunge us to the depths of despair. Love truly leads to the greatest joys and the most profound sorrows of the heart. In facing and overcoming those pains we need faith. The very person who we love the most, to whom we are most attached, is only human. And he or she will bounce up against our wounds from our childhoods, dating years, previous bad matches and challenging exes.

Even if our partner does not re-create the exact same disappointments we have suffered before, we are wired to re-experience the old hurts. Love relationships inevitably bring wounding, disappointments, and betrayals. So we need a big-time force to help us heal, grow, and learn to trust and love again.

Sometimes We Need More Than What Human Beings Can Give Us

While seeking help from others is obviously important, probably no human power can fully remove our suffering. I speak from years of experience as a clinical psychologist but most importantly from my own life as a wife, mother, sibling, and daughter.

You might think of yourself as an agnostic, atheist, or rationalist. Maybe the God thing turns you off. Perhaps you gave up religion as an adolescent. Maybe you believe that the only god is humankind—that we are the greatest power in the universe.

If so, the only thing I want you to consider is that there seems to be much more going on here. Maybe you have noticed synchronicities: You think of a long-lost friend and he or she suddenly contacts through Facebook. Or you get a gut feeling that a particular event, like bumping into your ex, is going to happen, and there he is right in the middle of the street in a bustling city. These coincidences or synchronicities suggest that there are things happening that are beyond our awareness and understanding. And just maybe a power or force underlies all there is.

Research on the Benefits of Spiritual Practice

Even if you are a hard-core rationalist, solid research shows tons of benefits from spiritual practice. First of all, studies clearly show that prayer and meditation can and do heal. For example, even when prayer takes place at a distance from a sick person, and those who are praying do not know those they are helping, there can be a positive and healing physical effect.

Additionally, thousands of studies show that meditative practices of all kinds lower stress, anxiety, fear, and even blood pressure, while increasing feelings of being in the present and in a state of connection and serenity.

Even if you consider yourself an agnostic or atheist, please be willing to open yourself and your love relationship to a Higher Power or Something Greater than yourself.

How to Practice

A spiritual practice usually involves communing with or contacting an HP. What do I mean by an HP? It could be nature, life, the universe, of which we are but a speck, or the four forces of physics that seem to govern everything. You can choose your HP. It could be spirit, light, angels, power animals, or love itself. When you connect to an HP, no matter how you understand it, you don’t have to go the distance alone. Most important, where you try to make it all happen in your couple by sheer will. Over time you develop a sense that the universe is benevolent and will provide support for you, your Beloved, and the relationship.

This is the ultimate soothing experience that allows you to be present and able to experience what is happening. And how it might be worked out in a win-win way. So you can be present instead of being in your head. Instead of agonizing about how bad things are, how right you are in the given situation, how your partner will never ever get it right. For sure, don’t get stuck in the swamp of negativity and suffering.

The Being-in-the-Moment Exercise

This is a simple practice that has helped many of my clients and it is something my husband and I practice daily. The Being in the Moment Exercise will lead you in a soothing direction. The Navajo used to call it "walking in beauty’s way." This is an outwardly-focused meditation where you put your awareness on an object in the present moment. It is easiest to do somewhere in nature: a park; an undeveloped field or forest near your home; a lake or beach area. If you are in the city, use trees, plants, flowers, birds, squirrels, water flowing in a fountain or clouds-and-sky. For 15 minutes each day, take a being-in-the moment walk. It's best to create a time slot for the exercise outside of your daily routine. But you can also do it whenever you are outside, going to work or walking home.

Beauty is everywhere.
Use your full attention. Initially put your attention on something you don't usually notice, like blades of grass or a squirrel. Study the object. Take it in with your senses. If thoughts or feelings come, accept them and then bring your mind gently back to the object before you. Appreciate and find the beauty in the thing, even if it is just a patch of grass. As it says in an ancient Sanskrit manuscript, "Look lovingly on some object. Do not go on to another object. Here in the middle of this object lies the blessing."

Once you get a feeling of oneness with the object, walk on slowly and choose another. Gradually, you will emerge from the auto-hypnotic trance that most of us are in all the time; that focuses on the past or worries about the future. Breaking that trance means you can come into the present. You can then reconnect with God, stillness or All-that-is. When that happens, you'll realize that you're never alone. As Sri Daya Mata says in Enter the Quiet Heart,

"Realize that we are not alone,
That we never have been
And never will be alone."

Miracles, small and large, can happen to you when you are in the present.

This is especially true when you are in the great balm of nature, whereas Emerson puts it, "a wild delight runs through the [wo]man in spite of real sorrows." Allowing yourself to be present with an arching oak tree, the caressing wind, or a shiny tiny hummingbird can help you release your sadness and anger so that it passes through your heart easily and effortlessly. After your feelings pass, you may feel more detached from negative thoughts about your relationship pain, ex or even a breakup.
Coming into the present helps you create a new vision of your future, with all the energy of God, your Higher Power or the spiritual universe behind you. You can pass through the dark nightmare of pain into the light of peace and even gratitude.

Benefits of Spiritual Practice in Healing Resentments

Often, we focus our attention on being right. Or one-upping our partner. Better yet, holding onto resentments and how bad we feel. We might conclude that our partnership seems empty and hopeless. Who do you think is hurt the most by your resentments, whether they are justified or not? Your partner? Your children? Others? Yes, they are hurt, but not as much as this one person.

That would be you.

Switch your attention over to connecting with the Infinite. Change the channel in your mind. You will more easily stop that misery-resentment process and open up to new solutions. Through a regular spiritual practice, you become able to receive intuitive gut hunches or messages that help you. And, in turn, most difficult life and relationship situations resolve themselves.

Usually these new inspired solutions offer both you and your partner a way to get your needs met. Amazingly, solutions appear that did not seem possible before. I like the way musician and songwriter Kenny Loggins puts it: “My trust in a higher power that wants me to survive and have love in my life, is what keeps me moving forward no matter what happens.”

Tip for Today

Just for today, ask (even if you don’t know who you’re asking) for a small miracle or sign that helps you in the way you need to be helped right now. If you look for it, you will find it.