In my process of letting go of old patterns and stepping into a new life of fully engaged living I’m finding that I’m having to start from scratch in many areas, especially relationship. This is because the way I have been in relationship in the past no longer serves me as it was very much about attachment and getting needs met. Now that I am letting go of that and more able to fulfill my needs within the door is open to a new more free and open form of relationship. I’ve been contemplating the different dimensions of relationship and how I engage them both with myself and with others and there is incredible potential to deepen each dimension if relationship can be fully engaged in a conscious way.

In my view human relationship involves four primary dimensions each having its own spectrum from surface to deep. The first dimension is the physical and includes hugging, touching, cuddling, kissing and sexual contact. The second dimension is the mental and this includes everything from casual conversation to a deeper sharing of ideas and beliefs. The third dimension is the emotional and this can be any sort of emotional engagement with someone whether it is pleasurable such as laughter and love or not so pleasurable such as anger and sadness. The forth dimension is the spiritual which is the deepest and for me this represents beingness or sharing presence and the realm of unconditional love and joy.

All four of these dimensions are present to some extent in all relationships although some of them may be at a very minimal or surface level for example with an acquaintance you might engage the physical dimension by simply sharing a handshake. We also may choose to focus on one of these dimensions within a particular relationship such as a sharing of ideas and strategies on the mental level with a business associate or going deeply into the spiritual realm with a spiritual teacher. What I’ve been most interested in lately however is intentionally inviting relationships into my life that involve a deep engagement of all four of these dimensions.

That has only recently become possible for me because in my view the only way to deeply engage another person on any of these levels is to already have that relationship with yourself. So you could say that a powerful way to work on deepening your relationships with others is to look at each of these four dimensions within yourself. My relationship with myself is my primary relationship and if that is lacking then that very lack within will be reflected in my relationships with others. For example if I am not in touch with my emotions or a particular emotion it will not be possible to fully engage another person on the emotional level, at least not without being confronted with my own blocked emotion. If I do not love myself then how I can I truly love another person. This reflects the necessity of both spiritual practice and a process of personal growth if we want to fulfill the potential of human relationship because the more clear and free flowing these channels are within each of us the more rewarding and gratifying our relationships with others will be. This isn’t an easy process however and it points to why most people experience so much suffering in relationship. You could say that the suffering of relationship is a direct reflection of where we are blocked within in one or more of the dimensions of relating. Seen in this way even conflictual relationship can be a blessing if we can see what the other person is touching within us and use it as a reflection of what we need to work on rather than trying to change them.

The more I work on my relationship with myself the more I see the incredible potential for conscious free relationship with others. So what might that look like? Well the ideal I see is first being grounded in myself and spending time cultivating my inner relationship. From that foundation I can then engage others on the deepest level of all four of these dimensions. The spiritual dimension is the root of conscious relationship and for me that involves meeting everyone I encounter with presence, sharing beingness or just being aware of the deeper connection that we share with all living beings. This is possible if we are cultivating a personal practice of presence and beingness. This dimension of shared presence then encompasses the other three dimensions and infuses them with aliveness and Divine energy. From there we can engage the mental dimension fully by seeing and experiencing other peoples thoughts and ideas and appreciating them fully without being threatened by them or needing to change them. We can also share our beliefs, thoughts, stories and ideas without the need for validation or acceptance because we are already getting that from within. We can engage the emotional level fully as well because we have an open flowing relationship with our own emotions so we can engage relationship with an open heart and allow ourselves to be affected by others emotionally without closing off. Whatever comes up emotionally in the connection becomes a channel for deeper connection as well as love and compassion. It is a powerful experience to join another person in their emotional experience even when that is painful, it can be very healing for both parties. Having cultivated a relationship with our own bodies we can engage others on the physical level without fear and self-consciousness which opens the door to a type of intimacy that is often lacking in our culture. Positive touch, hugging, holding and cuddling as well as deep sexual intimacy become possible on a new level.

I see the potential for this kind of conscious relationship with everyone but for me the pinnacle of this involves the relationship with a woman as beloved. In a relationship the beloved becomes the partner with whom we can engage all four dimensions to their fullest including the sexual dimension. In many spiritual traditions this relationship with the beloved is held sacred and seen as a pathway to the Divine and the experience of oneness or union with the Goddess (or God). For me this represents the ultimate gift that is available to us in human relationship and the culmination of relationship as a spiritual practice. Of course the experience of the Divine is our true nature and as such it is available to us right here right now but the union possible in conscious relationship is one particularly powerful expression that those of us drawn to the channel of relationship have available to us if we have the courage and openness the engage it.