Relationship for human beings offers some of the most painful and exquisite moments imaginable.
As we hibernate in the melting pot of social isolation whether alone or with others, a myriad of things can rise to the surface from the emotional depths of our being. Some of us will be weathering the storm that is COVID-19 alone, while others rub up against rough edges of partners, family, friends and of themselves. There will be some lucky folk basking in warm blankets of love and joy, and all possibilities between.
For each person experiencing joy at being home with a fridge full of food, a warm ocean to swim in and good health, there will be others without food, without peace, alone and challenged deeply by their health and wellbeing. Compound this with the intricate complexities of relationship delivering to the surface many things buried deeply within our psyches and the outcomes are many and varied.
These COVID-19 days of isolation are similar to the silent retreats we know are ways to reconnect with stillness, those sparkling moments of clarity away from the busyness and chaos of life. Silent retreats are rarely about the bliss state and encourage us to roll up our sleeves and sort through the stuff that emerges from the murky depths of our being. Emergent elements both wanted and unwanted, disguised as opportunities to be seen, known and ultimately healed and sorted.
Deeper challenges during this time arising through relationship (including with ourselves) can include frustration, irritation, resentment, anger, loneliness, fear, despair, hopelessness and sadness where we find ourselves caught in reactive cycles we either don’t want or we think should be different to how it is just now. We often react and want to run from what is difficult instead of looking underneath the myriad of triggers, causes, conditions and stories that lie within our being calling for kindness and love.
Relationships ask that we work on ourselves and engage in a dance of attunement with others. The work on ourselves involves developing an awareness of our conditioned patterns, largely cultural and mediated by early childhood patterns of attachment, with trauma featuring saliently on our developmental human trajectories. The challenging side involves dysfunctional patterns, loss of boundaries, co-dependent cycles and the unintentional ignoring of an inner voice that keeps the peace and feeds unhealthy patterns.
Relating to everything that emerges in relationship with clarity, kindness and compassion is a practice of communication, asking for our commitment to ongoing work, both within ourselves and in relationship. As Rumi said our ‘task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against love’.
Communication within relationship is a skill and the brilliant program Ongo artfully blends elements of mindfulness and Nonviolent Communication and is a little like learning a new language, one that requires a commitment to practice with enormous possibilities for transforming relationship through presence, empathy and compassion. Sharon Salzberg in her book Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection writes, “With mindfulness, loving kindness, and self-compassion, we can begin to let go of our expectations about how life and those we love should be.”
In transforming our patterns of relating to ourselves and to each other, the implications for transforming our relationship with each other and the earth is immense. The wise translator to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Thubten Jinpa speaks of meeting our pain with loving kindness to create an alchemy of compassion. Embracing these moments to contemplate the vastness of change and a new world post COVID-19 where relationship is transformed with love and compassion and becomes a medicine of contagion.
– Take the time to write a letter and connect with someone you love.
– Thich Nhat Hanh says we need to fall in love with the earth. In this spirit, write a love letter to the earth.
– Practice mindfulness, not just for yourself, but for the people you love.
– Pause and breathe, let go of tension in your body, respond with compassion and be kind to yourself.
– Know that people in your life and all things emergent offer important lessons.
– Cultivate loving-kindness with meditation and practice. The Insight Timer App has many meditations, and you are welcome to use recordings from our website www.mindfulnesspsychologywellbeing.com/meditation/
– Mal Huxter offers many Loving-Kindness practices on his website www.malhuxter.com
– Consider engaging in the ONGO program www.ongo.com ONGO is facilitated by Wendy Haynes online, contact firstname.lastname@example.org Karen Plumbe also offers ONGO groups, for more information contact email@example.com
Recommended COVID-19 Reading:
Bowers, E. (2015). Meet Me In Hard-to-Love Places: The Heart and Science of Relationship Success.
Salzberg, S. (2017). Real Love. Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection.
Welwood, J (2007). Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships. Healing the Wound of the Heart.