A Radical Way To Grow Spiritually In A Relationship
As you walk a spiritual path, do you ever struggle in relationships with those who are not in the same place in their personal/spiritual evolution as you might be? In his online program Integral Enlightenment, spiritual teacher Craig Hamilton breaks relationships into three categories:
1) Those who have no interest in your personal/spiritual evolution or their own
2) Those who are curious and interested in personal/spiritual evolution, but who aren’t as committed as you to the spiritual path
3) Those who are totally committed to doing their own work and growing with you in an active partnership (what he calls “evolutionary relationships”)
So what is an “evolutionary relationship?” Craig teaches that an evolutionary relationship need not be about romance or sex at all. In fact, that dimension can often complicate things. He says many of us have sense that there’s a potential for an extraordinary type of human relationship, marked by an unprecedented level of intimacy, vulnerability, authenticity, and transparency, essentially being with each other without any boundaries or barriers, being together truly beyond ego. Many have sensed the potential to be in a relationship that’s always moving, not getting stuck in old patterns, but always vital, dynamic, and thriving, resisting the urge to rest on familiar, known ground.
You may have tasted this kind of dynamic in a relationship, but it’s challenging to stay on this edge, to keep moving forward without sliding into destructive patterns, which might leave you thinking this kind of relationship isn’t possible. Very few relationships will ever evolve to the third level. How will you know the people willing to go there with you? And what would a relationship like this be like?
Craig teaches us how to be proactive about cultivating such relationships. To do this requires essentially establishing a sacred contract, setting up what he calls “an evolutionary partnership”, which can be governed by the following radical principles.
Principles of an Evolutionary Partnership
1. The very context and organizing principle of the relationship is conscious evolution beyond ego.
This is the very purpose of why we’re in the relationship. Instead of organizing around comfort, survival, mutual benefit, comfort, and connection, in this kind of relationship, we explicitly commit to coming together for a higher purpose. That’s the “why” of the whole thing. We have a shared agreement for why we’re here. Instead of colluding together to protect and preserve the status quo of the relationship, we’re willing to put the relationship at risk, to constantly challenge the relationship, as a way to evolve spiritually together, as a way to avoid falling into stuck, habitual patterns that lead the relationship to go to sleep.
2. We agree to be mutually accountable to something higher than ourselves.
In most conventional relationships, we’re attempting to negotiate between two people’s individual needs and desires. The personal self is the only context we have, so the relationship is the result of two isolated personal selves with their own unique agendas attempting to negotiate so they can be in relationship together without too much conflict. Typically, we ask, “What do YOU want to do? What do I want to do? What are we both willing to give up so we can meet in the middle?” But in an evolutionary relationship, our #1 priority is aligning with Divine will, rather than focusing exclusively on our own personal desires or the desires of the person we’re in partnership with. When a conflict comes up, we’re interested not just in both personal points of view, but in what’s the right thing to do from the highest perspective, in service to the highest good of all beings. It’s about not caring so much what you get out of the relationship or what the other person gets out of it. It’s more about a mutual seeking of truth, of what’s right and whole and aligned. We ask, instead, “What’s the right thing to do to the best that we can discern it?” This way, there is no fundamental conflict. You both want the same thing- the highest good- rather than focusing on personal desires. You’ll always find your way through when you’re genuinely prioritizing this outcome. There is no “winner” or “loser” because the highest good always wins- and you both want that.
3. We recognize that we have an ego, that we’re prone to error.
Because we acknowledge that we both have egos, we know that we are prone to misinterpretation of circumstances. I defined ego here, according to Craig’s definition, so don’t be mislead by a term that often gets misused. Read what I wrote about ego here. When we both acknowledge our own egos and our potential for error, we come together with the commitment to try to see clearly, beyond the ego. This means we’re willing to call each other on unhealthy patterns and try to break those patterns. It’s an exercise in mutual humility, acknowledging that we aren’t going to do it right, that our egos are going to screw us up, but that we’re mutually committed to trying to uncover what is true, in spite of being prone to error. This way, there’s no compulsion to defend your point of view. You’re both committed to seeing what is true. It’s a radical act, to be willing to stop defending your motives whenever you are challenged. Because we both have egos, we must recognize that we’re prone to distortions and be willing to acknowledge that with humility.