I wrote Spiritual Partnership: The Journey to Authentic Power to try to get out of my own cage. I wanted, and needed, to connect with people, not just reach them, but really connect for my own well being and hopefully for theirs as well.
I have learned that the difficult times in my life are not because of other people, they are because of me. They occur because of parts of my personality that are painful to experience. When I am with someone who brings them up in me, that is a painful time, but I know that it is not about the other person when I feel angry or impatient or irritable. It is about me, and so I am intent to use my experiences with others to learn about me so that I can change me because I am really tired of trying to change other people. And not only am I tired of it, I don't want to. It doesn’t feel good. I know deep in me that it is a wrong path for me to take, and I feel that it is a painful path for anyone to take.
Spiritual partnership is a partnership with another person or other people who feel the same way. It is a partnership between equals for the purpose of spiritual growth. So when my spiritual partners and I have difficult interactions, we do not point fingers at each other, we try our best to respond instead of react, and to support one another in doing that also. Spiritual partnership is a new kind of relationship, a different kind of relationship. We do more than talk about hair styles, life styles, car styles, children, and work. We do all those things too but those conversations take on a different meaning. While I am having them, I am noticing what I am feeling. I'm noticing if anything gets triggered in me and if it does, I pay attention to it, especially if I am becoming upset because those are the experiences that keep me from loving. They keep me apart from people.
For a long time I thought that if I could change people enough, and get some that were just right around me, it would be easy to be loving, but it doesn't work like that because everybody has parts of her or his personality that are loving and also parts that are not loving. I would say the not-loving parts are the frightened parts of the personality, the parts that are angry, jealous, vengeful, feel superior, feel inferior, etc. And when these parts become active, and this always happens sooner or later, that's when the learning potential begins. Of course, it also begins when the loving parts come out, the parts that are grateful, patient, appreciative, content, etc. Being a spiritual partner means really wanting to support people because you see when they are in pain how they might learn from their pain, too, if they're open. If they’re open.
My focus is on changing myself because I know that other people can’t change me, but I also know that each of my spiritual partners wants to change himself or herself, too. He wants to find and challenge the painful, destructive parts of his personality and cultivate the constructive, blissful parts of his personality, and so I assist him whenever I think I see that they might be active. I don';t just say "This is what is happening in you, and this is what you ought to do." I ask her if she is open to looking at something that I think I might be seeing. For example, some parts of my personality that I have become very familiar with over years feel superior, entitled, impatient, and don't really care about the needs of others, but not everybody is like that. One of my spiritual partners feels a need to please other people when a frightened part of her personality is active; to see them smile or value her because of what she can do or give. So when I see that part come out in her behaviors and thoughts and attitudes, if she is open I will help her see them. And there are specific ways, very helpful ways that we can assist one another. This book gives them to you.
Once I started this book I kept writing because it felt so good. I love it when creativity begins to flow and I can think of a better way to express something--a story, or a metaphor, or a process. I love that experience of sharing. The more I stretched myself to think, "How can I say this in a way that is not by rote? How can I not take refuge in what I know how to say but really communicate in an even more meaningful way?" the deeper my understanding of spiritual partnership became and the stronger my ability to share it. One idea lead to another, one chapter lead to another, and after a few chapters I began to see an outline for the book, and that outline became WHY, WHAT, HOW, and WHO. That';s how this book unfolded.
There is a saying that people teach what they really need to learn. Doing this in a heart-felt way has worked well for me. I can tell that I am becoming more able to connect with people because to my surprise I have become interested in them. Let me put it this way, I am aware now, much more aware of how important people are to me than I have been in the past. I like hearing their stories. I like hearing what is happening in their lives. For example, Linda Francis, the spiritual partner I live with, and I met a couple on a plane and found them to be wonderful. He told me that he has pancreatic cancer and that he and his wife were going on a cruise to Mexico. When he learned that his illness was terminal, he realized that he could spend his last days in a hospital, but that didn't sound inviting to him. Or he could spend them really living his life, and that invited him. That is what he is doing. What I really like about him is his aliveness, his interest, his interest in me and his excitement for what I am doing. He is as grounded as he is delightful and vibrant. He said, "I am a little afraid of what it will be like to die. I am not sure about that. I know I am going to get sick. I have done my homework on pancreatic cancer. It is an ugly way to die, but I feel so alive and so grateful for every moment." In the little time we were together, I learned about myself as well as about him, but mostly I enjoyed myself and I enjoyed him, and I feel that he enjoyed himself and he enjoyed me.
So those are the kind of experiences that are coming into my life now. And I also know that when it comes to spirituality, I am not special. If I can create authentic power and spiritual partnerships, you can. If I can make the journey from an angry, drug-using, sex-addicted, motorcycle-riding, angry--did I mention angry?--young man to someone who is now enjoying becoming an elder, anyone can. As I began to open my heart up many wonderful role models came into my life over the years, men and women who have opened their hearts or are opening them, and they are still coming. Perhaps I can be one of those role models for you, and you can be one for someone else. We are all opening our hearts, but it is not a matter of opening your heart and, there, that's a done deal. It is a matter of continuing to open your heart moment by moment. This book is about that, and how to do it.