The myth that we need to work on relationships is based on the misunderstanding that relationships and the people we love require work in addition to everything else we do in life.
The good news is that relationships work beautifully and naturally all by themselves. We are designed to be in relationship with one another whether that be romantically, in friendship, in community, or professionally. We are relational beings.
When we find ourselves upset in a relationship the problem is not the relationship. The problem isn’t even with the other person. The problem is with our own misuse of our personal mind. The challenge we have as humans is that we can use our personal minds against ourselves.
However, when we know how the mind works there is the opportunity for greater freedom from suffering.
In the teachings of Sydney Banks, he refers to the principles of Mind, Consciousness, and Thought. He used these principles as a way to point to Truth and also help people understand human psychology. He saw the value in helping people see how their minds work. He recognized that we are these universal principles. We are not the content of our thinking. We create the illusion we experience and we live in the illusion. But it is not who we are.
Who we are is formless. It is unknown and unknowable. But there is a feeling that lets us know when we are relaxing into who and what we are.
It was important to him for us to understand how the mind works because it is the solution to all problems. All problems are created in the mind. When the mind doesn’t create a problem we are left with what is. We can take action in relationship to what is, but it is not a problem.
This is true for relationships. When we understand how the mind works and recognize who we are, there are no relationship problems. When we forget who we are and don’t see how we are using our own mind against ourself then there can be relationship problems. The solution, however, is not to work on the relationship. It is to come back to the understanding of how the mind works so you don’t use it against yourself.
Here is an example. There is a perceived relationship problem. A person feels resentment toward their partner. He/she doesn’t appreciate them. They do so much for him/her. And then he/she is critical of them. Delving a little deeper into the experience, do they have this experience all the time? No, not all the time. Sometimes their partner is kind and supportive, but a lot of the time he/she isn’t. Lately, he/she has been critical, and it feels like there is nothing that can be done to please him/her.
Now if I were offering support to this person I would not look at what communication skills they could use or what strategies might help them to feel closer. I wouldn’t even look into their past to see if this experience mirrors earlier relationships and what might be the contributing factors based on their childhood history.
I would stay in the present moment and point them to their wellbeing. I would encourage them to look in the direction of their true nature. By looking in the opposite direction from the content of their thinking, I would encourage them to not identify with their thoughts. I would point them to the experience of peace that is available when they look inward to who they really are beyond their personality. Even with their partner being exactly as they are. The problem is not with their partner. The suffering comes from within.
As they drop into the feeling of who they are, the experience of love, compassion, peace, inner freedom naturally follows. They then realize the upset and suffering is not coming from their partner because their partner has not changed. And independent of their partner changing they have access to wellbeing.
I want to be clear. I am not minimizing whatever the partner’s behavior is. I am pointing out that the partner cannot take away their wellbeing. Their wellbeing is untouchable. This is incredibly hopeful and empowering. What does take away the experience of our wellbeing is when we use our mind against ourselves. When we use our capacity to think, to judge, and are hard on ourselves and others. This is what creates suffering. It is key to see that the suffering does not come from the other person. It comes from how we use our minds.
I am not condoning bad behavior. I am not saying that people should behave badly toward each other and that is okay. The point I am making is that suffering comes from within. You have probably had someone behave badly toward you in your life and not taken in personally. You might have seen they didn’t mean it, or they were suffering. Oftentimes this is easy to see with children when they are upset. They say, “I hate you!”, but you don’t feel hurt because you know they are just having a tantrum. It doesn’t mean anything about you. This example shows how suffering comes from the meaning we give things. It is internally created. We can learn to create less suffering for ourselves.
When we see peace, love, and freedom are available here and now, there is no need to work on the relationship to get them. And, from the place of peace inside of yourself, the relationship looks different. Your partner looks different. You see their innocence. You see how they forget who they are. You see how they identify with the content of their thoughts, live in the experience of that, and act on that. It is not about you. You see that their behavior reflects their suffering, and your bad behavior reflects your suffering.
When you are connected with your internal peace of mind, if there is anything to do, you do it. This often looks like a compassionate word or sharing affection. This is not work. This is what your heart wants to do. It is what you are designed to do — be loving. This does not require effort. It is your natural state.
It takes work to be hurt. It requires energy to hold on to resentment. All of this requires effort from the personal mind to keep the thinking and the feelings and alive. When we drop the effort we come back to our natural state of love.
What makes this hard for some is the pervasive misunderstanding that people outside of us cause our experience. If only he/she were different, I would feel better.
It doesn’t work that way.
We can’t project our reality and then blame someone else for it.
That is why understanding how the mind works is crucial, it helps you to understand where your experience comes from — within.
We feel the thoughts we identify with. If we are feeling resentment, those are our thoughts. When we see this, we can’t blame another. When we don’t see this, and I am including myself in this category plenty of the time, we can easily blame another for how we feel.
But just because we blame another, it doesn’t mean its true. Just like any other lie we tell ourselves. We can make up lies. It doesn’t make them real.
Understanding how the mind works points us in the direction of who we are. We are not our personality. We are not our thoughts. We are not our feelings. We are not our behaviors. We have the experience of all of this but that is not our true identity.
You can only see for yourself who you are. And it helps to know who you are not.
As far as relationships are concerned. Relationship issues and relationship problems are the perfect kinds of suffering to help wake you up to how your mind works and to your true nature of love and understanding.
Any time you are upset, you have simply forgotten who you are. Rather than looking outward to work on your relationship or to try and change your partner, look inward. Remember who you are.
Looking outward feeds the illusion that things outside of you make you feel the way you do and promotes more forgetting or your true nature. It takes you further away from your peace of mind.
The right use of the personal mind when you are upset, is to look to your true nature to remember who you are.
When there are relationship issues, it is a reminder that you can use your mind to look within. You have forgotten who you are. You are identifying with the illusionary beliefs of your thought system and forgetting you are not that. You have the experience, but it is not you.
This is transformative and revolutionary because the peace of mind and unconditional happiness available from looking in this direction is infinite.
I want to be clear that finding peace within does not mean you have to stay in a relationship. Many people do find peace within their relationships when they are more connected with their loving nature. This brings out the best in both partners. Others, however, when they find clarity also find the strength and courage to leave an abusive situation. In either case, it starts with looking within to your wisdom and experiencing the peace of mind and wellbeing that are who you are. It is from there that you will know what the loving choice is.
Looking within is the opposite of working on your relationship. Try it on for size and see what you see for yourself.
Rohini Ross is co-founder of “The Rewilders.” Listen to her podcast, with her partner Angus Ross, Rewilding Love. They believe too many good relationships fall apart because couples give up thinking their relationship problems can’t be solved. In this season of the Rewilding Love Podcast, Rohini and Angus help a couple on the brink of divorce due to conflict. Angus and Rohini also co-facilitate private couples' intensives that rewild relationships back to their natural state of love. Rohini is also the author of the ebook Marriage, and she and Angus are co-founders of The 29-Day Rewilding Experience and The Rewilding Community. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To learn more about her work and subscribe to her blog visit: TheRewilders.org.