We live in a relational universe. Our lives revolve around relationships with others, nature, the world, the past/present/future, and our countless interior selves, memories, and habits. How we fair throughout our lives is determined by how well we harmonize and manage our many relationships.
Walk outside and feel the sun on your face — you are in relationship with the sun. Remember it rained yesterday and you are in relationship with your past. Debate whether to take a nap or go shopping, and you are in relationship with your I-want-to-sleep and I-want-to-shop selves. Say “Hello,” to the person standing in front of you in line and you are in relationship with that person.
Relationships are processes. Every moment we are navigating multiple physical, emotional, social, environmental processes. If we navigate well, we get happier and healthier.
One of the many human miracles is that we can consciously choose how we relate and can literally choose what self to be while relating. I can be my frightened self, avoiding a responsibility, or my responsible self, observing my fear, but resolving to fulfil my duty.
Different selves — different parts of us — fare better or worse in different moments. Harmony comes from choosing and embodying the right self for the occasion. You want to be your silly-games-self playing with your three-year-old, and your competent-mature-professional-self presenting to the Board of Directors.
Healthy development is marked by improving abilities to relate to others, ourselves, nature, and spirit, and especially developing wise, loving selves to help protect and integrate our more destructive selves.
Most of us have some versions of selfish, nasty, or vengeful personas that can show up under stress. We don’t have to surrender to being those distressed selves, who usually relate poorly. For instance, if my critical self shows up (either critical of you or of me), I can activate my compassionate self to calm the critic down and show him better ways to be.
Remember a time you were super loving and generous. Can you sense how you felt towards the other person and yourself? Did you feel like a good person at that moment? Can you be that loving/generous person right now? If you have any sense of being that caring self, you just chose what self to be.
Most meditations and contemplative practices involve practicing different optimal states (selves) consistently enough that we have more access to them, both consciously and automatically. These states of equanimity and compassion are particularly useful in navigating all the myriad relationships/processes of our lives.
Everything is relationships.