Keeping the space ‘between’ sacred and safe

I have written about the space between us before; but it is such an important space, and it is so often not recognised quite how important – that writing about it again isn’t a bad thing.

The space between us is the scared space; it is the space where all our relationships live.

That is how important it is.

It is the home of our relationships… If this space is clean and harmonious then our relationships are happy, harmonious, offering growth, loving, fun, expansive…

And what is more if it is a space between two people where children are being born and then living, breathing, growing up – of course they are being affected every single moment by the space they inhabit…

Is the space safe? Is the space harmonious, joyous…? Or is the space contaminated with tension, anger, fear…?

Our part in keeping the space safe between us and another, is to reflect on and explore the space within us…

As the poet Rumi said

‘Your task is not to seek love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it…’

For ironically if it is in relationship where we are looking for the other to love us, so that we know we are loveable and loved – without looking within to where we do not love ourselves – then we can unconsciously contaminate the relational space and so contribute to getting the exact opposite to what we were seeking.

When instead we are aware of working to heal the aspects within us where we have built the barrier to love, then we will be in a better position to honour the space between ourselves and the other…

This practise is a forever practise and a moment by moment practise. It is about personal responsibility and personal reflection…

In conscious relating we can share with another our own processes, if we have discovered a barrier to love within us… But this practise still maintains safety in the space between…

If we think always… “What kind of energy am I putting in the space? What words am I putting there? What thoughts and feelings? what reactions?

And if we are always reflective of ourselves from a loving stance – then we will be conscious of what we are contributing to the sacred space between us and the other…

And from this place we can change our own lives and the lives of others by creating space that is loving and safe and therefore expansive with no limits to what is possible…

The four horsemen of the Apocalypse

I was first attracted to the work of John Gottman Ph.D some years ago, and I found his ideas really powerful and helpful both in my own relating, but also in guiding others…

He is a professor emeritus in psychology and he is known for his work on marital stability and relationship analysis, and for having identified the four behaviours that are the most destructive to relationship…

He calls them ‘The four horsemen of the Apocalypse’.

These four behaviours are :

Criticism – Defensiveness – Contempt – Stonewalling.

All relationships are likely to experience these dynamics at some time…

Of course ideally they are eradicated completely – but it is the frequency with which they appear in relating that can predict whether a couple will stay together or part company.

Criticism…

Is a very deadly weapon in relationship – in any relationship – but it can much do much damage to the health, harmony and safety of the space between a couple.

The ‘space between us’ is where the relationship is existing… Contaminating it with criticism depletes and reduces friendship, love and the firm foundation of any marriage or partnership.

Criticism is a personal attack, it is saying that the person is somehow flawed… It can immediately block any way of communicating and connecting, or creating the space to genuinely explore and uncover what the need within the criticism is, and so address the real problem.

It also inevitably leads into the next ‘horseman’ which is that ‘the other’ becomes defensive and so neither person feels validated or listened too…

Defensive…

However unfair the criticism, when we are defensive it can escalate the problem. It means that there is no space to create a solution, or perhaps hear that we have some responsibility for the issue…

It separates rather than joins together… Therefore when we feel defensive, it is very important that we ‘press pause’ and recognize that being defensive never creates harmony, or maintains connection or allows the space to work things out together.

Contempt…

Essentially any time we try to put another person down, to be superior over them – deem them not worthy – we are showing contempt. This can be done by name calling, ‘you idiot’, or through being critical… We can also show subtle but very deadly contempt of another through facial expressions, rolling of eyes, raising eyebrows, curling a lip… We have all seen people do it and maybe done it ourselves… The person is there and we raise an eyebrow to someone else…

This is contempt and is very damaging not only to the person we are in contempt of, but definitely to any relationship.

Stonewalling…

This happens when rather than engage we turn away because we are so upset that we fear that saying anything will only make matters worse… And so instead we turn away, say nothing…

Which makes matters worse!

It can also happen in small ways when someone doesn’t reply to a question, or make any sign of being in the conversation at a point when it is necessary to engage, say a few words, nod perhaps…

It often arises because the person stonewalling fears that speaking won’t help matters… But the action itself of stonewalling is very destructive, and it is important to work on our own part that wants to withdraw. In a relationship it can be helpful to identify the pattern and how it occurs when neither person is reacting… This way together we can work on our own part and clear the way to do something different…

For instance rather than carrying going on and on (if we are the one experiencing being ‘stone walled’)to the person with their back to us – instead we can learn to once again press that pause button – and recognise that they are upset… And if we are the person who is stonewalling, we can learn techniques of self relaxation, so that we can do something different and become aware of how upsetting our behaviour is to the other…

Even becoming more conscious of these habitual relationship issues can make a difference immediately to how we relate….

This is such powerful research, because we can transform our own lives through being conscious of our own behaviours, of our own reactivity, or of our own need to defend of criticise – to be unkind…

By committing to our part in the relationship that will keep the space safe, we can transform how we stay connected to our partner, to our children, our friends, our colleagues…

Of course if everyone is aware and committed to their own part, then the transformational energy is more powerful…

But if through reading this article, it allows some recognition of any patterns or ways of being that we recognise – and can see their destructive energy – then even a small amount of change can start the building blocks to a healthy and flourishing relationship that can truly flourish in the space between….

And of course, as always…

The most powerful work is that which we do within ourselves…

Clearing any feelings when the urge to self criticise arises – as well as feelings that mean we want to defend ourselves or criticise another – or the pain that arises which means we want to turn away from someone who is trying to communicate with us… To clear the feelings when we find ourselves dismissing or acting contemptuously to our own efforts our own essence; to ourselves.

When we work consistently to clear any reactivity and negative feelings within ourselves – to clear the four horsemen within – then it becomes impossible to project them outwards onto another….

And once again, the magical thing is that it is in the mirror of relating where we will discover and uncover the wounds and hurts that arise for healing within ourselves and can show us the way to be whole.

 

I don’t want to go…

It is almost 5 years since Anadi and I first connected…

My friend Amy was looking to see whether he might have some music on his ‘Sounds Orange’ website suitable for some meditations I had made…

He never received that email, but Amy did some further investigations and saw that he carried out interviews about meditation…

This is how it came that we were talking on the phone in November 2012, arranging for me to travel to London for a video interview about running as a meditation…

I remember in the interview speaking about the ease of living a life of meditation… Apart from running miles and miles on the South Downs, I lived alone and enjoyed a lot of solitude and silence in my daily life, which leant itself to staying still within…

Little did I know that my life was about to be whirled about, upheaved from its familiar rhythms and that very soon, I would be of no fixed abode, travelling the world with the man interviewing me and that he was to become my husband…

In fact he was to become my fifth husband…

All of my life, my driving force was relationship… It still is, but in a different way now.

I was born a romantic it seems, I loved dreaming about love and romance, connection, communication and ‘happily ever after’. I didn’t have much idea of what this was, or how it would look, but I was always in love with a boy… For as long as I can remember there was a focus for my daydreams, and my night time fantasies….

I was also aware from a young age that relationships needed attention and care, and that I was responsible for my bit.

I never found staying in touch with people difficult… I loved writing letters and talking for hours on the phone to Richard my boyfriend and to my friends…

It all came easily and naturally to me. I even navigated being bullied as an 8 year old – and then again as a 12 year old – without too much trauma, it seemed… Although the situations were difficult, I was popular and had other friends to spend time with and so I could avoid the attacks…

Because I enjoyed close intimacies with my friends and with Richard, there wasn’t really anything to question…

Things changed after the death of my mother, a slide into an eating disorder and the development of an unhealthy grooming relationship with my running coach.

On reflection I now see that the balance got tipped out then, and my ease in relating and relationship became tarnished.

This was because the relationship with myself had become damaged, and any feelings of being somehow ‘wrong and bad’ that I had brought into this life with me, had been accessed

I was carrying guilt and self hatred after the death of my mother and the confusion in the relating with my coach, and this self hatred became projected onto my body and my eating habits; the downward spiral had begun….

It took me many years to spiral up and blossom again.

All the relationships I engaged in offered me stepping stones of great learning, healing and self reflection.

I was the common denominator in them all; and I don’t see them as ‘going wrong’ or ‘failing’… I view them as wonderful episodes of intimacy and growth and of seeing myself magnified and reflected in the patterns, the pain, the joy the connection and the disconnection.

It was all there, because I was all there….

I don’t even see them as having ended, because I am still relating with all of them; we simply changed the form…

Changing the form may not have always felt exactly simple, but it was always negotiated with as much awareness and wisdom as we had at the time… Of course with hindsight there are things I would have done differently; but it was never going to be any different; this was my own journey to deeper connection and relationship and love within myself…

Of course relationship isn’t just with the romantic, sexual relationships in our life; relationship is with everyone we encounter… Every single interaction, every friendship or business relationship; every on line friend or business connection, every single dialogue is relationship in motion…

It is us reflected… It is us in motion…

The more intimate or ‘committed’ the relationship is, can often provide more opportunity for growth… But not necessarily of course.

So how come 5 years on from first connecting to Anadi am I still married to him and still journeying with him…?

Because I don’t want to go…. And it appears neither does he…

In my other committed relationships they came to a place where one of us wanted to go, it truly was as simple as that… It is at the deepest level always as simple as that. The confusion is the unresolved pain within us that change and perceived loss, can access… Someone else wanting to do something else is taken deeply personally and can be a very hard journey to navigate…

Everyone is a reflection of our energy, and therefore is somehow resonant to something within us…

If the vibration changes, the energy shifts, and the reflection isn’t relevant anymore then the form will change…. This happens anyway in relationships where two people may choose to remain married, or even living together, but the form of relating might be unrecognizable to the early stages either for the better or the worse…

But ultimately at the deepest level relating and relationship is about our relationship with ourself – and if we always keep this as the fundamental core orientation, then paradoxically it means that instead of looking for the one; we become the one and instead of looking for the other to be the best partner, friend, colleague, husband, wife, boyfriend or girlfriend; instead we look to focusing on our own lessons, our own clearing and becoming conscious of being the best friend, partner, lover, colleague that we can be simply through clearing our energy to one of open hearted authentic communication, where we are conscious in every moment of what we are putting into the space between us and the other, which is where the relationship is occurring…

Clearing Criticism

Clearing Criticism

There is always a need we want answered when we criticise another, particularly when we are criticising our partner, friends or family.

It is the adult equivalent of a babies cry.

When we find ourselves on the brink of judging or criticising another, this is the time to press the imaginary ‘pause button’ and to reflect where our need is…

What is it that we want from the other?

What is going on within us that means we want to say something to them that is negative about their behaviour, appearance or actions? If we first reflect this way, then it is possible to communicate with much greater awareness and clarity…

It means that the dialogue can become an intentional conscious one, rather than an attack. It means we will always keep in mind that ‘how we say something is integral to what we wish to say’

It also means that we are more likely to be heard and validated, and find that our needs are met – rather than the cycle of criticism and defensiveness continuing – which can erode relating and so the joy in a relationship.

If we are invited to critique or give feedback this is a different thing, but it is still vital to watch that what we say is clean and clear without any agenda or projection on our part.

Ideally for healthy relating there is no criticism at all – but of course this can take commitment and practice…