I recall those days, as a teenager when the word “relationship” meant the boy-girl romantic, starry-eyed couple. Moving a few years ahead as a young adult, it still held the “romantic couple” thing, although more grounded in reality. As I rode the roller-coaster of life, the meaning of relationships slowly unfolded with family, dear friends, teachers, guides, colleagues, helping staff, and so on.

Our first earthly relationship is with the biological mother and father—wherein a bond of love and nurturance is deeply established. We always hear that parents are the caregivers appointed by God to help our souls in the earthly journey. The siblings, relatives and friends are not far behind in adding the needed spice and happiness to our lives. Very soon a spouse may arrive to give another dimension to our life,  and relationship takes on a new meaning, not just romantic, but of growing together and developing a deeper friendship. Having kids may be the next phase for many, and that leads us into a whirlpool of energy that keeps us on our toes for many years after that. The vendors supplying our essentials, the cab or auto drivers who ferry us, the irritating shopkeeper—are all related to our journey, if only briefly. Even inanimate objects in our house have a story related to our lives. From all these relationships we learn many of our life’s lessons: detachment; letting go; caring for others; self-acceptance; open-mindedness; forgiveness; selfless love; and sacrifice, to name a few.

Can we imagine ourselves only as a single entity, navigating through life? The idea is not just boring, but not the least bit conducive to our spiritual evolution.

Developing pure, unconditional love between husband and wife, parent and child, friend and friend, self and all—is the lesson we have come to earth to learn. The myriad of relationships we experience contribute greatly to this process. Years ago I read that we must be grateful for everyone who comes into our lives, especially those who challenge us the most because in facing these challenges lie our growth and purification. These words have stuck with me, and I have often replayed them in my mind to guide me through difficult relationships of all kinds. Looking back, it has dawned on me that those challenging experiences were the ones that smoothed away many of my rough edges.

Interspersed during these years of establishing and nurturing my earthly bonds, the questions,  “Who am I?” and,  “Am I not related to something deeper?”  keep popping up. The quest unfurls an eternal truth: the realization that our relationships are our relationship is to the Divine within creation. This understanding gives me unimaginable joy. As I take the essence of all my relationships to this higher level of consciousness, all my experiences change.

My Beloved Guru, Paramhansa Yogananda said – “Love is the light that dissolves all walls between souls, families and nations.” “Kindness is the light that dissolves all walls between souls, families, and nations.”There is a magnet in your heart that will attract true friends.” This love expands as we feel a connection with one and all. To ensure we strengthen the magnet in our heart, we need to first nurture our relationship with our inner Self. The ancient Indian sage Patanjali has given us the framework to do just that with the principles of Ashtanga yoga – especially the Yamas and Niyamas. Amazingly, these principles apply in today’s modern world, emphasizing their Universality and timelessness.

The biggest obstacles in the art of having good relationships are the energetic-whirlpools of anger, hurt, self-centered love. Keeping in mind and working with Patanjali’s famous sutra, Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodaha gives us the push towards minimizing these obstacles and opening our heart’s door to divine unconditional love. We learn to forgive ourselves and others in the light of the Infinite Presence, because Forgiveness is the oil of all relationships.”

I have been trying to strengthen this attitude of forgiveness. It’s proved very helpful to me in my journey. As I take small steps toward God in every moment, every being in creation is encompassed in my relationships. I am grateful to them for adding that touch of refinement to my inner Self.

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