by Troy Chapman
(published April 06)
Love, when put into practice, becomes right relationship. We’re in constant relationship with everything in the universe and these relationships can be put into four basic categories:
1) Relationship with transcendent reality (God);
2) Relationship with ourselves;
3) Relationship with other human beings;
4) Relationship with nature.
The “practice of love” is simply a matter of trying to come into right relationship in these four areas. This is also a pretty good definition of virtue. Whatever facilitates right relationship is virtuous; whatever undermines it is not virtuous.
Remember we started this series on Calling Ourselves by talking about more fully reaching our potential as individuals and as a species. These things — right relationship, virtue, reaching our potential — are all synonymous. But for me, the concept of right relationship is more accessible and practical. I can look at my relationships in any one of these four areas and ask a) whether it’s as good as it could be and b) what I can do to improve it. That’s where I want to go next in these e-mails.
The first practical action I want to suggest is something we’re all familiar with: simple mindfulness. In this context I mean taking time out to be aware of our relationships in each of these areas. Our lives are so hectic sometimes we just go on automatic pilot. The idea here is to take back the controls and be aware that we are in relationship — right now — with transcendent reality, ourselves, others, and nature.
There’s not a right or wrong way to do this. Just put it on your agenda as something important to be aware of and think about.
This mindfulness leads naturally to the two questions presented above: Is my relationship here as good as it could be? And, what can I do to improve it? Another facet of these questions is: How is wrong relationship in any of these areas negatively affecting my life? Remember, wrong relationship isn’t just a matter of harming others; ignoring or failing to acknowledge another’s existence is often more harmful than hostility. And this is how I most often get out of right relationship — I simply forget I’m in relationship.
Thus I’ve found this process of reminding myself very helpful. Simply saying to God, myself, others, and nature, “I’m aware of you,” is a powerful way to get out of our own heads and whatever small circles we tend to draw around our lives.
I’m aware of you now, sharing my world, and I feel gratitude, a smile in my spirit. It’s good that we exist in this time together.