Frank Natale, spiritual teacher, wants to improve relationships. The success of a relationship—albeit personal, romantic, business, or even a person's general outlook toward objects, actions, and events—is unconsciously formed and somewhat self-fulfilling based on present emotional programming. Natale wants you to have “alive” relationships, by strengthening and transforming your experience, by turning away from crisis and pain and focusing on the active state of interactions, rather than denying the transient state of humanity and attempting to freeze it, rendering relations inert. The core of this denial is fear, and the antidote is love without possession. To reach this "related way of being," the author promises steps, with engaging and direct prose, to unlock the doors of self-awareness and fulfillment, while helping you to become conscious to another person’s way of being—being alive rather than trapped inside incorrect perception and subconscious, automatic reactions. We really like the potential of this personal evolution path.
After years of teaching relationships courses to thousands of students my intention with this book is to allow you to turn to any page and learn something new about relationships or at least discover something new about what you already know.
The qualities described in this book are found in personal or romantic situations, the two areas of life that receive the most attention, but they are also evident or lacking in our relationships with money, religion, sex, health, work and authority. In fact, they are the indicators of the status of your relationship with everything that is a part of your life. And it is the overall quality of your life that determines your self-esteem and personal power, integrity, ethics and your standards. In all of these areas you have more choices than you think. These qualities, of course, may be present in varying degrees in your life now and this book is not intended for you to judge or keep score. Some of these qualities may not be present at all and please do not suppose that they should be.
This book provides you with distinct guidelines for gaining access to keys that unlock doors. The more doors you pass through, the more positive will be the effect on your life and the more effective your life will be. Ultimately, in seeking these qualities, you will gain an opportunity for greater awareness of your self, which is the highest achievement any of us can accomplish at any given moment.
The purpose of this book is for you to take a look at you, to evaluate where you are in your relationships and where you are genuinely willing to be. It is designed to help you achieve or strengthen those vital signs that are part of what I prefer to call “alive” relationships. It provides the opportunity for you to learn how to create rather than to blame.
Creating or strengthening these “alive” characteristics demands making choices, being aware of your actions and thoughts, then transforming them. Take your time with this book, with your choices and with your transformation. And enjoy the results. Use these ideas for they are yours now. If you do, your old beliefs will crumble and your limitations will dissolve. Reach for the highest in yourself in all your relationships and empower others to do the same. Most importantly, enjoy and celebrate all your relationships.
Creating "Alive" Relationships
We live in fast times. Our personal environment changes sometimes abruptly and significantly. Forms alter and shift. Appearances whirl in and out like mosaics in a kaleidoscope. Facades flash by like billboards. And in the process of this intense and constant change – technological, social, evolutionary – it seems that half of us are looking for a relationship and half of us are running away from one.
Little wonder that in this age of transformation, of everything as we know it, the obvious aspects of relationships are easily overlooked. Little wonder that a lot of our relationships turn out the way we have unconsciously envisioned them. It is also not surprising that a great many people in our society have, and co-exist within the confines of, relationships that are deader than a cold Big Mac.
Without our relationships we would not exist. The qualities of aliveness found in our relationships determine the quality of our existence. The intention of this book is to show you how to identify these qualities, which may or may not be present in your relationships. It also points the way to adding any or all of these qualities to your life. This book will affect the manner in which you view your relationships. It will help you assess these vital signs of relationship and make the choice to acquire them.
A truly alive relationship exists when we play with reality and allow it to play with us in the same way a tennis player hits the ball over the net and then, on the return, the ball creates when and how the player must respond. This play of creation and re-creation between the two players is what keeps the game alive and going strong. One player does not stand still hitting the ball back to the other player. On the return each player must move to the ball. They must change their point of view in order to stay alive and in the game. This is the same interactive play that must happen in order to create a relationship that is truly alive. The key is the harmonious play that occurs between you and whomever, or whatever, you choose. The result is the creation of aliveness essential to any healthy relationship.
The best business managers don’t get paid to maintain the status quo. Their job is to develop new products, open new territory, increase company morale and profits. The dynamics of aliveness is vital to any thriving enterprise or relationship. I’ve witnessed many personal relationships flourish in the excitement of early stage aliveness. Then they settle down or marry and begin to define each other to death, framing the relationship in tiresome belief systems until they are perfect and trapped in expectations of themselves and others close to them. In this book you will find new choices that are now available to you. And the odds are good that you’ll be a happier person within or without your present relationships.
The relationships that you have may be very alive, but may resemble the walking wounded or terminally ill. My suggestion is that you do not dwell on the dead parts. Dead relationships can and often do occur between children and their parents, lovers and their partners, employees and their employers. There are reasons for this, but they are not relevant here. What is relevant and necessary is to focus on the positive result. The path to aliveness in relationships is not to focus on the dead part. That’s like going to the morgue to meet someone. Focus on the parts that are alive. The proper approach is not to spend all of your time examining what is wrong with you. The proper approach is to pay close attention to what is right with you. Focus, and then refocus, on those parts. This doesn’t mean you should avoid what is unwanted. Simply choose to think in terms of “solution” rather than “dissolution.”
Choose to take the bridge that will bring you farther across the river and closer to where you are willing to be. When you concentrate on what is wrong you are impotent, frigid and petrified. Strategically, for your own welfare, it is an error to focus on the dead part where pain has become a familiar psychological comfort zone. Dwelling on the pain and crisis is the avoidance of self. The familiar pain and crisis also attracts the most attention, which we frequently mistake for love and friendship. In contrast, to accelerate your aliveness is to make the choice to think and to focus your awareness on what you are willing to have in life. That is the bridge. That is the connection. That is the consciousness that guides you across and moves you forward. The way you create life is to look at what is right and ask, “How do I create more of that?” Then you make conscious choices to let go of what does not serve and embrace what does.
When you refuse to focus on your negative baggage whatever is unwanted begins to disappear. When you refuse to nurture, support or agree with the roots of negativity the roots will rot from lack of attention. Alive relationships are those relationships in which relating continues. To cut off that relating in an attempt to preserve a relationship is literally to kill it. Alive relationships are those in which the definition of “love” has been elevated to its proper place.
Love is the only constant, the only reality, and when you accept and understand that you will know it. One of the ways to get that love, of course, is through relationships. That’s why we chase after someone with whom we think we are in love, someone who pushes the right buttons, who allows us to experience ourselves as love. Our problems begin when we start trying to define and mould our future happiness around that wonderful experience. We want to make sure it “stays around.” Remember that love is love and an experience is something that is happening now. When you begin to experience saying, “I love you” as a statement about yourself rather than about the one you are addressing, your relationships will transform into a state of conscious love.
Few people actually focus on the quality of their relationships. Rather, they seem more concerned with their length. Anniversaries are big deals in relationships. We’ve all experienced or witnessed the judgments, even condemnations, put upon someone for leaving a relationship or ending that connection, even with a friend, much less a wife or husband.
Yet little thought is given in condemning them to celebrate their 17th anniversary with a hidden grimace. They remain trapped and bound by their own comforting devices in dead, nonproductive relationships, which in turn transfers a state of disease that impacts all of their other relationships. Consider there is no long-term reason for a relationship other than to love, serve, provide recreation and/or take care of one another. All other reasons or rationales will change. You can count on it because that’s your experience.
When preserved and analyzed excessively, your relationship loses the quality of relating and becomes stagnant. You are now “a relationship.” Verbs become nouns. Action slows down, and in some cases, totally ceases to exist. You may be able to identify some of your own relationships that have been pressed into a non-relating mould. If you also find yourself petrified about a particular relationship this may mean that you are terrified and resentful of that person, the same one whom you believe you love, respect or enjoy. You are stuck in a conclusion and can’t escape. An “alive” relationship is a direction that cannot be mistaken for a conclusion.
One of the keys to an alive relationship is to refocus the relationship on a regular basis. To do this you need to stay in present time. You need to be aware, alert and open to experience. When you define or allow yourself to be defined know that you have concluded that you and your relationship are blocked from aliveness. As far as that relationship is concerned, you’re dead. Remember that you cannot define anything until it is framed in time and therefore stopped. And yet everything is constantly transforming and changing and you cannot communicate an accurate definition of that. A running horse is a changing horse. Each time you try to communicate what it is, it is not anymore. Each time you get into a relationship and define it, it is not anymore. You smugly embrace your assumption, massage your definition, and scratch your head trying to figure out why it does not work. “What went wrong?” you ask. What usually goes wrong is that you did not consider that relationships continue to exist and continue to transform much the same as your body. You can try to corral them and keep them all tidy inside your well-constructed definition, but what you are really doing is defining each other into a state of complete boredom, fear and walking death.
You can play that game. A lot of people do. If you don’t think so, think of the endless flow of “How to Save Your Marriage” magazine articles you’ve seen. You don’t have to play that game and, therefore, you can have a lot more fun with your relationships. For starters you can simply recognize that all of your relationships are now transforming and enjoy the show. This book shows you how to do that.
It is helpful if you think of this as a non-description. In each of the following I describe one of the vital signs of an alive relationship. These are indicative qualities of an alive relationship and not an alive relationship itself. They may or may not be present. All of them, however, seem to be variously evident in those relationships I have most admired.
Alive: You having life, you having spirit, you living, you in existence, you alert, you aware, you intelligent, you transforming, you changing.
An Alive Relationship: Love without attachment, an environment in which individuals flourish, an awareness of another person’s way of being, a related way of being.
A Related Way of Being: Related, but not possessed. It is easy to get the impression in loving relationships, and in any other relationship, that if you are the boss you possess your wife, your employees and your children. What is actually going on is that – if you are in one of those roles – your wife, your employees and your children are serving you. In reality you own no relationship. It is important to notice the distinction between a related way of being and a possessed or controlled way of being. And it should be easy to notice because most people are owned by their relationships. Their money owns them. They are owned by their careers. Their husbands or wives control them. Their parents control them. Their children possess them.
Most people are not in a related way of being. They do not realize that they are separate. In fact, they unconsciously behave and think as if they are chained inextricably together. If a parent-child relationship never grows beyond the parent-child stage – if it remains the same over the years – it dies, caught in the melodrama of control, possession and too often desperate clinging. Unfortunately, this is the case with the majority of such relationships and the pain doesn’t go away.
On the other hand, when parents and children continue to relate, a state of aliveness continues to be present within their relationship. This allows them to transform from a parent-child relationship to one of having a mother and father who are intimate old friends. These are the kind of friends who can chronicle your life with detail and compassion unlike any other friend. When you begin to experience relationships at that level you will begin to have extraordinary, wonderful and joyous relationships.
Alive relationships are about a related way of being, not a controlled way of being or a possessed way of being. Instead of being forced into a time-and-space definition they are free and open to experience. Notice the distinction, and by keeping it in mind, it will begin to become habit. Your relationships will begin to become what you create instead of what you have been accepting.
An Awareness of Another Person’s Way of Being: Awareness is unfocused thought and not to be confused with the judgment of another’s actions. It is not a focused definition, but rather an allowance of how that person is. Awareness is intelligence not yet actualized, recognition not necessarily shaped into words. A child has a better understanding of awareness than most adults. A child’s spontaneous creativity is reflected in their imaginary playmates and their ability to step beyond definition to see the world as they wish. But they slowly and gradually lose their awareness, magic and creativity. They lose them because these qualities, which are inborn traits, receive insufficient nurturing. As they grow up and begin to learn the ways of adults, they are taught to focus their thought on what is necessary to assure their survival.
This generally comes through in the form of parenting, the survival training job that we have yet to do consciously and effectively without damaging our children’s creativity, self-esteem and aliveness. Little wonder that generation after generation of children grow up with less self-esteem than they deserve, leading uncreative lives and getting stuck in dull, boring and unstable relationships. To be in an alive relationship requires being conscious and alert. It demands the courage to change and to accept change in all things, including those you love. Because you have been trained to do otherwise, you have to keep reminding yourself. After a while, by paying attention, it becomes habitual. You begin to stop unconsciously defining people. You begin to realize that the person you are looking at is not you, but rather a whole new adventure. And you are very grateful that you are able to hold their hand every once in a while or that they will share themselves with you. Ultimately, with practice at a new awareness, you discover that you may know very little about them, which is why they are so exciting.
An Awareness of Another Person’s Way of Being: This is to accept that what you know about this person is minimal. You also begin to realize that you are in a relationship to discover each other, not to define each other. And when you comprehend this you start having extraordinary relationships. They are adventurous and childlike. In fact, you may first experience it more with children because they are more alive. They naturally make the choice to live. They have not unconsciously chosen the death process yet. They have not figured out the shortest way to drive to work and they have not been driving that route for twenty years. They get lost once in a while, walk down a different street and experience discovery. They think differently. They are aware. They are available. They are open. To have relationships that are alive you must reclaim that. You must make the choice to think and to be alive. When you reclaim your aliveness you will begin to allow the people in your relationships to reclaim theirs. When that happens, you will not need to know what is going to happen all the time. It is a little frightening at first and then it comes to be a lot of fun. The fear also transforms into something you’ll really like. It’s called excitement.
An Environment in Which Individuals Flourish: We are talking about an environment not a focused or defined space. Environments are expandable. They are changeable. Environments surround you and you become a part of them. You become one with them. Your experience is being in them. Another characteristic of environments is that no matter how many times you go into them they are never the same. Just take the time to experience. Every sunrise and every sunset is different every day of your life. The grass is a little longer. You hear, smell and feel different things. Your unique emotional state has much to do with how you perceive and react to your environment. In fact, you are a participator not an observer. You are in a relationship with your environment, the kind of relationship that depends on your awareness of what’s going on around you.
To achieve an alive relationship you must have an environment in which individuals can flourish. It is important for you to recognize that individuals cannot flourish in a defined space. Only in an environment can an individual truly be a lover, a friend, a business consultant, a partner, a competitor, a teacher, a student and still be an individual. Notice the word “individual.” It takes two or more participants in a relationship to relate. The choice of an individual to attend a particular school, to worship a particular religion, to live in a particular geographic location or to experience a certain lifestyle tends to draw an unconscious stereotype. With unconscious judgments the person is now a preppy, a hillbilly, a yuppie, etc. We obsessively cast a group label on every individual we encounter. Although we seem to be naturally obsessed by such categorizations, the individuals with whom we relate are always unique within their chosen contexts.
When you experience people as individuals your whole experience of relationships changes dramatically. You understand that most people think once they’ve joined with other people they become a group. You begin to be careful not to continually think of yourself as a spouse, a parent, a friend, an employer, an employee or whatever it is. These are labels on a can. They are unconscious definitions that limit creativity and pleasure. Remember, regardless of how many people you know, that you are still you. When you consciously choose to be yourself in a relationship you will be alive. You will experience individuality. You will have people being who they are and there will be an exchange of thoughts, emotions and growth. Such an environment allows you to just be you, an individual with many identities and many relationships. And it allows you to see others the same way. It’s a refreshing and satisfying way to look at what’s going on around you.
An Environment in Which Individuals Flourish: Flourish means to grow vigorously. When you are in a relationship in which you are not growing vigorously, it is vital that you reexamine your reasons for being in that relationship. If you are in school and you are not learning, what are you doing? If you are in a romantic and sexual relationship and you are not experiencing romance and sexual satisfaction, what are you doing? If you are in a relationship because of fun and recreation and you not having a good time, what are you doing? If you experience your career as just a job rather than as meaningful service, what are you doing? If you are a member of an organized religion and you are not growing spiritually, what’s the point? What is the purpose of each of your relationships? For what purpose are you in them? Parental approval? Group acceptance? Or are you in them for the spiritual sanction of your preacher or guru, priest or rabbi?
If you are not growing in your relationships, they are not fully alive. Growth, in fact, is the purpose of relationships. And to grow vigorously is the key to creating alive relationships. This means that you may grow out of a relationship as well as grow within one. Mark Twain left school, he said, when it began to interfere with his education. What Mark Twain sought, and what I am talking about, is flourishing aliveness. It does not mean that you run away from every relationship you have that is absent of growth because you have obviously contributed to the lack of aliveness present. It is not about blaming. It is about dealing with your own inability to flourish and your own lack of aliveness. It’s about you being honest with yourself and being courageous enough to do something about it. It means that you honestly look and ask yourself important questions:
“What contribution am I not making to my career?”
“What contribution am I not making to my marriage?”
“What contribution am I not making to my education?”
“How am I withholding?”
With this new level of clarity and intent, you can either choose to contribute and grow in that relationship or you can leave it with dignity.
Relationship is Love Without Attachment: That may sound simple, but it is not easy to do. It is definitely not the way most people enter and try to maintain a loving relationship, which is one reason why so many marriages fail or stagnate. If you are experiencing difficulties within your relationships the initial barrier may be that you, like most people, do not experience yourself as love. You have created relationships that are tangible or “real” while dragging along the negative thoughts you associate with those realities.
Your relationships are a mirror reflection of you and a means to experience yourself in a tangible way. If you think something is wrong with your relationships, it is time to stop pointing your finger at your wife, husband, child or boss. It is time to look inside and say, “They are reflections of me. What am I doing?” Or, “What have I been doing for years that causes them to be that way?” This is an opportunity to see who you are and to grow. It is a chance to experience yourself as love, which is what you are at the intangible level when you are absent of negative thought.
Love, given definition and unconsciously attached to anything or anyone, ceases to be love. Love is sufficient unto itself. It cannot be attached to anything. It is intangible. It is a state of consciousness. Your need to make it tangible makes this miraculous movement waver and become inhibited. Start being conscious when you attach love to something or someone and notice the conditions you place on that attached love. When you were born your mother and father loved you unconditionally. At some point they realized they had this significant responsibility, or job, called parenting. And as you became aware of this parenting role, from your point of view, love became conditional. It became:
“I love you if you make good grades.”
“I love you if you do your chores.”
“I love you if you get to bed on time.”
This is what you perceived whether it was communicated verbally or not. It was at that point that you began to feel that the only love you knew or wanted was being pulled out from under you. Before that, they just loved you unconditionally. You were sufficient unto yourself. You were enough as yourself. Their love was not attached to anything because it was sufficient unto itself. To this day most people go on repeating this destructive pattern with their children, husbands, wives and lovers. What mothers and fathers must begin to say is: “We love you. We always will love you. We have this job, which is essential to your survival and we need your cooperation. It is called parenting. It is our job to teach you to focus and function effectively with the least amount of damage to you and we want you to participate in this responsibility. And together, we will do the best we can.”
This is conscious communication. This is conscious love. It does not attach love to parenting. Love is love. Parenting is parenting. Your children will hear that and, although they may not understand at first, they will in time be grateful for having been given the opportunity to contribute to their own identity. Unfortunately, that is not the norm. Parents traditionally communicate unconscious and familiar refrains such as:
“Stop acting like a child.”
“You don’t appreciate me.”
“Stop crying or I’ll give youhere did I go wrong?”
“I'll give you something to cry about.”
We need to move away from this unconscious way of communication because it creates a ticking time bomb that is highly destructive to any relationship, beyond that of the parent and child. Be clear that love attached to anything ceases to be conscious love and becomes unconscious love and unconscious manipulation, which eventually becomes aggressive or submissive exploitation. By knowing the difference between conscious love and unconscious love in your relationships you will begin to create a new aliveness in them and in you. By examining the vital signs of alive relationships in the following chapters, keep in mind that: An alive relationship is love without attachment, an environment that empowers individuals to flourish, an awareness of another person’s way of being, a related way of being.