It is possible to work on yourself while single and while dating, though both experiences will be completely different. Personally, I tried both approaches. While single, I meditated, journaled, and spent a lot of "me time." I felt peaceful and even had some breakthroughs. I started dating and met Diego (my now fiance) shortly thereafter. The first six months of our relationship, otherwise known as the "honeymoon phase" were blissful. As we transitioned into a more stable mature love, I began noticing emotions and triggers that I never experienced in my single life. This is when I realized that a relationship is the best way to work on yourself, contrary to my previous beliefs.
In my work today, I do my best to teach singles how they can use dating and relationships as tools for personal freedom and spiritual growth. As Author Ken Page says, "Spirituality and intimacy are one and the same. Love is the final goal." In this article, I'll uncover why dating is so hard and the number one tool for personal freedom: relationships. This process involves finding yourself through intimacy, using triggers as opportunities for growth, and learning to let go of your ego in order to get close to others. It is a path of surrender, non-resistance, and acceptance, and it's a practice of a lifetime.
How to get to know yourself and find inner freedom.
Spiritual growth aligns with the findings of western science. There is an underlying energy field made up of atoms and molecules that manifests into the entire physical universe. The same is true for us - we have an underlying energy field that creates our emotional and mental patterns. It is referred to as Chi in Chinese culture, Shakti in Hinduism, or Spirit in western culture.
As a species, we have evolved from physiological “dangers” to psychological “dangers.” Today, our human race has a hyper-sensitive psyche. But, inner sensitivity is a sign of non-wellbeing. And in an attempt to protect our ego and keep ourselves “safe” from inner emotional disturbances, we close down our energy centers.
We have given our minds an impossible task: We have said, “Mind, I want to do and say and behave in a way so that everyone likes me, and I never want to get hurt. Figure out how to make this happen.” And your mind says, “OK I’m on it day and night.” This is why our minds are so active all the time. This is what has broken the psyche. Signs of the body breaking down are pain and weakness. Signs of the mind breaking down is fear and incessant neurotic thought.
Your consciousness is powerful and will gravitate toward internal disturbances, but the more you focus on them, the more power you give them. If your mind becomes hyperactive, watch it. If your heart starts to heat up, let it go through what it must. Try to find the part of you that is noticing that your mind is hyperactive and that your heart is heating up. That part is your way out. The only way to inner freedom is through the one that watches: the self, or the “witness consciousness.” Through this part, you can realize that your thoughts and emotions are only objects of consciousness and you can disengage, relax, and let go. You don’t have to stop the mind, notice, relax, fall behind the noise, and marvel at the melodrama!
Practice: Anytime you start to feel pulled into neurotic thoughts, stop, and remind yourself that you are spinning on a globe in the middle of outer space, and you aren’t going to involve yourself in your melodrama.
What are triggers?
In Indian philosophy and Indian religions, samskaras or sanskaras are mental impressions, recollections, or psychological imprints. This means that we are walking around with a collection of samskaras, both positive and negative, based on our life experiences. A negative samskara is an emotional scar. For example, you grew up poor and your father always said, “No, we can’t do that because we have no money.” This could have left an emotional scar, and now every time your boyfriend says, “No, honey, we can’t do that because we have no money,” you feel triggered. This is an example of a trapped energy resurfacing.
When there are too many trapped negative energies, it weakens the heart, and when our heart is weak, it becomes susceptible to lower emotional vibrations. For example, someone with a buildup of blocked energy will become more susceptible to fear, jealousy, and insecurity. There are also positive samskaras. For example, you remember the cologne your husband wore on your first date. Now, every time you smell this cologne, a positive memory - and emotion - gets triggered inside your heart. You feel love and warmth.
How to use “triggers” as opportunities for growth.
A trigger is a trapped energy surfacing. When you get triggered, it’s a resistance against energy inside of you. We must learn to accept and embrace this energy rather than resist it. We must learn to open our hearts and release this energy rather than try to defend and protect ourselves from feeling any negative emotion. By allowing ourselves to open and embrace this stored energy, we are allowing ourselves to release what no longer serves us, and our liberation awaits. We try to control life in an attempt to not trigger our fears, but life puts people (and events) in our lives to stimulate growth. Don’t resist growth, accept it as an opportunity for evolution.
In The Untethered Soul, the author Michael Singer calls this “the law of letting go.” When you get triggered, disengage, relax, and let go. You can only let go from the “seat of awareness” or your consciousness. It is important to let go sooner than later. This is because once a trigger is activated, it must run its natural course and it will be much harder to let go afterward. Rather, open your heart and allow the purification process to take place. When you clear stored energy, you can now confront situations and events from a calm emotional state, not from a reactive emotional state. This allows you to see events and situations as they are, free from emotion. You can confront life calmly, not reactively.
The heart is the place through which energy flows to sustain, inspire, and lift you. We all can allow this natural, free-flowing loving energy to move through us at all times. It is a practice of opening, not closing, our hearts. To reach this elevated state, we must learn to release stored energy patterns. Author Michael Singer urges us to take a very simplistic approach: JUST RELEASE. He says, “Don’t release one by one, be open all of the time so you can release negative energy all of the time. Let go all of the time!” On the other side of pain inside your heart, are joy and freedom.
Free yourself by finding yourself.
“Be an explorer of your emotional state.”
Everyone can approach a relationship from a state of fulfillment, not desire. In other words, we must seek partnership to add to our joyful lives, not to fill a need. You should talk to someone because you find them interesting, not because you’re lonely. You should be with someone because you love them, not because you feel a need to be loved. You are not the pain you feel, you are the one who notices the pain. You can free yourself from these constraints you’ve placed on yourself over the years, and it involves finding your “self” (or your “witness consciousness”).
It is thought that great art comes from suffering and turmoil. However, you can experience the great depths of your being without getting lost in them. Notice that you notice and note how it affects you.
Ask yourself the following questions the next time you feel triggered:
Does my posture change?
Does my breathing change?
What happens when I give loneliness the space it needs to pass through me?
Be an explorer of your emotional state. Witness it and then let it pass through you. If you can do that, you will be free. When you can hang out with the “self”, and not its melodrama, then you can begin to experience pure energy, otherwise known as “Shakti,” or primordial cosmic energy, in Hinduism.
How to find happiness within yourself.
“Happiness is a choice.”
Happiness is a choice, not conditional on external factors. There will always, always be something that irritates you if you let it. The choice is always there. Begin to notice how you feel when you experience happiness. Can you feel your heart open? This opening of the heart, and the emotional state of happiness, is always available to us. As we begin to practice opening our hearts, we develop happiness that is not dependent on external objects or life events but results from a cultivated state of mind that does not come and go as circumstances change. Take a moment to notice. Your mind will tell you that you have to fix something externally to feel good internally, but this is false.
If you feel loneliness and insufficiency in your heart, it’s not because you haven’t found a relationship. All you’re doing is seeing if a relationship will ease your inner disturbance. You need to get to the root of the problem: not feeling whole. So many relationships fail because people seek out relationships to ease their inner disturbances. Your relationship will have problems because your problem is what caused the relationship in the first place.
How to find yourself while dating.
“It is possible to never have a problem again.”
It is possible to never have a problem ever again. That's because life events are not problems, they are just events. It’s your resistance to them that causes a “problem.” If we can learn to embrace whatever emotions come to the surface, rather than resist and react, we can learn to enjoy all experiences of life. When everyone is dealing with their fears and desires, what energy is left to deal with what is actually happening?
If you can live like this, you can live a life free of limitations. Your capabilities would be exponential because you would not have anything holding you back. You would not feel fearful all of the time, rather you would feel full and inspired. Your life would change. You can begin to let go of yourself and your ego, and you’ll find that letting go of yourself is the best way to get close to others. When you are not judging and resisting people based on what is blocked inside of you, and when you’re not trying to get people to fit into your preconceived notions of what you like and dislike, you’ll find relationships become effortless.
This is the path of surrender, non-resistance, and acceptance. It’s a practice of a lifetime.