Our human body, mind, and emotions crave intimacy. We want to have close loving relationships. But the relationships we attract are affected by karma. Unliberated past experiences seem to surface in the context of short and long term commitments. This is good because we have an opportunity to see more clearly, liberate our karma, and learn to love without so much drama.
Real intimacy always works this way. Of course, I am not talking about physical intimacy, although this may be part of intentional relationships. I am referring to the closeness that makes us uncomfortable until we get past the emotional stuff that surfaces. This is the kind of love to which we all aspire but find very difficult.
Every relationship provides an opportunity to let go of old emotional baggage. But no matter how much we would love to experience closeness, that baggage tends to get in the way. Our fragile ego aligns with romantic ideals and we measure success or failure of our relationships based upon all sorts of undigested past experiences. Because both parties are doing the same dance with karma, it is challenging to find abiding rest in the love that drew us together in the first place.
If we are lucky, however, we may be attracted to a spiritual friend or mentor. This is most intimate of all relationships when it comes to gaining insight into the rough edges of our emotional habits. This is why the spiritual mentor is sometimes referred to as the “dangerous friend.” Ironically, the connection with a spiritual friend may seem closer in some ways than our other committed partnerships. This seems strange at first, until we understand it is unrealistic to expect this kind of intimacy from our spouses or domestic partners. We want them to offer an understanding ear to our dramas and smooth our ruffled feathers.
The spiritual mentor, the friend who walks beside us on our journey to wake up from our delusions, does not care about our dramas. He or she simply holds a mirror to them. So, we often feel tested to the max. How auspicious! If we are courageous and committed to learning what we need to learn, we may experience liberation from our hidden afflictions. The spiritual mentor offers a perspective that ignites our natural insight. This deepens our capacity to love in all relationships.
It is rare for someone to recognize the spiritual friend, let alone choose to engage. But if it should happen, it is excruciatingly wonderful. I have been humbled by experiencing both sides; sometimes student, sometimes teacher. If I am the student, I get shaken until I awaken. If I am am in the mentor role, I am challenged to hone my skill so as to invite closeness without alienating. This is not pre-meditated, and the spontaneity sometimes causes me to stumble a bit; I am not always so skillful. But people continue asking for guidance. So I do what I can, according to my capability.
My prayer is that we all discover a way to remember our unlimited capacity to love—to be patient enough with intimacy (in whatever form) to get over ourselves. Spiritual intimacy is a clear mirror on the path to liberation, not only for ourselves but for the benefit of all beings.