Becoming Sensitive to the Sacred

Dearest Readers,

Relationships are at once fundamental and transcendental, and one of the challenges for those of us who presume to study them is that we are constantly pulling focus in order to appreciate their essence at different levels.

One minute we are zooming in to observe funny little brain molecules. We want to know what happens, for example, when two partners hold hands.

The next, we are a zooming out to ponder the nature of all things. We want to discover the cosmic implications of love.

And everything in between.

For me, this oscillating viewpoint is not only exhilaratingly reminiscent of a carnival ride, it is itself emblematic of the way energy reverberates throughout our shared experience together. Our language even reflects this: Early lovers are “abuzz,” while jaded partners aren’t operating on the same “wavelength.” We are either “in tune” with one another, or we just aren’t resonating. (We forget, perhaps, that being in tune requires at least a marginal amount of tension!)

When we are “out of sync,” we certainly feel it in our relationships. Yet, it is less important to be aligned at any given level than it is to understand what unites them. A seemingly simple touch, for example, can set off a cascade of hormones and neurotransmitters, alter brain chemistry, improve mood, change perception, impact behavior, and, some sweet times, connect us to something greater than ourselves. Understanding this, we can see that each moment is itself an opportunity for transcendence. This Silver Thread is the invisible connection between the sacred and everyday. And it pierces each of our hearts.

If you know me at all, you know that I happen to believe that relationships are truly sacred.

By which I mean to say they are precious, yes, but more pointedly…

Relationships reveal to us the mystery and infinite depth of ourselves.

I also believe that most of us yearn to feel more connected to this sacredness, we simply aren’t taught how.

Our culture prefers to view relationships as projects that can be judged as successes or failures, and popular psychology keeping us swimming in shallow pools of mechanics and communication. Rarely do we speak of the profound alchemy that occurs when we accept love’s invitations into deeper wells.

Part of our difficulty in establishing a dialog with the sacred is that we are confused about its source. We come by this confusion honestly. Early in a relationship, the emerging bond seems less a product of intentional effort and more the result of divine intervention. For many of us, this “spark of the divine” is our first glimpse at destiny.

What we fail to see in these early moments is that the sacred is revealed just as readily through torment as it is through ecstasy. The purpose of our relationships is not to make us feel good all the time, it is to open up pathways in ourselves that can lead to even greater mysteries. We must hone our eyes so as to discover the multitude of ways the sacred manifests in this world.

Whatever technical framework or jargon we impose upon it, therapy is ultimately about developing a sensitivity to the sacred in everyday life. It is about finding purpose in failure, incompleteness, and failed promises. It is about discovering the mysterious nature of ourselves, our partners, and the world around us.

Paradoxically, acknowledging the divine elements of relationship frees us to enjoy its human ones more fully. When we establish consistent contact with the abundant sacred, we are no longer so distressed by imperfection and disconnection in our families. We can honor what is, rather than what could or should be. We can see the many gifts of entanglement.

Happy to be entangled with you on this day,