The Soul of Relationships

06/30/2010 08:24 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Two-year-old Vladimir stood patiently in line waiting to have his new American passport stamped on his exit from Russia, the land of his birth.

He neither wiggled, nor spoke, but stood very still, like a little soldier, holding on tightly to the hands of his new American mother and auntie. On the way to his new home in Oklahoma City, the life of Vladimir was ending and equipped with a new American name, the life of Colton was about to begin.

Looking at Colton's sturdy build, I could see a future football player, wrestler or weight lifter in the making. But his sweet little face could not mask his bewilderment at being taken from the only home he's ever known, as his new mother described the depressing and deplorable conditions of the orphanage in eastern Russia where he spent the first two years of his life.

His journey from the orphanage to a new life in America will likely be fraught with many challenges ahead. Statistics on adaptation of adoptees from Russia reveal many serious problems these children face, given the conditions of their birth and how they wound up being orphaned. But the love and hope I saw in his mother's eyes, a woman who looked to be in her early 40s, gave me hope that Colton will be one of the lucky ones.

And, in a Carrie Bradshaw moment, I couldn't help but wonder, what is the agenda of a soul that takes on such hard lessons? Why do some people have it easy in life and others inherit a destiny of harshness?

And while we're on the subject, why do we have "instant" powerful connections with some people who remain in our lives forever and why are others just ships passing in the night? What does the soul's agenda have to do with those relationships that impact us the most?

Life begins in relationship

Even before the sperm meets the egg, we exist as a seed of possibility in the minds of those who will become our parents. Planned or unplanned, wanted or unwanted, our very existence begins in the context of their relationship with each other, no matter what form that relationship takes.

We come into life to complete the soul's agenda, which is both personal and transpersonal. We come to use this human experience as a classroom for learning, to be in relationship with the world and to know ourselves as one with it all.

From the moment sperm and ova connects, our uniquely human relationship dance begins. Embryonic cells that will become brain, heart, spinal cord, eyes, fingers, toes and all the organs and tissues of the body do an intricate tango as they divide and differentiate.

In the womb, we are held in a loving place, protected and fed by our mother. With all of our needs cared for, knowing only union in this state, we are one with her. But like all living things, we outgrow the space in which we find ourselves and the womb which once was our shelter becomes our prison. The dance of separation begins, and we will spend the rest of our lives seeking to return to the unified state in which we began.

We must leave the small space of the womb in search of something greater, something we cannot name or define. Like the larvae that must escape its cocoon in order to fulfill its destiny as a butterfly, we too must escape our mother's womb in order to fulfill our destiny as a human.

We come to this realm knowing only the warmth of our mother's amniotic fluid as the first cradle for our soul. We arrive, like Colton, having survived a harrowing journey, leaving behind the warmth and security of the place we once knew as home.

Our introduction to life as a human comes with a rude awakening, as immediately we are met with the first challenge: learning to breathe! With a slap on the backside, we experience our first dose of pain in order to survive. It will not be the last. And with that first breath, our earthly life is transformed. The journey quickens.

Does the soul prefer agony or ecstasy?

Throughout our lives, the dance of relationship will take many forms. Our soul's agenda will lead us to those who will be our greatest teachers, including our parents. We will choose as parents those who can best provide the kind of environment we need to advance the soul's agenda for learning.

Some of our lessons are harsh ones. Some parents neglect, abandon or abuse their children. Many who end up in Russian orphanages have fetal alcohol spectrum disorders or AIDS in addition to the challenge of adapting to a new environment.

To our human sensibilities, it seems unjust that some have it so harsh while others live lives of privilege. From the point of view of the soul, there is simply learning. If harsh lessons are present, it's because for the soul, within the suffering, lie the greatest seeds of possibility for the soul's harvest. It will gravitate to whatever form best serves its purpose.

During a lifetime, the soul's path of relationships will bring us to the knees of suffering and take us to the heights of glory. As egos, we want to be with people who make us feel comfortable, safe and who fill our deepest needs and desires. We want to be with those in whose presence we feel received, accepted, met and loved for who we think we are. Yet ironically, we often place in another's hands, the job of having us know who we are and reassuring us that we are worthy of being loved.

To the soul, this is an inside job, but it will use whatever external circumstances, including our closest relationships, necessary for us to ultimately discover it for ourselves.

Look in the mirror

Intimate relationships are a cauldron within which we can see the best and worst parts of ourselves mirrored back. We will attract into that cauldron those people who are the best mirrors for the part of ourselves we've yet to complete.

If you reject and repress your anger, you'll likely attract the very person who will express theirs in a way that will force you to deal with your own. Did you learn to distrust men based on your relationship with your father? Did he leave your family, disappoint or betray you in some way? You'll likely reproduce him in the form of your intimate male relationships. You'll pass up a room full of loyal, trustworthy men and choose instead the one man in the room who will break your heart.

If you look over at the other person and think the issues in your relationship have something to do with who they are or who they're not, if you tell yourself the relationship would work just fine if only they would change -- look again. Ultimately, the issues in your relationships have nothing to do with "them" and everything to do with you. "They" are only being in service to your soul's call to activate and bring forth certain issues for the purpose of healing.

If you could see every person in your life as being in service to your soul's agenda, how would you hold them? How would you treat them? Even those who seem like the biggest jerks have something to teach you. It doesn't mean you need to keep these kind of people around you. In fact, perhaps the lesson is getting that you deserve better, that you're worthy of being loved. The sooner you receive the lesson, the sooner you're free to move on.

Perhaps the greatest gift you could give yourself and your life is to remove from it anyone who does not reflect back to you, your spirit, your love, your beauty, your worthiness. You might need to take a harsh look in the mirror in order to wake up and get that your relationships with others ultimately reflect back to you, the one you have with yourself.

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger

Sometimes our relationships grow stronger through adversity. Many married couples that now enjoy an abundant life look back to the early days in their lives together when they had little or nothing, as the "good times". They look back to a life when they were "starving students" together, when choices were fewer, belts were tighter, times were leaner, yet they had more time to spend together and fewer complications. Riches do not necessarily bring happiness. But that will be the subject of a future discussion into the nature of the soul and money. Stay tuned.

When the fat lady finally sings, how to end on a high note

Relationships end either because they've served their purpose and the journey ahead requires something else or because we've gotten off track and lost sight of our purpose, in which case, the relationship is no longer serving the soul's agenda.

Most often, when a primary relationship ends, you either make the other person wrong or you make yourself wrong. Sometimes we're filled with anger and resentment and blame them for what didn't work or we're filled with regret for how we failed to measure up.

When an important relationship ends, instead of blaming, being angry or filled with regrets, what if you could honor this person as having been in your life as a noble servant serving a higher purpose? What if you could send them off into their future with a blessing for their peace and happiness?

If you could find that kind of compassion, chances are the relationship will transform right before your eyes, not necessarily into the one you'd originally hoped for, but something even greater. Sometimes we must let go of those we cling to, to find authentic love -- a love based not on neediness, but on compassion and generosity of heart and spirit.

What is the message your primary and intimate relationships tell you? Are they a demonstration of your kindness, generosity, your willingness to receive? If not, don't look at them to see what needs to be fixed. Look at yourself and see what needs to be healed.

Although space here is limited, there is much left to explore on the nature of the soul. Please join me at my personal web site and blog, Rx For The Soul, where we continue to explore the soul and it's role in our journey of life.

In coming weeks, we'll be looking at the soul and our senses: the soul of food, music and art and the soul of money. Please stay tuned, and I welcome your input on topics for further exploration.

Meanwhile, I'd love to receive your comments below and hear about your relationships. Do you experience your soul's agenda at work in them and if so, how does that show up?

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Many blessings to you on your magnificent soul's journey,