Except for the approximately 4 hours of dreamless sleep we have each night, we are constantly in relationship with life. With ourselves, others and with everything that arises at the six sense doors, we are in relationship. As Dharma practitioners, the important question is,“How are we relating to what is present?”
The relationship we tend to have the most difficulty with, and which can produce so much suffering, is the relationship with other human beings. This is a huge subject and not necessarily the focus of this piece. What I would suggest is that you view your human relationships (whether it’s an encounter with a clerk at a store, or your most intimate relationship) as an important and integral part of your Dharma practice. Just as Wise View launches the Noble Eightfold Path from its position as the first path factor, having the view that human relationship is an important arena of Dharma practice will be a supportive condition for healthy human relationships.
There are other important relationships though, such as: relationship with ourselves, relationship with the biosphere/the climate crisis, and relationship with other living beings. As I mentioned, we’re in relationship with everything! A gust of wind, the sun on our face, what someone says and the thoughts that go through our minds. One could argue that our Vipassana practice is noticing what our relationship is to each arising moment, and that cultivating the Noble Eightfold Path is about transforming our relationships from ones of reactivity (greed, hatred and delusion) to one of equanimity. This portion of the Satipatthana Sutta speaks to this final goal:
Or his/her mindfulness that 'There is a body' is maintained to the extent of knowledge & remembrance. And s/he remains independent, unsustained by (not clinging to) anything in the world.**
When there is no clinging the Citta (heart/mind) is at peace. The promise of the Buddha’s teachings is realized.
As a practice, pick one relationship in your life. Could be with a person, an animal, or an event, like your relationship with the traffic at 5 corners and intentionally bring your practice to it. Meaning, how am I relating to this? Whatever the “this” is that you pick. And just pick one to work with.
**If you would like to read a translation of the full sutta from the Majjhima Nikaya, CLICK HERE