“Love is to people what water is to plants.”
This post is Part 4 in a series of posts on A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson. You can read the last post and discussion questions for Chapter 5 here. In this fourth session, our book group discussed Part II, Chapter 6, Relationships. This is a very long chapter and you’ll likely want to divide the discussion into two or more sessions to give people more time to read and discuss.
The part that resonated with me most in this very lengthy Chapter is on page 116 of my printing in “The Holy Relationship” section, “We are not here to fix, change or belittle another person. We are here to support, forgive and heal one another.” At the basis of all relationships and interactions with other beings, I believe this is the ultimate truth for how to live our lives. My Granny always said to me, “We are put on this earth to help other people.” That is the absolute truth. I know it in my bones.
Now let’s get down to the discussion questions.
Session 4: Chapter 6 (Relationships)
1. Forgiveness is crucial to allowing yourself to be open to love and kindness in your relationships with other people and with yourself. You must forgive and let go of what and who you perceive as having wronged you (Pg. 93-98; 156-161; 173-175). We looked at forgiveness in Session 3. Continue to review those themes. If you need a forgiveness practice, I highly recommend Connie Domino’s book The Law of Forgiveness. Forgiveness is crucial to releasing the past and moving forward (See #6 below).
In relationships, it is also important to understand the difference between forgiveness and boundaries. Forgiveness is about releasing negativity, and not holding resentful feelings in your heart so that you can move forward and love others without the weight of your past. Forgiveness does not mean you condone what someone did. It does not make bad actions OK. You can forgive, but still set a boundary to not allow a negative person into your life. Look at people from your past. Who do you need to forgive? Remember that forgiveness is not weakness. Forgiveness is for you, not the other person (although it does free them, too). Who do you need to set clear boundaries with? Boundaries are empowering and help you to save your energy and use it with positive people for good means.
2. Above in this post, I mention the concept of being on this earth to help other people (Pg. 116). How do you help others in your day-to-day life? What gifts do you bring to the table with your friends, family and co-workers? Do you do any volunteer work in your community? When you give to others, your life really comes full circle and is complete. The benefit of giving, sharing your gifts and helping others is beyond anything you can imagine. How can you become more involved in helping others and changing the world in your local community?
3. Romantic love can make a person seem larger than life to us and we can become easily disillusioned (Pg. 120-129). The reality is that no other person can complete us or make us whole (the famous line from Jerry Maquire may have done damage to an entire generation looking for love). “Only what you have not given can be lacking in any situation.” (Pg.128 and 137) What do you most want to receive from others? Are you giving that same gift to other people? Where there is lack, you are likely withholding. Give what you want to receive.
4. Honesty and vulnerability are the root and core of solid and lasting relationships. We do the real work of our lives when we allow ourselves to be seen (Pg. 130). Do you have fear around being yourself with others? Are you afraid of rejection if you are truly seen? “(H)ealing can only occur when our wounds are revealed.” (Pg. 152) If this is an area where you hold fear and avoid vulnerability, I recommend reading Dr. Brene Brown’s work on shame and vulnerability. (My book group is currently reading The Gifts of Imperfection.)
5. Challenging relationships are our biggest teachers. People who disappoint us, usually have tremendous lessons to teach us. What are some of the most challenging relationships you’ve encountered? What have those people unearthed from your soul? What did Spirit bring them into your life to teach you? The more quickly we learn and understand these lessons, the faster we can move forward on our life’s path.
6. “The Course speaks of ‘shadow figures’ we bring from our past. It tells us that we tend to see no one as they are now. We keep blaming someone in the present for something someone else did in the past.” (P. 146) Isn’t this so true? In the present moment, someone says or does something that triggers a memory from our past. Our inner demons have an immediate emotional reaction (Eckhart Tolle would call this the “pain body”) to the current scenario that is blown out of proportion. In reality, we are bringing the baggage and weight of the past to bear on the present moment. What “triggers” do you have from your past? What situations and scenarios cause intense emotional reactions in you? How does this feel in your body? Can you identify it and keep it from rising in you? Can you release the past and separate it from the present moment?
“We are not held back by the love we didn’t receive in the past, but by the love we’re not extending in the present.” (Pg. 174)
7. Another means of helping others on this earth, is accepting them for who they are. Acceptance fosters personal growth (Pg. 161). How we speak to others (our attitude and our tone), and honoring the sacred space and connection between ourselves and another is crucial to positive communication. Focus on aligning yourself with a positive mental attitude when speaking with others. Refrain from judgments and attempt to help them constructively. Be mindful of the power of your words and focus on your presence in every conversation.
“Commitment in a relationship means commitment to the process of mutual understanding and forgiveness – no matter how many conversations it takes, nor how uncomfortable those conversations might sometimes be.” (Pg. 164) Commit to being present and positive in all of your communication with others.
Please share any other questions and topics you would like to talk about or discuss in the comments, I’d love to host sharing of thoughts in this space. Happy reading and bright blessings to you and yours!