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How Dating Can Be A Spiritual Experience

03/04/2016 12:20 EST | Updated 03/05/2017 05:12 EST

Being single.

After more than a decade in a relationship, I found myself teetering on cougarhood, suddenly single, and shocked by the reality of being alone. For the first time, I tiptoed into the waters of online dating.

And discovered that dating is a path to spiritual enlightenment.

It's because of all the uncertainty. The rampant, horrible, delicious uncertainty.

Whenever we meet someone, some deep part of our psyche perks up and says, "I don't know why, but this person that I just met is incredibly important and they could be the absolute key to my happiness and well-being for the rest of my life." The endorphins kick in, the toes start to tingle and pretty soon we've imagined the relationship, the marriage, the kids and the divorce before the second date.

Because our mind is so uncomfortable existing in a state of uncertainty, it will restlessly ruminate and pick over the smallest scraps of information. Like:

Why did he text and not call? or Why did he email and not text? or Why did/didn't he pay the bill? Arrrrrghhhh!

Or perhaps we're on the other end of the spectrum and the self-protective part of the brain kicks in and puts a big Do Not Enter sign over our hearts. Being bruised before, we withdraw, shut down and lie in wait for someone who won't feel quite as 'dangerous.' The uncertainty factor--not knowing if we can trust this new person--prompts us to find ways to undermine the relationship before it has even started.

Regardless of whichever end of the spectrum we find ourselves in or relate to, we can benefit from:

Four Practices for Spiritual Dating:

1. Admit we don't know.

In the ground between these two extremes lies an opportunity to rest in the uncertainty of the situation and come back to our deepest selves, where we can observe the exuberant chattering of the mind rather than trying to control the situation. (Yoga is the restraint of the fluctuations of the mind/Yogascittavrtti nirodhah from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras). When our mind starts telling stories, we can catch on, come back to the present moment and find an internal steadiness that can easily withstand the tempestuous winds of external uncertainty. 

2. Feel more.

Dating can bring up some intense feelings. Use these sensations to become more deeply connected to yourself and the present moment--without attaching a story or narrative to them.

3. Practice courageous honesty.

As we become more centered, we can practice owning and articulating our own satya (truth). Whether that's saying, "I really like you," "This isn't working for me," or "I don't know," we can use this unusual landscape as an opportunity to practice being connected, brave and clear.

4. Trust.

Practicing honesty allows us to trust that everything is unfolding as it ought. Isvara pranidhana (surrender to God). To have a full understanding for the context that we are participating in, we must ride the waves-knowing that we can't see the next one coming. We can either surf or fight the undertow. So take a deep breath, feel your body and dive in.

Ultimately, the water's just fine.

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