Labels are dangerous—we know this.
We frequently live and die them by projecting our assumptions on to others, by writhing behind projections placed on us, by doing nothing when we recognize them for what they are. Labels: those tight-lipped containers of identity that are supposed to sum us up, yet rarely do, no matter what side of them we’re on. When it comes to love and romantic prospects, relying on labels helps us categorize the Other. Labels alert us to whether we’re safe or doomed—and, they have a convenient way of stacking up for or against that new person we’ve considered clicking on.
Given the choice of tossing our hearts in the direction of the unknown versus sticking with what we think we know about love and compatibility, we fall back too often on the safety of our assumptions and limit our ability to show up wholeheartedly to the love we seek.
Another thing about labels: by definition, a label is associated with language that classifies a person or thing in a limiting or restrictive way. Add to that the willful act of labeling ourselves and it moves us that much farther out from the hope of real connection.
If you’re looking for love—online or off—and you self-identify as ‘spiritual’, a word of caution here, just because it bears repeating: Beware the label. From the pulpit to politics, we’ve seen the futility of labels to accurately convey the spirit of the things or people they’re attached to. We’ve seen the wedge that our labels drive in between our attempts to connect and understand each other. That’s why it’s so important to move beyond the names we call ourselves and into the act of authentic relating.
Here are a few suggestions for dating while spiritual:
1. Consider the source.
What do you mean by spiritual exactly? It’s important to be clear on this point before presenting yourself as such to a potential partner. Our labels come with assumptions built in, and knowing what yours are beforehand will help you articulate your desires effectively.
I once dated a guy who prided himself on being healthy. He was tall and lean and read every label before buying organic—he was also a serious chain smoker who couldn’t see any contradictions in his so-called healthy lifestyle because he only smoked organic tobacco.
My point: it’s easy enough to call yourself spiritual, but be sure what it means to you without expecting your date’s beliefs to mirror yours.
2. Consider the Source.
WWJD? I’d like to believe that old What Would Jesus Do meme began in all sincerity as a reminder to reflect on choices offered by our highest selves in moments of challenge and uncertainty. In any situation, it’s a powerful spiritual practice to continually return ourselves to our highest mind and wisest selves.
As a dating practice, it’s the ability to step out of our small selves in order to see our relationships from a greater vantage point. This spiritual perspective gives your relationship—as well as your orientation toward it—room to breathe and evolve more naturally, rather than being driven by agendas of ego and fear.
3. Expand your definitions.
Your definition of spirituality is your own. And to the extent that you’re willing to be open to viewpoints different from your own, you’ll have expanded your mind, tolerance and dating options in the process.
Even more important, it’s not your definition and label that matters nearly as much as your actions. Sure, you checked the ‘spiritual’ box on your profile, but does your conversation, outlook and demeanor embody that orientation toward the world?
4. Practice presence.
Enduring long meetings, networking like a boss at a professional mixer and dating new people share a common trait: they’re exhausting.
To some of us, going on dates with strangers ranks lower on the enjoyment scale than cleaning catboxes. For this reason, as a spiritual person, introducing the art of practicing presence in every moment makes us available to what’s happening as it happens.
5. Accept everything.
This tip could have just as easily been called ‘believe in magic’ because that’s the feeling that drifts in when we’re able to make room for everything as it arises—every emotion, detail and possibility. This isn’t to say that spiritual people should embrace everything; rather, it’s an exercise in non-attachment and the understanding that we’re in control of very little.
As a spiritual person, this act of openness to life frees you up to connect not only to a renewed sense of curiosity at the mystery of the moment, but it also goes a long way to make your date feel seen and comfortable in your presence.
6. Be in love.
If you consider for a moment that love is all there is, then we’re literally in love. Right now, independent of what we think or do about it. Which also means love, then, is us. Love already moves through all that we are and do. Knowing this truth negates the need for waving labels at each other from across the dating divide.
Instead, we feel ourselves part of this sacred tapestry, whether spiritually self-defined or not. As a result, dating becomes more of an exploration of profound connection rather than a nerve-wracking process wracked with dread and second-guessing. Real love exists beyond the convenience and safety of our labels, beyond our ideas of spirituality, of who’s good enough and of what romantic partnership should look like when it shows up.
Independent of what you put in your profile—or out to the universe—we’re each an embodiment of spirit, and we’d do well to bear that in mind when we meet.