Going Beyond the Fireworks in Relationships
In my last article I had discussed the importance of approaching relationships in a systematic way. I had argued that very few proven or proactive methods, if at all, were being offered as benchmark training tools to help us in dealing with relationships. I attributed a haphazard approach coupled with new and growing challenges of a less constrained society as major contributing factors for a decline in successful* relationships.
I had then gone on to present a simple, yet powerful, trinity of factors due to Carl Rogers that have been shown, under a variety of relationship scenarios, to provide a basis of healthy and fulfilling relationships. However, there seems to be a missing link. An access to these principles and even a conscious effort at practicing them, often, does not automatically lead to their successful implementation. In other words, knowledge and practice does not seem enough to bring the professed benefits of these principles to fruition. To conduct an in-depth study of this issue, I will focus my attention on a particular type of relationship; one that brings spice to our life and makes our hearts pound - Romantic Relationships!
We often hear the phrase, especially among teenagers and young adults, "I have fallen in love". It's a moment of truth where we enter a dream-like state and the individual we have fallen in love with, captivates our attention completely. Anything s/he does seems "just right" and we feel a complete oneness with them. Despite our past experiences or those of our friends/family, we believe that this feeling has a permanence and it will not go away. However, as we all know, this feeling does go away sooner than later, giving way to a realistic, less than dreamy and sometimes downright disappointing view of the situation.
Why doesn't the dream-like state last forever? What brings about a change in our perception? To get some answers, we need to first look at the phrase "falling in love" more carefully. We are so accustomed to the use of this expression that we forget to stop and think of its meaning or significance. Are we truly "falling"? Is it indeed "love" we are talking about? As I will argue next it seems that the answer to both questions, in all likelihood, is "No".
It seems clear that the word "falling" can trace its origin to the traditional orthodox thinking that bodily pleasures take us away from spiritual progress. But as our own experience tell us, this "falling in love" is one of the most wonderful feelings we encounter in our life. One could even argue that, in fact, this is as close one gets to a spiritual experience. Indeed, contrary to the orthodox ascetic spiritual outlook, the ancient Indian Tantric traditions give this "attraction" an elevated spiritual status. Perhaps a further exploration of these traditions seems appropriate at this point, in order for us to uncover an insight into romance in relationships, hopefully leading us to a better understanding of "love".
Tantra** means expansion or growth. It is a word that signifies a letting of constricting limitations. Tantra says that fear is the root instinct in all of us and fear comes from the "feeling of the other" - the distinction between 'you' and 'me'. It states that an indication of the first fledgling step forward in our growth process comes when, for sometime, we forget this distinction between 'you' and 'me' manifesting an experience of our innate oneness with the 'other'. As described earlier, the process of falling in love invariably results in such a complete identification with our lover - momentarily we do indeed lose track of our distinction from him/her. It is as if our heart has for once overcome the mind's analytical faculty and perceived our true oneness that had been so far eluding us. In all likelihood, it is this experience of universal connectivity that instills an ecstatic exhilaration in us when we fall in love. And that feeling, of course, is overpowering as it is unraveling to us the beginnings of a unifying spiritual experience. Therefore, by this logic, we are not actually "falling" but, on the contrary, realizing our spiritual self for the first time!
But the problem, of course, is that this feeling does not last forever. As is customary, our analytical faculty kicks-in and we start perceiving the distinctions between our adored lover and us, and we start hearing ourselves making statements such as "He is very possessive" or "She is very demanding" etc. Tantra proclaims, in no uncertain terms, that true love is without conditions or constraints, and is a statement of who you are, not contingent on what the other person says or does. Therefore, from that standpoint, this "attractive" phase in a relationship is not truly love; attraction+ is perhaps a better description. As I describe next, the insights derived above can provide us an important clue in uncovering the puzzling missing link in relationships. I propose that this missing link is Commitment!
Commitment to whom or what? This question immediately pops in our head. As soon as the word commitment is used in context of relationships, the picture that immediately flashes in one's mind is of two people standing in front of an altar and making promises. However, the meaning intended here is that of a different type of commitment - one in which each person each makes a pledge to themselves to grow, thereby empowering their partner in their own personal development as well. Instead of making promises that may be incongruent with the growth process, both partners commit themselves to a handshake of friendship that is not limited to and by circumstances.
For example, jealousy is a common problem in romantic relationships and one that unquestionably needs to be transcended by both parties in order for true love to manifest. This requires a deep understanding and commitment to their own, as well as their partners' growth so that they can provide a nurturing environment for helping each other (and not ignoring) in acknowledging, working-on, and outgrowing such limitations.
This, in my view, is certainly the single-most crucial link for relationships to work in sync. In such a growth-oriented relationship, tools, training and techniques (such as those presented in my earlier article) could be used meaningfully with a high assurance of success. Not only will the relationships will be far more fulfilling but it will help propel the spiritual progress of both parties at an accelerated pace. Such relationships can transport us to the realms of an experience that is truly divine - A close encounter of the third kind, where body, mind and the spirit are finally in an orgasmic agreement, YES! YES! YES!
Be My Friend ++
Let us walk together in a relationship
with genuineness, understanding and regard,
where each feels secure to expose oneself and be vulnerable.
Cheers for letting go of fear and anger!
Let us swim together in a passionate interaction
full of attraction for each other, feeling creativity.
Cheers for letting go of jealousy and hatred!
Let us rise together in power, empowering each other.
Cheers for letting go of control!
Let us soar together in love, nourishing each other's body, mind and spirit.
Cheers for letting go of conditions and constraints for love!
Let us traverse the cosmos devoid of all coverings,
experiencing its expanse and pervasiveness.
Cheers for letting go of all attachments!
Let us witness the past, present and future,
understanding the flow of time.
Cheers for letting go of our identity!
Let us unite in an effulgent nectar of bliss
where life meets, enjoys and merges into itself.