2. Finding the heart
3. Touch and relationships
Materials needed: Journal, drawing materialss
* Healing into life and death
* Living from the heart
Kuan Yin or Bodhisattva of compassion
* Sufism: Transformation of the heart
* Cutting through spiritual materialsim
* The path to love
* Shambhala: The sacred path of the warrior
* Chakras: Energy centers of transformation
Exercises and practices:
Finding the heart
Oneness with God
You are loved
Fear and separation
Divine Mother Prayer
* If you have been working right along, you will have these books already
Touch is the sense of the fourth chakra. In its elemental form it is called a near sense because we must be able to connect physically with something in order for this sense to bring in information. It is one of the first senses to mature in infancy preceded only by smell and taste. And it is essential to the normal maturation of infants. Those who are not touched fail to thrive. We now know that when babies cry and are not picked up and attended to, they stop crying and get very depressed. It is as if they learn that crying does not have any useful consequences. There is a whole generation of people in our culture whose mothers were attending to the advice of John Watson who are touch deprived. Watson was advising parents not to pick up their crying babies because they would spoil them. He also advised mothers to feed their babies on schedules rather than when they were, in fact, hungry. Later in life they may have difficulty expressing their emotions.
Touch is a means of getting acquainted with the environment. It is also essential to discriminations between oneself and the outside world. In this respect, we could see it as a tool of separation. When a baby touches an object, s/he gets one set of feedback. When the same baby touches him-/herself, s/he gets two sets of information, one from the hand touching and one from the part of the body being touched. So, over time, we learn that our skin is what separates us from the world and other people. We also use touch to identify objects and people in the outside world. Babies inevitably put objects into their mouths when exploring something new. This uses the touch sensors in the hands and mouth as well as taste for modes of knowing.
When touch is carried to higher levels of refinement, one of the forms it may take is sensitivity. We say, "Her story touched me deeply," or "That movie was very touching," or "I was touched by her kindness." What do these statements mean? They mean that, for a moment, the chasm between us was bridged, a connection was made usually to the heart. Tears may flow if a touch reaches the soul. Some music can move us to tears as can some rituals. It is not unusual, in an ashram, for people to go through stages where they break down into deep sobbing from heart opening. This may be triggered by something that touches them from within like a felt sense of the Beloved or by movements of the soul's longing.
Permeable boundaries. We have seen that touch is instrumental in establishing our boundaries. However, boundaries need to be permeable if we are to create relationships with others. To become intimate with someone, we have to open ourselves to them. On the other hand, if we are threatened by someone or sense negativity coming from them, we may wish to close ourselves to those stimuli. When people become neurotic, they lose the flexibility of boundaries to the defense mechanisms that close the boundaries down and make touch impossible. Some people who have been abused in the past may refuse to be touched physically by anyone. You could think of your boundaries as a series of nested corrals [think concentric circles]. Some people do not get past the outside ring. Acquaintances may get inside the outer ring, but no further. Family members may be allowed through several rings while a lover may be able to penetrate all the way into the center. Furthermore, if boundaries are flexible, they can be changed as life and its circumstances change.
Boundaries may be physical [the skin], mental [attention], emotional [armoring], social [exclusiveness or rejection] or spiritual [dispiritedness]. There is a vast assortment of methods for holding off the world. We learn them as children. One of the signs of psychological pathology is inability to screen out the outside world or other people appropriately as needed. Even very small infants can and will turn their gaze away from someone when they wish to break the contact.
1. Get out your drawing materials and draw a picture of your boundary system. Indicate which types of people and things are allowed to penetrate your different levels. Think about how you discriminate who is allowed inside. Are your boundaries permeable? If not, why not? When and under what circumstances were they set up? Do you want to change that? Are your boundaries flexible? What do you think about that? Did this exercise arouse any fears? If so, to exactly what were you reacting? Make notes in your journal about what you discover about yourself.
2. In Healing into life and death, do the Simple Loving
Kindness Meditation on pages 23-27. This is a variation on the Metta
Sutra from the Buddhist tradition. You might want to tape it so you
can give it your full attention. Or you could have someone read it
to you. Allow enough time that you do not feel rushed. This
meditation is a good practice to use if you feel yourself irritated and
angry a lot of the time. It brings loving kindness to you and it
is then extended to others.
Vulnerability. Boundaries and vulnerability are related concepts. Vulnerability means you are undefended, open to pain, hurt and grief as well as to joy and love. A great many of us are living behind a wall of defense against pain that effectively screens out any opportunities for love to enter in. Those who do so may feel themselves to be victims of their families, their past experiences or their culture. However, Chogyam Trungpa often said that warriors need to learn how to be out in the world with their raw, aching hearts wide open - just ready to accept more of the same. He did not mean that we should be masochistic but that we should learn how to transcend our neuroses or to transmute the energy of them into something more effective.
One way of doing this is to take reponsibility for our pain, past and present. We do not do this on the mundane, physical level obviously. If your father sexually abused you when you were too little to resist, that is not your choice on this level. However, if we look at it on a soul level as something our souls chose, before we were born, to experience as a lesson of some sort; then we can own it. Therein lies freedom from the past, from guilt, from shame, and from blaming others for our tragedies. If we own it, we can let it go.
When we are optimally vulnerable, we are able to maintain our openness while still using discernment and tact in saying "No" to people with whom we prefer not to establish close connections or to those who may be treading on our boundaries.
In a quiet and private time, put on some soothing music and reflect
on your degree of vulnerability. If you do not feel loved,
perhaps that is a result of invulnerability. If you are constantly
being hurt by others, maybe you are too vulnerable. Where do you
feel you need to draw the line? Can you draw the line when
threatened? Drawing the line may be simply saying "No." Do
you have trouble saying "No?" With whom are you vulnerable?
Who do you screen out? Is your vulnerability appropriate or is it
causing you more pain? Unlike your boundaries, these questions are
addressed to your feelings. Obviously they share some conditions
because we tend both to set up boundaries and to become invulnerable when
we are hurt in some way. But the boundaries are like fences we build
to protect ourselves, whereas vulnerability is how we feel behind those
fences or lack of them. Do your boundaries match your vulnerability?
Defensiveness. When we react to something by withdrawing, or attacking, we are said to be defensive. Stanislavsky, the great Russian actor/writer, pointed out that we are capable of only three moves: toward, away from and against; and that all actions are some combination of these three. Also he said that these actions are directly related to what we are feeling. He called it motivation. Similar concepts may also be found in modern psychology. Notice that two of these three are defensive. When we are attacked or feel attacked, we either run away, freeze or return the attack. Psychological defenses are responses to attacks that have occurred often enough in the past that they become habitual. They usually arise in reaction to specific stimuli that are perceived as dangerous.
What do you do and feel when someone criticizes you? Do you say, "Thank you for your feedback, I will think about it?" Do you retaliate by saying something nasty about them? Or do you cringe inwardly and resolve not to put yourself in that position again? Or do you hold the feelings in and dump them on someone else later on? Or do you go on a guilt trip and blame yourself, then feel depressed? All but the first alternative are defensive. Defenses are normal if they are flexible and match the situation, but we should try to be aware of them and gain control over them, so they can be used appropriately. When they become rigid, we are in trouble as rigidity in defenses is one symptom of neurosis. We all need some protection from evil and negativity when it approaches to attack us. But some forms are more enlightened than others.
Practice: Tong len
1. Tong len is a practice to develop your heart by calling up empathy for yourself and others. It comes out of the Buddhist tradition and is based on a wish to help others. In time it develops bodhicitta, the awakened heart of sadness. (See chapter 3 in Shambhala: The sacred path of the warrior for more on bodhicitta.) You begin with those you love and eventually are able to bless those who are your enemies. You may notice some similarities to the Metta Sutra.
Directions: Sit as if for meditation. Allow your body to become quiet and your breath to slow down. Then begin to work with your breath. First, breathe in the dark, heavy, black and hot, e.g., whatever negativity is present. Then breathe out the light, cool and white. Breathe into the holding on and breathe out the letting go. It is only when we hold on to such things as resentments that they are capable of hurting us. When this is well established, begin to work with suffering directly, yours or another's. Breathe in the negativity and breathe out sympathy and relaxation. Do not focus on the person but on the energy. However, if it is your negativity, you own it, then let it go. You are dealing mainly with the feelings, cleaning them up.
When I do tong len, it feels to me like my body is a magnet and I am re-aligning the energy as it goes through me. You do not hold on to the stuff, you transmute it. You do not think about it, just do it. Use your imagination to visualize the quality of the energy, then see what it is turning into as you breathe it out. Finally, when you are comfortable with this stage, you can begin to work for all people including those you dislike. Eventually, you will be able to practice tong len anywhere you feel the need. If you walk into a room where there is a lot of conflict, you can just vacuum the negative feelings away.
This practice takes a while to manifest results, so be patient and use every opportunity to practice it. It is perhaps easiest to begin with someone you love and/or who loves you or someone who moves you to compassion, someone who is not threatening, and then move to more complicated relationships as you gain some skill. If none of this works for you, imagine an abused animal or bird.
Notice as you do this what happens to your boundaries and vulnerability.
2. In Living from the heart, read chapter 7 and do the
exercises. Right after you practice tong len is a good time to do
this practice, since the energy you will be retaining is newly cleaned.
The practice of tong len is a form of transmutation. It turns negative energy into positive. There is another practice that can change the quality of energy also. It is related to refining the senses. We have noted that the basic senses can be refined into higher level sensing or perceiving as we work to purify ourselves. One way of doing this is to raise the energy to the heart chakra. We can literally take a negative emotion and, by raising it to the fourth chakra transmute it into a feeling characteristic of that level of functioning. If it is a relatively positive emotion, it will take on heart-like qualities. For instance, romantic love or sexual passion may become unconditional love or compassion. If it is a negative emotion, you may find that it flips into its opposite.
On one occasion, I became very angry at some men who had had too much to drink, and they began to put down some women in the group. Since I was a newcomer to the scene, I felt unprepared to join in the discussion that followed and soon went off to my room to sit with it. What I found was that my anger turned to compassion as a result of bringing it to my heart center. This does not mean that I accepted the behavior, but that my reaction to the incident changed because I was able to clear my emotions about it. Let's try it.
Practice: Transmuting Emotion
1. Select an emotion that is causing you some difficulty and find a time you can sit down and work with it. Meditate for awhile first until your bodymind settles down. Try not to focus attention on the problematic emotion at first. Just set it aside while you meditate. When you become quiet and ready to begin, locate the emotion in your body. Where is it centered? When you find it, sit with it and observe it. What does it look like? What color is it? What shape? How big is it? Is it moving? If so, how? What does it feel like? Does it have a voice? If so, what is it saying? When you have it located and identified, breathe into it on the inhalation; and, on the exhalation, imagine it moving up [or down] your spine toward the heart center. This may take a while, so be patient. If it is attached where it is and refuses to move, you may have to imagine a pair of scissors cutting it loose. Do whatever is necessary in your imagination to set it free to move. Continue using your breath to move it until it is taken into your heart. When it is there, imagine it being consumed by flames of love or joining them whichever feels right to you. Remember that love is the basic energy of the universe and of the divine manifestation, so it is the most powerful energy available. Call upon Divine Love if you need help. If you ask sincerely and faithfully, It must respond. When you feel that the process is completed, express your gratitude to Spirit and slowly return to your normal state of mind.
It will help to consolidate this action if you journal the process and/or draw it. This is a very powerful process, so allow ample time for it and honor it with respect.
2. Begin to read the book you acquired about Kuan Yin [Kuan Yin or Bodhisattva of compassion. Keep notes as you go or highlight passages that you wish to remember.
Finding the Heart
When I first began to work with Living from the heart, I literally could not find my heartbeat even in my wrist or neck. So I wonder if we really know where our hearts are. The fact is that the physical heart is not the same as the subtle heart which is on the right of the center of the chest while the physical heart is on the left. If you ask someone where they are in their body, they will usually place their hand on the chest right at the sternum. This information is useful in determining whether something being experienced is an emotion which is in the third chakra or a feeling which is in the fourth chakra. Ask where it is in the body. Some of the heart feelings are love, peace, grief, harmony, equanimity, empathy, compassion, sadness, discriminatory awareness and kindness, to name a few. Notice that all are not necessarily desirable. But valence is not a determining factor. The quality of the feeling is. It will be tinged with love.
Practice: Finding the heart
In Living from the heart, read chapter 8 and do the practices. These will help you locate your heart and heartbeat and also put you in touch with some of your finer feelings. It will help you with the attunement we will be doing later on, and it aligns the conscious and unconscious minds. It will help you attain peace. In fact, you may find it very useful in the practice of tong len. Give yourself lots of time to master these practices. You will be glad you did.
Touch and Relationships
As we take touch to still higher levels of refinement, it can become awareness of presence. We have all had the experience of knowing someone is watching us from behind, only to turn and find them just looking away. Our auras extend out to about fingertip length in all directions, and we have the potential to feel anything that is within them. We can also feel another's thoughts, emotions and feelings from a distance. We can sense a presence in pitch black darkness or the middle of the night. The only prerequisite is attention and/or attunement. If we are heavily defended, it is probably not as obvious if obvious at all.
Relationships are built on connection. At first sight, we either resonate to another person, or we do not. If so, we seek to explore that potential for connection when we are open to friendship. It is the person's presence that attracts or repels us. Some of this is below the threshold of awareness such as smell which is a powerful stimulant. But, aside from the physical senses, presence has its own identity and valence. We seek connection because we have been separated from the Source and we yearn for reunion. Relationship enables us to be seen, to be touched, to be loved. The gap is closed if only for a little while. A true love relationship is godlike in its acceptance, honor and respect. It helps us build a bridge to the Divine One. In the rest of this unit, the principles of connection may be applied to all forms of love relationships: friends, family, lovers, mates, spouses, teachers, gurus, social groups and communities.
All relationships are relationships with God because it is the Beloved within who draws us close. Jesus' mission was to teach people how to love each other as they would/could come to love God. He came to show us how to be God in the world, how to allow the One to manifest through us so as to reach others. He also taught that God loves us and needs us. The Sufis teach this too. However, this is a teaching that many find difficult to accept mainly, I think, because of latent feelings of unworthiness. Who am I that God would love me, or need me, or even pay attention to me? What would God want with me? To deal with these issues requires receptivity: allowing, trusting that such a loving God is not going to hurt or betray us or make unreasonable demands upon us. Probably the latter is one of the biggest reasons for our reluctance. Ego knows what surrender will be required in order to accept the love of God. We also need to cultivate a sense of self-worth and self-love in order to feel worthy of God's love.
Relationship with God
Separation from God. One of the biggest hurdles for the Christian churches is going to be reframing the language used for their teachings. Bishop Pike (1955, p.72) once said that sin is whatever separates us from God, others and ourselves. It is not wrong behavior unless such behavior is separating. There has been a lot of confusion around this. The only way we can deal with it honestly is to take a new look at the symbolism. George Lamsa (1978) has done a new translation of the Holy Bible and theNew Testament directly from the Aramaic documents. Aramaic is the language Jesus spoke. TheBiblewith which we are familiar is a translation from the Greek, so many of the original meanings have been lost. Douglas-Klotz (1994) publishedPrayers of the cosmos which is a translation of the Lord's Prayer and the Beatitudes directly from the Aramaic that you would not even recognize. He explains the nuances of Aramaic and gives examples of the multipotentiality of translation offered by it. It is an eye-opening experience to read this.
Identity with the One. The Sufis tell us that we arethe One, the Beloved; that this awareness is what we finally come to at the end of the path. However, we must first come into relationship with God. Then we burn ourselves up in Its Love and become one with the One. Vaughan-Lee (1995) quotes Ibn Arabi as saying
Exercise and practice: Oneness with God
1. Read pages 155-178 in Sufism: The transformation of the heart. Notice the paradoxes we run into in discussing who the Beloved is and who we are in relation to It.
2. Sit for meditation and imagine your mind opening up like a
satelite dish ready to receive whatever the Divine One might have to send
to you. Journal what happens.
Dissolution of boundaries
In close love relationships especially the one with God, it is necessary to let down our defenses, to allow the other access to our innermost being. This means the fences must come down. Ultimately, as we enter the mystic realms, all boundaries will come down because when we identify with the One we realize that we are the others. And, when that time arrives, we will not need our boundaries in the same way we do now. There are several ways we can practice softening them in preparation for that day.
We have discussed the filters we create to screen out undesirable perceptions. We have forgotten what it was like to see things directly exactly as they are in the world. And we have also forgotten that we have forgotten. You may be thinking, "What kind of garbage is that? I see everything all right." Well, you do see enough to get by, to support yourself and move around without getting run over by a truck. However, most of us have lost the ability to perceive the true beauty of the world. You can test this out for yourself.
Practice: Direct perception
Sit for meditation for an hour or more if you have the time. Then,
without speaking to or looking at anyone, go outside for a walk and keep
silent for another 40-45 minutes. Sit on a rock and just look.
Give yourself permission to notice every detail of the surroundings.
This works best within an expanse of nature, but you can also do it in
a city park if necessary. Include the weather in your observations.
Do you see with new eyes? This kind of perceptual renewal can belong
to anyone willing to take time to quiet the mind and heart. However,
you must come to a full stop first.
In Buddhism, practitioners take note of the fact that as a result of ongoing meditation practice there come moments when the mind stops and there is a gap. The gap is just enough space for things to be as they really are. In such a space you would have direct perceptions. In relationship, there come moments of defenselessness when the other person is totally available to you. Obviously this takes a modicum of trust. But in an ongoing, developing relationship where trust is earned these times will come. This is a gap. As well, in the relationship with God, there also comes a gap in our mental activity where the Beloved can slip into our awareness. We call these moments of grace. It only requires an opening, and the Beloved is there. Trungpa (1973) says, ". . one should be completely satisfied with whatever situation arises and not look for entertainment from an external source. . . We have to give up this desire to be fed, and then the gap automatically comes. We cannot produce the gap through effort" (p. 158).
A similar process operates in deep conversations such as in therapy or in mutual searching discussions with a loved one. Have you ever had the experience of talking to someone about an intense subject and become aware that you had no peripheral vision, that all you could perceive was the other person and you knew without a doubt what was going on in his/her mind? It is as if you almost became that person. This is called exchange. It is the result of intense concentration on another to the extent that you lose your self-awareness. It can take the form of a meeting heart to heart or mind to mind. There is a kind of merging. Boundaries disappear. But it is not an engulfment type of experience, nor is it a pathological loss of identity. It is a meeting in which you both are truly seen for who you really are, and that other person is unconditionally accepted. How we long for, and often fear, such encounters. They are samples of Divine Love.
Read chapters 10-11 in Focusing and practice the exercises with a friend. These guidelines may help you to develop the sensitivity necessary for exchange. However, it tends to be like grace. It may not come on demand. But when you both are willing to open to each other, intense concentration on the other and active listening may bring it about.
Love and compassion may not be all flowers and sunshine. There are times when what is best for us is to receive some corrective feedback. A person who truly loves you will find a way to give this kind of feedback when they perceive you are moving in a wrong direction or doing something that is going to result in pain or suffering later on. Because they know you are not going to like it, it is called tough love. Parents have to do this. So do teachers. On the spiritual path, as well, it is essential to have someone who can get beyond the need for your approval, so they can give you this kind of support.
The necessary response to tough love is humble pie. Even though you may feel irritated or rejected or angry, you need to consider that the feedback was given in love and express your gratitude. Defensiveness is not called for and is an ego reaction. Recently I received a letter from someone close to me calling to my attention that I was being perceived as very critical of the state of the world, that my perceptions were morose and unrealistic. I struggled with this perception because I was not aware of feeling that way myself. So I tried to explain. The response to that was to reiterate what had been said initially. I then sent the letter to someone else I trusted and asked if that person shared the sentiments. The response to that told me to pay attention and be grateful. So I have been forced to acknowledge that I have some problems with my attitude towards the world at large. I expressed my gratitude though it was not as glowing as it might have been.
Trungpa says, ". . true compassion is ruthless" (1973, p. 210). But see for yourself. . .
Exercise: Tough love
Read pages 207-215 on "Prajna and Compassion" in Cutting through spiritual materialism. Notice that all the attainments he is discussing are heart qualities. Where do you stand on tough love? Can you accept criticism without having to justify or defend yourself?
"Nobody loves me," she wailed sinking her head into the pillows while her tears flowed copiously. "Nobody cares whether I live or die." Have you ever felt this way? Everyone needs love. It is as basic as the American dream. Why, if the creative energy of the universe is love, don't we all feel loved? It has been said that we are immersed in love the way fish live in water. Are fish thirsty? It is a strange paradox, isn't it? Could it be that we are missing love because it is not coming to us in the form we want or expect? Or is the problem more primal than that?
We tend to think of love as coming to us from someone outside us, some person who cares about us and who is willing to try to meet our needs for nurturance. So we overlook the possibility that love might be able to flow into our systems through our chakras when they are open, or that a primary source of love is within our own hearts. When these channels are closed off, we can feel deprived of love even in the midst of loving, caring relationships. Swami Radha used to say that there is no such thing as unconditional love in human relationships. That is because we carry around all sorts of conditions under which we will or will not love someone. The reverse is also true. We often cannot accept love unless it is offered in a certain way - in the modality we prefer such as being told or shown. Such conditions effectively isolate us from each other and destroy our joy.
Read pages 66-86 in The path to love and do the exercise.
What does Chopra say about falling in love? What is the essence of
it? What makes one loveable? What is the source of attractiveness?
What is pre-rejection? Do you send automatic turn-off signals?
What are some of the characteristics of unconditional love? Well, certainly acceptance would be important. If someone loves me unconditionally, that means they accept me, right? Criticism, the opposite of acceptance, would be avoided. Along with that would come loving kindness or maitri. Then we might also expect caring, compassion and empathy. The lover would be trustworthy, so we do not get hurt in the relationship. We would be respected, and we would be prepared to give respect to the other. There would be a kind of reciprocity, a mutual exchange of love and all its offspring. Do you know anyone like that? If so, consider yourself highly privileged. Most of us can be some of those things some of the time when we are not stressed out or emotionally upset. However, stress and emotionality are conditions. Who can be all those things all the time? Those who can we call saints or avatars because they are so close to perfection.
Now consider that all love is love of or from the Divine One. That is our model and prototype of love: perfection. If the Beloved does, indeed, live within our hearts, why do we not experience that and how can we learn to access it? Well, we can study the spiritual teachings about love. We can do the recommended practices that have been handed down for generations in order to help our hearts to open. We can learn how to look within. We can learn how to quiet our minds, so that the still, small voice can be heard. And we can retreat periodically away from our busy lives to give Spirit a chance to emerge and renew us. The sages assure us that anyone can discover this connection if they are willing to persist and to open themselves to the possibility. That is what the paths of Bhakti Yoga and Sufism are all about.
Exercise: You are loved
Read pages 94-106 in The path to love and do the exercise.
Have you experienced a loving presence in your life? If so, who was it?
Do you need healing at the belief level? How can you make self-love
work for you?
Sometimes I think sexuality takes up a disproportionate amount of our attention, at least in this society with its advertising and consumerism. Then I have to acknowledge that it acquires its importance from its potential for reunion. And in that reunion, if it is respectful, tender and loving, we have a chance to approach the Beloved within. We engage in sexual union for the ecstasy we can experience. This ecstasy is very, very close to the rapture of divine union. It is just a matter of degree and to what extent the whole person is engaged. When the union is with Spirit, there is a shimmering ecstasy that can go on for days at a time. It is more than falling in love, it is total involvement of soul and spirit as well as body, mind and feelings.
The essence of divine union is surrender. We have to let go of all conditions, all thoughts, all reservations. Absolute trust is mandatory. It is impossible for us to surrender if there is any fear lurking in the wings. In the beginning, it helps to put yourself in a protected environment, so you do not have to worry about having your needs supplied, people attacking you or the blaring of horns impinging on your space. This is the function of a retreat. It provides a sheltered space for you to explore your horizons.
1. If you can afford it, arrange to go on a retreat. If you search the net, you should be able to find a center somewhere near you. There are retreat centers that specialize in providing sanctuary, or there are ashrams, monasteries and convents that do the same. Jack and Marcia Kelly (1996) published a guidebook to retreat centers from which you can get ideas. Many of these places advertise in the Yoga Journal. If you cannot afford a formal retreat, you can create one for yourself by arranging to have some time alone and in silence in your own home. Do not try to do anything during that time except take your meals and take care of personal hygiene. If necessary, shut yourself up in a room for a day. Use the time to meditate, study, reflect on your journey and review your journal. Feed your soul with beauty, music, nature and prayer.
My mother used to stay in bed every Sunday afternoon with her books and the door closed while my father took us children for long walks in the woods: mother's retreat, father's time with the kids. Everyone got their own supper.
2. Read pages 131-168 and 261-271 in The path to love and do the exercises. When you reach the exercises, do each of them before moving on to the next one so as not to prejudice the results. What does Chopra mean by "Dharma in love?" What is the essence of surrender? How does marriage differ from courtship? What is the key to a successful marriage? What are the two poles of free will? What blocks spirit in our lives? How can we restore passion to jaded relation-ships?
Problems in relationships
We can view problems in relationships from the perspective of the three poisons we met once before: passion, aggression and ignorance. I will add fear as well. Notice that passion, aggression and ignorance are analogous to moving toward, against or away from people a la Stanislavsky.
Passion. Here we are not talking about sexual passion but the passion of clinging, grasping, holding on. It is the energy of the padma, or human, realm in Buddhism. And you may also recall that it is the point in the circle of dependent origination where it is easiest to break the cycle of rebirth. This holding on includes such things as the need for approval, smother-love, dependency, co-dependency, self-sacrifice and dominance. Such a person is needy, perhaps whiny, and may feel like a victim. It seems impossible to fend for oneself and the need is for the other's protection. To this end, such a person may give up his/her autonomy and self-sufficiency and take a passive role in the relationship, anything to keep the other person locked in to the dyad. The natural result is for the partner to begin to resent the restrictions and eventually to leave, either physically or psychologically.
Exercise: Passion poison
1. Read pages 169-178 and 189-204 in The path to love and do the loving practice. Obviously surrender or letting go is the way to deal with the poison of grasping. What is the key word that tells you that you are in the grip of this kind of passion? What methods are offered to help you let go? What are the differences between attachment and love? How is attachment related to karma? Against what is the ego method of controlling directed? Why does it not work? When you begin to be able to allow more, what changes can you expect in your life?
2. Reflect on your relationships both past and present.
What kinds of holding on and control do you engage in? What do you
need to reassure yourself enough to let go of them?
Aggression. Aggression is a movement against someone with the intention of inflicting pain or suffering. It comes from an instinct for self-preservation and species preservation, so it is, in a sense, programmed into our genes. However, it is detrimental to relationships which require trust and protection. Aside from outright physical abuse, there are many forms of psychological, emotional and mental abuse. Some of these are manipulation, criticism, judgment, rejection, blame, contempt, sarcasm, projection, gossip, put downs, and the like. Assumptions and expectations when a person tries to enforce them can be aggressive. Any effort to control another person is aggression because it is action against what they would normally choose to do. It is a movement of disrespect as well.
1. Read pages 179-188 in The path to love. How can your partner become your teacher? To what do you surrender in the other? How do you relate to your partner's ego? What is the role of resistance? When might it be appropriate?
2. Reflect on your relationships as above.
Ignorance. You will remember that ignorance in the spiritual domain means ignoring. In this sense, that means not attending to issues that come up and letting them drag you both down. It means not seeing clearly, not bringing consciousness to the union, lack of discrimination. Ignorance is reflected in an inability or unwillingness to deal with conflict in an open and truthful manner. This might appear in action as undermining the other's credibility or confidence, sniping, carrying grudges and gunny sacking (carrying grudges until weighed down with them, then suddenly dumping them all in one disastrous temper tantrum). It may mean hiding the truth, lying, cheating, any kind of underhanded behavior. Defensiveness is ignorance because the person is failing to trust the other. Withdrawal is a primary form of ignorance. It can also be aggressive in that it keeps the other from addressing the issues and punishes him/her by negating the bond between them. Withdrawal comes from fear and lack of trust. Projection is refusing to acknowledge your shadow aspects which are then seen in the partner. This is a prototype of ignoring.
1. Read pages 106-122 in The path to love and do the exercises.
2. Reflect on your relationships to see if you have tendencies
to ignore issues that come up or whether you engage in any of the behaviors
listed above. If so, against what are you protecting yourself?
What do you need to free yourself?
Fear as a function of separation. Whenever we become aware of our existential aloneness, we tend to feel afraid. We are conscious of our vulnerability as human beings and our need for protection from all sorts of dangers and hazards from which another person or a group possibly might shelter us. Since this fear has its beginning in egoic dualism, there is no recourse really except to try to overcome the separation that initiated it. This means confronting the primal repression that insulates us from the Dynamic Ground. . . or the Beloved. Betrayal, abandonment, being unloved, deserted, vulnerable, loss of control, surrender, non-attachment, accidents, disease, pain and suffering are some examples of the host of things that can be the sources of fears. The problem in relationships is that we tend to project our fears onto the other and then defend ourselves against him/her. This can happen as the result of a breakdown in trust and communication or as the result of abuse.
Cumulative abuse can generate feelings of rejection, punishment, abandonment, separation, isolation, alienation, betrayal, helplessness, hopelessness, worthlessness, loss of self-confidence, loss of control, loss of integrity or wholeness, soul loss and numerous other manifestations of lowered self-esteem including neurosis and psychosis. All of these are forms of broken heartedness. Abuse is never something to be tolerated in a relationship. If you are being abused, get out! Help is available in most communities if you need it.
Exercise: Fear and separation
1. Read pages 123-130 and 205-224 in The path to love and do the loving practices. What are the needs you want to address? Do you feel insecure? If so, of what are you afraid? Are your relationships balanced? Are your needs spread out over several relationships or are you dependent on only one person for them? How does this work for you? If it does not, what can you do about it? Are you living with a black hole? What ideas do you have about self-acceptance?
2. Reflect on your relationships with respect to fear as a function
of separation. Then review your other notes from this section and
write a paper on your problems in relationship.
Healing broken relationships. One of the main themes in Chopra's book is that we need to learn how to see the Beloved in others. If God really is love, then we should be able to find the Beloved in everyone given enough effort. This is not always easy. At the ashram, we used to say that often it is easier to love certain kinds of people when they live on the other side of the lake. Doubtless this is true of some people, but that just makes them the greater challenge.
I remember a man, with whom I once worked, who was always surly and very curt in his interactions with me. I decided to take that as a challenge to get to him, so I went out of my way to be kind and pleasant to him. Eventually he came around and began to behave in a friendly manner. It was a watershed bit of learning for me, and it still works. Others mirror us. When we offer love, it comes back to us. "Do unto others what you would have them do unto you" is not just a familiar refrain from Christianity that has lost its meaning through repetition. It is a genuine direction on the spiritual path. Christ consciousness is the awareness that my real nature is Love. If that is so, and I can accept it, all that is necessary is to open the doors of the heart and release it. We do this as part of the Divine Light Invocation given to us by Swami Radha (1987).
Another way to deal with problems in relationship is to develop the genuine heart of sadness, bodhicitta. This begins to emerge as the result of discovery of our basic goodness through sitting meditation and cultivation of appreciation of what we have. Buddhists are very practical and present. They work with what is in the moment. The heart awakens when we become willing to face our state of mind. That means staying with meditation even though what comes up for us may, at times, be very unpleasant. By staying with what is, we develop a sense of compassion for ourselves and eventually can look into our hearts. We find them full of sadness and yet, at the same time, empty. This is "what gives birth to fearlessness" (p. 46) according to Trungpa (1984). You may want to review chapters 2-4 in Shambhala: The sacred path of the warrior for more information.
Other helpful books on relationships are Embracing the beloved by Stephen and Ondrea Levine (1997), Love and awakening by John Welwood (1997) and The art of happiness by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler(1998).
Exercise: Healing relationships
Read pages 225-236 in The path to love. What does this
mean: "passion isn't personal?" How is erotic attraction an opening?
What qualities does Chopra mention as helpful in dealing with problems
Nurturance. Another healing quality is nurturance. This is not restricted to women though they may have an edge of experience with it if they have raised children. Men are equally capable of nourishing others. In fact, a man who is capable of nurturing both children and his partner is irresistable to women. In this form of love, there is an envelope of tenderness that enfolds the other and feeds the soul. We all crave that sort of love. It is represented by images of Divine Mother in many of her forms because all of us have experienced some kind of mothering, hopefully beneficent. Divine Mother represents the aspect of the Divine One that is compassionate and caring. All of this brings us to the divine level of functioning.
Practice: Divine Mother Prayer
All of what has been said about relationships applies to our relationship with the Beloved and with ourselves. The same things help make those connections loving and fulfilling. The same things create obstacles. So the work that you have done on your relationships in the world can now be applied to your relationship with God. The places you are stuck with your partner reflect the places you are stuck with loving God. The defenses are the same. The fears are the same.
Please reflect on this.
When all the knots that strangle the heart are unloosened, then even here, in this human birth, the mortal becomes immortal. (Katha Upanishad, II, 3, 15)
Granthis are knots or tangles in the subtle nerves that block the free flow of spiritual energy up the sushumna. They are formed by our attachments to aspects of our lower nature, so need to be loosened by spiritual practices in order to enable the kundalini energy to rise. If Kundalini is aroused prematurely and her ascent is blocked by one of these knots, the result can be physical pain, or disease or psychological pathology. This is one of the main reasons for engaging in self-purification.
The first granthi is located at the Muladhara chakra or at the Manipura chakra depending upon the scriptural source. It is the knot of samskararepresenting the world of names and forms, e.g., creation of the world. Because Brahma created the world, this is called the Brahma Granthi. The attachment here is to worldly things and experience. It causes restlessness in the mind and prevents concentration.
The second granthi is in the Anahata chakra, the one with which we are concerned at the moment. The attachment here is to people, organizations and traditions. It often manifests as compassion and/or the need to help others. Because of the wish to preserve spiritual order it is called the Vishnu Granthi. Vishnu was the Lord of preservation. We can see this type of inflexibility in the actions of disciples who try to impede change in doctrines and teachings. When this knot is untied, the individual ego yields to the will of God. At this point, some aspirants take the vow of sannyas in which they renounce ties to family and society in order to move beyond the Vishnu Granthi. This results in a kind of social death.
The Rudra granthi is located at the Anja chakra in the area of the third eye. The danger here is attachment to psychic powers, thought, ideas, visions and intuitions. Untying this knot enables the seeker to move beyond time and space and to see the past, present and future clearly. S/he can also overcome duality at this point.
We can see the effects of the Vishnu Granthi in the fourth chakra in the emphasis on connection and relatedness. We have a need for the approval of others, a need for social acceptance, a need to feel like we are rooted in tradition, a need to belong and need for spiritual support from others. All of these needs keep us from the freedom we seek. What has to happen is a gradual extrication from all of these needs, so that we can stand free in our own divine identity without being dependent upon the support of others. This may sound antisocial, and in some sense it is. However, freedom from attachment to social interaction does not mean a lack of feeling for others or for social groups. It merely means that we are not compelled by our need for them. It enables a teacher, for instance, to give unwelcome feedback to a disciple about his/her ego games.
You might want to review pages 32-37 in Chakras: Energy centers of transformation for more information.
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