Reflections on Dharma of Relationships

Blog on Dharma of Relationships

October 19, 2011.

I just returned from a three day teachers intensive with my teacher John Friend, founder of Anusara Yoga.  He offered a wealth of knowledge and practical teachings on how to live the Anusara Yoga path more fully in all of our relationships.  I reflect here on just a few key elements of our very full three days together.  John outlined three main things that the couple needs to share: Vision, Communication, and Spark.  There are equivalent to heart, mind, body and to our three A’s: attitude, alignment, and action.  A couple must have all three of these in order to thrive.

One way John emphasized to cultivate a great relationship is to make vows for shorter durations.  Doing this will give the vow a potency that “forever” or “for life” can not give us.  John also recognized the beauty and fortune in having a life mate, but that that is not necessarily everyone’s path-nor should it be what to strive for.  I really appreciated this teaching because I think there can be a lingering guilt of a “failed” marriage, a vague anxiety if one has not been married by a certain age, or a moral stiffness around being lifetime partners “no matter what”.  Instead, John invited us to make vows, but to make ones that we know we can be successful in, ones that are compressed meaningful sets of time where the vow is fresher in one’s consciousness.  “One trip around the sun.”  And then see where you are.

Having been married now for nearly 14 years, I salute this kind of thinking.  When I got married I thought that you just made a one-time decision and that was that.  You were married.  What I came to learn over the years is that marriage takes a renewal of vows to work well.  To flourish, it is best to renew the vow every day.  This is analogous to making a commitment to yourself every day.  Love and honor yourself every day.  Our yoga practice invites us to awaken daily to the divine light. This refreshes our heart in the delight of this life.   We have the opportunity daily, hourly, in every moment, to create a beautiful life, serving the divine within oneself and in everyone.

What is your vision?  What are the commonalities of vision that you share with your beloved? with your family? with your co-workers?

How is your communication successful?  Do you use “I” statements?  Do you really listen?  Can you appreciate your partner’s point of view without trying to convince them that they should have yours?  I think of sharing a common vision as seeing the one and communication as the recognition that we won’t see things the same way.  If we did, we would not have a friction that keeps a relationship glowing.

If you are in a long term relationship, have you lost a sense of romance and spark?  John recommends slowing things down.  When we slow down, we are able to sync up to our vision and initial attraction to each each other.  The peril and the beauty of long term relationships is that we know one another so well.  We can become complacent.  But the beauty lies in the continual refinement and subtlety of knowing one another’s hearts.  As in meditation, or any in any practice, a thorough intimacy can only be established over time.  The delicacy of your beloved’s heart, his vulnerabilities and depth of fathomless love can only be tapped and revealed through deepening trust and real commitment.

John invited us to make a vow to this practice, that the dharma of the yogic path is to continue to walk it, till the end of our lives.  In this kind of commitment, a sense of anxiety washes away, and we simply take our seats, as best we can each day.  We step up to ever greater challenges each season.  And there arises a paradoxical sense of urgency that urges and ushers us to awaken to the majesty of our lives, to release attachment to suffering, to relinquish control on all the inconsequentialities, and to embrace the exquisite ordinariness and dailiness of love.

I was honored to officiate my dear friends’ wedding less than two weeks ago.  Over the course of meeting with each other to discuss what marriage means in its many layers, I learned what this vow meant to each of them individually, as members of two different religious and spiritual backgrounds, as a couple, as a family, as community members.  It was very beautiful to watch them honor one another’s differences and yet to look for what unites them.  The ceremony was universal and personal, with rituals from various aspects of their collective heritages.  They each expressed a desire to devote themselves to one another, to cherish each other, to start a family together.  They share a wonderful vision, filled with hope for something lasting, for a savoring of the eternality in an imminent divine marriage.  How do we fall in love with ourselves and then how do we do so again and again with each other?

And what if you are not in an intimate relationship?  John suggests to be clear what your vision is, yet don’t get so specific of what you want your partner to look like on the surface that you don’t see the one right in front of you.

One sect of the Tantra is called Sri Vidya, the Goddess Wisdom, or the Auspicious Wisdom.  Rajanaka Yoga is of the Sri Vidya.  Rajanka Yoga is rich in lore and rhetoric of intimacy.  Yoga itself is an intimacy of all parts of oneself to each other.  Intimacy is the very way that any and all of us are even here.  Life is intimacy.  As a twin, I have always felt a keen sense of intimacy.  To share the space of a womb is to learn about tight quarters, living together harmoniously and leaving room for each other to develop on one’s own.  I grew up communicating through the slightest flicker of the eye.  And too bad for you if you happened to be on the opposing team with us in a game of Pictionary.  I would draw a triangle and Rachael would know I meant New Orleans.  Even with somewhat of a sixth sense when it comes to intimacy, I still have a lot to learn.  I can still shut down when something insignificant triggers some ancient pattern in my psyche.  It is so easy to miss the most precious moments of life because we think we should be somewhere else, with someone else, doing better than this at this stage of the game, confused about what our hearts really want.  The dharma is to see which of these three elements we can juice up in any relationship.  John spoke beautifully about navigating ending relationships with less heartache and more love.  When we know it is time for a relationship to be finished, we gracefully move through that part of the cycle.  All living things must die.  It is simply their nature.  Through the cycles of all relationships, may the force of Dharma be with you, always.

6 Responses to Reflections on Dharma of Relationships

  1. Pingback: Marriage, is it still important?

  2. i am so thankful that you wrote this. i have been thinking so much about the work that long-term relationships require lately, and how different they may be Now from when they began. that “how did we get here?” feeling. relationship does require diligence, for it is a practice just like asana. i love thinking of these 3 things: vision, communication, and spark … to boil it down like that lets me see the tennants of relationship, like 3 poles supporting a tent… i can think more clearly (and less overwhelmed) about which needs to be reinforced.
    i was talking about this whole thing recently with a friend. i was saying how my partner sees all my worst sides and all my best sides, we have come to know the depths of each other that you just can not see from the surface. she replied that yes, we’ve seen the worst and best of each other, but to see the worst and know you still want to stay is a strong love.
    “I think of sharing a common vision as seeing the one and communication as the recognition that we won’t see things the same way. If we did, we would not have a friction that keeps a relationship glowing.” – i love this. this is work for me, to not need to change others minds, to love for what is and acknowledge that friction makes the Spark.
    thank you for sharing. great food for thought.

  3. I just found your blog through a comment you made on Elephant post linking to a post about the recent interview with John Friend. (Whew, what a mouthful!)

    Anyway, all of this really resonates with me. In addition to my Zen and yoga blog, I also write about conscious relationships. I really like the thoughtful questions you ask, as well as John’s “Vision, Communication, and Spark” idea. Furthermore, I completely agree with letting go of notions about “failed relationships,” and to not judge yourself or your relationships based solely on things like length. Renewed vows and recognizing and embracing changes within a single relationship is an excellent approach – and that’s the approach I am focused on manifesting.

    In addition, though, I can honestly say that at least a few of my shorter term relationships have proved to be extremely important and fulfilling, even though they ended. In one case, we both recognized and spoke of the gifts we received, while also having no regrets or concerns about ending the relationship at that point. It felt right, and there was nothing remotely close to “failure” in the few months we spent together.

    • Nathan, What a beautiful response. Thanks for sharing. Your experience of short term relationships that have been a total success is exactly what John Friend was getting at when he said that we can resolve conflicts without animosity. And there may not even have been a conflict, but a natural ending that gave way.

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