It is said that when Siddhartha returned home as the Buddha, 7 years after leaving home on the night that his son was born, his wife met him. And he told her, “If only I knew what Enlightenment is, I would never have had to leave home!”
Such is the grace that flows from Buddhas and so venerated is the transformation that Buddhahood stands for, that his Wife and everyone else throughout History have forgiven him for running away in the middle of the night. Can you imagine any other husband ever getting away with this? Imagine leaving all the responsibility on the day your child is born and fleeing? Of course, Siddhartha transformed into something of the rarest beauty that He has lit up the last 2 millennia with his timeless Wisdom and remains an Inspiration to us all. But that begs the question… where is the place for Relationships in the Spiritual journey?
Most systems and religions have clear ideas on this and many refuse their monks any conjugal relationship. And in terms of understanding; apart from Tantra, no other system has studied in detail the Sexual energy as a means to Liberation. Of course Yoga as a system evolved from within Tantra, as have many spiritual systems of the world. This though isn’t a Blog on Tantra, it’s about how one can make their own special Relationship into their Yoga.
It’s of vast significance in modern times because Yoga has become so mainstream that it isn’t just the purview of reclusive Yogis anymore. Everyone from your Aunt to your Ex is doing Yoga and since most of these people are in a special Relationship of some sort; it’s worth examining whether Yoga helps in bringing the couple together or does it make you more individualistic in your journey and life in general?
I’ll speak from the only experience I know of fully – my own! Of being a Yogi for 13 years and dating and then marrying a fellow-Yogini. But before that, let’s go through some of the basic fundamentals of the Yoga journey from the Yamas of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Patanjali laid down 5 basic ideals that if followed would help you live in harmony will the people around: Ahimsa (non-violence), Asteya (non-stealing), Aparigraha (non-hoarding), Satya (truth) and Brahmacharya (non-obsession with sex). Since the Yamas are the ethical codes to live at peace with people around, it should help us to navigate our special Relationship, right?
Brahmacharya is one of the Yamas, or basic codes of living. Many scholars define it as abstinence from Sex. However ‘Brahmacharya’ which literally means ‘God-like behaviour’, actually implies a ‘non-obsession with Sex’. You could either be celibate or you could be in a relationship but the key is that you are not centring your life on your sexual gratification. So, a monk hankering after sexual pleasure is not a brahmachari at all…even if he is celibate; it’s not as simple as that. Brahmacharya implies transcending sex and not abstaining from it. Which means you can be a house-holder Yogi; there is no inherent dichotomy as both the sexual and spiritual are natural longings in each of us.
Relationships though are much more than sex, so let’s focus now on the larger spectrum of relationship issues. Firstly, Yoga implies that you take responsibility for yourself, for every aspect of your being. This itself should make a yogi better equipped to be in a relationship. But is that true? Love as we all know, has a logic entirely of its own!
Over the years, having observed so many couples and introspection on my own life has taught me that ONLY a Relationship can show you the ‘chinks in your armour’ – it is just like looking into a mirror! As long as I’m by myself, I think that I’m perfect! As soon as Neetu (my partner for a dozen years) and I hang out, immediately all my idiosyncrasies and non-coolness is visible to me. I can fool myself and keep saying that the problem is with her, or I can take responsibility and use the Mirror to adjust myself and work towards improving many aspects of my personality. In fact, I think being in a relationship is the truest Meditation – if you think of meditation as a process of getting to know Yourself. (If you think of Meditation as just a relaxation technique – then of course this doesn’t apply.)
For example I can be very relaxed about my appearance and surroundings, and I think that comes naturally to me. With my Partner around, I’m forced to realize where ‘being relaxed’ has slipped into ‘callousness and untidiness!’ And when I clean things up, I find myself feeling so much better. Which means that without the Mirror, I had become unaware. And Meditation is all about Awareness. It is in the small things such as this in which Relationships help us – in showing us who we truly are or what impact we are having on those around us. Often, all of us live in our ivory-towers and see an idealistic view of life. It’s only when the ‘Beloved’ frowns, or speaks up that we are forced to pause and consider what we are doing. Our desire for ‘expression’ should never cause ‘hurt’ to anyone. This we call as Ahimsa (non-violence); not causing physical or even mental hurt to anyone.
What’s all the fuss about giving Space to each other?
We hear this as a constant refrain from couples right? We are initially attracted to a person and then get involved with that person. This honeymoon phase lasts awhile, and then somewhere expectations start to get created. From leaving a message about your whereabouts to sharing household chores to other daily deeds, before we know our lives get inter-twined. Of course, humans are inter-dependent, in fact all of Nature is; but in a special relationship, soon we find a dependence starting to develop. That slowly becomes (to most people) a golden cage. Most couples begin to feel claustrophobic with the one person they truly love! That surely must be the greatest tragedy Mankind has managed to create – worse than all the global warming and everything else. You feel suffocated by your own expectations from Love.
As years pass by, people begin to feel that that’s normal. Of course one begins to see objectively the relationship one is in. But often we find the inertia in our Relationship is so high that we are unable to Change – ourselves firstly, and then our relationships. Most of the time people either live their lifetime like this or change their Partner – often finding themselves in the exact same set of conditions in a few years with their new partner. After all, you haven’t bothered to make the changes in yourself – so your responses and habits would have remained the same.
But if you do decide to make a change, then the concept of Space arises. For you can only be Free if you allow the other to be Free. In Yoga we call this as Aparigraha (non-hoarding). It’s not just non-hoarding of things; but also non-hoarding of your partner’s attention. You don’t OWN your beloved. It’s taken me many moons to understand and mentally process the fact that Neetu isn’t ‘MY Wife’ – She is an Individual. It so happens that we share a special bond but we are Individuals. She isn’t ‘Mine’, I don’t own her and hence my expectations have to change. Similarly, she makes the same shift with me. And all of a sudden we both start feeling a little lighter and have more space! It’s as simple as that…or is it? Modern pop-psychology has focussed a lot on ‘letting go’. While this sounds easy enough, it takes a whole lot of Trust, Courage and Maturity to come to terms with one of the fundamentals of Life – You don’t CONTROL anything! Not in your own Life and therefore not in your relationship.
Honesty is the lifeline of any Relationship
Ultimately if asked what’s THE single-most important important quality that sustains a relationship, well for me it’s Satya (Truth) and this doesn’t mean just never speaking Lies but not deceiving one another. It’s about being so true to yourself and your Beloved that you constantly work to feed the relationship and keep it alive, and are honest to realize when it isn’t working too. Even from time to time, self-analysing and asking yourself if you really are the best person for your partner. Without Honesty, there can be no mutual respect and hence no real love. This is a theme that is ingrained in each of us deep enough from our childhood – to be truthful.
Finally we come to Asteya (non-stealing). There are many ways in which Asteya applies in a relationship apart from the non-stealing of things. That will never be an issue in a true relationship, but we need to be very aware to see that we do not ‘steal’ the credit that is due to our partner. We all hanker for attention; and in a social setting often we like to hog the limelight. This sometimes makes us ‘steal’ the credit for things we did together. We bask in all the glory, tell all the stories and often are unaware that our Beloved is feeling ignored when actually they are equally important in that moment. The other way Asteya can be practised is in non-stealing of your partner’s Time. How often we find ourselves having dinner with our Beloved and in between the conversation, we’re checking our phones for messages, chatting with other people online and in general being ‘lost’ to the person in front of us. Isn’t this the equivalent of ‘stealing their time’?
So there you have it – Patanjali’s Yamas, ethical codes for harmonious living adapted to the modern Relationship. In conclusion, I’d like to just say this… it’s still early days cause I’ve been in a relationship for a dozen years. Many of you may have spent decades together. However, the introspection that Yoga is all about, allows us to take note of our errors and makes changes in ourselves. Meditation provides some bit of objectivity from where we can see how to steer the course of our life. Often taking the time to re-check the route can save us years of pain and a lifetime of travelling on the wrong course!