By Ajay Kalra August 2005A spiritual partnership is a relationship between equals for the purpose of spiritual growth. Through the process of facing and resolving the issues that emerge through this dynamic interplay, the partners move from the other to their own self. Insights into IntimacyThe most fundamental aspect of a spiritual partnership is creating spaces in togetherness. Relationships breathe, grow and derive sustenance from these spaces. Following are a few insights for creating these spaces:The Feasting and Fasting PrincipalEverything in the world loses its charge, if left too long, too close to anything of the opposite charge, and couples are no exception to this rule. Says Osho: 'When you love a person you want to come close to him, you want a deep intimate relationship. But after a deep experience of intimacy it is necessary to separate too and go far away. After you have feasted, you need to fast, otherwise there will be nausea.'Your Partner is not an Extension of Yourself The purpose of spiritual growth is to drop our limiting ego-identity, not to enhance it to include your partner. Each person is a distinctly unique individual in his own right, irrespective of the amount of intimacy you share. Recognize this deeply.Feelings are not SynchronizedThere is no such thing as synchronized feelings, like synchronized swimming. True intimacy does not lie in feeling similarly about similar things at similar times, together. It is about giving your partner the space to feel whatever he or she feels, without trying to impose or curb your own feelings. You are responsible only for your feelings.Emotional IndependencePartners are not dumping grounds for unwanted emotions that we are unable to handle ourselves. Recognize your issues and create your own ways to manage them, before you share them with your partner, so that the sharing is free of reactiveness. There is a vital difference between dumping and sharing.Find your own TruthAfter all is said and done, the pursuit of truth is ultimately a solitary journey. The journey happens within you. While we may use spiritual partnerships in our journey of self-discovery, we all have to find our own independent answers. There is no such thing as partners-in-truth. After 12 years the former Siddhartha returned to visit his wife, Yashodhara. Among the many things she asked him, was this: 'Tell me, whatsoever you have attained, could you not have attained it here living with me?' It is said that the Buddha remained silent.Could Siddhartha have pursued truth with Yashodhara as his spiritual companion? Do relationships lead us to further bondage? Or are they important milestones on our journey to self-discovery?To live is to relate. To persons, ideas or things. While the things and ideas we acquire are intrinsic to our self-concept, it is our relationships with people that truly reflect our spiritual progress. If the purpose of any spiritual quest is to discover our true selves, it becomes imperative to begin our journey towards self-awareness by seeing ourselves reflected in the mirror of relationships.Love is not About NeedIt began one day in childhood when something made me experience a certain rapturous feeling in my body. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. The feeling triggered my imagination almost of its own accord. The more I imagined, the more I felt. And the more I felt, the more I imagined. Although I did not realize it then, I had stumbled upon something that would influence most of my adolescent years. The capacity of a mental image to create a feeling. The power of fantasy!'As a child, mountains, clouds and rivers would give me the feeling of loving oneness with the universe. When I saw these in Hindi films later, they would evoke the same feelings, but in a romantic set-up. So I got the perception from Bollywood that the only place I could get that kind of love was in a relationship. Therefore, I began to eagerly await my soulmate, who I thought would make me complete,' says TV personality Ruby K. Bhatia.I remember my first romance in college. I spent hours decorating her birthday card and finding the perfect gift for her with my meager pocket money. Nothing can match the high of a new romance! Her attention made me feel special and wanted. Says Ruby, 'Coming from a conservative background, I was not allowed to have a boyfriend. I was 20 when I came to Mumbai and met Nitin. We were working together. I had so much need for love and affection. Even though I was aware that we were different I couldn't help it. He was such a romantic person; there was an intensity about him.'My first romance lasted my entire college life. It was a period marked by extremely poor self-awareness and a total identification with my thoughts and feelings. The reason it lasted so long was due to my fear of confronting beyond a point and because I didn't really know what I wanted, except what my impulses told me. In spite of such poor awareness, the relationship continued as it met both our needs. It never occurred to me that it was dysfunctional in many ways. In his book, The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle writes with penetrating insight into the nature of romantic love, 'This is at first a deeply satisfying state. You feel intensely alive! Your existence has suddenly become meaningful because someone needs you, wants you, and makes you feel special, and you do the same for him or her. The feeling can be so intense that the rest of the world fades into insignificance. However, there is a neediness and clinging quality to this intensity. You become addicted to the other person. You are on a high when the drug is available, but even the possibility or the thought that he or she might no longer be there for you can lead to jealousy, possessiveness, attempts at manipulation through emotional blackmail, blaming and accusing. If the other person does leave you, this can give rise to the most intense hostility or the most profound grief and despair. Where is the love now? Can love change into its opposite in an instant? Was it love in the first place, or just an addictive grasping and clinging?'In the intensity of romantic love we project images of each other that have no reality except what our desires want them to be. Thus, a lazy individual may seem happy-go-lucky and a controlling person may seem independent and decisive. We relate to these images until they begin to crack. When the other person behaves in ways that fail to meet our ego needs, feelings of pain, fear and lack begin to surface.At this point of time we have a choice. The choice to raise our consciousness and move to the next level in the relationship or get stuck in a dysfunctional pattern of relating. Sadly, most relationships don't move beyond this stage and we continue to make the same mistakes with different partners or in the same relationship. Says Tolle, 'The same relationship will oscillate between the polarities of love and hate, and it gives you as much pleasure as it gives you pain. It is not uncommon for couples to be addicted to these cycles. The drama makes them feel alive. It is only when the negative cycles increase in frequency and intensity that the relationship collapses, or may simply continue for the sake of the children, security or the fear of being alone.'Fortunately, some like Ruby learn fast, 'We got married to each other at a stage when one didn't really know what one wanted in life. We were both looking for happiness and we thought this relationship could give it to us. We had the most intensely romantic relationship one could ask for. Nitin replaced God for me. He seemed to know and fulfill all my needs instinctively. I became completely dependent on him emotionally. The limitations of romantic love then began to surface. We sought to overcome these limitations through excessive sense indulgence: expensive vacations, non-stop partying and extreme materialism. Nothing I did could fill the growing emptiness within me. Saddened and disillusioned, we both went into depression. It was then that I realized that the happiness we were looking for could not be found in any human relationship. It's like looking for sugar in a bottle of salt! Eventually we parted.'When we realize that love is not about fulfilling our physical, psychological and emotional needs through the other person, we are ready for a spiritual partnership. We may continue to have our needs, but with this insight we see relationships as sacred partnerships to become aware of these needs and support us in our journey towards wholeness.Commitment to Siritual GrowthThe first prerequisite to a spiritual partnership is a commitment to spiritual growth. A spiritual partnership is a partnership between equals for the purpose of spiritual growth.Devdas Menon, a professor at IIT, and an ardent seeker at age 25, was initially opposed to marriage. He says, 'Even though I earned my livelihood as structural engineer, I spent most of my time in meditation and study. There was some pressure on me to get married, but I warded off all marriage proposals, because I firmly believed that it would not be compatible with my spiritual quest. I lived like this for many years, a brahmachari until the age of 33, when I had a change of heart. I realized that something was incomplete or missing in my life and perhaps there is something valuable to be discovered in an intimate relationship with the opposite sex. It was an arranged marriage; but the astrologer went so far as to suggest that this was a continuation of a relationship through several births as husband and wife. Perhaps it is.'For Devdas, choosing the 'right' partner was irrelevant. 'For a committed seeker, these are not problems, and it really does not matter who the partner is. All that matters is who you are, and how ready you are to walk the path and to accept what nature brings for you. You discover the joy and challenge in a choiceless existence. However, for a norm
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