Relationships are amazing. The words of McLaughlin always delight and enlighten me:
"A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person."
"Don't smother each other. No one can grow in the shade."
Everyone needs a healthy space to grow in. We often fail to make room for or consciously create this healthy space in relationships. A father tends to own his children and so does a husband his wife or a wife her husband. I hear my friends whisper in my ears, but what about commitment in relationships? And more specifically what is a marriage without commitment? Isn't it a lasting love with a deep commitment to loyalty? Lynn G. Robbins says it all in a few words, "In commanding us to love, the Lord refers to something much deeper than romance---a love that is the most profound form of loyalty. He is teaching us that love is something more than feelings of the heart; it is also a covenant we keep with soul and mind."
But commitment is essential to a relationship in other aspects too. What is a friendship without a sense of commitment inherent in it? Or what is a son or a daughter who is not committed to the care and well being of their parents? In fact, not only true commitment but true fondness as well grows in a healthy space suffused with the fragrance of loving care, genuine concern for growth, a positive understanding not only of the virtues but of the shortcomings of our people.
As we get to the core of the problem of commitment versus freedom in relationships, we discover that we miss the principle of non-attachment in its richness and beauty, the wisdom of 'the lotus effect' in relationships.'The lotus effect' in science refers to the self-cleaning properties as exhibited by the leaves of the lotus flower. Dirt particles are picked up in this phenomenon by water droplets, thus leaving the lotus leaves clean. Science worked out the mechanism of the phenomenon of self-cleaning in early 1970s with the introduction of the scanning electronic microscope. But the spiritual insight saw the essential nature of the phenomenon and its application in human life long back in its metaphorical sense in the Bhagvad Gita which advises us to repose all our actions and relationships on the larger base of the Brahman than the narrow base of the egoic self:
"He who, having abandoned attachment, acts reposing his works on the Brahman, is not stained by sin even as waters cling not to the lotus leaf." V10
Brahman is the all-encompassing, all-accommodating, all-harmonising, higher universal self which finds and fulfils itself in an all-loving and all-compassionate ambience of consciousness. I find the words of Khalil Jibran so elevating and fulfilling in this context:
"But let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love. Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls."
And how can we create such a space in relationships without true communication? And can there be true communication without genuine understanding. Sometimes, if not too often communication in a relationship is so onesided or lopsided that it's not communication at all, as the following statement by someone illustrates it so well, "I have not spoken to my wife for eighteen months. I don't like to interrupt her."
But not only in marital relationships in most others there are people who monopolize all talk and sometimes indulge in loose talk so much so that they can be said to be suffering from 'verbal diahorrea'. Even the utter limitations of vocabulary present no barrier to their skills in self-expression. As someone has put it so strikingly, "An average woman's vocabulary is just a few hundred words but then see the turnover."
We almost forget that understanding is essential to communication and listening to understanding. Even when we listen we tend to do so more in order to reply than to understand. As someone has put it so aptly, "The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand, we listen to reply."
And the lack of willingness to listen and understand is the sign of a deeper malady, a closed heart. As David Augsburger puts it, "An open ear is the only believable sign of an open heart."
When it comes to an open heart it comes to love and kindness or rather compassion in relationships. What is a relationship without genuine love and compassion in it? A meaningless, outdated contract that we keep waving in the air that we have been something to each other? It's significant that the message of non-attachment goes side by side with the message of love and compassion for all beings in the Bhagvad Gita:
"He who has no egoism, no I-ness and my-ness, who has friendship and compassion for all beings and hate for no living things...is dear to Me." XII, 13,14
The Tao Te Ching also reinforces the thorough significance of kindness in relationships:
Speaking with kindness creates confidence, thinking with kindness creates profoundness, giving with kindness creates love.
Such kindness is possible only when we give our people a space to be and recognize them as whole and independent in themselves. I love the words of Rainer Maria Rilke in this regard:
"Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distance continues to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole and against a wide sky."
That's what real love amounts to--letting a person be what he really is. Without a genuine freedom to be, pretensions creep into relationships. As someone has said it, 'Most people love you for who you pretend to be. To keep their love you keep pretending.' J. Krishnamurti says in Freedom From The Known:
"In all our relationships each one of us builds an image about the other and these two images have relationship, not the human beings themselves."
Thus without a genuine space and a freedom to be and to be a whole our relationships are caught in pretensions. As we make room for such a healthy space and freedom in relationships we fall in love with the same people so often as we discover wonderful sides to their personality hitherto disguised and most of all we discover the beauty and delight of pure being in them. It is then that relationships bloom like lotus flowers unstuck to any dirt of malice, hatred, prejudice and pretensions.
[ Dr. Surendra Soni has been exploring consciousness studies & applications for the last 29 years. He is a former university teacher with 20 years of experience in teaching and research ]