The Art of Relating
Balacing our humanity and divinity
Many years ago I was initiated into spirituality through an Art Of Living program. There I got my first taste of ananda. Sitting still, meditating, chanting, singing devotional songs I was soaked in the Bliss of Being. A mind free from thoughts, desires and fears, reflected the radiance of True Self. It was heavenly! I couldn’t get enough of it. I became addicted to ananda.
Whenever something triggered my emotions of inadequacy, anxiety, hurt, rejection or abandonment, I would retreat to myself and recreate the bliss of being through silence and stillness. I saw the feeling of being unwanted and unloved, not representative of my true self. Hence I never encouraged or expressed them. I thought meditation and chanting would help me reach my divine state, where I would experience and express unconditional love for all.
I was wrong.
I was not sublimating my emotions, I was suppressing them. I was trying to be Jesus Christ, even before I had learnt to be human. In the process, I was storing up my hurt, pain, anger and resentment in some deep corner of my being, only to explode like a volcano someday. And it did.
I have learnt over the years that one cannot transcend one’s desires and fears by overlooking them. One has to acknowledge them and express them where needed, without holding others responsible for them. Ultimately we are human and have human needs to be loved, respected and appreciated. Owning up to our humanity is not a weakness, but a strength. Divinity can enter us only when we embrace our vulnerability.
Let me explain.
Bring to mind the relationships that truly matter in your life. Father — son, husband — wife, brother — sister etc. Basically any relationship that is close and intimate. In such a relationship there is bound to be an exchange of energy in the form of sharing physical space, experiences, thoughts and feelings. When this exchange of energy takes place there are bound to be feelings, wants or don’t wants.
What happens when needs don’t match, when feelings are not reciprocated or there is emotional hurt. More often than not we do something that hides our vulnerability and covers our true feelings. We give reasons, we suppress, we withdraw, we react, we block communication. Or we try to meditate and chant as I used to do earlier. But we do not do what is most needed in the moment.
Express our feelings.
Why is it that we do not express our feelings?
There could be many reasons for it. Maybe we are not in touch with our feelings. We are scared of our feelings being rejected. We believe expressing feelings is a sign of weakness. We think bringing feelings into a relationship creates a big emotional mess.
When we continue relating, without expressing our feelings and needs, the relationship survives in the short term, but in the long term the core of the relationship begins to erode. The relationship lacks authenticity. It becomes a role play. We feel alienated and distanced. Even if it exists, it is for namesake only.
What is the purpose of a relationship?
In my view relationships are psychological mirrors that help us to see our desires and fears in the reflection of another human being. If we do not like what we see, we can break the mirror or run away from it, but it will not change who we are. While it is important to set boundaries in some relationships, in a relationship that matters, where both persons are committed to personal growth it is important to share and listen to feelings.
Expression of feelings is not blaming another. Sharing needs is not holding the other person accountable for meeting them. It is simply stating our current reality. Opening our wound so that it can heal in the loving non-judgmental presence of another human being. There is no other way. We grow through, only what we go through.
Unfortunately most of us see relationships with a transactional mindset. Particularly when a new relationship forms. What can I get? Will my needs be met? Is this a good match? Can this person be trusted? Am I ready for such a relationship? How will this meet our practical needs?
When the mind cannot find answers to these questions, the relationship dies even before it has had a chance to live. A relationship lives in the heart and minds of two individuals. When they share what they feel and think, the relationship is alive. When they stop doing that the relationship is dead.
Creating a culture of sharing and listening in a relationship is important. This could be sharing feelings, needs and appreciation at regular intervals. These communication rituals create the space to release pent up emotions, educate the other person on what is important to us and build trust through authentic conversations.
What I have shared so far, is the part of owning up to our humanity.
Now comes divinity.
Our primary relationship is not with another human being. It is with God. One can call God by any name — Consciousness, Nature, Universe, Love, Divinity, Christ, Krishna; it does not matter. What matters is that we realize that whatever we get, and don’t get, comes from God and not from another human being.
If you get the love and understanding that you seek from your partner, it is God’s grace. If you don’t, that is also God’s grace. Acknowledging our needs and expressing them is humanity. Surrendering them is divinity.
Humanity and Divinity are integral to our existence. Like inhalation and exhalation. One cannot exist without the other. When we focus only on humanity we become overly personal, critical, complaining and judgmental. When we focus only on divinity we become hypocritical, delusional, preachy and patronizing. We must learn to balance both.
Relationships are the perfect ground to see and transcend ourself. They get us in touch with our vulnerability. And provide us an opportunity to let go. If the Universe has provided us with such a relationship, it is not a coincidence. It is just what we need, for making peace out of the pieces within us.