Monday, February 13, 2006

Further Observations on Integral Relationship

["The Lovers," Chaos Tarot]

Susan Piver has an article in the new (March 2006) Shambhala Sun called "I Do?" In it she outlines her issues with commitment and relationship as influenced by her Buddhist practice and beliefs. There is much to what she said that feels integral to me, or at least approaching integral.

Here is a small bit about the beginning of her marriage.
Marriage is a commitment to share love, have sex, and try to stay together with this one person, right? Well maybe, but I couldn't promise to do these things. I knew I couldn't say, "I do" to love--feelings change, and keep changing. I also knew I couldn't say yes to wanting to have sex with him for the rest of my life--desire is unpredictable. And ask him to commit to me? Which me? I couldn't commit to remaining the same me. So if you can't say yes to love, sex, or remaining the one each fell in love with, what are you agreeing to when you commit to a relationship?

It's just now, eight years later, that I'm finding out what, apparently, I said yes to.

I said yes to the unfolding, impenetrable arc of uncertainty. I guess I thought that finding love was an endpoint, that some kind of search was over and I would find home. We would leap over the threshold together into whatever we imagined our ideal cottage to be. But really we stepped through a crazy looking glass. No matter how hard we tried, how madly in love we were, or how skillfully we planned our life together, there was complete uncertainty about what the connection would feel like from day to day. I could give all the love I had (with great joy) and get back a blank stare. I could wake up as my crankiest, most sullen and narcissistic self, roll over, and greet the face of unconditional acceptance. Or not. It's like the weather: you can try to read the signs and guess about atmospheric conditions, but really there's no telling.
And here is one small section on the nature of love.
I didn't really understand that love does not arise, abide, or dissolve in connection with any particular feeling. It has almost nothing to do with feeling. (Nor does it seem to be a gesture, a commitment to stay, becoming best friends, or anything I might have thought.) Love has become a container in which we live. Through time, riding mysterious waves of passion, aggression, and ignorance (and boredom), I think we began to live within love itself. At least I did. Each time I have opened up, extended myself, accepted what was being offered to me, stepped beyond my comfort zone to embrace him, the structure has been reinforced. I no longer have any idea if I love my husband or not. I can't imagine what the feelings I have for him could be called. I've given up trying to love him. Our relationship is what gives us love, not the other way around. This is how it is.
Piver gets closer to what love feels like from the inside than I ever could. I don't know if my experience is as eloquent as hers, but I feel the same sense of the relationship transcending and including myself and my partner.

"Love has become the container in which we live." That feels second tier to me. If it isn't, that's okay. I'm willing to work the rest of my life to hold that feeling in my relationship.


Anonymous said...

The woman in me thinking "how beautiful" and the man in me is thinking "now Bill needs to lay out a prescriptive plan for getting us to that blissful place..."

Kai in NYC

william harryman said...

Hi Kai,

I wish knew how to make that happen. I'd write a book, teach workshops, and shout it from rooftops.

Mostly I get small tastes of it with Kira--when we are quiet together, when we are on vacation in a new place, or when we make love. I've had enough taste to get the flavor.

The one thing I know is that what Piver says is true: "Each time I have opened up, extended myself, accepted what was being offered to me, stepped beyond my comfort zone to embrace him, the structure has been reinforced." All of these examples are ways that she puts aside ego. And I think putting aside ego is the key to feeling that space where love is the container.

Obviously, putting aside ego is the hard part. But what you do as practice is a great way to create that space where ego is a voice, not the listener. Any practice that allows us to be fully present can also allow us to put aside the ego. I think it is the Witness, the observing Self, that feels that loving space--and the only way I know to be in the Witness is to not be in the ego.

That's all I know, but I am committed to knowing more.


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