The Yoga of Relationship
Fulfilling the Urge to Merge: Discovering the Ecstasy of Union
by Yogi Amrit Desai
Love is the elixir of life. It is the nectar that nurtures every level of our body and our being. It is what we seek in every form of relationship. We give "love" many names. We call it passion, romance, sex, acceptance or approval. We believe that if we find the right "love" relationship, it will provide everything we need and want. We are desperate in our search for love. We explore every possible way to find it. We would give anything to get it and are willing to lose everything to have it. What makes love such a powerful force in our lives?
The Urge to Merge: the Human Quest for Union
The power of love is its ability to harmonize, unite and integrate that which is in conflict, disharmony, imbalance, and fragmentation. When two people who are conflicted and unhappy fall in love they immediately begin to feel the enchanting impact of love. Their internal conflicts and disharmonies instantly dissolve as they experience the unity, intimacy and ecstasy of love. When you are in love, the boundaries between you and your beloved naturally drop. You lose the sense of the separative ego and experience unity. Thus the experience of love is the experience of oneness. The conflicting parts of our being begin to function in harmony and balance, which is music to our heart and soul. This is why the loving relationship is very consuming and keeps our attention engaged. When we are in romantic love, it gives us relief from all of our past hurts and creates glorious dreams of the future. This profound psychological relief and extreme pleasure make romantic love more attractive and addictive than any other escape, entertainment or hobby.
The romantic love that humans seek so desperately is an expression of and a way to fulfill our inborn, innate "urge to merge." This yearning for wholeness, for completion, for union with another to achieve a blissful state of oneness, is one of the core aspects of human nature. It is the inborn urge that instinctively seeks wholeness through the union of male and female. On a biological level, this instinctive urge to merge is present in animals as well as in humans. The human quest for merging, for union, our quest for love, takes place on several different levels-biological (instinctual), psychological and spiritual (evolutionary). As our human consciousness evolves, we are engaged in exploring and experiencing higher levels of love and union, with progressively deepening integration. As human beings, we have an animal body, a human mind and divine potential. At our highest evolutionary level, humans are capable of going beyond romantic love, engaging the heart chakra and the higher centers of consciousness to achieve the ultimate fulfillment of our urge for union, to realize our divine potential.
This evolutionary urge to merge is what has led yogis throughout history to explore and discover ways to experience ecstasy and union. The meaning of the word 'yoga' is union and the purpose of the practice of yoga is to experience unity and oneness. The final stage of Ashtanga Yoga-Samadhi-is the ultimate state of ecstatic union. In the same way that the reflection of the moon in a lake is not actually the moon, but gives us a hint of what the real moon is like, the union experienced in romantic or sexual love is a reflection of the profound experience of union that can be achieved through the practice of yoga. The ecstatic union that we experience in our loving relationships can provide a foundation for the evolutionary search for the true and lasting ecstasy and unity of yoga.
Love Rooted in the Lower Chakras: The Pitfalls and Perils of Addiction to Love
Ironically, this one thing that we believe will give us the most fulfillment-love-is often what we find most elusive. At our current evolutionary stage, most human beings seek to fulfill the instinctive urge to merge through the lower three chakras. The lower chakras function in a dualistic mode, that is, they see all of reality as dualities, divisions between self and other, between what I like and what I don't like, between good and bad. When we are working through the medium of duality, we create separation and conflict in the very effort of trying to create relationship and unity.
In the realm of duality, we seek all fulfillment of our innate urge to merge through external activities or romantic relationships. We believe the source of pleasure and fulfillment exists only outside of ourselves. The domain of duality is infested with ego-centered, separative interactions. We become consumed by the need to receive acceptance, approval and love from the other. Because the ecstasy of love we experience is perceived to be coming from outside, from the other, we naturally form a desire to return to it again and again and a simultaneous fear of losing it, creating dependency and addiction. The dependency turns into demands, expectations and manipulation. On this level, love is invariably accompanied by fear and our experience of ecstatic union can only be temporary.
For the human being, sex is not just a biological urge, but is always accompanied by psychological baggage. We may experience the union and ecstasy of love in the dating stage of a relationship. But because of the accompanying attachment, expectations and dependency, we try to manage and control the other on whom we depend to keep us in a happy, blissful state. When the other fails to fulfill our expectations, we either blame them or try to change them.
The Divine Potential of Human Love
Despite of all attempts to experience union, a relationship operating from a lower chakra (dualistic level) eventually leads not only to separation from the other, but to separation and conflict within ourselves. However, experiencing love at this level can help us discover that such love can only come from the source within.
The experience of union is what we are looking for both in the practice of yoga and in a truly loving relationship. Love that makes you whole can only come from within. It grows through your ability to give love and receive love, rather than to expect love. Love is not something you can get from making demands, manipulating or controlling the loved one. The true source of love is within and you can only experience love if you are in touch with this inner source.
When the urge to merge evolves towards the heart and higher centers of consciousness, it enters into a whole new dimension. In the heart (the fourth chakra), love is not sought in the duality dimension. When we approach relationship from the higher centers, the focus changes from searching for love from others to connecting with the source within. Instead of demanding understanding, we become understanding. Instead of asking for acceptance and recognition, we begin to accept and recognize the other. Instead of asking for love, we become loving. Human love works on an exchange basis. It is given with attachment to what I can get for what I give. It promotes separation and perpetuates conflict. Divine love is given unconditionally, without expecting any reward in return. Pure divine love creates oneness.
The Yoga of Relationship: Discovering the Source of Union Within
A relationship is like a mirror. It reflects everything we have been avoiding. It has the power to reveal our divine potential as well as the darkest recesses of our shadow side. Loving, intimate relationship has a tendency to stir up all our old hurts, traumas, insecurities, fears, and control issues. Sooner or later, we must recognize and embrace the parts of ourselves and our loved ones that we've been avoiding, suppressing and denying. When we use a loving relationship as a mirror to see who we truly are and what we have been hiding from, we enter the process of Self-discovery that moves us toward internal integration. This promotes healing and release of all the blocks that separate us from our higher Self as well as from our loved ones. This is the part of a relationship that provides us with an opportunity to discover our true Self; this is the yoga of relationship. Only a relationship that is founded primarily on the intention to see yourself with greater objectivity and unbiased awareness will truly become an experience of the Self-discovery, unity and ecstasy of love.
To be in relationship with another is really about being in relationship with yourself. Every obstacle you encounter in love that appears to be coming from the other is actually a reflection of what you unconsciously harbor within. If you do not face all these obstacles with integrative awareness, the integrative power of true love will turn into fear and resistance. It is the presence of mindful awareness that helps you overcome the obstacles of the separative ego that keep you from experiencing the unity of love.
In the truly loving relationship, the process of Self-discovery progressively allows us to become free of ego-centered, separative walls and promotes deeper levels of divine love. This is exactly the purpose of yoga practice: to transcend the separative ego-sense, so that the individual self merges into the cosmic Self-God. In the Self-discovery process, either through yoga practice or a loving relationship, you encounter all that you have been trying to avoid in yourself. This is at the core of the yoga of relationship. Whether you want to experience the fulfillment of the urge to merge through the medium of yoga or an external relationship, you must be committed to facing the obstacles that create conflict and division in your life, whether with loved ones or within yourself.
Relationship with others, particularly those we are closest to, is the fieldwork for spirituality. Spiritual practice does not belong just on the yoga mat or a meditation cushion. It must permeate every aspect of our lives, extend into every one of our experiences, from the mundane to the mystical. Remember that the only real difference between relationship and yoga is that the ecstasy we experience in external love is temporary, while the ecstasy and union of yoga is a permanent and profound transformative process. The first affects only a part of your life; the second impacts the whole of your life. The first happens in the field of duality where love occurs between you and the other. The unity sought through yoga happens between the male and female aspects of Shiva and Shakti within. Fulfillment of the innate urge to merge can begin with romantic love but romantic love alone can never completely fulfill our inborn longing for union. If your loving relationship is based on an intention for Self-discovery, it is the basis of spiritual love. We can use our loving relationship as the foundation to explore, expand and experience the divine potential that leads to union-the ultimate experience of yoga.