Read an Excerpt
We Need A New Vision
H. L. Poonja
In every relationship the question eventually arises: "What am I doing here? Is it really worth the struggle?" Such concerns might surface in the first week of being together, or after years or decades. But sooner or later, when a relationship starts to feel more like work than fun, we begin to wonder if we are on the right track. Why keep going when the initial excitement fades or when we keep hurting each other? Or when intimacy with another exposes parts of ourselves we would rather not look at? Or when we start to doubt whether we have what it takes to live with another person, or to love anybody at all on a daily basis?
Finding our way through the complexities of intimacy today is like being lost in the wilderness without a map or compass. Much of the time we are busy tending wounds we have suffered while stumbling blindly through the underbrush. Yet though bandaging our wounds may bring temporary relief, it does not address the basic problem: We can't find our way because we don't know where we are going. We have a hard time working with love's challenges because we lack a clear sense of what relationships are about anymore. What we need, more than any quick fix or temporary solution, is a new guiding vision of the meaning and purpose of long-term relationship.
All significant achievements come about through vision and intention. No one-whether an artist, a mountain climber, a yogi, or an entrepreneur-can persist in a long, arduous undertaking without avision of what he or she wants to realize. Having a vision, along with a clear intention to manifest that vision, helps us persevere in the face of obstacles that inevitably arise. Yet often we enter relationships without knowing what it is we really want. Without a sense of what we're after, we will not understand why it is meaningful to work with the difficulties encountered on the path of love, and are thus likely to lose heart along the way.
One way to start forging a new vision of relationship is simply by asking ourselves what we most cherish in our connection with another person. When working with couples in groups, I often start by inviting them to tell me what they most enjoy about falling in love. What makes it feel so wonderful, so powerful and compelling? What does it give them that they value beyond all else? Some of the answers I often hear are:
- A feeling of being part of something larger
- A deeper sense of being myself, being who I really am
- A new kind of strength and peace
- A sense of life's magic
- No longer fearing the unknown
- A flowing movement and connectedness
- A fresh acceptance of myself and everything
- Being more alive in my body and senses
- Seeing the world with new eyes
- Feeling blessed
- Coming home
And when I ask people what qualities being in love puts them in touch with, they mention warmth, innocence, gratitude, passion, kindness, expansiveness, realness, trust, beauty, wonder, openness, delight, affirmation, richness, integrity, power.
All of these statements point in the same direction. When we are in love, we become more fully present, more connected with ourselves and the world around us. In moments of heightened presence we no longer need to prove ourselves. Something in us relaxes. Our usual cares and distractions fade into the background, and we feel more awake, more alive. We experience what it is like just to be present, just to be ourselves. Falling in love is powerful and enlivening because it opens us to our larger being.
As a noun, the word being can sound static or abstract. But if we consider it as a verb form be-ing it denotes the living process that we are, an immediate coming-into-presence and engaging with what is. A simple way to glimpse the nature of your being is to ask yourself as you read this, "Who is taking in these words? Who is experiencing all of this right now?" Without trying to think of an answer, if you look directly into the experiencer, the experiencing consciousness itself, what you find is a silent presence that has no shape, location, or form. This nameless, formless presence-in, around, behind, and between all our particular thoughts and experiences-is what the great spiritual traditions regard as our true nature, or homeground, also known as the essential self or holy spirit.
Be-ing means resting in the flow of this presence, which is awake, open, and responsive to reality-described by the Christian mystic Meister Eckhart as "now-flowing." This dynamic, fluid openness provides a direct channel to the heart of life, in contrast to the indirect ways we usually relate to things-through mental activity and emotional reactivity. That is why falling in love feels like coming home-it helps us enter the flow of being, which is the only true and reliable resting place we can find on this earth.
The Tibetan teacher Chögyam Trungpa had a revealing term for this quality of open presence that is our essential nature. He called it basic goodness. Though we may spend much of our time and energy trying to prove our worth, the truth is that our nature already contains its own intrinsic, unconditional value.
This is not to say that people are only good-which would be naive, considering all the evil that humans perpetrate in this world. Our unconditional value lies much deeper than our conditioned personality and behavior, which are always a mix of positive and negative tendencies. It lies in the essential openness at the core of our nature, which allows us to know and experience value in ourselves and the world around us...