A few days ago Aalif blogged about relationships that we need to re-define for ourselves. Today in the Sunday session, GD discussed the two boxes that we often tend to hold in our mind about relationships – one box with the traditional system of marriage, kids, etc. where we possess the belief (or the belief possesses us or neither) to find everything in that one special person. In Hindi we have a phrase that goes varmala pehnaana which literally means garlanding a person, part of the Hindu tradition of marriage. There is an alternate usage to this phrase which means idolizing the person. Unfortunately the two are often linked in this box. In a way we idolize because we look up to this person to fulfill all our desires. The second box one swings to the polarity of remaining a bachelor (or a spinster) and picking up a different person at the bar every so often. Or something similar accounting to being alone in the society.
However, life seems to be showing me something different. Almost a year ago I met a man at a lovely retreat with whom I felt an instant connection. The ‘attraction’ was not based on the same old parameters. It didn’t feel like love at first sight. It was something far more deeper than what goes with my definition of love. I had a clear feeling that this connection that I felt with him was something to be explored. And even though he didn’t feel anything that strong, I spoke to him about it. Soon we started exchanging emails. My heart began pouring out to him as if I had always known him. Thanks to some spontaneous past life recalls I intuitively knew that the kind of connection I felt with him was built from a lifetime of deep affection and respect. There was an instant oneness as if we both had one shared mind. Just trusting and flowing with this sense of connection, it began opening up a lot of visions – I would get glimpses of his innermost sensitivities as well as how much I would open up in his company. He stayed in a special community that strives to build itself on awareness of one’s innermost Self. Our exchanges over emails spilled into a connection beyond time and place. Though he was hundreds of miles away, he knew exactly what was going on with me and would intuitively mail or message me when he sensed what he called a turbulence in my system. I would, in turn, intuitively know when his mind was occupied somewhere.
Just when I had met him, I had a vision of a calendar hung up in a cottage with a weekday marked in red. The information simultaneously came in that I was to spend time in his community that day. Since it was a place far from where I live, I told him about the vision and the date. He instantly told me that the date was within days of the birthday celebrations of his community. Ah! I planned the trip and communicated to him the deep inner pull that seemed to be getting stronger as the day approached for my departure. A few days prior I had a vision of walking through a forest while it was raining. The information again flowed that I must carry an umbrella with me. I shared that with him and he laughed saying that he has an umbrella already, but perhaps it was a call to carry my walking shoes as he routinely walked through the forest where he lived in a cottage and accompany him on one of those trips.
As I worked out my accommodation options in the community, I secretly wished I could stay with him although the logical thoughts of he being single, living alone in a cottage and for all practical reasons a stranger held me back from expressing this desire. Incidentally, he also mentioned that one of his friends was visiting him during that time and that he would book me into a hostel. When my train reached the station where he was going to pick me up, my body felt an elation. I instantly saw him and hugged him, feeling overjoyed. It was almost as if we were catching up after ages. We spent the next hour in spells of silence and holding each other’s hands which neither of us wanted to let go in the drive to his community.
In a few hours, all remaining sense of formalities were joyfully abandoned and I felt as safe as a child. To my surprise, his friend had not turned up at the last minute and he asked me if I would be okay to stay in his cottage. The next few weeks were spent exploring a relationship between a man and woman that I have never heard anyone have. We were completely in tune with each other and yet when we asked ourselves if we felt this was a conventional relationship the answer was no. There was no sexuality involved. On the contrary there was a deep bond being guided by a higher purpose and we were like two little children inspite of our age difference. Synchronistically, his work also turned into a trickle during my stay with him. We would sometimes meditate together and sometimes follow our separate paths. But the togetherness was a constant, as if we were operating in the same womb. For me, it was like a vacation for my soul. It felt like this was the vacation I was longing for since I was born – to connect with someone effortlessly, be guided and surrendered, listening moment to moment and acting upon that. Intuition also told me to not book a return ticket. That when the right time comes, I shall be guided. And so it unfolded as well. Later, the date that I had seen in my vision, turned out to be a local holiday and so was indeed a red letter day to only that part of the state!
One of the other things he shared with me was the way the lack of boundaries in relationships unfolds in his community. He shared with me the split with his partner who he was living with for years and who was also a kind of his business partner. She had fallen in love with someone else and was petrified of losing him in a conventional way. It took him a few months to grapple with his own sense of loss and finally find his center of how best to respond. Slowly, the answer unfolded as he cleared his own emotions one by one. He disconnected physical separation from the sense of separation and saw through the illusion. He then helped her to set up her own place and asked her to explore both the relationships at her own pace. They would have their weekly rituals which he said they would still share to help them both have a sense of continuity. Slowly, she realised she could not ‘lose’ him and decided to live with the other man and shifted in with him. Yet this friend and her were still together on the business as he continued to look after her spiritually, like a father figure. A year or so later, she separated their finances because she felt independent enough. To this day, he continues his weekly rituals and sometimes, she joins him as and when she feels called to do so. When I asked him how he felt now, he said she feels like a daughter. The three often have heartfelt conversations almost every day. There is no animosity or strangeness.
He shared another instance of these relationships. He pays a weekly visit to a lady old enough to be my grandmother, because it makes him feel like a child with his mother and fulfills his need to be pampered like a little child. When I visited her, she instantly took to me and I was cooking in her kitchen under her direction. I didn’t seem to have a requirement to fulfill in order for her to fondly share her favorite marzipan sweets from Germany with me.
I share this because this world looks so much beautiful even without garlands or wedding rings with ‘eternity’ stamped on them. Every time I have broken up, I have longed for continuity through a shared sense of togetherness. And yet I personally have picked up from my conditioning to burn bridges, which GD calls “going negative on the relationship”. The trip to this community taught me that we could be living in a society like this where I can call up my partner’s ex-wife or ex-partner who perhaps knows his quirks better than me and ask her for guidance. That we could meet and connect with those from a much older generation and spend time with them that we perhaps missed with our own grandparents.
Years ago I had the privilege to meet members from another spiritual community in Europe who also shared something similar. A person could have a child with someone and yet choose to stay with a different group of people. Like all painters lived together even though a painter and a potter were dating each other. Also that their children were free to grow up with whoever they chose to be with, rather than being restricted to their parents. The whole community raised all the children rather than just the ones who gave birth. They also had marriages in the community with 1-year, 2-year, 7-year contracts which could be renewed or terminated at any point.
I wonder at this point, why are we so used to restricting familial joy with our blood family or one legitimised through a contract? More so, I fantasize like a child how would the world look if seen through the lens of the Sanskrit term, vasudaiva kutumbakam (the whole world is your family)?
I sat down one of those afternoons in the arms of this friend I was visiting. He had just come back to the cottage for an afternoon break and it was our ‘cuddle time’. We shared a loving, close silence. We then chatted about what a relief it was for both of us that neither was trying to slot the relationship into anything beyond what it appeared to us moment to moment. It has been impossible to explain this to people from a conventional mindset, or even to the people in his community who thought I was his new ‘partner’ since I was living with him. We are partners in our togetherness, in our connection only. Over time we have also come to appreciate our unconditional surrender to this awareness without wasting time in social formalities like introductions, sharing likes and dislikes. For example, before I stayed over at his place, he felt like buying passion fruit. I had never tasted them before and he hadn’t asked me about it. Living there, I grew so fond of them, it was a sign of oneness that we both treasured. Like the ocean, this connection has no paths. I love him in a way that is so new to me that I still wonder whether this is called love. Neither of us requires any fixtures from the relationship and I am constantly reminded of our magic whenever we come together that feels as if it was always there, like a beautiful sunset that never really ‘happened’. I have met others with whom I share an instantly deep bond coming from a place of recognition. However, I’ve also encountered it being confused with sexuality, and with others, them being unsure and awkward surrendering to the knowing it brings with it. I have come to understand that when we drop the need for social formality, these connections develop into lifelong bonds kept alive by the universe. These bonds take care of us far beyond what we could verbalise or even understand of ourselves.