Monthly Archives: October 2013




As long as we are shrouded in the illusion of separation, relationships can be a source of pain and conflict. Therefore they also constitute a path that can return us to our wholeness and perfection.

For all of us there are just two entities: I and the Other. This inconvenient Other is the source of all our pain, anger, misery, jealousy, revenge and yes, fleeting moments of joy and ecstacy. It appears that the shadow of the Other, looming large over us, obscures our access to peace, happiness, success, love, self-esteem, self-actualisation and so on.

What do we do with the Other? Is it possible to live in a state of zero conflict with them? Is it possible to be free and yet available to them? Can we fully be there for the Other without impoverishing ourselves? At the same time, how do we come out of their hold and stand firm and strong in our own ground? This is the cipher of human existence. The reason why we take birth again and again. To learn the supreme lesson of what to do with the Other. It is not for nothing that Jean Paul Sartre, the well-known French philosopher succinctly said, “Hell is other people.”

Instead veiled in the illusion of separation we have worn for lifetimes after lifetimes, we love, we hate, we laugh, we cry, we attach, detach, fight, and make up, we kill, give birth, we nurture, we destroy, we give, we take, we teach, we learn, we part, we come together.

There is great beauty in this dance of duality, but let’s face it, it is essentially unsatisfactory. We are pulled between I and the Other, sometimes pandering to their ego, getting pulled into their magnetic force, often forsaking our own needs, dignity or self-respect. Or else, we pander to our ego by pulling the Other into our magnetic sphere, forcing them to do what we want them to do, and rendering them into abject slaves. All relationships have power struggles that are often fought silently but to the death. The slippery art of balancing this pull between I and the Other is one of the key lessons that relationships teach us.

The relationship school begins at birth when we are born into a family. The family is the crucible of socialisation, and depending on the kind of family we are born into and the kind of nurturing we receive, we develop our patterns of relating to others. If we have been lucky enough to have been invested with good self-esteem, our relationships with others are more likely to be harmonious and less needy. However, no matter how ideal a family we may belong to, or how much self-esteem we have, as long as we labour under the illusion of duality, relationships will still be a source of pain and conflict. Yes, they are also a source of happiness, joy, security and love. But if we want to get to a state of absolute happiness, then we must cross the hurdle of the Other.

It is in man-woman relationships that the conflicts inherent in duality become most pronounced. The couple duels between physical, emotional and psychological needs for the other, the need to control the other and at the same time, forge a life together. It is the field of the most intense drama, the greatest of suffering and the most ecstatic moments of oneness. When couples get it right, they almost if not quite, tear the veil apart, or at any rate, rent it in places. When they do not, and mostly today they do not, the conflict can be savage.

Perhaps the relationship between mother and child is the one that comes closest to oneness, especially in the initial years when the child knows no separation and the mother willingly focuses on the welfare of her young. Even in later years, parents are usually willing to put the interest of their children ahead of theirs, but unfortunately often stoop to controlling and manipulating them too.

Whether at work, at home, in public or in private, we remain all too often at odds with other people.

So where does it all stop? The sages quite rightly say that because the Other is ultimately an illusion, the only way to come out of it is to go within; into our own inner world of thoughts, feelings, reactions, fantasies, traumas and so on. It is here that the journey of dissolution begins.

As we go deep within, we become better acquainted with ourselves. We discover the defenses behind which we hide our sense of inadequacy. We discover the many masks we don when in company with others and perhaps even with our own. We also see our tender emotions, often hid for fear of being hurt – the part of us that longs to connect, the part that is hungry for love.

For all of us there are just two entities: I and the Other. This inconvenient Other is the source of all our pain, anger, misery, jealousy, revenge and yes, fl eeting moments of joy and ecstacy.
We discover the shadow side we often do not own – our need to control and manipulate, or the parts that are greedy or lazy or covetous. On and on goes the discovery. This is perhaps the hardest part of the spiritual enterprise – to see ourselves fully and objectively. But if we do our spiritual practice faithfully, and that should definitely involve some aspect of loving and accepting ourselves, we will find an increasing capacity to accept all that we see.

The more we can accept, the more space we have for ourselves and that is when we make the astonishing discovery. The Other never really affected us. It was our reactions, feelings and thoughts that they brought up in us that we could not accept. If I can accept the anger the Other brings up in me, do I have a problem with the Other? If I can accept the lust the Other arouses in me, will I want to possess the Other? If I can accept the resistance I feel when the Other wants to manipulate me, will I allow myself to be manipulated? If I accept the loneliness I feel, will I long for the Other? If I accept my inadequacies, will I want to prop up my ego by putting down the Other?

The more we learn to love and accept ourselves, the more the dents and scratches, the scabs and wounds, the hurts and traumas of separation begin to heal. We take back the power that we had falsely invested in the Other. Compassionately, we refuse to support them in their need for control, manipulation, possession or otherwise, for they too are inherently whole. Our emotional, psychological and physical needs fall away. Strength, power, and self-reliance rise. We feel protean, capable of coping with any challenge that life throws at us. We stand before life, whole and perfect, open to all that comes our way.

However, those who are ready to discover their own selves will take their cues from us. They will seek out our company and when we give ourselves permission to be who we are, we give them the permission too.

Free of needs, we freely give and freely take. Relationships become full and joyous, vibrant with love and care. As we become more essential we focus more and more on the welfare of the other and through it discover an endless source of happiness. Conflict drops because what the Other wants we want also.

And so we learn to live in total freedom and yet in total engagement with the Other.


Love is emotion in motion, evolving consistently into higher forms. The moment a relationship fathoms this evolutionary principle, it becomes a relationship for life

“For ever it was, and ever shall befall/That Love is he that all thing may bind,” wrote Geoffrey Chaucer with his marvelous medieval twang. You’d doff your hat for that, albeit there’s nothing really esoteric to it. Love is something that just happens to us.

Remember your first crush: how you were swept off your feet and were in complete ecstasy? So much so that you never argue with the extraordinary formula. On the contrary, you’d always wish to add novel ways of thinking about love per se.

Love is more than an activity, the only light, as philosopher J. Krishnamurti called it. It’s also, in essence, emotion in motion. Which explains why there are multiple definitions of love, why they coexist in harmony, and why each person chooses the definition that suits him/her best at any given time. You would also notice how these denotations—including responses from your beloved—change with circumstances such as time.

According to Patricia H. Taylor, a noted counselor and relationships researcher and author of The Enchantment of Opposites (Traveling Artists Press, USA), love encompasses an attachment where people are actively and continually creating their experiences. They are thinking of themselves and their partners as refreshing, interesting and lovable persons to be with. In the process, couples consciously decide to be the kind of people who often explore what they want and how they wish to connect. They affirm to communicate with each other about roles and rules. The bottomline, according to Patricia, is that couples must become increasingly willing to write, and even rewrite, their rules of relating on an ‘as-needed’ basis.

Just ask anyone to list qualities necessary for a great relationship and you will be flooded with a host of commonplace answers—vitality, frolic, spontaneity, more than just conjugal bliss, meeting of the minds, mutual cheering club, soul mate, warm family life. The list is endless. You could add on a few more, if you like.

But the point is that the reasons for a relationship change over time. Which also explains why our representative list encases most of the sought-after qualities and roles for our times. That’s not all. These are also qualities that successful couples tell others to embody.

Simple? Not really, because it needs a man and a woman to play the first partnership game—a pledge that allows us to explore and discover who among us is attuned to the psychical chemistry of the opposite gender. This is also a primary reason why a marriage of these differences creates a lasting alliance—notwithstanding a few ‘jerks’ that may take place during the course of any relationship.

Patricia places the idea thus: “Men and women bring their own special skills, desires, and differences to the partnership.”

Perfection, says Patricia, “is a starting point, a state of being that exists already”.

The best way to find someone you want to be with forever, she adds, is to become that person yourself. Put simply, this means you have to imbibe the qualities you seek in others. Then, and only then, will you be able to attract a like-minded person. The golden rule, Patricia elaborates, is to believe that no matter how good our lives are, they can always get much better than most of us ever dare to imagine.

Add to that the importance of treating each other like successful singles on a date for life, and you have a truly great relationship in front of you—one that has come to stay. Such a relationship not only complements the feeling that you and your partner are doing the best you can every minute, but also works as a magical potion to develop security. It loves and receives love.

Great relationships don’t contradict individual rules. It does not matter whether we are really biologically different. Indeed, our identities as male and female are not just anatomical interpretations but also culturally distinct. So, there it is!

Any great relationship needs to be personalized with an element of natural design, and more than a prospect of an attached sense of detachment. To find that ‘space’—both within and without. To recognize how willing you are to start creating the relationship you want, how inclined you are to become the type of person who is deeply desired, what actions you can take now to start making yourself, and your partner, even more alluring. Great relationships also evolve in the mind. Even strings, as philosopher Marsilio Ficino extolled, seem to respond to strings that are similarly tuned, and one lyre resounds in answer to another, or a solid wall would echo to one who calls.

Love is something like the two sparrows flying outside your window, accelerating in an instant into an ascending, intertwined spiral of their ‘enchantment of opposites’ jig. It’s also a fine symmetry of the spirit. One that denotes life as a relationship, the most vibrant, beautiful, and mystical framework of this universe—with love per se being its essential and most basic principle.