When working with a client on refining their diet, I share one of Ayurveda's basic principles of eating: Don't mix too many foods. Different foods have different types of enzymes, and given this fact we are instructed not to eat tomatoes with cucumbers, yogurt with melon, fish with milk, and various other combinations. Though it might sound like esoteric voo-doo to make this claim--for how can we eat a salad without both cucumbers and tomatoes--when we do mix these foods we are likely to experience gastro-intestinal pain, gas, or other forms of digestive discomfort. With this knowledge, we are given the opportunity to refine the way we take in food and observe how we feel in response. If we previously experienced flatulence every time we ate a salad, the sudden absence of gas teaches us that we are better off following this new habit. In making this change, we are listening to the teacher inside us. We are listening to nature.
Changing our diet is not the only opportunity we have to listen to nature. When we listen to the basic creative energy responsible for all of life, we are able to assess whether or not we are purposeful in our work, where we live, and, perhaps most significantly, whether or not we are really and truly in love. Much like mixing incompatible foods can make us feel gastrointestinal distress, being in a relationship absent of genuine, true love can also leave us feeling discomfort and pain.
What might one of these unwanted relationships be like? We could be a relationship of convenience, in that we know our partner is not ideal for us but being in their company is better than being alone. This relationship could have started off because of a satisfying sexual relationship, continued on because of the opportunity for conversation, and formed the basis of a fifty-year marriage because the relationship became a habit. It could be a relationship of logic, in that we're with them because we share so many interests. We can enjoy the day-to-day activities we share with this person, appreciate the sense of stability that comes with this relationship, and the idea of us with that person equates to a projection of being the perfect couple. We could be in a relationship of physical and mental satisfaction, but ultimately because we've not come to this union from a place of true love, there are many moments where we doubt the relationship, doubt the other person, or, perhaps most significantly, we doubt ourselves.
Sometimes we even know that this person doesn't have the potential to be the second half of a union of true growth and spiritual love, and yet we pursue and continue to date that person anyway. I once heard someone make a comparison of their habit of dating one person after another to taking a long road trip. They could have to drive for twelve hours in one day, and as they travel down the highway the only thing available for them to eat is McDonald's. They know that the food at McDonald's isn't good for them, they know that there is some fine, healthy dining waiting for them at their destination, but because the trip is so long and arduous, they cave in and buy McDonald's not just once but twice before they make it to where they are going. They might be in one relationship because they like the physical contact, and they might be in the next one because they finally have someone to go to the movies with, but ultimately, these experiences are only french fries in comparison to the farmer's market waiting for them at the end of the long drive. The trip, though, at times is too long and hard to go it alone for most.
All of these different types of relationships are situations born from fear. We are afraid to be alone, afraid that being with someone who has different interests than our own will invalidate our own passions, and afraid that we will suffer in the years leading up to meeting or being with the one person we are meant to be with for the rest of our lives. When in a relationship of convenience or logic, we reflect each other's fears rather than feed each other's ability to grow. Much of our spiritual growth is achieved when out of a relationship and on our own to be guided from within. There are men that can't be with a woman that is more financially successful than they are because they are afraid that their value as a man will be diminished. There are women that can't be with a man that treats them with kindness and warmth because they are afraid of not having the opportunity to be responsible for that kindness themselves. There are even people that compose a checklist of qualities their ideal relationship must have (they must have sex a certain number of times a week, they must be in a regular job, they must be willing to have kids, etc.). These fears stem from an attachment to an idea of what should be, rather than a commitment to what already is and what should be sought out for spiritual growth to happen.
The path toward true contentment might teach us about yoga postures and meditation, but what does it teach us about fostering a beneficial, spiritual relationship? What is this supposedly preferred alternative? A relationship that grows from a beneficial place is one where the couple doesn't share love, give love, or have love. They simply are love. They detach themselves from the fear of not having the other person, or of not finding someone better, or of not having anyone at all. They recognize that we do not need to find or locate this energy in ourselves or the other person, as we are all made of it, breathe it, and live it. We make ourselves available to experience the soul in someone else. We are able to listen to nature in the way we do after eating the right foods and living the right lifestyle. We say that we "fall in love," but when we form our relationship from a place of listening and growth, we actually "rise in love." This may seem like a far-fetched idea, and for most of us, it is. There are only a tiny group of beings who have risen in love, and those that have done so have made this spiritual partnership their focus.
How do we work toward cultivating this love? Much like how we observe how we feel in response to mixing tomatoes and cucumbers, we can also observe how we feel in a relationship. We charge ourselves with the responsibility of noting not just how we feel in the moment, but how we feel afterward. Do we feel physically gratified by the act of having sex with our partner while it's happening, but feel empty and lonely once it's over? Do we enjoy having someone there with us in the morning but find that we're not that interested in sharing a complete life with them? Does being with this person feed our spiritual system, does it starve us or just keep us in limbo? Do we feel the same kind of lightness that comes from fasting, taking a brisk walk in the spring air, dipping our hands in a cool river or having our feet rubbed by our loved one.
When we rise in love, we channel the basic energy that forms the basis of all of creation. Our work is to listen and be guided from within. Any time we disconnect from our teacher we become lost and misguided by our mind's desires and fears. We will all get what we think of and focus on, be it misery or joy, fear or contentment, attachment or love. Ultimately, we have the power to control what we focus on and what we leave behind. Ultimately, love is a choice.
It awaits you.