Looks like Deborah needs all the space today, so I'll be rejoining you next week.
What a great consideration we are following here, from thinking about why I am in relationship to whether there is a “cosmic” purpose to being in relationship. My question is, if so, how does that inform me, the person, about being in “my” personal relationship?
I’d like to share a few reflections about what you have opened up for us here. Readers may be familiar with this quote from Rumi, a 13th century Sufi poet. It came to mind after hearing two stories in the news this past week: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” Beyond our roles, definitions, polarities, concepts, and who we take ourselves to be, there is vastness. The invitation is to meet there, beyond words, without ego. Love with a capital “L”. Keep this in mind....
One story that caught my attention was a clip I heard during a radio interview with author Don Lattin on the KQED radio show “Forum” . The clip, available on YouTube as “LSD Research” was remarkable. During the 1950’s, before Timothy Leary et al, research was conducted at various institutions in which LSD was administered to “normal” individuals; Their experiences were observed and recorded. In this clip, a school teacher was given the LSD. When they asked her what she was experiencing, she described seeing “infinite beauty”: “ I can see all the molecules, and I’m part of it...Can’t you see it? It’s all around us? It’s in the air, its in you and in me...everything is one....this is reality”. In that state of broadened and heightened awareness, she was seeing and experiencing that energetic life pulse that we do not detect “normally”; she could see that she and everyone are connected in this, and that there is no separation.
The second news story was in the October 15th issue of Newsweek, which features an excerpt from a book called My Proof of Heaven by Dr. Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon who reports a life-changing experience that defied his own attitudes during seven days in which he lay in a coma. Dr. Alexander describes his religious and spiritual orientation, prior to the coma experience, as “ [I] sympathized deeply with those who wanted to believe that there was a God somewhere out there who loved us unconditionally...as a scientist, I simply knew better than to believe [those beliefs] myself.”
Dr. Alexander’s amazement was profound when he experienced what many have described of near-death experiences: an encounter with higher forms of beings, and the clear sense of non-separation: “ ...Again, from my present perspective, I would suggest that you couldn’t look at anything in that world at all, for the word “at” itself implies a separation that did not exist there. Everything was distinct, yet everything was also a part of everything else...”. He says that during his experience he received a message that had three parts: “You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever.” “You have nothing to fear.” “There is nothing you can do wrong.” His experience so defied his previous beliefs about consciousness and heaven that he feels it “demands explanation”, and offers this: “Modern physics tells us that the universe is a unity-that is undivided. Though we seem to live in a world of separation and difference, physics tells us that beneath the surface, every object and event in the universe is completely woven up with every other object and event. There is no true separation.
“Before my experience these ideas were abstractions. Today they are realities. Not only is the universe defined by unity, it is also -I now know- defined by love. The universe as I experienced it in my coma is -I have come to see with both shock and joy- the same one that both Einstein and Jesus were speaking of in their (very) different ways.”
My understanding of these experiences, and the teachings of numerous religious and spiritual philosophies are that, ultimately, there is no difference between you and I. That there is no separation. Our differentiation as separate selves is really better defined as waves of an ocean. If we could recognize this as the true ground of being, the consciousness that we are actually made of, then what do we think about the purpose of relationship, or how we are in it? From an impersonal view, we can say we are different aspects serving an undivided whole, with less distinction than we see and believe. And yet, here we are: a “you” and a “me”, living it out.
An old Paul Simon song: So goodbye, goodbye I’m gonna leave you now and here’s the reason why I like to sleep with the windows open and you keep the windows closed So goodbye, goodbye, goodbye. This is what I need, I just do.... Perhaps relationship is no different than anything else: grist for the mill. Relationship constantly reflects who I think I am, and who I think you are, and this provides the opportunity to wake us up to a deeper truth. Consciousness comes through me, as me. And in relationship, as me with you. It is the tendency of life to grow, and in our very nature is the evolution of the self to open into these bigger spaces. We find the work to do this in myriad other places, but perhaps most pointedly, in relationship to others. Because there is the mirror. And, in these modern times, since we are not running from tigers, this is where we become afraid, and defend our feelings and needs and preferences. It is perhaps the place where we get most tight, most defended, most certain of “wrongdoing and rightdoing”. And, in our internal worlds, most fearful.
I am not saying that the issues are unimportant. Understanding ourselves is an element of the path of our development and evolution. But it is just that: an element of the path of our evolution. It is not the end-point. Getting my partner to “sleep with the windows open” is not the point. But understanding why it matters to me, being able to communicate about it rather than shut down, learn that I can be received and respected in relationship, see my reflection when I am not able to be open....it is all grist for the mill for a larger purpose. When we adopt the perspective, or exercise the understanding that relationships can serve this purpose, we can use what arises in the arena of relationship to become less defended, release those patterns that keep us constricted, and open to this wondrous universe of which we are, at our core, a beautiful part.
Do you have a question about your marriage or relationship? Is there a particular topic on relationships or individual psychological issues you would like addressed in this blog? Ask Josh in the comments below or email him at email@example.com.
Deborah Leeds, MFT, is a couples and individual therapist with offices in Pleasant Hill and Berkeley, CA. Visit her website at deborahleeds.com
Josh Gressel, Ph.D., is a couples and individual therapist based in Pleasant Hill, CA. Visit his website at joshgressel.com.