In an earlier age the poets and sages knew that falling in love is an experience of the Divine. When two people become enraptured with each other, they feel ecstasy and the delight of a timeless state of being. Any sense of isolation, pain or anxiety dissolves into the bliss. The Sufi poet Rumi expresses it beautifully:
“Lovers share a sacred decree – to seek the Beloved. They roll head over heels rushing toward the Beautiful One like a torrent of water.”
In the past few centuries the spiritual dimension of love has gradually been lost, especially in the West. Modern psychologists tell us that falling in love is illusory and that romance is a “projected fantasy” we conjure up in an attempt to feel immortal and invulnerable. However, according to the ancient seers, all love is a spiritual path. In fact, love is spirit. When we’re in the romance phase of a relationship, we have a brief experience of who we really are – an expression of the Divine. Our sense of being separate, isolated individuals disappears and we know that we’re an inextricable part of an infinite universe.
Of course, wisdom tells us that the initial euphoria of infatuation fades away. But that doesn’t diminish the value of the experience. Falling in love is an opening and a chance to enter a state of timeless bliss. In this transcendent space we know that the entire universe supports us and always has. If we decide to take the next step and enter into a marriage with our beloved, we have the opportunity to deepen both our partnership and our experience of spiritual union.
Why we get married
There are many reasons people get married, but I think the best reason is because they deeply love each other and dedicate themselves to each other to fulfill a spiritual love and destiny that they could not attain on their own.
Many marriages are actually a way of forming a complete person out of two incomplete persons. When such marriages are successful – a tricky business, since it happens on a hidden, unspoken, sometimes unconscious level – the spouses can say “we are one person” and actually mean it. But the deepest union goes a step further and becomes a mutual partnership of two people who each want to be whole. This kind of marriage, a spiritual union, is about filling in our own gaps, growing to fulfill our individual potential, but with an intimate ally. Relationships become whole as we become whole.
Wholeness implies an acceptance of all aspects of us – the light and the dark, the desirable and the undesirable, our strengths and our weaknesses. A person who has both negative and positive qualities isn’t flawed but complete. The essential nature of the universe is the coexistence of opposites. You cannot be wise if you do not have an inner fool. And you cannot be generous if you do not have a stingy person inside you. An ancient Vedic proverb says, “The measure of your enlightenment is your level of comfort with your own paradoxes.” In other words, the most enlightened people are those who accept their own ambiguity and full potential for light and dark.
The mirror of relationship
One of the great gifts and challenges of relationships is the mirror that each person provides. Since we are all part of the same universal consciousness, everyone we see in the world is a reflection of ourselves, and the traits we see most clearly in others are the ones that are strongest in ourselves. This is called the mirror of relationship. When you have a strong negative reaction to someone, you can be certain that they’re reflecting traits that you also possess but have been unwilling to embrace. If you accepted those qualities in yourself, you wouldn’t be upset by them. For the same reason, you are attracted to certain people because they have the same traits as you do, only more so. You’re drawn to them because subconsciously you believe that being with them will help you manifest more of those traits as well.
Most of us spend a great deal of time denying that we have a dark side, and then end up projecting these denied qualities onto other people, including our most intimate partners. We push whatever traits we deem too negative to express into the unconscious, and that unexpressed energy acts like a magnet, repeatedly attracting the “wrong” people into our lives until we’re willing to acknowledge our own darkness. This is why the mirror of relationship is so valuable: Finding a person you dislike is an opportunity to embrace the coexistence of opposites in yourself and experience your connection to the universal consciousness. Similarly, realizing that the qualities you admire in others are also blossoming in you, helps you become more fully yourself.
As your awareness expands, you are able to experience more depth and intimacy in your relationship with your partner. If you can do deeper still, a relationships begins to dissolve ego boundaries. The result is a real communion between two people, each living into the other. Finally, at the level of soul, you experience a spiritual union. At this level you participate in wholeness, and all your relationships become expansions of wholeness.
The mirror of relationship is one of the most effective tools for spiritual evolution and emotional freedom. As you begin to recognize that everything you see is an expression of your self, your awareness expands and you ultimately experience unity consciousness. In this expanded state, you embrace both your light and dark sides, knowing that you are part of an indivisible whole…the oneness of all creation.
Looking into the mirror of Relationship
The following exercise will help you start to embrace your own duality and wholeness. First, think about someone you find very attractive or whom you greatly admire. On the left side of a piece of paper, list ten or more qualities that you love in that person. Write quickly. The secret is to not give your conscious mind time to edit your thoughts. You can put down as many qualities as you wish, but don’t stop until you have at least ten.
Now focus on somebody who totally irritates you, annoys you, or makes you uncomfortable in some way. Why does this person infuriate you so much? On the right side of the paper, list ten or more of their undesirable qualities.
The next step is to look at your list for the person you find attractive and circle the three qualities that you find most appealing about him or her. Then look at the list on the right side of the paper and circle the three qualities you find most repulsive. Now read the six words you circled out loud. You are all of these qualities. Once you see yourself in others, you will find it much easier to connect with them and discover unity consciousness. This is the power of the mirror of relationship.
One of the most powerful tools for deepening our connection to our spiritual essence and wholeness is meditation. Here I wish to share with you a guided heart meditation. Read through the instructions and then find a quiet place where you can sit comfortably by yourself for a few minutes and not be disturbed.
There is a center in the body where love and spirit are joined, and that center is the heart. Within the heart is a subtler center that experiences spirit, but you can’t feel spirit as an emotion or physical sensation. Spirit lies beneath the layers of sensations, and to experience it, you must go to the heart and meditate upon it until everything that obscures spirit is cleansed. In the words of the mystical poet William Blake, you are cleansing the doors of perception.
As you sit comfortably with your eyes closed, just this moment let go of all your thoughts and the outside world. Focus your attention on your spiritual heart center, in the middle of your chest.
Be aware of your heart as a space. The heart center is a point of awareness where feelings enter. In its essence, the heart is pure emptiness, pervaded by peace and a subtle light. This light may appear as white, gold, pale pink, or blue. But don’t strain to find a light of any kind. All you need to feel is whatever is there.
Resting your attention easily on your heart center, breathe gently and sense your breath flowing into your heart. You may want to visualize a soft, pastel light or coolness pervading the chest. Let your breath go in and out, and as it does, ask your heart what it needs to say. Don’t phrase this as an order…just have the faint intention that you want your heart to express itself.
For the next five or ten minutes, sit and listen. Your heart will begin to release emotions, memories, wishes, fears, and dreams long stored inside. As it does, you will find yourself paying attention.
You may experience a flash strong emotion – positive or negative – or an ancient memory. Your breathing may shift. You may sigh or feel tears come into your eyes. Let the experience be what it is. If you daydream or drift off into sleep, don’t worry. Just bring your attention back to your heart center.
Listening to your heart you are likely to experience a train of memories, fears, hopes, emotions, and longings. Let the experience be whatever it is, without attachment or anxiety. Whether your heart speaks to you in sadness or fear, delight or pleasure, its message is exactly what you need. If voices of anger, worry, or doubt start to arise, allow them to speak and then let them go, easily and comfortably. You are learning to be with your heart…feeling whatever is there. Every feeling your heart expresses during this time is valuable for this quality of release, regardless of whether the content is happy or sad. This helps you cultivate trust in yourself to let go of repressed feelings without judgment.
As you practice this meditation, spending a few minutes each day to connect to your heart center, you will begin to get glimpses of your heart as it really is: silence, peace, a warm glow, or subtle light. Even if these glimpses are fleeting, you will find that your life outside of meditation is starting to change. At unexpected moments, you will feel a wave of joy and well-being sweep over you. You will begin to walk with more buoyancy in your step.
These are signs that the constriction most people hold around the heart center is releasing its grip, letting go of the fear and tightness that keep spirit from entering. In truth, spirit doesn’t enter since it is always there. But making contact with it is like being penetrated with light and insight; this is the flow of love. This is the experience of wholeness.