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What Is Spiritual? Relationships: The Soul Mate Idea
Ram: Dear Tracy, to continue on where I left off in the email I sent two days ago – you can just paste it in at the end – it also might be profitable to look into your definition of “spiritual.” By most accounts, spirituality means developing and following a program designed to make the mind clear and peaceful. I can’t see that reading spiritual books and going to India qualifies unless one is actually doing one’s daily life as sadhana. I’m not criticizing you, because interest in spirituality is the first step. But there comes a time when you have to walk the talk, no matter how difficult it seems. I would not say that concern about whether a potential boyfriend is on or off the path is actually a “spiritual” concern.
A spiritual concern would be, “Why do I not have an abiding mind?” The purpose of a clear mind is to make an inquiry into the self. Doing one’s life as sadhana means that one’s primary goal is enlightenment. I’m not sure how a program of “spiritual” work would be successful if enlightenment were just one of several goals. Or if it were a secondary goal, “I’ll get to work on myself when I get all set up with my soul mate,” for example. In this case the primary need is for love, and enlightenment a subsidiary need. But saying that enlightenment is a secondary priority means that you are not on the path. The path is only for people who want freedom first.
Tracy: Maybe our vasanas want people to have certain qualities for a reason. Why is it not okay to want a person to have certain qualities – like spirituality, thoughtfulness, open-mindedness, fun, etc? How do we weed people out and decide who to get to know?
Ram: The vasanas don’t want anything. They are your wants. You believe that getting what you want will make you happier than you are – a very questionable proposition. Sure, it’s fine to want what you want, but can’t you see that want itself is the problem? Does the wanting stop when you get what you want? It does not. So you haven’t solved anything by getting what you want. I don’t know why you are so resistant to this idea. To some degree most everyone on the spiritual path sees that getting what they want from the world hasn’t and can’t work. A Course in Miracles says, “From what you want God won’t save you”! Open your eyes. You have all this desire and you have all this suffering yet you don’t seem to connect the two. In fact desire is suffering.
A person on the spiritual path is trying to solve the problem of desire in another way. The worldly view is: getting what one wants makes one happy. But spiritual science says that the cause of unhappiness is the belief that you are a needy, wanting creature and not the whole and complete being that God made you.
If he’s not an axe murderer, a child molester or a strong-arm robber, if he bathes regularly and pays his bills and treats you nicely, then why not just accept him? For God’s sake, Tracy, you are so darn fussy, you’re never going to find a guy. There is always something “wrong.” Think of what is “right.”
The fact is that you are not going to be any different if you have a relationship. It is not a magic bullet. Your anxieties, fears, desires, etc. are coming along to the relationship. So you are going to have to deal with the same stuff. There is no way around it. The spiritual option is about taking care of your stuff first and seeing what happens. “Seek ye the kingdom of heaven and all else will be added unto you.” If you had put half the energy into living a peaceful life that you have into being dissatisfied with the life you’re leading, you’d have God himself asking you out. You don’t want to let go of one thing and at the same time you expect Mr. Right to come waltzing into your life. What is wrong with this picture?
Tracy: Maybe I am not as spiritual as I might think, so that is why I could even consider being with someone who is an athiest.
Ram: Yes, that is true, but why does it matter what his views about God are? If he treats you well and is fun to be with, why not accept him? With all due respect, you are in a very big state of confusion about spirituality. Spirituality is about getting a clear mind. And you get a clear mind by analyzing the views that are disturbing you and letting them go. Why you can’t see that this obsession about a guy is not serving you spiritually, I don’t know. Am I the only one of your friends that is telling you that a man is not going to solve your problem? Most of the forty-something and fifty-something women that I meet have figured this out or have strong suspicions that it is true. My view is that this obsession is preventing you from actually taking yourself seriously.
Tracy: Or maybe there’s a mysterious reason why he knows me.
Ram: There is no mystery, Tracy. He’s a lonely guy who wants love, just like you.
Tracy: I do feel that if I weren’t that spiritual that I would not care if a person had that side.
Ram: Sure, it’s good to want a spiritual type. So why not write him off and keep looking? If you’re not ready to write him off, it probably means that you’re not that spiritual. You can’t have your cake and eat it too, Tracy.
Tracy: Would you want to get romantically involved with someone who had no spiritual inclinations but was a good person?
Ram: Yes, they’re the best. There’s nothing “spiritual” about spirituality. A good person is a spiritual person. My parents didn’t believe in God but they were more spiritual than ninety-nine percent of the “spiritual” people I meet.
Additionally, “spiritual” doesn’t really solve any problems. Spiritual only means that someone admits they don’t know who they are. And that means they have a lot of problems. It does not put them above the ones who don’t admit it. In fact it just adds another layer on top of an already confused person. I see so many spiritual types here every day and in many ways they are in worse shape than the ordinary, hard-working, worldly types.
If you want to qualify as “spiritual” according to the Vedic system, you have to be going for a quiet mind. The reason you would go for a quiet mind is because only a quiet mind can grasp the fact that everything is just fine as it is. I believe that the reason you are so confused about the whole relationship business is because your goal is not clear. I think you think you can have the relationship and pursue spirituality at the same time. If you were clear about what you wanted, there would be no problem. If you really wanted a guy, it wouldn’t matter if there were some deficiencies. You would just love him warts and all – and that would be that. If you were going for freedom, you would be clear that a relationship is not going to get you free.
Tracy: Jack is very thoughtful, dependable, fun and likes nature. I don’t care for the side that seems to march off to events and gallery openings, etc. and the fact that he is self-admittedly cheap. I also question his occupation and lack of spiritual focus.
Ram: If these things didn’t bother you, other things would. Why? Because you’re really bothered by your self, your own negative qualities. So instead of getting to work on your stuff, you project your self-dissatisfaction on Jack and want him to be perfect.
Be that as it may, perhaps you ought to be equally concerned about what he doesn’t like about you. Are you willing to “change” and give up the things he doesn’t like about you? This whole relationship business is a two-way street.
Tracy:I want to be with someone more on my wavelength…
Ram: With all due respect, which wavelength? You seem conflicted about what you want. Is the guy supposed to change when you switch wavelengths?
Tracy: …and yet this person has appeared in my life and wants to be with me. What do do?
Ram: Just because someone wants something from you is not a statement about you at all. Reality does not validate you in any way. It is up to you to validate reality. If someone kisses me and says I’m a great guy, it is not a statement about me. If someone spits in my face, it is not a statement about me. It is up to me to make something of it – or not.
If I don’t know what I really want in life, then I will have to let life tell me what I want. But this is a very dangerous situation. The Bhagavad Gita says that it is much better to do a third-rate job on your own dharma than a first-rate job on some else’s. I want you to be happy, to have charted the path and to be following it – so you’re going to do what I want? You’re going to do what you’re going to do. It is not up to me. I love you no matter what you do. I’m offering these ideas because you have admitted that things aren’t working even though you think of yourself as a spiritual person – not because you will be more acceptable to me if you change. Think about it. If you want him to be different before you even have a relationship, how is it going to be when you have a relationship? My view is that you want him to be different because you want yourself to be different. Why not just focus on getting your own spiritual ducks in line and let him worry about his – if he wants. Love means that he has to be okay all the time. If you can’t see him as okay, that is conditional love and you will suffer for it.
Tracy: Why did you choose to get involved, even take it to the sexual level?
Ram: I didn’t actually “choose” to get involved with her. The way it happened made me realize that God wanted us to meet. I told you how it happened. It was so miraculous that even an idiot could have seen the hand of God operating. I wasn’t looking for anything. There was no way it could have been anything other than the Lord’s will.
There is always a sexual undercurrent between the sexes. It is natural. But the spiritual undercurrent was more powerful. So as the spiritual component grew, the sexuality tapered off and stopped altogether after about six months. And interestingly, the drying up of the sexual vasana did not negatively affect the relationship. On the contrary, it allowed it to go deeper in love. Two years on we are very close friends and will be for as long as we live. I just spent a month with her and we had a lovely time.
Tracy: How do people choose each other?
Ram: In unconscious people, the vasanas do the choosing. Conscious people don’t let the vasanas be the only factor, because they know the danger. All this dithering about Jack means that even though you don’t seem to want to admit it, you have serious doubts about following your feelings, as well you should. This is the mark of someone who has lived a bit and been burned. It is good.
Tracy: You always say that I am looking for something outside of myself and if I were spiritually fulfilled, I wouldn’t care about relationships.
Ram: It could be that way, but I think I would prefer to put it like this: you would have fulfilling relationships if you were fulfilled. If you start out incomplete, relationship does not make you complete. If you start out full, relationship will not be a problem.
What seems suspicious about your attitude toward relationship is the complete absence of critical views. Relationships are a mixed bag by all accounts. But you defend them as if they were not subject to the same dualities that everything else in the creation suffers. Furthermore, a relationship is by definition outside yourself. So it would only be attractive if you were missing something. The fact is that you already have what you think you are going to get out of a relationship – but you can’t see it.
Tracy: Many people are in relationships as a spiritual path.
Ram: I disagree. People may believe that, but if the goal of spirituality is freedom, how does a relationship with anyone other than a free person help you attain that goal? Two bound, conditioned people does not equal two free people in either the short or the long run. If you study the scriptures, you will see that there are actually only two lifestyles sanctioned for people who are going for moksa: the sanyassi and the householder. And the householder is a duty-oriented lifestyle that is meant to end in middle age when the person takes up the next stage, vanaprastha. It is not about finding a mate for life.
The spiritual path is about your relationship to what’s inside you. On one hand, it is about your relationship to the self which you may see as an external God. This is fine. After you develop a relationship with God, you will start to understand that the God you love is none other than your own self. On the other hand, the spiritual path is about your relationship to the unhealed parts of yourself: your passions, fears, dreams, imaginations, conflicts, etc. So if it is not clear that your primary purpose here in life is to sort out your relationship to your Self/self, you will be thinking that perhaps hooking up with somebody else will solve the happiness issue.
And even where you have two people who are working on themselves sharing their lives with each other, you do not necessarily have a marriage made in heaven. You still have to deal with the difficulties created by living intimately with another person: the attachment, the fear, etc.
Tracy: I’m not lonely and looking for completion in someone else.
Ram: Okay, so what do you want from him? If he’s not meant to complete something for you, then why all these complaints about him? Why not just take him as he is and get what you can from the relationship and leave the rest?
How about seeing it this way?: Some things about him agitate you. You reason that if those things were not there and some other ones that make you feel good were you could love him. If this is true, then really your concern has nothing to do with him at all. It is simply that you want to remove your own agitation – so you can love. I see this as a love issue. When you want love from someone it means that you are looking for completion outside – which is absurd – because you yourself are the source of all love. Love is you. Love means that you are full. Love means that you know that nobody can make you happy.
One of the problems with wanting him to be different is that it means that you have given him all the power. If he “changes” to suit you, you will love him. But it may be that he isn’t agitated by the things that agitate you. In fact he is probably the way he is because it makes him feel good. So where is the incentive for him to change? Even if he valued your love he probably wouldn’t change, because he would have to give up things that were dear to him. People will take another’s love if they don’t have to change, but when it is a question of them being someone else, they will not be interested in that kind of love.
Or if he tried to change for you it wouldn’t work, because it would be for the wrong reason. There are rare exceptions. When my father met my mother he quit smoking, drinking and chasing women. He did not resent it and he lived a clean life from that time till the day he died. But you could argue that even in this case he did not change to please her. Or if he did, he chose to please her because it made him feel happy – it allowed him to solve a problem, his passions, that he had been unable to solve by other means. So really, he was doing it for himself.
Can’t you see the absurdity of wanting someone to be the way you want them? He knows you want him to be different from what he is. And anyone in their right mind knows that a person who wants them to be someone else does not love them unconditionally. They see you as a businesswoman saying, “You be somebody else and I will consider loving you.” What is wrong with this picture?
Tracy: With him I do miss talking about spiritual things, and also being inspired by my partner. I also feel that I need to make new friends who are also more inspiring because they meditate or whatever. I need more of a focus of this in my life now and I think that is why I am so frustrated and don’t feel like I have enough TIME. When you live as you do, you have a lot of time to read, think, meditate, BE.
Ram: I know how you feel. But if that is true then you need to join a sanga where you have spiritual support. I was just as hectic and stressed as you at one time, Tracy. I made a conscious decision to lead a quiet, contemplative life and I patiently worked myself out of the life I had. I was never short of relationships and opportunities for relationships on the way. In fact the quieter I got the more attractive I became to everyone. It is just a matter of priorities. My view is that you are in the window-shopping stage of spirituality. You are definitely interested, but you have not bought the goods. When a person is committed to liberation, these relationship and time issues do not arise, and if they do one is happy to sacrifice them for the primary goal.
You don’t have time because you are doing way too much. You will not let go of anything. And additionally, you don’t do what you do in the right spirit, so you are always stressed. If you changed your attitude, you would enjoy what you’re doing and “time” would not be an issue. A spiritual person uses everyday life situations to gain a quiet mind. You do not seem to have figured this out. Spirituality is not a vacation from life. It is the way you live your life.
Tracy: I know. I had that in India. I also feel drawn to helping people in the way I do at my job. Don’t feel that I’m supposed to be doing just what you are.
Ram: I don’t. But your job does not solve all problems, does it? How does it help in this hunt for Mr. Right? And in fact I recall a number of letters in which you complained about the stresses of work. I’m not touting a lifestyle for gaining a quiet mind because I want you to do what I do. It is just a common-sense idea, one that is scripturally sanctioned. If you can get unstressed any other way, be my guest.
Tracy: I’d love to have you come and visit. It’s so beautiful in the fall and I and my friends would love to see you. They all like you! I miss you and send a big hug. Thanks for your insights and inspriration!
Ram: You are more than welcome. I miss you too. I know this letter may have sounded a bit edgy, but I think we are up to a bit more confrontational, tough-love kind of relationship, don’t you? Believe me, I’m not trying to guru you. I really like you and I see you as a dear friend. The reason I’m so certain about what I say is because these ideas have worked for thousands of years on millions of people and they worked for me. And I’ve seen them working for many others in my lifetime too.
~ Much love, Ram