Keep relating, keep celebrating

Even ‘close’ relationships need continuous celebration for them to thrive. If they are not celebrated, they wither away like plants that are devoid of water and sunlight.

Here we are not talking about acquaintances that we ‘can’t get along with’ for professional or other reasons, but are referring to people who ‘were so close once upon a time, but are no longer’! This is to explain why we grow distant from childhood friends, from spouses whom we dated, romanced and loved deeply once upon a time or from siblings that we grew up with. The distances between us and such people are not because of lack of mutual respect or admiration. These distances have come between us because we have stopped celebrating each other. Celebrating here means nurturing, providing the adequate sunshine and water, through continuous conversations, critiquing, supporting, challenging, caring and sometimes, just being available. Celebrating therefore means loving someone all the time___irrespective of time, space, behavior, responses, whatever.

In a recent issue of Mint, I was aghast to see an advisor suggest “5 tips to ensure a financial contract exists between two partners before they marry”. I come from a time when people just met each other and if they believed that they wanted to be together for the rest of their lives, they just married. That’s how Vaani and I decided to marry way back in 1988. Now, when I look back, the companionship between Vaani and me would still have remained sacred even without a marriage. I have come to understand that marriage is an unnecessary label, a worthless stamp of approval from a decadent society! The only tip to long-term companionship I can offer is – keep relating, keep celebrating!

Osho, the Master, offers a simple, do-able, immediately implementable formula for celebrating and nurturing relationships. His prescription: don’t call or label anything a relationship. Instead, he says, just keep relating. He reminds us: “LOVE IS NOT A RELATIONSHIP. Love relates, but it is not a relationship. A relationship is something finished. A relationship is a noun; the full stop has come, the honeymoon is over. Now there is no joy, no enthusiasm, now all is finished. You can carry it on, just to keep your promises. You can carry it on because it is comfortable, convenient, cozy. You can carry it on because there is nothing else to do. You can carry it on because if you disrupt it, it is going to create much trouble for you… Relationship means something complete, finished, closed. Love is never a relationship; love is relating. It is always a river, flowing, unending. Love knows no full stop; the honeymoon begins but never ends. It is not like a novel that starts at a certain point and ends at a certain point. It is an ongoing phenomenon. Lovers end, love continues– it is a continuum. It is a verb, not a noun. You are in love with a woman or a man and immediately you start thinking of getting married. Make it a legal contract. Why? How does the law come into love? The law comes into love because love is not there. It is only a fantasy, and you know the fantasy will disappear. Before it disappears, settle down; before it disappears, do something so it becomes impossible to separate.”

Instead of bringing law or definitions and labels into relationships, let’s focus on never-ending celebrations, on loving each person in our lives, and to keep on relating to the other __ lover, friend, parent, colleague, sibling, whoever __ without pausing to evaluate, analyze or justify. Try this. It works. Choose a relationship that you think has gone “cold” over the years. Ask yourself if you have grown distant because you have stopped relating to, stopped celebrating this person? Don’t focus on a ‘revival’. Don’t expect. Know that all you need to do is to continue loving without either the label or an expectation coming in the way. The other person may still be distant__physically and metaphorically. Don’t worry. Don’t stop the celebration, the loving, the relating. 

Because through the energies of your continuous celebration, the loving, the relating will happen__enriching both your souls, exponentially, infinitely. 

Let’s learn to respond to relationship issues with maturity

Loving someone or having sex is not a sin. It is just a natural way for us, humans, to express ourselves.  
I recently read in the papers that the Indian Navy had sacked an officer of the rank of Commodore for having an affair with the wife of a fellow officer, also a Commodore. Both officers were at that time based in the Southern Naval Command in Kochi. And both had college-going kids. “Stealing the affection of his brother officer’s wife is simply unacceptable and the Navy has a clear zero tolerance policy towards the same,” a Ministry of Defence official was quoted by one of the papers I read.
Now, I have nothing to say about the Indian Navy’s protocols, rules and regulations. But conceptually I have a problem with the phrase “stealing the affection of someone”. How do anyone steal anyone’s affection? Yes, poets and lyricists have for the longest time romanticized the concept of “stealing someone’s heart”. But in reality affection and love are given – wilfully. They can never be stolen or forcibly taken away. So, if someone, as in this case, is married and is drawn to someone else outside the marriage, it really means the marriage, the relationship, did not fulfil that person’s emotional or physical needs. It means that there was no more relating in the relationship. And that this person related to another one, and not to his or her spouse. There’s nothing sinful, nothing wrong if such a situation arises. If anyone has a problem in a marriage, the best way to deal with it, after making sufficient attempts to resolve the issues, is to move on. There’s no point feeling suffocated, vegetated and listless in a relationship where there’s no more relating between the two parties.
However, the way people discover that their relationship with someone is over is through the way they start relating to someone else. Either they are drawn to someone because this new person is fulfilling an emotional need. Or maybe this person is fulfilling a physical need – which is about simply having sex. Or maybe there’s a strong bond, a special friendship that draws someone to another person. All these or more are indicative of the fact whatever one does not get in a relationship, one seeks in another. And there’s nothing wrong with this. As humans, we need affection, we need to be cared for, we need physical intimacy – and if we can’t get these with one person, we will naturally be drawn to someone who has these to offer us.
I believe that as individuals, and as a society, we must learn to respond to relationship issues with maturity. We cannot continue to dub a human need as a sin. Of course, people who seek love, affection and sex, outside of a relationship, must also be responsible about how they communicate their choices to their families. Especially when children are involved – the communication must be timed well and must be honest. There’s no point fearing social stigma or family pressure and therefore continue to keep the choice under wraps. When something natural is pursued clandestinely, it will be viewed scandalously. And that can hurt everyone involved. However, if the same choice is made openly, while it may shock and surprise initially, over time, everyone impacted by the choice will feel liberated. After all, who wants to be stuck in a relationship which had been dead for a long, long time!?

In any dispute, exercise your right to protect your inner peace

The strangers in your Life are sometimes those who you think you know very well! 
It’s possible that you have faced this before. That people who you think are close to you are the ones who want to distance from you just because something’s gone wrong in your Life. Or they are the ones who emotionally disrupt and challenge your Life the most! I have experienced being treated this way and I know what it means and how it feels. Not all people are this way, but when people close to you, like your parents, or siblings or your close family, behave distant, or choose not to be understanding, it numbs you. Over time, however, you learn to move on. Because that’s the simplest and the most intelligent thing to do.
A friend shared with me that his brother has been fighting with him over a property dispute. Their father had bequeathed specific parts of his real estate to the two brothers. But the older one, leveraging some ambiguity in the father’s will, was staking claim to my friend’s share as well. The matter is in court. But since the two brothers live in the same building, though on different floors, my friend lamented that his brother does not let a day pass without a verbal duel.
“I am tired of all this bickering. My children are affected by this daily drama. He just comes daily and launches a tirade against me, calling me an ‘usurper’ and a ‘cheat’. At one level I find all this so petty and banal. I am hurt not because he wants the property but because of all the insinuations that he makes,” said my friend.
I can empathize with my friend. But there’s nothing shocking about this. This happens in almost every other Indian family. Money, property and other material assets often divide people. Family or close friends become, sometimes, worse than third party litigants. So much acrimony then follows that at the end even if the dispute is settled legally, the relationship is over. Forever.
I have learnt that one way to mitigate the damage, not so much to protect the relationship, but to protect your inner peace, is to not engage in any conversations if you find the other party – be it parent, sibling, spouse or friend – “un-relatable” anymore. Which is, if you can’t relate to that person anymore, just don’t converse with him or her. You don’t have to sulk. You can just choose not to react at all. Let whatever that needs to be settled, be done so through a legal – or any other mutually agreeable – process. If someone has the right to talk nonsense and heap insinuations on you, remember, you too have the right not to listen to them. You possibly want to, and of course have the right to, pay them back in the same coin. But arguments are always futile. No one wins. And the biggest casualty is your inner peace. So, simply choose to ignore what is being said. Focus instead on what needs to be done to resolve whatever dispute separates you from the other person.
Most important, however, is to know that people do what they do to you because they believe they are doing the right thing. It is another matter that you feel wronged. In all such cases, if you can let go and let the other person have all that she or he wants, fine. But if you must fight for what is legitimately yours, start with choosing to protect your inner peace. Because, only when you are peaceful, can you think clearly and resolve any dispute, logically and legitimately.

True Love is Total Freedom

True love is when two people who are experiencing each other are totally free together!

It seems so weird. People fall in love so easily, get married quickly and yet they struggle as they fall “out of” love and suffer as they go through the pain and agony of a divorce. The principal cause of all this is the flawed notion that love and marriage, or a relationship, are synonymous. A marriage is nothing but a contract. It is the personal version of a business arrangement or relationship. There is often a stated or unstated memorandum of understanding between the two people in the relationship – that subject to certain conditions being fulfilled, or met, one shall love the other. So, in some situations, as is naturally bound to happen, some of those conditions will not be met. In one case, a couple I know broke up because he has been unable to earn an income. Or in another, the spouse felt that there was no physical fulfilment in the marriage. In yet another case, one of the partners complained of betrayal owing to the other’s affair with someone else. If each of these cases is examined, a common factor is that certain agreed upon, or even unstated, parameters have not been met.
But true love is when there are no conditions. When there is complete freedom and harmony between two people.

The very nature of a relationship is that it is restrictive. It ends all freedom. Which is why many men and women like to talk of their marriages as having ended their freedom! Most of such comments are made in jest – yet they reflect sentiments that are representative of the loss of individual freedom of expression. So, just because two people are married or in a relationship it does not have to be that they love each other. They may just be together but may never be there for each other!

A mature experience of two people is when love continues to be the bonding glue between them irrespective of the circumstances in which they find each other. Such love thrives on freedom – of thought and expression. Classification of their mutual experience, per social definitions, is just incidental. If they are married, it is just a data point. If they are living-in together, it is again a data point. If they are living away from each other, geographically separated by distance, that too is a data point. What is important is they are able to relate to each other no matter what name people may give their relationship.

Examine the choice you have made with regard to companionship in your Life. Are you free in the relationship? Do you allow your partner total freedom? If you do, and if you recognize that there are no conditions being imposed by either of you, then, and only then, are you blessed with true love. In the absence of freedom, any relationship is but another contract. Which, as is always true in business, will suffer the moment there is any deviation from a defined or presumed clause.  

Don’t be in a relationship if you don’t relate anymore

If you have stopped relating to someone, step out of that relationship!
This is so important in a marriage when both husband and wife have stopped relating to each other – they must stop focussing on what each of them wants and instead look at what the kids need.
A couple we know have reached that point in their marriage where their differences are irreconcilable. Both of them are smart, intelligent and are earning well. They have been married for 17 years. And they have two young children – a boy who’s 12 and a girl who’s 6. Their differences have arisen from their individual definitions of happiness. The husband’s view of happiness is to work hard, earn well (he sure does), save a lot, stay at home as much as possible and immerse himself in his music – he’s a much sought after instrumentalist. The wife’s view of happiness is her career (she’s doing remarkably well too), a very active social Life, good shopping budgets, often dining at fine dining places and frequent, exotic vacations. Both of them have been unable, in all these years, to come to a common ground or definition of happiness. Especially after the birth of their daughter their different outlooks to Life have wrecked the peace between them. They have been sleeping in different rooms and end up having a fight over anything that they begin to talk to each other about. The boy, being at such an impressionable age, has been impacted majorly by their behavior and becomes violent every time his parents argue or fight among themselves.
Clearly the marriage between the couple is over. But they refuse to accept it. And continue to endure each other – while still getting at each other’s throats! This is causing the children to grow up in a very fractious environment at home. In all such unfortunate cases, parents must recognize that they have a huge responsibility towards their children. They have to ensure that the kids don’t grow up seeing strife at home. Even if it means the parents must separate for the kids’ sake!
Zig Ziglar (1926~2012), the great American motivational speaker, said this so well: “The greatest gift you can give your children is a happy marriage with your spouse.” And I believe if you can’t have a happy marriage then you must simply not have an unhappy one saying you are enduring it for the sake of the kids. In fact, if two people have stopped relating to each other – and that is evident when they develop different outlooks to Life or start sparring with each other – there is no point clinging on to labels like marriage or friendship or family. It is best they liberate themselves and each other.
Simply, no one can be happy trying to live Life based on another’s idea. When people come together in Life, as in a marriage, they bring their own individual ideas of Life to form a collective new idea for both of them. If this does not happen for any reason, and only a physical consummation happens, then there is no relating between them and so there’s no meaning in the marriage. In fact, marriage is at best just a label; a religious or legal framework in some cases, a social institution in some others! The word marriage does not make a relationship beautiful or meaningful. Continuing to relate to each other is what counts. Without even being married people can experience great love and companionship between them. And despite being married for years there are those who experience neither.
So, the key to living a full Life with anyone is to keep relating to that person. And when you do realize that you are not relating anymore, it’s best to let go or get out of it. For your sake, for everyone’s sake!

Don’t whitewash Life – See and live (with) the Truth

If you give grief too much space in your Life you are ruining yourself. When things go wrong, there will be grief. But break-free from it after initially comforting yourself in its deceptive bosom. Indeed Grief is comforting – because it feeds your ego. It puts you in the spotlight, at the center of your Universe. But this comfort is at first debilitating and, when there’s too much of it, is fatal. When grief consumes you, it will make you invalid and incapable of enjoying Life, of living fully!
I met someone who is struggling, after a lot of inner turmoil, debate and dialogue, to accept that his 20-year-old marriage is over. He reports that his wife has been seeing someone else for over 10 years now. He also confessed that there was really no compatibility between the two of them from the beginning – they never agreed on anything and found themselves fighting every single day!
“So, what’s the problem? Are you not clear this is not working out? Why are you not moving on?” I asked.
“I am hurting. I am not sure I know why this is happening to me. I am not sure I deserve this,” he replied, fighting his tears.
This friend has been carrying a lot of guilt and grief in him for so many years. Despite the fact that his marriage appears to have been over more than a decade ago, he still refuses to accept it. He’s still asking, in vain, “Why? Why me?”
There’s no point asking “Why” in Life. The whole experience of this lifetime that each of is going through is mysterious, is often bizarre. So, when you ask yourself questions that have no answers you are kidding yourself. And in the hope that you will find some answers, you go on searching. You go on stumbling through Life. You go on grieving. What is, is the only truth in Life. In my friend’s case the truth is that he and his spouse appear to have stopped ‘relating’ to each other long, long ago. What they are presiding over is the corpse of their relationship – their dead marriage! They more he sits around with it, the more grief he will be in. And the more he grieves, the less fully he will live.
This is so true of many of the other situations in Life – wherever we try to analyze Life and find reasons and answers. When people do try to offer us answers, with reasons and justifications, they are only consoling us. But consolations are of no use because they always deal with a “dead” past. Consolations are only an attempt to whitewash Life. Instead if we simply accepted Life for what it is__as it is, as THE Truth__and moved on – we would surely live fuller, richer, happier lives!