MORE THAN A FEELING
by Ven. Wayne Hughes (Ren Cheng)
Relationships begin as the result of a variety of stimuli — love, respect, friendship, mutual goal, locality, hardship and . . . I’m certain you can think of others. Most often the questions concerning relationships arise from within those involving family and loved ones because these are the folks we likely have intimate relationships with. Relationships with co-workers, acquaintances and people outside your tribe are usually integrity based.
Your tribe is composed of those beings, beings because our pets and service animals are included, with whom you have a deep sense of sharing. This type of relationship is an intimate one. In his book, “Intimacy and Integrity”, Thomas Kasulis defines the concepts of intimate and integral relationships. Intimacy involves a sharing composed of many connections, connections that are missed when there is a loss of contact.
Picture two circles. One is you and your experiences; the other is a close friend or family member and their experiences. Bring them together and overlap them. The section that overlaps is your shared experiences — talking about problems and successes, seeing the same movie or reading the same book, taking vacations together, it is where your lives intersect. Pull the two circles apart and the sharing of experiences is lost to both. The memories remain but the state of active involvement is gone. In an intimate relationship this loss of active involvement can cause suffering and unsatisfactoriness. You don’t lose something you have, you lose what has become part of yourself.
A relationship built on integrity is a connection that is based solely on the individual and it is often a singular and limited connection. Think about the cashier at your local grocery store. You connect with them when you need food, they take your money, and when you leave neither person loses anything. The relationship is renewed when you return to the store but it tends to toward the same dynamics each time.
Two circles, one for you, one for the cashier. Instead of an overlap there is a temporary line between them. Once the transaction or contact is over the line fades without a feeling of loss.
As you navigate life both types of relationships are important, to different degrees. In a romantic relationship the shared commitment and connection (intimacy) and the individual uniqueness (integrity) are both needed to create and maintain a deep bond. In a romantic relationship there is the intimacy of belonging with each other, but you are not always in locus, or in intimate contact. Then you each realize your ability to stand alone, that you have an identity that is not dependent on the other.
In the beginning there is love and it is fantastic! Heart’s a-flutter, breathing is shallow and rapid, and skin tingles. After that comes the relationship and time to put in some effort. After seven months in a monogamous relationship a sense of deep connection and intimacy is formed, you’ve begun to rely on sharing. Seven months isn’t long in terms of time, but it is long in terms of psychoemotional attachment. This is a positive thing. You come to rely on your partner being there for you, and you for them. There is someone to share with. This is something worth effort and commitment. You’ll want to be proactive as a partner. You’ll want to do things that strengthen the bond, engage in activities that bring about positive development.
Prana (not to be confused with prajna which means wisdom) is a Sanskrit word that refers to our connection with the interconnected Universe. It is similar to the Chinese, qi — Japanese, ki — and Greek, pneuma. Each of which also speak to the connective force between people and the world around them. Relationships are all about connection and P.R.A.N.A. is a tool for helping you keep that relationship strong.
There are typical complaints when it comes to relationships. He/She — doesn’t listen — has lost interest — doesn’t appreciate me — isn’t affectionate. P.R.A.N.A. is a proactive approach that touches on these.
Partings: Before saying goodbye to each other for the day take 2 minutes and ask, “What is one thing you plan to do today?”
Reunions: At the end of each workday have a low-stress conversation. Take 20 minutes to talk about some cool plans for the time away from work, how the garden is looking, or exchange humorous stories about your day.
Appreciation: Take 5 minutes to show genuine (sincere) appreciation for something your partner did for you. This can be as simple as, “Thank you for being you.” After all it is the “you” you fell for in the first place.
Novelty: This is an opportunity to be creative. Arrange a weekly date. For 2 hours find a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere (it could be right there in your own home or in your backyard) and do something together. it can be a shared interest, learning about your partner’s interests, or even sitting quietly and enjoying each other’s company.
Affection: Try a little tenderness. For 5 minutes engage in some hand-holding, kissing, hugging and maybe even a little groping, but do it with tenderness, with gentleness, and most of all with compassion.
Do the math, that’s 5 hours a week to keep a loving, committed relationship creative and fun. This is definitely a win-win situation.
Note that with some minor adjustments P.R.A.N.A. can be a guide when dealing with your children too. For example, after school ask your kid, “Tell me one thing you did at school today and it can’t be about lunch or recess.” It can also be tweaked and applied to family relationships. For example, taking a day each month to spend with a relative can go far in maintaining a stronger, more positive connection.
Your romantic relationships, like the Universe, are based on causality. You get out what you put into it. It is your awareness of the needs of your partner or children, your acceptance of ways to fill those needs, and your taking positive action that will lead to a harmonious relationship. Your example will likely become their actions as they realize the positive encompassing effect it is having on both lives.
The bulk of your relationships probably don’t center around a deep emotional connection but that doesn’t make them less important just different, especially as we learn to practice compassion and awareness equally. Showing that you care about others, that you respect them as human beings sets a positive example for others. Acquaintances and co-workers may first wonder if you have an ulterior motive, but after a while when a “hidden intent” doesn’t surface you’ll begin to notice a change in even the most temporary relationships.