Your first spiritual experience, or notion that there is more to life than the obvious, the material and the general perceived reality most people live in, is a big moment. It is only natural that you should want to know more, experiment with different practices and develop yourself. Often this results in a transformation. We start to review our life, our values, our habits and we make changes. Sometimes these changes cause us to fall out of sync with our partner, resulting in relationship turbulence. How can we be more aware of the spiritual transformation we are going through? And how can we use this awareness to strengthen our relationships instead of weakening them?
It comes often unexpectedly, this first experience that connects you to your inner being, your soul and the universe, whether through yoga, meditation, kirtan (chanting), pranayama (breathing techniques), or whatever else led you into the cosmic consciousness. It may just be for a couple of seconds, but the impact is big. So big that often we don’t see the results of this impact until we look back on our lives years later. When you are asked to describe this ‘amazing-thing-that-happened’ you will probably find that it’s not that easy to explain, especially to someone who has not gone through something similar. And so there’s the situation that you come home from your practice with this new sense of yourself and the world, with enthusiasm, with excitement and you find your boyfriend on the couch with a bag of crisps watching football. You try to explain and share what happened to you, but on the other side there’s a familiar face staring at you as if you’d gone nuts. There’s no response, no recognition. Times passes, you start to expand your practice; you meet with people from your classes to share experiences. You might attend workshops and seminars. You start to make changes in your life, you start to pay more attention to your health, the more you learn, the more you like to implement this new world of knowledge into your life. The boyfriend doesn’t change with you, he doesn’t connect to the ideas and concepts that you are embracing and he begins to fear that you have been swallowed up by a sect. In the end you end up as strangers living under the same roof, there’s a lack of communication and therefore understanding. This example might be a bit extreme, but it is the general pattern many couples follow. The end result is frustration and loneliness. It seems depressing that the person we love fails to understand us, to support us, and unable to accept our reality. However, this scenario, although quite common, can be avoided in many cases.
Of course it doesn’t help to chant OOOmmm loudly through the house and purify the air with incense when your other half is trying to read the Sunday papers. Of course your family will be startled to find their roast-beef, Sheppard’s pie and steaks turned into a diet of lentils with brown rice. Of course you will not be popular trying to force your boyfriend into all kinds of asanas ‘that-are-good-for-him’. Of course your girlfriend will not be happy if her beach holiday becomes a retreat at a faraway ashram. Of course your husband will not show the same excitement for the sacred chant celebrations you want him to join. It all seems so obvious, but it’s what we sometimes do thinking we’re ‘helping’ our loved-ones. Sometimes we forget that reality and beliefs need to come from the inside and cannot AND should not be forced upon others, no matter how good your intentions.
Everything begins with awareness. This is how your spiritual experience came about and this is what will help you to see the bigger picture in your relationship as well.
Spiritual ego. At the early stages of spiritual development there’s a danger of developing a ‘spiritual ego’ or ‘spiritual righteousness”. You are not a superior being because of some spiritual awareness or because you get up earlier to do sadhana (spiritual practice) or because you don’t eat meat. This is an illusion. One thing to keep in mind is that we are all spiritual beings having a human experience. Some have heightened awareness, some are wise and some can do amazing things. However, yoga teaches that we are all one. No one is better than another, we are just at different stages of our development. And this should be respected. We should try to cultivate understanding and compassion. Even trying to recognize the other person as yourself.
There was a moment of revelation during a yoga practice that I had years ago. I am not an athletic kind of person, nor have I been ever good at anything physical. But true steady perseverance I was developing my practice to a point where my body was becoming more open, more flexible and stronger. I felt a certain pride rising inside of me while I was eyeing another student struggling with the pose, whereas I was doing it with ease. Fortunately I caught myself, I was aware of my ego expanding. Through compassion I realized I WAS the woman, struggling with her pose. I was all of the other people in the room. Recognizing and respecting the other, is how we can move forward gracefully. This goes also for our relationship. 87We might feel that the other knows nothing, that the other is not taking care of himself as you would like him/her to, or that he/she is struggling with his/her identity and mind. But all we can do is really bow to that reality. Our spiritual ego might say, ‘I don’t want you to go clubbing, smoke cigarettes and get drunk’, ‘I don’t want to you eat fast-food’, ‘I don’t want you to sit behind the computer in a way that blocks all your channels’, ‘I know better what’s good for you than you do’. But understanding that everyone has the right to their own reality and the only real changes a person can make, come from the inside, when you believe in them, when you know they are right for you. Sometimes we don’t see that we are projecting our inner darkness on our partner. By presenting our selves as ‘saints’, knowing what is ‘right and wrong’ pointing out the faults in the other, we are creating division. Don’t forget that the word yoga means union. Division and thoughts of black and white cannot be yogic in the true sense. And don’t forget that truly spiritual people radiate love, compassion and understanding. They don’t judge. They are humble in the face of the universe, but feel beneath no-one. They don’t feel the need to prove themselves to anyone, nor convert anyone. They know that no matter how much you love another human being, some things can not be shared. They are between you and the divine. And most of all, spiritual people have a sense of humor and don’t take themselves so seriously!
Try to understand that your metamorphoses can cause insecurity and worries from your partner. However, people who share true love will want the other to be happy and fulfilled, even if they don’t always agree or understand. They will want the other to be the best they can be. And in the end isn’t that what love is about? But if we really feel that everyday in our relationship is a struggle, if we feel that we have nothing left in common with our partner, if we feel that we vibrate on different frequencies than sometimes it is time to let go and follow our path. Surely in time we will find someone else to accompany us on our journey!
Susan, (32) meditation teacher, feels that we have to be sensitive to our partners needs and wishes as he or she perceives them. “It’s easy to think I know more or better and that I see things that my husband doesn’t see. But I try to balance both our needs in our relationship. I have the need to meditate, to do yoga, to read certain books, and he has a need to play golf and go to the pub. We both let each other be. Some of the things that I don’t enjoy doing, he does with friends, and vice versa. However in order not to alienate ourselves from each other we make sure that we plan we-time, do things together that we both enjoy and that’s how we keep things happy.”
Boris, (52) love lover and spiritual seeker: “Explaining the rituals that you are performing in laymen’s terms will help to increase the understanding in your relationship. Don’t try to be clever and show off what you know. Don’t use Sankrit terms, instead, be gentle and try to understand how things look through the other’s eyes. Be aware that the other might not know or believe in the energy channels, prana, chakras etc. And by the end of the day, sometimes silence has a stronger effect than talking. Keep it light and be an example of happy transformation, of stability and focus, of awareness and elevation. Don’t try to convert anyone but be the embodiment of your beliefs, your transformation. You will become an inspiration and you will see that your partner will want to know more and be part of that journey.”
“There was a long period in my life when I didn’t practice my fire ceremonies”, says Boris. “I had closed that part of myself in order to serve my wife and my child. Making the morning coffee and attending to their needs, became my meditation, my form of bhakti yoga (devotional yoga). I was trying to express my love and spirituality through every-day-rituals. It was an interesting experience in which I have grown a lot. However, after years of neglecting my practice a sign came and I felt and urge to practice again. It was my calling for this incarnation. It also meant that after 11 years of a very close relationship my wife and I had to say goodbye to living together under the same roof with her. There was a short phase of pain and regret, but very soon it became clear to both of us that things are as they should be. Through distance we would discover true closeness and I can say that up till now there is only love and caring between us. A karmic circle has closed.”
Ivana (35) yoga teacher says: “My husband has no interest in yoga and spirituality. He cares about motorcycles. That is his great passion. I could of course let our differences get in our way, but I do think that our differences make me question myself and my beliefs in a healthy way. I know it sounds funny, but I think of him as my guru. He helps me to ground myself, and not only live in the upper chakras (energy centers) and fly away into the cosmos. I use the teachings of yoga to help my students on their path and to make myself a better person through awareness, love, compassion and respect. I am a good wife and loving mother, this brings me fulfillment. Through awareness I can respect and understand the family reality and my husband’s passions and ideas. When he opposes my beliefs it helps me to double check whether I truly feel that I am right. It helps me to feel secure on within myself and on my path.”
“My girlfriend smokes, eats meat and struggles with her lower back”, says Dimitar (28) yoga practitioner. “We have known each other for 10 years and back then we were leading similar lives. But when I was introduced to yoga and meditation as ways to relieve stress, I found myself changing my life gradually over the years. I stopped smoking, I mind what I eat and drink. I try to keep my body strong and flexible. At first I preached my new truths and tried to force my girlfriend to at least quit smoking and do some yoga, but this only led to argument. Now I let her be, I understand I cannot force her to change. Of course I would be happy if she wanted to make these changes, but I respect that she doesn’t feel she wants to make them at the moment.”
- Create your own sacred space where you can practice without being disturbed and where you don’t disturb any one else at home
- don’t change your house into littleIndia, with statues, incense and what have you, unless your partner agrees
- If you partner shows little interest in spirituality, find other people to talk to on these topics.
- Create time out from your practice/interest to do things together.
- Practice non-judgment, respect and understand you partner’s choices and beliefs.
- Don’t show off your knowledge or abilities, practice seriously for yourself and leave it at that.
- Don’t push your partner to be part of your practice or spiritual journey, rather let him/her take come to you when they feel the need.
- Try to be moderate in your opinions, remember that being extreme can never be balanced.
For privacy reasons some of the names have been changed.