It’s important to give attention to the quality of people that we choose to spend our time with. I live in an intentional practice community where we have agreements to hold each other to our agreements. This kind of living is not for the faint of heart. On the contrary, it takes a strong heart (and stomach) to let people see you and call you out, especially in your “a*shole moments.” In this way, your community can be your greatest teacher.
The Yoga Relationship. This concept came from Ram Dass where he talks about the many kinds of relationships we have and the hardest kind being the “yoga relationship.” It is the relationship that dwells in truth. The deal is the two parties enter into a contract of sorts. Basically and this all comes from to Nancy Slonim Aronie in her Writing From The Heart, the agreement is something like this:
I will help you grow and you will help me grow.
I won’t need you to behave in a certain way to make
My ego feel comfortable. And you will not
Make me behave in a way to satisfy you ego. I won’t make you be anyone you’re not. And I will love you for who you are. I will tell you the truth.
I will tell it to you lovingly.
I will tell it to you so you can hear me.
I will tell it to you even though it will hurt you.
I will tell it to you even though you probably won’t like it.
I will tell it to you because I love you that much.
So when you are being an asshole I will tell you.
In exchange for this I expect you to do the same for me.
This excerpt from Aronie’s book resonated with me. I’m not a marker of books; highlighting and underlining and all that. I usually read a book if something sounds particularly interesting I might write it down, and later lose the post it note but normally I just bypass it and hope that it sticks in my brain for later reflection.
This is a passage that I had to copy and then corner anyone in my path to make them listen to it. Is it not important to make this pact, if not verbally but in your mind that you will honor the relationship you’re having by being honest? Sounds common sense right? It is probably to some people but I find that a lot of my relationships aren’t built on mutual respect and honesty. They were built out of proximity; like who I was roommates with in college, who I worked with, who was in the same play group and the family I married into. I don’t feel that I chose to be friends with people because of qualities or admiration. I think, honestly, I have been more or less put in situations where I’m around people enough that I assumed they were friends because they kept showing up around me. Maybe this is true. Maybe this is harsh.
If this sounds a bit snotty that’s probably because it is. I have been friends with people because they happened to be the people in my life at the time. When they grow out of proximity they fade away in a out of sight out of mind way. If they changed dorms, or moved out of town or state they were basically written off. Ouch, I know but it’s my truth. I believe this to have started back in high school when the people I grew up with graduated and go went off to their individual colleges. That first pang of reality that things don’t stay the same forever hit me hard. Looking back it was a grieving process. I denied that the graduation date initiated the last time we wouldn’t just see each other in the fall. I felt a low grade anger that manifested in a series of nights involving kegs and joints numbing my brain to distract me from feeling anything. As far as bargaining goes it blended in with the newfound experience of alcohol and drugs. If I kept going with the flow and waking up each day up to the day where college started and believed the much overstated bit of advice, ”there’s a whole new world out there,” I would be okay.
Depression came next. It started during those 4 years and hit hard. More drugs. Prescriptions this time to right the chemicals that supposedly were wrong in my head. I went through 4 different prescriptions never finding the right fit. Depression has followed me ever since and it might for the rest of my life. It’s one of many daily struggles that are dealt with, one more little fire to put out.
But each day has led to the next and the next eventually coming upon this agreement which I believe to a beginning of acceptance for me. In my depressed mindset I want isolation. I want to brood on my own and not see in the mirrored faces of others how miserable I really am and accept that yes it affects the people around me. In my depressed mindset I avoid talking to people and break commitments and avoid intimacy at all costs. It hurts and just being depressed is painful on its own.
Of course it’s all linked and it’s a cycle that begets just more pain that you truly bring upon yourself. I can logically think about this and understand it but it hasn’t changed my behavior nor have I wanted to enough. It wasn’t until coming upon this passage that Aronie summarized from Ram Dass where the suggestion is to trust. And that relationships are vital to life. Who are you if not connected to the community and beyond? In reality I am doing myself a big disservice if I cannot connect cannot trust cannot allow for all the truth-as ugly and shameful as it might feel inside if I keep denying my feelings and thoughts. If anything I have observed that they leak out anyway in ways that aren’t handled lovingly and more than likely instead of an ear or open arms they’ll require a prescription or a boat load of beer and that never makes the feelings go away. I project my inner agony onto those around me. Not fair.
Today I am still out of touch with the high school people. It’s been 15 years. I’m not the same people and they aren’t either (I’m assuming). I do look back on those years with mixed emotions. They weren’t the best years of my life (thus far) but they were the most carefree. Friendships seem to be harder to make as you get older but certainly not impossible. Today I choose to not avoid being close to others fearing I’ll just lose them anyway. Today I make an agreement to have a yoga relationship with myself to be honest with myself and what I want and need and to treat others the same way whether it’s because I’m related to them, “hello in-laws” or because I work with them, or because we share similar passions and interests. I choose to tell the people who befriend me if they are being an asshole with the expectation that if I’m being one that it will be lovingly brought to my attention and if we feel hurt by the observation it’s a pain of growth and not bad intentions.