In teaching the Deeper Love seminars over the last 12 years, we have had the opportunity to work with countless single people who want to bring a more conscious and healthy relationship into their lives.
It touches me deeply when someone speaks about conscious relationships.
If someone tells me they want to reach the highest peaks of enlightenment, it sounds impressive, but leaves me somewhat blah. If someone tells me they want to make a huge difference in the world—end poverty or solve environmental challenges—I am impressed, and I do my best to help them.
Whenever anyone comes to a coaching session or seminar, and says, “I want to love deeply, I want to open my heart beyond all defenses, I want to love fully with all of myself,” this gets me every time. I cannot resist offering them everything I have to give.
By helping many different people to enter into healthy relationships, I have discovered two popular and pervasive myths, which prevent the possibility of real, mature intimacy.
The myth of the soulmate.
I meet many single people (particularly women) who believe their main problem in relationships is because to some unfair quirk of fate—they have not yet found the one person on the planet who will make them eternally happy. This is the myth of the soulmate: the idea that we were born into this life with some kind of soul twin wandering around out there somewhere, and if the two of us could just reunite, everything would be perfectly magical.
This is a romantic fantasy—the stuff of teenage pulp fiction. It is a dangerous belief, which keeps us stuck in an immature phase of development. I am lucky enough to be in a deep, nurturing and inspiring marriage, and so are many of my friends. I have not heard of anybody who has actually built and sustained a good relationship talking about a soulmate. It is a dangerous idea because it suggests that all the problems we’ve had in relationships, up until now, were simply because of not finding this perfect person.
There are no perfect people. There is no knight in shining armor who will one day arrive on a white horse and sweep us off our feet.
In my experience, people are more or less all the same under the window dressing. We all have strengths and we all have weaknesses. We all have aspirations to reach our highest potential; we also have our distractions and even destructive tendencies.
The key to loving deeply is not finding the right person, but becoming the right person. It’s the art of loving whoever is before us in this moment so completely that the things we like about them, and the things we don’t like, are equal opportunities to open our hearts even more and to love without conditions.
I have been with my wife, Chameli, for 13 years. There are days, or at least moments, where she does appear to be the perfect one I have always been looking for, the one who can make me whole and complete.
There are also times when she irritates the hell out of me—she appears to be positively demonic, as though her primarily role on the planet is to make me miserable. In such moments, the idea that she is my soulmate seems blatantly absurd. The point is, we have made our relationship into a practice. Equally, in the peaks of euphoria and the depths of ice-cold hatred, we have learned how to keep showing up, again and again, with honesty, with listening and with the aspiration to embody love more and more.
So, if you are single and you would like to be in a wonderful relationship with another human being, I suggest you completely abandon the idea of finding the perfect lover and instead strive to become the perfect lover. Who is trying to love who?
The myth we must love ourselves first.
The second myth—equally dangerous—that holds people back from enjoying relaxed and delicious intimacy, is the idea that before we can love somebody else, we have to first learn to love ourselves. This is utter hogwash. I have a great marriage that becomes more and more delightful daily, I enjoy wonderful relationships with both of my adult children and I am lucky to have off the charts wonderful friends. I feel oodles of love for all these people, and I have absolutely no idea what the term “loving myself” is supposed to mean.
Similarly, all the people I know whose lives are overflowing with love cannot relate to the term self-love.
When I turn my attention inward, toward subjectivity, toward myself, I find infinite empty space. It has no boundaries, it has no distinguishing characteristics at all. It is just awareness. That does not seem to be some kind of altered state, or higher attainment. It is just the sober reality of what is actually true, and stands up to examination. Anyone I have guided into deep inquiry has discovered the same space as well. There is nothing to hold on to there, nothing to love—it is like the sky.
When the attention turns outward, to the world of color, texture and shape, it is possible to see beauty. The more that the spaciousness of our pure awareness is clear, the more the outer world looks beautiful. So if my attention rests for a moment on my wife, she looks incredibly beautiful. If I look into her eyes, I see that same infinite space looking back at me.
And that, dear friends, is what I call love. Anything else needs another word: attachment, sentimentality or familiarity.
The experience of love requires the appearance of another in order for it to become manifest. You cannot do that with yourself, because when you try to find yourself, it has no form.
There was an unfortunate poor bastard in Greece who was happily living his life seeing beauty around him and feeling love. And then he bent over to look into a clear and still lake. He saw his own reflection, and then he fell in love with what he saw. He started to feel love for his own reflection. His name was Narcissus. But this is a pathology, not something to aspire toward. Freud wrote books about how to recover from such an affliction, not how to cultivate it.
Sure, all of us have been conditioned with negative self-talk: “I’m not smart enough, I’m not beautiful enough, I’m too fat or too thin, I’m selfish, I’m lazy.” It is a splendid idea to find simple tools to let go of such unnecessary thinking. We do that well in Awakening Coaching. But there is no need to replace these negative statements with sparkly, new ones instead. It’s actually much better just to rest in being love itself, and let that love delight in the beauty of everything you see around you.
Give up looking for the perfect mate because no such person exists. Become a little more curious about your own true nature. Explore the uncharted territory of infinite awareness. And then, when you look at the world with fresh eyes, you will see beauty everywhere around you. Focus that attention on one specific lucky human incarnation (and there are many, many, candidates who qualify) and you have got yourself a relationship, and an opportunity to practice and cultivate deeper love.
Author: Arjuna Ardagh
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock