I once had a friend who was in a relationship crisis, and he was completely distraught. His life had been dedicated to spiritual practice, and increasingly, to teaching meditation and spiritual thought. He said to me, with a look of confusion, "I can go into deep Samadhi (Samadhi is a high state of meditative awareness) in meditation, but I can't figure out relationships."
I've experienced the same struggle in my own life, and I have a feeling we're not alone. But increasingly, I am learning that the real spiritual juice is in the full spectrum of life, of a life fully lived, in all it's complexities, with all it's colours - from glowing sunrises to deepest darkest shadow. Spirituality is not about inner peace necessarily - it's about full engagement with all that is.
Last year we interviewed LaSara Firefox (author of the books 'Sexy Witch' and 'Yoga Mama') for the film Redvolution: Dare to Disturb the Universe and she told of a time in which she became convinced that her busy life, her children especially, were keeping her from her quest for union with the divine. After some deep soul searching, she came out of that place, and realized that in fact, G~d lives and breathes, laughs and cries, in relationship. In relationship to each other, in relationship to the world, in relationship to ourselves.
It's such an important lesson to learn for those of us with a spiritual bent. Being spiritual is not about the time you spend on a meditation cushion. That is incubation, that is preparation. The real work, the real Work, takes place in the real world.
While disembodied spirituality can doom relationships of any kind, embodied spirituality is the pathway to true love. Author and cultural theorist bell hooks defines love as "the committment to another's spiritual growth." Sounds like a great recipe for mutually enhancing relationships-the kind of relationships that leaves both parties expanded. It means meeting beyond the ego, beyond the limited self to the divine person we all are. A committment to being a source of inspiration and transformation for each other is the key to a deep, spiritual relationship.
Another way of defining love is "being seen" - being truly, wholly seen. That means recognizing and seeing all of who a person is-their perfection, and their very human imperfection. We're all works in progress, and that is the exciting thing about being alive. We are all made of light and shadow. No one exists without both. If we were all light, we'd float away. And if we were all shadow, we would sink into the swamp. Recognizing the fullness of who we are, and being seen for that, appreciated for that, and understood for that, is a fierce love.
Here is a short film I made that pokes fun at my own spiritual foibles when it comes to relationships. It's called "Leave Me Alone (Don't Ever!)" and is part of a collection of short films called "Breaking Up in Three Minutes." It's actually a true story, based on the break up with my first true love - I was about twenty-two or so at the time. In the wake of that loss, I set off on a great voyage of internal discovery, spending three months hitchiking from Montreal, to Newfoundland and back again. I returned to the city, certain that my new found spiritual realizations would win her heart. Alas, it didn't work. But at least I got the catalyst for some true reflection and growth, reams of bad love poetry, and a funny film out of the deal. When all else fails, there's always laughter!