I laid in bed reading – one of the true pleasures to be found in bed! – and texting a friend to catch up on his week. He was teasing me because this week has been my week of crushes. I had been telling him about men who had started to show an interest in me, and that I found interesting, and I had spent time with each of them. I also systematically texted him after each encounter to tell him that I no longer had a crush. He sent me a few emoticons of distress and concern that made me laugh. But there were things to think about that coincided in my experiences this week…
Millennials are changing the social structures of the world. The article The Beat (Up) Generation references a few of the social norms that are being challenged by this generation, primarily in the workplace. However, they are influencing the way in which relationships and sex are viewed as well. There is very little research of value on this, but there is a trend that 20-30 year olds are the largest demographic in open relationships, although these relationships became of note in society in the 1970s. Some of this might be tied to the issues they find themselves facing in the world: an economic system in collapse, terrorism and 9/11, the general failure of marriage, and a greater acceptance of race, gender and disability. This generation may feel a drive to change the world in big ways, and that means the deconstruction of what has not worked. And it is perfect that social rules and dynamics change as we try to reflect a new level of consciousness. Beautiful.
One of the most cited quotations from The Ethical Slut is “We believe it’s OK to have sex with anybody you love and we believe in loving everybody.” On the surface, I have no problem with this. Both statements are morally true. I have met mature, ethical, and spiritual people who are living polyamory. They are deeply committed to making the relationships work for each person. A complex emotional framework is developed and maintained to ensure the success of the relationships. At least to my understanding, the primary driver in polyamory is sexual ethics. So with respect to the quotation, my issue is with the word love, and what that means.
I have separated out the difference between love and relationships. In tantra, we also recognize that love exists outside of any relationship at all. There are over 100 words in Sanskrit to describe love. Love is much greater than relationship. It is the essence of true consciousness. “How then does love touch? What indeed is ‘love’, not as a feeling but as a mode of feeling? And what it is about ‘love’ as a mode of feeling that has the power to touch us so deeply? Love arises out of a feeling awareness of others that takes us out of ourselves, for it is an awareness that knows no fleshly boundaries.” ~Peter Wilberg
Is it possible to love everyone? That is the truth of our essence nature. Of course we can love everyone. But that does not require us to do anything about it. Every interaction we have with another can be and is an opportunity to experience love. It does not necessarily mean the experience requires action or the assignment of meaning such as defining the relationship. Nor does it mean we have to turn every spark or love into an attraction that requires expression. When we experience another, the deeper possibility in tantra is to become aware of the energy, the flow within ourselves, and to trace it back to source. Tantra says that thoughts and emotions are not truth, but they can point us to truth within ourselves. So it becomes a pivotal practice to be aware of the feeling we have at all levels, and explore it. Where does that energy come from? Where is it pointing? Describe and feel it without assigning meaning, as the meaning will be laden with projections of our inner mental constructs, and will bind us to those.
Our relationships are mostly projections of our past experiences. It takes great presence to learn to allow consciousness to greet consciousness in our relationships with others. “Only by not reacting to others from our own feelings – positive or negative – can we begin to genuinely feel the other. Only by genuinely feeling the other can we also respond to them in a feeling way, through the active touch of our loving and knowing awareness. To ‘love’ another is not simply to empathise or show compassion with their ‘feelings’. Nor does it necessarily include the experience of pleasurable or romantic or erotic feelings in their company. It is to directly feel the other and in this way to directly know them. The inner connection between loving and gnosis lies in the capacity to know others in this authentic way – through direct inner feeling rather than feelings of any sort. Love in the deepest sense can only come from recognising both our own feelings and those of others as the “surface” of a deeper knowing – a direct feeling cognition of the other.” ~Peter Wilberg
So my answer to my friend was this: Once you have experienced love that transcends space and time – even with projections and dysfunction – any less is too little. Some would say that means I do not need an intimate relationship. Some would say that it is unlikely I will find one as I describe it. Some would say that very few people experience the world as I do. I know differently. For decades, I have been able to express conscious uncoupling, and now Gwyneth Paltrow is doing it! I know that the Law of Attraction says that all I have to do is live my conscious expression, and those of a similar vibration will be drawn to me. And in fact, my social network has gone through a refresh – I am hanging out with a very different set of people than I was a year ago. It is not moving on so much as moving in flow and alignment.
In a world hungry for love and connection, it is likely that we would want to taste as many people and expressions that awaken that love and sense of possibility within us. I am no longer dependent on that love and possibility from an external source – it is within me. And so it will take a very special type of conscious relationship, a unique expression of sharing that, for me to be in a relationship. Because anything less is too little.