Ananya Sri Ram Rajan – USA
Relationship is the only thing we have with each other.
“We cannot escape relationship.” From the moment of conception, there is relationship. It may not be a conscious relationship for the fetus, but the life form has some innate intelligence that it is dependent upon the mother for its continued existence. Therefore, relationship exists.
As conscious beings with the ability for a deeper awareness, humans, in general, take relationship for granted. If this were not the case, we would not be warring over race, religion, land, or whatever we feel passionate about. Nor would we be decimating the precious resources of this one and only beautiful planet we live and depend upon. At the same time, our personal relationships would hold more significance to us.
Relationship and its immense importance in our lives is never discussed, talked about or taught to us as children. We hear the word, understand how people are related to us and vice-versa, but the quality of relating to anything is never deliberately explored. So, rarely do we understand what a healthy authentic relationship is. And yet it remains something we do throughout our lives and something we depend upon. We cannot live without it.
The first glimpse we have of relationship is outside of ourselves. People, places and things and the value they hold, is fed to us through our education and society. Discussion centers on how we relate to the world around us, not about the world that lies within us. As we are fed more information from the outside, we must sort through the disjointed feelings we have within ourselves. Often the information comes in faster than we can process and our feelings are pushed aside. It leads to our inability to see the world as a whole.
The problems in today’s world are no different than they were a hundred years ago. For instance, women have the same rights as men (in most countries), but still work more hours, get paid less, and are still viewed as property. Despite laws changing, women’s lives have not. They still remain the primary caregiver at home even while holding a full-time job. Yet, businesses still do not accommodate women’s needs outside of work. Even when it may benefit the business to do so. There is a deep disconnect in our thought process. One act does not create change if the thinking behind it does not change. J. Krishnamurti points this out when he states that we cannot solve a problem with the same mind that caused the problem.
Is it possible for us to see relationship in a different way? True relationship, it is said, can only flourish when there is no expectation of any kind. Due to our individual conditioning, we tend to see people and things in a particular role or image. Children think of their parents as their parents, but rarely as individuals like themselves who have their own thoughts, feelings, strengths and weaknesses. However, we tend to carry this thinking into adulthood, creating problems in our relationships with others.
This is not just a problem in behavior. Due to the constant habitual patterns in thinking, the neural patterns in our brain immediately respond to a particular path. If we have been told our whole life that one particular population is dangerous and we react with fear and anger towards them over and over, we create a groove in the neural patterns of our brain. This does not excuse anyone for ignorant behavior, but shows how habitual thinking happens on a biological level. There is nothing saying we cannot change it.
To relate to anything, even oneself, the barrier of expectation must dissipate. Expectations put limits on how we see things. Whether it is our partner, our child, our pet, or even our technology, our expectations compartmentalize things, cutting off our relationship from it. Within the elemental of expectation is a desire to control. And as most people now know, due to the numerous self-help books, control is a form of fear.
Perhaps the change in our thinking or our mind that Krishnamurti speaks of, is the ability to see others no differently than we would a tree, a flower, or a beautiful sunset. When we see such beautiful things, we do not look at them and say “you need to be more beautiful” or “you need have different colors.” We see the object without any expectation. We allow it to be what it is without trying to change it. And we realize it is what it is. Can we do this with our partners, children, neighbors, and co-workers?
Granted this does not mean we allow people to walk all over us. (That is not relationship to start with.) But, is it possible to see with compassion the humanness of another with all their fears, worries, joys, and contentment? This brings freedom into relationship and it is this quality that creates true relationship.
The word “relate” comes from the Latin word relatus meaning to “bring back” or “bear back.” When there is true relationship, we bring each other back to who we truly are. To our authentic selves and relate from that level. When we relate from who we are without pretense, expectations, limits and so on, there is no fear. We are who we are. There is no judgment.
This reminds me of a lovely story about past International President N. Sri Ram by Annie Tjioe, a woman who lived and worked on the Adyar estate for many years. For those who never met him, N. Sri Ram was considered by many to radiate pure compassion and complete peace. Annie writes that “whenever one approached him with personal problems, or problems in connection with one’s work, they always seemed to vanish as soon as one came within his aura. Not only did the burden drop away from one’s mind, but also the queries and difficulties seemed to have lost their importance. Other workers at Adyar experienced exactly the same thing.”
So many things that we feel are important, come from our own personal desires. Our angst and worries are symptoms of our ego trying to protect itself. Our expectations and want to control others are part of this. To keep up our own image of how we see ourselves, we expect others to be as we want them to be. When we can drop all this, we give ourselves the ability to relate from a deeper, wiser place and help others to do so as well. Then true relationship can flourish.
For many who have never looked at relationship in this way, it may be good to start is with a simple exercise. As mentioned earlier, we often relate to people and things as objects of desire. Desire does not have to be anything sexual (it can be), but more from the perspective of wanting something from that person or object. We generally do not realize that most of our relationships are based on wants or needs. Rarely do we have a relationship with something or someone without any expectation. It is often a good exercise to really consider this. Start by choosing someone or something in your life and ask yourself what relationship you have to it. Is it fulfilling some purpose or need? What are the expectations you have toward the someone or something? What happens when you let go of the expectations? Doing this exercise whenever one finds themselves in conflict with another, allows one to see how they really view the relationship.
As said before, we are constantly in relationship with things and people, but to have a conscious relationship with ourselves and the world around us is life changing. However, we need to let go of old patterns, approach life with an open mind, and begin to see the authentic beauty in all. As Krishnamurti states, “Relationship is the only thing we have with each other.” As this is true, why not allow ourselves to have fulfilling, loving, and harmonious relationships with one another? The outcome may surprise us.