The Eden Project

Sometimes I go about pitying myself, and all the time I am being carried by great winds across the sky.  ~Anonymous Chippewa

I read this line yesterday as I sat on the edge of Lake Atitlan and found myself feeling somewhat heavy.  Reading this, I took a small, energetic step back, and I suddenly realized the incredible privilege, freedom, and opportunity that this life is, particularly this moment in time.  I felt the true meaning of keeping the heart open while in pain, smiling at my friend’s recent joy at my confusion and suffering.  Paradoxically, growth comes when we suffer, for suffering quickens consciousness and generally requires the enlargement of the personality to assimilate the pain. Secondly, the radical encounter with the Other (in the form of a love relationship or with God) can also pry us out of our ego-bound position. A metanoia or a transformative experience.

Today was such a beautiful, expanding day for me.  I attended three hours of Kirtan (devotional singing) in Tzununa, a small village outside of San Marcos. My friend Jenna ( I happened to be her first yoga teacher in Thailand 5 years ago!) lives in a small sustainable community called Karuna. They offer this practice every Sunday, with all proceeds and donations going to the village children in need.

There has been a tension around my heart recently – which I could feel loosening as soon as I jumped into a tuk-tuk cruising past my house with two beautiful new friends I just met on the way to the same event.  We sang for hours, and my heart ripped open the moment we began chanting the classic Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soham.  The backdrop of Lake Atitlan supported us as we poured our hearts and voices into the sacred mantras – sending them outward for the healing and benefit of All Beings. I wondered why it took me so long to find this practice since arriving here at the lake, recalling how profound this practice was for me over the years of living in Thailand.  I have found it now and have realized that its happening several times a week at different venues❤

Recognizing that a great wind across the sky is indeed carrying me, last night I reread the book “The Eden Project” by James Hollis, which I highly recommend after any painful breakup or relationship ending. Hollis explores this idea of the sacred Other and the going home project that many of us attempt while in an intimate relationship. His words to describe it:

The going home project is deeply programmed in us from our traumatic onsets. But, as we see all around us, it remains the chief saboteur of intimate relationship. Thus, we are all caught between the deeply programmed desire to fuse with the Other and the inner imperative to separate, to individuate. This tension of opposites will always be present. Holding that tension, bringing it to consciousness, is the moral task of both parties in any close relationship, a task that requires conscious effort and heroic will. When one has let go of that great hidden agenda that drives humanity and its varied histories, then one can begin to encounter the immensity of one’s own soul. If we are courageous enough to say, “Not this person, nor any other, can ultimately give me what I want; only I can,” then we are free to celebrate a relationship for what it can give.

I have repeated this pattern many times over the years. Throwing my projections onto the Magical Other and then left in confusion when these projections collapse. The fantasy is something like this: Someday, amid the humdrum of life, the fated, fabulous stranger will drive into your life, grant you transcendence, and then go off forever, leaving you to the ordinary but soul afire. No partner, no matter how worthy, can compete with that fantasy. One of Rumi’s famous poems starts with: The moment I heard my first love story, I started looking for you… Hollis again:

Only when one has suffered the collapse of projections onto the Other, or tracked the symptomatology to its lair, may one begin to recognize that the enemy is within, that the Other is not what he or she may seem, and that one is summoned to a deep personal accounting before one can begin to clear the terrain for true relationship. One does not come to such recognitions easily, without having suffered failure, shame, rage or humiliation. But in such dreary states may be found the beginning of insight into oneself, without which no lasting relationship may be achieved.

As if heeding this advice, Rumi continues: . . . not knowing how blind that was. Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along. All of this is to say that once again, the call to personal responsibility in my trauma, pain, and longing is here. To seek and find wholeness and worthiness within. And when this is indeed done, the possibility of a deep, transcendent relationship may be possible. Hollis again:

Using relationships as an escape from one’s personal journey is to pervert relationships and sabotage one’s calling. To care for the other as Other is to open to pain as well as joy. Both emotions can be transformative. Though we may not hold or reify either, both may engender largeness of soul.

If we genuinely love the Other as Other, we have heroically taken on the responsibility for our own individuation, our own journey. This heroism may properly be called love. St. Augustine put it this way: Love is wanting the other to be. One of the best formulations of this relational paradox is expressed by Rainer Maria Rilke: I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between two people: that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other.

And with this, I prepare to jump again!