About 4 or 5 months ago, I started listening to Adyashanti. At one of his recent Satsangs in Oakland, he spoke at length on relationships, and the central theme I gleaned was that relationships are constant change. The key to relationships is to not resist their dynamic nature, but to fully accept it.
I did not manage to ask the question that was smoldering in my mind, as I consider his words against the backdrop of my impending marriage. “Given the desire to always stay present to the moment, what is the role of commitment in our lives and relationships?”
Since then, I’ve asked this question to friends and other teachers in my life, and received a variety of answers. I’d be interested to hear yours…
I now believe that commitments inform our decisions in the moment. A commitment given stays in the present with us, until it is fulfilled or released. Promises broaden our spectrum of sensitivity to touch all who would be affected by a breach. When given with full clarity and volition, promises can be powerful lifelines of mutual support.
Even small commitments have power. This is part of why we seek out workout partners, friends to quit cigarettes or do cleanses with, and join writing groups.
The truth is, we create an energetic breach within ourselves when we break our word, even if the commitment was to ourselves. If we do it often, we may not even feel it, but it is there. Our very words have lost power.
This energy breach is not the same as feeling guilt or shame. Those are separate reactions that may cause further energy loss.
And there are times when a commitment needs to be broken, or is broken inadvertently. This happens often when we are caught in traffic and end up arriving “late.” Then there are techniques for minimizing the energy loss, which consist primarily of self-reflection, while avoiding self-recrimination, combined with making amends with any others affected, if necessary.
Then there are the big commitments. As I mentioned, I am getting married soon, which brings about all kinds of reflection on the nature of commitment.
In my relationship, there have been times when the only thing left holding me to my partner was my commitment. It was my given word that was strong enough to see me through some very dark moments in which I could not see my own demons were controlling me without my permission. It was my promise that held me until enough light was shed to give me a choice of how to act. And when the time came to make the choice, I no longer needed the strength of my commitment to see what was right for me. But it is good to know the strength it holds, and that I have it to rely on should I have need again.
Writing this piece has made me reflect on one area where I am not as strong in my integrity, and that is with my commitments to myself, or with my commitments which I think only affect me. I am beginning to see that those are, perhaps, the most important commitments, and that the rest build from there. Yet I know that for myself, those are the easiest to breach. Hrmph, that sucks. 😛
You might be wondering what this has to do with open relationships specifically, or, more likely, you’ve figured it out.
Perhaps ironically, open relationships often demand even more integrity than traditional monogamous relationships. Without the somewhat shared understanding of what is and isn’t okay offered by the established paradigm of relationship dogma, participants in an open relationship are left to define their own boundaries, and maintain them. This takes a high level of self-knowledge, personal integrity, and mutual trust that can take time to develop. All these things are demanded by monogamous relationships too, of course, but open relationships can offer something of a crash course, simply because of the high stakes and big stick that Lord and Lady Jealousy play with, and because of the lack of elders and community support so many in the less charted waters find. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help!