Making Love On The Cushion.

Via Benjamin Riggs
on Jan 5, 2011
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A while back I was meeting with a friend. He asked me how I was doing, and I said, “Great!” He then replied, “You must not be in love!”

“Treya closed her eyes, and for all purposes, she never opened them again. My heart broke. Da Free John’s phrase kept running through my mind: ‘Practice the wound of love.’ Real love hurts; real love makes you totally vulnerable and open; real love will take you far beyond yourself; and therefore real love will devastate you. I kept thinking if love does not shatter you, you do not know love. We had both been practicing the wound of love, and I was shattered. Looking back on it, it seems to me that in that simple and direct moment we both died.” ~Ken Wilber

What a powerful statement!

Love hurts, because it challenges our sense of self. Truth is, intimate relationships are essentially the same as all other situations… But at the same time completely different. Relationships open the doors to samsara and nirvana. With the right person we find our feet in two ponds, both heaven and hell.

On the one hand, intimate relationships are an exciting affair full of possibilities. We meet someone, whom for an incalculable number of reasons, the spontaneous expression of joy and intelligence just comes natural. However, there’s a yin and yang principle… With all the excitement come comes a precise recognition of the painful obstacles that prevent this organic expression of love.

In any given circumstance, romantic or otherwise, we have the option of relating to the spacious quality of the situation, or trying to stake off our territory. Relating to the spacious begets the spontaneous expression mentioned earlier. This mingling of hearts is based on the acknowledgement that the situation is alive— we are alive, our partner is alive, and the space we are moving through is alive… It is life penetrating itself. This is true love, but to relate to the situation in this way requires us facing the obstacles to such direct and simple honesty, and this is the greatest symbol of love. It is an example of courage and selflessness, a willingness to face the things that scare you for the sake of someone else.

To say that the whole situation is alive, is to say that it is changing without beginning or end. This challenges our sense of self, because it does not provide solid ground for us to stand on. It does not afford us with the opportunity to experience ourselves as a solid-separate individual. We are left vulnerable… Though it doesn’t feel this way at the time, vulnerability is the action of sanity seeking to express itself in our lives.

The belief that we are a static entity is based on confusion— that is ignoring the space that provides no allowances for such a belief. Since we are all infected with confusion to some degree, it is inevitable that during the course of a serious relationship, at some point, the challenge will be issued. Hence my friends statement, “You must not be in love!”

Often times this challenge is experienced as fear, anger, jealousy, etc. This is because, we are perceiving some stimuli as a threat to our territory. Perhaps our partner had lunch with an ex, or is considering an out of town job. We see these things as un-expected events that challenge our relationship with the environment, and therefore our sense of self. So, it should be clear that we use our expectations to define our territory. But the problem is much deeper. The perceived threat is based upon the false assumption that we own the situation, which is a product of confusion— ignoring the living or spacious quality of our partner. It is a state of ignore-ance that sits at the core of the problem.

When the gauntlet has been thrown down we are presented with a choice: Do we want to relate with the spacious qualities of our environment, and therefore the internal obstacles that prevent an uncensored experience of reality? In other words, are we willing to relate to our shit?Are we willing to listen, on a very basic level, to the pain we are experiencing, and the causes that give rise to it? Or do we want to relate to our reference points— to our neurotic commentary? Are we going to regard our confusion as the word of God? Are we going to buy into the mistaken belief that we are property owners?

By relating to our reference points I mean, trying to stake off our partner as though they were some static idea that belonged to us. Instead of seeing them as a living organism, we try to embalm them— keep them in a cage constructed out of our fears and expectations. We utilize various forms of emotional terrorism to keep them in these cages, but since staying in a cage means denying their very sense of being this is a destructive behavior. It will never work…

Intimate relationships have the potential to be self-styled prisons or meditation in action. We do not have to control the situation. We do not have to set up all these boundaries that define the relationship. If the relationship is truly based on love, it is intelligent. We need to trust this intelligence. Direct observation is the only prerequisite for trust. All of the confusion, and the behaviors that express our confusion are connected with our basic being, or energy. We do not need to repress or hide our confusion, as that would be dishonest. Rather, we need to observe our confusion. We need to face the obstacles that prevent complete vulnerability, and the expression of pure love or intelligence. Obstacles are life’s way of forcing us to relate with that which we have chosen to ignore. In observing our confusion, we see it for what it is. When confusion is seen for what it is, it is immediately transformed into wisdom. Observation and transformation are opposite sides of the same coin. Transformation is the pressing out of observation. It is a state of ignore-ance that sustains our fears, and the observation of ignorance is enlightenment.

Let’s get a discussion going? Do you agree with what I said above? Or find it ridiculous? Why? Please share your thoughts and comments. I look forward to an intelligent discussion!


About Benjamin Riggs

Ben Riggs is the author of Finding God in the Body: A Spiritual Path for the Modern West. He is also the director of the Refuge Meditation Group in Shreveport, LA and a teacher at Explore Yoga. Ben writes extensively about Buddhist and Christian spirituality on Elephant Journal, and his blog. Click here to listen to the Finding God in the Body Podcast. To keep up with all of his work follow him on Facebook or Twitter.


19 Responses to “Making Love On The Cushion.”

  1. Maureen says:

    I was following you and, mainly, agreeing – until you dropped the word 'transformation' into the last para and that threw me. What exactly do you mean, in the context of this article, by 'transformation'? Do you mean attempting to transform what is occuring to something more in line with what is desired?

  2. BenRiggs says:

    What is meant by the word 'transformation' is the effect of dealing with our obstacles… Dealing with the things in us that cause to react with attachment, fear, anger, jealousy, etc… All of these impulses are built upon confusion. What I meant by transformation was the effect of facing and seeing confusion for what it is, because that transmutes confusion into wisdom!

  3. Wendy says:

    It is hard to control the ego in relationships….. isnt that what causes all the anger, jealousy and fear?

  4. yogi tobye says:

    True love is like trusting someone to hold the mirror that reflects your true self as well as all the nasty bits and pieces. You both become mediums for each other's transformations?

  5. yogini j says:

    I follow and would expand the concept that love is of itself alive, spacious and dynamic – like the universe. my current love and I have found comfort and safety even in the face of obstacles by promising each other to trust our love to the universe. to trust that if our thoughts, words and actions are true to our own hearts as individuals then our love will grow or transform exactly as is ultimately best for both of us and the greater good.

    Sitting back and watching old fears arise from old wounds is a practice, it takes great courage and determination to sit in the fire of the feelings long enough to realize that they are stemming from relationships of the past. Hard work but oh so much healthier than emotionally reacting in the present to the demons of the past. Further it liberates us from those old demons going forward.

  6. BenRiggs says:

    Thanks for the comment… I really like what you have said!

  7. BenRiggs says:

    I feel that intimate relationships are the microcosom or a specific example of the macrocosom or the ultimate truth that we are in a relationship with reality… and until we realize that we are reality seeking to express itself that relationship is dysfunctional!

  8. BenRiggs says:

    I believe the sum total of obstacles is what we call the ego. At least that is how I was using the word "obstacles" above. However, these obstacles are also the path to honest expression, whether it be in intimate relationships or how we talk to the bank teller!

  9. Lyl says:

    wow. very helpful, if not a bit hard to grasp and digest. I am going to sleep on it – but would very much like to introduce the question of fidelity and what happens when trust is broken on one side. Thank you and blessings.

  10. BenRiggs says:

    You find out the relationship was in truth something it wasn't, or in other words you were dating an idea or expectation. That is not a problem per se; just something you have to accept, which may be difficult. But even here we are right back to the obstacles that prevent us from being in a relationship with reality. What is it that keeps me from accepting the truth. Is it my tendency to personalize it? To say, "I was not good enough for him/her?"

  11. Derek says:

    Expanding on the importance of vulnerability….
    A very worth while watch.

  12. Lyl says:

    Derek – not sure how to thank you for posting the link to Brene Brown, but just so you know; you made my day.

  13. lauren hanna says:

    I like how you say we use our expectations to define our territory…..A week ago my sister and I were discussing expectations for relationships… My claim is that by not setting expectations you will never be disappointed – you just let the relationship happen without setting boundaries or high hopes. Expectations are what injure your sense of self. My sister on the other hand, equates no expectations to having low expectations. I say there is a difference – you have a set standard, but you don't have expectations.

    About two days later I set huge expectations for someone I hadn't seen in a long time and, what do you know – I was hugely let down. But it was my own fault. So although I believe setting expectations sets us up for disaster and is the root cause to injuring our sense of selves – I still do it. Working on changing that.

  14. CaitlinW says:

    Thank you for this article, Ben. This is a topic I have been contemplating lately, as I am coming out of a recent relationship. Upon entering this past relationship, my friends would say to me, "girl, you're glowing!" I would think, "ya, but you don't know how I'm feeling on the inside." What I mean is that, sure, I was glowing, I was in love. However, for the people who actively look at themselves, love f'n hurts. It hurts because you realize all those damn places inside of you that are resistant to love! Entering a loving relationship is like shining a bright flashlight (Love) in a dark room (old patterns which create resistance to Love). The question is: Is one willing to stick out the bumps and bruises of Love, or bail before something authentic has a chance to emerge? As for me, I've got bandaids in my cabinet, bring it on! <3

  15. Melanie says:

    "Direct observation is the only prerequisite for trust." Could you elaborate upon this?

  16. BellybuttonGaze says:

    Thanks for exploring this topic, Ben; it's one that will forever interest us! Your words of "we are alive, our partner is alive, and the space we are moving through is alive…." really resonate with me. I just wrote on this from a slightly different angle a couple of days ago, with reference to the dance of Shiva and Shakti… ( The frightening moments always turn out to be the most transformative.

  17. Kelly says:

    What if there are not enough tools present to go forward? Would you call that "Fate"–that the forces that would help the love develop are not present and so the relationship is destined to end? What if, upon looking back at a relationship, it looks as though I ran from it but now am stuck in a situation in which I am feeling the vulnerability of the love, still, but no longer the opportunity to engage it?

  18. Brenda Gee says:

    The spacious quality in a relationship is what we find attractive and alive. When we start staking off our territory we set ourselves up for for fear of loss of what we "own." Our culture has a hard time just being. Committments and expectations are security currency.

  19. […] a state of ignore-ance that sustains our fears, and the observation of ignorance is enlightenment. ~From The Bedroom To The Cushion by Ben […]