Love and attachment are two very different things, and although I understand the difference, I often get tongue tied and twisted around when I try to explain it to others.
I met Govinda Kai in 2011 when I attended a workshop in Orlando, FL where we discussed topics on love and intimacy. I was drawn to him right away because of the honest and authentic discussions he led, and happy that we’ve stayed in contact through the years. I knew I wanted to write about love and attachment, but I needed an expert, and he was the first person to come to mind. I am glad I reached out to him, and you’ll see why when you read his response below.
Very few can deny that this is a time of great change. It seems like most every single area of human life and society are undergoing significant changes. Many of the institutions (religious, financial, governmental and cultural) and values that we took for granted as being the undying foundations of our society are generally going through some kind of major change.
If you look around you, you can also see that many people close to ourselves and probably including ourselves are seeing the need to re-think and reflect on the fundamental ways that we see ourselves and those close to us.
One of those most personal and fundamental areas of life that I have been reflecting on is in the area of human love and intimacy. Many of us have generally held those couples who have stayed together for years and even decades as admirable examples of high quality love. However, is the length of time spent living together the most important measure of love? Are there deeper and more subtle aspects to determining the quality of one’s love? Is it possible to measure love at all? These are some questions that I have been asking myself.
I believe that it is the time to think and reflect more deeply on the topic of love and intimacy. It is time to look at new ways of loving and relating that are not so strongly tied to just the length of time that we are together with another.
In order to proceed on these questions, it is important to establish an important distinction. Essentially, there are two major aspects of reality and life. There is the material side of life. That is the side of life that we interact with through our physical senses and our rational/logical mind. Then there is the side of life that is too subtle to classify as material. We are all aware of this side of life, but most of us don’t recognize it or appreciate it because the majority of our attention is usually directed towards what you would call a sense based reality.
The material side of life is tangible and generally follows predictable patterns. Being able to operate in this part of life is necessary and important. Nobody would deny that. It is the ability to make sense of one’s life, to take care of one’s physical survival and well-being. Most of us grew up with a strong emphasis on the importance of taking care of one’s material survival.
However, there is a whole other side of life that does not fall into the material category. For the sake of this discussion, let us refer to this other side of life as comprised of what we would call spiritual. There are aspects and phenomena that cannot be called physical or material. We feel these things and they play a very important role in the quality of our lives, but they are not parts of life that we can see and touch in any kind of physical way. Additionally, it is difficult to talk about these more subtle parts of life in any kind of logical or rational way.
The spiritual side of life being much more subtle generally takes a different kinds of intelligence and sensitivity to be aware of and navigate well within this dimension. It generally takes a whole different kind of sensibility and understanding to move well within this part of life. Generally speaking, areas of life involving wisdom, love, intuition, happiness and compassion are those areas that are more spiritual in nature.
Now, the problem is, is that many of us were raised to pay primary attention to or even sole attention to those areas of life that are mostly material or physical. As a result, we gave most of our time and our energy to developing those parts of ourselves that best served us in a material or physical way. Many of us became relatively blind to the importance or even the existence of a part of life that was not primarily physical.
This is exactly the reason why, in our current society, we have an abundance of physical wealth and comfort, but some major issues with regard to the overall quality of mental health. Never has there been a culture in which there has been so much physical wealth and yet so many depressed and unhappy people.
This is the reason why I would suggest that it is vital during these times to take a whole new way to think about love and intimacy. We have been thinking about love and intimacy from the point of view of material reality when we should be thinking about love more from a spiritual perspective.
From a materialistic point of view, we mostly use our physical senses and our mind. As a result, we focus on actions and possessions (what we do and what we have). The primary mode that gets emphasized in a materialistic mode is that of accumulation. In other words, the more we can do and the more we can accumulate, the better we assess ourselves to be. Thus, from a materialistic point of view, we focus mostly on developing set beliefs and opinions and we focus on holding onto as many material items as possible.
When this materialistic mind set is applied to the area of love and intimacy, naturally we focus on what we do, what our partners do. We focus on holding onto each other as long as possible. We focus on creating an set or consistent idea of the way that we should be and we try to maintain that idea as strongly as possible. This is precisely the reason why jealousy and possessiveness, ego and over attachment are such major issues in most intimate relationships. We quite literally treat ourselves and our partners as kinds of physical possessions. We often forget the most human aspects of intimacy, including deep empathy, compassion, forgiveness and kindness.
When we truly begin to recognize the importance of the spiritual dimensions of intimacy and relationship, we can begin to develop different values and points of emphasis. When we begin to focus on the spiritual side of ourselves and our partners, we can begin to recognize that a whole different level of sensitivity and intelligence is required. While from a materialistic perspective there is an emphasis on mind, action and possessions, from a spiritual perspective there is much more of an emphasis on heart and being. What that means is the ability to feel deeply and introspectively without engaging the logical and judgmental part of the mind. The heart is all about simply feeling without judgement. This deep level of introspection and mindfulness are the keys to developing the most powerful of human qualities. This would include the ability to have great empathy and compassion for another. It would also include the ability to love and to care deeply without any specific expectations. These very human qualities are the keys to building great quality and depth in a relationship. These qualities make it possible for us to truly and deeply connect with other human beings.
From more materialistic perspective, we tend to over utilize our judgmental minds, holding on too tightly to pre-conceived opinions and beliefs. These habits interfere with our capacity to build and cultivate deep intimacy and tenderness with another.
Let us all, in our own ways, begin to re-think and re-create how we look at ourselves and each other especially within the context of intimacy. What a great opportunity for great change and reinvention we have before us.
Hanging with one of my biggest inspirations !!!
Govinda Kai is a certified Ashtanga yoga teacher in the tradition of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois of Mysore, India. His passion for yoga and spirituality, and quest for truth in the more essential parts of life, has taken him all over the world. He has been supremely blessed by the guidance of some of the most extraordinary teachers of this age including Morihei Ueshiba (founder of Aikido), Swami Muktananda (founder of the Siddha Yoga movement and a self-realized master of yoga), Sogyal Rimpoche (highly recognized master of Tibetan Buddhism and author of the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying), and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (student of Krishnamacharya and recognized master of modern Ashtanga Yoga).
Govinda’s teachings focus on the deeper meaning of yoga practice in an atmosphere that is focused, as well as full of joy and humor.
What do you think? Leave it in the comments below!