Recorded in the Summer of 1989 as apart of 'The Listening Heart' retreat series, Ram Dass delves deep into the topic of relationships. He discusses the yoga of relationships, appreciation versus judging, soulmates and "falling into love". He touches on the topic of marriage, monasticism, the spiritual meanings of commitment, overcoming the limitations of deep expression, and much more.
Audience Member: On the question of open relationships, I'm not saying committed marriage relationships, we seem to be limited in our ability to express the impulses that stem from deep within oneself. Is this inability a limitation inherited through the morays of culture, or is it a human limitation, meaning we must always be alone with this?
...We seem limited in our ability to express the impulses that stem from deep within ourselves. Is this limitation inherited through our culture, or is it a basic human limitation? And if it is, must we always be alone with our experience?
Ram Dass: I think our inability to acknowledge our impulse life is primarily a socialization process, it's the process of culture. And I think that it's the way in which we get acculturated so that a society can function. It's because a society has a hard time when there's immediate impulse expression for everybody all the time. It needs a certain amount of delay of gratification, a certain amount of control, a certain amount of actually suppression, not necessarily repression, but it usually ends up repression.
It is certainly possible to work with truth in a relationship to get to the point where more and more you are safe in expressing what your impulses are and your truth of your moment.
Truth is one of the vehicles for deepening spiritual awareness through another human being. And if there is a license for that in any relationship: with guru, with friend, with lover, with whatever it is, it is an absolutely optimum way of coming into a liquid spiritual relationship with another person.
But it's very, very delicate because people feel very vulnerable. They have parts of their mind that are cut off, that's been socialized as, ‘If I show this part of me, I would not be acceptable.’ And the ability to risk that, finally you learn how to have your truth available. It doesn't mean you have to force your truth on anybody. But if you find somebody else that is willing to enter into a contract of truth with you, then you can share that and you can get closer and closer to the impulses.
It doesn't mean you have to act on the impulses. I mean, I can say, "The impulse has arisen in me that I would like to see you cut into pieces," if I felt that, or, "I'd like to make love with you," or something like that. And that might not be socially acceptable or might not fit in with your model of reality, but if I feel safe enough, I can share that truth with you. And as you and I share those truths more and more, then our entrapment in our minds gets less and less, and we are able to allow the awareness to flow back and forth between us because we're both looking from the same place at our human condition together.
The repression of impulse is what blocks energy and what keeps other people as them rather than us. And the idea is to get to the point where you really live with us, not with them, not with him or with her, but with us. And finally, if you're really doing the yoga part of it, with I, there is only an I in many forms.
Do you hear that? So truth is one of the exciting vehicles to work with in relationship. And what I've learned is to use my lecture role to make my truth as available as I possibly could. And what I find is people say to me, “Thank you for being so truthful. It makes it easier for me to be truthful about myself because you've done that.”
And I think, well, that's a cheap price to offer yourself up for that purpose. If that just in itself starts to help other people.
I want to go back one second to the issue of committed relationships...
You can enter into a contract with somebody that says, “We will not have relationships with other people while we are together,” and that will allow for a certain kind of safety and a certain kind of deepening. I think I can hear that as a very viable thing.
You could equally enter into a relationship which says, “We'll have an open marriage and we will work with it.” I think a contract between human beings should be honored. I think that creates an environment that's safe for inner work, it doesn't matter which contract it is, as long as it's a contract that's honored. And when you want to renegotiate the contract, you say, "I want to renegotiate the contract."
You don't renegotiate it unilaterally. You don't decide you're not going to fulfill the contract, then go off and do something else on your own. It has to be honorable between people. Those create the conditions for more subtle inner work where you can play it, you can go deeper, and be safer.