A student of Swami Satchidananda (Gurudev) since 1979, Marilyn Graman is a psychotherapist and cofounder of Life Works. She is committed to supporting people on their psychospiritual journey. In this article, Marilyn writes about how connecting with one’s true Self is the pathway to healing one’s past and creating more conscious relationships.
Swami Satchidananda’s teachings are central to the work that I do. He said that people in relationship are like two rough stones. When you rub them together long and hard enough they become two smooth stones. The purpose of relating so closely and deeply with another is to see what in you needs to be smooth. In my terms, what it is from your past that needs to be healed. Whatever is rough on your stone is an indication of unhealed issues. When someone you are sharing your life with rubs with that rough part of you, it is an opportunity to heal.
We each bring our own rough edges into a relationship. We have old hurts that have not been healed. We lack self-love, we have beliefs and patterns of behavior that need attention. And when our rough edges jostle his (or hers), it can be painful—especially because, strangely, we think there shouldn’t be any problems! We’ve been led to believe that when we meet the man or woman of our dreams they will do everything right all the time because they love us.
The way we work at Life Works is that we understand we have a psychological part of ourselves. That is not who we are. That is an aspect of who we are. By seeing this aspect and knowing we are much greater—a consciousness, a spirituality, a way of seeing the world through our heart—we can look upon our psychological self, not as something to reject, but as something to work with. So, the work we do is to use the spiritual Self—that is always patient, loving, accepting—while we heal the damaged child in us, that shows up in our romantic relationships. It’s this relationship with the spiritual Self that ends up allowing us to truly heal our past. And, all the energies which have been stored, traumatized, frozen, get released back into our spiritual Self when healed.
We are mesmerized by our psychological self; we believe all it tells us. We see through lenses distorted by disappointments of not being known and understood. We have to do work on seeing our psychological self as an aspect of ourselves, but not as who we are. So, as we do that connecting with the spiritual Self, we then realize that other people are also their spiritual Self and have a psychological self. This understanding enables us to have more compassion for others’ psychological selves. Sri Gurudev always knew he was the light that moves through the chakras. He was the embodiment of knowing who he was. He knew we were limited and crippled by our defenses and that we formed defenses when things weren’t working and at the same time, he saw the light in each of us.
The most powerful way to heal is to create this relationship with your Self. This is what we do in our workshops. In my first book, The Female Power Within, there is a guided visualization to help people to access the higher Self. The way to heal is through creating a self-loving relationship which brings acceptance, compassion, forgiveness. Then, you can begin to open your heart to the part of you that needed to form these defenses that helped you to get through childhood but may no longer serve your best interests.
When you can be compassionate toward yourself, when you develop that self-loving, you begin to provide yourself with what you are looking for from others—unconditional love. The only way to be able to bring it into your life is to begin to have it with yourself. Then you can have compassion for what you wish was different about yourself (and others), without judgment, and you learn to love yourself with those things. Gurudev saw our shortcomings and yet he accepted us. He loved us and then showed us how to heal those parts of ourselves. That is why we felt so good and loved in his presence!
One of the reasons I always say “There is no prince” (or princess) is because there is no one who will love us exactly the way we want to be loved. Everyone is human and will be there for us, but will be limited in how much love they can give because they are pulling around their psychology, too. We search for the prince because we are looking to be loved exactly how we need to be. We wouldn’t need to look for a prince if we loved ourselves; we’d just look for a great person to share our lives with. And, if you don’t love yourself and accept yourself, even if others do, you will find it hard to let in the love and acceptance.
An important aspect of the relationship work we do is to help our clients better understand the differences between women and men. In my work, I’ve found women to be much more conditional about giving love: “I’ll love you if…” and we have a long checklist. I believe that comes from being in the caves together. We were in the caves longer than we have been out. Even though we’ve become more sophisticated, our biology and chemistry is still from cave times. Men are more able to be spontaneous and decide in the last moment. Women are always thinking in advance; we like to go over details, make plans. We wonder how men know it will work out. The reason is that when men went to get the meat they had to be spontaneous as they didn’t know where the meat would be coming from, where the danger might lie. They had to be ready to jump into action. We took care of everything else—we needed lists, cooperation, we needed more structure to get our jobs done.
If we just knew and expected these differences, we wouldn’t take things so personally. We think men have the same wiring as we do and that they are just stubbornly withholding. The fact is, they just don’t have the same wiring. We say to them, “If you loved me, you’d remember I love red roses.” But they don’t remember. Men are mystified by us! I think life is just simpler to men, and women experience life in a more complicated way.
What we can learn from this is that men (generally; there are always exceptions) can let things rolls off their back more easily. They can break appointments and promises with each other and they don’t mind. They are so profoundly confused when we get upset with broken promises. I’m not saying its okay to break promises, but men aren’t the enemy. To have a relationship, we need to give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they love us and just do it differently. It’s just not such a big deal to them. Sometimes it seems a man has stayed up all night to figure out how to bother us so much because they do it so perfectly! In fact, he doesn’t have bad motives, he’s just being himself; he’s different than your girlfriend.
So, if we know and expect the differences, if we know they are not withholding, if we know they are not the enemy, then we don’t have to take it all so personally and feel unloved. We can have a different attitude and thus a different conversation. Actually most men want to make women happy but don’t know how. Part of why they don’t know how is that we won’t tell them! Because we think if they loved us they would know, they would read our minds! If we don’t laugh about this, we’ll cry. Once I was doing a radio show and a man phoned in and said, “Would you tell women not to give us hints. We don’t get the hints. You have to tell us the whole thing!” My experience is you may have to say it over and over again because in the caves they didn’t have to remember. It all goes back to the caves!
There are two parts to any relationship. Part one is what is commonly referred to as the “honeymoon phase.” We fall in love and feel it’s perfect and wonderful. In part two, when the stones start to rub, we begin to wonder if we are in the wrong place with the wrong person. If we expect the rubbing we won’t be so horrified when it happens. We will understand that what we are bumping into is history that needs to be healed; we will see our partner as the vehicle to consciousness. We are on the planet, and in relationships to bring each other to consciousness—to have these tough experiences so we can wake up to know who we truly are. Or, as Sri Gurudev has us chant daily: to “lead us from the unreal to the real.”
There is a part three of relationship and it is the “happily ever after.” Part three comes when two imperfect human beings are able to see each other as the light and have compassion for their partner’s difficulties—by stepping into their shoes and seeing the world the way they see it—which can only happen after you go through part two. That’s really where the real love forms. You get to love your partner and understand their pain—understand how courageous they have been given their childhood. You open your heart and that’s where the real and lasting love is.
About the Author:
Marilyn Graman began her career as a kindergarten teacher, has been a psychotherapist in New York City since 1977 and co-founded Life Works in 1984. She is most known for her work about relationships and she sees relationship as a vehicle to greater consciousness. She has co-authored three books with her business partner, Maureen Walsh. For more information about their books, The Female Power Within, There is No Prince, and How to be Cherished and their work, please visit: www.lifeworksgroup.com.