Radha and Gary Gopal Bello are Yoga teachers, seminar leaders and therapists. Gopal is the former director of the Integral Yoga Institute of Montreal. He has a Master’s Degree in Psychology and studied with Ron Kurtz (Hakomi Therapy). Radha and Gopal also spent 16 years training with a meditation master in the Himalayas. In this candid conversation, they share very honestly and openly—as they do in the workshops they lead together—about the principles and practices that have made their 40+ year marriage so fulfilling.
Integral Yoga Magazine: What makes your relationship work so well?
Gopal Bello: Our relationship is about Oneness, the state of two individuals co-creating their life together. We understand that every situation offers us an opportunity to know more about ourselves. We are mirrors for each other, reflecting our imbalances and our enlightenment. Our life is dedicated to what Sri Gurudev taught us in the 1970’s: to always focus on our spiritual practices. With right livelihood and maintaining an open heart, you will always be able to expertly face life’s challenges.
Radha Bello: We met at an Integral Yoga retreat. So, right from the start, our spiritual and emotional life was essential to us. This has been the glue for our relationship—I support that in him and he supports it in me.
GB: Because our focus is on our practices and living the state of Oneness as purely as we can, it’s always obvious to us when either of us is out of balance. Our vow is to support the highest in each other; acceptance, compassion and empathy guide us on our path. What I saw in Gurudev, what attracted me to his teachings, was that I could see the potential: that I too could be accepting, loving and in balance no matter what was happening in the external world.
IYM: How do you handle the relationship challenges?
GB: Our agreement is that if we are upset, instead of resorting to blame—resulting almost always in a damaged ego—we take full responsibility for our feelings. The immediate next step requires us to take a pause! The pause allows us the space and time to regain our balance. Maybe a walk on the beach will do it, or a visit to our meditation room; either way we take an adult version of a “time-out.” Whatever we choose, the goal is always to—as soon as possible—reconnect to our peaceful and loving Self. Radha and I have realized the importance of activating the “pause button” before we respond in a manner we might regret later.
RB: It doesn’t mean when you activate the “pause button” you ignore the situation; rather it is a complete and full acceptance of your part in the drama. Instead of blaming Gopal for hurting my feelings, as soon as possible I reconnect to my center, then with an open heart and mind, I deal with the situation.
GP: And our agreement is that we always connect after we’ve taken a pause. The pause is the opportunity to get us back into balance.
IYM: How do you teach this in the context of your workshops?
GB: We believe that everyone has experienced that peaceful and balanced state of being; therefore it actually takes little time to train couples to open their hearts and minds to each other. For example, one thing we teach is Natarajasana [the Dancing Siva]—a balancing pose—as a couples pose. You hold onto each other’s hand lightly. If Radha starts getting out of balance, I can feel that immediately and so I hold her and compensate until she gets back into balance and vice-versa. When we are both out of balance, then we are on the floor—literally [laughs]. So we start over. Essentially what we are doing is taking the basic tenets of Integral Yoga and living them in our marriage.
RB: We employ many different approaches: Aikido, Hatha Yoga, awareness techniques, meditation and breathing exercises and authentic dialoguing. All of these approaches enable the participants to learn how to move past the conflict and co-create the solution.
IYM: How do you do that?
GB: The basic teachings of Integral Yoga tell us that the Self exists outside the mental, energetic and physical dimensions. Our true authentic Self is the Knower, the divine observer—that part of us is eternally free. When I am Self-connected, I experience myself in a harmonious relationship with others; there is an effortless flow.
RB: A joy.
GB: When you are connected to that Knower, your life automatically follows the principles of what our meditation teacher named, “the vision of oneness.” It propels you to act in the world following yama and niyama [the ethical precepts of Raja Yoga]. We saw Sri Gurudev live that state. When I meditate my pranic [energy] system becomes balanced; I am better able to observe all aspects of my life. If I notice myself becoming needy and lonely, expecting Radha to make me okay, it is easy to take responsibility for my emotions and ‘self-correct.’
IYM: But, shouldn’t she be there for you?
GB: If I am approaching her with neediness, and if I get a hug from her, then the hug covers over my imbalance and I become dependent on her, and forget to work on myself. Our agreement is to lovingly remind each other to reconnect to Self.
RB: It’s easy to talk about what we should do, but we need tools to be successful and that is what Yoga has given us. You strengthen the relationship to your Self so you can deal with the big issues when they arise.
IYM: Some will wonder if that really works when applied to relationships.
GB: Radha and I have been trained in the practice of meditation; we have discovered what really works is to remain centered before dealing with the many challenges of being married. Our work is about awakening the Knower by reconnecting to Self. It is a process of becoming aware, of accepting what is and being motivated to make the changes necessary so you may live your life in harmony with whatever is unfolding in front of you—whether it meets your preferences or not. And often it doesn’t!
IYM: So what is your formula for staying in balance?
RB: We don’t have just one formula. Everyone is looking for the perfect solution, the one answer to relationship problems. But, there is no formula, no one answer; we need to be open to the place within us that knows the solution to each and every situation.
GB: We basically invite participants to join our relationship for the weekend. We open our process, our failures, our practices, and our successes. There is no one perfect way to think that will bring harmony. There is no one perfect Yoga pose that will bring perfect health to the body. When we understand the ever-changing nature of the mind and world, we can flow with the challenges, learning and supporting each other in the process.
IYM: How important is respect? There’s the adage, “familiarity breeds contempt.”
GB: Respect is a natural response when you are experiencing the “vision of oneness.” Let me give an example. If I am centered, even if Radha is upset with me, I will respect her perspective, even though I may disagree with her conclusions.
RB: We are very different. He is incredibly strong and outgoing while I am very quiet and inward. When we were first married, we expected the other to automatically follow our particular style.
GB: Yeah, “Do it like me and it will all work.”
RB: My way was to close up in a shell. We went through that for awhile until we learned to respect our strengths and weaknesses.
IYM: Couples often seem to get caught in the “who is right” game.
GB: Being right is no longer important in our relationship. Staying in a state of Oneness or harmony is more essential. That’s a big one! Let’s say we had an agreement that I would call Radha at a certain time. I called but she never got my message. I know I called. She knows I didn’t call. Who is right? I would rather remain in harmony with her than be right. And, who knows, maybe a bolt of lightening hit the answering machine (which happens often in South Florida) and my message got erased. Instead I choose to say, “I don’t know what happened, but I apologize that you didn’t get my message.”
RB: What good does it do to be right and feel terrible?
IYM: Would you share any personal experiences with Swami Satchidananda?
GB: I was driving Gurudev to a lecture at McGill University (Montreal) in 1975. We stopped at a light. He turned to me, stared into my eyes and pronounced: “Gopal, I have a lot of followers.” At that moment the light changed and as I continued driving my heart sank. My mind raced to a sudden conclusion: “I picked the wrong Guru; he’s an egomaniac.” I was confused, my mind swimming in thoughts. When we stopped at another traffic light, he again locked eyes with me and announced: “Don’t be a follower; be a swallower.” He was offering me an opportunity to experience the truth for myself. Gurudev taught us that we are already perfect. We merely have to apply these teachings to our marriage every day; we are very pleased with the results.
The Bellos offer programs, workshops, and life coaching. For more information, please visit: www.garyandradhabello.com