Maybe love is like rain.
Sometimes gentle, sometimes torrential,
flooding, eroding, quiet, steady,
filling the earth, collecting in hidden springs.
When it rains, when we love, new life grows.
— Carol Gilligan, The Birth of Pleasure
Everything is connected, nothing exists independently, nor any phenomenon or living being manifests itself in complete isolation. Each individual existence contributes to the creation of the environment that supports all other beings. This means that we are all connected to every other living thing and that our actions cause an effect on the environment and on others, the same way that the environment, others and what surrounds us has a effect in our experience, understanding this interconnected quality of life may lead humanity to a more integrated perspective.
This reminds me of the god Indra, representing the forces of nature. Hanging within the walls of his dwelling is a vast net that stretches infinitely into all directions, to each knot in the net is attached a multi-faceted jewel. Each jewel reflects all the other jewels creating a splendorous multi-dimensional luminosity.
Perceiving the existence of this spiritual net may help us live as being part of the earth, the universe and beyond, as each jewel we reflect the light of all others.
Feeling linked through the net, knowing and recognizing that what’s shared, learned and experienced between people is transmitted to the other human beings, to each of the jewels in the universal net. Holding this true means to be conscious in relationship to others because what we feel, do and share has a ripple effect into all of life. Being aware of my patterns, attachments, personality tendencies and predominant worldviews is elemental to knowing what I might bring into relationship.
What calls us to open our hearts? to be vulnerable? to consider the virtues that reinforce an awakened compassionate relatedness to life? Possibly it is the ‘process’ of coming into our own, the unborn (described in the Buddhist tradition), as in surrendering into being born into the deathless truth of our true nature. From the unborn we enter relationship with presence, authenticity, courage, compassion and love.
Being in relationship is a complex experience and difficulties may arise when two (or more) human beings come together. People share different degrees of resonance in relationships. Wilber describes that there are two different modes in which we enter into relationship:
- the first mode is relationship-as-solidarity (relating to another subject because they mirror your values, ethnicity, gender or nationality, etc.);
- the second is relationship-as-difference (relating to another subject as a subject despite the fact that they are different from you in important ways).
It is easy to find resonance when we are in relationship with someone that shares our same values, affinity in personalities, interests and worldview. The challenge may come when there are differences that make difficult to come to understanding or to feeling connected.
“We”, The Multi-dimensional Light
Since the moment we are born we experience embeddedness in relationship to our parents or caregivers. We come from oneness and through the pain of birth we experience in a deep sense, that death is imminent and throughout our life we feel the split into the meaning of being. To contemplate the temporality of our existence at each moment is to experience life, relationship and duality. Having a physical body and awareness that the other is separate from the us, gives the possibility to relate with another. The movement, the desire for unity starts once we experience the separateness from our inner sense of being, from emptiness, the creative life force or “God”. The process of finding oneness, of feeling complete, may become a life’s journey. Experiencing the seemingly separation from oneness in relationship with the other is part of coming back into your own. According to relationality theory, human beings become human beings through attachments to and internalizations of their caregivers and the particular culture they embody. Each person has various ways in which to relate to another, these ways in which we relate might be difficult to discern possibly because of our embeddedness into our relations with others, also from not being in touch with our true self.
From the beginning, as babies we develop modes of relating and organizing experiences that continues throughout life, by differentiating and undifferentiating oneself from others. Our way of relating others develops mainly through our experiences with our mother, father and other caregivers. The infant has a need to relate to the mother (father and other caregivers) for survival, when the child is fulfilled and satisfied, a state of relatedness is established. And so with time the child develops certain ways of attachment that will influence the way he/she bonds with others.
The child’s brain develops circuits responsible for healthy emotion regulation from the relationship with parents or caregivers, by creating neural connections and systems shaped from receiving love and care. Through the parents’ or caregiver’s love, attention and care, the baby produces endorphins that provide a feeling of joy, of connection and motivation. Therefore as we are conditioned by what we experience since we are conceived, if mother is stressed, sad or unhappy we will also experience that disconnection. As adults it is possible to create and experience new forms of bonding and to be in conscious relationship. Being self aware allows to change how we relate to others, without falling into more automatic tendencies.
It is important to understand our abilities and tendencies to relate to others as a skill to observe the arising modes according to the different contexts. This knowledge in alliance with the intention to be mindful in relationship supports us into being present to the illusory and real aspects of togetherness. In the space of “We” there are certain shared structures, codes or systems of rules; there are shared feelings, thoughts and experiences. The dimension of “We” comes from mutual resonance, and it is experienced in as a subtle space of relationship. The dimension of relationship has a subtle presence of its own when it is shaped by two or more people connecting and resonating, it is the multi-dimensional light that happens when the jewels shine unto each other.
Conditioning is the unconscious forms of behavior learned from past personal experiences, beliefs and culture. Some of our conditioning comes from the type of emotional attachment we formed with our parents or caregivers. Various attachment theories have been developed from observing behavior of mother-child relationships regarding the different degrees of alignment and emotional resonance.
Alignment refers to a person’s state being altered to approximate that of the other member of the dyad. Alignment can happen from both members of the dyad or only one. Emotional resonance includes the alignment of states and also the ways in which the interaction affects the individuals emotionally including the mind According to Bowlby’s theory there are four forms of attachment (Siegel, 1999):
- Security: parents respond to child’s needs in an appropriate, prompt and consistent manner. The child uses the mother, father or caregiver as a secure base for exploration. The child protests if the mother, father or caregiver leaves and seeks proximity when the parent returns. The child is able to regulate states and emotions from connection-disconnection transactions developing a flexibility to respond.
- Avoidant: parent might encourage independent behavior from child, with little response to distress of child. The child feels like there’s no attachment, so he/she might have lower self-esteem and lower self-image. When parent leaves the child shows little distress and no visible response when the parent returns. The child learns to minimize the expression of emotional attachment that helps to deal with overwhelming feelings of frustration with caregiver’s lack of response.
- Ambivalent: the parent might not be available consistently and be neglectful to child. The child is distressed when the parent leaves but shows ambivalence, anger and not able to warm up to parent upon return. Child seeks proximity to parent but resists angrily when this is achieved. The child has to rely on the self for ineffective emotion regulation since the experience of ambivalent attachment to parent develops an inconsistent attunement and repair system response to parent.
- Disorganized: the parent has an abusive behavior towards child, frightening, maltreatment and lack of affective communication. Child is not able to regulate emotional states because of the fear and confusion from the parent’s behavior as unsafe. The child lacks a coherent attachment strategy shown by contradictory and disoriented behavior.
Knowing what are the forms of attachment that are part of our conditioning from which we bond to others allows us to be aware of the automatic tendencies of how we relate not only to others but also to ourselves, to our thinking patterns and belief systems.
In relationship, we may discover more of ourselves, we enter a space in which the other joins us into a multidimensional reflection. It is in conscious relatedness that we are able to appreciate the light that the other shares with us so that in our entanglement we both shine as the jewels from Indra’s net. These can take many forms it is not necessarily an uncomplicated relatedness while connecting to our true nature means we participate authentically. Recovering the connection to our true nature is a deconstruction process, of encountering the everyday moments with a willingness to see the most painful aspect while learning to relate to the grief point. From the witness the passionate force must arise so that we create the ways to come into the unborn. Theories of attachment and developmental psychology are useful tools to embrace and introspect into who we are and move forward into a deeper intersubjective space. Growing into our emotional selves is part of the process of development, without this there’s no real change even if we are able to hold multiple perspectives.
Life has its share of difficulties and it is up to us in how we engage in it all. Relationships are just one more way in which we care for ourselves, for others and for the universe. We are part of the world, of our communities, of the other and this infuses a boundless sense of responsibility in all behavior. Relationship may gives us a deep sense of realization, fulfillment and meaning in life if we approach it as a sacred entanglement of beings.
The minute I heard my first love story,
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere,
they’re in each other all along.
Cook, F.H. (1977) Hua-Yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra Library of Congress Publication, Penssylvania.
Forman, M. (2012) Retrieved from forum discussion, Intersubjectivity course, winter 2011, JFK University.
Hargens, S. (2001) Intersubjective Musings. Journal of Consciousness Studies.
Kegan, R. (1994) In Over Our Heads. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.
Levine, S. & Levine, O. (1995) Embracing the Beloved. Anchor Books, New York, NY.
Mitchell, S. (2000) Relationality, From Attachment to Intersubjectivity. Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, New York, NY.
Siegel, D. J. (1999) The Developing Mind. The Guildford Press, New York, NY.
Siegel, D. J. (2001) Toward an Interpersonal Neurobiology of the Developing Mind: attachment relationships, “mindsight” and neural integration. Infant Mental Health Journal. Vol. 22, (1-2).
Wilber, K. (2006) Integral Spirituality. Shambala Publications, Boston. MA.
About the Author
Paulina Alanis is a transformative coach weaving psycho-shamanic exploration, shadow work and altered states within an integral practice. During her Integral Theory MA studies she focused on shamanism and altered states as elemental for personal growth. Paulina has been in Mexico researching on the use of Ibogaine for self-realization and psychospiritual work. Her research integrates perspectives from phenomenology, hermeneutics and empirical analysis to answer the question how to use Ibogaine for transformative work within a coaching program. Paulina was trained by Integral Coaching Canada.