Every now and then I reach for my copy of The Power of Now and go to chapter eight. I have a bookmark there and everything (it’s a receipt for cold and flu tablets).
Chapter eight is on enlightened relationships and it’s the most reassuring but possibly difficult part of the book because what Tolle writes is exactly what you want to hear but then you come to the realization that at some point or another, you forgot the central tenet of the chapter (and a major tenet of the book).
If you aren’t familiar with the book, Eckhart Tolle wrote The Power of Now in a question and answer style. Someone asks a question or makes a comment and then he gives a response. The chapter begins with someone stating their belief that enlightenment cannot happen unless one is in a romantic relationship. They question how anyone can feel fulfilled without one.
Perhaps it’s a bit overblown to think that one could become enlightened if only they had a partner. Tons of people around the world are in romantic relationships and are not enlightened. In fact, some are downright insane. Abuse is so common in relationships that it seems strange to think that relationship = enlightenment.
Nevertheless, Tolle responds by saying that if one is looking for salvation in a relationship, then they’re pretty screwed. If you are looking for a relationship to give your life meaning, you’ve got it all wrong. Salvation (meaning peace of mind) can only be obtained right here, right now.
If you are waiting for an event to come and save you from your uneasiness or unfulfillment, you’ll be waiting forever. One must be in this moment and realize the peace that is already here. Because even if you get what you want, your peace is dependent on this external thing so if that ends, your peace ends too.
“Invariably, any satisfaction that they obtain is short-lived, so the condition of satisfaction or fulfillment is usually projected once again onto an imaginary point away from the here and now. ‘When I obtain this or am free of that — then I will be okay.’ This is the unconscious mind-set that creates the illusion of salvation in the future.”
The notion that you aren’t attractive enough, smart enough, rich enough, witty enough, fit enough or even healthy enough is how you keep yourself away from peace of mind. Some might give pause on being healthy enough, but in reality, how is it different from any other trait?
If you’ve been working on yourself, learning how to set boundaries, how to be truly intimate and learning to how to let people be who they are and you still maintain the notion that you aren’t healthy enough, do you see why that’s a problem?
You could be more than healthy enough to be in a relationship but in truth, the only thing that makes you unhealthy is the belief that you are not healthy enough for a relationship. Then you will see people who are not as healthy as you get into relationships. Why? Because they accept where they are.
Accepting your life as it is and who you are is true health. Yes, there may be room for improvement, but if you believe that you are inadequate, that is an unhealthy belief that will keep your on the treadmill of improvement potentially forever.
It’s like going to the gym to sculpt the perfect body to attract a mate but getting neurotic about each and every muscle. You don’t like yourself and until you accept yourself you will continue to suffer. It doesn’t mean you stop working out or stop aiming to be healthier. It means you are enough right now and as you continue to improve in whatever trait, you will continue to be enough.
Remember the reason we get so crazy in the first place: we want happiness and peace of mind. We think we will get this peace of mind when we get a relationship, so we do a bunch of stuff to hopefully attract someone.
However, if you just decided to accept your singleness or your current state of affairs while maintaining the interest in being with someone, you would be at peace and others would be attracted to that peace.
Now you might be wondering, “But what about the people who were attracted to the chaos within each other?” The same point applies.
“Unless and until you access the consciousness frequency of presence, all relationships, and particularly intimate relationships, are deeply flawed and ultimately dysfunctional. They may seem perfect for a while, such as when you are ‘in love,’ but invariably that apparent perfection gets disrupted as arguments, conflicts, dissatisfaction, and emotional or even physical violence occur with increasing frequency.”
Again, if the point of your romance is an escape from pain and a desire for peace, you’re screwed. Now would be a good time to ask yourself if you want a relationship because you are trying to replace pain with peace. If the answer is yes, fair enough. It’s such a prevalent issue that no one thinks anything of it and a go-to example of an enlightened relationship is rare.
People always use external things to define who they are and to dictate whether or not they should feel good about themselves. So when you see someone ravishing, it’s natural to want to be with them. But if you see them as a ticket to peace or fulfillment, you are mistaken. Accepting where you are and who you are is the only ticket to peace and fulfillment.
The truth is that one’s relationship with oneself dictates all others. Therefore, if you can observe the pain within yourself and not attack another or yourself with it, you have a shot at a successful relationship. Otherwise, when your partner does something unintentionally triggering, you will either attack them or attack yourself. Either way, it’s not attractive or endearing.
Everybody has some emotional debris that they’re clearing up. As we continue to live, we will continue to clean it up. This pain can lead one to want a relationship in order to eliminate the pain/emotional debris. But that’s not how it works. It’s actually a recipe for disaster and to accumulate more pain.
We’ve seen on countless times that romantic relationships do not hide pain (for long). They actually exacerbate it because the intimacy of the relationship causes the wounds to be more easily triggered.
But again, if you have the relationship with yourself where you can let yourself feel what you are feeling and not see your partner as the cause of your pain, and your partner can do the same, you’ll be okay.
I’ll let Tolle have the final words here:
“The greatest catalyst for change in a relationship is complete acceptance of your partner as he or she is, without needing to judge or change them in any way. That immediately takes you beyond ego. All mind games and all addictive clinging are then over. There are no victims and no perpetrators anymore, no accuser and accused.”