Monday, December 13, 2010

Ask Asha: Dealing with Unwise Attractions

[You can ask your own question here.]


Hello, I need some help in regards to human relationships. Recently I found myself being attracted to this woman who works in my office. She is a very nice person at heart but her interests and personality is so very different from mine. Yet I cannot help being drawn to her..Day and night my mind is raked by fierce storms of emotion and I feel envy, jealousy etc..I try so hard to follow Masters advice on loving her on a divine level but I haven’t yet succeeded. Is there a way to get some solace?

From India


Dear V:

When you say she is a “very nice person at heart,” does that mean she is less nice on the outside? You say her interests and personality are “different from mine.” Presumably you mean in some way incompatible with yours?

One person could like opera and another walking outside in Nature. Those are different interests, but both are refined activities.

If one person, however, likes to meditate and the other likes to drink beer and go disco dancing (if that is what it is still called!) then those are quite incompatible.

Even though you haven’t been explicit, I suspect that you are talking “incompatible,” not merely different.

Although the idea of arranged marriages would be impossible to impose on Western society — habituated as we are to having “free” choice in these matters — there is a lot of wisdom behind that custom. Namely this: It is not that hard to love someone. It is effortless to be “attracted” for any number of reasons, not all of them high-minded (nor, to be fair, not all of them gross either, in the sense of unrefined).

We can have lots of karma with people, and “recognize” them from past lives. This happens all the time. But not all of these connections are appropriate to live out in this incarnation. Much of the karma in these kinds of infatuations (where there is no true compatibility) is not good — if your goal is happiness and freedom, rather than endless experiences.

The great challenge is not just to find someone to whom you feel “attracted,” the challenge is to make a successful life with another person. That is where compatible values, goals, and general approach to life are essential.

Those a little outside the “heat of the moment” usually are better able to evaluate the long-term viability of a relationship. The ones most closely involved too often have their judgment distorted by desires of all kinds. Sexual is the most obvious, but other desires also come into play — home, children, financial security, social status, etc. Thus the benefit of arranged marriages, where these various priorities can be sorted out objectively. It isn’t the society we live in now, but it is helpful to appreciate why, in so many cultures for so many centuries, this has been the custom.

No doubt you have some kind of a “karmic connection” to this woman; otherwise you wouldn’t be haunted by the thought of her as you seem to be. But having karma with someone is not the same as having dharma with that person.

Karma means that cause and effect is working on you. And you are invited by the cosmic force to set in motion more cause and effect. Probably lots of painful cause and effect. To get involved with someone that you know from the start does not share your fundamental view of life (I am assuming that this is true) pretty much guarantees that once the fires cool a bit you are in for a lot of suffering. And if you should be so unlucky as to marry and have children, then you get to spread the suffering out beyond yourself and this woman. Not a good plan.

Dharma are those actions which expand your consciousness and move you closer to God. Dharma is to resist unwise attractions. Dharma is to trust that you don’t have to practice by having relationships that are unsuitable, but can wait — even if tempted and lonely — until a relationship with an objective chance of success comes along. Not a popular teaching these days for sure. So no one is asking you to be perfect. Just do your best.

In the meantime, what to do about your preoccupation with this woman? Well, above all, don’t feed it. Even though everything in you is pushing you to be close to her, to think about her, to spend time with her if you can — Don’t. Is this easy? No, of course not. This is the cosmic play, the way God trains us to be strong in our commitment to high ideals. You don’t get strong without being tested.

You may think this is a bad system, but as the gurus tell us repeatedly, those who have walked the path of righteousness to the end never say it wasn’t worth it.

The benefits of dharma are not necessarily obvious at the beginning, but a few trips down the karma path, rather than the dharma path, have a way of teaching us pretty fast.

Do everything you can to stay away from this woman. And avoid any kind of personal interactions, and above, don’t be alone with her. You can’t afford to play around with this kind of energy. It is simply too strong.

Forget about “loving her on a divine level.” That is not the appropriate advice for this situation. Now is the time for complete separation, inwardly as well as outwardly.

When you are in the throes of an attraction, you shouldn’t think of the object of your infatuation at all. Any mental or emotional energy directed to her will immediately draw you back into the kind of attraction you are trying to escape. Don’t kid yourself. Be realistic.

If you have to see her at work, complete separation might not be possible, but if you are honest you can tell the difference between what is imposed upon you by circumstances and what you are seeking out because of desire.

You think it is very important to relate to her on some level, but that is karma calling, not dharma.

You can’t, however, replace your preoccupation with nothing at all. Nature abhors a vacuum. You have to fill your day-dreaming time, or the social time you would try to spend with her, with other fulfilling (I would say more fulfilling, but it may not feel like that at first) activities.

Get involved in whatever your interests actually are. Be in uplifting company. Develop yourself spiritually, to give you more inward strength. Stay away as much as you can from anything romantically or sexually stimulating. (Difficult to do in this society, but at least give it a try!)

And pray. Continuously. Ask God and Gurus to free you from this preoccupation, but then do your part to extricate yourself. Don’t, however, use that prayer time as an excuse to focus on her again! The mind is very tricky. Rather than being specific, better to pray, “Lord, help me to live a life that is pleasing to Thee.” He’ll know what you mean.

You’ll be surprised, once you commit yourself to this course of action, that it isn’t that hard. And even if it is, what choice do you have? Guaranteed, a bad relationship is MUCH worse.

And if you fail from time to time, and the attraction sweeps you into unwise interactions, extricate yourself as soon as you can. Don’t say, “I have failed,” but only that, “I haven’t yet succeeded.”

Eventually you will look back and say, “Thank God I never followed that attraction. How unfortunate that would have been.”

Good luck!

Nayaswami Asha

[Questions and answers from other Ananda ministers worldwide can be found on the Ask the Experts page of]

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