The U. V. Family are a major part of the guest editing team for this issue. They travel and live in a motorhome that they designed and built (U.V. = ultimate vehicle), and all follow the financial independence program described by one of them, Joe Dominguez, in the Summer 1983 issue , so they are free to be of service wherever they travel. Their article on "Heart Sharing" appeared in our Spring 1984 issue, and they described their decision-making process in our Autumn 1984 issue. In this article, they more fully describe what they have learned through their own remarkable relationship.
SOMEWHERE AROUND 1980 it dawned on us that as long-time explorers of new ways to accomplish the essential human task of forming loving relationships, we might have some responsibility to share our findings. By not sharing our discoveries with others we remained simply adventurers, cultural renegades, but by allowing our "private lives" to be public knowledge, we could serve as cultural scouts, showing others what lies on our particular path and the horizons we now see. Over the past 5 years, we’ve packaged our particular gifts in lectures, workshops, newsletters and just "hanging out" in one-to-one communication. Whatever the form, we are always careful to emphasize that what we share is the truth of our experience. Nothing is included that hasn’t been "product tested," and it is all offered in the spirit of service.
To clarify who we are: we are a mobile team of people who have been in a 15-year, live-in, loving relationship. The longer term mobile core is four, and there are several dozen others based in various parts of the world with whom we link up for days, months or even years at a time – either for specific projects or to just celebrate life together. While there are as yet no recognized ceremonies in our culture that would sanctify an alliance such as ours, we consider our bonds with each other as life-long, total marriage commitments.
One time we added up the number of years of each pairing in our marriage and realized that we had well over 60 years of marriage experience. We offer this "longevity statistic" simply to underscore that we are talking from experience, not theory. Durability is one measure of the viability of any organism. Can it survive through time and adversity? We have not only survived, we have thrived – through cold winters and blistering desert summers, through major projects requiring every ounce of body and soul and through minor catastrophes requiring only a good sense of the absurd. In short, our relationships – one to another, all to each other and us to the larger community – work.
A good friend and futurist recently asked us, "Is your relationship just a product of four unique and well-matched people, or is it pro-evolution, a workable model for others and a harbinger of things to come?"
"No" (to the first) and "could be" (to the second). There is nothing at the physical or personality level that would make for easy harmony and smooth marital adjustment. Our origins span from a Nebraska turkey farm to New York City’s Spanish Harlem, from Catholic through Methodist to Jewish. The tallest one of us is not a man. The only things we had in common when we came together were inquiring minds, willingness to risk and a dogged perseverance in our search for truth. We are clearly a mongrel breed. We are not "soul mates." We were not "made for each other." At the same time, we have consciously learned to be for each other and for the world, and in this sense we do feel that how we see and how we "do" our relationship can be a blueprint for others. As for whether our particular form takes root in the culture, that’s anybody’s guess. We have met numerous high- spirited couples, fully engaged in their vocations who swear they could use another husband or wife just to keep the home front running smoothly. And who knows? As sustainability, voluntary simplicity, and service to the planet become more widely held values and priorities, synergistic teams like ours may prove to be an up-and-coming domestic lifestyle. But the truth is that the form doesn’t matter a bit to us – it’s the spirit underlying it where the real action lies.
THE POSSIBLE RELATIONSHIP
We’ve taken to calling ours a Possible Relationship (after Jean Houston’s Possible Society) because our starting point 15 years ago was really the question: Is relationship based on unconditional love possible? To answer that, we removed ourselves from the influence of our culture (by living for 15 months in a remote Mexican fishing village) and looking deeply within ourselves and each other. Was there another "road map" for the territory of relationships that would get us to the realm of love by a more direct route? Is it possible that jealousy and possessiveness are nonessential detours on the way to love? Is it possible to love more than one person with your whole being? Is it possible that love isn’t something you get from someone else? Is it possible that none of us needs "a relationship" to be happy? Is it possible (and permissible) to be consistently joyful in relationships, even when the going gets rough, even when rejection and abandonment seem imminent, even when you’re not getting what you want, and even without losing the depth and sense of honesty that suffering seems to bring? Is it possible to include sex in a close relationship without automatically buying all the unsettling emotions that seem wedded to that form of intimacy?
As we followed our noses on the trail of truth, we made one startling discovery after another. Each one arose out of our meditations and group process, so they were vividly real for us; and none of them fit with the "givers" we’d been brought up with.
LIVING UNEDITED LIVES
Intent on reaching truth, we found that the first door we needed to go through was honesty – absolute honesty. Lies, overt or covert, were sludge in the system, ultimately creating blockages and back-ups that took major digging operations to free up. As much good sense as that discovery made, we found we had a major stumbling block: we had to admit we were all inveterate "liars." We recognized that in our past we had become accustomed to selecting, consciously or unconsciously, only our best profiles, so to speak, to show to others. With each other, we committed to "living unedited lives," to showing all the shots, even the "out takes" that normally end up on the cutting room floor. Since fear of the consequences was the biggest barrier to truthing, we established some rules and rituals for a safe space to communicate – where each person shared their thoughts and feelings until they felt complete while the others listened carefully with no judgment, no interruption and no feedback (see IN CONTEXT #7). These "heart sharings" allowed us to train ourselves to be truth tellers. We learned, at a visceral level, the sickening results of letting half truths, white lies, or major withholds persist and the thrilling results of plunging into cold truth and having the coursing energy of love flow back into our relationship. Besides being liberating, this proved to be an important part of our individual process of re-integration.
THE SPACE OF LOVE
Through our heart sharings, we encountered our next unexpected lesson in relationship. When we listened without judgment and shared without editing, we found that we were consistently "in love with each other." But it wasn’t love as we had known it – love as a reaction to another person. It was love that came from simply removing all the resistance to each other. As we gained our sea legs on this ocean of love that we created nightly in our heart sharing ritual, we gradually began to carry it over into everyday life – we could be "in love" while cooking, gardening, walking by the ocean, with someone in a foul mood or by ourselves, because the door to love was within us. Love wasn’t an emotion (though wonderful emotions went along with it) and it wasn’t a response; it was more like a choice. Love was a space. It couldn’t be given or received, only entered.
What was askew in our old notion about love was that we had thought of it as though it were a vector, which in math is something that has direction and magnitude (and in biology is a disease carrier!). Since a vector is like an arrow, we dubbed this the "Cupid" model of love. Trying to love using this model looks something like this: Boy finds "someone to love." Out comes an arrow and "ping!" he shoots it over to her – and then waits. Will she shoot one of her arrows back? If not, he’s lost part of his love (good thing he played it safe and didn’t shoot all his love arrows over to her!). But if she shoots two back, wowee, she loves him more than he loves her! What if another guy comes along and shoots her an arrow? Whose love will she return? After all, there’s a limited supply of love arrows . . . and on and on the game goes. Fortunately, we made the discovery that love, rather than being a vector, was a space – a limitless space – that any of us could enter by letting go of our protective games. Each one of us had our own door to the room of love, one uniquely shaped in the image and likeness of our naked selves. We had to leave our masks and armor and baggage outside the room of love and could only retrieve them by leaving love. Judgment, taking offense, blame and guilt are a few of the components of that baggage – they exist only outside the room of love.
So we found that we don’t need anything or anybody to be in love. But how do we account for that sense of interpersonal love, that caring for one another? We found that when any one of us was in the space of love and when another person, through his or her own relinquishing of ego, entered that room of love, then we were "in love with each other" – not as a reaction to that person’s looks or personality (these qualities are outside the door), but simply by ending up in the space of love together. All people in love are in the same space. Some are so transient that one moment they’re in and the next they’re out. They have not established residence there. Others, commonly known as saints, live there full-time. From this standpoint, to say, "I love you" means that there is nothing – no personal "stuff," distortions, agendas or needs – in the way of being with you totally.
We found consistently that when we based our relationships on shared residency in the room of love, every aspect of the relationship, from the sexual to the intellectual, was easy to work out. But every time we’d run out to play with some of the baggage outside – be it sexual attraction, or anger or a desire to rescue someone – suddenly there would loom insurmountable problems. Solution: stay in love. Absurdly simple – and not always easy to live.
These discoveries clearly shifted the responsibility for all aspects of our relationships back onto each of us as individuals. Not getting enough love? Old solution: beg, borrow or steal some from someone else. New solution: reconnect with the love inside, check what ego games lured you out of the room of love and, to re-enter, let them go. The quickest access to love is giving it. For those times when any one of us felt stuck in an unhappy space that seemed impenetrable to simple truths, we had a game. We called it "Bummer Catering Service." If we couldn’t by choice lighten our own load, we’d lighten someone else’s by serving them. We even had a special hat for the Bummer Caterer to sport, complete with a sign that announced WIDE LOAD. It was infallible. If the silliness of walking around in that hat didn’t launch us back into love, the acts of kindness would. The hat has long since disappeared but the game is the same. If any of us feels unloved, the first step is . . . to love.
Personal responsibility extended to every aspect of our relationships: to perceiving, initiating and completing jobs; to communication; to sexuality (when, where and even how good); to decisions about our future focus. In essence, each of us took a vow to be 100% responsible for the quality of the relationship (not 50-50, not 100% for our part only, but for all of it) and for the positive outcome of it. We gave up the right to blame each other. A short sentence, but profoundly transforming. Miraculous breakthroughs can happen when the energy normally focused on assigning blame ("If only he would . . . ", "He made me . . . ", "If she weren’t so . . . then I wouldn’t . . . ") is instead dedicated to creative re-perception of the "problem" so that the solution can become evident.
- What am I not seeing that makes this look like a problem?
- From the perspective of love, what does this look like?
- What is the most skillful way to work with these circumstances so that it turns out perfectly for everyone concerned?
- What would it take from me for this complaint to evaporate?
- How can I provide what I think is missing instead of demanding it?
These were the questions we trained ourselves to ask. So, there was lots of growth, and precious little complaint. Sure, our minds would holler, "But he really did do it!" "She really was nasty!" "I’m right, there’s something really wrong here and it ain’t me!" "I’m putting in my 100% but what about his 100%?" But blame always backfires – its purpose is to unburden ourselves (usually of guilt) but actually it only weakens us and saps our power. So, eventually, if sometimes reluctantly, we’d get back on track and feel that surge of energy that is always there when true 100% responsibility is taken. Perhaps the most important outcome of this vow of responsibility, though, was the amount of energy that was released to be used in positive, life-serving ways.
SEXUALITY AND CO-CREATIVITY
When it came to exploring the role of the fiery energies of sexuality in that space of love we were learning to live in, we approached the matter with as much awareness and dispassion as we could muster. Where does sex fit? When is it appropriate? Is it ever appropriate? What is "sex" anyway? We took ample time to really look at the truth about sex, it’s essential nature and purpose, so that our ethics and rituals could be built on a right foundation.
As we penetrated deeper and deeper through all the murk that surrounds sex in our culture, seeking to get to the "bottom of the matter," we discovered an interesting fact. It was impossible to define sex, because we couldn’t locate its boundaries, where it began and ended. Where does sensuality end and sex begin? Orgasm . . . intercourse . . . foreplay . . . arousal . . . nudity . . . a kiss . . . a touch . . . a thought? After a fair amount of mental squinting and circumlocution, we reached the simple conclusion that all our relationships are sexual, we just include different degrees and intensities of sexual expression in each one. When we coupled this notion with the idea that love is a space that as many as choose to enter can share, we came up with sex and love being two aspects of the same essential stuff. We rejoined what the sexual revolution had split apart. Sex is union. Love is union. Both are present everywhere there is life. In every thought, in every action there is a give and take, a blending, an intercourse that can be both sexual and of love.
When we checked out different historical contexts for sexuality, we found that there had been an evolution of the meaning and purpose of it in our culture. Initially, when there was a planet to populate, sex was for procreation. In this light, orgasm could be seen as a useful mechanism to insure mating. Sometime in the last few decades, two developments radically altered this so-called biological imperative: the population bomb and the pill. Rather than contributing to the ongoing survival of the species, unchecked childbirth would ultimately terminate it – and the birth control pill came along to help staunch the flow. This made it possible for the purpose of sex to shift from procreation to re-creation, and orgasm became a supreme, much sought after pleasure. Much was gained through this sexual revolution. Sex shifted from being the man’s prerogative and pleasure to being that of the woman, as well. Through everything from scholarly journals to soap operas we got re-educated as to the function of the clitoris (and now the G-spot), foreplay, multiple orgasms, the positive role of sexual fantasy, acceptance of nudity, the value of oral sex and other forms of erotic play, and on and on. Surely the male and female liberation movements were fueled as much by the release of this positive energy as they were by the release of centuries of pent-up rage. What was lost by spotlighting our sexual selves, however, was a secure and broad-based framework for how sex fit in with the rest of life. To liberate sex, we separated it from old and apparently outmoded moral patterns . . . and lost love in the process. The permissiveness of "two consenting adults" gave us freedom, but not sustainability.
It is clearly the job of this post-liberation generation to discover/create a new ethical structure for sex – one that reintegrates sex into the total fabric of life, with an awareness of what a wellspring of creative energy our sexuality truly is. In this new context the purpose of sex is co-creation – we see a union that is both transforming for the participants and a positive contribution to the world. It is enlightenment at the level of the body. It is a bonding of whole, integrated beings in a state of unconditional love. As such, sex is divine worship. The intensity of sexual energy, when consciously stewarded and channeled toward putting love out into the world, is a high-voltage transformer. To quote Teilhard de Chardin, a French priest, paleontologist and mystic:
"Someday, after mastering the winds, tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of sexual love. Then, for the second time in history, we shall have discovered fire!"
SEXUALITY AND ALIGNMENT
But these lofty notions about sex, love and God hardly proved infallible guideposts for when to unleash the full expression of our own unique bundle of sexual energy. "We’re all one" and "It feels right in the moment" have more than once been used as seduction lines! We knew that sex had to grow out of solid relationship, and this idea brought to mind the image of a pyramid, an inherently solid structure. Imagine four levels to the human being – spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical – arranged from bottom up to form a pyramid.
Attempting to build a relationship based on physical attraction or lust (i.e., with the pyramid upside down) creates an inherently "tippy" structure. No pyramid will stand very long on its point. The sex may be fun at first, but there may be little in common at the emotional or intellectual levels, and possibly no spiritual awareness or alignment. And thus you get the classic unstable relationships that fill the offices of marriage counselors. If the people involved don’t see the essential flaw, they are likely to look for more things in the physical universe to support their relationship – getting married, having a baby, moving to the country, having another baby, building an addition onto the house, taking an expensive vacation, etc. They know something is wrong, but they don’t know where and how to fix it.
The solution, naturally, is to turn the whole pyramid right side up. Base the relationship on alignment at the most profound levels of self – on shared values and visions. Allow the relationship to build steadily on the emotional and intellectual levels, and, when all those levels are solid and in alignment, then sex can be expressed in a positive way. Sex is thus a celebration in all senses: a ritual of sanctification, an expression of gratitude for the many gifts the relationship brings to one’s life and to the world, a joyful and festive reunion, a bringing to remembrance, and potentiating the vision of a loving world. In this way, sexual energy can be a fire that empowers rather than burns, and by allowing strong, deeply aligned relationships to come to fruition sexually, there is more energy available through that bonding to go out into the world. Sex becomes a booster rocket for love that knows where it’s going.
INCLUSIVITY AND SEXUALITY
This perspective of basing relationships on alignment challenged an important old assumption about sexuality: the inherent rightness of monogamy. It is clear, both on paper and in our experience, that we could well share that alignment on all levels with more than one person. In fact, right off the bat, there were four of us. What could the context be for such a relationship, one clearly based on alignment but involving more people than two? What we eventually realized was that our relationship worked only when each of us had a sense of being included in decisions, actions and interactions occurring at all levels of the pyramid. We realized that what we had was an inclusive relationship – a primary relationship (in this case, four of us) that is solid in itself and can include others into the intimacy. The heart of an inclusive relationship is far more than a simple agreement of non-monogamy. It is founded on total honesty and on an abundance of love and satisfaction between the primary partners. There is no "need" involved at all – not for variety, stimulation, adventure, or reassurance. In fact, it is likely only workable among people who feel secure in a primary, passionate and joyful relationship with their own higher natures and thus willing to join with others only when that first commitment is honored and served. Amazingly enough, we have met others who have caught the scent of this type of bonding. Each one has added tremendously to all of us – and thus our family has grown.
In this new context of inclusivity in sex, love and relationship, the inevitability of possessiveness and jealousy evaporated. The experience of jealousy grows easily in the fertile environment of secrecy and exclusion of our mates. Early on we adopted the motto "Bring it home," which reminded us to include all of us in any friendship or sexual relationship with another person. This not only prevented "jealousy," but brought an increase of joy and aliveness to us all.
It soon became clear that jealousy is not a given, not a necessary human experience. It’s quite normal (and disturbingly habitual) in our culture, but it’s not natural. Jealousy is rooted in low self esteem, fear of abandonment, fear of rejection and a sense of powerlessness. Someone in the throes of any of these experiences might not agree that jealousy is unreal, an illusion, a figment of their imagination, but, in truth, that is what it is. Of course, that’s like saying the body isn’t real to someone with cancer – it doesn’t really help. Being such a powerful experience, however, jealousy can also be a perfect grinding wheel for the soul – and so it was with us. By choosing to work with and through the illusion of jealousy, we have each emerged strong and grounded in our own sense of self worth. Indeed, jealousy only appears when that spiritual foundation might be momentarily shaky or obscured and as such it’s a good reminder that we’ve re-entered a level of consciousness that is less than the highest for all concerned. Beyond the realm of jealousy is the delight of always being included in the love generated, always welcome and thus free to be anywhere, solidly related and at the same time completely oneself. Jealousy is certainly one of the fiercest guardians at the door to the room of love, but by the same token, finding the way around it guarantees free passage in.
Another essential building block of our marriage is our commitment to one another, which for us is "for eternity or a lifetime, whichever comes first." We did not arrive in each other’s lives with this ethic already in place, however. Quite the opposite. We each came to this marriage with a fair sampling of previous relationships, most of them long gone and little thought about. But there came a time when we felt it would be valuable to examine them for more information that would allow this current union to flourish. The first thing we noticed was that even though few of these people from the past were still in our lives, they were all still alive in our minds and certainly influenced much of our present behavior. When we honestly looked inside, we found that we were still in relationship with everyone we’d ever been intimate with – and that was exponentially true of our previous sexual relationships. For better or worse, every past lover had contributed in some way to our present identity and expression. In addition, there was an undeniable bond, sometimes experienced as guilt or remorse or righteousness, with all our past lovers. Indeed, however ineptly we had expressed it, we had touched the space of love with all of them and somehow loved them still.
It was liberating to us to acknowledge this felt connection to all present and past lovers. We each were able to deeply reconnect with those profound moments, or days, or months of "being in love with" our past lovers, and our hearts were healed and whole again.
The important awareness this gave us for our relationship ethic was that sex forges a life-long bond – we know that from experience and we intentionally make that choice. Entered into consciously, it is a willing bond of love. Done unconsciously, however, it’s an attachment, an entanglement, and most often a mess.
For us, sex IS marriage. Sex without love is actually impossible – though many times in the past our hearts were closed to experiencing that. In fact, we are in this way old fashioned: we don’t believe in pre-marital or extra-marital sex. We have added to this ethic our experience that it is indeed possible to be married to more than one person (most people in our society are, just not concurrently) and that the form of the marriage may not look anything like traditional models.
We were thrilled recently to read these words in the Oneida Community Handbooks, 1867 and 1871 (Oneida was a successful and enduring community of the 19th century that practiced "complex marriage"):
"Free love with us does not mean freedom to love today and leave tomorrow . . . our communities are families as distinctly bounded and separated from promiscuous society as ordinary households. The tie that binds us together is as permanent and sacred, to say the least, as that of marriage, for it is our religion. We have no quarrel with those who believe in exclusive dual marriage and faithfully observe it, but we have concluded that for us there is a better way. The honor and faithfulness that constitutes an ideal marriage may exist between 200 as well as two. "
So, we are not the first to stumble on this!
We have come to experience this commitment as empowering and in no way stifling or limiting (much as with 100% responsibility). In an "uncommitted" relationship, there are always back doors left slightly ajar . . . if the going gets rough . . . if he hurts me like the last guy did . . . if someone better comes along. I can always duck out and erase the relationship from my life. We can always get a divorce. These back doors are deadly. They allow a constant leakage of energy from the relationship. Just when attention to a snag in the relationship is required, minds are off fantasizing escape routes. Enough pressure to create a breakthrough can never build up, and so lives of quiet desperation persist. People say they get married in order to be committed, in order to stick it out when the going gets rough, but that’s backwards. Commitment is a matter of the heart and of integrity. Commitment is having no back doors. For us this doesn’t preclude the possibility that any one of us might find it appropriate to be elsewhere and walk out the front door with everyone’s blessings. In that case, however, the bond would not be broken, only the location would be changed.
Though we have never chosen to put words on our commitment, this is how our covenant with one another might read:
I promise that this relationship will support and draw forth the highest in you, and that the world will have the full benefit of you being in it.
I promise that whatever exists in my life outside this relationship will in no way weaken it but will strengthen and contribute to it.
I promise to do everything within the bounds of my integrity to have this relationship be an ongoing source of support to you.
PURPOSE AND SERVICE
At some point in this process of discovering a new road map for relationships, we stumbled on the "fountain of youth" for love, the way to make it last . . . and last. We noticed that whenever any one, two, three or four of us would touch in to a direct experience of love, the joy would quickly fade if we didn’t have a place to direct the natural overflow of energy. If some people or activity were on hand where we could usefully place that abundance of positive juice – well, it just kept coming through. If not, we’d get a momentary personal buzz, nice while it lasted, but soon gone. It took a while for this bit of data to actually register, but when it did, the implications were astounding. In essence, we saw that relationships are not for the individuals in them – they are for the world. When relationships ignore that they are conducted in a much larger arena called life-on- earth and do not see as their primary purpose the enrichment of this greater whole, they tend to display symptoms of dis- ease. To keep "it" going, "it" had to keep giving.
Just as we explored the purpose of sexuality by using the "levels of creation" model, we explored the purpose of relationship by examining the levels of service – i.e., who or what is the relationship serving? What is it for?
The "pro-creation" level is relationship in the service of survival, where the focus is on mutual protection and maintaining the status quo. "Re-creation" is relationship in the service of the satisfaction of the individuals in the relationship; the focus is personal growth and fulfillment. This was clearly the tone of the 60s and 70s and was an important step in deepening relationships. As with the "recreation" level of sex, though, the relationship is not fully connected with the rest of life. The "co-creative" relationship, on the other hand, is in the service of life, the world, humanity. It is in accord with our understandings from new physics and ancient eastern philosophies: all life is one; every action (including thoughts and emotions) affects everything else in the whole universe; separation is an illusion. This kind of relationship is also in accord with the current needs of the planet: to find pathways to end the nuclear threat; to end starvation; to bring economic equity; to insure human rights. We are in the midst of a global mega-crisis, challenged to bring all our resources (including our "personal" relationships) to bear on rising to a new level of consciousness where solutions can be found.
In this context of giving out rather than getting from, relationships have a purpose that is both greater than the individuals involved and in alignment with the real needs of life. And that’s the secret to lasting love, for energy = ecstasy = love, and service is what opens the valve.
The short way to say this is that the purpose of a relationship is service to the well-being of all of life. It’s not about getting anything – a mate, married, kids, grandkids, old age security, approval and acceptance, emotional support, strokes.
As we’ve matured with this commitment to service, we’ve come to understand that while it is inherently rewarding, it cannot be engaged in for the rewards, for recognition, congratulations or brownie points in heaven – not even for self esteem. A mantra that has been useful to us sums it up: "You can accomplish anything if you are willing to take credit for nothing." Service is not an activity but an attitude, a willingness to do whatever is needed for the highest outcome for all. There is no form that is universally serviceful. We’ve made it a habit to run our individual and group choices through the filter, "How does this serve?"
The cherry on top, so to speak, of these layers or principles of relationship – the purpose is service, the context is the world, the commitment is for a lifetime, the agreement is absolute honesty, the environment is unconditional love – is synergy. The layers provide the right environment for synergy to occur.
Simply stated, synergy means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. More energy is coming out of the system than went in. In The Global Brain, Peter Russell said that synergy occurs when "the goals of the individual components are in harmony with the needs of the system as a whole." Buckminster Fuller defined synergy as "the unexpected interaction of parts in combination . . . wholes always contain behaviors you couldn’t have expected when the parts were strewn in front of you." Abraham Maslow saw it as "a social order in which the individual by the same act and at the same time serves his own advantage and that of the group." And Jesus said, "When two or more of you are gathered in my name, I am there." What we say is that the law of synergy is the law of squares. Two people working together in synergy can accomplish the work of four, three can do the work of nine, four of sixteen.
Synergy is to a group as erotic love is to a couple or ecstasy is to an individual. It is the energy that is available when the brakes are off, the barriers are gone and the need for defenses drops away. It is thrilling to experience and powerful in its ability to affect the world. It is also morally neutral; the energy of synergy could as well fuel the Nazi Youth Corps as the cast of The Royal Shakespeare Company. Consequently, in our conscious invocation of this power we are mindful to do it in the context of love and service.
In her original work on synergy, the anthropologist Ruth Benedict identified several commonalities among synergistic societies, two of which are: 1) siphoning of "wealth" (i.e., when any member accumulates more of what is deemed valuable, that excess is siphoned off and redistributed to the rest); and 2) a way to make amends for errors. Sharing (not hoarding) and forgiveness (not resentment and blame) – these are two qualities built into our relationship. In our commitment to service, none of us hoards credit or recognition for enhancement of our egos. It’s about "getting the job done," not who does it. And through our commitment to honesty, we don’t harbor dark secrets or silent grudges, so mistakes can be acknowledged forthrightly and corrected. It is in the cleaning up of an error that we demonstrate our good will and real intentions. Forgiveness of oneself for having blundered is complete when the apologies are delivered and the effects of the error are corrected. Forgiveness of one another is complete when the trust that we are solidly aligned in vision is re-established. In that light, any act is simply an expression, skillful or not skillful, of the divine intent.
Fostering synergy could be seen as one way to transmute common interpersonal power struggles. A key to this is empowerment. Rather than wasting precious human time, energy and resources on "cutting each other down to size" we seek to increase and maximize the power each of us is stewarding, since that allows us as a team to be effective. It requires that each of us be comfortable with our own power, that we allow ourselves to be powerful with each other, and that we have the humility to acknowledge to others our gratitude for and inspiration from each other. This surprises people who are accustomed to intimates disempowering each other – i.e., complaining about each other’s faults and weaknesses.
To further clarify synergy, we can make an analogy to a high-power telescope. The most important component allowing such a telescope to bring Saturn into perfect focus is a series of lenses, carefully polished and in proper orientation to one another. However, if the lenses are out of alignment, if one is smeared with dirt, if they are not focused correctly or if they are the wrong distance from each other – nothing happens. The power of the telescope depends on the right relationship of its component lenses. Likewise, synergy depends on the people involved being in alignment, with a shared vision and a shared purpose, with their hearts and minds open, with the willingness to share all and with a commitment to stick with it till the game is over. With all that in place, energy can flow through that single instrument and truly light up the world.
Part of our commitment to one another is to work in synergy, and we know clearly when that is happening. With that quality of energy, miracles occur. The impossible is easy. Solutions appear before any problems crop up. No wasted energy. A clean machine. It’s worth it to us, both as individuals and as a team committed to service, to surrender whatever might be jamming the works in order to allow that kind of love to flow.
TO SUM IT ALL UP
From Get to Give: these four words summarize our entire 15 years of learning. A slightly longer condensation of our major shifts in perspective is in the accompanying chart.
It may be a number of years before this Possible Relationship meets with the kind of acceptance and respect that more traditional forms of relationship do. In the interim, here are some signposts of a Possible Relationship to use as an inner guide:
1) The relationship is self generating – it does not need to be fed energy from outside.
2) The relationship is synergistic.
3) The relationship empowers those who come in contact with it.
4) The relationship is a source of joy and comfort to those who come in contact with it.
5) The relationship elicits strongly the highest in each.
6) The relationship exudes stability, security, strength, solidity.
7) The relationship is intrinsically flexible in its form. Whatever form emerges will be perfect and in response to what is needed and wanted by the larger whole.
8) The relationship is constantly and consistently responsive to the good of the whole, and is further energized rather than drained by that responsiveness.
9) The sexual component of the relationship is a transcendent experience.
And finally, our relationship isn’t a static, carefully structured machine. It’s alive, vibrant and responsive to the magnificence of life all around us. We live with the ongoing, open-ended question: What is possible from this union? Are we each doing all that is possible to bring forth the highest in ourselves, each other, our extended family and the world? How might it be possible to live "in love with" the whole human family? As we say when coordinating our daily agendas, "That should keep us busy and out of trouble until the next assignment comes along!"