Blessings of love, and blessings of sumptuous light. The first of February was, in the calendar of old, the celebration of Bride, the goddess of the light, whose smouldering heart-fire burns in the dark of winter, as we begin our turn towards Spring- increased light and warmer climes. That fire is creative and romantic, as evidenced by the proximity to Valentine’s Day – but it also brightens focus and brings clarity, burning away those obfuscations that prevent us from knowing who we truly are and what we are authentically about – those occlusions that keep us from interacting – loving, sharing, expressing, receiving – from that centered place.

Lately my attention has been called to clarity in my relationships. I feel sure that you have noticed that the space of intimacy – our closest friends, families, partners – and former partners! – is the site for some of our most entrenched limitations to show their faces. I have noted the way that patterns of relating, set up from the earliest years of our lives, can dominate and even overtake our highest intentions for love and sharing.

Specifically, I have seen once again how deleterious co-dependent patterns of relating cloak our heart’s desire to give and receive love, in the most troublesome of ways.

When I say co-dependent, by way of (over) simplification, I refer to patterns arising from an unexamined sense of un-wholeness in our selves, that lead us to interact in an off-centre way. Broadly, it looks like this: we either do stuff for another person to engender a sense of wholeness in ourselves (by virtue of being needed, or even having the sense of ‘saving’ someone else), or we find ways to get another person to do stuff for us to re-assure us that we are important, significant, and that we matter, to get that sense of wholeness. The baseline here is that the un-wholeness goes unexamined, and then our process of trying to feel whole (i.e. feel good) gets tangled up with other people. So, in relationships you get a matched pair of people trying to get their need for wholeness-feeling met – usually with one person playing the part of bankrupting his or her energy stores to provide attention, love, etc., for the other person, who ceaselessly seeks out attention, love, money – whatever form of ‘yes you are important’ that is meaningful to him or her. There’s your basic structure of co-dependent relating. In my experience, an extraordinary range of unhealthy, unhelpful, sub-par, and downright crazy-pants behavior can arise out of this structure. Both parties end up in pain, without a doubt.

The trouble is in the game of trying to please and trying to get pleased. People get lost in this. And once lost in this pattern, it is very challenging to track back to the experience of wholeness and connection that is being sought, implicitly, by both parties. (Usually an unprecedented experience of wholeness and connection precedes the whole thing – like the experience of falling in love with someone. This does not just take place in romantic situations, though. This can happen in work relationships, in friendships, and in families).

I have played both roles in the co-dependency game (like many other people) – in very intense and painful ways in my life. I have had relationships of tremendous value run aground in the context of this pattern of relating. My personal experience with this has shored up a deep compassion for problems of this nature. And a passionate interest in helping people to move into a more enlightened paradigm of living.

That abiding, nourishing sense of wholeness, as the yoga tradition has relentless asserted, is something that can only be found inside yourself. Once that has happened, there is a much greater ease in all relationships. Then, wherever you may fall on this spectrum of relating (desiring to give more, or desiring to receive more), the shift may be subtle but profound. Over-givers, once rooted and centred in themselves, may still enjoy providing for others, but become able to articulate boundaries, and draw back if they feel over-taxed. Over-wanters who get clearer about themselves may come to feel more independent and secure in themselves, like they can rely less on others for a reflection of themselves, while still enjoying receiving affection and praise.

And, most significantly, what arises in the space of relationship is a clearer seeing of the other person. Suddenly the person can be seen for who they are beyond their value as an mere object through which wholeness may be achieved. Then the vein of love is unbound, and great respect flows, great caring, spontaneous affection, and joy arise – and most of all, the beautiful inherent freedom of being is affirmed.

The hardest part, I think, for folks who are deep into co-dependency, is both to perceive the pattern as the problem (not the other person!), and then to set the other person, and themselves, free to experience life – including the uncomfortable bits. It can seem, as we contemplate such a step, that we are being heartless and leaving the other in the lurch, or that we’ll never receive the love that we want. This is not the case. What we will experience is whatever comes up, which is never too much to handle, if we become skilled in surfing the waves of our lives. Of course, for the yogi, experiencing the WHOLE of our lives, without resistance, is the route to wholeness, and the depth of the heart.

Our yoga practice is a superhero’s toolbox of methods for gaining access to the radiant heart-fire. With these tools, we cut through the matrix of un-wholeness, becoming searingly clear, and see the world, and one another, anew, again and again. Join me in class this month for practices to re-route our focus into center, for the sake of clear and loving relating with others.