You may imagine that there could not be two topics farther apart than yoga and dating. But they do have much in common. In yoga, one seeks a connection to the divine. In dating, one seeks a connection to a companion. The basic human need for connection is universal. Searching for a partner, searching for inner peace, both require a constant reassessment and self-examination. Is this really what I want? Should I try that again? Am I going in the right direction? These are the questions we ask ourselves. Why not consider the philosophy of yoga as your philosophy of dating?
We live in a culture centered on couples and families. While more people in America are living alone than ever before, most of them feel there is a constant expectation to find a mate. Even without the pressure to procreate, most single adults feel that they are relegated to a lesser social status. The desire for a partner is a major part of life. But we put this enormous task on the slender foundation of dating, an activity infamous for its shallowness and lack of direction.
The challenge of being true to your yoga and looking for a partner can be difficult. If you are committed to giving a certain amount of your income to charity, should it trouble your conscience to spend money on a date? If you are practicing bramhacharya, how should you respond to sexual temptation or pressure? What about dating someone who has lots of delightful qualities, but is a dedicated carnivore? The search for the perfect partner is likely to turn up lots of almost-perfect partners. How and when is it appropriate to compromise?
The goal of dating is to find someone with whom you can be yourself. If you enter into a relationship with someone, putting up a false front in hopes of being accepted cannot work. Being yourself, (your committed to yoga self) is the only way to go. Be honest about your preferences and if the person you are with does not respect them, just know that this is not the one for you.
The reality of dating is that people are looking for someone to marry. The reality of marriage is that it is at the other end of the spectrum from dating. It’s like training to be a ballet dancer, so you can have a career in ice hockey. While it’s always good to cultivate balance and grace, there are a whole other set of skills required for success. Luckily, yoga can give you all the skills you need to have a good relationship.
The romantic cliché of “long walks on the beach” may be the ideal test. Ask someone to accompany you on an activity that costs nothing, celebrates nature, and gives you time to talk together without the pressure of a big crowd or the competition of loud music. If you invite someone to share an activity that you truly enjoy and discover that they truly enjoy it too, you have discovered a companion. It might be a hike in a canyon or a walk through a public garden, but a moment alone together away from the rush can be a way to honestly connect.
Putting dating into the perspective of yoga gives you the chance to give yourself a foundation for what you are looking for, and also gives you a way to know if the person you are interested in will be a good partner. Applying the philosophy of yoga, you will find a partner who shares your priorities and your views.
First, commit yourself to a community of like-minded souls. If you live in a big urban area, commit yourself to as many communities as you can, so long as they are focused on yogic virtues. Are you passionate about ahimsa? Seek out American Friends (Society of Quakers), Unitarian Universalists, and Buddhist Meditation societies. The more people you meet, the better your chances of meeting someone you connect with. Are you ardent about vegetarianism? Join a supper club, find a cooking class, and bring your favorite dish to a potluck. You can even enjoy a vegetarian restaurant, but don’t have it delivered. It’s rarely possible to meet new people in your own house.
As a yogi, you cannot seek the divine unless you believe in the divine. Just so, unless you know that you are lovable, you cannot offer your love. Adopt the practice of seeking the divine spark in everyone. Like chanting a mantra, keep your mind attuned to the spark of light in every being. When you see that everyone is a reflection of the creator, you must know that you are too.
Allow yourself to reach as high as you can. While we laughingly ascribe a universal list of desirable traits to be sought- Attractive and wealthy are always in the top five- consider the qualities that you are truly attracted to. Think of the adults that you knew when you were a child, and consider why you liked them. Perhaps they were imaginative, or patient, or good listeners. You knew they were honest, or kind. As children, we did not have years of social conditioning and other people’s expectations crowding out our own feelings in our hearts. In our society, the longer you have been dating (without finding a partner) the louder those other voices become as we doubt our own ideals. Is it still possible to find the partner we want? Let yourself remember the people you liked when you were too small to consider other people’s opinions. The pure soul within can be your best guide. As your yoga practice focuses your mind and your heart on real virtues, listen to your inner voice. Assure yourself that just as you can embody these virtues, so you can find a partner who does, too.
Focus on keeping the fourth chakra, the heart center, open and flowing. Creating the physical (and metaphysical) space for love opens the doors of possibility, and allows love to see the way in. Often, people connect at the second chakra (Sexuality) or the sixth chakra (Intellect) and feel that the connection is strong enough to support a relationship. But without the heart, things will not grow into partnership. Remind yourself that everyone is on their own path, and know that the spark of divinity is in all people. Patience and perseverance are vital qualities, and staying centered in the fourth chakra allows you to enjoy them and make the most of them.
It is a misunderstanding to see the life of a yogi as one of ascetic sacrifice, renouncing the world for decades of meditation. Many of the yogis who have been great examples to the world have also been people with spouses, families, and jobs. They found all this worldly success just the same way, by seeking people whose values they shared and respected, and introducing themselves. Living in the world is a role no less sacred, and in many ways, much more demanding, than being a monk. So don’t think of your search for a partner as un-yogic. It can enhance and expand your practice and your life in every way.
Copyright Yoga Next, 2012
All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced in any form without written permission from Yoga Next.