The Seven Relationships discussed by Riane Eisler in her book The Power of Partnership provided the framework for our online Partnership Course. For me, one of the most important concepts was the first of these relationships, relationship with one’s self. I never thought of the quest for self knowledge and inner balance in these terms.
Anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of psychology understands how our earliest relationships in family and society color and even program our entire perception and experience of life. Our concept of self cannot be developed apart from those early relationships and as our circles of interaction expand, the relationships we develop through our own agency. When those same relations, envisioned by Riane as relationship with intimate others, community, nation, and world, are viewed through the dominator-partnership continuum, it brings into focus the “mixed bag” of human experience and the choice we might exercise, both individually and collectively in creating the future we want.
What I found particularly empowering is that this entire sense of choice relates equally, and perhaps even more fundamentally, to one’s relationship with one’s SELF, because that is the one area where we have the most freedom to exercise our choice, and once we do it will change all other relations going forward. To begin to realize the extent to which we have internalized those voices of early experience, and to locate those inner voices on the same spectrum allows us to clearly see how we can sometimes we our own worst “enemy”=our own worst “dominator.”
Finally the last two relationships that Riane discusses in her book, relationship with nature and relationship with “spirit” brings her vision full circle. As someone who has been exploring, researching, writing, and teaching about spirituality for my entire life, I have also realized that if one’s sense of self BEGINS (is formed) in the earliest and most intimate relations within families, one’s sense of self ENDS (finds its ultimate meaning) in nature and spirit. We cannot live without some sense of purpose or meaning, some worldview that defines us in relationship to the “transcendent,” that which lies beyond. And yet our understanding of transcendence has equally important implications for our immanent reality, the “here and now” of our lives.
Our relationship with community, nation and world are defined by mostly unconscious assumptions about nature, the environment that collectively sustains us (or not), and what lies beyond, that which encompasses and supports experience as we know it. Our imagination of nature and spirit (theistic or not) also reflects the dominator-partnership spectrum. In my own life, having been greatly influenced by Hindu yogic and Shakta philosophy and practice, I imagine nature and spirit in intimate relationship to each other. Transcendence and immanence, envisioned as the gendered “dance” of Shiva and Shakti has been a powerful theme in my intellectual and artistic life. As an Indian classical dancer I have literally danced this theme and as a scholar I have written about the way this interaction plays out in Hindu ritual and practice. But to actually practice this partnership on a practical day to day basis is another matter. One of the most satisfying aspects of this course has been to integrate and reflect upon the most important themes of my life through the lens of the Power of Partnership. By becoming conscious of patterns of domination and instead envisioning and practicing partnership with nature and spirit, we can reconfigure our relationship to self and transform our entire experience of life. I am very grateful.
photo by Roxanne Kamayani Gupta