As preparation for the Soul-Centered Series free webinar with Jack Pransky, I read his latest book Seduced by Consciousness. I really enjoyed the first book I read of his, Somebody Should Have Told Us and was not disappointed with this one. In the book, Jack shares his insights into relationships. And it reminded me of a very painful learning curve I experienced in my marriage.
In the early days of being married to Angus, I would occasionally find myself attracted to another man. It would never be intentional. It would just happen and then it would pass. I would get over it. I never found it destabilizing, and it did not feel threatening to our marriage. Looking back I can see that when that happened, even though I didn’t want to leave my marriage, I believed at least temporarily that my life would be better if I was with someone else. It looked like I would have less suffering if I was with that person. I was particularly vulnerable at times when I felt scared and insecure. Through that lens, another man would catch my attention and look like they had the solution to my problem.
None of this was an issue until I hit a really low mood nine years into our marriage. I was exhausted. I had gone back to work full-time when our second daughter was three months old, and it felt like I spent a huge amount of energy nursing her at night and pumping milk during the day, on top of working full-time. There was a bus strike in LA that lasted for months and my commute home from work would sometimes take an hour and a half. I wasn’t feeling well so went to get my blood work done and my TSH was in the 90s. A normal range is .5-3. My doctor nearly fell off his seat looking at the results. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease. And to top it off Angus was having a really hard time in his business so he was the primary caregiver for our two girls and keeper of the home while trying to figure out what to do with his photographic career. When I would come home exhausted from my day he would often be in a foul mood exasperated from his day of childcare, cooking, and cleaning. This was not his first choice or mine. I would have been very happy to swap roles, but I didn’t trust what would happen to us financially if I did that. As my resentment built, rapport in our relationship hit an all-time low.
I decided I needed to change and started working with a coach. This breathed new life into me. I felt myself coming alive, but to my dismay, I found myself attracted to another man. But this time I didn’t have perspective. It felt real to me that life would be better with him. I told Angus about my feelings and he poo-pooed them. He suggested I just be friends. This did not work. The attraction only got stronger. I sought out help by seeing a therapist. She suggested I ask Angus if he would be willing to have an open relationship. In my naïveté, I asked Angus and he was incredulous. His answer was an emphatic no and this set the course for the unraveling of our marriage. I pursued the relationship with the other man. Angus also found someone he was interested, and we parted ways.
At this point, I started to unravel. I was experiencing the opposite of mental well-being. Definitely having a mental and emotional breakdown. I stayed with a friend for a week and found that helpful, but I eventually needed to go home and face being a single parent. I had no idea how I was going to cope. I was working for a preschool non-profit and my salary was in the mid-20k range plus a preschool subsidy. Nowhere near enough for a family to live on in LA.
As I was spiraling down thoughts of suicide became more compelling. I was desperate and it looked like I had ruined my life.
During this time my coach recommended I read The Relationship Handbook by George Pransky. Even without knowing the theosophical foundation of the book I was impacted by it. I began feeling more reassured. It started to connect with my resilience. As my mind settled it became clear to me that I had made a huge mistake in getting involved with this other man. It was crystal clear to me so I ended the relationship. I am sure this felt very abrupt and cold to him, but I just knew it was what I needed to do. That evening after my daughters were asleep a huge peace came over me. I was alone, I felt okay, and I knew that I would always be okay. Not okay in the way that things would always work out to my preference, but okay in the sense that I would be able to handle whatever came my way. My shame and judgment lifted from me, and I felt an immense flooding of love and acceptance within myself.
That same evening a couple of hours later when I was relaxing into these deeper feelings within myself, I got a call from Angus. He was on his way home from a personal development workshop he had attended with his “new friend.” He had dropped her off and was on his way home to where he was staying. He pulled over and called me when he reached a fork in the road. One way would take him home to where I was. The other direction would take him to where he was staying.
I am so grateful for the state of mind I was in when he called. My heart was open. The resentment was gone. I could see what an amazing man he is. He also was in this open-hearted place and able to acknowledge how he hadn’t kept his agreements regarding our plan on how we would raise a family. The content of what we discussed is not as important as the ability we each had to return to our natural state of love within ourselves and from that, we were able to see each other clearly and feel the genuine love, care, and respect that existed.
Needless to say, Angus took the fork home to our house. We have been together ever since. This was a huge learning for me in terms of the power of thought and how compelling the illusion can be — enough for me to disrupt a family over. I got a much greater respect for being more skeptical of the illusion, and kept myself in check, but it wasn’t until 9 years later when I finally came across the understanding that informed George Pransky’s book that I had a major realization that took away any thoughts of life being better if Angus was different.
I wasn’t even looking for a change in my relationship. I just wanted to feel less insecure in general. It took me by complete surprise that I all of a sudden found myself unequivocally two feet in, in my marriage after nearly 18 years. It was not that it hadn’t been a good marriage for the most part, but I had never been 100% in because it still looked to me at times like my life would be better if Angus were different. There was a part of me that kept the door open to leave. Sometimes it was just a crack, but it was there nonetheless.
Then it slammed shut, and I couldn’t have been happier. I had no idea what a toll it was taking on me to not be “all in” in our marriage. What changed is that I saw in an experiential way, not in an intellectual way, that my experience did not come from outside of me. It hit me so hard that all of my life looked different. I saw the burnout I was experiencing wasn’t coming from my work. I recognized my low-grade feelings of dissatisfaction that I wasn’t even aware of was not coming from Angus. My insecurity was not coming from the public speaking.
I saw the source of my suffering was my resistance to my experience. I was constantly trying to create a better feeling experience for myself. It was exhausting, and of course not working. Then I let go. I surrendered. I dropped the fight and fell into an experience of peace and inner freedom. My mind had never felt this quiet before. It was eerie. I didn’t want to move too fast or do too much because I worried it would go away.
After this experience when I went home, I didn’t notice a difference in my relationship with Angus, but then he started to notice I wasn’t reacting to him in the same way. He actually brought it to my attention. And then I realized I had let go of any need for him to be different in order for me to be okay. It was just gone. After what happened with our break-up I was vigilant in my self-management. I didn’t want screw things up again, but this was different. I was free from the seeking. I didn’t realize how much energy it took to keep the door open and be inadvertently on the lookout for something better.
Seeing where my experience comes from set me free. Without effort, my seeking fell away when I saw that my well-being comes from within. I knew this intellectually before, but I did not have the experiential knowing of this before my defining moment with the Three Principles.
I share this in the hopes that my lesson learned the hard way will help someone else have a more graceful journey. I see now how I had no idea to pay attention to the warning signals that were telling me to slow down. If I had not been so scared and overrode my need for rest and self-care, I would have been honest and said, “I don’t want to go back to work. I am not ready.” I would have given my body the rest it needed. If I had done that I probably would have avoided the whole painful episode.
But I couldn’t because I didn’t see it at the time. All that made sense to me was to push through and keep going. That was my coping strategy. Now I have more respect for my emotions and physical feedback. They are my indicators giving me feedback. My distress and discomfort let me know when I am looking in the wrong direction and feeling separate and scared. We all have this internal guidance system to remind us when we are confused and looking for well-being out there. It is in service to us. It points us back home to our true nature where our innate well-being and resilience lie. They can never be damaged or broken. They are formless.
I am extremely grateful that Angus had the love and commitment to come back to me. His maturity and forgiveness are demonstrations of his generous heart. And if that didn’t happen, I now know my well-being did not depend on that. Whatever happened I would have figured it out. My resilience would have allowed me to create a different life.
And that is true for all of us. We all have this infinite potential of our true nature within us. When we look in that direction we experience the beautiful feelings of who we are. And it is practical. It guides us. When we get confused and look outside of ourselves for our security and happiness the feedback system of our feelings lets us know we are off track. By paying attention and not overriding this system we get better at course-correcting and looking toward the silence of our true nature for the answers and allow our wisdom to be our guidance system as we navigate life.
Rohini Ross is co-founder of “The Rewilders.” Listen to her podcast, with her partner Angus Ross, Rewilding Love. They believe too many good relationships fall apart because couples give up thinking their relationship problems can’t be solved. In this season of the Rewilding Love Podcast, Rohini and Angus help a couple on the brink of divorce due to conflict. Angus and Rohini also co-facilitate private couples' intensives that rewild relationships back to their natural state of love. Rohini is also the author of the ebook Marriage, and she and Angus are co-founders of The 29-Day Rewilding Experience and The Rewilding Community. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To learn more about her work and subscribe to her blog visit: TheRewilders.org