Relationships, particularly ones where we commit ourselves long term, form the cornerstone of our lives, nourishing us from within like deep roots of a tree. And yet those of us who are also committed to personal transformation are constantly changing and growing. So how can our commitments shift and grow with us? How can we stay true to their core as we realise deeper truths about ourselves and our aspirations? I’m sharing a vulnerable personal story here of how I’ve navigated this realm, in the hope that it can serve and support you if you’re facing such questions.

Around six years ago, I met a man under extraordinary circumstances- it seemed like all stars were aligned for us to meet and we both instantly felt that we’d known each other for lifetimes. A serious of inexplicable synchronicities followed that partly scared us, partly intrigued us. We each recognised we’d come into each other’s lives as teachers, soul mates, and guides.

At the time we met, I was working as an assistant professor for Biology at a University in Germany, and he as an IT professional at a scientific institute. We were both ready to move out of our professions, to discover what we deeply wanted to do, and to live much more in alignment with our true selves. In the span of six years, we supported each other continuously to do exactly that. Today I am a freelance coach and budding permaculture practitioner living in India, and he a photographer and energy healer living in close connection with a Zen Buddhist monastery in the south of Germany.

All of this sounds magical, doesn’t it? And yet this is a tale of intense pain and letting go. The thing is, we fell in love, lived together, and got married in a simple Zen Buddhist ceremony where we committed to a lifetime of supporting our spiritual paths and personal growth. And this is exactly what we did, till life brought us face to face with the greatest of irony; the more we supported each other on our authentic journeys, the more we started recognizing that our paths were divergent! While his inner voice was guiding him to move to a Zen monastery in southern Germany, write a book, dedicate himself to photography, energy healing, and being closer to his mother, mine was calling me to move to India, to live closer to my parents, to start a permaculture project with tribal village women, do coaching journeys in the Himalayan mountains, and deepen my practice of Vipassana meditation. We were like two birds who’d flown several hundred miles together only to discover that we needed to migrate to very different destinations.

We tried everything we could to continue to be together physically. We lived in both countries, spending a few months here, a few months there, and then several months to a year apart. We filed taxes in two very different systems, rented out our apartment and applied for visas every few months, traveled from boiling hot temperatures straight into freezing cold winters, until the immense energy this all took started taking its toll on our relationship and our health. We found ourselves subconsciously imposing our personal agendas on the other instead of being truly supportive. And while I started falling seriously ill each time I spent extended periods in Germany, he started getting affected by the pollution, dirt and chaos in India. This is when it became clear it was time to surrender. To surrender to what wished to happen, instead of forcing. To stay true to our commitment of supporting each other, instead of fearfully clinging to a togetherness that wasn’t serving either us or the greater good.

Khalil Gibran says it so beautifully: “For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning…..And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.” This is what happened. It is not without the deepest of agony, facing moments darker than either of us wished to face, that we decided to let go. To separate and go our own ways. While our commitment remains, we have surrendered the form. While he has now met a wonderful German woman whom he’s very happy with, I am rediscovering what it feels like to be back in India after seventeen years, and am slowly forming new bonds here. We continue to profess our love to each other- and have now discovered what true appreciation, humility, and unconditional love is like.

To follow this path, I had to shift the paradigm of commitment I had developed through societal conditioning. I had to move beyond the guilt, shame and blame that arose as I considered ours a failed relationship, to recognizing that we were successful in being compassionate and accepting of each other’s deep wishes and limitations, something we all aspire for in our relationships. And more than anything, I had to stop using commitment as an excuse not to grow and follow my callings, as a life raft I clung on to long after I’d reached the shore.

I’d like to gently invite you to look at the commitments in your own life- at work, at home, in friendships, close relationships… what exactly is your commitment and how is it serving you? What would happen if you told yourself the deeper truth and acted in alignment with it? I promise you that if you do this, you may meet the greatest of your fears, and yet be set free to become who your heart yearns you to be. And remember, taking a closer look at your commitments doesn’t necessarily mean separation; it may bring you to a level of togetherness beyond the wildest of your imagination.

With loving connection,

Sharmishtha

PS: Thank you to Holger Bartels, my dear partner I describe in the story, for providing the photograph and encouraging me to publish this vulnerable article