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Cookbook of dyadic inquiry

Recipes for transfiguring relationships

Barbara Langton and John Heron

First edition, January 2003 

Updated: April 2004

South Pacific Centre for Human Inquiry

Auckland, New Zealand

Barbara and John together drafted a detailed outline of this document. John wrote it up in full, and Barbara thoroughly edited his draft: we went through this procedure four times.

These recipes describe what we find nourishing and delectable. They are not prescriptions for other people. Instead we hope they may stimulate others to evolve their own forms of two-person inquiry. We welcome feedback on this cookbook. We are also interested to hear about and learn from the dyadic recipes of others.

Contents

Three basic values

Relational forms of spiritual practice

Decision-making and action-planning

The presence between

Regeneration

Ritual practices

Guiding norms

Conclusion


Three basic values

Our relationship is to do with three basic values: loving, inquiry and creativity.

These values we experience as living human processes which mutually support each other. Each of them, we find, is necessary for the other two, and no one of them can be reduced without remainder to either or both of the others. If we symbolize them as an equilateral triangle, then inquiry is the side on the ground. We often refer to our relationship as a dyadic inquiry.

 

 

We are inquiring into relationship as a primary, fundamental component of being; and into what's involved in celebrating and creatively elaborating relationship - the reality between - as revealed in a woman-man partnership. And we are inquiring with the embodied whole of ourselves, that is, with the distinctive somatic, subtle, and psycho-spiritual energies of belly, heart and head.

The inquiry is grounded in relational forms of spiritual practice which constitute primary threads in the fabric of our life together. We follow a simple action research cycle: we live out a whole set of practices for several months, then have a period of reflection and review, in the light of which we change the programme for the next phase of application. The basic criterion for the review is this: 'Is the relationship, as we have recently been living it in terms of its current strands, authentically spacious, liberating, fulfilling and ego-transcending - that is, creatively and transformatively participating in the interconnected community of being?'

Such a two-person co-operative inquiry necessarily includes for each of us a continuous first-person action inquiry, in which each one is attending to how, when and whether she or he is applying the various strands and modifying his or her actions accordingly. Each one is also attending to how the relationship, overall or within a particular strand, is serving her or him.

The whole inquiry sequence has now been going on for nine years. It is managed with great flexibility, adaptability and variability, in relation to the changing rhythms of life.

The dyadic practices of the inquiry are set in a context: of the purely individual spiritual practices of each of us; and of the engagement of each of us with transformative concerns in our wider social, cultural and political worlds. So the cookbook only deals with one third of a total life-style.


Relational forms of spiritual practice

The ways in which two people relate are not commonly thought of as spiritual practices. However, we believe that persons become most fully transformed in relation with other persons.

We find that our various forms of intentional relating, which we describe in this cookbook, open up our embodied spirituality in three interdependent ways.

  • They enliven us: with a dynamic relation to indwelling spiritual life, at the root of our vitality and everyday motivation.

  • They engage us: with a spiritual presence that manifests between us, here and now, in our intentional process in this situation.

  • They enlighten us: with a transcendent spiritual consciousness that is reflected in our inquiring stance.

We discover that while all our practices involve in different ways this divine triad of the indwelling, the situational, the transcendent, there is a sense in which the situational – the presence between us here and now – is paramount. For us as human beings the Many-One divine is evident where we stand in relationship. This is where our inquiry begins.

 

The human and divine triads interlace to form a provisional, dynamic symbol of embodied, relational spirituality, grounded in creative inquiry into our present situation:


Decision-making and action-planning

There are four relational forms to do with decision-making and action-planning. Together they are pivotal for our shared life of inquiry.

Autonomy and co-operation in decision-making

Our core spiritual practice is how we make decisions. On very many conjoint choices before us, however major or minor, we each first of all decide privately what our personal preference is, and only when both of us have got clear about this, do we disclose these preferences and in the light of these proceed to a negotiated shared decision. Honouring each other as autonomous beings in this way grounds us in sacred energy.

If the preferences are quite different, then depending on what the decision is about, we use one or the other of the following procedures:

  • We light upon a third option that motivates each of us.

  • We find a plan that combines both preferences.

  • One of us graciously yields to the other.

  • We each score the strength of our own preference, and the lower score yields to the higher.

  • We flip a coin; or spin a wooden top between us and go with the choice of the one toward whom it points when it stops.

This whole procedure has been a rigorous interpersonal discipline for many years, and may be exercised several times a day.

As well as being rigorous (we don't allow each other to avoid the first crucial step of determining personal preference), we keep it light, easy and playful. It is also intrinsically interesting and liberating. On matters large and small, each one continuously discovers who she or he is and who the other is, where he or she stands and where the other stands. This process keeps the relationship sweet and clean, creative and respectful, and avoids collusion, control and muddling along. It ensures that co-operation is authentic and not cobbled together unawarely. It means that each person can check in with the deep inner ground of their motivation, in the belly and the body, to get a sense of where they truly stand as a basis for creative agreement. Thus immanent, embodied spirit is a spacious co-creative partner to the contract.

In a recent review of that process, we realized that there may have been a number of invisible decisions, not made in that way. ‘Invisible’ because they were made relatively unawarely in some other arbitrary manner. So we are intrigued to see if, in the future, we can spot these invisibles and identify how they are done and what it is about them that has made them unnoticed.

Check-in

Once or twice a day, every day that our respective arrangements allow, we have a check-in, with an uninterrupted turn for each of us, while the other gives supportive attention. If we are both in for the day, the check-in is in the morning, with maybe another one later, depending on the structure of the day. If one or both of us are out for the day, it is when we first meet again in the early evening. At the morning check-in we may:

  • Report on overnight phenomena – quality of sleep, dreams, visions, out of the body experiences - and current states of body-mind.

  • Look forward to the structure of the day, including individual and shared events and tasks - those already planned and others still to be arranged.

  • After both turns, we agree the items still to be arranged for the rest of the day, as per our decision-making procedure above.

  • We may reflect together on any life-style issues that arise.

At the evening check-in, after we have been apart all day, we share what each of has been doing and experiencing during the day, and look forward to any plans for the evening.

Life-style review

This is a meeting which is held every six to twelve months, and at which we review all the main elements of our life-style, the balance between them, their claims to holism, and how we are interpreting them. We consider what we are learning from our various activities, their successes and failures, and what changes to make in the light of this learning. In our dyadic inquiry, this is a top-level of reflection and decision-making, and it shapes overall policy.

This year, in late August, we launched a three day review of our past and current life-style, with forward planning into the future. The review covered:

  • The many dimensions of our relationship. We celebrated our strengths and confronted our deficits in all the following: our emotional dynamic; practical tasks; financial/legal/property; intimacy/nurturance/sex/togetherness; recreation; time together/time apart; decision-making; spirituality; families; TV; social life; age issues; food/exercise/sleep; intentional dying; careers/occupation; marriage; overall viability.

  • Our dyadic programme of shared practices.

  • Prior lists of unfinished projects.

  • The purpose of the South Pacific Centre for Human Inquiry.

The forward planning included:

  • Personal matters, including holidays.

  • Our dyadic programme of shared practices.

  • Centre activities and programme.

  • Developing the grounds.

The review of the many dimensions of our relationship was fruitful and rewarding as a living growth process: good strong, clear, open, rigorous and refreshing loving. The review of our past and current dyadic programme of shared practices led into forward planning of the dyadic programme for the next three and a half months. The cookbook describes the items on this programme. There is a chart on a wall between the open-plan kitchen, dining and living areas. Many of the practices in this paper are put on the chart, scheduled for various days in each week. Several practices, however, don’t need scheduling: they are integrated into our everyday being and doing, and follow their own rhythm. We have at the time of writing been busy with the revised and extended programme for many weeks.

Update, April 2003: In the current three-month programme, which started in mid-April 2003, we put put up only three basic named items per week on the wall chart, plus three "pink slots" (reach slot is a thick line made with a pink marker pen) spread over each week. On the day of each pink slot, we choose which one or more things to do from a list of 21 dyadic practices. So most of what we do is chosen just before doing it. This has made for some lively and interesting innovation in how we do certain things.

Life-action planning

This meeting is intermediate between a check-in and a life-style review, both in terms of content and frequency. We use it to review and sustain the current thrust of our life-actions with creative planning; and to keep an eye on what is falling by the way, and needs to be re-integrated.

Basic skills

The above four practices require and develop the following basic skills:

  • Focussed free attention and empathic listening.

  • Flexible negotiating, including imaginative brainstorming.

  • Aware time-keeping and time-sharing.

  • Transparent openness and honesty.

  • Celebratory competence and disinhibition.


The presence between

There are some relational forms which affirm and enhance our way of being, the quality of our here and now relating. They are to do with our immediate experience of situational spirit, the divine reality of the between: our process and presence where we are.

Mutual openness

This basic interpersonal and emotional process is an ongoing practice, a continuous way of being together, of doing our relationship. It has two prime components. The first is being nonverbally emotionally engaged with each other, and feeling resonantly attuned to and supportive of each other's presence. The second is being verbally self-revealing: sharing openly what is going on within oneself, both light and shadow, in a way that enriches and empowers the relationship.

Our personal and interpersonal process is a continuously open book. An honourable relationship makes it quite clear what you reveal, and what you silently process until it meets the life-enhancing criteria that authenticate disclosure.

Mutual bearing

This is the complementary process. We knowingly and mutually each bear the other’s afflictions, limitations and restrictions, stemming from the shadow side of the idiosyncratic mix of nature and culture in each of us. And to avoid collusion, every once in a while either of us may use supportive confrontation: see Interpersonal clearing below.

Meta-loving

This is an ongoing overview practice of loving: it seeks to keep a balance, over time, between making our love visible in deeds, audible in words, and tangible in touch.

Shared grace

Before each meal we make eye contact, often open our hands in a receptive gesture toward the universe and each other, and say together the following: ‘We affirm and celebrate our coming into being through this food and wine, in the presence of our archetypal, oceanic, loving energies’. We invite friends and visitors at the meal to join in, if they so wish.

We have a short alternative version which occasionally better suits the social and temporal exigencies of the situation: ‘May we flourish with this food’.

Mutual appreciation

Our mutual appreciation session is a joy: we take it in turns to celebrate a quality, a way of being or doing, that we have recently been appreciating about the other, up to a limit of three each – so we don’t overdo it. What these six declarations and celebrations create is a very engaging and charming archetypal field, a spacious qualitative zone that opens up around us. We are revealed in the expansive mirror we each hold up for the other.

Mutual gazing

Before or after the appreciations, we often decide to do silent mutual gazing. For a significant period of time, currently around twenty minutes, and without speech, we open fully to eye contact, sustaining and deepening it down into our embodied being. As our souls settle into this enlivening process we often find we become immersed in the dual-unity of Shekinah, the living open reality of the sacred Between. It’s like immersion in the ocean of being, the Between savouring the unity of our duality.

This mode of access to embodied divinity really is so sweet, so rich in ambrosia. It is the true and universal form of satsang: peer to peer transmission of divine presence. The skill required is simply that of being fully present to each other as whole beings while deepening this mutual presence into living beatitude - the enjoyment of divine favour.

Erotic energy declaration

We take turns to declare how our vital erotic energy has been ebbing and flowing over recent days, in and out of our diverse activities, both together and apart, in relation to ourselves, each other, other people and the world and situations at large.

Naked nurturance

As an intentional way of being together, we lie in a naked embrace, close, flesh to flesh maybe for an afternoon siesta, or early in the evening, or any time of the day. We merge into a luminous, tactile, alert swoon, our togetherness fed with the archetypal nectar of goddess and god embraced within the unity of being. Another version is to lie naked on our backs side by side each holding one hand of the other, or without physical contact, bathing in a sweet and subtle energy field. All these versions tend to affirm and harmonise the distinctive psycho-spiritual embodied energies of belly, heart and head.

Erotic intimacy

Our intimacy is primarily about attunement of soul and nurturant affection, and our erotic activity is a celebration of this prior intimacy. But it adds something else: adoration at the frontier between flesh and soul. Our sexuality, mediated by the whole body, is a potent subtle energy communing intimately in that ineffable place where flesh first appears in form. This divine abundant space between seamless body and soul constitutes their intimate union. Through erotic communion we celebrate the ecstasy of this open space, each the mirror of the joyful generation of our living flesh. We rejoice together, with full intensity of sexual passion, in the sacred intimate presence between.

The primary blocks to this kind of intimacy are emotional wounding of the flesh by socially induced and destructive guilt, shame and embarrassment; and a relatively unconscious contraction of the primary energies of our body-mind, due to basic tensions inherent in the human condition (for one account of these tensisons see pp. 78-80, Heron, J., Feeling and Personhood, London, Sage, 1992).

Wide-ranging intimacy

Wide-ranging intimacy is a celebration of the relation between our two embodied persons, and of the reality found in this connectedness. In our One-Many universe, reality does not reside in our individual substances, but in a spacious unitive relation present between them, including them and enhancing them. And we find this liberating relation in diverse contexts: in soul resonance, in nurturant union, in erotic union, in interactive ritual, in a variety of shared spiritual and subtle practices, in shared decision-making and life-planning, in conjoint practical projects, in engagement with the living presences of the natural world, in recreational pursuits, in aesthetic celebration and creativity, and in the balance between these various sorts of togetherness and our several kinds of apartness.


Regeneration

There are a range of practices which might be called developmental. They seek to heal, explore, unfold some aspect of our being. The process of doing them involves a dynamic relation to indwelling spiritual life, at the root of our vitality and everyday motivation.

Co-counselling

We have regular co-counselling sessions, alternating between us counsellor and client roles. Each of us also has sessions with other members of the local co-counselling community. This is peer self-help psychotherapy. Sessions can have several functions, but the classic use of them, by a conmbination of body-work and imaginal methods, is for catharsis and self-generated insight. The client deconstructs defenses; discharges emotional distress - triggered by current events and originating in early wounding - that is distorting attitude and behaviour; and reconstructs self-understanding and intentionality. We take the view that the cathartic release of distress emotion is complementary to the transmutation of distress by other practices, such as co-creating below. Both catharsis and transmutation are processes of embodied soul co-generated with a spontaneous life-impulse emerging from deep within us, prompting idiosyncratic healing, regeneration and creative endeavour.

Identity check

Every once in a while, as a particular form of co-counselling, we each take a turn using a simple and effective technique to uncover a build-up of any unaware projection (transference) that may have been at work in our relating; to withdraw it; and disperse the emotional energy that has been running it. The simple question is: has any unfinished emotional business, from a past relationship with anyone from birth onwards, got unawarely triggered and displaced into the dynamic of our current relating?

Interpersonal clearing

Every few weeks, or in and among when needed, we take time out to give each other feedback on any interpersonal behaviour that is causing difficulty of any kind, emotional or practical. This is a simple exercise in supportive confrontation. Issues that arise in this clearing may, or may not, call for a co-counselling session or identity check (just above) to help resolve matters.

Co-creating

‘Co-creating’ is a wide-ranging term, and we also use it specifically to refer to primary theatre or charismatic expression. We take it in turns, for anything from five to twenty minutes or more each, to express in breathing, movement, gesture, posture, sounds and words, our living, aware here and now participation in the presence of being, in the One-Many divine reality, in any of its aspects or modes. This kind of inquiry is a  form of spiritual disinhibition and enlivenment. We respond to the spontaneous promptings of our indwelling, embodied spiritual energy, giving dynamic form and voice to, and inquiring into, our immediate relation with what there is. We explore, reveal and affirm, in nonverbal and verbal ways, our original participation in creation. For more details see ‘primary theatre’ under Practices.

This participatory enlivenment is impromptu and unrehearsed, on the emerging crest of human-divine becoming. The one not taking a turn gives silent, supportive, celebratory attention. We have been practising this in a series of cycles for several years, with a fallow period between each cycle. The several cycles have varied in intensity from sessions once a day to sessions once a week or once a fortnight. Each of us may also practise it with other people in a pair or in a group. And it is the basis of what goes on in The inquiry group every fortnight (see below).

Co-visualization

This is also a practice we do in cycles, with fallow periods. One evening a week, for a maximum of 40 minutes, we sit opposite each other in the dark on top of the ‘pyramid’ within our house (the upper floor is reached by two staircases, one from the east and one from the west, and we see these as visible sides of an imaginary pyramid interpenetrating the house on the top of the hill). We take it in turns to say out loud what we sense and perceive with our inner faculties. Each rings a small bell to signal the end of a turn. The descriptions move to and fro between us several times. What one person sees, hears or senses may be elaborated by the other. Or sometimes the accounts may be independent and complement each other in interesting ways.

We take it in turns each week to propose a focus for the inner perceiving. Sometimes the proposal may be not to have a specific focus, but just to open up to what presents itself. Either way, what we are attending to is some aspect of this reality, or a complementary reality (or the relationship between these two), or a parallel reality. So we may take an extrasensory look at the hill-top site of our house in this reality, or explore the possibilities for contact with mentors in a complementary reality, or tune in to forms of culture in a parallel reality.

By a complementary reality we mean one which has a dynamic, functional, interactive relationship with this reality; and by a parallel reality one which does not have such a relationship.

In an extended series of co-visualizations in Italy over one summer, we had a session on each planet in the solar system, attending to the qualitative impact and features of the complementary reality interacting with it.

Feeling and Personhood exercises

Currently we are dipping into my book Feeling and Personhood and doing one of the exercises in it once a week or so. The exercises cover a wide range of personal and interpersonal explorations in the context of a participatory, spiritual worldview, and they keep opening up developmental vistas.


Ritual practices

Here are a range of ritual practices which continue the developmental theme, and also have a sense of broadcast, of planetary transmission and co-operative interaction with presences and powers in complementary and parallel realities. They engage with the spirit between, are rooted in the spirit within, and open to the spirit beyond.

Ritual uses charismatic voice, the evocative power of human sound manifesting intent through transformative speaking. This mode of voice is a wind that conjoins the flame of animate being. For there is a kind of divine being that is alive, moving, changing, doing things, constituting persons and worlds of all sorts and their transformations from and into each other. The performative, transformative use of language wells up out of the hara, the life centre in the belly. Co-creative, divine-human animation generates sounds and words that are transformative epiphanies: they call forth the potencies to which they refer.

The inquiry group

We have been regular participants in what we all simply call ‘the inquiry group’. It has been meeting regularly for over eight years, and is now in the second year of its second seven year cycle, meeting on alternate Monday evenings for two hours. It is currently inquiring into Shekinah practice - a distinctive version of primary theatre or charismatic expression.

Shekinah in Hebrew means 'residence', 'dwelling'. In Jewish tradition it is the name for the divine presence as it makes itself known in the material world, 'overshadowing', 'hovering', 'indwelling'. It is also associated with the feminine aspect of the divine, concerned with interpersonal relationships. In the mystical system of the Kabbalah, Shekinah is linked with the tenth Sefirah of Malkhut and the manifestation of the divine kingdom on earth.

In what follows Shekinah refers to the spiritual reality that is between humans, and between humans and other entities and presences. It is the everpresent reality of the relation between.

  • As people arrive and gather we socialize with cups of various kinds of tea.

  • When we are well settled in, our usual practice is for someone to propose or start a check-in round. This round accommodates a whole diversity of options: simple reportage of current life-events, routine, joyful, challenging or traumatic; an account of current spiritual, psi, psychological, interpersonal, energetic/sexual/somatic dynamics; a cathartic release of some current and/or archaic distress with self-generated insight; self-transfiguring spiritual assertions; etc., etc. Group members support and bear witness to the person checking-in, but rarely interact or comment, because the check-in is somehow directed to what is between us.

  • There may then be a period of silence, or a period of silence plus someone stroking the rim of a Tibetan bowl with a stick of wood to produce a tone.

  • At a certain point there is a very distinct and spontaneous qualitative shift in the group energy field, and one or two people are moved, and gradually and idiosyncratically each one is moved, to open their bodily energy to what is between us, by posture and gesture, by movement, by vocal toning, by rhythmic sounding of a diversity of rattles, drums, bells, tambourines, etc. This is also an opening of the heart. The posture, gesture, movement, toning and sounding are improvised in the living moment out of a heart-communion with the between.

  • This vital-dynamic, charismatic body-heart opening goes on for some time, with a series of crescendos and diminuendos which are potently co-created with the rhythmic life within and between.

  • There is an unmistakable final diminuendo. We become entirely still. We draw together and hold hands, or sit silently apart, and for a long period feast on the extraordinary depths and presence of Shekinah.

  • This also has an unmistakable ending. It may, or may not, be followed by a sharing, an affirmation, or an inquiring review, of what has been going on.

  • We close the meeting and people depart for their homes.

  • What may be interwoven with the above are spontaneous episodes of in which one or more members may speak out of, and speak as, archetypal powers interfused with the event.

Meditation

We light two candles on a low table altar and sit in front of it, either in the middle of the ‘pyramid’ (in the centre of the house on the ground floor) or on the the upper platform (the centre of the upper floor). We may sound a Tibetan bowl, by stroking its rim with a piece of wood for some minutes. We then enter our breathing, empty the mind, and meditate in silence for up to twenty minutes - on whatever each person chooses, in the context of situational divinity, the divine space between, the sacral reality that constitutes relationship. This is a variable feast, occurring once or twice or week on some weeks and not others.

The cosmos ritual

We have created a developing series of two person rituals over the years, both in Italy and New Zealand, as we commuted between the two locations. Now we are settled in New Zealand, there are three rituals currently in use: the cosmos ritual in the house ‘pyramid’, the fire ritual in the glade, the ritual walk round the seats and sites.

We do the cosmos ritual once a week, indoors on and in the pyramid, on Wednesday evening.

  • One of us lights two candles on the low table altar on the platform on top of the ‘pyramid’, announcing ‘Logos’ for the flame on one candle and ‘Shekinah’ for the flame on the other.

  • Standing facing the north (we are in the southern hemisphere) we take turns to announce a series of declarations, each declaration echoed by the sounds of percussion instruments. The first affirms our galaxy, its size, shape, motion and number of stars, and our solidarity and friendship with intelligent and living beings on great numbers of other planetary worlds within it. Then follows a series affirming the sun and each of its nine planets. These lead on to a transcendent-immanent series affirming: Ain Soph (limitless light), the realm of powers and presences, the realm of the recently deceased, the realm of human culture, the realm of nature, the realm of the finer forces within nature including the finer forces of the moon and of the sun, the realm of archaic creation, and our immanent indwelling divinity.

  • We each pick up a candle and a percussion instrument, face and acknowledge each other, then turn and go down opposite sides of the ‘pyramid’ (the east stairs and the west stairs). At the bottom of the stairs we turn into the long east-west corridor through the centre of the house, facing each other at its opposite ends. We move slowly towards each other toning, respectively, ‘Logos’ and ‘Shekinah’, with light percussion. We meet in a open hallway at the centre of the ‘pyramid’, touch the candle holders together, acknowledge each other, and place the candles on a small low table altar. We sit in intense, dense, contemplative attunement, as in Meditation above, in front of the altar for fifteen minutes or so, sometimes to the accompaniment of the tone of a Tibetan bowl being stroked on the rim. We extinguish the candles, stating their names, and close the ritual.

Going round the seats and sites

We do this once a week, around midday on a Sunday. In the middle of it, within one of the seat sites, we do the flame ritual (see below). We start indoors, at the top of the ‘pyramid’, with a declaration of intent to celebrate our forthcoming journey; we then visit each seat in turn and sit for a while communing with the worldview of which the seat is the centre. Each seat, solidly made of macracarpa timber, is specially sited to be for us a Tantric window on to our Many-One world. The circuit, and location, of the seats is as follows: top of the hill east lawn; bottom of the hill east of the pond; west of the pond; half way up the hill in the glade some way below the house and ‘pyramid’; below the cottage to the west; then through three bush sites at different levels back up to the top of the hill and to the seat there on the far west lawn; the middle of the top lawn at the solar circle. Then we go back into the middle of the ‘pyramid’ in the house and close. It is a very refreshing, grounding and expansive circuit.

The flame ritual

We do this once a week, as mentioned above, in the glade site in the middle of going round the seats and sites (see above). Here is the current version. There is stone circle fireplace in the centre of the glade. We each have a percussion instrument for use when moving round, and to echo declarations made. We move three times round the space and end up in the east, then proceed to the north, the west and the south, making the following declarations:

  • East: ‘We affirm the rising sun in the east, and the element air, and we celebrate our breadth of vision of inner and outer realities.’

  • North: ‘We affirm the sun at noon in the north, and the element fire, and we celebrate our forthright power beyond the ego.’ (We are in the southern hemipshere.)

  • West: ‘We affirm the setting sun in the west, and the element water, and we celebrate our capacities for loving and being loved.’

  • South: ‘We affirm the sun at midnight in the south, and the element earth, and we celebrate our groundedness in the rhythms of life in the world.’

Barbara lights a fire in the central fireplace. We stand East and West facing each other on either side of the fire and declare together: ‘We affirm the flame within and between’. From the same positions, we both face the East and declare: ‘We affirm the flame within the earth’. Then facing the North: ‘We affirm the flame within the sun’. Facing the West: ‘We affirm the flame within the galaxy’. Facing the South: ‘We affirm the flame within every being everywhere’.

Now we stand North and South and say together the invocation below: the first stanza facing each other, the second facing East, the third North, the fourth West, the fifth facing outwards:

Welcome, invisible friends and living people,

unbound by rigid rules and concepts,

open to adventure and inquiry,

we invite your cooperation in realising and expanding

our fundamental parity.

 

As persons in a regenerating galaxy we project

creative forces into our world to enrich it.

Join with us, loving our planet.

 

As the powers of nature are aroused

by the presence of the sun,

so our capacities as persons delight

in the free attention of the universe.

Join with us, loving our planet.

 

As part of the spontaneous dance of being

we move on solid ground,

evolving a choreography for a new way of life.

Join with us, loving our planet.

 

Welcome, invisible friends and living people,

unbound by rigid rules and concepts,

open to adventure and inquiry,

we invite your cooperation in realising and

elaborating a self-generating culture.

(Text of this invocation by Larry Butler and John Heron, London, 1980)

We circle the fire once and close.


Guiding norms

Here are some overall guiding norms of our dyadic life-style.

Balance and integration

Balance is multi-faceted in its application, generating and integrating a varying pattern of development strands, of life-style diversity. Some of the central kinds of balance over the years have been between:

  • Togetherness and apartness: the degree to which, within any given strand of development, we do things together, or individually and apart. And when doing things together, the balance between doing them interactively or simply in each other's presence, alongside each other. There is more on this in the next section.

  • Individual and shared strands: this is the balance between our exclusive, personal strands which are not to do with our dyad, and those shared strands which we are. We each have our own individual and idiosyncratic practices, which complement and enhance the dyadic, and vice versa. These individual practices may be solitary; or interactive with others, including social change agent activities.

  • The different kinds of strands: in terms of their complementarity and combined integral range. This applies to each of us individually, and to our dyad. For integral development, these are at least some of the elements to consider: the somatic, subtle, psychological and spiritual dimensions of belly, heart and head - within oneself, in intimate relations, in social relations, in organizational contexts, in relation to the natural world, and in relation to other realities.

  • Discipline and time out: this is the balance between sustaining the regular disciplined rhythm of our practices, and taking time out from them. There is a lot of flexibility and relaxation in how the whole thing is put together on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. But on a long-term time-scale the overall form of the rhythm is sustained. Time out has three forms:

  • We cancel a scheduled practice on a particular day, because we are too tired, or the pacing of the day calls for something else, or other priorities have replaced it on the day's agenda, or we feel we need a break from it. The art is to distinguish between authentic cancellation of, say, a ritual, and egoic contraction and resistance to doing it. The practice of critical subjectivity makes it fairly easy to distinguish between the two. Resistance due to egoic contraction, once it is overcome, may reveal itself to have been the precursor to a particularly transformative, energizing and worthwhile kind of ritual opening.

  • Some practices periodically drop off the schedule of their own accord and benefit from lying fallow for some weeks or months, until they call to be re-integrated. E.g. co-creating and co-visualization.

  • Our relational practices are suspended if either of us is away from home for several days or weeks.

Six practices, all described earlier, are consistently sustained on a daily basis: check-in; our method of decision-making; mutual openness; meta-loving; meal-time shared grace; and wide-ranging intimacy.

  • The Apollonian and the Dionysian: the balance between intentional pre-planning of activities, and spontaneous creative response to the emerging situation and its dynamic presence. This is perhaps the most fundamental kind of balance and integration.

Age and history

We have a number of years age difference and periodically review and share our respective age-related issues, both individual and interactive. We take the view that the energy of relationship is to do with various dimensions of embodiment; and a key component of our inquiry is what goes on with the interaction among these, within each of us and between us, and how this relates to authentic age, as distinct from culturally induced, stereotypic age.

An important guiding norm stems from a significant overlap in our respective personal histories prior to meeting. We have both independently chosen for this relationship to be exclusive, i.e. monogamous, after some years’ experience of open and varied relationships. We both experience that our exclusive relationship enables a deeper level of intimacy, trust and respect.

Gender difference

We symbolize archetypal gender, that is, gender as cosmic qualities, by the names Shekinah and Logos. By Shekinah we mean to signify divine presence in relationship. By Logos we mean the divine creative word. We use these designations in various rituals. They are, of course, derived from past spiritual traditions. We think they are relevant in appreciating the nature of what there is. But there is nothing aboslute about them, they are in principle under experiential review. We think they are both equally relevant to each of us.

Cultural gender, although related to physical gender, is about social norms which ascribe different social roles, functions and behaviours to women and men. The purpose of our dyadic inquiry is to reinterpret all this and create dyadic norms which fulfil us as persons - who happen to be a woman and a man - in a relation of mutual respect.

We also like to celebrate Barbara's womanliness and John's manliness. We are currently reflecting on how these qualities relate to our physical gender, our transformations of cultural gender and our expressions of archetypal gender.

Togetherness and apartness

We distinguish between two basic kinds of togetherness, and therefore of apartness. There is the existential and lived through dimension; and there is its legal and financial format. We give examples of these in the next two subsections..

With regard to apartness, we further distinguish between authentic apartness and alienated separation. Authentic apartness nourishes togetherness, like sleep nourishes daily life. Alienated separation is a breakdown of togetherness. Togetherness also breaks down when it becomes an alienated huddle: two people glued together through a collusive fear of integrating authentic apartness into their relationship.

Authentic apartness is essentially about a person doing their own thing, engaged in an autonomous activity that is not interactive with their partner, although it may (or may not) be interactive with other people. This often includes physical apartness, but it needn't necessarily do so: two people can be in the same room, each independently busy with a different kind of activity.

Finally, togetherness and apartness are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, in an established relationship, every kind of explicit apartness takes place within a implicit field of subtle and spiritual togetherness.

Existential and lived through

This is about interaction, being together and doing things together, and their opposites.

  • We have separate bedrooms, each with a double bed in it. Each of us prefers to sleep alone, to enjoy a certain kind of physical, psychic and psychological independence. We enjoy togetherness in bed, at varying times of the day or evening, for any one or more of the following: nurturant intimacy, erotic intimacy, the intimacy of subtle attunement, the intimacy of conversation, and the intimacy of comedy.

  • We have a big double bath in one bathroom and a single person bath in another, with a separate shower in each bathroom. We have a spacious relaxed intimacy bath together every week or so. Most days we bathe or shower separately, at times to suit our individual convenience.

  • We have separate studio/offices, each with workspaces, filing systems, computers, and so on. In addition, Barbara has her own sculpture studio.

  • When we are both in the house, we usually eat together. We are nourished by our shared grace and our breaking of bread together. When we have salad meals, which is frequently, we each prepare our own plate according to our somewhat differing tastes. With cooked meals we usually share the same dishes, prepared by one or both of us.

  • We entertain or visit together shared friends, and individually spend time with friends more or less exclusive to each of us.

  • We both have adult children by other partners, and we both have grandchildren. There is a whole range of individual and shared relating, for each of us, with both sets of offspring and their two generations. This is a very important component of our way of life.

  • We work apart and have independent occupations and careers. Barbara is a Disputes Tribunal Referee in the NZ Department for Courts, group facilitator, a sculptor, gardener. John is an author, group facilitator, artist. We co-operate in planning and managing the activities of the South Pacific Centre for Human Inquiry.

  • We go to most outside recreational events - concerts, theatre, ballet - together. Sitting together throughout a concert is a refreshing and paradoxical communion between felt togetherness and inner authentic apartness.

  • We share a regular range of interactive spiritual practices, as described in an earlier section; and we each have our own individual practices. Included in the interactive practices is co-operative decision-making, as described in that section. This has built into it an inward autonomous apartness - when each of us silently determines our individual preference - as a preparation for negotiating together the final agreed decision.

  • We share certain creative activities, such as co-designing our house and grounds for use on different levels and modes of being, and have our own independent creative pursuits.

  • We share domestic and practical tasks in a flexible and changing pattern of allocations: washing up, laundry, waste disposal, shopping, housework, lawnmowing, planting, etc.

Legal and financial

This is about conjoint and separate ownership and management of our material assets.

  • We co-own the property on which we live, and have a joint bank account. We also each have our own independent assets, and our own individual bank accounts for receipt of our independent incomes. We mainly pay equal shares of all basic costs: rates, power, phone, insurance, food, house and garden sundries, recreational sundries. We also subsidise and/or gift each other in different ways and different respects. Otherwise, within these various parameters, we spend our independent incomes independently.


Conclusion

This cookbook gives an account of recipes which satisfy our taste. We offer it as one possible way of living out a relationship as a co-operative inquiry. We believe there is an emerging culture of people engaged in relational forms of spiritual practice rooted in lived action research. We look forward to hearing from other participants in this culture about their own practical explorations, both similar to and different from our own.

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