How Clinging Happens


Madhuri shares her insights on romantic clinging

Freedom makes even love beautiful.
– Osho

And never sacrifice; for if you sacrifice you cannot forgive and you cannot forget.
– Osho

I am not talking here about the natural clinging of the infant to its mother. Primate babies, including humans, have a powerful grip to enable them to grasp their mother’s fur. I think most human babies/mothers (there might always be exceptions) would benefit by doing what the gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos do: Baby stays physically connected with Mom for the first year of its life, cradled in her arms or clinging efficiently so as never to fall (humans can use those nice canvas pouches.) Happy, happy! I am going to suppose that such felicitous clinging would give the child such a basis in herself that in later life she would naturally range farther and farther afield with courage and impunity, leaving Mom behind.

Falling by Madhuri

No, I am talking about romantic clinging. You know the kind: can’t-bear-to-see-him-leave clinging, phone-him-several-times-a-day clinging, mourn-horribly-if-he-is-gone clinging. The sort that drives the other away and makes one’s own self weep disconsolately night and day.

Now, I am quite sure that this sort of painful syndrome has roots in inadequate nurturing in childhood/infancy; either by mother or father or both. But suppose that you have been doing your homework; you have had therapy and more therapy (lovely, lovely stuff – it becomes by and by as delicious as honeydew melon, that delving,) and yet still you mourn and cling to your lover. And the lover is inevitably beginning to resist you. And the panic mounts.

Now, love is like breathing. There is an ingoing and then an outgoing breath; it is natural to be together and then to be alone. When one is alone one returns to the purity of one’s being; one empties of influence, one rests. And then to see the other is a delight again. (Marriage kills this by and by unless much space is somehow built into the arrangement.) Chakras too have an opening-and-closing life; they breathe. Sometimes the heart is open; sometimes not. Quarreling with this natural rhythm is futile.

I know whereof I speak. I spent decades as a clinger. I drove away many perfectly nice lovers. I got stalkery, I followed them about, I rushed in on them while they were under their mosquito net with another woman and threw water on them as if they were yowling cats (and actually I would not do that to a cat.) I scratched my own face in despair while they stood by horrified. I lurked outside their doors examining the small shoes and the large that lay there.

Now, this was all quite long ago, and by and by I met a man who was also feeling bruised and we made a good match of it: our aesthetics chimed, our hugs were warm and smelly in the best way, our solidity together emerged and flowed about us in benevolent healing of our pasts. Mostly. But there was a small, common scene that would happen between us and one day it led to an epiphany for me that I have never forgotten….

We would go out to dinner on his Enfield (this was of course in Poona, India, where we lived each in his/her own place) and afterwards he would drive back to my apartment, I riding in splendor on the back. And he would pause outside the gate and I would hop off and turn to him for the goodbye kiss. Now, I would be in the mood to be alone. We would have spent two rich nights in a row together by that time and I would naturally want space to breathe, empty out, relax in my own precious company, doing my own small things. And he would put out his full lower lip a bit, like a six-year-old, this six-foot-four guy (we will call him Aksel;) and say, “Aksel wants you to stay the night with him! He would really, really like that! ” And there would seem to me to be a doleful bit of threat in his words.

So: Here was my moment of choice, of opportunity. Something had come towards me and I had to decide what to do. These moments are sooo important – for if we rush and ride over ourselves the important moment of Knowing, of apprehension of our inner reality, is lost forever! This moment, waiting: truth or untruth? I did not know then that all I had to do was close my eyes and watch what my body did inside: did my stomach feel a sense of closing? Did my heart seem to fall? Or did energy rise in welcome?….For that is my way to know things. It might or might not be yours.

Society teaches us untruth. Be polite/acquiescent/don’t hurt anyone. But what are we here on earth for…to continue being faithful to a third-grade teacher’s chiding, or to be faithful to our own mysterious moment’s knowing? That teacher with her flipped hair and pointy glasses is no doubt dead now!

I would often say that now I needed to be alone, sorry. I could feel my yearning for that private space….But he would persist. “Aksel would really like it….” And then I would cave in and hop back on the bike and go with him to his beautiful dwelling among the trees and flowering shrubs….But that place wasn’t mine.

Now, what exactly happens inside a person who has just gone against her truth? (And it would be easy to blame him and say “He did it” – and it would also be untrue, and a huge waste of energy. He did what he did, the reasons were none of my business; I was there responsible for me.) For the whole of that night I would be in a warped state, really; my knowing was that I should be alone; my situation was, I was relating. And in the stillness of one of those nights I watched carefully inside myself and saw this: For some weird reason I can’t quite describe, going against oneself creates clinging. I became weakened by my ‘No’ to myself. I was no longer in myself properly. I was then prey to neurosis. I then began to cling to him: For if I cannot trust myself, I will have to grab onto the nearest person! And the clinging escalated from that point, and I was weakened further still. Eventually we broke up. He rejected me, and I mourned; but in the breakup I saw another hugely valuable thing: If I tell my truth, the minute fact that I am experiencing right then, not an opinion, but a state – “I feel a shrinking in my upper diaphragm. I think of my own room now.” Or, “I feel a sense of hollow falling inside my stomach. I want to stand still and feel it. My tongue is also tingling as if it wants to eat something, but my belly is uneasy and does not want that actually.” “I feel drawn to you, but also pushing away from you. The confusion seems to demand that I just stand still.” That truth is more powerful than any six-foot-four man, no matter how in awe I am of his seeming power. My small-person ‘No’ would have, had I stuck to it, preserved me my dignity and beaten back the overwhelm of the big-person “I want you” that I had succumbed to.

And when I saw that, I mourned no more – I had gotten what I came for. And we even became friends.

I think all addiction is like that. We think we are addicted to something because we love that thing and it makes us feel good. But in fact allergy research shows that we become addicted to something that is toxic to us; the toxin creates a strange buzz, a high; but it is perverse. The rejection of what is natural gives rise, inevitably, to perversity. “I am with you when I want to be alone -” I am in a state of perversity. I am uneasy in my skin, and the skewing-sideways will make me kiss you harder, say more sweetish things, just to cover it up….I eat six pastries, and the knowing in my body that this is weird and sick will make me eat more, because I will not stop. I am beguiled by poison. If I stop I will have to feel the pain of my original refusal of what I really wanted. I don’t want to feel that layer.

Love breathes. Food beckons truthfully. The body knows. But if I don’t listen – who can help me?

And if I do listen…a revolution is accomplished, inside me. I am strengthened, I can breathe, I am made staunchly at home in myself. I can stand firmly on my own two feet and say, “No” or “Yes, ” genially enough; and mean it. This is truth, this is beauty. This is freedom. And I am still working with this lesson, day by day. It is an utter challenge, and it is the best!


Text and illustration by Madhuri

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