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What I learnt about love after leaving a tantra cult

One of my biggest healing and de-conditioning processes as a free-thinking person is around love and relationships.

The cult I was in was a tantra cult, so it thought that it had even more of a right than your average cult to tell its members what to do in their love lifes. nothing is ever all good or all bad, so of course I learnt a few useful things there. But learning is autonomous and entirely different from conditioning and thought reform.

In the cult we were given a very specific image of what love should look like. What it should and shouldn’t say or do, between whom it should occur and on what basis. Love, something so felt, intimate and inexplicable, was made into a dogmatic belief system.

Like in many ‘spiritual’ communities, There was a lot of talk about active, conscious and unconditional love, yet our love was steeped in passive requirements, conditions and recommendations.

There were so many people I ‘couldn’t’ love; meat eaters, drinkers, jazz musicians, shadow workers. If I were a man, another man. I could not love these people if I didn’t first convert them. Raise their vibration, ideally get them to join the group in some way.

Open relationships were considered the most ‘advanced’ choice and jealousy was looked down on. Jealous people, especially women, were shamed and constantly told they were flawed and needed to change.

They called it detachment, but many times it was avoidant patterns, a lack of personal responsibility dressed up in a spiritual clown costume, guilt tripping the other one for feeling what they felt. Non-possessiveness is a great thing to aim for, but from a place of honesty, acceptance and security rather than guilt and deficiencies. Conversations often ended in mutual spiritual bypassing and disassociating.

What I have learnt about love since leaving a cult is that it doesn’t look a particular way, it is uniquely experienced by those who feel it, it is not truthfully perceived with anything other than the heart.

My ideas about love have rarely translated into reality, only into expectation and being more present with my idea of how that person should be than with the task of loving that person as they were.

Yet love is beyond any concept or rationalisation, any set of criteria. Love is a feeling, an experience, a way of being which is not easily understood by the mind or expressed in words. Something unique to your dynamic which can’t be universalised.

Real love is in the good times and the bad, in the mundane as much as the exciting and the new. In the light and the shadow of that person and the mirror that relationship holds up to us.

Real love can be fierce and grumpy and unexpected, but it is always kind and gentle at its core, it always creates space around it not constriction. Love is patience, is honesty, is possibility and is hope.

I hope to keep having more love and to never turn my back on love, wherever and however it shows up for me to give and receive, and be it.

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