Building Trust & Digging In

By Jim & Beth

Stories From Meditators

In the fall of 2016, with the tense political scene in the US, Jim & Beth started re-reading Easwaran’s book Gandhi the Man, looking for inspiration that they could apply to the world around them.

We interviewed them to find what they’d learned about being with people who have different principles from theirs. Their answer was firm: Gandhi showed them they should start by building the trust in their own relationship, and that in itself would help them to help the world.


Now, we won’t be offended if you don’t take anything we say, because we can tend to be mavericks. We’ll try to come from our hearts and not from anyplace else. 


You asked us about principles we’ve learned during our study of Gandhi, but we thought the perfect vehicle for talking about this would be a relationship. Not in terms of “us against them”, not politics or social movements or anything, but in the context of a husband and wife working together in a relationship.

There you can find everything you need to know about principles and approaching people who have different feelings and points of view, how you work with them, and what happens – all that good stuff.

Finding a Model in Gandhi


There is so much temptation to be very agitated and fearful. You can watch the media and you could get in a real fearful place. We asked ourselves, “What can we do?”

We turned our attention to Gandhi. We started reading Easwaran’s book Gandhi the Man, watched the movie about Gandhi, and have been working through other books by and about Gandhi. It’s been really helpful for both of us.

Jim hadn’t explored Gandhi a lot, so he’s been doing reading in-depth.


Yes. I knew Easwaran’s presentation of Gandhi from his talks, and up until now had been satisfied with that. But since I’ve been doing my own research I’ve learned a lot.

In Gandhi’s own presentation of satyagraha, or soul-force, I was able to recognize Easwaran’s eight points in action, with Gandhi starting from his own personal nucleus. Specifically, from his relationship with his wife Kasturbai and his family – that’s the beginning.

Without Kasturbai in his life, well, he doesn’t say he wouldn’t have found a way to find the principle of satyagraha, but he made it pretty clear that it was in his domestic strife that he found somebody who was using the principles of satyagraha on him.


We have read this now how many times…! Gandhi’s own behavior first struck me as so extreme, though very recognizably human, and the lesson is so, so powerful. You have to read this part:

“One man cannot do right in one department of life whilst he is occupied in doing wrong in any other department. Life is one indivisible whole.” – Gandhi

The domestic struggles in South Africa were the training ground where Gandhi learned the demanding art of living for others rather than himself. Later he would apply the same lessons on a global scale, so that in the end the whole world became his family.

Many years later, long after he had left South Africa, Gandhi received a letter urging world leaders to draw up a charter of human rights. “In my experience,” Gandhi wrote back, “it is far more important to have a charter of human duties.”

It was an approach he had learned from Kasturbai. When he came back from his student years in London, Gandhi explained, fully cultured and acutely conscious of his “legitimate rights,” the first person he tried to impress with all this status was his wife. Kasturbai Gandhi, however, was a woman with a will of her own. Gandhi began to demand his rights the minute he came home; and Kasturbai, naturally, started to do the same – at the same time, in the same house. Often their disagreements became so fierce that Kasturbai was reduced to tears, which only irritated Gandhi more. Once, exasperated, he shouted at her: “I will not stand this nonsense in my house!”

“Then keep your house to yourself,” Kasturbai pleaded, “and let me go!”

In a rage Gandhi grabbed her by the arm and dragged her weeping to the gate.

“Have you no sense of shame?” she cried through her tears. “Where can I go? I have no family here to take me in. Because I am your wife, do you think I have to put up with your abuse? For heaven’s sake behave yourself and shut the gate. Let’s not be caught making such a scene!”

It is Gandhi himself who relates the incident. At the time, he says, he thought it was his right as a husband to impose his opinions on his wife. But as the years passed and the storms between them continued, he began to realize what anguish he was causing her by this rigid outlook. At last it occurred to him that rather than exercise his “rights,” he could fulfill his responsibilities. With Gandhi, to know was to feel, to feel was to act, to act was to live. Immediately, instead of forcing Kasturbai’s obedience to his newfound beliefs and values, he began to try to win her over by his own example. It was a long, painful process, and often Gandhi had to ignore his cherished likes and dislikes to see things from her point of view rather than his own. But gradually he began to see that there was no friction between them except what he had imposed, and that Kasturbai had always been trying to win him over by love. It was one of the most radical discoveries he was to make in a lifetime of experimentation: in order to transform others, you first have to transform yourself.

-Eknath Easwaran from Gandhi the Man

Building Trust: Connection is Key


You can see, in his relationship – that’s where Gandhi started. And that’s what Easwaran tells us all the time, we have to start in our own relationships and with our own internal practices.

And everybody will be different. Not everybody will be a couple – I wasn’t a couple until seven years ago. I worked it out in my relationships in other ways, whether at work, or with friends – we each have our place to do it, but it is in relationships.

We’re really lucky to have the eight points as our principles.


And it’s not that there aren’t things in the world that don’t cause us anguish or sorrow but we consider the upset as in our own minds – so that’s where we would address it. As Gandhi would put it, the friction between him and Kasturbai was only what he had imposed – there was actually no friction there at all. I take that to mean that a calm mind will recognize problems that do exist and that need to be addressed by the action that someone can take. A calm mind can remember the eight points.

If I take a problem in the world that agitates me, if I stay agitated about that, and then I act, I’m adding a problem to the problem. I’m adding a problem which cannot be solved by any external action – it can only be solved by calming my own mind.

So, the mind which is calm, which is looking at things from its detached point of view, is the only mind that’s able to see the problem and do anything to help.


I can say that an intimate relationship is tough. Really one of the toughest places to implement this stuff. I started to say that it’s easy for Jim and I, but it wasn’t easy! We have worked through issue after issue (though not all big ones), and where we get bogged down, it’s due to separation ­– a lack of connection, which is a lack of unity.

We’ve recognized we both have the appropriate positive samskaras (our conditioned ways of thinking and behaving), to help each other learn and grow. For example, he’s extremely patient with me – and I think I’m learning patience!

In the six years we’ve lived together, we’ve seen each other transform – not like any saint, but I’ve seen him really change and I can see it in myself. Now, six years later, when we come to places where we’re butting our heads, we’ve come so far and we trust each other so much that we’re still able to communicate what we need and stay connected. It used to be that when our connection would be severed I would feel it for days, or longer if we were really going through something, but that’s no longer the case. 

Trust In Action


An example of this is how we engage with what’s happening in the world outside. We each have a different tolerance for intake of what’s going on in the world. I can be sensitive to all these scenarios created by the media and can get overwhelmed quickly.  When I can't stay detached I have to work to stay in balance and keep my mind from being agitated.

Jim has more of a need to know what’s going on in the world outside and he’s really able to look at both sides of a picture, take in all the perspectives, and stay detached most of the time. This difference can lead to friction in our relationship.


Yeah, I’ll be reading about what’s happening out in the world and then. . . “Beth! Beth! Listen to this! I have to tell you!”


Yes! Exactly like that. And I want to respect his need to talk – he wants to talk about this, and I respect him for that, but I can take it on and become fretful and not be able to drop it. So, how can I help him learn to respect my needs as well as respect his need to share. So we're working on that. And, he's so good. He listens, he hears what I say, and he respects it.

That said, he's human! So  sometimes something will happen in the world and he'll go "Beth! Beth..." 

And I say “Noooo! Noooo!”

In the old days this would’ve caused a rift, and it would’ve taken long periods of time, and effort to work on it. But in this case. . . poof! It was gone.

That’s because we’ve been working, and I’ve been brave enough to say “Sweetie, this is what I need,” and he respects it and works on understanding it.

So, there is an example right in our home. We could be totally split, but we’re really working on it.


These examples are nuclear – it’s just inside our relationship, but we think it’s such a good model and can be expanded into a much wider context.

If the element of trust isn’t involved in any kind of relationship – between individuals, political relationships, social, it doesn’t really matter. . . If both sides don’t have trust, problems can be irresolvable. If one side has trust, and it doesn’t matter which side, then the issue can be resolved at some point. Maybe not soon. Maybe not easily. You can’t put fear against fear, or hatred against hatred, or selfishness against selfishness and come up with a good solution. Trust has to be there on at least one side. 


I think we want to think things can change without suffering [laughs]. But, really, suffering’s not bad. The times I’ve suffered the most in my life, and I really stuck with whatever I knew I was being called to do, when I walked through it and got to the other side – those were the most valuable opportunities I’ve had.

Using the Eight Points to Dig In


Our connection is the key, and trust is the basis of that connection – even when it feels like there’s something that’s unresolved. At least on some level there’s a trust. And for us, “digging in” in this context is to have the guts to stay and not to say “Oh. Well, you feel that way? Adios, amigo.” 

It’s not pleasant at any time. When these things happen, the mind floods the body with all kinds of chemical stuff so it doesn’t feel good at all. It can feel like the whole relationship is falling apart! But if you realize that “this too shall pass”, and you do the appropriate things (get exercise, get meditation, get enough sleep), you can help yourself so that you’re not in your own way causing the problem to stay, by either being rigid or being disagreeable in return.

The mind has such a direct connection with the body, and the body is the way we mostly express most of these things that happen internally, and so it’s really important to tend to it. To me, this is how the “digging in” happens. This, along with trust. 


And the other thing is, when we first came together, I was so frightened. But we worked through it. We said, we want to use our practice to do things differently than we have in the past.

We did an exercise where we looked at each of the eight points and thought: how would you like to see each of the eight points as part of your relationship? For example, under meditation we each put that we wanted to meditate together, as much as possible.

So, we each made our own list and then we made a Venn diagram and in the middle we brought together what we agreed on was the principle for our relationship. And the middle wasn’t even the items that were similar on our two lists, but the ones that we agreed we could do.

So, for example, we agree we’ll say the mantram before meals. We agree we’ll eat our meals together, and that’s been a big part of our relationship. This doesn’t mean we’re rigid and have to have all our meals together – but these are the big parts of our relationship.

We have them written down and every year we take time to go off together and we pull them out and review them.

For me, this is what I mean in terms of “dig in”. These are principles that we have, and that’s what we do. We add to it over time. A few years ago we decided to add watching a nightly 15-minute video of Easwaran. That was three years ago now, and now we watch him every night for 30 minutes. Rarely do we not watch him.


I will say one thing. When we reviewed our relationship principles, we used to have a numerical scale where we’d rate them. We kind of decided unilaterally it would need to be a plus or a minus rather than numbers, because it couldn’t go high enough for me! I kept rating everything as 11s or 12s [laughing]. 


We both have our times when we’re hitting hard spots in our sadhana (spiritual practice), but if we can’t learn to do this with one other human being, how can we learn to do it with the world?