Originally published on Amani Resources website, May 29, 2013
A Love Supreme was written by dear friend to Amani Resources, Tasneem Grace Tewogbola, co-founder of SOUL STORY, a communications company that uses the art of conversation, technology and storytelling to invite the soul, or inner meaning, of a project to shine. This story is based on a series of interviews and conversations with Amani Resources founder, Panya Walker, and her husband Harule Stokes.
Amani Resources Founder, Panya Walker met her husband, Harule Stokes nearly eight years ago on the C-train. It was crowded — crazy-morning-rush-hour crowded — when she saw him. And he saw her. It took many months for their daily glance to become a greeting. Slowly, they became subway acquaintances, the kind who exchange smiles, names, chit-chat and not much else. But time delivered opportunity and connection. They came to rely on those lingering looks, laughter and conversation. They disentangled themselves from dead-end relationships and chose — together — to open the door to possibility. And each other.
This month they celebrate six years of marriage and good loving. They are not the same C-train couple they once were. They are calmer, wiser and better. Together they learn to lean into life, to not let problems bring panic and to rejoice in this love that cradles everything.
Panya and Harule love to talk about their union and below are the reflections they shared separately about their relationship, which brings them joy, peace and growth.
What about Harule caught your eye?
Panya: I remember thinking he was very attractive to me. In New York City there are so many people. Why did I notice him? His eyes. He’s got these deep, soulful, heavily-lidded eyes.
What attracted you to Panya?
Harule: She stood out, she was very professional and very feminine — as though she was saying, ‘I’m a woman, I’m not trying to be manly.’ She had the balance.
What has six years of marriage taught you about love that you didn’t know before?
Harule: Love now for me is less about there being this huge attraction to somebody, now it’s about wanting to be with that person, not needing to but wanting to. That’s the difference for me now. Six years ago, there was this intense feeling that we had to be together all the time. The truth now is we don’t have to be on top of each other, it’s cool if I do my own thing and she does her own thing. I have to know that she’s fine, she’s alright, she’s well taken care of.
Now it’s less about that intense lust and about looking at her and thinking, ‘You’re fantastic.’ This is love, not obsession. For me the shift was very gradual, very slight. It’s like watching your fingernails grow.
What has changed about your marriage?
Panya: In the past, it was about doing, doing, doing. Now it’s about being at peace with the other person. Now it’s about answering, ‘Who are we?’ not just, ‘What are we doing?’
Now it feels more tender. We can focus on intimacy. We moved from intense physical attraction to wanting to be truly intimate, relishing a touch. We do a lot of touch, we always have, but now I feel like we truly know intimacy with each other.
What does Harule teach you?
Panya: What real manhood looks like. He is so dependable, so steady, so grounded. He is a rock. He is my rock. I didn’t have that in the past. I had volatility. I didn’t understand that at first — that being steady meant passion.
Being with him has helped me realize true manhood is about a man who truly honors and respects his partner and the relationship. It’s not just about providing financially, money, it’s about being a stable, whole person. He shows up whenever I need him. There is nothing to us that is a greater priority than each other.
How has Panya changed you?
Harule: She’s a pusher. When she wants to get her way, she’s motivated, a powerful personality. I am a lot more laid back, more likely to go around the wall than knock down the w all. With my obstinacy, and my ability to be bullheaded, she would run into my wall. I would shut down and she would push. She learned that pushing doesn’t work at all times. I learned not to shut down and to receive what’s being communicated.
People have always seen me as a relaxed, peaceful guy. Now that I’m with her, the projection is on the inside as well as the outside. There is no mask, no effort. It just is; we have peace.
How has marriage changed you?
Panya: Coming up, I had the experience of so many men having issues with being emotionally, and sometimes physically, distant. I needed to let go of so many stories and so much hurt. I had to let go of the fear that he would somehow betray me or do me harm. God sent me a person who I could trust so that I could work this out. If I attracted a person who was like many of the men I saw growing up, how would I have healed through that?
I had to make a choice to trust. I trust my husband and I trust that Spirit will deliver me all that I need and all that I desire.
Harule: I am more mature, more focused. The pressure of being with someone is no longer there. There’s no longer the same desire to attract people to you anymore. I take that energy from there and put it somewhere else. I’m able to write my book, and use the energy of creativity. I’m not trying to attract a woman. I have a woman.
What kind of love legacy are you building?
Harule: A picture of a black man and a black woman being at peace with one another. No conflict, no competition, in public or in private.
That’s what I would like to think that we show. We hold hands when we walk down the street. People have commented, ‘You guys are a great couple.’ When I pull myself out and look at us from the outside in — We’re close to each other, but not smothering. It’s an easy, relaxed sort of way of being close to someone.
Panya: When people see Harule with me, what they may be drawn to is this truth: that you can have a man who is hard and soft at the same time. He embraces the masculine and feminine. Publicly, he dotes on his wife. He has tenderness you would never imagine. He’s a man’s man and he’s also a renaissance man. He protects and connects. He can also cry when he feels like crying. When we started he was far more emotionally shut-off. We really had to duke that one out. I could not be in a long-term relationship with someone who was closed off to me. He chose to change. I think that is the best gift he’s given me.
When did you know she was ‘The One?’
Harule: It was a number of months, maybe a year. Why would I not marry her? There was no reason not to marry her. She is what I’d asked for: An intelligent woman who I can relate very well to. I had a whole list of adjectives in my mind of what this person should be: ambitious, funny, attractive, I kept checking things off. This girl is everything I said I wanted. And I told her, ‘I want to take this as far as it can go.’
When did you commit?
Panya: I think on our first and second dates we went to a movie. Then he cooked me dinner on the third date. He made spaghetti and meat sauce. By the third date, I was hooked.
Our first kiss was on the second date. We were sitting in a movie theater. He asked me, ‘Can I touch you?’ He touched my leg. It was thrilling. It felt like a classic courtship.
At first I was like, ‘We are so different. What will sustain us?’ What sustains me is the feeling of safety and knowing (Harule) is here with me. He lived in New York City his entire life. My early years weren’t like that. I’m the product of an international marriage. I lived in Asia for six years. I thought we had so little in common. But I was the one with myopia, not him. I was limiting myself. Thank God, I was able to learn that and get the prize in the end.
What do you envision for the years to come?
Panya: We’ve put in our time and gone through our trials. God brought me exactly what I needed. I came with a lot of baggage about being able to trust… I’ve learned to trust that I chose correctly. We chose each other for a reason. Now we’re ready to grow our family.
Harule: What’s next? Increasing our freedom, increasing our family. Everything is about moving and healing and taking everything forward. As a species we can attain a state closer to the Creator than we are now. Our children will learn from our failures and our successes and carry the future forward.
How does Amani Resources influence your marriage?
Harule: W hat? You mean because she does magic? (Laughter) She’s very gifted. She can do these amazing things that seem so far-fetched. I find great pride in that. If this is what makes her happy, if this is what she wants to do, I’m glad she’s found it. People go their whole lives without finding what brings them joy. What she’s doing is a great accomplishment. Amani makes her happy.
About Amani Resources: Amani Resources programs integrate cutting edge tools for self-care, stress management, personal growth and healing to empower individuals and groups to reach their highest potential.