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Sacred Marriage

April 3, 2010

This year, on my birthday, I was lying on my back in my Yoga/writing/reflecting room and looking up at all the books filling the built-in shelves. Suddenly, I was overcome with the deepest grief: there is so much to know…so much that I don’t know. And I cried for quite a while scanning back and forth across all those books: philosophy, history, and literature texts; language learning books, art books, and psychology…

The Jnana Yoga path has always made the most sense to me—it’s my frequency. Although I do value the Yoga of work, devotion, and I very much need asana and pranayama—the Yoga of learning is the best fit. For as long as I can remember, I have been exposed to the idea that the mind is plastic (of course this is all the rage now in neuroscience but Yogis have been writing about this for thousands of years!) and that through right practice a Yogi can train his mind, clear the mind of samskara, and ultimately—Inshahallah—he will achieve union.

Samadhi doesn’t concern me. Ugh, I’m far too imperfect to even set my sights on samadhi. Indeed, I am most interested in how I will do today. This is most important to me. How many times will I forget today that I am not the body, I am not the mind, I am not the emotions, and I am not the karma? Innumerable!!! Consistent practice is a great beginning to bolster remembering of the Atman, but it is only a beginning. I’m STILL struggling with upholding a consistent practice—I discovered Yoga well over twenty years ago and I have fallen off my practice more times than I like to admit…but it is true. Each time I fall, I fall harder. But why do we fall?

Once we establish that consistent practice we encounter the real work of looking at our mind, our habit patterns, and relationships. Unless you happen to be a bodhisattva, we are embodied because we are imperfect, we have work to do and karma to burn…sitting and observing one’s mind takes courage, faith, and devotion. It requires strength, compassion, and Grace…it is work.

Recently I have been discovering the deeper dimensions of the sacred power of marriage. Marriage—where there is absolute commitment and real love— creates tremendous tapas! It’s very difficult to hide our imperfections from the one who lives with us and knows us in multiple contexts. In short, marriage gives us the opportunity to face our own minds and correct what is weak and build upon what is strong. Here is an example: One of my greatest weaknesses is my tendency to retreat and hide away from family, friends, and social situations. Although it is true that I am a bookworm and that I require large amounts of solitude and time for reflection…if I am completely honest…this tendency to retreat has more to do with an avoidance of discomfort and difficulty than it does much else.  My husband has helped me, in a loving and compassionate manner, to uncover this weakness and become more aware of it. Therefore, in recent days my Yoga has been to steadily practice “putting myself out there” and encounter the discomforts as they arise and engage in self-inquiry.

Recently, I joined an asynchronous satsang with Swami Tyaganandaji about living in the moment. Swamiji made so many good points it would be foolish to try and recount them all! Please check out his lecture Living from Moment to Moment—I’ve embedded it on the blog for your convenience. I would like to mention some of the points he made that are most relevant in this context. Swamiji asks, “Why is spiritual life so tough for many people? …When we turn to spiritual life what we are being in effect asked to do is look is to learn to look at ourselves and look at the world in a very different way than we have up till now. And this is tough. Why? Because the mind has a mind of its own!” The mind has a mind of its own because the mind operates on the habits of seeing, feeling, thinking and behaving that we have cultivated up until now. If we are to liberate ourselves from the round and round we must begin by looking into that mind and uprooting the patterns of thought and behavior that do not bring us toward our goal. In addition—a point that Swamiji made that still has me reeling—we MUST digest our experiences.

Swamiji explains, “If you’ve not digested—you will know, there will be some kind of trouble. Experiences in our life are some kind of food for our mind. The state of our mind is determined by the kinds of experience we have digested….Your mind right now is the result of the experiences you’ve digested…you’re problems are the result of the experiences you haven’t digested. If we really want to prevent the past from intruding into the present, we really need to find a way to digest those experiences…Unfortunately there is no laxative for these experiences.”

“Undigested experience really means our refusal or our inability to learn from it. Our inability to understand what it was meant for and what increases our inability to digest experiences is complaining about it.” Swamiji also warns us that bitterness, anger, and self-pity related to those undigested experiences also prevents learning. So, if I can’t complain, feel bitter, angry, or self-pity…then, well, you mean…I have to DEAL WITH IT? Bah! And so—bit by bit, slowly, consistently, with faith, love, and perseverance I am making an effort to digest those experiences that continue to push themselves into my consciousness. Inshahallah I will find some Grace along the way. Hari Om Tat Sat.

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  1. Life is not a riddle to be solved, it is a mystery to be lived. It is a deep mystery to trust and allow yourself to enter into it. (Rajneesh 1975:45)
    or as Einstein said:
    The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education
    Amazing insights. I look forward to more!

  2. Thank you Sara. Today I’m visiting the Temple of Kannon–the Boddhisattva of Compassion–for the second time in a week. I’ve been reflecting on compassion and would like to write something soon to share with anyone who stops by the blog.

    You take care! Hari Om Tat Sat.

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