Marriage is supposed to call forth the best in each person, but first we must recognize that the ultimate spiritual work must be our own. Our partner can be an active, loving participant during difficult times as well as times of happiness and celebration. But he or she is not the solution and salvation of our earthly or spiritual life: we are. As is suggested in some of the meditation themes we use in Cafh, at times we experience a sense of spiritual wandering and confusion. This is natural if one is to be on a committed spiritual path and the partners need to tolerate each other's confusion. In one meditation practice we have, it is possible to meditate together and out loud, for there is a question and answer part to that exercise. We are finding that meditating together is a useful, fun and interesting technique for surrendering control and letting go of our own individual thought patterns. It allows us to find our own inner voice of wisdom and love, the hidden part that we most want to get to know in the "other" as well as ourselves. By meditating together, we practice allowing someone else to receive our questions and develop it perhaps quite differently than we might have ourselves!
We recently saw a show in Manhattan called "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change!" which deals with an issue that most married couples grapple with to varying degrees of success. Using the spiritual notion that we can work to overcome our defects, illusions, fears and doubts while, at the same time, realizing that these are universal aspects of the human condition, makes us better able to accept our partner for who that person is, not who we would like him or her to be. As we begin to see ourselves and our partner as beings of sacred worth and value, we are better able to stay centered and close to them in a deeper, more meaningful way.
Is it possible that as we grow along our spiritual path, we find that we need less and less from our partner-less approval, less agreement? We become less dependent because the core of our being begins to rest solidly on our relationship with God's unconditional love for us and goes deeper than any worldly relationship. Ironically, as we find ourselves needing our partner less and less, we appreciate them more and more. Inner freedom, expanded consciousness and our growing relationship with God begets new forms of love. We no longer need to look to the other as our infinite source of strength, although the other can offer us human solace and comfort. More and more we look within as our love matures through God.
So it seems that we must seek the kingdom of God first. In a spiritual sense we are placing God at the center of our relationship and seek marriage with God first. If we do this, holiness becomes the context within which we place our human love relationship. Using God's unconditional love for us as our paradigm, we can then view ourselves and our partner as sacred and worthy of the same unconditional love. The stronger our relationship is to God, the stronger our relationship is to ourselves and our partner. We gradually unfold as greater human and spiritual beings capable of deeper forms of love. We can understand this unfoldment as a reflection of our growing love for God.
As we move along our path of unfolding in our marriages, there will inevitably be moments of difficulty and doubt, times when we find ourselves expecting things from our partner that they cannot give to us. We will need then to look within and seek to discover what we are asking of them that we cannot give to ourselves: love, attention, recognition, being, presence. As we become whole and begin to experience inner peace, we begin to give our partner these same feelings. Spirituality enables us to be more forgiving and tolerant so that we can more easily recognize spiritual specialness in our partner. Perhaps we can envision a state of spiritual maturity in which we will stop expecting proof or evidence of love and instead, fully and lovingly support each other's needs. Ultimately there will be nothing to forgive in each other. We will be living the true level of love. Separately and together, as couples, we can learn to hear the inner voice of love. It will resonate more deeply and strongly as we grow in our knowledge of the Divine within us. We can help each other in our marriages to trust in that voice and be guided by it beyond the boundaries of the self to where God truly resides in the redeeming force of measureless love.