Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wedding Dharma

Last week, Kathy and I took a short vacation to the Pacific Northwest on what she dubbed "the wedding tour." By coincidence, a colleague of mine at the University of Washington was getting married in Seattle, and a cousin was doing the same in Anchorage, Alaska a few days later.

The ceremonies themselves were quite different in content and style, and yet very similar at the same time. The Seattle wedding was officiated by a Tibetan Buddhist priest, the Anchorage ceremony by my uncle, the Reverend David Fison (Retired). In Seattle, the priest brought up impermanence and dependent origination. It was held by a Lake near the city where it was sunny and warm. The Anchorage ceremony looked at impermanence through a different lens, that of the Christian faith, which holds some things as being permanent and eternal, but at the same time recognizes that life itself is ephemeral. The ceremony took place on the side of a mountain with low-hanging clouds and rain threatening.

In both cases, we were asked to look inward to investigate our own experiences of love and relationship. What were all the causes and conditions that brought us to these places with these people? What is the meaning of love and commitment in relationship, and why do we take these public steps of giving and receiving promises of love and devotion "for as long as we both shall live?"

In a traditional Jewish wedding ritual, there is a moment when a glass is broken. This symbolizes the fact that, someday, this marriage will end (if for no other reason, than because of the death of a spouse). Marriage, like all things, is constantly in a state of change, and this act of breaking the glass brings this fact directly into the ceremony itself. A marriage, like the partners involved, is a living thing that inhales and exhales, changes and evolves, lives and eventually, dies.

That's the whole point, as far as I can see, and the main reason why we should get married in the first place: to evolve. To paraphrase Adolph Guggenbuel-Craig, when we have our spouse to "rub up against" on a daily basis, our rough edges gradually smooth away. This only happens, however, if we are willing to move through the relationship with consciousness. Marriage allows us to come face-to-face with our own shadow material and reintegrate it into conscious awareness. In this way, we are no longer held prisoner by our reactive mind and we can make more effective choices, thus reducing our measure of suffering.

So marriage may not be a place of peace and harmony all the time, simply because growth means that there will be stressors on the individuals as old habits are recognized and new choices made. I was never happier than the moment I saw Kathy coming down the aisle toward me on our wedding day. That ritual is still a thing of magic and wonder for both of us. I would also be lying if I said that it has been that way for the entire thirteen months of our marriage. Yet, the difficult times indicate that growth is at hand. We face the Shadow as best we can, and help each other toward consciousness with loving kindness and compassion.

So, to all those readers who are in committed relationships, married or otherwise, I send loads of loving kindness and compassion to you, also. To those of you desiring a relationship, I send more of the same. If finding a partner is truly a desire, write down specifically what you want out of the that person and the imagined relationship, then release attachment to the outcome. Let the Universe handle the details, and when the season is right, the love you seek will find you.


1 comment:

  1. Thank you always for your wisdom and insight, Roger! It's good to be reminded of The Shadow as a powerful and often unnoticed presence in the intimacy of daily living. Another way to spell "spouse" is "spice." At least, that's the way I'm rubbing up against the married state these days.