Divorce Meditation: The Death of a Marriage

The Mid-Life Divorce Stage

I am in that stage of life where many, many people in my circles are either contemplating getting divorced, in the process, or have recently completed the process. A friend’s recent announcement about this got me stewing on the topic: a divorce meditation.

I will say, it is a strange and unnerving thing for me to witness all these divorces. My husband and I feel, as keenly as many of these couples did, the hope to stay together over a lifetime. We revisit our relationship almost every time another couple we know decides to break up. Our communication and check-ins are probably not a bad thing, but we do find it somewhat distressing that so many around us are divorcing.

We feel saddened by the loss of their couplehood. We wonder if we’ve missed something that may make our relationship implode later on. And we know of the healing that must come if anyone is to truly move on- and what hard work that is (and how few undertake it).

 

‘Til Death Do Us Part (Right?!?)

When I officiate weddings (I was counting them up as I wrote this: it’s somewhere around 30 now), each couple is deeply in love and writes amazing things for their vows. They talk about the heights they have experienced and the depths they will go to in order to support their shared love, their relationship.

But I will tell you, in all honesty, there are some couples who I would bet money will not make it for the long haul. (I don’t judge and I don’t counsel: everyone has got their path, and the couple is usually so in love at that moment they would never hear my concerns or questions.)

One thing you hear on both sides of the wedding-and-dirvorce path is this: ’til death do us part.

We say it in the vows- that I will not leave your side until we physically die. That I will remain with you, through all things, until the last breath leaves your body. It is a wonderful sentiment and so very true in the moment.

I think that, if we’re really honest, we discover, further into the complexities of marriage, that there are actually plenty of times we feel like leaving. (My husband and I have approached this edge, with true intent of leaving, at least twice in our relationship. How couples deal with these moments says a lot about the health of the relationship.)

We also say it when the vows are well and over, as a threat: “You told me it was ’til death do us part!” We hold that phrase in anger and fear and throw it at our former beloved as proof of their weakness.

Quite the opposite of the vows.

 

A black and white picture of a dead dandelion and its flying seeds, a symbol of death and moving on

 

Death Is More Than The Physical

But what if ” ’til death do us part” isn’t just about the physical?

For most people I know, marriage is a union of much, much more than the physical bodies. It is about a union of hearts, values, and goals. Marriage is about a union of spirits and dreams and experiences. Marriage is also about creating and maintaining a strong and deep emotional connection, not just  physical support.

There are many examples of couples who loved their partner even after one had died. Their connection ran soul-deep, not just in this physical realm. Death did not part them.

And if we turn that idea on its head- the idea that the vitality of a marriage can extend beyond death- we can see that, in the same way that death does not part some people, different types of marital death (beyond the physical) can cause divorce.

For instance, what if the soul of a marriage dies?
Like life support, does it matter if the bodies go on living when the soul is dead?

What if the deep emotional connection dies?
Should we continue to chain ourselves to someone who cannot or will not share intimacy with us?

What if the mutual support– on any level- dies?
In our Western world, marriage is about the full development of two people, as a couple and individuals. What if support for full individual (or couple) development is stymied, ignored, or denied by our partner?

What if the shared goals, perspectives, or values change radically?
This is also a kind of death due to poor proximity. Long-distance relationships – which is what un-shared values point towards – are rarely sustainable.

 

We Can Only Live Into the Answers

I don’t have answers to these questions. And I know that each couple has to answer them for themselves (some will be able to come back from the brink, some will not).

But I know this for sure: the death of anything is not just a physical occurrence.
Death involves the spiritual, the mental, the emotional…and so much more.

A marriage can die under many circumstances, therefore. And when a marriage dies, under whatever circumstances, we need not tie ourselves to it forever. It is a blessing of growth to let it die and to let it go.

 

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Modern Hymnal Candidate: ‘Lifted’ by Naughty Boy

One of the main tenets of my belief system is that the Divine is everywhere.

Everywhere.

But most especially that Divine truths are hidden in everyday places- especially pop culture.

And so, with that in mind, I would like to offer up candidates for songs that should be placed in a Modern Hymnal. (Or, a Hymnal for Modern Believers? Well, either way…)

Such songs should express some long-held or multi-faith-tested Truth.
But they should make you dance.
Or sing.
Or want to laugh as you spin in a circle under a tree on a sunny day.

They should rock your ears and your soul.

With those guidelines in place, I offer the first candidate for this new hymnal.

It is ‘Lifted’ by Naughty Boy, featuring Emilie Sande.

(Actually, I should say, everything from the U2 albums “Joshua Tree” and “Achtung Baby” have already been included in the hymnal. Oh, and this mantra [which will be one of those songs everyone knows the chorus to and mumbles through the verses! Anyway…].

I just love this song. It speaks to both the light and dark of spiritual journey. And I love the images- how we feel we are dancing alone, but we’re not. It’s just gorgeous to me.

What do you think? Does it make the cut?

What makes the cut in your personal hymnal?
Tell me in the comments!

 

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Teach Me to See The Answers to My Prayers

Prayer in Spiritual Practice

Besides ecstatic dance, I combine a variety of practices into my spiritual connection time. Typically I include breath meditation, some tantric breathing, prayer (like, good, old-fashioned talking to God), energy work, and sometimes compassion meditation or just quiet attention for my altar items.

It’s quite a variety, and has probably changed 7 or 8 times in the last dozen years. The variety is due to my training: I went to an interfaith seminary.

In seminary, we learned about many, many different faiths. I was introduced to the beauty and usefulness of each one. I sort of fell in love with each of them, in some different way.

It was like falling in love with God’s eyes, then her lips, then his ears, then its body.

Each of the faith practices I use helps me connect to some part of the Greater Whole. (And, quite often, just the Whole of the Greater Whole.)

 

What Is Kept, What Is Released

As I rotated through different faith practices, I kept some pieces and let others filter through. One of the things I loved about Goddess/Pagan practices was the phrase, ‘Blessed Be.’ It is calming, affirming, a prayer, an invocation, and a benediction. Incredibly flexible and useful.

I also find its simplicity quite beautiful and it has remained a part of my practice, even as my beliefs have changed.

A group of pagan worshipers praying together in a circle in England.

 

Susan Piver, who practices the same lineage of Buddhism that I do (Shambhala), has talked about – both in her books and on her blog – the advice her teacher gave to her for finishing each meditation session. He suggested she end with these words:

“May whatever good has arisen here today be used in the service of others.”

She writes that saying these words at the end of the session is akin to hitting the ‘Save’ button when you’re done writing a text document. I like the metaphor and I like the idea that benediction is an important part of the whole prayer cycle.

(Obviously, I also like the intent: that whatever insight or change we develop in our meditation brings deeper value when it is used in service to others.)

I use this phrase as part of my benediction as well.

 

Buddha in prayer or altar area, offering a benediction pose.

 

Teach Me to See The Answers to My Prayers

Lately I have been experimenting with something that I think may be as important to my spiritual development as the phrase from Susan Piver.

At the conclusion of my spiritual practice, I usually repeat three phrases.

1. Help me to discern (see) the path that is set for me.

2. Give me the strength to follow the path.

3. Help me to see the answers to my prayers.

Items 1 and 2 are similar to what many traditions suggest their followers ask: that the will of god be made known to them. And that they have the inner, mental, or spiritual strength to follow that guidance.

Number 3, is a little different, though. And it is helping me to refine my awareness and discernment.

 

Praying for X, Getting Y (or So We Think)

So often on the spiritual path we pray for specific things.
Please help me get X.
Please help me understand Y.
Please bring peace to Q.

Many, myself included, hope that our prayers will be answered exactly as requested or envisioned.

Sometimes that happens.

But, in my own experience, and certainly that of others, often what we envision and what we get look very different.

And when we don’t get what we envisioned we:

  • think something is wrong with us (and our ability to ‘manifest’ or whatever),
  • or that something is wrong with God (obviously, did not get the recipe right),
  • or that we don’t deserve that Exact Thing. And it can lead to all kinds of anger, despair, and frustration.

 

A bronze statue of an angel wearing a hood, offering a pose of benediction during prayer.

 

Re-framing Our Perception

I am not entirely convinced that the difference between our vision and the (different-looking) outcome is a bad thing.

I think this is a problem of mis-perception.

Our human mind is so very small, so limited (you know, compared to God’s mind). It cannot imagine what our highest good might look like. It can only guess a tiny way down the road. So we ask for X. Or Y. Or Q. With no real understanding of what we’re doing.

It’s as if we are Central Park chess players and God is Bobby Fisher. The Universe can see so very much farther forwards and backwards than we can. 

I believe, that in my asking to be made aware of my answered prayers, I am aligning my mind more with that of the Divine Intelligence. I am asking to see through the eyes of God, rather than my own.

I do not believe, as I was taught in my youth, that my eyes are faulty or sinful.
They are, though, habituated to human perception.

Asking to be shown answers to prayers opens me up to a greater awareness and understanding of my life. Being given the gift of seeing answered prayers, especially those that don’t ‘fit,’ broadens my mind and my soul.

It is, without a doubt, one of the tougher requests I make. It takes humility to ask to be shown the way. It takes faith to ask for the strength to walk the way. But it takes humility, faith, mental flexibility and patience to ask to be shown answered prayers.

There have been answers that were difficult to see, difficult to accept. But at no time have the answered prayers disappointed. They have always supported my growth. And that’s what we’re here to do.

 

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Dark Night of the Soul

 

a long, dark road with the words "sometimes the darkest places we will go, the hardest work we will do, is to keep ourselves heading towards the light."

 

Dark Night of the Soul

They come in many shades of black. Sometimes it is being stuck in the dark. Sometimes it is the loneliness of clawing ahead. Sometimes it is the despair of feeling so spiritually alone.

Felt this way? Feel this way? Email me. I help.

 

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Tattoo: Stories They Tell, Stories They Write

The Tattoo Stories

Every tattoo has a story to tell.

This is not news.

Many people get tattoos just to tell their story, or a piece of it.

A flower for the death of a loved one.
A picture of a favorite place.
Words they must never forget.
Some just want to be a canvas for beauty – that is the story itself.
(I am quite in love with these ‘watercolor tattoos’ lately.)

But no one tells you how the ink will sink into your skin and begin to tell its own story.
Or to shape your story and your life.

 

The Wrist Tattoo

Fourteen years ago I got this tattoo:

wrist tattoo with the text "always and all ways connected" with flowers and leaves behind the text

It started with just the text, which says “always and all ways connected.” I added the flower motif on top (although it looks like it’s underneath), a few years later.

I wrote those words as a way of commemorating something I was learning at the time: that I was connected to the Divine in all ways. And for all time.

(Lots of people assume it’s for my husband. But, no.)

I thought I was getting the tattoo as a marker for where I’d come from.
What I had learned.

Oh, silly child.

I was just beginning my foray into knowing the Divine.
Just a drop in the ocean.
An ocean I will never leave or entirely know.

The tattoo sank into my arm for a year and then I started seminary.

Seminary was a wild ride into faiths and spiritual paths of all kinds. Many of which I tried on for size. I found ideas and practices and holy-days and texts that thrill me and inform my journey to this day. (Also, I learned about Goddess religion from two gay guys. What more could I ask for?)

I thought my tattoo was an ending.

But it was a doorway.

 

The Back Tattoo

 

A shoulder tattoo showing song lyrics and a quote. A story about marriage and freedom.

The letter ‘J’ in the upper part of this tattoo was the first part of this tattoo. It was something my husband I both got on the eve of our wedding. (He also has a ‘J’ name.) That means it is nearly 18 years old.

There is script around the letter. It is from one of my top 10 favorite songs: U2’s “Mysterious Ways.” The text says, “Lift my days, light up my nights.” I got that part three years ago.

It was intended as a tribute to my husband, who does those very things. (His tribute to me, also in song lyrics, was Erasure’s “Angel” – “My electric symphony in blue.” I’m an electric symphony to someone, who knew?!?)

But as the tattoo was being completed, I knew it wasn’t finished.

There was more to say.
More to know.

I looked for clues about what was to be inked into my body.

I knew now that what I put there could change my life.

The answer sprang out at me from Jack Kornfield’s Bringing The Dharma Home and it said, “Loving within the boundaries of our practice brings freedom of the heart.”

When I read it, I simultaneously knew it was exactly what needed to be in the tattoo – in me – and I was also deathly scared of what it meant for my marriage.

At the time I was going through a huge hormonal upsurge and wanted Someone Else. I didn’t want to leave my marriage, but I sure wanted a Weekend Pass (to go Get It On with this other person). My sexuality and my soul were at odds with each other. Or so I thought.

I gave a little nod of acceptance to the Inner Guide: yes, I would take this on in my tattoo.

Mirror reflection of a tattoo with the text 'freedom of the heart'- a tattoo story about love and marriage.

[This is a mirror reflection of the tattoo so you can read the text. I had the text tattooed in a mirror image – seen above –  so I could read it in the mirror. I can’t read the song lyrics for that reason!]

In quick order, the more decorative pieces fell into place.
I had the tattoo finished.

And for the next three years, I went through a rigorous school that taught me how to love vibrantly within the confines of my marriage. And that my sexuality might not be separate from my spirituality. And that my soul must always win out – even when I choose the opposite of what it asks. And how to surrender every level of something to the greater good of my soul. And that hormones fuck with your lady-brain sometimes. And also how to love myself.

It was a dreadful and joyful school.
And I am still in it.

 

The Hip Tattoo

I got a new tattoo recently.

In part because I was drawn to it. And in part because I want to become it.
I want to walk the path of this tattoo.

I know now: the tattoo will sink into me and become me. And I will become it as well.

It is this:

Tattoo of the word 'dakini' in sanskrit. A tattoo story of dedication and fierce enlightenment.

 

This is sanskrit for ‘dakini.’
(Everybody has a sanskrit tattoo, I know. So much for rebellion!)

Dakini are a class of goddesses. Different from specific goddesses, like Quan Yin or Mother Mary, dakini show up in many forms and walk the path of fierce enlightenment and sexuality (quite often, fierce enlightenment through sexuality).

The interesting things about the word ‘dakini’ is that there is no male counterpart. ‘Dakini’ is not some kind of ‘female Buddha’ (although several paths speak of them in this way, it is not the correct representation). She is not some ‘lesser’ version of a male diety. There is also no such thing as a ‘male dakini.’ Dakini only come in one flavor: girl.

Dakini is translated as ‘light dancer’ and I certainly feel that is part of my spiritual path right now.

Earlier this year, I also took on the challenge of learning to see Life as my Lover, to see God as my Lover. I wanted to know more about everyday ecstasy and so I have set about exploring just that.

I also wanted to learn more about understanding how my sexuality and my spirituality are one and the same. This has been a challenge for me to intellectually understand (with a conservative religious background), and even more so to physically understand it. But I want to know it, in my heart and in my soul.

So, yes, I took this as my tattoo.
This is what I want to explore.
This is what I feel I am being called to.

 I dedicate myself to the path by painting it into my body.

It will tell my story. It will write my story.

 

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