The Contemplative Marriage
We are here in this world to learn, to create, to enjoy and to worship as we grow closer to God. God gives us marriage as a means to learn to find our way back to Love and to Him, but many of us have trouble staying in a space of learning within our relationship. We often allow negative emotions to color our perception of our partner and control our behavior, which eats away at the foundation of a marriage. Conflicts arise because of the stubbornness of the ego – the need to be right – and the fear of really sharing. Think of the wasted hours of upset and arguing, only to later not even remember what the argument was about!
Now imagine a couple beginning each important encounter with open prayer, relinquishing the need to be right and not fearing criticism or rejection. Imagine a couple discussing a conflict, recognizing that the tension is due to an inconsistency in their beliefs as individuals and stopping for reflection. Each person relinquishes self-righteousness, gives up the fear of rejection and the fear of being found less than perfect. Each person, together but separately, rests for a minute, regrouping in the presence of God, wishing for truth to be revealed above all. What is best for the relationship? Why am I so upset? What is my partner saying? Am I too entrenched in my position? They then resume their discussion. Can you imagine the power in this method of solving problems and coming up with new ideas? This is a couple with a contemplative marriage, one that understands the importance of inner peace and incorporates contemplative principles into the relationship. Individuals in a contemplative marriage celebrate their personal growth and inner joy by sharing their issues and goals peacefully and respectfully. This conscious couple sets aside the fear of being vulnerable. They center themselves in inner peace, and then reconnect with their love for one another before they begin a problem solving discussion.
Relationship is a tool to get us to really listen. Relationship can teach us to love unconditionally. Relationship is a means to get us beyond our self, the self that is trapped in the ego and in the material world. Romantic love is an out-picturing of the opportunity and dilemma of our need to love. This romantic relationship is the Divine Source shining through in an attempt to teach us about true love. In our reaction to romance we see out-pictured there our self. If we look closely we can see our neediness, our selfishness, our fearful heart, and at the same time the desire to understand true unconditional love. The trouble is we are so outer focused that we, 1) believe that the things outside of us are real and control us, 2) react to our lover rather than realizing that 93% of what we see in the other is really our self, 3) see the other as an object outside of us who is either there to serve our needs or to be feared and 4) blame.
Why do we give power to these negative emotions and allow them to govern our behaviors? It is a matter of perspective. The delusional belief is that the body is real and all there is. We have a notion that we have a soul. But we think that the soul, like God, is at a distance and not really connected to us. Of course the body seems real, but that’s all part of the drama. Science, at least Euclidean science, tells us that our three dimensional world is real. That science is based on the appearance of how our physical world operates on a surface level. However, Quantum science suggests that at the base level all matter is really made up of energy. So if we focus on the external, our surrounding environment seems to be comprised of different and separate entities acting under the laws of physics. But, if we change our perspective and look deeper, we see that our self, every other self and everything around us is in essence the same and share the same Divine energy. The reality is that everything emanates out of the mind of God. This is all part of the divine magnificence: Perception is fluid and the world around us is different depending on our frame of reference. You are a divine thought, a Spirit Being, thinking that you are a physical body based on what you see on the surface. In fact, you already are the soul and you already are connected to God!
If we could see this clearly we would realize we are not controlled by events and people around us, but internally directed. Nevertheless, we react to the world as if it controls us, not realizing that our conscious and subconscious mind is affecting, if not creating, the world around us. So we react to an event with fear or hurt or anger and guess what? We create more fear, hurt and anger!
We are acting out our unconscious issues. For example, we don’t want to face our dependency so we either cling unhealthily to a person or blame them for not being enough for us. We then “see” those issues in people and events in our world. It’s called projection, like the movie projector. We project our internal unfinished issues onto our mate, in particular. We don’t want to see it in ourselves so we see it or a reflection of it in them. At a personal time of insecurity just a glance or voice inflection from the other can lead us to attack. For example, Sam is very tense coming home from work, while Mary is feeling insecure about herself after realizing she is up five pounds. Arriving home he asks her critically why they aren’t having the chicken and dumplings that she had promised. Obviously upset she yells that he never appreciates her. He dumps his built up frustration and self-criticism on her while she projects and blames her insecurity on him.
Blaming is integral to the creation of conflict. We are acting out the belief that the world is real, that God is at a distance, that another’s behavior is the cause of our happiness or lack thereof. “You make me” type comments always have an aspect of blaming. Even when the spouse has made a serious blunder, “Arggh! You sprayed weed killer on my new lily plant.”, that doesn’t mean that they are responsible for your anger or hurt: “You don’t care about me at all. You’re always ruining my things.”. “You make me furious!” is both an illogical and blaming statement. In the conscious marriage no one can “make” us feel anything.
In most relationships there are moments of real love, but dependency and insecurity cause people to create expectations that can’t be met. Without realizing it a person may expect their spouse to act or look a certain way to make them feel secure, happy, attractive or any number of things. “I’m not happy because you’re always working.” Granted there may be a workaholic problem going on, but that still should not “cause” the other to be unhappy. After reflection, a healthier presentation might be, “You know, honey, I’ve been feeling lonely lately. You’ve been working some very long hours. Can we talk about what’s going on?”
We have to admit to ourselves that we are contradictory in our pursuit of love. We are afraid to be alone, but hesitate to commit and are scared to death of losing our identity. We say we love, but are angry much of the time. This is all wrapped up in the duality of our existence as spiritual beings living in what appears to be a material world. We need to ask ourselves the single most important question: Is our physical existence and identity the most important aspect of living? Or will we become fully reliant on God, giving our energy over to God as the Source of all prosperity and decide to live a mindful and contemplative life with our partner? Making that decision can eliminate the back and forth power struggle of the ego, the process of protecting the little self. It allows us to let go of our fear and work toward trust and faith in God. The more we focus on God, the more the negative aspects of our world will dissipate, making room for God’s love and abundance to fill our lives.
Our relationship with our spouse mirrors our relationship with God. Are you listening to God? Do you really listen to your wife? If you feel God is present right within you, then you likely feel close and connected to your husband. If that closeness wobbles with your wife, it probably wobbles with your higher Self. That wobble relates to our inconsistency in staying centered and connected with the Divine. Of course, this is an opaque mirror and not a direct reflection. Sometimes, we see something stark in our partner to get our attention about a subtle weakness in our self or a lack of connection with the Divine. Sometimes we THINK we are close to God but may not be as intimate as we could be. God may be drawing us in and showing us nuances of this distance. We are often in denial about our kindliness to our mate and in denial about our proximity to God.
We struggle with staying connected to God because our false self, the ego, and society promote an incorrect view of the purpose of the world. We are mesmerized and conditioned into thinking the world is here to fulfill us, to serve us, to nurture us. We think the world is real and that we are supposed to react to it. We fall into the trap and think that this wonderful child of God with whom we are sharing our life is supposed to make us happy. “You don’t kiss me enough. I need a person who is more affectionate.” And what do we do with this emotion? We attack or push away. This ends up creating more of what we are upset about. We are not being loving and we push our lover away, criticizing them for not being loving enough. Do you see the blaming and dependency within you? It’s important to face that. We become so enmeshed in the process that we don’t realize we are creating it. The spiritually attuned person wants to grow in love, self-fulfillment and joy. The purpose of the world around us in this time-created picture is to show us what is in our mind. Time slows things down to show us the fruits of our thoughts and beliefs. Imagine for a minute that time doesn’t exist. Events around us would plummet into our lives like rainfall. We would perceive things much like we do in a dream. Forms and events cascade one upon the other in the dream and we can barely make out the symbolism. The divine intelligence magnificently creates this time-space environment so that we can take a good look at our self! When we quiet our mind and watch the illogical ego we can listen for real inner love. Once we find that inner love we will soon see it outside ourselves. The axiom, “You can’t get love from another until you find it in yourself.” is totally true!
Through relationship we grow our ability to love unconditionally. We learn to listen to our own feelings and those of our spouse so that we can dig into who we are and discover our gifts. With that greater ability to love and listen we can share our talents with our fellow man and celebrate this marvelous creation through marriage. Love and joy bloom in the individual, are magnified by Christ through the relationship and then shared with the world. What a blessing! We aren’t supposed to blame, attack and seek happiness by making sure our partner does what we think is right. By getting our own actions and thinking right, we create inner contentment and are more likely to draw that out in our partner, and attract friends and colleagues into our life who also have their own inner contentment. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” said Gandhi.
The partners in this contemplative relationship realize that their time in this physical body is an opportunity for learning. They realize that life is supposed to be simple and beautiful. By attuning their individual minds to God’s Will and Love, the path amazingly unfolds before them. With this awareness in place each partner comes before their mate in a state of respect, patience and humility, realizing they need the other person’s direction and support while they hone their ability to listen to God’s Will. This divinely inspired relationship provides physical comfort and companionship while being used as a sharpening stone in learning to love and listen.
Most people do realize this at one time or another. Marriage vows state this in various fashions: “Marriage is the union of husband and wife in heart, body and mind. It is intended for their mutual joy – and for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity. But more importantly – it is a means through which a stable and loving environment may be attained.” The difficulty comes into play when an individual overly identifies with his own self and beliefs. The individual thinks their own beliefs are best. Society teaches us to think of ourselves as separate and to protect the little self. Fear motivates this type of thinking, the type of thinking that isolates and incites argument. When we feel fear, when our sense of identity is threatened, we revert to our primitive warrior beliefs: attack or defend. Fear fosters the notion that the individual is correct and their idea needs to be argued about. When we love we feel connected, we want to share and help and follow the spiritual aspect of the marriage vow. Love connects us and encourages discussion. Love turns conflict into consensus.
The stable and loving marriage allows the true purpose of relationship to emerge: to grow spiritually, to grow in our relationship with God. Learning to love puts us into the presence of God. God is Love and if we are expressing love, living in love then we are in God and God is in us. (1 John 4:16) A stable household allows contemplative prayer which deepens our love for our mate and our love and connection for God. It appears like we are seeking more intimacy with our mate, but what is really happening is that we are creating more intimacy with God. Then from the bounty of God our family life miraculously grows and becomes more harmonious. As the inner bond grows the outer world reflects that increase.
This growth and harmony comes out of stillness. The key to truly living the contemplative marriage is meditation and reflection. In order to create a marital space of stillness, learn to reflect, either practicing Christian Recollection or Mindfulness of the Buddhist tradition. Develop a technique of meditation – a process of relaxing the body, opening the heart, stilling the mind and stepping past the ego. The contemplative marriage is for people who understand the importance of meditation and want to incorporate this into their relationship. Further, it is inconsistent to be a person of peace, a person who prays daily, who meditates and yet does not pray with one’s spouse. Having a marriage without shared contemplation is being insincere in one’s spiritual path. Perhaps it is like rearranging the chairs on the titanic. Perhaps it’s like putting up a tapestry over a wall that is crumbling. The spiritual path is meant to be shared. Sure, we have our own relationship with God, but it is not separate from our spouse’s path; it is intertwined. Christ comes to us in relationship. Buddha nature is oneness with another.
The simple technique of couple meditation and prayer allows conciliatory processes to take place as the body relaxes, emotions calm and the identity moves from an individual sense of protection to a familial sense of principle and harmony. This is the path of the contemplative marriage.
How often do you get quiet with the Lord? Praise, thanks, and asking are all vital forms of prayer. Stillness and listening are equally, if not more, essential. A lot of prayer is about us when it should be about God. Stillness allows God to enter our mind and our will to align with God’s. Why do you avoid praying and meditating with your spouse? The resistance is generally about fear, vulnerability and control. Make a commitment to some schedule of individual and shared quiet and prayer time. Keep it brief to start. It will grow of its own as you practice. You’re giving yourself and your marriage over to the care of the Divine. Be consistent with that belief and your contemplative practice will bloom of its own accord, like a flower.
© by Paul F. Thompson