Marriage Mirage

Marriage!  Oh!  How my opinion has changed on this subject over the past two decades of my life!  So much has happened.  To me…To my friends and family members…To the students I teach…To co-workers…To friends of my children…To parents of my friends…Even society itself, finally allowing same sex marriages!  I have really learned so much.  Heard so much.  Experienced so much.  And lived so much.  Marriage is really just a mirage.  The longer I am on this earth circling the sun, the more I realize I know nothing and should never judge anyone or anything.  Especially other people’s relationships!

Over the past 20 years I’ve witnessed many of the marriages that I attended in my early twenties crumble.  It happens at all stage of marriage.  I’ve known some marriages to last only a few months…not even a year!  I’ve also witnessed people who move on from marriage after their children are grown and have grandchildren.  There seems to be no time constraint on the dissolving of a marriage…it just happens.

On the other side of the coin, I’ve heard of many people who just stay in their relationship for the children.  I know of others that stay under the same roof but sleep in separate beds.  Then there are open marriages that are always scutinized.  And I know of many marriages that have worked through infidelity.  There are few…if any… “normal” marriages anymore…or what I had imagined a normal marriage to be when I was younger.  Marriage is more of a mirage.  An optical illusion to anyone that is not in that particular marriage.  A fantasy for the couple in the relationship.

But who are we to define what is normal?  What right do we have to give people advice on a subject so fragile?  Something that is really happening to them only.  It’s their mirage.  Did you realize that loneliness has become the number one epidemic in America even above obesity!  Crazy right?  They have deemed this the number one public health crisis now.  Loneliness.  And how many of your reading this blog are feeling some degree of loneliness?  Every living thing straddles the ideas of stability and change.  We all want the stability of a relationship.  We love the familiar, the known and the comfortable.  But we are also changing and we crave this in our lives…most marriage don’t really foster this need.  I know I have definitely changed tremendously since I was first married in my mid-twenties.

Interestingly, I discovered from studying different religions that, from the Buddhist point of view, marriage is neither holy nor unholy.  Buddhism doesn’t put any religious label on marriage and doesn’t make it out to be this divine intervention that is ordained in heaven.  Buddhists also believe in non-attachment because nothing is permanent and we aren’t supposed to let ourselves get attached…but try not attaching yourself to your children, or your parents, or anyone you truly feel you love…I think it is impossible, but this is the Buddhists’ practice!

Did you know that the Buddhists only have a 10% divorce rate?  Maybe they are onto something.  Their practice of a relationship also includes that of impermanence. Their view is that nothing last forever…which is true…not even a marriage.  All relationships come to an end…they either break-up or die.  This is inevitable.  They realize that marriage is a mirage.  Maybe we should take on this mindset too?  Realize that nothing is permanent and stay in the now with your relationships.  Life is all about change.

I like the teaching of Esther Perel, a marriage counselor who says that we will go through approximately three marriages in our lifetime.  We can have three marriages to three different people or we can have three marriages all to the same person.  It is our choice.  Either way we have to recognize that we all change and that this is totally ok.

I love Eckhart Tolle and his book the Power of Now.  He explains the importance of staying in the now and realizing that everything is happening for a reason.  “Life will give you whatever experience is the most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness.”  Remember life is happening for you…not to you.

Every relationship has to stay in the now and let what is going to happen, happen.  Instead of setting crazy expectations for this institution, have more of a Buddhist mindset and realize that nothing is permanent and we should not attach to anything.  When it comes to other people’s relationship journey don’t judge whatever is happening and provide the support, love and kindness that everybody in this society so desperately needs.  Kill the loneliness and kill the judgement.  That could be you or a family member some day.  Who knows.  It’s all just a mirage.

As far as your relationship realize what works for you, doesn’t have to work for anyone else.  It’s your mirage.  Enjoy it.  Embrace it…and don’t let anyone make you feel bad about anything you chose to do along your fantasy.  Especially yourself!  We can be our own worst enemies.

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Sweat Lodge to Unlodge the Real You

How can the most intense heat produce such an incredible experience?  One of my favorite things to do lately is participate in sweats in a sweat lodge.  It is the most exhilarating experience that I’ve experienced in my life to date.

If you were like me, I had no idea what it even was, even though my hometown is surrounded by four different native tribal areas.  It is only since I started on my spiritual journey that I have been drawn to participate in these sweats and truly appreciate their tremendous value to eliminating the negativity in my life that I was seeking to destroy.

The more of these sweats that I do, the more that my “Conductor” is letting me take on more responsibilities and is getting into the deeper teachings with me.  I have SO much to learn, but I can’t get enough of this wise man’s knowledge.  The symbolism within the entire ceremony is very deep and touches my soul.

First, I had the honor of being the Fire Keeper and start the Sacred Fire where the Grandmother and Grandfather rocks are heated.  It is one of the most amazing fires I’ve ever experienced.  I was so excited that my Conductor let me take on this roll.  The beauty of this fire mystified me and I couldn’t believe that I started such a strong piece of this glorious ceremony!  Definitely the most powerful fire I’ve ever witnessed.

Then you shower and cleans your external body before the conductor will bless your body by smudging sage all over its perimeter with his large eagle feather.

After the blessing, you write a letter to the Creator of what you would like to eliminate in the sweat for that day, or what you want the Creator to help you with in your life.  Then you add some tobacco to the letter, ball it up and say a prayer and place it in the Sacred Fire.

From there we boil some blueberries and add a small sprinkling of sugar and bring them out to the Sacred Fire where they wait until they were ready to be offered to the bears, which are our protectors in this world.  This happens during the third round of the sweat.

While we wait for the Sacred Fire to tell us when the rocks are ready to bring into the sweat lodge, we smudge the sweat lodge, inside and out, and the Sacred Fire with sage or sweet grass.  Everything is completed in a clock-wise manner. The actual sweat lodge is a symbol of our mother’s womb.  The rocks that are being heated on the Sacred Fire are all our grandmothers and grandfathers.

Once the Sacred Fire shows us that our Grandmothers and Grandfathers are ready for the sweat lodge we bring in a big pail of water and a group of cedar branches, which is the instrument used to splash the water onto the hot rocks during the sweat.

Once the rocks were ready, the participants piled into the lodge and the Fire Keeper brings in half the rocks out of the Sacred Fire and put them in the hole in the sweat lodge.  This represents the umbilical cord between the Sacred Fire and the lodge.  I was also the Door Keeper, who is in control of the door and rolls the door down and makes sure no light can get in.  It is literally as dark as the mother’s womb.

The conductor then sprinkles a combination of different herbs, sweet grass and substance found on white birch bark onto the fire.  The heat from the rocks makes it look like the stars in the sky on a clear night.  Then each round of the sweat is dedicated to one of the sacred directions, starting at the East and ending in the North.  Each direction is prayed for and honored by the conductor and then the conductor splashes the rocks and prays and chants in his Native American language.

After the first two sacred directions are prayed and chanted for, we add the remaining rocks to the fire and the process continues.  In the end the conductor pours all the remaining water on the fire and closes the ceremony by giving thanks for all that we’ve been blessed with that day.

You have to experience this to appreciate it.  When in the sweat, the intensity of the heat is almost unbearable.  You think you are on fire.  You fight with your mind and struggle with your thoughts on whether you can bare it for any longer.  The feelings against your face and nostrils is one you’ll never witness anywhere else.  The conductor explains that the steam is the medicine and it will heal whatever needs to be healed.

The more rocks, the more intense the heat and the more medicine that is being brought into your body to cleanse and purify anything that your body needs.  In my experience, by the third round, my brain finally gave up the struggle, and I felt my body release.  After this I could take big deep breaths without feeling the burn I had before.  I could feel the steam having a positive effect on my body.  Once I finally stopped fighting internally, my external symptoms we alleviated.  It was the weirdest feeling that I find hard to put down in words.

As I sat in my symbolic mother’s womb at 44 years of age, having my face rapidly going back and forth, up and down in pure darkness trying to find some relief from the extreme heat, I realized that that is exactly what I am doing in this world.  I’m going in all directions, in pure darkness, fighting with my Ego the entire time.  Once I finally gave in and just let go, all the pain was lifted and the heat was more than bearable.  If only I can do the same thing in this world.  Just give in and let go!  It made me understand the Rumi quote, “When you let go of who you are, you become who you might be.”

Once it was over, and I exited my mother’s womb for the final time, I felt like an entirely new person.  Fresh.  Ready for a new start.  I can’t wait to go back and breathe in more of this potent medicine that is offered in this sacred space and I cannot express how much I recommend everyone trying this at least once!  We all could use a fresh start in this world and give into the Universe and let go of all the brainwashing that has happened to us all since birth!  Who knows what we might become?

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