It is a widespread (thankfully, now being corrected) notion that spirituality equals renouncing everything and becoming a monk. Should someone who’s trying to transcend the world still buy Nike shoes and go on expensive dinners? Is it okay for spiritual people to devote time to their marriage?
Truth is, spirituality isn’t about resisting your life, it’s about transcending it.
How? Let’s look at a simple example – eating chips or popcorn. Most of us grab a handful and stuff our faces with the crispy goodness, not even chewing properly. Now, if you were to look at a video of yourself eating popcorn at the movies, you might be taken aback and cringe.
Conscious living is pretty much that – watching yourself like a movie, as often as you can.
CAVEAT: The example above is oversimplified of course. Conscious Living is not about changing your behavior because you are “cringing”. It’s about coming from a place of self-acceptance and compassion that allows these “lesser than” behaviors to transmute into higher ways of being.
What about love; can spirituality and marriage go hand-in-hand?
We are able to reflect on our behavior, our mistakes, our grudges, and our resentments because people give us that opportunity. They “trigger” something within us – they help us see what we may not have seen in ourselves before. Good AND bad.
The truth is, in order to “SEE” ourselves, we need something reflecting who we are.
In that way, our partners can become our greatest mirrors. If we start seeing them as such. There’s a really powerful healing technique I share with my clients called the Mirror Technique.
The tool simply suggests that we stop focusing so much on the other person’s actions and instead start seeing our reactions.
So if you were to think of a time that you were deeply impacted by someone’s behavior. Let’s use that example to work through the Mirror Technique.
Reflection question: What arises within you whenever they did whatever they did?
How does your behavior change when you start feeling those emotions?
Has there ever been a time when you felt that emotion but this person wasn’t even in the scene?
If yes, it’s a sign that the emotion is yours because it’s always been around. Your relationship with the emotion may not be a positive experience which is why you want to push it away (and even push the person away that makes you feel that way).
In this way, you may discover that the circumstances outside of you only provoke that emotion and bring it to the surface. But you’re the one that can process your emotions and respond differently.
In this way, you can use every interaction with another person as an opportunity to meet yourself with greater depth.
And that’s when real healing begins.
How can you know your ability to forgive if someone doesn’t hurt you?
How can you overcome your jealousy if you didn’t even experience it; if you didn’t share that kind of intimacy in the first place?
None of this is to say that we justify truly toxic and unhealthy relationships. But many times, when we are internally unresolved from our past memories, our worldview also becomes tainted. We might make a situation mean much more than it really is.
For instance, I experienced a deep sense of jealousy for a few days when I initially learned that my partner was surrounded by female coworkers all day, every day. If I had remained unconscious of this jealousy, I would start telling myself stories that my partner will cheat on me. But because I chose to work through my emotions, I realized that it was my own past insecurities that I had the opportunity to heal.
In that way, marriage can be a great accelerator for our spiritual growth!
What are some spiritual tips to handle challenges in a marriage?
Yes renouncing our responsibilities can feel like an easier way to live if you’re constantly locking horns with your partner (or in general, in other relationships too). Here’s the fun story (nested in the first tip below) that took away my desire to become a monk.
#1 – Remember, your marriage is NOT the problem. Most likely, YOU are.
Again, this is not to “gaslight” those that may be in a truly toxic or abusive relationship. From a very personal place, I’d like to share the story I read in a spiritual book called Old Path White Clouds.
As legend has it, countless seekers wanted to gain clarity and enlightenment like the Buddha. So many of them were initiated into Buddha’s sangha (community). But just because they were initiated into monkhood, didn’t mean that their problems went away.
Often, quarrels and disagreements would break out between the monk brothers, which Buddha would help resolve. There would be all sorts of issues from “he doesn’t do his share of the dishes” to “he said so-and-so to me”.
When I discovered that even those that wear orange (or yellow) garbs can experience immense anger and jealousy, it became clear to me that when my partner and I have arguments, my marriage is most likely not the problem. It’s ME! It was this realization that allows me to intentionally work on my triggers and use my marriage to experience deeper levels of freedom for myself.
Notice if this lands for you too – is there any part of you that was in agreement with this inference?
#2 – The “not so spiritual” stuff IS the spiritual stuff.
This person will push your buttons at every step of the way – right from conflicts over room temperatures and changing baby diapers at midnight, to who-said-what and then some…
But how is that “spiritually helpful”? It is.
As a matter of fact, our partners can really help us apply all kinds of spiritual techniques.
Thanks to all the ups and downs, we remember God a lot more. I mean how often do we remember God when life’s smooth?!
We learn to surrender when our partner is stubborn.
We learn the art of forgiveness and letting go of our resentment when our partner messes up.
We learn to co-create and co-habitat, gracefully mastering detachment whilst remaining compassionate, thus overriding our ego.
And most importantly: we learn the truest form of unconditional love and devotion when we fall in love with our partner and children, each time in a greater capacity.
#3 – Remember, God got married too.
Here’s another spiritual story to understand the way our marriage can serve our path of healing.
I am quoting spiritual mystic, Sadhguru as he explains in his phenomenal book, Adiyogi.
There was a difference between her [Parvati] and the sages; she was in love with him [Shiva] and the sages were in love with what he had [mastery over Self]. Because of her level of perception and receptivity, Shiva took her directly to the peak of attainment [Enlightenment through love].
Shiva is seen as the mightiest God in the Hindu religion (his nickname is Mahadev, meaning the God of Gods). And his wife, Parvati went through lifetimes of obstacles to be with him. Once he accepted Parvati, she immediately attained enlightenment. Her spiritual growth infinitely exploded because of the pure love and oneness she felt for her partner.
On the other hand, the sages that feverishly worshipped Shiva took lifetimes to attain enlightenment through knowledge and renunciation.
The conclusion is that whether we go hunting for Enlightenment in a cave, or in the midst of a family feud at home, the end goal is attainable. Because it isn’t the outside dynamics that matter; it all comes down to one thing – the inner thirst for true self-realization.
Balancing marriage whilst on a spiritual pursuit is like a double ‘challenge accepted’. It invites us to not just evolve for ourselves, but while being with another person who may be evolving faster (or seemingly slower) than ourselves. But addressing that problem might be for another time *wink*.
Should you get married if you are on a spiritual journey? I believe that to each their own. But the kind of lives we’ve signed up for, our soul contracts don’t require the kind of extremism anymore, that sages and monks once practiced.
We’re being invited to find our peace here, and now.
The question is, are you ready?
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Vasundhra is the Founder & Writer of My Spiritual Shenanigans. After seeing 11:11 on the clock one fateful night, her life turned around. Ever since, she has been blending modern psychology and ancient spirituality, to help herself and people around the world elevate the quality of their lives.
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