It is in silence that we connect to our highest Light—that spark which lets us know we are part of the Sum of Life. After an experience of the reliable silence of profound spiritual Union and after we have regrounded into our individual bodies, we often search for a physical venue of religious expression.
In mature marriages which have served to grow an individual member’s spiritual depths, there is sometimes a parting of ways because the chosen means of religious expression for an individual member (or both members) of the couple no longer matches that of the younger couple. If a middle-aged seeker returns to a religious organization of childhood familiarity, which he or she may have eschewed in early adulthood, this act of return often draws him or her away from the partner who was part of that person’s spiritual growth.
This is not a theoretical model, but a phenomenon which I have observed on two separate occasions in different unprogrammed Quaker Meetings.
What the two narratives illustrate for me is that in listening to the individualized leadings of our hearts, we are sometimes lead to walk places where we must go alone, to resolve unfinished business or return to a core sense of Self, the expression of which may or may not fall into step with the established rhythm of a mature, marital march.
Typically, we look upon marriage as a social institution in which two people are committed to supporting one another long term. Yet, in reality, our first marriage is internal. Our first marriage, and most profoundly spiritual relationship, is a between our every-day, social self and our, perhaps more elusive, higher Self or highest Light. Ideally, we would devote as much–if not more–time, energy and tender care to this internal marriage as we do to our existing external marriage and/or our most intimate, long-term friendships.
Tending to an internal, first marriage requires us to listen to the voice of the heart, because the heart is where the Self resides. The Self views the world in terms of care, respect, integrity, the web of life and thoughtful dignity; whereas, the social self is concerned with issues of status, race, age, gender and possibly creed. When the higher Self is grounded in the heart, we ask questions like, “How may I best honor my Light today? Or, how may I best honor the Light in someone else?”
Listening for and discerning the heart’s Truth takes patience and practice, as well as the sometimes needed assistance of our most trustworthy friends.
In Quaker tradition (The Religious Society of Friends), a member of meeting may call a Clearness Committee, from among the membership, to assist him/her with a quandry and the discernment of the true leadings of the heart. The Committee meets, without judgment, to listen to the question or questions at hand. Then, each member of the Committee brings forth further, pointed questions meant to lead the convening individual toward his/her own heart-centered Truth. The Clearness Committee neither advises, nor do members offer opinions, though sometimes members of the Committee may repeat the quandry-holder’s own words back to him/her.
Sometimes the only way for us to hear ourselves is through the repetition of our own will words coming from someone else’s mouth.
When conducted with respect, diplomacy and confidentiality, a Clearness Committee is capable of removing the debris of confusion from even the most confused of hearts. Consider this means of approaching your own serious questions. I offer this practice as one method for opening the door on your own clarity, highest Light and the sacred, first marriage, which is awaiting your attentive care.
What happens when your spouse comes home to tell you she has purchased a motorcycle, taken a six-month leave of absence from work and is planning to ride cross-country with a friend? If you have not been part of the planning phase for these major decisions, you may be wondering, “What happened to the ‘we’ in the ‘to-have-and-to-hold’ and ‘until-death-do-us-part’ portions of the marriage vows?” Yet, what remains unspoken, in more spiritually mature unions, is that as marriage participants we usually come together to assist one another in discovering who we are and what we want.
In the context of a spiritual friendship or a primary, committed relationship, this process may be referred to as holding space.
Marriage, as an institution, may be “about” many things: the desire for a greater sense of intimacy, domestic refuge, physical touch, having a reliable confessor, spiritual communion, fiscal support, emotional comfort, common interests, intellectual friendship, shared dreams or some combinations thereof. Most of us enter a first marriage without necessarily knowing ourselves, let alone what we may “want” over a lifetime, except that we remain hopeful that life is and will become “better” if we are heard and, ideally, understood by someone other than ourselves. And, on the threshold of a new marriage, travelling in tandem always seems like the better choice than going it alone.
In actuality, all of us are already travelling in tandem through life, whether or not we are in a committed, primary relationship. We are travelling in tandem–within ourselves–with the Self, our highest Light.
There is the aspect of each personality running our day-to-day affairs, such as calling the garage for an oil-change appointment, shuttling children to and from activities, getting us through the work day or otherwise “doing” life–almost on autopilot. Another aspect of personality, which often lies buried beneath a pile of fall leaves, waiting to be unearthed at the first hint of a spring-like recognition, is in the inner sactum of the heart–the highest Light or the Self.
Sometimes the disparity between what our habituated self desires is quite different from what our highest Light would command or commend.
The habituated self has its eyes on entertainment, the Joneses, as well as practical, logisitical and material concerns. The Self is more concerned with affirming the whole of life in the Big Picture, while working through issues of ethics with a trained, judicious eye on everyone and everything involved.
Thus, from this perspective, there are atleast four distinct personalities in any given primary relationship of just two people.