David Whyte discusses the Three Marriages that we face in our lives – Marriage to Self, Other and Work. He believes that we cannot have a good marriage to Other and Work if we do not have a good marriage to Self! The trouble is that marriage to Self involves silence and going inwards whereas the other two marriages take place in the midst of noise and business and we have to go outwards into the world in both of them. The result is that very few of us make the time to pay attention to our marriage to Self.
Socialising with friends or taking part in sport might well be a form of taking time out from Work and Other but the nature of this time out is still noisy and outwards in direction. Another way we take time out – especially coming home after a tough day – is to isolate ourselves in the bedroom or veg out in front of the TV.
I think that the essence of the marriage to Self asks us to take time in rather than time out. This is not easy. It’s a discipline where we have to learn to be present with ourselves and aware of what is happening.
There are times when I am paying attention to this marriage to Self that it feels as if I step into a magical parallel world that I know deep down is around me far more than I am consciously aware of its presence. Nature and people flow in a beautiful, magical dance around me and I can only properly tap into this dance when I am taking time in for the marriage to myself.
Let me try to explain this slightly nebulous experience as best I can.
Sunday night saw me making lists about all that I wanted to achieve in an unusual work-free week that lay ahead. My main preparations were for an idyllic early birthday holiday the following week with a lot of work planning also needed to create the space to go technology-free while away…
I woke on the Monday morning to be greeted by a windless sunrise. I stumbled out of bed and went straight to my kayak which I had not used for the past few weeks. A slow 5-minute paddle brought me to my usual resting place.
After completing a 4 day water-only Vision Quest experience five years ago, I have used this spot as part of a gratefulness ritual. The mountain represents a higher divinity for me – the Great Spirit of my Vision Quest. I speak to the mountain and give thanks for the multitude of gifts in my life. It’s a space of going inwards and taking stock of all that is good. I am still. I become deeply aware of my surroundings and the sounds and the presence of Nature. It is a discipline of gratitude.
I finish, and I am aware that my damaged shoulder is acting up. Should I go back home now, or follow my usual path to the right around the long side of the island? I become aware that I am doing neither and instead am paddling in a different direction to the left between the two pieces of land, breathing deeply and slowly. And around the corner I am surprised by the highly unusual sight of a pelican sitting on the corner of land.
I paddle closer and talk to the pelican. It’s soon obviously enough for her and she jumps into the water and swims off. I follow her far less gracefully for a while…
it’s time to make my way home and just before I arrive at the docking area, a malachite kingfisher flies out of the grate in the water just in front of me… It’s been at least a year since I’ve seen one of these spectacularly colourful birds.For me this magic seems to be more accessible when I let go of my desire for order and control. There seem to be surprises just around every corner. The magic is opened by a different way of being in the world where my inner hearing is acute, but I am listening to a conversation that is taking place behind a veil. I feel alive and in tune with nature around me – totally in the flow through a presence of letting come.
And sometimes I manage to stay with this disciplined way of letting come in presence and awareness and carry it into more menial and busy parts of my daily life.
The very next morning I arrive ahead of my sister for breakfast at Melissa’s. I’m planning on doing some shopping after breakfast and want to buy a hiking pole to hopefully assist my shaky knees on the holiday walk around Machu Picchu. Melissa’s is situated in the furthest corner away from the building and shop where I will buy the pole. My plan is to be sensible and save my knees by getting in the car after breakfast and parking right outside the shop.
I have a beautiful relationship with my sister, so this is a special time of connection. I have made it a rule not to set up any appointment immediately after such a breakfast so that I do not have to be aware of time and can flow with the conversation. By the time she leaves, I am in a quiet internal appreciative space. And it feels totally wrong to break this by getting into the car!
And I don’t want to walk directly through the cars to the shop, so I take the long route through the shopping area where my destination lies at the opposite end of the centre. I take the long walk and meander. I stop and look at some books to get some ideas for comfort reading for the holiday and then remember I also need Olive Leaf tablets. I stop in at a pharmacy without success. And then I notice there is a Health Shop next door (I do not know this centre) and find myself wandering in. And right in front of me I see Tracey-Lea, a friend I have not seen for several years and have been intending to phone to catch up with and thank her for being there for me at a difficult time in my life. I see her before she sees me and I open up to the magic of the moment and I get the gift of the delight in her face when she notices me.
We hug warmly and connect and plan to meet when I get back from my holiday, and I continue on to the walking pole shop and make my purchase.
I then retrace my steps along the corridor and take the time to start practice walking with the stick. And ahead of me I see one of my favourite dancing friends, Pam, walking towards me. We haven’t seen each other for over a year. Again I notice her before she notices me so I stand still, savour the moment and just open my arms to her. Again, I get the gift of her huge smile and embrace as she sees me. She’s a Camino veteran and knows about my knee problem so understands immediately what I am doing walking awkwardly with the pole.
And when I am finally back in my car and about to drive off, I realise the parallel between the seemingly random choices in the kayak the previous day that took me to the pelican (Tracey-Lea) and then the delight just before getting home (my car) of being greeted by the malachite kingfisher (Pam).
It’s really hard to explain in words all the inner feelings and vagaries that seem to be leading me on this adventure.
The next day it happens again. I am scheduled to have breakfast with my daughter and again I have a large list of chores to see to in preparation for the Easter weekend – included a dreaded food shop. I get there just before my daughter and start reading a novel. When she arrives we have our usual strong and deep connection with lots of love and laughter intertwined with discussions about the challenges of our lives.
When she goes, I pay the bill but then stay and spend 10 minutes or so reading.
And when I get up to leave I suddenly have a craving for a ready meal of chicken breasts soaked in a beautiful sauce that I have only found at the Woolworths store in my least favourite shopping mall in Tokai.
I’m on a role with listening to this inner voice, so I give up my easier less arduous shopping plan and head for the mall. My mind suddenly obsesses about a need for an extra Soda Stream gas bottle for the weekend and I walk (again) to a shop at the far opposite end of the Mall to see if I can find one.
I’m wandering through the aisles when I bump into another friend, Maurice, who I have not seen for over 5 years. And again I have the advantage of seeing him first and feeling his joy at reconnecting!
And seeing Maurice reminds me of a dream I had three weeks before of his ex-partner, Jacque. It was a beautiful dream where it felt as if I looked right into Jacque’s soul and saw this open-hearted, kind man afresh and we hugged and just connected in the dream. I had not seen Jacque for over 4 years, so I again listened to this ‘çoincidence’ and decided to continue to follow the flow and drop in on him after I had finished my shopping.
Jacque is a jeweller who works from home. He is surprised and thrilled to see me and we sit and chat. We catch up on each other’s lives and we talk of our partners and the shortness of our time on earth. He tells me of a piece he has created for a family member as a tribute to the memory of his partner who had recently died of cancer. The piece (below) is magnificent and immediately spoke to me of all the open-hearted goodness and love that exists in Jacque that I had experienced in my dream.
And that same night the final piece of this tale fell into place. I had danced the previous evening and had been reminded of a beautiful piece of music that I had lost touch with. I could not remember its title or the singer, but I followed the thread that evening. And was eventually rewarded!
The music was composed as a tribute to River Phoenix’s acting in the film ‘Mosquito Coast’ before Milton Nascimento had even met him.
I am aware of the themes of death and honouring that flow through Jacque’s statue and Milton’s music and the way in which I have been blessed to tap into an aspect of the numinous dimension of my life.
I’ve tried to give a sense of the richness of these experiences on the water in my kayak and in the middle of shopping malls. My words feel laboured and I find the concepts I am trying to share difficult to express.
There is a wonderful state of being present with myself in flow where the most magical things happen. I feel as if they happen when I pay attention to the marriage to myself and also slow down with intent. I have a discipline of watchfulness and awareness. I am open to changing plans on a whim that has its roots in my paying attention to the clues that are coming from the environment.
And I try to make sure that I honour this process by ensuring that my dances of actions are aligned with what is moving towards me..
I love this flow that arises from within me and from the outside. I feel in balance and all is good.
And finally, Milton Nascimento is a Brazilian and my pre-70th birthday celebration holiday starts at Iguazu Falls in Brazil in three days’ time. I make a commitment to myself to see if I can tap into this magical flow during this time away…