Apprenticeship to Love: Meditations on this Path to Authentic Relationship, Chapter 42, February 11, 2024
- Today's playlist: The memory of the roar of the trees, the river, the traffic...
- Today’s questions: Can you feel yourself being pulled in strange and uncomfortable ways? Confused? Struggling to feel the ground beneath your feet?
- Today's suggested practice: Day 11 of this month's practice, a breath work for "balancing," to allow these thoughts and feelings to move through you, with less resistance (see my "Short Practice,” below)
- My practice today: 5:30am: 60 minutes: yoga, Shakti mantra meditation sequence
- My vulnerability practice: I feel my squeamishness in this silence, and also my knowing this as nourishment. I am uncomfortable. There is no hurry (but, of course, I want it all right now)...
★A Valentine's Day Instagram live conversation with Sarah Anderson about this season of discontent... See Sarah's link at http://instagram.com/sarahbellabutterfly
★FREE to the first 25 Apprenticeship to Love subscribers who sign up! My Apprenticeship to Love conversation with Katie Love on February 20. Our topic: the Sacred Womb, Marriage, Men & Women & Sex, & more... Please register at https://bit.ly/3uupVrW
This can be the hardest time of the year. We are called by the trumpets & fanfare of Spring, as if it would resolve all these doubts. It won’t. You know this. I know this.
Rather than feeling the heartache of Spring-yearning, be held by the remaining dark of winter. Let this darkness nourish your roots —your need for silence & solitude. “Winter through,” as Rilke says, and know that your heart will survive, will know a deeper & richer flowering. In the fullness of your seasons and not before.
I am here. Whatever the season of your heart, I am here.
I will repeat this. I must repeat this. I need to be reminded of many things. But this one truth, I really need to hammer this one home. Repeatedly. Hammering a nail of understanding through the resistant wood of this bodyi-mind. Here's the nail, the thing that will, in all of the confusion and the distaste and discomfort, keep me together: I am not here for the "good times." I've learned that what I believe to be "good times" fade fast and, like so much that is fast, carry little or no nourishment. I'm not here for the chimerical good times. Instead, I'm here for something much more difficult to even wrap words around. Today it sounds like this: I'm here for the constant breaking open that reveals unimaginable beauty.
And here's another thing I know, something thaty completely unhinges me: I know, but I do not trust my knowing.
How can this be? How can I hold both of these within myself at the same time?
If you've been reading these chapters you know I puzzle about something else, a lot: marriage. And perhaps marriage is the perfect topic for both this time of betwixt & between seasons (aka Imbolc, in some traditions) and for this question of how to hold knowing and mistrust of knowing in the same body-mind.
Marriage asks much of those of us who take it seriously. (Those for whom it is not a serious business... Well, you have your own windmills to take on, none so large or impossible as marriage I'll argue, but that's another conversation...)
Marriage asks us to commit to things we cannot know. And, so it throws us into the strange land of faith. That is the why of commitment. It is the why of vows. We publicly allow ourselves to be thrown into the crucible of our unknowing, trusting the our commitment and our "unreasonable knowing" (for how else can we describe this thing we call "love?") is equal to the inevitable "tension, pressure, friction" that will tear us apart. And this too is true (and most of us who are adults and who have entertained love's temptations have a caution for this reason): the crucible of marriage will tear our union apart as many times as it doesn't.
Now here's the kicker: We think the union or the other is to blame for our unhappiness. Generally, we are no happier or no more satisfied with our lives after divorce than we are before divorce.
There are good reasons for unions to be ended. There are many who do feel happier once the dust of divorce has settled. But too often we mistake the tension, pressure, friction and consequent unhappiness of our unions as the problem of the union. Or, of the one we've wed. For most of us, as the Jimmy Buffet refrain teaches, "it's my own damn fault."
There's an earlier line in the Buffet song, where the protagonist (me, you, any one of us who's been unhappy in marriage —and I count any co-habitation as a sort-of-marriage, though this is one of the ways we try to avoid the terrible testing of the formal crucible, to no avail, I will add) hopes that it's the season is the reason for his unhappiness. Which brings me to this unhappy season. What some cultures call Imbolc. The inbetween. Our roots still in the darkness of Winter's nourishment, but another part of ourselves being seduced by the charms of a Spring not yet anywhere reasonably "just around the corner."
I do not know the season Buffet is referring to. But I've learned this: this quarter of the year after the darkest days is the season of divorce in at least some parts of the northern hemisphere. I'm growing more confident that just as my own body feels the changes in the light, so too my marriages have felt this change. And rarely kindly.
I also think on this: Our marriages have their own seasons, as I've written recently. The Spring of new love. Green. Fresh. So much to be discovered and enjoyed! But, inevitably, as we go through the Summer and Fall seasons, what was once new is now familiar. We think love is about that freshness and wonder why was once so beautiful is now stale and tired looking. As our marriages pass into the necessary quiet and rest and deep, dark work of Winter we begin to dream of another Spring, something we may want with the one we're with, but that wanting seems unrealistic. They —the one with whom we made unspoken if not spoken vows of "forever" and through all seasons— will not be stirred by what once stirred them. And we cannot allow them to be in their Winter, because we so much hate our own Winter.
You know the rest of the story I'm sure. Fleeing one Winter we begin the cycle with another, thinking that "this time things will be different." But our hearts, like the garden and the forest, at least in the non-tropical zones, require seasonal change. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter they each have an emotional-spiritual reason in ourselves and in our unions. And even if we think this, our body-minds do not entirely trust this knowing...
I sat with a man yesterday, deep in the forest. Beside us, a river was in its full Winter flow. A beautiful thing to watch. A terrible thing to test.
We sat. We breathed fully into life. We exhaled, fully, into a tingling that might be the edge of true emptiness, death. Our eyes were wide-focused, without sharp penetration, but able to take it all in as sensations of light and dark, shades of grey and green and brown. Seeing it all. Hearing it all.
We began to chant a mantra of grounding, connecting to the earth beneath us. Feeling the vibration of our own sounds, each other, and also the unspoken words of the trees, the river beside us. The few drops of rain. It was good moment to feel myself and himself and the world around me. This. That was all, for a few moments, just this. All of this and only this.
There was a highway not too far away. Unseen, but its voice occasionally heard through the forest. And it too, the endlessness of occasional traffic, also part of the moment. The "this" that I was aware of.
Some things have left an impression on me. One is a lesson from John Wineland: If I polarize into my deepest masculine awareness, then everything else is feminine flow, here to nourish me. His invitation: to spend time, not so much in mediation as in stillness becoming more deeply aware of the Her that is all around me and in me and passing through me and always available to me as that nourishment.
Another lasting impression: Leroy Gordon's words that our work, as masculine-identified men, is really only to receive the feminine, that everything that flows. All else, our practices and our meditations and our rituals, all of that is just preparation. Our men's work is to receive Her.
I believe this is a most challenging season for many of us. And so we look for culprits. And the best culprits are those closest to us. The one's we believe we entrusted with our intimacies.
Because it is the easiest thing to do we throw up our hands, we close our hearts, we step back from the darkness that our marriages in Winter have become, and we look for Spring. We declare ourselves done with that chapter of intimacy, declining to know it as a cyclical not a linear thing.
The numbers show (and the yogis have long taught this) that it is the woman of our species who tends to end things. What the numbers don't show is what only the heart knows: She has seen who we are, men, and she knows we are more than we let on. Exhausted, she hopes to wake us from our dullness by ending this thing we said we were most committed to. There are many tests before she takes this step. Most of us are too dulled to notice, or to believe that the one who said she loved us would sacrifice herself this way.
She will. Because she knows we are too wedded to our comfort and our ease. And she will not accept anything less from us than that "superior man" David Deida calls us to be. That "superior man" is who she wed. Or: that man she knows us to be, behind our fear and our attachment to comfort, that man is the superior man she believed would emerge from the crucible and the Winter of marriage as the husband she needs to get through her Winter, to be the Spring we desire. We all desire.
The announcement of the separation is the sword of Kali (or, if you prefer, of Chinnamasta) cutting off our heads and (potentially) awakening our bodies to the truth of this moment: Am I paying attention? Am I willing to receive all of her as nourishment? Do I know her as my Oracle and as my Siren, she who with her yearning for my depth shows me my way as a man, as a husband, perhaps as a father?
The serving of papers, yet another testing, another swipe of this sword of truth: be the man I am called to be, rather than shrinking and collapsing into the shade of that man.
I choose, today, in this confusing time, being pulled towards Spring and its temptations, still held by my roots in the darkness of Winter, I choose to be nourished. Not tempted. I'm not here for the "good times" that inevitably fade, are only one season that I must experience. I'm here to "winter through." And, wintering through, becoming the man I am. The man she knows me to be.
My advice, unsolicited: Men, do not take this Winter or the seeming death of your marriage as an end but only as a necessary dying and diminishment of what stands in the way of your greatness. Your superiority over your smaller, more fearful self.
Hear her! Listen, deeply, past all the anger and rage and depression, all the ways she tells you she is in her deepest Winter. Listen through this and hear that she is calling you to be more than this Winter, more than your own Winter. She calls you to attention! To be the man —the husband— you are.
Hear her siren song to ruin your dreams of comfort and ease and be tested in what Winter can bring. It is all nourishment, and it is what this terrible moment needs.
And so we are in the Valentine's season. Weak with Winter. Tempted by the greeting card fantasy of marriage always in Spring. Triggering the impulse to end this Winter and find Spring somewhere, anywhere, with those who are themselves struggling with their fantasies about the endless Spring romance.
Resist! Allow your roots to hold firm. Know that this is the deeper romance, the romance of wintering through and knowing your heart and their heart stronger and more fully alive for it. For this we are tested. For this the crucible calls. For this we weather and receive the tension, pressure, and friction of marriage to know ourselves as capable of love.
And, to answer Kimberly Ann Johnson: We marry not for the chimera of the eternal Spring of personal "good times" forever, but to create the union that holds us as we Winter through, a union that inspires and holds our children and our families and our friends and our communities, all of us struggling to Winter through...
🌀What would happen if we chose our romantic partnership less from a personal point of view and more from a family- or culture-building perspective? (paraphrasing Kimberly Ann Johnson)
🌀…it is typically the first three months of the year that experience the highest divorce
rates. (Jody Fisher)
🌀 Be ahead of all parting, as though it already were behind you, like the winter that has just gone by.
For among these winters there is one so endlessly winter that only by wintering through it will your heart survive. (Rilke)
🌀There will then be no language to describe or explain it, but only profound and love-filled knowing to form an agreement of what’s reality.
…use this love power to build your moments within this forever; …notice the goodness in all life and all the lives around you, and …experience this optical, auditory, and tactile transfusion as a blessing. (Guru Singh and Guruperkarma Kaur)
🌀…we can use the power of suffering as a tool for inner growth and thus remove the negative connotation we project onto it. Kali is the power that helps us to withstand the negative forces of our ego and the emotional turmoil that can pull us down.
…Kali is the Devi of Time and Eternity. She is the inner desire in all living beings to live eternally. This is not just some foolish naive idea, but actually points us towards a deep spiritual truth: that which we truly are is deathless, our True Nature is eternal. (Kundalini Yoga School, Shakti sadhana, Day 31)
🌀The Conscious Warrior makes death an ally, using it to sharpen his present actions, future plans, and current state of being. (John Wineland , Precept 11)
🌀Thank you. (My beloved, my Oracle & Siren, the Kali of this life)
TODAY'S SUGGESTED SHORT PRACTICE
Day 11 of this month's practice, to let these thoughts and feelings move through you, with less resistance:
Please read through first, then ...
- Set an alarm, for a time of the day when you have a few minutes to become conscious of who and how you are in this day
- When the alarm sounds, wherever and however you are, take a few minutes and:
- Ask yourself: Can I feel myself being pulled in strange and uncomfortable ways? Confused? Struggling to feel the ground beneath my feet?
- Then, follow the short practice here:
- When you’re done, sit or stand for another minute or two, breathing gently, slowly filling and emptying your belly. Here, as you breathe into your fullness, ask yourself, Do I feel right? In alignment with the man or woman I am? Do I even have an inkling what that might feel like? Do I even have an inkling of what it feels like to be out of alignment with myself?
- Notice if your body-mind feels somehow changed. And whether you notice a change or not, be content with yourself, exactly as you are in this moment.
- Continue with your day until the next alarm sounds, and repeat.
RECENT & UPCOMING EVENTS FOR SUBSCRIBERS
The February 27 Apprenticeship to Love virtual workshop with Sarah Anderson is free for Premium, Premium+, and Premium EXTRA subscribers. Upgrade here.
"Talking about Matrimony," the Apprenticeship to Love conversation of January 31, about matrimony and other things, with two of my heroes, Stephen Jenkinson & Kimberly Ann Johnson, has raised many questions. Please watch and ask! To watch, see:
ps. This comment on the video by Charlene Brash-Sorenson: The truest thing said is that men aren't too upset unless their hockey team is not winning. I am NOT saying that sarcastically in the least because it is a symptom of a failure of our North American culture to transition men AND women from adolescence into adulthood. I have a lot of "opinions" about why this is not working but they are not of importance here. This is an important discussion not just about "matrimony" but about celebrations of life milestones and how dead our culture is to them. Let us be honest that "the Big Day" for women has become a selfish experience focused on how the bride LOOKS - often seductive toward the audience - and how beautiful the setting is rather than the content. You know...the cake in the face, the silly planned dance, the drinking, etc. Sigh.
Your thoughts? I'd love to hear what you think of what Stephen, Kimberly, or Charlene have to say.