What Is A Happy Marriage?

The Myth of The Perfect FamilyA schoolboy was once asked by his teacher to define love. The boy replied, “Love is the same as ‘like’, only a lot more complicated.” The concepts of love and marriage are so confused, abused, moralized, euphemized and commercially-packaged today that it is hard to find the truth underneath. Here’s a rare honest perspective on relationships which I think is truly worth sharing.

Someone asked spiritual teacher Byron Katie about whether she would be willing to leave her husband Stephen and about meeting the ‘right person’. Katie’s fresh and deeply insightful responses just blew my mind.

Dearest Katie,

My question is about relationships. I really just wondered if you are open to leaving Stephen.

Yes.

If a man comes along that you are more physically turned on by and equally or perhaps more mentally connected / compatible with?

Yes and the key word is, “open”.

I’m really struggling to get my head around being in a long-term relationship with someone at the moment. This idea of being in a relationship with someone and getting married just seems like a purely mental commitment that is quite “closed” minded and restrictive.

I understand. I can’t know the future either. I love Stephen now.

What were your reasons for getting married?

I didn’t know why not to marry him. No negative reason arising to this mind was valid.

And how open are you to leaving the marriage?

Completely. I love Stephen now.

Maybe I just haven’t found the right person yet and that’s why I’m having to ask this question?? I don’t know. What do you think?

Who is the “right person”? Define that. What role does the “right person” have in your opinion? I married the right person, since I married a kind mind, not a “Stephen.” I married a caring, wise, and gentle mind, not a “man”; the “man” came with the mind, and that is an amazing and wonderful miracle and addition, yet not the “Stephen” I adore.

Bodies don’t love bodies, “right” minds love or don’t appear to love, depending on what mind is thinking and believing as it equates its identity as physical sees an apparent own or other body (husband, wife) and what it can gain for itself in its idea of physical security, comfort, and pleasure. Mind creates the body and so I am married to Stephen and all apparent beings, things, and situations, deeply in love with them, and I married Stephen because he asked, and I’m not fooled, since suffering is the alternative to this recognition.

However, I didn’t say “yes” to his proposal either. I said “yes” each time he asked me, and it was always true when I said so and still is now 100%. I knew to wait until the judge in the Los Angeles courtroom asked me “Do you take…?” and in that moment I told him the truth, which was “yes” to the promises in the moment and how I felt about Stephen, the love of my same being. Forever, for me, is “now.” Life and death are, for me, now, and that is my security entirely. I could go on and on, dearest, and I hope these words help you in some way stay connected to what matters.

Stephen and I have been married for eleven years in time, and I would certainly say “yes” if he asked me now, and so far, sooooo good.

I don’t know anybody else that would be open enough for me to ask such a question.

Dearest, all of us “anybody elses” have opinions and experiences, as we are all your own mind coming back to you, and all together we are your own mind’s chaos. So find the answers that match your own heart, and question anything that would oppose your kindest, dearest self, the one that rings truest to you. The important thing is, what makes sense to you? Love yourself, as you are the one you live with all the moments of your life, with or without a partner who is meant to secure your apparent future, and that is why I offer The Work to you and to the world. Until I (mind) loved and married “myself” (itself)—this mind, which I had Worked through (“it” had Worked through)—for better or for worse, I had no chance of finding true love. Love itself is the only true love and everything else is projected out of that love or apparent chaos. Do you understand? Yes? No?

I’d be so grateful to hear your views on this.

My views? I love Stephen, I love you, I love the world, I love all my thoughts, and those thoughts produce Stephen, you, the world, and everything beyond the world, without exception. Hmmm. Giving something or someone the reasons or “credit” for love is wonderfully foolish and untrue. The truth is, “I love.”No reason for this true nature, since it is as it is, and I am as you are, always married to that, for better or for worse, because everything else is the cause of suffering.

Love and best wishes,

Kelvin

I receive your love and best wishes and am so grateful that you are what I am, all ways.

Mmmmmmwa!!!!!!! kt

February 2011

The Many Languages Of Love

languages of love

Late last night, as little Nirvaan slept in his cot at the foot of our bed, my wife and I held hands and whisper-spoke for more than an hour. At one point, she said, ‘For me, this is love. Spending time alone with you and talking. Love is being able to share myself and know I am not being judged.’ We reminisced how, when we first met, we often spoke till dawn. Over the years, and especially after the birth of Nirvaan, this had tapered off.

I had not paid much attention to this lessening, but hearing her say that reminded me of a conversation I had with my brother and mentor GD last week. He told me he sometimes asked his clients during sessions about what love meant to them and the variety in the answers surprised him. One unnamed client, he said, told him she did not feel loved until the other person shared his deepest, darkest secret.

“Just imagine,” GD said to me, “a man could be showering her with affection and giving her diamonds and it wouldn’t really matter to her. Because her subconscious definition was that until he had shared his deepest, darkest secrets, it wasn’t really love. I realized during my sessions that most people don’t consciously know what love means for themselves or their partners. So they keep doing things for their partners according to their own definition of love, and then feel disappointed that their partner still doesn’t feel loved.”

As I read up further on this, I came across Dr. Gary Chapman’s bestseller ‘The Five Love Languages’. It says that most of us grow up learning the language of love of our parents, which becomes our native tongue. So if you speak Spanish and your partner speaks English, communication is impossible, comprendez? Chapman counts five broad languages of love:

Words of Affirmation
Unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important—hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.
Quality Time
Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.
Gifts
This language is not about the value of the object but the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. The perfect gift or gesture shows that you are understood, cared for and prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures.
Acts of Service
Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter.
Physical Touch
A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love.

*
While these categories are useful, my guess is that the definition for each person doesn’t always neatly fall into them. For another client of his, GD said, love meant the other should be always present nearby. Because he had lost loved ones through death, travel or separation, the marker of love had become whether the person was physically present. Some people, GD suggested, had strict parents and as grown ups, a partner’s aggression could be a subconscious reminder of tough love.

I shared this with my wife as we lay silhouetted in bed. It turned out for me love is about receiving thoughtful gifts and acts of service. As we spoke, we realized that I often give my wife surprise gifts, but receive few in return because she never realizes how much they mean to me – it isn’t part of her definition of love. On the other hand, she makes time for mid-week lunch dates and quality time with me, which doesn’t have quite the same impact for me.

It’s so interesting that our definitions of love could be so varied and so important to us, yet remain unknown to ourselves and our partners all our lives. This simple missing bridge can create a huge chasm between the most sincere, loving couple.

As a support to everyone else reading this blog to find their own and their partners’ definition of love, I would really love to know what are your definitions of love in the Comments Section below. A quick and simple way to find out is to ask: How do I express love to others? What do I complain about the most? What do I request most often? Or simply when do I feel truly loved by my partner? I would love to find out what you discover about you.

Thank you and happy loving! 🙂

******

P.S. For those who would like to go deeper into discovering their own love language, on Gary Chapman’s website, there is a short Love Language Profile test.

Butterfly: A Poem About Meditation

Butterfly

*
This body, the graveyard
of unsung emotions.
So many faces buried,
So many times, so many places.

Watching, watching – these
phantom spirits depart, until
only a sunlit butterfly floats
above swaying grasses.

*

 

BLESS YOU!

blessings

A few days ago, I was unexpectedly invited to a high-profile party. In general, I find almost everything unpleasant about parties – the ear-damaging thump-thump of music, the smoke-and-alcohol fog, the stilted conversations and the late-late hours. But this time, as my wife Aditi and I dressed, it struck me: “You know why we are going? Our job is to bless everyone there.

The idea came with force and clarity and resonated for both of us. So as we drove, we sent blessings ahead to the party. When we reached, we silently, sincerely wished real joy on all those we could see. It wasn’t difficult because we  genuinely adored the host, and were fond of many of the guests. Bathed in an aura of blessing, we found ourselves easy and open, generous and unselfconscious. We saw God in many different forms and ended up having a smooth, beautiful time.

The next day, as we reflected on how unexpectedly perfect the night had been, I connected the dots. And I realized that for the last few years, the joy of blessing has grown almost unnoticed.

Today, I do it as often as I remember. On flights, I bless everyone on the plane as we take off. Before meetings, I bless those who are going to be there. After meditation, I play a little audio track which reminds me to dedicate the positive potential of this meditation. I even bless my blog posts before I publish so that they may reach those who need to read them.

This gradual love for blessing was triggered a few years ago after a conversation with my brother and mentor GD. When I was going through a dark spell of frustration at how life was not working out for me, he suggested as a solution: “Why don’t you try wishing for others what you want most in life?”

In those days, grappling with mental advaita gymnastics, I thought his suggestion was sentimental, feel-good foo-foo. But I instantly experienced its joy. Over time, as I heard more about it from GD, I saw the deep insight behind it.

For example, it is impossible for the mind to bless and judge others at the same time. To bless someone, you cannot vibrate with the lower frequencies of scarcity, fear or anger – you have to hold the energy of love and abundance.

The state of blessing is also close to our true nature. So, as you clean your inner load, the bedrock of quiet blessing begins to shine naturally (A sage, without saying a word, is a blessing to the planet). Not surprisingly, every ancient religion prescribes some form of blessing or prayer – it is the simplest way to connect with your true nature!

Initially, blessing seemed wiser use of intention than manipulating the universe into manifesting what I had to admit were conditioned egoic desires. Over time, the sheer joy of doing it caused it to spread to other parts of my life.

A few months later, GD recommended a little book, ‘The Gentle Art of Blessing’ by Pierre Pradervand (which I would also endorse unequivocally). “By blessing,” Pradervand says, “I mean wishing from the bottom of the heart, in total sincerity, the very best for those people – their complete fulfillment and complete happiness.” In his book, Pradervand suggests:

On awakening, bless this day…
On passing people in the street, on the bus, in places of work and play, bless them…
On meeting people and talking to them, bless them…
As you walk, bless the city…
P. S. And of course, above all, do not forget to bless the utterly beautiful person
you are.

Do try this if you feel inspired. Take a few minutes to bless others in whatever words work for you – the sincerity matters more than the phrasing. Picture them joyful and forgive them for any real or imagined wrongdoing; forgive yourself for the same. If the other is not ready to receive the blessing, Pradervand says, it stays in their aura until they are – but for you, the result is always instant and liberating. 

Look Pa, No Rules !!!

Nirvaan at The Beach

My son is at an age when he creates the rules of whatever games he plays. And still gets that the point of every game is to have fun. So if he dashes into a wall in an online game, he claps with glee. Collecting the maximum widgets doesn’t make sense to him yet. He is just as happy prancing around aimlessly.

As he grows up, he will be taught that every game has a purpose. And rules. And only one correct end goal. He will feel sad when he doesn’t reach that end. And frustrated when he feels he’s not good enough. He will get stressed playing the same game. He may begin to feel that if he hasn’t completed or mastered something, it was a waste of time.

Gradually, as he becomes an adult, he will completely forget that the rules came afterwards. Not just in his play – which will become serious and competitive – but in life too. He will forget that the bottomline of the game of life, too, is to have fun. He will believe that collecting the maximum widgets called ‘money’ is the only correct point of this game.

He will buy into the rules: that you can only be happy once you can be described as successful or rich or have a perfect body; or that you can’t live ecstatically until you find the perfect partner or perfect enlightenment. He may add rules, limitations and conclusions around his creativity that don’t allow him to be spontaneous and original. He may even lock himself down with judgments about what he can wear, what he can eat and how he should live in order to not ‘fail’ at life.

But maybe, someday, his own child will come running, squealing with joy towards him across the grass… and tumble. And then laugh with wild joy and do it again because falling is so much fun! And hopefully, that day, my son will remember that it is only a grown-up rule that falling down is bad.

And, in fact, that rules in life are actually arbitrary. The solid realities that bind us are enforced by thoughts and concepts that we have breathed life into. He will realize he can still choose any rule… but he doesn’t have to! And he may join his son in laughing because he will instantly feel freer than he has felt in many years. He will have fun once again in that moment when he is playing the game like he did as a child — without someone else’s rules.

Picture courtesy Vishal Punjabi @ The Wedding Filmer

Shh! Don’t Tell Anyone I’m Happy…

Fear of Happiness

“We really have a good life,” my wife says to me on a Monday afternoon as she snuggles into bed in her favorite pajamas and snug old t-shirt. As a healer, she doesn’t have fixed work hours, and now, as a consultant, neither do I. So we spend some happy daytime hours with our three-year-old son. But I feel a familiar twinge inside me: Don’t say it, it might go away.

“I sometimes use you as an example of someone who has a good marriage, a great job and is a great father,” my brother and mentor GD says to me on the phone. Even before I can feel the compliment, something contracts in my chest: Don’t celebrate it or something bad will happen!

You see, I have an irrational superstition about acknowledging the goodness in my life. Like I need to hide my little happiness from some nasty Ogre of Destiny who walked past little ole me – and blowing the party whistle may just make him look down: Hmmm…. How did I miss YOU?

In the past, my paranoia went so far that I was terrified of taking an action to assert confidence of continuation or (gasp…!) permanence. As if the very act would tempt Fate. An example: when I was dating my current wife, at one point I was living in at her apartment. But I never kept my toothbrush in her bathroom stand, preferring to carry it in my bag every day: Don’t claim to know the future! It sounds funny now, but in my head, the placement of that toothbrush decided the fate of our future offspring.

So I have lived with an inner certainty that it can and will all come crumbling down anytime now. And that every smiling picture I take will someday be used with a caption: ‘In Happier Times’. I try to convince myself that things aren’t as wonderful as they seem – no matter how it looks to others – so I don’t get ‘carried away’. The mind advises that it’s the best way of protecting myself from the shock of tragedy, when it does happen. (“Because Life is meant to be a painful struggle, and every sane, sensible person knows that happiness is fleeting, temporary and delusional” – the Mind)

But unfortunately, this is also the best way to keep joy and ecstasy outside the door. Focusing only on what needs to be fixed makes life an endless To-Do List. Acknowledging your happiness may make you a target of jealousy, but it’s also likely to make you a source of inspiration. And that’s worth it. For just a little while, I can relax the resistance against fully feeling joy and let go of the radar that’s constantly scanning for trouble.

And I can re-examine this ancient fear that if I celebrate my life, the happiness will go away. Maybe if I celebrate my life, then the happiness will definitely stay for at least for one more moment – this moment! And the next moment will be born out of this moment. And moment by moment, a virtuous circle of celebration will be created. A rolling snowball of joy that resonates with others who also celebrate their lives. And someday, even if a shock of tragedy comes, it will be cushioned within this soft expansive love for Life; and staying numb is a dumb solution anyway.

Because all said and done – I can say it now – I do have an amazing life. What about you?

The Picture Perfect Relationship

The Myth of The Perfect FamilyA car parks at dusk in the gravel driveway of a picket-fenced suburban home. A square-jawed man steps out, joyfully greeted by a bounding dog. His photoshop-perfect wife, just back from her high-profile job, kisses him at the doorstop: ‘Oh honey, you must be so tired. Let me fix you a cup of tea.’ As they settle down on their favorite couch, they share the funny incidents of their day. Laughter. They move to kiss. Fade Out.

If this is not what your relationship looks like, this post is for you. If this is what your relationship looks like, come back again in a year.

This post is about the box into which we try to fit our relationships, the parameters of which we have got from books, movies, advertising, sitcoms and ‘80s pop songs. We have an investment in believing things can and should look a certain fixed way. Which involves impossible words like unconditional and eternal love, total trust and unbreakable commitment. With mind-reading ability thrown in.

After the first flush of hormones, it becomes clear that these aren’t happening as natural by-products of romantic love, as we had secretly hoped. So we begin to ‘work’ on our relationship. Instead of altering the ill-fitting suit, we bind and cut off parts of ourselves to fit into it. The beauty is that we are mostly not aware of this at a conscious level. It’s an unspoken struggle between a couple employing cajoling, rewarding, shaming, aggression and threat to get to the picture perfect.

Is it possible that instead of one perfect relationship, there are seven billion different possibilities of perfect relationships, my mentor GD asked me the other day. What if our relationship didn’t need to look like our parents’ relationship – or the rebellious opposite of theirs – to be right? What if a relationship was as unique as our thumbprint?

I find just being open to this possibility immensely relieving and freeing. As I deeply open to this question, I find I am present in this moment to my partner instead of trying to load upon her the heavy shell of how-she-should-be. Even if there is a ‘problem’, instead of an umbrella judgment and rejection, there remains a simple statement of what action of my partner doesn’t work for me.

The best part is that in giving her the freedom to not be the picture perfect wife, I free myself. In this freedom, love, like a happy little brook, comes quietly bubbling up.