Tag Archives: Spirituality

Back to Where It All Started

I haven’t posted in a while, as I’ve been very busy; besides that, there hasn’t been a whole lot to report.

This past weekend, I went to the shrine where my wife’s affair started. I hadn’t been there in nearly two years. There was a big, semi-annual ceremony going on there, and the last time I had attended it was two years ago with my wife. Something told me that I should go; if I needed a reason, there were a few amulets and such that needed to be returned to the shrine, and then perhaps one new one that I felt I should pick up. In that spiritual tradition, amulets and other items one might use for personal use or for home altars are annual in nature, and need to be replaced every year. I had a few around the house that were 2+ years old, so I figured I should be responsible and change them out. This shrine is the only place in North America where one can do that.

Even the night before the ceremony, I was still unsure if I’d go. I wanted to be clear on my ethics and intentions; if there were any possibility that I would be going to mess with my wife’s affair—which still seems to be clinging on for dear life—then I’d just stay home. I was pretty sure that my intention was pure, but thought I’d better sleep on it.

I awoke the following morning feeling a bit ambivalent. My intentions were pure enough, I guess, but I just wasn’t sure if it would have been a good idea to go. So, I pulled down my I-Ching book and did a quick reading. The answer was unambiguous: I should go.

It was a fine Sunday morning, and I had some other obligations before the ceremony started mid-morning. Having taken care of those, I set off on the 40-mile drive to the shrine. I suppose I felt a bit nervous, because I did not know what would meet me there; I strongly suspected that my wife would not be there, but I just did not know what to expect.

I arrived and found that the adulterer’s truck was nowhere to be seen. In previous years, he would always be there; he volunteered at virtually every event, as he was more or less the highest-ranking member of the shrine, aside from the priest. It was my sense that, due to the affair, the adulterer and my wife had both gotten themselves banned from the shrine, or at least made very unwelcome. This is, of course, rather odd, as the adulterer lives about 2 miles from the shrine; given the remote location of the town, there really is no other reason for the adulterer to live there. They never did arrive.

But I did. As I stood in line to enter the shrine, the priest saw me and beamed a huge smile. He came outside to meet me, shook my hand, and greeted me with a warm and genuine sincerity. He asked me how I was doing, and I said, “excellent.” Upon entering the shrine, I encountered the priest’s wife. Now, she had been very vocal in her opposition to my wife’s affair, and went so far as to post a disparaging remark about it quite openly on Facebook shortly after that sordid mess had begun. She came up to greet me, and also seemed quite happy to see me. I’m sure it did not escape her notice that I was wearing my wedding ring. She asked me how our dog was doing, and then said she really wanted to see the dog. This also seemed like a very genuine connection. I returned the amulets to her, and went and bought a couple of new ones for this year.

The ceremony went as planned, and afterward I stopped by to thank the priest on my way out. Again, he was very genuine and enthusiastically thanked me for being there. I then returned home.

It’s hard to know what any of this meant. I think that, for me, there was perhaps some sort of sense of that karma coming full circle with my return there. It is of course said that all actions are interdependent, and thus I can probably expect some sort of karmic ripples to be sent out as a result of my visit. Those ripples will almost certainly meet my wife and the adulterer; when that could happen or the effect that might have is entirely uncertain. But, that’s really not my concern; it’s not why I went there in the first place.

I have come to a place of a certain degree of comfort in my situation, actually. This is likely the result of the regular contemplations I’m doing in my daily spiritual practice; these contemplations have recently shown me the deeper meaning of what is going on. I suppost it could be summarized in this way: happiness comes from positive actions, yet all too many people engage in negative actions in their pursuits of happiness. Buddhist doctrine holds that there are ten non-virtuous actions from which one should abstain; pondering these actions can be truly shocking, and can lead to greater compassion for those who engage in them, wittingly or otherwise. Although most of us unwittingly engage in about half of these actions fairly regularly, my wife’s list of non-virtuous actions resulting from her affair probably encompasses eight or nine of them. Pondering this likelihood has shown me the wisdom of stepping back a bit and allowing the natural course of things (i.e. karma) to just go ahead and play out. In fact, my earlier attitude, as seen in many of the posts here from, say, last year, more or less demonstrate how “tight” my energy was around the whole thing. I do think that maintaining that kind of “tightness” distorts things somehow, making it harder for the situation to resolve. I’ve pretty much gotten out of the way now, energetically speaking, so that situation can just collapse under the weight of its own karmic debt; that could happen at any time now.

As for me, life is good, and I’ve got a paid holiday from work. Time to wash the dog, I guess. Happy 4th to all of you.

Off the Grid

I’ve been off the grid for a while, due mainly to a retreat I went on recently. It was a 10-day retreat (yep, a Buddhist thingie) that I did locally; I still had work obligations, so there were a few days I missed, but otherwise the retreat had me occupied for about 15 hours at a stretch.

Overall, it was a wonderful experience and, while exhausting, a great way to recharge the batteries of the heart, mind, and soul. I learned a lot. Most of all, though, I learned the value of letting go.

You see, my thoughts and energy surrounding my marital crisis have been, for a long time now, really pretty “tight.” If you’ve read many of my posts, you’ll probably get a sense of that. In fact, I’ve had comments, some via this blog and others via private email, that have said as much. This retreat forced me to loosen that energy, and at the same time it dialed me into the sense that there is much more richness to life than what one can have if one focuses too tightly on any one thing.

So what does “letting go” mean, really? Does it mean quitting? No, not at all. Instead, it means just being okay with whatever happens.

I’ve reached the point at which I truly feel that I’ve done just about all that I can to attempt to bring my marriage to the point of beginning a reconciliation. I’ve learned the relationship skills and have worked tirelessly on bettering myself. It has been, and still is, exhausting at times. But it has been a truly transformative journey. I know that my wife will see and appreciate those changes; right now, she chooses to avoid seeing them.

I had a chat with my marriage “coach” today, the first one I’ve had in about 6 months. I really haven’t needed much advice, since there isn’t much to work with when you’re being stonewalled. His assessment is that I’m pretty much doing all that I can, and that 90% of what I need to do at this point is just to wait. That seems hard, but there really aren’t any other sensible alternatives.

I do keep in mind the statistics that indicate that 24 months is the typical end point by which the vast majority of affairs will have ended. This would mean that my wife has about 5 more months to run on this situation, tops. I do extend hope that this will hold true, but I would be foolish to try to predict the future. However, as we enter summer there are a couple things that are different now than they were last summer at this time, and these could be key in shaking that situation apart once and for all.

First, her concert season has wrapped up, and she has no reason to come into town at all—that is, unless she joins the adulterer on some of his work sites, and I know that she does this. (How often, though, is anyone’s guess; I’m thinking it could be nearly daily, as I think he keeps her on a short leash.) Second, she has filed dissolution papers. These two things added together put her on an island of her own making—an island with the adulterer, a place where she gets to see if this really is something she wants for the rest of her life. I seriously doubt that she does; from what little I have seen and heard, that life and relationship are as juvenile and superficial as ever. It is still a fantasy-land, but reality inexorably does seep into this and any other kind of fantasy. Moreover, it is an island that is surrounded by a sea of dreck that she has created. It is probably the wish to avoid dealing with that dreck—the detritus of spoiled relationships and ruined friendships—that keeps her marooned on that island of immorality. However, the tide of dreck cannot be stopped, and will eventually choke them both off that island and back into the sea of, well, reality, which includes all that dreck that has been produced over the past year and a half.

So, I basically go on living my life; I reach out as I always have, and then I let it go. At night I can sleep well because I have a clear conscience. During the day I can live my life fully, because I have an open heart. She is welcome to join me at any time.

Life is the path

A friend pointed out the following passage from the Bible to me today:

I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron:

And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel. (Isaiah 45:2-3)

If you’ve been reading my posts for any length of time, then you’ll know that I’m not a Christian. (I’m a practicing Buddhist.) But this passage rings very true to me. There often is tremendous overlap between spiritual traditions; it’s often as if it’s just one big meta-narrative that is translated with different metaphors, examples, iconography, and so on. What is being spoken of in this passage, to my meager understanding, is the removal of obstructions.

I totally get this. I’ve been doing Green Tara practice for over a year now, and that practice is basically all about the removal of obstructions. I received a Red Tara empowerment about a month ago, and that practice has to do with the power of magnetizing, of bringing auspicious conditions to you so that obstacles can be surmounted and dispelled.

Somehow, I feel almost as if I walked through some sort of invisible portal yesterday, and that this traversal has shown to me the reality, workability, and hope in my situation.

Just to summarize, I’ve been in a marital crisis for almost 6 months now, and have been applying the best possible reconciliation strategies for 5 months. I saw improvement over the first 2 months, and then my wife totally reversed course and decided to try to destroy everything in sight. She moved out. She cut off contact. She turned cold. She did all sorts of things, all in the attempt to preserve her completely illegitimate adulterous relationship to a twice-divorced, serial adulterer. At this point, she has truly dug her heels in and is probably steeling herself for the final phase, which to her might be a sort of pitched battle to save that totally hopeless, inappropriate relationship. The power of the universe is not on her side.

But is it on mine? I don’t know. The last 36 hours has been interesting, indeed. It started with my wife coming home mid-morning to pick up the dog. I asked her to take care of the dog while I’m out of town, visiting family for Easter weekend. I had given the dog a bath, and there was a ton of hair everywhere as a result. I hadn’t had time to sweep or anything, as I needed to run out to the store to get the dog a couple of cans of food (Tripett) for the weekend. My wife brushed the dog, and then she did something really weird. She vacuumed the entire house. I told her she didn’t need to do that, but she insisted.

Let me ask you, dear reader: If your spouse really wanted to leave you in the dust, would they come home and vacuum your entire house?

I didn’t think so.

So that was the starter. I sent her off with the cans of dog food, plus a sweet roll and some potato chips — her favorites — and a lunch box that was hidden in the bag. I never heard anything back about that, but I’m guessing she has found that by now and hopefully consumed its contents.

Next came the surprise of the evening. I headed off to the airport after work to catch my flight. I had a first-class ticket booked with frequent flyer miles, so at least I could look forward to a relatively comfortable experience. I got to the off-site parking lot, boarded the shuttle van to the airport, and promptly noticed that I’d left my carry-on bag with my laptop in the car. The van drivers just brought me back to the lot after dropping off the other customers; I collected my bag and we set off back for the airport.

While en route I decided to check my flight times, and noticed in the itinerary that had been emailed me that my flight wasn’t until the following night. Huh? I mean, I’d checked it maybe a dozen times, and never noticed that detail. I’d had someone else book the flight for me, and gave them the details that I wanted to fly out on Friday night, not Saturday, and so I guess I’d just assumed that that was the date I’d been booked for. I thought to myself that this couldn’t be right, so I got off at the airport and checked my email once inside the terminal. It turns out I was wrong — I had showed up at the airport a day early.

Oh, well. I decided I probably should just go home. I checked the airline websites and it looked like I wouldn’t be able to rebook the ticket, even though it was in first class. So I picked up my bags and started to leave the terminal. I had made it down one escalator when I decided to turn back around and just ask a ticket agent if there was anything that could be done. There was only one first-class ticket desk open as I returned, and it was deserted. I asked the agent, and he said that it could be rebooked, but the fee would normally be $100. He said there was one seat left on the flight that night, and that, if I wanted it, he’d rebook me and just waive the fee. But, I’d have to move fast, as the seat could be sold at any time. I told him I’d have to call ahead to see if I could rearrange my pickup at the airport, so I stepped aside to allow him to help other customers.

I got my pickup rearranged, but now there were about 6 people in line in front of me. I got a bit nervous, thinking maybe the seat might get sold. But, as soon as I caught myself thinking that, I calmed down, and started saying “tsuiteiru” to myself over and over. This is something my wife and I would say when we wanted to find an empty parking spot, to avoid traffic, or have some other lucky circumstance happen. It basically means something like “lucky”, and we’d just repeat it again and again. When I got back to the front of the line, the agent told me the seat was still available, and rebooked me.

Obstacle #1 removed.

Then I got to my destination, and it was quite late, about 11:30 p.m. I picked up my bags and headed out to catch the shuttle that would take me to my final destination. I called the dispatch and told them I was on a different island than they’d expect, because it was the one nearer to baggage claim. They told me that would be no problem and gave me the van number and its driver’s name. About 10 minutes later, I saw the van coming, and it was in the wrong lane. I flagged the driver down, but he could not stop. He opened the door and said, “I’ll meet you at the next island.” Just after this happened, another shuttle van, one for an off-site parking lot, stopped and opened its door. The driver said, “Hop in, I’ll take you down there to help you catch your van.” The shuttle we were now pursuing was hidden behind a number of buses, so we couldn’t see if he was pulling over or not, but there briefly was a break in the traffic, and the driver honked to get the other driver’s attention. The driver of the van I was trying to get on rolled down his window, and said he’d pull over at the next island. He did, and I hopped off and got into the correct van.

Obstacle #2 removed. It’s as if the universe wanted me to be back here at my destination on Friday night, and not on Saturday as booked, and enabled me to make all the right mistakes and decisions to enable that to happen. Plus then a number of other lucky circumstances came together to make it real.

To me, the most important message is that I learned just how present I needed to be to allow all of this to happen. I had to decide to stay at the airport and not go home. The airport was not very busy, and the atmosphere was pretty calm. I was very humble and self-effacing with the ticket agent, and he was not terribly stressed out because there weren’t many people around. These guys do have quite a bit of discretion, and I guess he just felt that it might be nice to use his power in a good way. Then, at the final airport, I somehow flagged down the shuttle van in such a way that I caught the attention of a completely different driver, and that person felt compeled to help. It was all really pretty astonishing.

This tells me that, provided we just try to be truly present in our lives and engage in virtuous activity, good things can come to us. There’s no guarantee, of course, but you do tend to get back what you put out there. If you put out a bunch of negativity, chances are you won’t find a lot of happiness coming your way. But if you put out good energy, then that tends to attract more good energy, and that can manifest in all sorts of ways.

As a result, I just now feel very certain that I’ll reconcile with my wife sometime in the fairly near future. I’ve been putting a lot of good energy out there, but honestly there has been quite a bit of negativity mixed in with it that likely has been setting me back. I’ve just got to drop the negativity and go with the flow of positivity, be fully present, and see where that leads. I’m confident that good things are at the end of that path.

A brief disquisition on the five wisdom energies, and how they can affect your marriage and the process of reconciliation

Okay, so that’s probably my longest post title to date. Let me explain why I’m writing this post; hopefully in the end the title will seem appropriate.

I have been asked a number of times how I can be so certain that I will reconcile with my wife. I often say (and have written here) that her behavior right now is just a more extreme form of behavior I have seen from her many times over the course of our seven-year marriage. I did not really understand why this type of behavior kept cropping up until I took a course last summer on the so-called “five wisdom energies.” The course was largely experiential, and centered around meditative practices designed in the 1970s by the great Tibetan master Chögyam Trungpa. One explores these energies by holding a specific meditative posture for a period of time, normally about 40 minutes or so; to heighten the effect of the posture, the practices are normally done in rooms that are painted in the color of the energy being explored. Alternatively, the practitioner can wear a set of glasses with lenses tinted that color. You don’t do anything other than hold the posture, direct your gaze in a specific way, and then notice what happens. It can be revelatory, or it can be pure hell. Incidentally, it was right at the end of this course that the crisis in my marriage exploded on me, and I do not think that is a coincidence.

Confused? I’ll try to explain the wisdom energies first, then I’ll get to how this impacted my marriage and how it impacts my reconciliation efforts.

In Buddhism, generally speaking, everything is energy. I won’t get into the various schools and doctrines that might dispute this, but as a general principle, and certainly from the standpoint of Vajrayana Buddhism, the claim of everything being energy is a pretty good starting point. (It’s interesting to note that quantum physics would tend to agree with this standpoint, and that Buddhists have known this experientially for a couple of millennia now.) The five basic energies that define our basic make-up as humans, as well as that define our world and everything in it are known as “wisdom energies”. This is sometimes depicted in a mandala that shows the five “wisdom” Buddhas associated with these energies, as shown in the image below.

5 dhyani Buddhas
Each energy has a location (direction) in the mandala, a color, a name, a set of qualities, a time of day, a season of the year, a sense faculty with which it is associated, and so on. Somewhat confusingly, in Asian countries compass directions are sometimes reversed, so north appears in the south and vice versa. That will be the case with the picture above. Moreover, the directions are a bit “stylized” here, so the four cardinal directions (north, south, east, and west) appear in the corners of the painting.
Rather than attempting to explain these energies in detail, I’ll quote an excellent synopsis by Irini Rockwell that was published in the magazine Shambhala Sun:

Traditionally, at the center of the mandala is Vairochana, lord of the buddha family, who is white and represents the wisdom of all-encompassing space and its opposite, the fundamental ignorance that is the source of cyclic existence (samsara). The dullness of ignorance is transmuted to a vast space that accommodates anything and everything.

In the east of the mandala is Akshobya, lord of the vajra family, who is blue and represents mirror-like wisdom and its opposite, aggression. The overwhelming directness of aggression is transmuted into the quality of a mirror, clearly reflecting all phenomena. Vajra is associated with the element water, with winter, and with sharpness and textures.

In the south of the mandala is Ratnasambhava, buddha of the ratna family, who is yellow and represents the wisdom of equanimity and its opposite, pride. The fulsomeness of pride is transmuted into the quality of including all phenomena as elements in the rich display. Ratna is associated with the element earth, with autumn, with fertility and depth.

In the west of the mandala is Amitabha, buddha of the padma family, who is red and represents discriminating-awareness wisdom and its opposite, passion or grasping. The intense desire of passion is transmuted into an attention to the fine qualities of each and every detail. Padma is associated with the element fire, with spring, with façade and color.

In the north of the mandala is Amogasiddhi, buddha of the karma family, who is green and represents all-accomplishing wisdom and its opposite, jealousy or paranoia. The arrow-like pointedness of jealousy is transmuted into efficient action. Karma is associated with the element wind, with summer, with growing and completing.

The important thing to understand here is that each energy has two poles: at the one end is wisdom, and at the other, neurosis. It’s not a simple binary opposition, but rather a spectrum along which these energies can manifest. An energy could be pure wisdom, pure neurosis, or some mixture of the two, and, being energy, it is not fixed and can move toward greater clarity or neurosis at any given moment. As humans we are said to possess all five energies in their pure state, but express at most two or three of them predominantly. These energies can be either clear, or they can be stuck.

My energies are primarily buddha-vajra-ratna (BVR), and my wife’s energies are primarily padma-karma (PK). The opposition of vajra-ratna and padma-karma is very healthy: the fire of padma is tempered by the coolness of vajra, and the speed of karma is cushioned by the slowness of ratna. Buddha energy accommodates all, and when it is in balance it can absorb the neuroses and bolster the wisdom of any of the other four energies.

What does a BVR person look like? At best, his personality is open and  spacious (buddha), very understanding and clear (vajra), and generous to all (ratna). At worst, his personality is dull and spaced out (buddha), dogmatic and conservative (vajra), and stingy with either too much pride or too little self-esteem (ratna). A PK person at best recognizes the specialness of everyone and everything (padma) and is efficacious and efficient in accomplishing goals (karma). At worst, she is passionate to a fault and overly self-conscious (padma), and can be destructively goal-oriented and act without considering all of the possible consequences (karma).

That dysfunctional PK person is my wife right now. Rockwell describes this dynamic very well in her most recent book, Natural Brilliance:

The fire of padma can be a small flame, but together with the wind of karma, it will soon flare up into a bonfire of activity driven by passion. This can accomplish amazing things at work, but burnout could be just around the corner. Have you ever seen people who combine these energies when they are in love? They burn themselves out. (Rockwell, 61.)

That’s why I keep telling people that my wife and I will reconcile. That burn-out has happened many times over the course of our relationship. I call it a “meltdown,” because that’s what it looks like. Typically she will have some goal in mind,  like a recital program she will perform, or some other work-related project, and then throw herself into it with reckless abandon. I have watched her practice 8, 10, even 12 hours a day in preparation for such event, and I have seen her spend all night at the computer typing up papers. This will go on for days and even weeks on end, and the result is never good. She breaks down physically, mentally, and emotionally. The breakdown often comes right before the deadline, too. I have seen one or two breakdowns so severe that she had to cancel the project altogether.

This project, the adulterous affair, is different in that there is an external input in the form of the adulterous partner who helps to feed the padma/karma dysfunction. I don’t know what this adulterer’s energies are, but I suspect they are probably somewhat similar to my wife’s, and that is a recipe for complete disaster. Put fire on fire and wind on wind, and you get an explosion. The meltdown is inevitable, but its timing is a bit unpredictable, as there is another party involved.

So how do I deal with this knowledge? I basically have to try to stabilize my own energies as much as possible, and to recognize the manifestations of neurotic energy coming from my wife as it arises. It’s all pretty clear, in a way, and somewhat interesting to watch, as well. It’s like a closed system that cannot interface with the world except through the filters of its own internal dysfunctions. Everything else is pushed away. That everything else includes me at the moment. The walls of that system are very, very fragile, like the walls of a bubble. When that bubble pops, the whole system melts down. That’s when she’ll come back to me, because she knows I truly understand her soul. I have seen it before, and I know how to nurture it back to health. She’ll come back, I guarantee it.

Interesting…

Just a quick note on my way to bed. My wife came home yesterday and left the dog with me. The dog seems relieved to be at home (understandably) and her behavior has become a bit interesting.

Every morning and evening I have a spiritual practice that I do. Mornings tend to be the longer of the two sessions and usually include a fairly good length of sitting meditation. But for both sessions I will recite prayers and/or short liturgies. Today, as I was doing some reciting (i.e. chanting), the dog came and sat down next to me. She has done this before, but it seemed like she really wanted to be there, so I laid out a blanket on the floor for her to lie down on. She did that, and stayed there for the duration of my practice. Tonight, as I was doing some brief recitations, she did the same thing. I put the blanket on the floor, and she again lied down on it and proceeded to go to sleep. After I’d finished and gotten into bed (I do this practice in the bedroom) she stayed on the blanket, and is still there even as I type this — almost an hour after having finished up that session. She did this last night, too. This is unusual. Normally she sleeps on her bed, which is basically just a large pillow, or on a smaller bed that is placed under a night table as a sort of quasi-crate.

I have no explanation for this behavior. I have never seen the dog sleep in the middle of the floor at that location. It’s pretty much random, in terms of her previous behavior. And it might be nothing other than a random event. Or, rather random events on two separate days. Or, who knows, maybe there is some sort of energy that gathers there that is comforting to her. I have no idea. It is reassuring for me to have the dog back home, and I’m sure she feels better being here.

The cold front continues, with a brief thaw

Today the snow continued. I woke up to a white landscape. Not much snow, maybe a couple of inches, but on this side of the mountains (the Cascades) we don’t usually get much snow, so an inch or two can really shut things down.

I also woke up to a cold wife. She spent the night here last night. I’m not sure why, she never said. She was really pretty unfriendly all day. The only smiles I saw came when she went outside in the snow with the dog to take some pictures for her blog. That was about it, though. I’d had about all I could take of her negativity and generally unpleasant behavior by about 10:00 a.m., so I decided to get out.

Normally on Sunday mornings my wife would be playing piano at a local church. She’s not a Christian — neither of us is — but it’s a gig she’s had for pretty much as long as I’ve known her, and the community there really love her and enjoy her playing. All that changed with the new year, as she began to actively dump as many jobs as she could. Her rationale is that she needs to concentrate on her dissertation. That’s what she’s telling people. That’s not really a rationale, but rather a rationalization. In the past 15 days she’s done absolutely no work on the dissertation for which she has quit so many jobs. I don’t expect to see her start working on it anytime soon, either.

So, normally I take her to church, and then I go off to my local Buddhist center and sit (i.e. meditate) with the community for a couple of hours. Then I come back and pick her up, we have lunch, she teaches a couple more students (I have to schlep her around for this, since she never learned how to drive) and then there is one more student at home in the evening. And, I have a special ceremony I do at the center every Sunday evening as well. Sundays, therefore, are normally pretty full days.

This was one of her biggest beefs: she’s had to work weekends pretty much since we got married. That’s largely true, but then it’s true for most musicians. They work weekends. That’s how it works. Your profession is a leisure activity for others, so your work time falls during their leisure time. You can compare this with a similar example: football players who have to play games on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. It’s part of the job description, in a way. As for my wife’s work load, I’d say she actually works about 10 hours on the weekend, and then maybe another 10 during the week. This means her weekend actually falls between Monday and Friday. She never could quite comprehend this. Somehow her weekends had to be sacrosanct, yet she would not give up her line of work to make that happen. I guess that was just my responsibility, as was pretty much everything else, to provide for everything so that she wouldn’t have to lift a finger. She actually said this a couple of months ago: “I just wanted you to make all the money so that I could just do what I want.”

Back to this morning, then. I’d had enough of her coldness, and I felt she needed a dose of me backing off from her a bit. So I just told her I was going down to the center to sit for a couple of hours. She said that would be okay. I came home a couple of hours later, and there she was, still in front of the computer. I got home a bit later than normal, since I’d stopped off at the store for some ingredients for lunch. I was getting ready to prepare something, and she decided to leave. She said she was going back to her friend’s house (where she’s been staying) to watch a movie with them. I simply said, “Okay, bye. See you later.” And off she went. Then I made lunch: dakbokkeumtang, a Korean dish of spicy, braised chicken. Very hearty, and plenty left over for dinner. I enjoyed it just fine without her.

I had a board meeting this afternoon for a non-profit whose advisory board I serve on. It dragged on and on, due to technical problems. A couple of people had to join via videoconference, one due to the weather, and the other due to the fact that he lives over 100 miles away. We just couldn’t get the video link working. But we managed to wrap up fairly quickly, and I made it back over to the center for the weekly ceremony I do. (This is called the Green Tara sadhana, for those of you who might be curious.)

Then I got home and had some of those tasty leftovers from lunch. Why am I bringing this up again? Well, my wife was not home, and had not come home since leaving this afternoon, so I took it that she’d be staying with her friends tonight. So I called her. In the reconciliation program I’m doing, you aim to have at least 5 brief, non-logistical talks with your spouse during the course of the day. By brief, I mean 30-60 seconds. You’re just trying to make a connection, nothing else. I’ve typically not had issues with these in the past, as my wife was always at home. Now that she’s gone at least part of the time, that’s a different story, and you have to deliver these by phone.

All the times in the past that I’ve tried to call her to do this, she’d just let it go straight to voice mail. Recently, however, she’s been keeping the ringer on her phone turned up. So when I did call, I wasn’t totally surprised that she picked up. The conversation was brief: I told her about what I’d cooked, how good it was, and that there would be plenty left over for her tomorrow. That took about 30 seconds. Then I said, “well, that’s pretty much all I have to say.” She laughed, as she thought that was a bit odd. (Mission accomplished!) Then she wanted to keep chatting, so we talked for a bit. The church she plays at was broken into over the weekend, and they had a bunch of things stolen.
Evidently the pastor was very upset by this. We chatted a bit more; it sounded to me like she was maybe a bit lonely. She’s sleeping in the basement room of these people’s house, and it’s not really a comfortable place for her to be. And here I am, calling her from the warmth and comfort of our home, telling her about the nourishing meal I’d made that would be waiting for her when she came back.

In a way, it was almost like any conversation we would have had prior to this crisis, except that now, any such conversations are precious. It was so nice just to hear her voice. I really, really miss that. And I miss her presence, her companionship, and most of all her love.

I do think the “separation” is hard for her, and almost certainly much harder for her than it is for me. I haven’t had to give up any material comforts. She’s opted to give up pretty much everything. She knows that this is her house and that the door will always be open for her. She is just so obstinate right now that she really has to prove to herself that she can do this, that she can separate from me and be “independent”, a task at which she is actually failing. This also means that she might try to get the divorce paperwork filled out as well. Whether she’ll actually manage that or whether it goes the way of the half-packed boxes is anyone’s guess. I’ve felt for a while now that she’s just hedging her bets, preparing to do things like moving out and filing for divorce, but not really willing to commit to doing any of that 100% until she got the thumbs up from her lover on moving in. Right now it looks like that thumbs up comes maybe at the beginning of March, but even that could be tenuous.

As I’ve said before, I don’t think she can make it that long doing all that couch-surfing. That’s where the itty-bitty thaw seems to be coming in.

Life is perfect just as it is

Insights happen. We’ve all had them. Out of nowhere, an idea or thought pops into your mind that has transformative power. Those of us who lead spiritual lives have probably experienced this more than once. I’ve had several such experiences over the past few months that I think help to frame the crisis that my marriage is in, and how I’m able to deal with it.

In the six weeks running up to this crisis beginning to unfold, I did a series of intensive meditation practices called Maitri Space Awareness. These are compassion practices that intensify your experience, and are so powerful that, unless you are in a retreat situation (which I was not) you are advised only to do them about twice a week. A lot of stuff comes up: repressed memories, hidden fears, and sides of your personality that you didn’t know existed. The experiences can be so powerful that one needs to transition back into normal life, post-meditation, by doing about 10-15 minutes of “aimless wandering.” This sounds a bit odd, perhaps, but all you do is just go somewhere and let your intuition lead. On one day in particular, I went outside and started to walk. I was met by a rush of sound: traffic noises, the cacophony of the birds in the trees, and so on. It was nearly overwhelming. As I continued to walk, I was overcome by a tremendous sadness that was absolutely heartbreaking. It was an overcast day, and the low-lying clouds only made that emotion more oppressive. But then something truly amazing happened: that feeling of sadness and utter heartbreak transformed. It was still there, but it became tender, open, and spacious. Underneath this heartbreak was a sense of freedom and joy. It wasn’t exactly joy as we normally think of it, that is, feeling happy and carefree, but rather the joy of having an open heart. I began to see things for what they are. The world is an incredibly rich place: the birds sing, the wind rustles in the leaves, the squirrels run around busily gathering nuts, people fight with one another, and on and on. Most of the time, we don’t notice any of this. But if you stop to look, you begin to see that everything you could ever possibly want in your life is present right now.

I do think these sorts of insights happen for a reason, and that there is a trigger of some sort that brings them about. Thinking about this one insight as it was happening, I realized that, the night before, the state of Georgia had just executed Troy Davis for a crime he possibly did not commit. I had also heard on the radio an interview with the victims mother, who felt that she could now move on with her life, as in her view, “justice” had been served. And when I reflected on this, it just occurred to me that the human heart can at times be so closed  that people actually do feel that hatred, anger, vindictiveness, and retribution somehow can solve their problems. These emotions do not help, but rather just engender further suffering. I felt very sad for the world, and especially for those with such closed hearts and minds, but at the same time the recognition of this profound sadness opened my heart to the possibility of having compassion for these people and for the larger world.

What does this have to do with my marriage? I’ll get to that in a moment.

The center I go to for my spiritual practice held a week-long retreat just after Christmas. I was unable to attend most of it due to work obligations, but did make the last 2 days. During the first of those two days, I did about 4 hours of intensive meditation practice. This took the form of 30-40 minute periods of sitting meditation, followed by 10 minutes of walking meditation. During one of the walking sessions, I suddenly realized that, where my marriage was concerned, I could take the long view. I realized that my marital crisis had been going on for three months, and that I was still okay, and actually in a better place as a person than where I had started. And I knew that, if I could have made it through those three months, I certainly could make it through another three months, if that were necessary. Not only that, but there was the realization that I could have this longer view because I was grounded in the present moment, in its feelings, and its experiences as they unfold right now.

Fast forward to yesterday morning. I was leaving the grocery store, feeling somewhat unsteady, a bit upset and depressed, and having a measure of dread about what awaited me that evening, as I knew my wife would be packing boxes and planning to move out. I came out into an overcast, somewhat cold and dreary morning, and the grayness of the sky reflected more or less exactly my emotional state. I thought about how I was feeling, walking across the parking lot to my car, and how I might feel if my marriage were in optimal health, if my wife were with me, if we were truly happy, and everything were great. Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, the following thought popped into my mind:

“Life is perfect just as it is.”

For me, that was a profound insight. Your life as it unfolds at this moment is all that you need. It has to be that way, because there is nothing else. We spend so much time thinking about the future or the past that we completely miss the power of the present. It is only through our interaction with the world in the present that transformation can occur. This doesn’t mean that you have to like feeling depressed, sad, unsteady, or whatever, but rather you just have to accept it as part of the process and allow those feelings to come through. That’s all. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with feeling horrible and exalted in the same day, feeling depression and elation in the same hour, sorrow and happiness in the same minute. That’s just how our lives unfold. If you can simply surrender to that process, you can transform your life. Your heart opens, and things look different. You don’t need to add anything or take anything away. You don’t need to wish for things to be different, yet you also realize that it’s okay to think about the past, and also to have goals for the future. Everything suddenly becomes possible in a way that it hadn’t perviously been.

If I could have one grounding mantra for these days as they unfold, that would be it.

Life is perfect just as it is.