Steven Lake faces the challenges his wife brings up through her spiritual practice. Resistance is futile!
When your partner is on a spiritual journey all you have do is sit back, watch, learn, and receive. That is the simple answer. Doing it is another thing. There are a number of potential problems that can arise from your partner being on a spiritual journey. But before we examine some of the issues let us go back many decades to set the stage and give some context for this article.
My father is not only a lapsed Catholic, he is virulently against the Church. Not sure what his experience was as a child, but I do know my Grandmother (God rest her soul) was a staunch Catholic.
Rationality, the observable universe, and nature were my father’s guide as to what was real and there was no room for anything else in his conceptualization of where we came from or the meaning of life. There was certainly no after-life.
My father decided that his children were not going to be baptized or be indoctrinated into the Catholic faith. He never mentioned the Church at home and if it came up in any way his disdain for the organization was obvious.
My mother, was Church of England. She was not a regular church-goer but she did go on occasion. It felt like she avoided church so as not to antagonize my father. My sense was that she believed in some form of higher power.
To that end I went to Sunday school when little. I grew up with the basic tenants of Christianity and my mother and I would go to a protestant Church on Easter and Christmas . . . sometimes.
When my Grandmother visited, she and I would go to a Catholic Church. She never pushed anything on me about religion but I saw how much it meant to her. There were crosses and religious pictures throughout her apartment and she went to church every day. I experienced the comfort she received from her beliefs.
Over the years I have visited many houses of worship including synagogues, Sikh temples, New Age Churches and assorted Christian based churches. Enjoyed them all actually, but I never felt compelled to choose one or go on a regular basis.
I even remember watching Billy Graham on TV and yearning for that belief and connection to God that he so wonderfully exemplified. Watching all those people walking up to the stage and him exhorting each and every one to let the spirit of Jesus into their hearts.
I may not be religious but I see myself as spiritual. As I get older, the early teaching in Sunday school and the prevalent culture around me has made me more aware of how infused I am with Christianity without even realizing it.
This awareness first became most obvious when reading a book I wrote. In it were numerous quotes from the bible. How had that happened? This was a non-fiction book without any thread of connection to religion or spirituality – or so I thought.
Other than being brought up in a Christian-based society, as an adult I do not go to church or belong to any organized religion. I do pray. I give thanks. I send healing prayers to people who are ill. I have done the Buddhist thing of praying for the world.
Other than that, my focus is not on my spiritual development, rather, it is on my therapy clients, my businesses, and my intimate relationship (my wife).
Paulette, my wife, is a very different than myself. She is a devotee of learning about her spirituality in a conscious, conscientious, and consistent manner. I think it is her former training and career as a dancer that has contributed to her discipline and single-mindedness in whatever she does.
Before retiring from dance she started doing yoga and eventually became a teacher. Even though not teaching anymore, she does her exercises every day without fail. Then she listens to spiritual teachers online and reads books on spiritual practice, the mind, and yoga. She also meditates twice a day.
What is truly amazing, from my point of view, is how she takes what she learns and applies it to the world. She learns and applies. This is rare in my experience, especially in the spiritual domain.
Her spiritual journey affects me directly as she is changing with her new found knowledge and understanding about herself, others, and the universe. One, she engages me on the subject. Darn, now I have to think about spiritual issues. Part of me doesn’t want to do this. There is also another part of me that does.
Coming from my rational, logical, and Cartesian training, it is very easy to start arguing the validity of my wife’s beliefs – I desperately try not to roll my eyes at her more esoteric beliefs and statements.
My reaction is just that, a reaction to statements that are not in my worldview. Quelling these negative and limiting thoughts and opening my mind to new information is the first benefit I receive from my wife’s spiritual journey.
Second, by staunching my verbal riposte, I open myself to discovering where I am regarding my spiritual growth. This is not a comfortable place. I am becoming aware of a desire within me to take time for spiritual practice. Becoming aware of this desire sets me up for internal conflict as I am a “busy” person and when will I find the time for self-care. And that is how I see spiritual development, as self-care. My self definitely needs some taking care of.
Three, seeing the light shine through my wife is humbling and exciting at the same time. She positively radiates an energy through her eyes and face that is remarkable. I am not the only one who sees this. Others have commented on her inner beauty and deep sense of composure.
Four, seeing how Paulette’s incorporation of spiritual knowledge and ways of being affect her state, is enticing evidence for engaging in similar practices as I know my inner state is rarely in such a rarefied way of being.
This brings up an even deeper question, why would I deny this for myself? Is it old beliefs, habit, or my ego that forbids this offering? Maybe it is just fear that I would change, be happier, not be able to hold on to an unhelpful way of being. Fear. Fear of the unknown?
I see fear beneath my father’s reaction to religion. I once lost a former lover to a religious cult and when my wife gets so deeply involved with a new teacher, I think that old fear rears its head, even if only a little.
I fear deluding myself to appease the need for ever-lasting life.
This state of being that she so devoutly works at is a constant reminder, or reflection, as to where I am on my spiritual journey. It is not something I necessarily want to be reminded of on a daily basis no less. Yet, I know it is good for my soul.
I see what is possible. It is one thing to read about the benefits of engagement with the spirit, it is another to see it every day in your living room.
As Paulette grows and expands in her spirit, she takes more and more responsibility for her life and how she reacts to it, which means there is less finger pointing at moi. I like that.
When my wife is in her state of grace, I bask in this glow of love and acceptance.
There is no questioning this state of being. It is a pure thing that sees and wants only good, not only for herself, but for me and the world. It is infinite in its depth and breadth.
I appreciate my wife more. I appreciate her willingness to explore and confront herself and her spirituality. She is a brave person, much braver than me in this realm.
When your partner embarks on a journey of spiritual discovery, the truth is there is no telling what is going to happen. They may indeed join a monastery, a convent, a cult, or go live in a cave in India. This is scary for the one watching.
Yet, if you can turn watching into witnessing, you will be less of a victim in this process if things don’t turn out the way you think they should. Witnessing is being the loving presence that holds your partner’s experience so that they feel safe and supported on their journey.
Succumbing to your fear will often create the very situation you were trying to avoid. My wife once said to me, “Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere.” It was comforting to hear these words and I relaxed because of them. But, in truth, one never knows and this is where having faith is helpful.
Have faith that your partner’s spiritual journey is necessary for their development, for their path. If you can be a supporter of that journey, you have not lost. How can you lose when assisting someone on their spiritual quest?
It may stretch you, but if you can tap into your love of your partner you will know deep down that their growth is yours, and that you are blessed to be a part of their transformation.
P.S. My wife informs me that everyone is on a spiritual journey.
Photo: Flickr/Eddi van W./the three graces