I’ve just been introduced to the poet and philosopher, David Whyte. In his book The Three Marriages, he says we need to navigate, yep, three marriages in life: one to others (“particularly and very personally, to one other living, breathing person”), another to work and another to one’s self, “through an understanding of what it means to be themselves, discrete individuals alive and seemingly separate from everyone and everything else.”

Image by oleg oprisco

Whyte believes they all involve vows made either consciously or unconsciously and that we should work on all three marriages, not as separate entities that have to be pitted against each other (in order to find that elusive “balance”), but as a “conversation” where all three are equally important.

But, he flags, the toughest hook-up is with our selves. It’s also the most critical, because without it the other two are but desperate, wobbly, outward-looking clamberings.

“Neglecting this internal marriage, we can easily make ourselves a hostage to the externals of work and the demands of relationship. We find ourselves unable to move in these outer marriages because we have no inner foundation from which to step out with a firm persuasion. It is as if, absent a loving relationship with this inner representation of our self, we fling ourselves in all directions in our outer lives, looking for love in all the wrong places.”

I very much agree about the importance of committing – making vows – to work and self, as well as another person (in part because I’ve not been able to do the latter…yet).

I’ve commented on the notion of finding your dharma (where you step into and contribute your life purpose).

I’ve also written about how I go about accessing my self (the self that I need to get intimate with). I’ve described it as sitting on a bench with myself.

But the importance of going that step further, the next bit after identifying my true self… well, I’ve dismissed it. I’ve twitched from it. Even in meditation, when I arrive at that special quietness with myself, I can’t stay there long. I surface very quickly, back to my thoughts, wanting to be distracted away from my internal communion. Only recently have I been able to get better at it, sitting quietly on Sunday afternoons reading philosophy and spiritual texts and staring into space on my balcony up the coast at night (no glow of my iphone).

But still my mind jerks away from my little mate sitting next to me. I’m sitting here wondering why.

Is it because we’re scared of meeting our selves?

Is it that we’re scared what our selves show us?

Is it the sadness we encounter from realising how long we’ve neglected our selves?

Whyte reckons it’s awareness of death that sees us run from our marriage with our selves: “The marriage with the self is difficult because it is connected to the great questions of life that refuse to go away and which are also connected to our own mortality. In the silences that accompany a strong internal relationship with the self we see not only the truth of our present circumstances and a way forward but we also realize how short our stay is on this earth. Life waits for us in this internal marriage, but death waits for us also.”

As I tap this out, I tend to think the silence and stillness required to arrive at the alter together that sees us flee the chapel. This being so, I think it’s a great practice to master (or a great “mastery” to practice) – sitting quieter and stiller for longer. And, really, this is all that’s required to say “I do”.

What do you guys reckon? Is it death or stillness that scares us more? PS. Thanks David W. for the Whyte alert.

Have your say, leave a comment.

  • mw

    Glad for you that you’ve put some weight on and bleeding again. These are good things , Right ??So many of the women I see on Billboards look like stick insects. (Feels weird wishing you well re: this stuff in a public forum, but hey .. sharing/oversharing/caring/whatever.) I wish I wasn’t so addicted to checking into your world. I’ve really got to get a handle on this. Difficult to follow you on all this 3 marriages stuff. I did just Google this guy and he’s recently divorced for the 2nd time .. so he ought to have a few clues as to why he and the rest of us are so fallible.
    Silence is gorgeous .. but so is the stillness I get from creating music. Meditation is as individual as we are .. Labelling it is where we get into trouble. Having a relationship that works with yourself and a partner and your work is really hard. You seem like you’ve been pretty busy the last few years with your work. How do you square that away with a committed relationship with someone else ?? Some people need more privacy. End of story !

  • Tez Ong

    I find gardening a very useful way to commune with myself – as I garden, thoughts will arise & i find myself analysing them – any hobby that allows you quiet time to yrself shld be able to achieve the same purpose

  • My Peace Of Food

    Okay, you are the third person this week to mention this and it’s been on my mind, so I better get on it! But really, your questions are valid…I never thought either that the fear was being alone with myself, but perhaps it is — we are too likely to nit-pick and find our own faults too close for comfort, rather than relishing in our own real and true perfect selves. For me personally I think the getting too close to life and death thing is related to finding my dharma, something I’ve been just starting to explore, because the fear for me is What will happen to my children, whenever it is I may go, how will they fare? And sitting with the fact that in the end that’s out of my control — I can do all I want to shape and form and mold them and all that — in the letting go, that’s where the fear is for me. Deep thoughts 😉

  • Melanie Greblo

    Thanks Sarah for this one! Love that David Whyte’s work has struck a chord. For your followers who his work may also resonate with, I am hosting David on his first visit to Australia in May with talks in Sydney, Melbourne and Byron Bay. Yes he has divorced for the second time, but living deeply sometimes sees that we, in David’s words, fail remarkably, but that’s preferable to living drably the life of someone else.

    • Kate

      Hi Melanie, I’m so excited he is coming to Australia! I would love to come and see him in Byron and was wondering if you know the dates he’ll be there? If not, is his website the best way to stay up to date or do you have a separate page/mailing that would be better?