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.”

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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.

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