Tag Archives: maturity

Two Essential Questions Before Saying “I do”

Wedding ringsBy: Sasha Stone

Recently I caused a minor Facebook frenzy with the following comment:

“It is my observation that marriage for my generation is irrelevant and represents the death of love. I have a few examples in my life that prove otherwise, which is beautiful and wonderful. What about you? What’s your experience?”

I will admit, I did this partially to provoke people. I knew it would strike a chord and married people would get defensive. I was curious to see what that defense would be, because honestly, I would rather my observation be inaccurate. No surprise, most responses had a lot to do with romantic notions of forever, family, and devotion. Those that said their marriage was thriving sited communication, honesty, and respect. This, though, was my favorite response of all:

“Marriage is not just a piece of paper. It is not a piece of paper to prove love. My husband proved that to me well before we got married — which is why we got married in the first place! However, it does open up a lot of options legally – think about health care decisions, financial combinations, term life decisions etc…”

Why my favorite? Because this is real. This has a purpose.

Since my divorce in 2009 I’ve kept a close eye on my views on marriage, observing any changes and fluctuations that might occur and why. In the midst of my divorce, I felt fairly certain I would never get married again. Not because I was bitter and jaded, and not because I didn’t want to have a family, but because marriage had lost its meaning to me.

I got married very young (age 25), and though in love, we hadn’t really spent any time discussing our motives for taking such a huge next step in our relationship. There was the practical consideration of me being able to stay in the U.S., and the idea of wanting to be together forever. Beyond that, we didn’t really look at the deeper currents of why, and consequently nor whether this move was truly in the greatest good for either of our lives.

Whether consciously or not, I think many people get married to hold on to that relationship and that person forever, no matter what, even if there are massive gaps in values, vision, and priorities. As though somehow, having that official certificate guarantees your idealized vision of love and that the person will be yours forever. Clearly, divorce rates indicate otherwise, but people still seem to think, for them it will be different.

What happens all too often though, for my generation at least, is the paper gets signed and the relationship takes a nosedive. I know that is not the case for everyone, but it is strikingly common. I could probably write a 1000 page essay on this topic, there’s so much to it. But I am going to stick my neck out and say the main reason this occurs is because despite our social evolution, we still cling and grasp onto the romance saturated view of marriage that is fed to us through fairytales, both classic and contemporary. Our starving mind (our hearts are usually wiser) latches on to that idea and laps it up voraciously. Then we get married, and our socially evolved self revolts, does not want to accept the illusion of this arrangement, and suddenly, desperately, wants out.

Last year, I had the honor of officiating a wedding for a beloved student and friend (yes, that’s right, minister Sash). I had to be very thoughtful about it because I didn’t want to be a fraud standing up there, guiding two people into an institution for which I hadn’t yet made peace. So I asked the couple tying the knot to answer two questions for me (an assignment they had to do separately, without consulting each other).

#1) Why are you getting married?

Seems straight forward enough, but many people answer this question with something basically along the lines of, “I love this person, I want to be with them forever, and I want to build a family and life with them.” That is awesome! I say go for it, but guess what, you don’t need to be married to do any of those things (at least not in the Western world). Love and commitment are beautiful and wonderful, but you can be married and completely not committed. You can also be fully devoted and not married.

Dig deeper. What are some REAL reasons for making this massive commitment? I find the answers that are deeply spiritual, deeply traditional, and/or deeply practical to be the most compelling. If you and your spouse-to-be have those reasons in common, then there is a much more substantial backing to walking down the aisle than simply the forever story. You have no idea what life is going to hurl your way, but if you have super strong convictions about why marriage is essential to the progress and evolution of your relationship and life together, then you have a firm foundation to stand on.

#2) Why are you marrying this person?

Ok, here is where you get to be romantic and gushy. Still though, I encourage you to dig deep. What makes this person so highly unique and dear to you that you are willing to make a lifelong commitment to them? Get it all down. Be extremely personal, reflective, and specific. Then, when you hit those rough spots in your relationship, come back to this document and remind yourself what a precious being you have the privilege of sharing your life with.

Of course, there are many more questions to ask oneself, but this is not intended to be a guide on finding the right partner (when I figure that out I’ll get back to you ;). My intention is simply to draw your attention to two basic questions whose answers are often taken for granted rather than sincerely discussed.

Yes, I do believe in Love. I believe in commitment, I believe in family, and I believe that humans are meant to live their lives in togetherness, not isolation. I want love, I want babies, and I want to experience the crazy journey of being with someone for a very long time. Would I get married again? Only if the reasons for it truly make sense, and that if I decide to take that step with someone, that we have been openly thoughtful about it and see eye-to-eye and heart-to-heart on the why.

Take action now:

  1. Share your reaction to this article in the comments below.
  2. Send this to someone preparing to embark on the marriage journey. It might offer them a little guidance before taking the plunge.

Originally published on Sasha’s blog 

photo by: State Farm

The Most Unique and Hilarious Graduation Speech You’ll Ever Hear

Who would have thought President Obama had such a witty and irreverent speechwriter?

Far from your typical political rhetorician, former Obama speechwriter Jon Lovett is also far from the rote, uplifting commencement speaker most colleges opt for. This year’s graduating class at Pitzer College got a taste of real talk, mixed with testy humor, inspiring personal anecdotes, and even a few curse words just to keep it real.

Did Lovett leave anything out that you think college graduates need to hear? What’s the one piece of advice you would give to someone right now who is graduating from higher education?

Elephant in the Room: The Guilt of Leaving Home

Travel is stressfulDear Cora,

I moved in with my grandma after my freshman year of college because the other adults in my life were unreliable – my parents aren’t around and my step-mother all but kicked me out. So my grandma has been there for me when I felt like I had no one else and we are really close.

She lives just outside of New York City, and I just got a full-time job in Brooklyn. I’ve been commuting for a while but it takes forever. A friend has offered me a room to sublet in her apartment and then we’ll find another place together. It’ll mean much less commute time and also moving into a place of my own and fully transitioning into post-college adult life.

I really want to move out of my house, but every time I bring it up to my grandma, she gets upset and offended by it. She keeps telling me that I’m her best friend and I feel so guilty that I drop the subject. She’s not the reason I want to move, and I don’t want to upset her after everything she has done for me, but I feel like it’s time for me to go. How do I tell her it’s time for me to go without hurting her feelings?

Ready to Go


Dear Ready to Go,

It sounds to me like you’ve had your fair share of guardian troubles, and I’m sorry to hear things have been difficult for you. But it warms my heart to hear about your grandmother and your bond. She seems like a sweet woman, and I understand your desire to mollify her, but I can also hear your desire to spread your wings. Your desire to move out is your natural desire to grow up. I remember that need all too well.

When it was time for me to go to college I had two viable choices – I could go to school in the next grasslands over from my parents, where many of my friends were also going and where weekend trips home would be easy and probably frequent. My other option was to move across the country, where I knew no one and would have to explore a vast new land for myself. Despite having been a wandering elephant himself when he was my age, my father had become very protective in his older years and was very vocal about his desires for me to stay close. I felt a burning wanderlust though. While I knew going to option one would be safe, and I’d get a great education, I yearned to see something new. It felt intoxicatingly romantic to fend for myself in a big city away from everything I had known before.

I had my work cut out for me though, because my father was as logical as he was protective, and I’d need an iron clad argument to convince him to see my point of view. Like you, just saying “I just want to go,” wouldn’t work and he’d get this pained expression whenever I tried to explain it was my choice, not his. However, when I explained how good it would be for me to try this – that it’d make me a stronger elephant – he seemed to recognize his old self in me and softened a bit. It was the “You can always visit and it’d be exciting for you too,” bit that sold him though.

My college years were the most exciting, educational, and influential years of my life. As hard as it was for my parents, and my occasional bouts of homesickness, I don’t regret my decision for one second. And my father visited a total of 16 times over four years – I think that has to be some sort of record.

You’re going to have to be strong, ready, and prepare your solid argument. Luckily, you have the benefit of not moving too far away going for you. Sit your grandmother down and off the top tell her exactly what you told me – how much you appreciate what she’s done for you, and she’s your best friend too, and none of that has to change just because you live a few train rides away. Remind her how it’ll be good for you to learn how to live by yourself and it is a rite of passage for a couple of young twenty-somethings to try and squeeze into a matchbox sized apartment. This is ripping off the Band-Aid. Soothe the pain by adding that you’ll be back for weekend visits all the time (this is encouraging but also vague so you’re not over-committing) and if you have your own place she’ll have a place to escape to when she needs a change of scenery.

The thing is she is never going to be completely happy about this decision – she’s a grandmother who loves you and obviously wants to keep you close. However, if you explain to her how badly you want this, need it for your own development, she’ll see it’s best for you – and if there’s one thing grandmothers want it is the best for their grandchildren. It’ll be hard for her, so be patient with her, but inevitably she’ll come around. Just give her a chance.

Best wishes,

* * *

avatar-NO-BKCGRNDSubmit your questions, troubles, and predicaments to Cora via editor [at] intent [dot] com or in the comments section below. The Elephant in the Room advice column will be published every Friday – a blend of humor, compassion, and wisdom specially tailored for our Intent audience.

When We Are Ready to Be Free

At the dawning of spiritual maturity, as in biological maturity, a push or even a shock is often necessary to provide the catalyst for essential growth. The birth of true knowing follows the death of the previously known. What was previously known may have been true in its time, but when finished becomes false knowing or ignorance. We can meet what we falsely know about ourselves when we are ready to be free.

Before spiritual readiness we will hide from the worst or dramatize the worst with tragic melancholy. Or we may deny it altogether. The thinking process of our brain is filled with powers that allow us to decorate reality or dodge and cover whatever may threaten our version of reality. Finally we recognize that aspect of inner bondage that we most fear is who or what we really are. If we have been secretly frightened by our hidden inner self, and if we have been taught that our true nature must be tamed into submission because of its potential for selfish evil, we will keep our conscious attention separate from and be afraid of that naked core of ourselves.

Even if our upbringing has been more enlightened, and we are taught that we are essentially pure and good, the wild untamed parts of our personality are likely to frighten us enough that we keep them hidden in shamed secrecy. They show themselves in nightmares and in images of hell.

To be willing to turn toward the aspects of ourselves that we knowingly separate from our outward self-image is the mark of maturity. This maturity is inseparable from the readiness to be free. Not free of what we know to lurk in the core, but free to discover directly and unflinchingly what is there. When we are free of our conceptual definitions of ourselves, we are free to be fully whole. We then directly know ourselves as indefinable consciousness, freely being itself. When we are willing and ready, whatever we think is the worst of us turns into one of the most important teachers of freedom.

It is not always so easy to meet the beast we think lives inside us. We don’t often choose to leave a protected place, even if it is a prison. Although some ideas we have about ourselves are easily put aside or easily fall away on their own, transformational leaps take us, or throw us, into unknown territory with no reference points.

We may feel an internal pull toward what is calling us in this unknown realm and be terrified of it at the same time. We may find ourselves losing what we never considered could be lost: our perceived protection from our innermost selves. Desperately struggling with and fearing who we think we are, we finally find the courage to take a moment and directly inquire into this “thing” that has us by the throat.

When we can recognize that the soul matures naturally and sometimes with pain, we can be more willing to open to whatever we are feeling. We can stop our process of self-protection and instead self inquire. If we don’t resist whatever is being experienced, then the underlying sweetness of life is found even in the bitterest parts.

We can’t know beforehand that even in the worst the best can be discovered. But we can discover the truth of that. We can try to remember our discovery for whenever the next change occurs, and that memory may be somewhat useful. But to directly know what is here in this moment, all memory — even the most supportive — must be put aside. When your attention is fully present here, in this moment, regardless of what is appearing here, there is a great discovery. Every definition of yourself comes from references to the past and hopes or fears for the future. When your mind is freed from definitions of any kind, you can easily and directly discover what is really here rather than clinging to any definition of what is here. Falling into the core reveals the radiant spaciousness at the core.

This blog is adapted from Hidden Treasure: Uncovering the Truth in Your Life Story, published by Penguin Tarcher in 2011 and now available in paperback for the first time on Sept. 13, 2012.

In this life-changing book, Gangaji uses the telling of her own life story to help readers uncover the truth in their own. Publisher’s Weekly said, “This gently flowing but often disarming volume invites readers to examine the narratives that shape them, and is a call to pass beyond personal stories to find a deeper, more universal self.”

Gangaji will be a keynote speaker at the Wake Up Festival in Estes Park, Colo. on Aug. 24. Visit www.gangaji.org for more information about Gangaji’s upcoming events this fall, including her monthly webcast / conference Series, With Gangaji, which is currently undergoing an in-depth study of Hidden Treasure.

photo by: aussiegall