Recently, I had the opportunity to step over life’s threshold of initiation into marriage. In one word, the quality of the experience = IMMENSE. (And...beautiful)
Getting married is one of the most common and well-known rituals of the modern day human, yet also one held with much controversy, baggage and opinion. My experience of this age-old practice is necessarily unique to me, and I figured it would do both of us a world of good to share this experience… after-all, that’s how we humans learn and grow.
This initial post covers the emotional journey first, because… *IMMENSE*. This is personal. And it’s also transpersonal. So it’s thrown into the collective pot of experience to nurture and nourish others, while allowing me to express something challenging and profound. Another post will follow sharing the community conjuring of the event-planning.
The process was kicked off in November 2015 with my partner, Marcel, asking me to be his wife via message in a bottle, floating in the sea of North Stradbroke Island. It was sweet and surprising. We hadn’t talked a whole lot about going official with our relationship, though the long-term nature of our bond was clear. The process of preparation pretty quickly went dormant though, as it dawned on us the magnitude of what we were working towards... and not quite knowing what to do next.
I hadn’t grown up as a little girl dreaming of my wedding day, and I didn’t quite know where I stood on the field of marriage. Having grown up in a Christian household, I was unsure if this 21st century modern woman was prepared to carry on that tradition that felt quite… obligatory.
After some space and time, a date was finally set for a year following – landing in September 2017. The real dreaming and planning for this event and ritual commenced.
At this point, something interesting beagn. In early 2017, I started to drop-into the realisation of the energetic around the engagement period. Namely, the raw honesty a person must confront within themselves and with their partner before taking on such a lifelong commitment. It was mentioned to me that the engagement time was one of negotiation, where the couple get real clear on who they are, what they want and how they might do that. Thing is, despite the deep desire to do so, this didn’t seem to come so easily. It felt more easy to be in the event planning side of things (e.g. choosing the venue and décor which was such fun); where tapping into the invisible structures and dreams of a long-term committed relationship felt far less tangible.
At one point I felt overwhelmed by the task ahead, and I ended up at the question:
WHERE ARE THE ELDERS TO GUIDE US?
Marcel and I didn’t need to recreate the wheel in our process of emotional preparation – it’d surely been done plenty of times before us. So where were the people we deeply trusted, who had a body of experience in functional long-term relating, who were willing to share and answer questions honestly and openly? Where were people I could go to in person (not through a book or through a website) and riff in real-time?
I felt stunned in realising the culturally-appropriate (to us) support mechanisms for holding a couple in this way weren’t easily forthcoming or openly accessible. Growing up in a church, I saw people receive pre-marital counseling and I attended plenty of weddings. But the reality is there hadn’t ever been much said about what it feels like to process this life milestone, especially for one now outside the bonds of that religious community.
It dawned on me that there was no beaten track of marriage preparation for us – we weren’t in a religious or intentional community where tried-and-tested practices were encouraged. It almost felt we were a limbo of independent living - of our own making no-less. And ultimately, like many an archetypal journey, it lead to self-initiation.
Journeying on in this heart-pondering and navigating, I came to recognise that I needed to do what I needed to do to prepare – and that my emotional preparation didn’t necessarily depend on my partner's participation. Of course, having conversations about the quality of life we wanted together were important, but he couldn’t do the emotional preparation for me.
And so I took the reigns and trotted on my own path.
With the precision of timing that only surrendering to the greater flow of life can provide, the time eventually felt ripe to sit in Vipassana meditation for the first time. Booked in early 2017 for that July, I couldn’t have known how appropriate this practice would be. For those not in the know, Vipassana is a 10 day silent meditation practice – 10 hours per day of ‘sitting’ with no eye contact or interaction with other. It forces one to be with themselves (like it or not).
One of the aspects I found most profound was the 3 one-hour sessions per day called Adhitthana; which in English translates to strong determination. This was a time of sitting completely still in the flow of Vipassana meditation, not moving no matter what discomfort came up – observing any pain and being non-reactive to it. It was a tough gig for me at times, and rarely did I manage to sit the whole one-hour without some sort of movement to ease an excruciating level of pain. This revealed itself as a powerful analogy for the journey of marriage – sitting through the painful moments with awareness and non-reactivity. And I came to realise the muscle of tolerance for this accumulates over time; that I became more able to sit with discomfort without ‘having’ to move.
Going into marriage as a commitment of strong determination is inspiring to me. Some may feel it morbid to consider the pain of the relationship at this time of anticipation and celebration. The commitment to another person – to any person – will most certainly find it’s trying times, whoever it is. This practice of strong determination is the holding I bring to my future self in whatever she faces.
Vipassana was full of many other rich additions to the tool-kit of marriage/relationship. Repetitively, the following phrases were encouraged us of: Patiently & persistently ~ Observe sensation and be non-reactive ~ Remember the impermanence of life ~ Don’t be disappointed, depressed or down; start again. Each of these points is simple and powerful. I am deeply grateful for their contribution to my life experience as an individual and as a life partner.
About a month after the Vipassana sit, Marcel and I attended a 5-day intensive of our dear friend and metaphysical mentor, Michael Roads. To spend this time together was special and meaningful ahead of our rite of passage together. The intensive helped us navigate our metaphysical selves: healing, resetting and celebrating. Ultimately the deep experience and ability of Michael on multidimensional levels allows him to remind people of their magnificence, beyond human form. The repeating phrase harvested from this time was UNCONDITIONAL LOVE and UNCONDITIONAL TRUST – in all parts of life. Once again, I was gifted with potent tools for navigating life as an individual and as a partner.
Then there was the design of the ceremony. It was ours to create. Aware of the cookie-cutter molds easily used in such ceremony, the impulse was clear to make it real and authentic to us.
At this point I must acknowledge the particular dynamic of being a 21st century modern woman contemplating the perennial practice of marriage. Historically, as a woman, I would have been handed over in ownership from one family to another. I would have become the ownership of a man who would be the head of the family. I would have surrendered my family name (and identity) and taken that of another. And if I was my grandmother, I would have HAD to stop working (because married women didn’t work back in the 1950’s). That bag of kitties simply wasn’t the one I was signing up for.
Designing the ceremony really helped us coin what marriage is about for us in the here and now; the crux of the journey in the induction to marriage. What felt ultimately genuine to us was the recognition of marriage as a statement of intentionality and co-creative commitment between two sovereign beings.
As was spoken in the ceremony:
“Our wedding is a valued rite of passage into our life together, the intention setting for our marriage in which we hold and witness each other, supporting each other to be our full selves. It feels powerful to be publicly witnessed in this intention - because just like it takes a village to raise a child, I feel it also takes a village to be in a marriage.”
Part of the ceremony involved our celebrant stating handful of statements to ensure it’s legally according to the laws of Australia. One statement said:
“Marriage according to law, here in Australia is the union of a man and a woman, to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into, for life.”
At this potent time of the Australian populous given opportunity to have our say about same-sex marriage, Marcel and I took the opportunity to publicly clarify our feelings about this:
“Marcel and Erin would like to acknowledge their belief that marriage is a union between souls, regardless of gender. This union is one based in the freedom of unconditional love.”
Our vows spoke to our sovereignty and to our intention to live in the flow of life. Much inspiration for our vows was gathered from the principles of permaculture. They allowed us to clarify our relationship and commitment to Earth and all her beings.
“May we be enriched by the harvest of our experiences together in life, maturing from our lessons and sharing the abundance widely and generously.”
“May we always creatively use and respond to inevitable change.”
“May we always be willing to self-regulate and accept feedback in our interactions with ourselves, each other, and our family.”
“May we always be aware of our responsibilities upon this blessed earth, choosing ways that honour and celebrate life, that respect all of our life beings.”
In my research journeys of meaningful ceremony components, the practice of using an oathing stone was discovered. Hailing from my Celtic heritage, it involves gathering a stone from the local land, on which the hands of the bride and groom are placed when saying their vows, representing their solidity and the timelessness of the sacred union of marriage. I was so grateful to be able to represent our collective ancestors - stone is often seen as the bones of the Earth, representative of all those who have come before us. The stone we used was respectfully gathered from our favourite local beach on Noosa Headland – a way to honour the local Kubbi Kubbi ancestors and land. My ancestors were acknowledged by the oathing stone practice. And we will take the stone to Germany in 2018 to be released in ceremony to honour Marcel’s ancestors. Simple and powerful.
Another symbolic ceremonial gesture was the passing on of our family flames. Our parents each lit a candle, passing on the flame to each Marcel and I. We then brought together our flames at the union candle that flickered the aliveness of our union through the ceremony and celebration.
We were also blessed to share readings that deeply inspire our relating to the Earth and to Life – a fundamental dynamic for how we relate to each other, and others.
The opening reading was from The Fifth Sacred Thing written by Starhawk (1993), helping us clarify our sense of being. Robin Clayfield shared an original prose on the elements, ushering in our crisp awareness of air~fire~water~earth in our beings. And Michael Roads shared blessed words of our ultimate connection and commitment.
Ultimately, the immensity of the preparation and ceremony of our marriage has been touching and profound for me. Clarifying each of the component parts relevant to us has been validating, affirming and deepening of what Marcel and I are about – individually and collectively.
And it has helped me see the needs we humans have around being supported through such ‘live’ times. It is my prayer and intention that I will transmute my personal experiences and learnings in this way to enrich other humans in having deeply connected and meaningful rites of passage – acknowledging them as critical milestones to bookmark our growth and development in the human experience.
In finishing, I leave you with the text that opened our ceremony – it underpins everything that Marcel and I are together as another divine fractal. Thank you for following this story of one women’s stepping the threshold of marriage – I truly hope it’s been insightful and inspiring.
DECLARATION OF THE FOUR SACRED THINGS:
The earth is a living, conscious being. In company with cultures of many different times and places, we name these things as sacred: air, fire, water and earth.
Whether we see them as the breath, energy, blood, and body of the Mother, or as the blessed gifts of a Creator, or as symbols of the interconnected systems that sustain life, we know that nothing can live without them.
To call these things sacred is to say that they have a value beyond their usefulness for human ends, that they themselves become the standards by which our acts, our economics, our laws, and our purposes must be judged. No one has the right to appropriate them or profit from them at the expense of others. Any government that fails to protect them forfeits its legitimacy.
All people, all living things, are part of the earth life, and so are sacred. NO one of us stands higher or lower than any other. Only justice can assure balance: only ecological balance can sustain freedom. Only in freedom can that fifth sacred thing we call spirit flourish in its full diversity.
To honour the sacred is to create conditions in which nourishment, sustenance, habitat, knowledge, freedom, and beauty can thrive. To honour the sacred is to make love possible.
To this we dedicate our curiosity, our will, our courage, our silences, and our voices. To this we dedicate our lives.
P.S. The gushy aspects of the love I feel for my dear man have been spared from this post. Know, it's deep, strong and profound •
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