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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

After the Honeymoon: Communicating with Soul

The honeymoon might end months, years, or even decades after the commitment you made to each other. And when it does, partnerships or marriages that survive, will have generally learned new ways of communicating in ways that involve the soul of both partners, ways that weren’t necessarily a part of the earlier period of the relationship.

At the beginning, so much is easy due to the love-need-chemistry element present in those early stages. It almost seems as though anything you say to each other is filled with magic. But when you’re no longer in that stage, the need to recognize that more than that exquisite love-need-chemistry element is required for the relationship to prosper, becomes imperative.

So what do you do?

Interestingly, here it becomes clear whether you have already begun to do some work on yourself; whether you have already taken on the task of personal – and inner, or soul - growth. Those who have may find it an easier job of dealing with this new way of communicating with soul. If only one of the two partners has taken on this task, things can become quite tricky.

If you have taught yourself to have good boundaries, to take good care of and love yourself, to not be reactive, and to therefore self-regulate, you are already going to be communicating at another level than someone who has not. This is not about intelligence, culture, or academic degrees, but about the quality of communication, given everything implied in the first sentence of this paragraph. By quality, I mean that the level of your communication is different even when it stoops to arguments and misunderstandings caused by poor boundaries and a lack of self-regulation. So if you find yourself there, the you that has been walking the path of inner or soul growth, recognizes the negative energetic pull of that kind of communication and therefore finds a way to move to an energetically higher level. Carl Gustav Jung said: “where love reigns, there is no will to power, and where the will to power is paramount, love is lacking.”

But there is another element involved with this new soul communication that must set in after the honeymoon, and that brings words such as mystery, depth, awe and wonder into the equation. The near-spiritual quality of those words is precisely what allows a relationship to transition from honeymoon to a communion that Thomas Moore calls “the irrationality of the soul when a relationship is soulful” in his beautiful book Soul Mates: Honoring the Mysteries of Love and Relationship.

He writes: “An essential part of becoming marriageable is to be a maker, a person who cultivates a life of beauty, rich texture, and creative work. If we understand marriage only as the commitment of two individuals to each other, then we overlook its soul, but if we see that it also has to do with family, neighbourhood, and the greater community, and with our own work and personal cultivation, then we begin to glimpse the mystery that is marriage.” And he later states: “All intimate relationships require some degree of magic, because magic, not reason and will, accomplishes what the soul needs.”

So we can infer from Moore’s words that without communication at this soul level, the relationship may well remain sterile in those ways that eventually cause the partners to drift apart because there is no longer – or perhaps there never was, except in that honeymoon period – any magic and mystery.

In his Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke writes “The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust. A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development. But once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvellous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.”

This makes it clear that being joined at the hip – as so many people seem to believe is necessary for a relationship to be successful – is, in fact, dangerous to the life of the relationship, and the growth – in particular the soul growth - of the two partners.

Ursula Le Guin wrote that “love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone; it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.”

And this ‘making new’ tells us that soul (as Moore puts it) and self (as Rilke puts it) must form part of love and the way we communicate with the beloved, even as we are emptying the dishwasher or taking out the garbage. Moore wrote: “As odd as it may sound, a relationship may find its soul more in attention to such things as the way we eat together or paint our bedroom ceiling than in mutual introspection. Soul is not necessarily nourished by what satisfies the mind.”

If we ‘tend’ to it, soul initially comes up in life through the most banal things, whether it is how we meet someone who becomes important to us, our work, that little (or big) accident, or that unexpected bit of luck. What then arises from that and how we develop it, is what becomes the makings of and the growth of the soul. This raw material we chance upon in life – and it can truly be on a daily basis - is what the alchemists called prima materia. Jung wrote in his Alchemical Studies about this: “The prima materia is, as one can so aptly say in English, ‘tantalizing’: it is cheap as dirt and can be had everywhere, only nobody knows it; it is as vague and evasive as the lapis that is to be produced from it; it has a ‘thousand names’. And the worst thing is that without it, the work cannot even be begun … It is the most despised and rejected thing, “thrown out into the street,” “cast on the dunghill,” “found in filth.”

Buddhist thought about this prima materia that “grows” the soul, which in turn allows us to communicate with soul, in the words of Pema Chödron states: “If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.” And I would add: as can the events of our lives. Continuing along the same line, we have the title of one of Zen Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh’s books: No Mud, No Lotus, which reiterates the identical point.

Our task then, is to hone and polish the jewel – the soul - using the raw materials we are given, just as alchemists spoke of transforming the nigredo or blackness into gold by passing it through the alchemical fire.

A last thought from Moore that spoke to me nearly three decades ago, when I first read his books in the heat of the Mayan sun in the Yucatan Peninsula: “In the final paradox, if we want to light the fires of intimacy we have to honor the soul of the other.” This can only happen if we also honor our own soul, and if we communicate from that foundation.


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