Wednesday, June 30, 2010

It happens for a reason

Whether or not you are particularly spiritual or believe in karma, destiny or fate, it seems like many of my contemporaries are pretty comfortable in believing that certain things happen, or don't happen, for a reason. We may not always know what the reason is, in the moment or even years into the future when looking back in hindsight, but we take comfort in knowing that there is SOME reason why. Generally, unless you're pretty sadistic, we tell ourselves that X did/did not happen in order to pave the way and make space for better and brighter opportunities. I tell myself this sort of thing all the time. I sprinkle the catch phrase around liberally when dolling out advice or commiserating with friends. But how does this go from commonly used emotional balm to truly internalized belief?

Direct experience. Someone can tell you a million times over that the love you lost, the deal that didn't close, the trip you couldn't take happened for a reason. It isn't until you live through something like that and come out the other side with a gain of some sort that you really begin to put faith in that belief. I use the word "gain" in a very loose sense because it is subjective. What I deem a gift another may deem a curse. An opportunity that I missed may roll off my back easily while causing another great strife. It's all relative and that is a big part of the reason why direct, personal, individual experience is the only way you can really come to understand that life unfolds just as it should, even if you don't always know why.

I've been fortunate to have enough of my own experiences lately that have allowed me to truly say I've drunk the kool-aid and I'm buying into this. Take, for example, the trip to Scotland and Ireland I had intended to go on last summer. My good friend and would-be-travel-companion went, but alas, I did not. I hesitated to leave knowing that my father's health was in decline. Even though the doctors said he had months to go, he passed just days before I would have left for the trip. This was a no-brainer. I was able to be with my family and saved the expense of paying for a trip I wouldn't have taken. It happened for a very good reason.

Less clear has been the process of coming to grips with the loss of a particular love in my life. I don't say love in general because I'm blessed with an abundance of that. But intimate, romantic love of the marital variety is one that many of us desire strongly in our lives, and it can be hard to make sense of its loss. I figured out pretty early on in our separation that the space once occupied by C. and our marriage was being filled with amazing gifts now that it was free. Friendships, a deepening of my yoga practice, a renewed sense of independence and control in my life. But wait, wasn't this totally out of my control?!? Therein was the conundrum. For a while I felt I had no control over the end of my marriage since I was the one willing to save it and C. was not, yet I was walking away feeling more control over the rest of my life than I had in ages. And ultimately, it was in relinquishing control and accepting the fact that this was all happening for a reason that I truly found peace.

That is what it all comes down to. Release, accept and peace shall come. There are forces at work that we cannot understand, nor should we always strive to. Practice having faith and eventually you will cultivate enough direct experience to believe this to be true. This is how I've come to find my happily now and I feel confident in saying that if you try it, you will find yours too.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


clo·sure   [kloh-zher]
1. the act of closing; the state of being closed.
2. a bringing to an end; conclusion.

In life when you experience an end that is at all difficult or traumatic, people invariably talk about a need for closure. You have a falling out with a friend, suddenly they aren't your friend any more, you need closure. Someone close to you passes away, you need closure. A love affair ends with one lover doing the leaving, as the leave-ee, you need closure. Or do you? Better said, can you even really get it?

As of this morning, I am formally, officially divorced. Contrary to my rant about divorce a few posts back, the actual hearing wherein the marriage is dissolved in the eyes of law takes no time at all. Mine didn't anyway. It took longer for me to go through courthouse security and up the elevator than it did for a judge behind a desk to ask me four very simple yes/no questions, the clerk to stamp a few documents and for C. and I to walk right back out the door through which we entered to end our union. So now that we've gotten that out of the way, am I supposed to feel as if I am in a "state of being closed"?

My answer to my question is a very clear "N-O". Perhaps I'm unique in this feeling. It certainly wouldn't be the first time the beat of my little drum went to a tune of its own. I've been blessed to feel a state of genuine contentment and fulfillment in my life of late. There has been precious little drama, few to no tears shed, I'm having fun and enjoying myself. Then, faced with my now ex-husband in a cold, impersonal, rushed cattle-call of a divorce hearing, I was overcome with emotion and tears were most certainly shed. I loved him more than words could say right then and there. That feeling was in no small part a direct reflection of the sincere love that he feels for me and we were both able to express to one another, thanks to all we've shared. Our marriage is over. "Broken" to quote the nameless, faceless judge who pelted me with questions. But our love and our bond remains. Who's feeling all closed up now?!?! My heart is wide open!

So do I feel closure in the traditional sense? I do not. I recognize that a chapter has come to its formal conclusion which naturally leads to the beginning of another. I appreciate the fact that, legally, C. and I are no longer husband and wife. But since we've been living separate lives for quite a while now, that isn't really anything new. This is not a conclusion. Our shared story and our respective, individual stories, will undoubtedly include each other as characters as we continue to write them. Our past did not cease to exist with the stamp on the page any more than did our love and concern for one another stop when the papers were handed over. C. is my friend now. He may not be a friend I see often and there is a chance that will always be the case. But he will always be someone I love and trust and know I can rely on. If getting closure meant not being able to say those things because I'd have to simply say he is out of my life, I'd rather not have closure. As the saying goes, "better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." I choose love, anytime, any place.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


If there is one constant in my life, one ever-present entity that stays with me through every up and down, every twist and turn, it is yoga. The ability to exist in a state of union and harmony between breath and body, spirit and mind, intellect and emotion has proven to be the most profoundly beneficial tool in my toolbox, if you will, while riding the wave of my life. Yoga is not simply something I do on a mat for a few hours a week for exercise. While it may have started that way for me many years ago, I was given the invaluable gift of taking my practice deeper and integrating into every aspect of my life.

A few years ago I was so enamored of the practice I had developed, so committed to yoga and on a high from the myriad of positives that it had brought to my life that I decided to become a teacher. I managed to get five weeks away from work, which also meant five weeks away from my husband and essentially every other aspect of my life, to take up residence at an ashram and receive the ancient teachings that are as relevant as ever in this modern world and to move into deeper, more subtle levels of my own practice and along my spiritual path. It was a transformational experience. I'm pretty sure that it was also the real beginning of the end of my marriage.

Making a statement like that, some might ask why, if I know that yoga played a role in dissolving my marriage, did I not give it up or at least tone down the dial on the intensity. The answer is simple. While the sacred union of marriage is a supremely important one, the sacred union that has transpired within me and between me and the Divine (God, spirit, call it what you will) is the most important, essential union of all. C. never discouraged me from pursuing my passion. To the contrary, he was quite supportive, though it mystified him to a large degree and he couldn't quite relate. When I tried to share my passion with him in hopes of strengthening our bond, I only succeeded in pushing him away. Lesson #1: yogis must come to yoga through their own path and no two paths are the same.

In the months following my certification I went through a major transition in my life, struggling to find union between what felt like two completely disparate worlds. There was the world where I was known as Jess- wife, daughter, sister, friend, professional, etc.- and there was the world where I was known as Gauri- yoga teacher and student, spiritual pilgrim, devotee. I celebrated one of my best friend's birthdays in Las Vegas 100% alcohol free with mala beads in my pocket. I woke up at 5 a.m. daily to meditate, chant, read and then do my physical practice before turning on the computer for work and managing mine and C.'s social calendar. I was simultaneously overflowing with fullness and hollowed by emptiness. . . contradictory though it may sound, it is quite possible to feel.

Then C. left and yoga remained and the answers began to reveal themselves. There was no turning back from this path I'd begun walking down. My soul had been stirred and my connection to the Divine, my love of kirtan (chanting) and asanas (the physical yoga postures) were as natural to me as breathing. I'd been here before in another life, this was not new to me, and so I would stay the course faithfully. But the course is not necessarily a smooth, straight road. It is anything but! It twists and winds and is full of bumps and detours. In the true spirit of yoga I have found ways to integrate Jess and Gauri into one harmonious being, living in union in this body, breathing this breath. I practice daily but I don't get up at 5am to do it most days. I'm still moderate when it comes to partying, but I happily enjoy a glass or two of wine with friends, maybe a little more for a special occasion, and I don't feel bad about it. And I know very clearly that the next love of my life will be on his own spiritual path that will converge beautifully with mine so that we can live our yoga together.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Divide and conquer

Often when a marriage ends, there are assets and liabilities to be divided. Who will take the house? What about that expensive piece of art you bought together or the mutual fund you invested in jointly? Will the kids spend evenly divided time between both parents? These are the sorts of things that come to mind when you tick down the list of what needs to be split between two people who entered into a contract to share just about every aspect of their lives with one another, only to find that it wasn't meant to be a forever thing.

My situation was a lot simpler in most regards. C. and I were able to very clearly and, for the most part, very amicably, decide where to draw the dividing line and what would end up on each of our respective sides. The hardest asset, or perhaps in some instances, liability, to divide, has been people. When you spend so many years with someone, your friends and family become the other person's friends and family too. This isn't true of every single relationship that you both hold, but it definitely happens to some extent in most.

C. and I both have maintained a degree of contact with each other's blood relatives and some very dear friends. There is a lot more distance than when we were together and there is an unspoken deference to the fact that everybody knows where everybody else's loyalty lies. One exception to this rule are the couples that C. and I met and befriended as a couple. Neither of us had pre-existing ties to these people, neither of us had more skin in the game. Some of these people I considered to be very dear friends indeed, almost like family, and it has been a challenge to determine what my relationship to them will be now that I am not part of the couple that they have known. It is hard to know that these friends still maintain their own relationships with my former love, my former other half, while I analyze and stress over how to behave in the same room as him when our paths do cross. Most of all, it is really hard not to get your feelings hurt when your mutual friends can't quite figure out what to do with the two of you now that you're not together.

It has been a year and a half since C. and I separated. In that time, there have been a handful of events at least where we were both in attendance. . . birthday parties, baptisms, going- away celebrations. It seemed that the couples that were our common friends mostly took the position of "we'll invite them both and trust them to make their own decision as to whether or not to come". That worked well for the most part. Not to say that I didn't feel alternating tension, heartache and confusion in some of these instances, but I think outwardly C. and I did a good job of not letting our situation distract from the reason why we were in the same room in the first place- someone else that we both happen to know and love.

Imagine my surprise when, at this late stage, I found out that the core group of our mutual friends got together recently for a weekend of festivities that I was neither informed of nor invited to simply because C. was. What happened to inviting us both and letting us decide? It was a giant slap in the face, after having tried so hard to not have our separation interfere with these friendships. It stung, it made tears prick my eyes, it made the breath catch in my chest and it made me wonder just how you deal with dividing up this particular asset that presently feels like a liability. Is it really possible? Can these friendships preserve the level of closeness that they had when we were all couples, evenly balanced, no dividing lines drawn? I had hoped so but now I'm not so sure.

These are the opportunities I am given to evaluate the relationships in my life, nurture those that serve me and release those that do not. I am thankful for such moments just as I am thankful for my friends who's loyalty I do not have to question. Both represent a different sort of gift and I am grateful.