Sometimes you just get a feeling, don’t you?
I’m a pragmatic person. I weigh pros and cons, do my research and look at things from all angles before I settle on something.
Most of the time.
I was in Seattle recently assisting my yoga teacher, Rod Stryker, with a Four Desires workshop, when I decided to check out the specially curated selection of books at the yoga studio hosting the event. It was filled with books about yoga, ParaYoga, and other related modalities.
I absorb non-fiction like a sponge – especially if it’s related to yogic philosophies and principles.
For some reason I was drawn to a book that isn’t directly related to yoga.
I didn’t need to scroll through the Amazon reviews, or find out if it had made the best-seller list.
Instead, I had a gut feeling I just needed to read it.
It turns out, my gut feeling was 100% on point.
The book is called, The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship by David Whyte.
It dives headfirst into the importance of the three most significant relationships in our lives.
- relationship to our ever-evolving self
- commitment to a significant other or spouse
- relationship to our work
David Whyte explores how our culture suggests that these three areas of our lives (work, marriage and self-awareness) are separate and that we have to work hard in each area to keep it moving forward in the way we see fit.
Whyte shows us that in fact these three core commitments we make in life are connected and are strengthened when we bring them together as one fulfilled life.
This understanding is at the core of the work I guide people through. Yoga and Ayurveda invite us to notice where the habits we follow are no longer connected to the life we actually deeply desire to have, from the level of our soul.
While an author and speaker, David Whyte is also a poet. In fact, he has even brought poetry into business settings at American Express and Toyota.
Personally I’ve never been much for poetry, but it is one of the key tools we use in the Four Desires process to get people out of their current stories about themselves and into the rich experience of connection to their soul.
Reading this book, written by a poet, helped me see how distilling our language into poems reveals the depth of our unique experience while simultaneously connecting us to our shared humanity.
Whyte explains that happiness is possible, but only if we reimagine how we inhabit the worlds of love, work, and self-understanding.”
Why should you care about this book, or Whyte’s thesis?
If any of these areas of your life have been left out to pasture, it’s time to call them back in and embrace the challenges they present.
As Whyte invites us to consider, our lives are not made rich by a lack of struggle.
It is in the very human process of struggle and worry, of vulnerability and not knowing, that we actually live. To deny it is to deny a part of ourselves and to shun the work that must be done.
Whyte shares a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, from which he surmises…
“Rilke asks us not to try and get around the feeling of stuckness itself but to see it as having as much right to a place in our life as our other free-flowing accomplishments. He sees anything that is real that presents itself to us not as a barrier but as a necessary next step.”
Should we push, question and force our way out of a period of stuckness?
Can we actually move beyond the dullness of being stuck any faster by using force, or will we skip a necessary part of our growth in doing so?
Are we likely to set ourselves up to repeat the pattern again if we forge ahead?
At some point we have to sit with our frustrations and look underneath them, to unearth them, and free them from the darkness of our subsconscious.
This is the EXACT work that I set out to do in yoga and The Four Desires process.
So, you can see why I’m blown away by my gut feeling to read this book and the reminder that sometimes we have wisdom beyond what we can reason or rationalize.
In Whyte’s terms, we must create good work, a strong relationship with our life partner and a deep understanding of ourselves “in the midst of all other competing demands.”
We don’t get to actually segment our lives completely into years that are only devoted to one or the other.
Naturally one of the three marriages may be at the forefront of our lives during a given period, and some of us may never fully enter a career or an actual marriage, but in the end it is the interwoven collaboration of these relationships that support a life where we thrive nel mezzo (in the middle).
In the middle of the chaos, the push from one part of life and the pull from another, is where we must take action.
We cannot wait for things to settle down completely. That time is unlikely to come.
Our opportunity to thrive is in the present, with all the uncontrollable circumstances that life brings us.
What does this have to do with your health and your use of the tools of yoga to balance your lifestyle?
It guides us to a shift in our perspective. When we can experience a shift in perspective we can see that what we have held to as solid, as truth, may in fact not be anything more than a story in our minds.
This opens us to possibility.
Possibility brings opportunity and choices.
When we choose to see our lives as a continual flow of these three marriages, we see that we can’t damn one marriage to save the other.
They must all be together, just as we cannot remove a single drop of water from a river and proclaim it an ocean.
Yoga and Ayurveda can help you align with the three marriages of your life.
“In the pursuit of all three marriages there is one essential human experience that an individual brings to each of them. Anxiety.” – David Whyte
Through his work and his shared stories of the work of numerous great writers throughout history, Whyte reminds us that our brains are designed to worry.
They ruminate on the same story. They get stuck.
Yoga and Ayurveda give us tools to clear our misperceptions of life, to see our resistance and then empower us through nurturing ourselves to move with our lives, rather than against them.
If you’re interested in getting better at being you. If you want to keep evolving upward. If you know intuitively that the more deeply you connect with yourself the more interconnected you will be with your work and your mate.
Then I invite you to invest a week or two in The Three Marriages.
It’s not a quick read, but neither is the story of your life.
Photo credit: Brianna Santellan