Marriage is a life decision where contradictory emotions like excitement, anticipation, anxiety, fear, nervousness, and happiness co-exist. While couples spend much time getting to know one another and planning their wedding, most often they fail to prepare for life thereafter.
A couple is two unique individuals with their personal understanding and appreciation of life, emotional needs and deep-seated intricacies which consciously or unconsciously will inevitably influence their relationship. Marriage is hard involving working together within the practicalities of mundane living. It requires partners to willingly accept the other (and their reality) while being equally open and vulnerable. Interestingly some might acknowledge discomfort about certain aspects of their relationship but choose not to address them, hoping they’ll ease with time. Unfortunately, these only fester leading to conflict later. So, it’s wise to share, explore differences and discuss life-impacting questions before tying the knot.
What stops couples from proactively seeking premarital support and advice? Fear of exposure and confrontation, embarrassment and shame, fearing there’s something wrong with them or the relationship and worrying they’ll be ‘told’ how to manage their marital lives are common reasons. Yet, asking the basic questions—the reason for marriage or expectations from marriage tend to show diverse and conflicting views. Often the perfectionistic and/ or unrealistic outlook is a clear red flag that calls for deeper introspection and open discussion.
The initial euphoria of togetherness makes couples ditch their friends or other fulfilling relationships and move towards each other expecting that their partner will fulfil all their emotional needs. During courtship, it is near impossible for them to appreciate the loss of their individual selves that marriage tends to promote. Yet with the change in the relationship status quo, like most life changes, the instinctual response is to resist.
Conflict is inevitable in relationships. They revolve around budgeting and saving, buying on credit, career, in-laws and relatives, birth control, children and parenting styles, time commitments, outings and holidays, religion, household roles and responsibilities amongst others. It’s important to understand what these mean to each partner and their style of addressing and dealing with them. Do they quickly escalate or withdraw? Do they disrespect, ridicule, become defensive or shut down? How do they attempt to repair the relationship after a conflict? Alternatively, couples forget to openly express their appreciation for one another. Focussing exclusively on what’s going wrong is a self-reinforcement exercise that leads to further negative interactions. It makes the relationship overwhelmingly challenging.
Sometimes couples feel confident that their partners will change after marriage or believe that their lives would be more enjoyable if only they behaved a certain way. This is an unrealistic expectation even though some people willingly change to a certain extent. Others feel compelled and retaliate. Couples must decide for themselves, their boundaries and which traits of their partners they’re willing to tolerate or overlook and/or find completely unacceptable.
Through the different stages of marriage, feelings tend to come and go. Often partners struggle to like each other. Although the need to feel connected, loved and supported is common between them, resentments arise when these aren’t met the way they would want them to be. For example, when unwell one partner might seek constant attention while the other prefers to be left alone.
Sexual intimacy, willingness to explore and experiment, voicing sexual needs (or withholding it) are crucial to strengthening this relationship. It’s influenced by parental outlook and upbringing and shaped by one’s experiences, belief and values. How couples communicate with each other, the relevance of social and psychological messages in their communication, what constitutes poor communication and why it breaks down are as important in sustaining long-term relationships. Marriage doesn’t mean 24×7 togetherness nor does it mean doing everything together. It allows for individuality to evolve but requires consistent effort and team working to encourage it. When hurt partners can potentially become emotionally abusive. This doesn’t make them bad people, but their way of dealing with their emotions need redressal. The strong bond of friendship between couples often enhances tolerance, endurance and prepares them to face challenges together.
Marital distress negatively impacts physical health, mental well-being, productivity and quality of life. Premarital counselling and preparation reduce this marital distress and chances of divorce. It makes them more open to wanting to understand each other’s struggle. It provides a space to show vulnerability and examine their limitations. Thus, it’s useful to discuss issues before they begin to struggle with their repercussions later in their marital life or with a marital counsellor when on the brink of divorce.
Premarital preparation doesn’t indicate if the relationship in future will succeed or fail. It ensures the couples are a little more prepared and more realistically ready to work at developing their family life. It also facilitates the process of knowing and accepting if marriage is the way forward or if it’s better to move on.
The writer is a mental health counsellor.
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AWAKENING THE TRUTH BURIED DEEP INSIDE YOU
Life is not like mathematics where you can add one and one to make it two. Life is a mystery. If you thought life was like mathematics and you lived it by adding a few more millions to the treasure that you have for a bigger position or more power, then you have missed it. Man goes on missing life birth after birth every time he writes on a new slate that is swept away by the next birth. Man is the most primitive being on earth and keeps going around in circles. He keeps thinking of expanding his life with a bigger house, a bigger car, a bigger bank balance and so on. But he misses the point.
Man is born as a mystery and dies as a mystery. In between he leads a life full of mystery, but he tries to catch the mystery in his hand and finds nothing caught. He keeps on thinking about the truth of the mystery but gets nowhere. He keeps on going to jungles and mountains, exploring the whole world, but reaches nowhere.
In fact, you are born with that mystery. You are the mystery. That is your truth. But you keep on looking for gurus to give you the truth, which is an absurdity. Truth cannot be transferred or told by a guru. The Master can shed some light on it by drawing the light out of you. The Master knows that you are in a deep state of slumber. You are like dead wood. The truth that lays buried deep inside you will be up for awakening one day. Therefore, the Master jolts you to wake you up, to be ready to let the right soil awaken the seed of truth hidden inside you.
The truth is that the mystery in you can be awakened in you, but no one else can awaken it, not even the Master. Only you yourself will be able to awaken it. That is your deep innate nature. The Master can jolt you to tell you to be more aware of yourself. And when you begin the right journey, he presents himself as a witness so you don’t get marooned. The Master simply brings more light to you so that the mystical truth that you are comes out through you and you come out of the dead. Being there, the Master ignites a spark in you to make the truth of your being come forth and be revealed to you.
You are the seed that will become the tree. The seed cannot become a tree by knowing about the tree. The seed can become the tree by being the seed and in becoming the seed, sprout the code of the tree that is buried inside the seed.
The true Master has to liberate you from the bondage. He does not ask you to read religious books. He throws you into a deep well and asks you to be there with your being in your beingness. He guides you on how to ground you into the soil of That-Which-Is not just by getting lost in religious philosophies or verses written in religious books, but by being the truth.
The problem with the dead is that we always keep on knowing about God, knowing about things. If a seed thought about how it can become a tree, it would never become a tree. If a fish thought about how to swim, she would be drowned. If a rose thought about how to bloom, it would get snapped. Knowing about God is always about not knowing but acknowledging that which makes you more lifeless. Therefore, we go on chanting mantras and parroting religious books, but that does not make us divine. The acquired knowledge from books is like dead wood. Knowing is the door to the divine.
Religious initiation ceremonies like baptism or initiations by sprinkling water or taking baths in holy water are meant to jolt or shake you up so that your truth comes out alive in you. Hindus wear orange clothes which are a sign of being out of the slumber. But we keep on holding ceremonies and dressing like an ascetic without a trace of awakening.
Religious people often tell us stories of heaven and hell and propagate God as a fear mongering agent of the heavens and hells, espousing several thousand hells. This acquired knowledge makes us ignorant of God because the one espousing it does not know God but knows about God. He has abundant information about God like a computer disk, but it may or may not be true because he has not come face to face with it. The most knowledgeable one remains the most ignorant because the dharma that he preaches does not help him flower in any way. All that he evinces is cultivated and acquired knowledge and thoughts of religion.
God is not a hypothesis or philosophical thought that can be verified or unsubstantiated. God is not an idea that can be corroborated. God is not a fear mongering agent. God is not the beastly Tiger-God that will devour us. God is not some accountant keeping track of the good or bad we do. God is not like the one explained in the verses of religious books. God is not someone who is waiting to send us to hells or heavens.
Everyone fears God because everyone fears death. God is someone who will end life. Therefore, people throng temples, churches and mosques to make God happy. They offer prayers, offerings and ask favours. God becomes a profession. Remember someone who is giving you the truth or the God or transferring the truth is exploiting your fear of God. You are living under constant fear of death. You always say, I am God fearing. But you should say ‘God loving’. Sufis know this trick. They keep on transferring love from one heart to another – they call it ‘silsila’. You have to relate to God by love, not by fear.
Nietzsche has aptly said that ‘God is dead’ and it is so true. To live life you have to be free of the fear of God and know God as the experience in you being the experiencer.
When you will experience God you will know that he is not like your assumptions, beliefs, thoughts, ideas, understanding. He is much beyond all that. He is beyond your intellect. Intellect cannot fathom it. Intellect cannot trace it. When the truth will dawn upon you, you will stand totally mesmerized and speechless.
In the sun, he is like the light. In the night, he is like darkness. In the songs of birds, he is the singer. In the dance of the tree-leaf, he is the dancer. In flowers, he is the bloom. He is the orange of the setting sun and the blue of the vast ocean. He is the one speaking in me and the one listening in you. That-Which-Is is the one and without That-Which-Is, there is nothing and will be nothing. You can know him by experience but you will miss it by thinking about it.
The author is a spiritual coach and an independent advisor on policy, governance and leadership. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
THE POWER OF PRAYER AND THOUGHTS
Every thought produces a vibration in the universe. The energy of the vibration produced increases as the intensity of the thought increases. These vibrations have power. They can change their surroundings and ultimately make the world a much better place.
Every prayer, thought, word or deed involves a flow of energy. This energy has the power to lift us, heal us, comfort us, inspire us on the positive side. But it can also deflate us, hurt us, anger us, or make us afraid on the negative side. One of the best ways for us to build good energy is to pray and meditate. In these times, praying together is the best way to stay together. As the old saying goes, ‘a family that prays together, stays together’.
Every thought produces a vibration in the universe. The energy of the vibration produced increases as the intensity of the thought increases. These vibrations have power. They can change their surroundings and ultimately make the world a much better place.
Have you noticed that when you enter a room where there has been a fight or argument, you can ‘sense’ the tension in the air? Have you ever been in a place where you have had an eerie or uncomfortable feeling? We have all felt this some time or the other. It is natural for us to be able to sense vibrations.
Similarly, there must have been times when you have gone to a holy place where many come to pray or meditate and sensed a powerful feeling of love, peace, serenity and safety.
All of this shows that the ripples or vibrations produced by thought and intense awareness have an impact on their surroundings and produce vibrations that over time are absorbed in the place. The place then retains the energy of the vibrations.
Thought is powerful. So are its byproducts—words and deeds. A nice word can and does have a powerful impact on its recipient.
A word filled with love, kindness and compassion can create a powerful vibration of goodness that if powerful enough can change the way people around think. The power of mantras has been known for thousands of years.
There is a lot of power in thoughts and prayers. Thoughts are a form of energy and prayer is a form of communication with the Infinite source of all energy, or God; through our thoughts. Thoughts are like seeds which require nourishment to grow into fruit-bearing trees. The nourishment of thoughts is in the form of affirmation, concentration and attention. Prayer need not necessarily involve the usage of pious phrases.
Norman Vincent Peale describes a three-fold approach in his best-selling book, ‘The power of positive thinking’—1) prayerise, (2) picturise and (3) actualise. The first step involves simply thinking and talking to God informally, which is prayer. The next step is picturising or visualising it mentally. Create in your mind an image of the desired result: a healed love one, a more prosperous life, a happy marital life, a more healthy or confident self. Whatever you seek, pray to God and then visualise it to be so and then just say to God, “I have put it in Your hands, Lord.” After this, the actualisation will come in time either by the desired result or guidance.
Peale gives a glorious example of how we can spread love and goodwill throughout our daily lives. Just say a little prayer for anyone that you see. These are called flash prayers “shot” out towards people. Just send out thoughts of love and goodwill. There have been cases where the recipients of such prayer “shots” could feel a physical manifestation of the energy.
The world can be a lot happier if we all just continuously “shoot” each other with prayers of love and goodwill. Let us “shoot” out positive thoughts towards one and other. We could try to replace our hatred and anger filled thoughts with thoughts of love and goodwill. Just mentally send out peaceful and love filled thoughts of goodwill towards everyone that you see and they will feel it as well.
The energies around the whole world will change if everyone starts to do this. These energies are very powerful and the results will be seen and felt. But constant prayers are needed. Even prayers take time to be answered. Just be patient and have faith.
Prayer and positive thinking are also a very useful technique in creating a more confident and success filled life. Thoughts of success often attract success. Thoughts of failure often attract failure. Energy is like a magnet. It attracts. Positive energy attracts positive results.
Positive affirmations, especially at night time before bedtime is a very important tool to attract positive results. The age-old tradition of prayer before sleeping is so that the positive thoughts and prayers can sink into the subconscious mind during sleep.
As mentioned earlier, ‘a family that prays together, stays together’. The act of a family joining together every day at a particular time and praying together creates a loving powerful energy that strengthens the relationship between family members. This increases the loving divine energy present between you and your family and also adds positive vibrations to your house. This is a great habit that works wonders for family harmony and ultimately societal harmony. Try to do this with your family. Take turns every day. Each day a different person may pray. This increases the sense of involvement of all members, especially the children.
Avoid all forms of negativity. Nip it in the mental bud. One cannot stop negative thoughts from entering, but one can kick them out as soon as they enter. Positive thoughts can repel negative ones from establishing themselves in the mind.
Our planet today has a lot of negative energy that is manifested in the form of wars, violence, crimes, prejudices among other things. But that can change.
If enough people just stop what they’re doing for just a few moments every day and send out positive energy in the form of a prayer or mantra for love and peace into the universe. Let this positivity be guided specifically towards our planet Earth. This will begin the creation of a matrix of positive energy and vibrations.
If everybody just makes it a point to close their eyes for a few minutes and imagine our planet Earth floating in space. Imagine all the billions of people, animals and plants on Earth and just send a thought or word of love. After this, smile at the Earth and wait for the response – you will feel the Earth smile back. If you do not feel the response immediately, don’t worry. It will eventually come over time.
Soon the negative vibrations will be replaced by positive ones and this will be the beginning of a new era of positivity. Try it. Once a day for a few minutes to start with. It will make you feel great. If enough people do this, we will all change for the better and the Earth will change too.
Many of the world’s problems can be solved if there is more prayer energy generated. This energy will increase when we add prayer into our consciousness and make it a part of our daily life. Talk to God either verbally, mentally or even in written form. Yes, write a note to God. Everyday use flash prayers to increase the overall consciousness of peace and goodwill and soon if more people do it, we will transform into a much better, safer and peaceful world.
A selfless deed to serve someone else can set a very powerful example and permanently change the person helped by giving them a taste of love and compassion. An act of love or kindness makes both the giver and receiver experience a feeling of goodness and love.
Using prayer, thoughts, words and deeds—you can change the world!
Prashant Solomon is a Delhi-based author and businessman.
PRACTISING SILENCE BRINGS UNTOLD BENEFITS
There is a part of you that is perfect and pure. It is untouched by the less than perfect characteristics you have acquired by living in a less than perfect world. It is filled with divine qualities, so it is in a constant state of resourcefulness and well-being. Its total absence of conflict and negativity of any sort makes this part of you a still point – a deep, enriching experience of silence.
Make time to practise reaching this inner place of silence. It will bring you untold benefit.
First, it allows you to manage your thoughts better. You will find, for example, that there is no need to think as much as you do; that simply sitting in silence will bring out, effortlessly, much of all that you need.
Second, the experience of silence releases you from the grip of your negative programming and conditioning. You will more easily experience the truth of your inner peace and dignity. This further aids the mind in remaining focused and capable.
Third, the power of silence can be shared. As you increase your experience of silence, your power can help those without power to continue in their efforts of self-development and the experience of peace. Your stock of silence plus an additional stock of true, powerful thoughts will help others go beyond the limited into the unlimited and the divine.
It feels so good to ‘go beyond’ in this way; to leave behind thought and speech and become quiet for a little while. It is so refreshing and nourishing; it is habit-forming. Love for spiritual introversion, solitude and silence complements our life in such a beautiful way.
FOR QUICK PROGRESS, STOP WASTE AND REDUCE YOUR ‘WEIGHT’
Why is it that those following the same principles, with the same goal of self-improvement, achieve different levels of success?
There are two main reasons for this: they waste their resources, and they carry surplus ‘weight’.
Just as excess body weight leads to physical illness, a soul that is heavy develops spiritual illness. An unhealthy diet harms one’s health; similarly, when the mind consumes stale things, that is, things of the past which one need not think about, it has a deleterious effect on the soul.
Seeing the defects of others, thinking and gossiping about them, is akin to consuming rotten food.
If we like fries, they tempt us a great deal, and we eat them against our conscious wish, knowing very well that they are not good for our health, they will do harm. Similarly, listening to and sharing gossip is damaging – it fosters dislike among people. We may find it interesting, even entertaining, but it can cause others great sorrow.
When the intellect consumes such things, we put on weight, that is, the mind becomes heavy. Just as someone who is overweight cannot run or climb, one with a heavy mind cannot go ahead fast, spiritually.
Overweight people also have to stop every so often as they move along, and they need support from others. In the same way, we become tired of working on the self, and are unable to overcome the obstacles that come on the way. We also depend on others to make progress. Forgetting that the Almighty offers the best support, we turn to others for help, and if that is not received, we are unable to continue.
To lose physical weight, one needs to exercise. The same is true on the spiritual path, where we have to exercise the soul. The best way to do that is meditation. If we meditate for a few minutes from time to time during the day, we will stay light; our heaviness will disappear. Our confidence and enthusiasm will increase and we will begin to move forward fast. We will no longer need anyone’s assistance, as we will constantly experience God’s support.
Apart from exercising and being careful with our diet – no unnecessary or negative thoughts or talk – we have to ensure that we do not waste anything.
How do we waste things? When we do not recognise the real value of something, we squander it. Not using time in a worthwhile way is to waste it. If we have resources and we do not use them or let others benefit from them, that too amounts to waste.
Knowledge, good wishes, and pure feelings are all resources that enrich the self and others, and when not used, they go to waste. The result is that we do not progress as fast as we could have.
Once we stop the waste and reduce our weight, we will forge ahead.
B.K. Dr. Savita is a senior Rajyoga teacher at the Brahma Kumaris headquarters in Abu Road, Rajasthan.
THE POWER TO STEP BACK BRINGS CLARITY
Thoughts are the power of the soul. Within each thought there is a feeling that drives that thought and this creates the mental attitude in life. When we begin to access the power of our virtues and qualities, we are empowering our thoughts with a higher quality of energy, so our impact is greater, and the expenditure of energy is less.
I am often asked: “How do I take my power back?” The power to take a step back is very relevant for the answer to this question. To take a step back means to stand apart and regain perspective from the inside out. To recalibrate and find a position to maintain to be able to manage what is happening.
Sometimes we ‘withdraw’ in this way because we cannot bear the situation anymore. We feel unable to face what we actually have to, and need to, face. We often find ourselves involved in things that waste our time and energy.
We may be caught up in situations of stress and difficulty where there are a lot of emotions from others or even within ourselves. If we overreact in these situations over and over again, we begin to feel powerless.
We may be involved in overly dependent relationships where someone is possessive of us, and our time and energy, and we feel drained of power; where we find ourselves constantly trying to please someone, but nothing we do is ever sufficient. There is the overwhelming feeling that we will only be happy when we finally make that one happy. But, in fact, that one is never happy with whatever we do.
There is a beautiful analogy for the power to take a step back, or withdraw, and it is that of the tortoise. It has the ability to withdraw all its limbs away from any present danger or threat. In the same way, we can withdraw all our fearful and worried thoughts and take them within, and from that place, fill the consciousness with the deep and natural quality of peace.
To develop this power, we need to spend time generating peaceful thoughts and, in meditation, connect to the ocean of peace, the Supreme Parent, who, like a Mother, will gently calm our fears and our racing thoughts.
In this way, even though we still have to do what we have to do, and fulfil our responsibilities, we can do these things from a feeling of safety. We can cultivate the art of being a detached observer of what is happening around us and within us; we can observe the thought patterns and dynamics inside and then exert this power of peace over all we can observe.
The power of peace, behind the power to take a step back and observe, brings real power to manage our lives in such a wonderful way that there develops a great sense of well-being, and this in turn affects not only the self, but also those around us.
Gopi Patel is a spiritual educator and senior Rajyogi meditator with the Brahma Kumaris, specialising in spiritual pragmatism in all areas of life.
HOW TO LIVE A COMPASSIONATE LIFE
To live compassionately is to direct the flow of our energy to support and care for both, others and ourselves. We are nurturing and loving, as well as protective and strong. I describe this as the “yin and yang” of compassion and self-compassion.
The challenging times we are living through call on many of us — especially healthcare workers — to draw deeply from our inner reserves. We need a special wisdom and sense of perspective, and a method to prepare ourselves, to face daily challenges.
As a consultant psychiatrist and Chair of the Janki Foundation for Spirituality in Healthcare, I have long understood that healthcare professionals especially need these capabilities. At the Janki Foundation, we have developed an app — Happidote — to support them. It provides tools, such as short meditations, to help users stabilise and prepare to face difficult situations by taking brief periods of time to withdraw into peace and silence, and recharge.
Our empathy for people who are suffering demonstrates sensitivity to, and feeling for, others; but as we resonate with their pain, we risk being caught up in a draining emotion that can affect us negatively.
By contrast, compassion is a positive energy that uplifts and helps others to come out of their suffering. Brain scans show that when we practise being compassionate, letting the energy of this feeling flow from ourselves, we are engaging a different part of the brain from that involved in feeling empathy.
Self-compassion is essential to our well-being. It is the same energy that we can give others when they are suffering, but directed inwards to nurture and comfort, provide protection and build strength for ourselves. When faced with others’ suffering, it may guide us to set limits as to what we can do for them, and to work through our own feelings of fear and pain.
Learning how to turn love and compassion inwards also helps to calm the “inner critic”. This internal voice can trigger the same neurophysiological responses as external stress factors. The more we create a habit of self-criticism, the more we add to the risk of developing physical signs of stress, including high blood pressure and ulcers.
Meditation guides us to observe and understand our inner conversation — the tone of voice, the words we choose, and the energy with which we respond to our pain. While we can learn to alter our thought patterns through cognitive behavioural therapy, the way to transform them is by meditating deeply.
It is a way to recognise our thoughts and feelings, without denying or suppressing them. Observing in silence, creating a distance from what is going on in my mind, I decide which thoughts to let go, and which to pursue. The more I practise, the deeper I can go, tracking back to a place of safety and peace.
I understand that I am a soul with everything I need within, connected with the Supreme Soul, an energy I come to know, love and recognise is always there to help me in my life. I am peaceful, loving, powerful and clear — this is the real me.
Dr Sarah Eagger, a long-time practitioner of Rajyoga, is Chair of the Janki Foundation and a retired consultant psychiatrist formerly at Imperial College, London. Her book, Stillness in the Storm – 7 tools for coping with fear and uncertainty, was published recently.
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