I have been with my wonderful wife for the past 35 years.
As a spiritual teacher, I am often asked how it is that we’ve gotten along so well, for so long. My wife and I give retreats together on this subject and our success is based on the following principles:
1. Inspiration. I have interpreted the poetical narrative of the Buddha in this way: upon his return from his awakening, he saw Yasodhara first as a sister in the sangha, and then as his wife. This order is important, for it helps me to see beyond my projections and experience my spouse as a person first, independently of any familial roles that she plays as a partner and parent.
2. Priorities. My personal priorities are:
A) My own mindful/spiritual practices.
B) My relationships to my family and friends.
C) My vocation.
This prioritizing helps me to stay focused on what is most important, so that the demands of career do not supersede my relationships. It also reminds me that if I am not practicing personally, then my relationships will suffer.
3. Principles. The most important principle is to have a common mindfulness-based language and a process to employ when tackling problems, so that we focus on solving the issue and not on blaming or shaming each other. Second, we take time daily to let each other know that we are loved and freely bound together in an integral partnership of loyalty, trust, and support.
4. Practices. Besides our personal mindfulness practice, we make sure that every week we take time to check in with each other. We always start with, “If I have done anything to hurt you, I am sorry; let’s please discuss it.” This clarifies that neither of us is perfect and that we know that we will hurt each other unintentionally. It’s better to honestly and compassionately confront issues that arise and not allow them to fester or stagnate.
5. Gratitude. This is probably the most meaningful devotional aspect. As a Buddhist, I understand that my faith is simply about awakening to the “oneness” of all life and living out of that awareness. I have found no greater way to experience this harmonious oneness than through the daily intimacy of actualizing it in an ever-evolving relationship. This awareness does not depend upon how I may be feeling at any given time, but in the freedom to choose and commit myself to my wife and son with love each day anew.
One of the ways that my wife and I refresh our practice together is by ritualizing our commitment to each other every five years. We hold a ceremony to renew our vows before family and friends. We do this so that the expression of our love can be shared and refreshed perpetually and perhaps serve as a model for others to emulate and enjoy.
In the end, these practices can help all of us to have more mindful relationships, which, in turn, can serve as a foundation for our larger communities. After all, if we want to create a more harmonious world, there is no better place to begin than at home.
Author: Tony Stultz
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton
Social Editor: Danielle Beutell