Questions and Answers
What is the purpose of relationship?
The traditional model of intimate relationship is first and foremost about enhancing the survival of the individuals in the couple. They work together toward common goals but tend to keep emotional distance from each other because the partners often don’t want to rock the boat. They want to keep things together.
True for you?
What I am suggesting is beginning to imagine more of a relationship that focuses on working together to create “something more, something deeper or more expanded than what is already present. I am suggesting making your relationships come alive!
In reality, a relationship is really about getting to know yourself—getting to know through awareness, what you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, what you’re intending, what your fears are, and what your loves are.
The kind of relationship that I am offering you is a relationship of the heart – one in which all of you can come present and participate – but you can’t count on someone else to create it – You must!
The key to determining the current state of your relationship—whether it is or is not a relationship of the heart—is to look to your past.
So ask yourself right now, “what your real intentions were when you entered into your current relationship?
If what you’re experiencing in the present is painful, or less than what you intend or want, then you can look at what you did to create it. What is your part?” Once you make that connection, then you can begin to create differently by making different choices. Your intention is what makes all the difference in what your life will be like.
Why should intention matter in your life?
“One of you may want to make more money so you can buy a more impressive home or feel better about your self, or impress another. Or, one of you may have to work longer hours or more than one business because someone you love is ill with a potentially life-threatening illness and you don’t have health insurance. These are vastly different intentions. One is based in fear—the feeling of inadequacy and the need to impress others with a car, or a home. The other is based purely in love and caring.
So right now I invite you to write down five words that describe your marriage or relationship. If you’re not married, describe the most significant or important relationship that you have right now.
You have the opportunity to realize that you can use these painful interactions to grow…not to change each other.
The real root of most of our relationship problems stems from fear. Anger typically hides pain, and in turn, pain hides fear. Instead of looking at your partner in judgmental ways you can begin to understand that the person you’re speaking with is frightened. The ultimate fear that each of us carries is the thought (or knowledge) that we are intrinsically flawed.
When you develop in you the strength and the clarity that lets you know that you are a soul on this earth with gifts to give, and that your painful experiences are self-created, you can begin to create differently.
When you walk away from any unresolved argument, you are creating a power struggle within your partner. It’s best to talk it out so that lingering feelings of animosity don’t fester and cause future arguments. If you walk away, walk away because there’s nothing more you can contribute, your love is there and clear and you’re not attached to the outcome. You then can come back and try to extend yourself in love at another time.
You can’t be loving while you’re judging. You can’t be loving while you’re criticizing. You can’t be loving while you’re blaming, etc. In the kind of relationship I am suggesting here your commitment is not to just the relationship. Your commitment is also to your own growth (spiritually, mentally, mindfully) because that’s how you create the relationship that you want.
Life’s Journey & 12 Spiritual Principles
Life provides us with so many amazing and extraordinary experiences during our time on earth. In my work as a spiritual counselor, I find many of my clients are overwhelmed with their lives and feel lows they’ve never experienced before. This seems especially true for women between ages 40 and 60. This stage of life is a time when the seeds we planted earlier are given the opportunity to come to fruition. The years between 40 and 60 can be spiritually transformative when we take time to water and cultivate the ground of our consciousness.
For me, at age 35 I began to realize that there was more to life than I had been led to believe. I thought that if I was experiencing and living all that life had to offer, then it was pretty shallow ground. I wanted to know the meaning of life. How did I get here? Why had my life taken the path it did? Who were these people in my life(children, partner, parents, friends etc and why were they here?
Many people ask these questions, but few sincerely seek the answers. Ranier Marie Rilke said,
Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answers.
I read this quote at age 35 and I have lived my life from this place. It helped me face the challenges of raising a family, divorce and partnering with a woman in my 50’s. I counsel others to do the same. Be willing to live the questions – really live the questions, and life will take on a sacred and holy quality. The hurry in life will ease and you will become softer, curious, gracious ,generous and much more kind.
I work with women who are in the midst of life’s many challenges: divorce separation, living with cancer, children leaving the home, and enduring the loss of loved ones. I work with women who have been abused sexually, emotionally and physically. I work with women who have been abandoned by their fathers, their mothers and their lovers. I work with women whose partners think they are witchy, helpless,feeble, controlling and domineering.
These experiences are what John of the Cross, called the Dark Night of the Soul. They are times of transition., Tribal cultures of the world call them “initiations.” Few of us know how to navigate this territory. Anti depressants are frequently prescribed to women at this juncture of life. Approximately 11.5% of all American women) are prescribed anti depressants! That’s roughly 31.7 million women!
As a culture, Americans have an intolerance for sadness, darkness, confusion and uncertainty. We want happiness, contentment, safety and delight. Yet all the spiritual teachings say that this seeking is the root of suffering and the joke is on us is – “that which we seek we already are”. How to we find truth – the truth that no matter what the circumstances are, we are always joy, contentment safety and delight?
I use 12 spiritual principles to teach this truth:
By Dr. Illana Berger1. The Principle of Design Beneath Chaos
Life is divinely designed for growth. There are no accidents in life. All things are as they should be. Everything that happens in your life is put there for the evolution of your consciousness – or personal transformation. You are not designed to make this evolutional shift by yourself. If you accept that life is divinely designed so that you receive exactly what is required for your spiritual growth, then your life experiences can begin to move you though your suffering toward your personal destiny. Your sadness, resentment and anger can begin to be transformed into awe, curiosity and wonder. This is the teaching of the design beneath the chaos.2. The Principle of Acceptance
Acceptance of “what is” enables healing. Acceptance marks the end of resistance and the beginning of presence. In acceptance, you begin with the willingness to meet with and then surrender your resistance, and receive healing. Acceptance does not imply resignation or giving up. It is not the same as giving in, nor becoming resigned to a crummy fate. Quite the contrary! Acceptance is simply a natural state of mind that is not-fighting with what is, not-trying to prove right or wrong, not-trying to find someone to blame, not-showing how good/ bad/ damaged/ unfortunate/ or powerful you are. Acceptance occurs simply when you stop mentally fighting against what is, and come into some kind of balance with the situation. You can then begin to work with the situation constructively through investigation and curiosity.3. The Principle of Humility
Humility is the gateway to freedom. When you are willing to get out of your own way and let go of your defenses, you become humble. Humility grows as you develop the habit of acceptance. Through continually letting everything be as it actually is, you start to empty your awareness of the narratives, certainty, and limited knowing that is produced by your conditioned ego-mind. Negative emotions, which may have continually drained your vitality in the past, now begin to loosen their grip. You notice them, accept their presence, and begin to witness them from a deeper, broader perspective. As awareness empties, you can find clarity, spaciousness, and the presence of mind and an open heart to deal with things afresh.4. The Principle of Awareness & Choice
A moment of awareness is freedom. Awareness enables taking responsibility and empowers choice. This is the ability to respond from a place of personal power – many people fall into the trap of assigning blame or finding fault, but this spiritual principle teaches you that once you are aware of your ego’s conditioning and the opportunity your situation is providing for you to see deeply into yourself, there is a surge of self-empowerment and choice. By being on this journey your sense of self is gently expanding. You have seen that the pain in your relationship is also the healing that is needed, for you and for your family. The most important thing you can do is to bring simple awareness, what I’ve called presence, to your situation. Acceptance and humility are attitudes that help set up conditions for simple awareness. Becoming aware in the moment with responsibility empowers choice.
You begin to look at how you participated in and co-created your divorce, separation or the chaotic drama in your life. To heal and move forward in your life you must begin to take responsibility for your entire set of circumstances and make peace with your past. At this juncture, you begin to see how you have chosen the exact partner and events in your life to teach you the perfect lessons and you begin the journey toward wholeness.
5. The Principle of Compassion
Compassion expands as you accept all parts of yourself. Compassion is a natural quality of being. It arises spontaneously in your basic relationship with everything when your mind is not clouded with obsessions. Compassion unfolds when you are in the presence of the perfection of the Universe, when you can experience yourself in another. It comes with the great understanding of the difficulties and ambiguity of being a human being. Once you have received compassion for yourself, you will be able to find compassion and forgiveness for other significant people in your life – friend and foe alike.
6. The Principle of Possibility
Possibility opens the door to the unexpected and sometimes unimaginable. This Principle begins from the place of self-love and understanding. When you commit to your emotional wholeness you are committing to being there for yourself each and every day and know you can count on yourself to be true, honest and forthright. From this place of knowing yourself and loving yourself, the whole world becomes the ground of potential – the ground of possibilities. The past is irrelevant, the future does not exist – there is only now and from this place of now, you can respond to the world from the highest expression of who you really are! In this presence of mind, Transformation is inevitable and Possibilities are endless.
7. The Principle of Gratitude
From Gratitude grows generosity. From the Principle of Gratitude, you begin to see the gifts all around you and in every situation. From here you have infinite possibilities available to you – grounded in your own True Nature – your own generosity. Once you have deeply experienced the freedom in the fact that you are always at choice then forgiveness is available to you and begins to open up vast possibilities for new realities. Forgiveness breaks all the cords that keep you tied to your past. It allows you to experience your innocent heart which is filled with love and excitement for life. You can create a new future, one grounded in your own divine truth. Gratitude wants to give. It wants to be generous and so you are the recipients of the love that is your essence. Once you stand in gratitude, you are open to what life and grace can offer.
© 2007 Illana Berger
Creating Strong & Vibrant Relationships
Couples can create a thriving and fulfilling relationship by keeping these key concepts in mind and in use:
Being consciously aware and responsible for your beliefs, attitudes, behaviors and actions;
- Understanding relationship skills and concepts that help create sustaining relationships;
- Defining the practices and agreements necessary for the development of skillful communication and intimacy;
- Continual practice in order to achieve ever-increasing ease and understanding; and
- Being committed to the relationship and the process of communication.
These are Key Relationship Concepts that are essential for creating a successful and consciously aware relationship. These concepts are the foundation that supports a thriving relationship. The greater your commitment to these key relationship concepts, which are essential in order to create sustaining, supportive, and thriving relationships, the more successful and intimate your relationship will be.
The Three Bodies
Creating a true partnership with your lover creates a third entity which is the relationship. This third body is separate from each partner AND it is within, or part of, each of them. You and your beloved define and co-create your relationship entirely. To fully understand this concept, imagine three aspects to every relationship. There is you, your partner and together you create the relationship. All three components are needed in order to support the marriage and for it to function as desired and dreamt of. If any one of these components is not supported and supportive, the relationship will either suffer or fall apart. A successful relationship is supported by both partners who understand deeply that the relationship is a distinctly separate, yet integrated entity, and who also understand that they both must contribute equally to:
- increasing self-awareness, care of their partner, and awareness of the needs of the relationship;
- supporting the relationship in commitment, action and intention;
- an unyielding commitment to the success of their partnership;
- creating and sustaining a shared dream and intention for the relationship;
A loving and sustaining relationship and partnership takes work and commitment. If you do your own work throughout the marriage the journey will be extraordinary. Sometimes the passion wanes and the trials and tribulations of life take us over and we forget that the relationship itself requires attention and care. When a couple tends to that, the relationship and marriage thrives.
Thoughts on Marriage
It is said that once a couple decides to marry it is because the marriage has already occurred. The ceremony is a formality that makes explicit what is already so. It is a wonderful journey that a couple takes once they decide to formally marry. There is a shift in consciousness that happens – rather than being on a journey alone, one now embarks on this life journey committed to walking beside another. It is not an easy road. Often couples are smitten with each other. They are physically attracted to each other and for the most part enjoy being together. Sometimes couples love being together and cannot wait to see each other each and every day. Often early in relationships couples call each other several times a day just to share and hear each others voices. But this too is part of the early bliss of infatuation. In time, for most, this infatuation wears off and the realities of life and the challenges that life delivers can take a toll on a relationship. This is when the “real” relationship begins.
Each of us attracts someone into our life who will perhaps be our life partner, but with that will come challenges, struggles, disappointments and failures. Can your love endure that? Can your love endure your partner losing their job? A limb? Become depressed? These are some of the real challenges that we face as people, humans, individuals. When we join hands and commit to walking this path of life together, we are signing on for the challenges that might befall our marriage and our life together. These are the deep questions you must ask yourself before you commit to marriage. Love conquers all. Love endures all things. Love does not ask anything from anyone else. Love does not put itself first. If you can answer yes to all of this – then marry. Celebrate. Know you are deeply blessed and it would be an honor to officiate your marriage.
Living A Sacred Life
a song with no end
When Whitman wrote, “I sing the body electric”
I know what he
I know what he
to be completely alive every moment
in spite of the inevitable.
we can’t cheat death but we can make it
work so hard
that when it does take
it will have known a victory just as
~ Charles Bukowski ~
The sun rises over the horizon and bursts into my room asking, begging me to awaken! I open my weary eyes and notice that a joy is arising in my chest and a smile slowly emerges as I realize it is a new day. Another 24 hours to experience the magic of my ordinary life. The sacred is right here, right now!
I am often asked how does one live a sacred life as if living life in a sacred way is a different road map than the one you are on. The road you are walking right now in your life is a sacred pathway to holiness. The difference between my life and perhaps yours, is that I am present to how sacred every encounter, every challenge, every sunrise and sunset is. Even the perfection of the trash in the street or the traffic jam slowing me down and making me late to an appointment. It really comes right down to consciousness.
We live in a time when it seems that our society, our culture has lost touch with what is sacred. Perhaps we have lost our understanding of what “sacred” means. There is a quote from the Bible that says: “God was in this place, but I, I did not know it.” That’s it right there. This very place is holy ground. Spirit, God, The Great Mystery is right here, but you just don’t know it.
Life is full of distractions. Children needing to be cared for, complicated schedules organized, work commitments, bills to pay, meetings to attend, and of course emails to answer along with tweets and facebook and on-line scrabble! We have lost or perhaps just forgotten that we are not just our mind, and for those of you who use your body, we are not just a body either. We are spiritual beings living inside of a body accompanied, guided, directed and encouraged by a mind. Our bodies live within a “body politic” that has become our moral, emotional, and cultural touch-stone for living our lives. The culture we are living in however distracts us from what is essential. Rather, we are accosted by advertising, noise, distractions and the quickening of time which takes away from ourself and directs our attention out there someplace.
The goal of any lifetime, the world’s spiritual traditions teach, is to journey toward self-discovery. On that journey we ultimately arrive at the shores of our own destiny to find our “Self” standing there. For most of us this takes a whole lifetime. It is when the last days of our life arrive and the angel of death is at our door that we ask ourselves “what was this all about? How do I leave all this that is SO precious to me, when I never really realized just how precious life was?” Of course it is the small things that, at that moment, become tender hearted: the scent of a rose, the song of a bird, the kind gesture of a friend, the falling golden leaves in autumn, and the chill of a winter rain. At the end of our days we might take a moment to realize that the love welling up in our heart at the sight of our son or daughter or our grandchild or partner is precious beyond words. But in the day to day unfolding of our busy lives, all that is so precious to us at the end of our life, is usually skipped over most of our life.
When you stop, listen and feel the moment right now – the sanctity of this now moment becomes palpable. And, when you take time every day to smell the roses, to feel the love for your family right in the middle of your chest, or to take in the sound of the breeze blowing through the trees, you are able to absorb the blessings in your life – in this very moment, you discover that your life is sacred.
I am a licensed multi-faith and interfaith minister. My experience includes a varied history of couples using ceremonies from around the world. Many couples are from different faith traditions, different cultures or just want to include diverse rituals in their ceremony. Most couples want to find a common spiritual foundation on which to celebrate this joyous life passage. You may find that you are simply looking for a unique, creative way to express your love for, and commitment to, one another. I will partner with you to create a very personal and meaningful ceremony. Most of my ceremonies use little of the language, music, or visual symbols of a “traditional” wedding. I work with same-gender couples as well as straight couples. In all instances, I work in collaboration with you to craft a beautiful ceremony that blends your vision with my expertise.
Creating and Officiating Ceremonies, Consulting and Marriage CounselingPACKAGES:
SIMPLE & SMALL: $500 + $.50/mile
This package is for couples who wish a very short and basic ceremony. No attendants, 20 or less guests and no frills. This is a pre-designed ritual that is beautiful and creates an inspiring celebration of your sacred day. Includes a one-to-one meeting to meet and connect in person or via video conferencing.SIMPLE CEREMONY: $650 + $.50/mile
This package includes a preliminary one-to-one consultation. We discuss your vision of the type of wedding ceremony you wish to have and elements that are important to you. I provide you with a simple ceremony that reflects my sense of you are as a couple and includes 1 optional reading and an opportunity to include parents in your ceremony. This package is appropriate for small wedding parties with no more than 4 attendants and guests numbering less than 80.CUSTOMIZED CEREMONY: $850 $.50/mile
This package includes a preliminary one-on-one consultation. We will get to know each other and discover your unique journey and stories. We will discuss who is coming to your ceremony and how you want to include them in your ritual. We will share ritual ideas from different traditions and a variety of readings as well as discuss your vows and how you might create them to reflect your personalities and beliefs. I ask you wonderful questions, make suggestions, provide examples and samples and then design a ceremony just for you. I will send you a draft so that you can make edits and adjustments and together we craft a ceremony you will remember for the rest of your lives. This package is appropriate for medium sized wedding parties with no more than 10 attendants and quests numbering up to 150 – 200.INCLUDE 1 YEAR OF MARRIAGE COUNSELING TO ANY PACKAGE: $400
One-to-one marriage counseling once/quarter for 1.5 hours each for the first year of marriage.
Special features to consider for your ceremony:
* Planting Ceremony
* Blanket Ceremony
* Vase Ceremony
* Seven Blessings
* Circle of Life
* Candle Ritual
* Creating Sacred Space
* Purification Rituals
* Calling the Ancestors
* Shofar Ritual
SAMPLE WEDDING CEREMONY
- Welcome and opening words are a simple welcome and a brief statement about the meaning and value of love and commitment. Sometimes we add a meditation or intention to the ceremony.
- The readings affirm and support your love and commitment.
- The questions of intent invites you to promise your community that you will create a loving partnership based on the fundamentals of your values and beliefs.
- The vows are your promises to each other written by you to each other.
- The rings are blessed by you and exchanged as symbols of your promises made to each other in your vows.
- The blessing is a request by me to Creation or the animating life force, asking for support for the commitment you are making.
- The announcement or declaration is a summary and affirmation of your love and ceremony.
- The closing words are a statement of gratitude for your future together