Reviewing the statistics for this blog, I’ve found that more than 94,000 have visited since I began it. You–visitors from many states and countries–are my community, my fellow travelers on this journey of developing our spiritual lives as deeply as we can, and of trying to make a difference on this planet through our compassion and commitment to service.
On this early November night, I want to share some of the grace that has been showered on me along with a major health challenge. This confrontation with my mortality woke me up. I began to see–really see–the beauty all around me. So much beauty in the human faces in my life–such kindness, compassion, humor, sweetness. That human beauty is everywhere, not just in the faces of those I dearly love, but in the eyes of the grocery store clerk, the bank teller, the neighbor across the street.
Since I became a vegetarian, I find such enchantment in animals. My little dog makes me smile first thing every morning. Waiting patiently for me to open my eyes, his tail starts to wag as soon as my eyes meet his. “Wake up and live! he says, “and let’s play now!”
And then there are the children in my life–the grown ones and the little ones and the medium size ones. I adore them all. Not least or last, my true love smiles at me across the table while we feast on a meal centered on organic vegetables. My past loves linger always in my heart as well, not with longing, but with appreciation.
Outside my door, red and yellow roses bloom still, competing with the deep magenta of the bougainvillea. Rumi says there’s beauty in every rock and flower, and so it is.
I start and end my day with music–songwriting, singing, playing guitar. I am blessed–overwhelmed with grace.
I do not take this grace lightly. The suffering of Syrians and others in war zones, of the often innocent young men sent to fight in these wars, refugees with no homes, prisoners of war, and of conscience, the bereaved and the lonely and the depressed–none of this escapes me. Some form of this suffering comes to all. If you are reading these words by accident right now, please take heart. There are those who care and will help. Call Suicide Prevention, call a rabbi, priest, minister or therapist. Call a friend who cares. “Ask and you shall receive,” say the holy words. But you must ask!
Lo, I am with you always.
You promised that, and when I realized it was true,
my soul flared up. Remember, and be back with the Friend.
Blessings to you dear visitor!
–Dr. Victoria Lee
By request, I’m reposting the following thoughts on the journey of spiritual healing through sacred intimacy:
In The Shared Heart, Barry and Joyce Vissell say:
The greatest need that exists in a relationship is the spiritual need…it is when a couple, after many tests and initiations, comes to the deep inner knowing that they cannot realize God separate from each other.
There comes a time along the path of love when we are faced with our own selfishness….As long as our own dreams and goals are more important to us that those of our partner, we prevent ourselves from experiencing divine love. Unconditional love is attained the moment we forget ourselves and truly desire to help another on the journey of life….
===========================================================================================Recently, Recently, I taught another class on Sacred Intimacy for Couples. It was a joy to once again be with a group of couples who are searching for a path to deeper bonding, and for more ways to open their hearts to each other.
Committed relationship is so challenging. When each dear couple comes into my office struggling to match their experience with their vision, I like to start by letting them know it’s hard for everyone.
(The names given here are not the actual ones, but the challenges are very real and very widespread.) It’s hard for Janet and William who are young and healthy and feel highly attracted to each other; they still struggle over problems with money, children and different levels of sexual desire. It’s hard for Marie and Len who’ve been together for 52 years; Marie has Parkinson’s, and has many limitations because of it. It’s hard for Annie and Joan who were finally allowed to marry, only to have their marriage invalidated. It’s hard for Eric and Lena who have not had intimate contact for years, and who have not yet learned ways to enjoy alternative forms of loving touch regardless that don’t depend on health and fitness.
It’s hard for me and my partner, with our many demographic and cultural differences. And it’s hard for any couple you know who seems to be so happy, so well-suited, so in love. In any group of couples, all of the happy ones are the ones who have done–and are doing–the work of relationship.
The work of the couple’s journey is parallel to our spiritual journey. Relationship often provides priceless lessons and metaphors for discovering our divine nature and becoming as loving as we can be. Where else can we see our ego-driven limitations so vividly? (“If you’d just do everything my way, we wouldn’t have all this conflict!”) Where else can we see the results of our childhood wounds so clearly? (For example, we feel chronically controlled or that we must control, we’re afraid to trust, we’ve never seen a loving relationship up close, we’re angry and don’t why, we don’t want to talk about it because that never helped in our original families. And then, there’s body shame, sexual guilt, despair and depression.)
Far from least, for many of us, the profound pain of having been taught that we are not really lovable affects us for life in every close relationship and every sexual experience.
The good news is that the couple’s journey can be a most fruitful lab for learning and practicing essential truths. Great teachers and poets teach us that:
• Like every human being,each of us is precious and ultimately lovable. So are our partners. A couple can learn to make honey out of their old errors (a lovely idea from the poet Machado.)
• As the poet Rilke said, we must study love like a profession. And when we do, we give priceless gifts to all who come after us.
• Sexuality is a divine gift that can bring great joy to any loving, adult couple willing to become vulnerable to each other. Difficulties caused by hormones and childbirth and menopause and aging can all be addressed.
Whoever you are, passion is your birthright!
I plan to offer a sacred intimacy class as a teleseminar for those who live far away. Please email me at email@example.com to be informed about this.
In my Sacred Intimacy for Couples class this week, I’ll be teaching the path first illuminated by Harvillle Hendricks in Getting the Love You Want–a book I highly recommend.
Hendricks teaches that marriage is a spiritual journey meant for the healing of both parties. Inevitably, we are drawn to exactly the right person, the person who can help us to heal our childhood wounds. Our partner senses the very same capacity in us. Hendricks thinks this ability to facilitate our healing is the true basis of attraction and of marital choice.
To be a healer for your partner, you have to change. And it’s not a small change that’s needed–it’s the very change that is the most difficult for you. That change is also the one you most need for your own emotional and spiritual growth.
“Jean Paul” has low self-esteem and low self-confidence. He feels inadequate as a father, husband and provider for his family. His wife, “Marie,” grew up in poverty; her father abandoned his family when Marie was a small child. She needs a partner who will approach the world confidently and who will succeed in his work and in his roles in the family.
It’s Jean Paul she marries, though. He recreates the old injuries, and he has the capacity to heal them through the changes they both need him to make.
On the other hand, Jean Paul needs loving acceptance above all–something which was in very short supply in his childhood. He needs Marie to shower him with affection and understanding, not the constant criticism she often gives him now. Marie needs to learn to love Jean Paul’s essential, beautiful self, regardless of how the world sees him. If Marie becomes willing and able to give this to her husband, he will become better able to be the man she wants.
Successful Couple Therapy Changes a Whole Family
Together in couple counseling these two learned to meet each other’s needs. Once you see that the change your partner needs will be of huge benefit to you as well, it becomes much easier to commit to the change. Those few truly happy couples you know are those who have accomplished this kind of growth.
Someone has to take the first step. Sometimes this is the one who is more courageous; sometimes it’s the one who is in the most pain. In this couple’s case, I was able to help them establish a clear path for making the needed changes. They learned to do an “apologies and appreciations” exercise several times a week. Marie made sure to acknowledge and verbalize her appreciation for every positive contribution Jean Paul made to her life and to the lives of their children. Jean Paul learned to set small, easily obtainable goals, and then to fully celebrate himself when he accomplished them.
With my help, this couple revived their long dormant sexual connection. When Jean Paul found that he could be an expert giver of pleasure to Marie, he grew in self-esteem. Marie found it easy to voice her honest appreciation for her husband’s rediscovered expertise as a lover. This was one of many arenas in which this loving couple learned to grow and heal.
I don’t mean to make it sound easy. It never is. There were stops and starts along the way. There were times when they felt discouraged and wondered if they were making any progress. I had told them early on to expect these times. Our therapeutic relationship was based on trust, so they were able to rely on my confidence in them when they temporarily lost their own.
This courageous couple learned the tools and did the work that becomes the foundation for a truly fulfilling relationship. I had the great privilege of providing the needed support and guidance. From the beginning, I knew they could do it. I held that vision through all the ups and downs until they were able to make that vision their own. By doing this hard work, they gave priceless gifts to their children as well as to themselves and each other.
It can be this way for you and your partner dear visitor. May you find your way.
In Spring, Mary Oliver says:
a black bear
has just risen from sleep
and is staring
down the mountain.
in the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring.
I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
like a red fire
touching the grass
the cold water.
There is only one question:
how to love this world.
I think of her
like a black and leafy ledge
to sharpen her claws against
of the trees.
my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its cities,
it is also this dazzling darkness
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;
all day I think of her —
her white teeth,
her perfect love.
Blessings to you and those you love, dear visitor!