Let us assume that all marriages begin with pleasure: you fall in love and you become intoxicated with the pull towards your beloved. Sweet words, joyous shared activities, passionate sex, inspired conversation, and awe-filled exploration of new dimensions together are all hallmarks of this time saturated with pleasure. By entering marriage, you are, in part, seeking to establish a vehicle to preserve and cultivate this pleasure. It feeds your souls, enlivens your every day, and brightens your lives.
Over time, the spontaneous thrills subside. We talk of “the honeymoon period” of a marriage to be followed inevitably by the hard work, the conflicts, disillusionment, the compromises, and maybe truces. In marriage sadhana, practicing pleasure is an essential component to your union. The intense love of the honeymoon period need never end, if you approach it intentionally. Make a commitment to keeping the fire alive; practice romance deliberately. When passion is flowing abundantly, pay attention to the pathways through which it flows, and to the source of passion within yourself and your partner, so that you may remember and return deliberately. Go on dates as a discipline, or be spontaneous and do some creative work together, explore something new, do the things that make you laugh or feel awe. Passion may arise not from what you do, but from being authentic, appreciative, honest, vulnerable, from speaking your feelings, and not just superficially, but deep honesty, real vulnerability. And a word of caution, trying thrills or something risky may be fun once or twice, but these will not sustain your marriage over time. If you want to rekindle passion, better to have a deep and vulnerable conversation about your feelings, and listen to your partner with all your heart.
If you feel mired in conflicts or simple ennui, set them aside for an hour, a day, or an evening; you can be confident they will not go away if you step away from them for a bit. By returning to your romance, even briefly, you activate wisdom of the heart which offers important resources needed for navigating the difficulties you are experiencing. In addition to the power of pleasure to keep your marriage vessel alive, there is a deeper dimension to pleasure. From a dualistic philosophical perspective, Kama and Artha are “lesser” goals. As such, there is a discipline in not becoming distracted from God by pursuing pleasure and wealth. In Advaita, and Tantra in particular, Kama is equally important. It recognizes that you yourself are Shiva/Shakti, and your pleasure is God’s pleasure. Recognize your true nature, even in the midst of pleasure. You may experience the delight pulsing through your senses as being enjoyed by the universal spirit. Your pleasure becomes an offering to the divine, your pleasure is your worship, your pleasure is a prayer of gratitude, your pleasure is an expression of abundance. You become intoxicated with shuddha bhava, pure feeling, the sentiment that God is within you and is living through you, and, ultimately, is you.
Next essay, Artha: You Are Abundance