Yoga proposes that your limited sense of self veils your awareness of your vast, infinite Self. As described in the Tattvas of Shaivism, Shiva differentiates and contracts through a series of forms, veils, and limitations in order that consciousness can manifest and expand to become all of creation, and can play. These layers serve the divine plan, but trick you into experiencing yourself as limited instead of infinite. Ego, Ahamkara, is part of this contraction or veiling. Because ego is essential for functioning in this world, you cannot do battle with it and win; you cannot trick the ego or out-maneuver it. Ego protects you, gives you the ability to function in a world where you have to perceive, discriminate, judge, and act. The way to be free from this constriction is to embrace and become rooted in your highest knowing, your deepest love. Often, this happens through the grace of your Satguru, whose power can open the veils and allow you to experience the power and truth that you already are. There is no conquering the ego; there is only surrender to God, and coming into alignment with your highest Self.  From this you recognize the ego for what it is and become released from its grasp. The ego is then free to operate, but in the service of love.

Marriage brings two people together, drawn by their love and paradoxically repelled by their egos. Love and conflict are the two guaranteed elements of marriage. The very proposition of bringing two people together guarantees this. No matter how harmonious you may be, your partner will approach aspects of living differently than you do, and you will tend to defend your actions, promote your perspective, and insist on your solutions. The tension between these opposite forces makes marriage a powerful vehicle for sadhana. You yearn to be filled with the love that attracts you, yet again and again this closeness draws forth conflict.

An ordinary marriage settles for compromise and negotiated spaces: you moderate the conflicts, and resign to being only so close. The exalted promise of ecstatic union fades like a romantic dream. You get infinite opportunities to practice and perfect maneuvers and systems for negotiating and winning conflicts, or perhaps just making yourself numb to the frustrations. But winning quarrels, on the one hand, or resignation, on the other, do not magnify love, nor do they deepen your connection to your highest Self; they only strengthen the ego, the layers of contraction that surround your deepest truth.

If instead, you are willing to do the work of sadhana in your marriage, to have faith in the power of your love, to invoke the power of divine grace, to have the courage to recognize, and honestly experience the limitations of your ego, then ultimately you can transcend the grip of your ego and become rooted in your deepest truth. You surrender not to your partner’s ego, but to love, and your marriage truly becomes a vessel brimming with God. It becomes a vessel that nurtures and supports your highest Self, radiant and alive.

Next essay: Seeing the Divine in Each Other

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