On August 28, 2010, surrounded by family and friends on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Annie Millar and I were married. It was an extremely moving experience for us, and a deep teaching.
Upon becoming engaged, we had decided to wait a full year before getting married. We knew that organizing a wedding is often experienced as stressful and harried, and we wanted to give ourselves plenty of time to go slowly and enjoy the process. For the first few months, we didn’t think much about logistics at all, but just enjoyed the solidity of our decision. It was also a time of contemplating what marriage meant to each of us, and asking our friends and family to share their stories of getting married.
During this time of reflection, each of us came into contact with some of the cultural habit energies about marriage within us. While our processes with these energies were different, the main theme for each of us was the tension between commitment and freedom. How can one promise to do or be something in the future and still remain free and open to impermanence?
Ultimately, we decided to make our ceremony about the present rather than the future. We held a circle and asked our friends and family to offer their Sangha wisdom about caring for a relationship. People shared poems, songs and reflections on love, creating a beautiful collective energy. Then, instead of exchanging vows or promises, Annie and I committed to the practices that we had found to be the most supportive so far in our relationship.
Annie’s practices are:
I will practice using our experiences of both joy and pain to grow in my love for myself and for you.
I will practice sharing myself with you, especially when it’s hard, and trusting the love, safety, and power for transformation in our relationship.
I will practice loving you unconditionally, appreciating the beauty in every aspect of you.
I will practice letting you know what I want and feel, and listening to what you want and feel, knowing that both of these are a gift to myself and to you.
I will practice knowing and loving myself so that I can most fully love you.
My practices are:
I will practice letting go of my ideas of who you are in order to see your reality in every moment.
I will practice to recognize and transform the energies of fear and criticism in me in order to protect our connection. Instead, I will focus on what we both feel and need.
I will practice caring for our relationship so that it can thrive. I will try to recognize when our relationship needs more attention and make it a priority.
I will practice giving you all of the freedom and space you need so you can be happy. I will let go of demands and expectations and trust that the life within you is perfect.
I will practice trusting that you love me and want to make my life more wonderful. I will share my whole self with you.
We plan to continue reciting these practices together in order to begin anew and strengthen our connection.
T. Ambrose Desmond, True Mountain of Joy, joined the Order of Interbeing in Estes Park in He works as a therapist in private practice and directs a program for emotionally disturbed children in Oakland, CA.